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Forget Nimble and Agile - Try Competent in Our Post COVID Era

Keith Stacey
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As we move from lockdowns and open up to begin to live with the Covid 19 endemic in our communities, many adjustments will be necessary. Already there are severe shortages in the international supply chain with raw materials, computer chips, and energy among them. In Australia, there is a shortage of labour, both skilled and unskilled. Farmers are lamenting the lack of workers to harvest their crops while Infrastructure Australia estimates a shortfall of 70,000 engineers, architects, and allied professionals to service existing projects. 


These macro-economic issues play out in the everyday lives of consumers and employers as levels of competence previously expected, decline. The following examples occurred in the last month. 


A full restaurant in a four-star hotel suddenly emptied with many meals not eaten or even served. The patrons had made a rushed exit to walk to a nearby concert hall to be seated in time for the performance. Their expectation had been that they could have a relaxed meal before the concert, but those were sadly dashed. A major meltdown had occurred in the kitchen where a new, inexperienced staff member had completely failed to manage the orders and service in a timely fashion. 


In the second instance, a friend opening a restaurant ordered a critical piece of equipment from a specialist supplier. He dealt with the owner, a personal friend, who promised delivery in time for installation before the opening date. With one week to go, he enquired as to whether the equipment had arrived only to be told that it had not been ordered yet and that a 50% deposit was required before the order could be processed. The opening had to be rescheduled while an alternative was arranged. 


Finally, a developer ordered fencing materials from a national supplier and was promised delivery on-site by a certain date. Contractors were hired and before the start date, a call was made to confirm delivery. The order could not be found, the staff member who took the order could not be identified. A rush delivery could not be provided because of stock shortages. Work was delayed. 


In each of these cases, the customer assumed a service standard that may have prevailed pre-Covid days but alas, not today. When faced with these frustrations, many turn to online providers where possible algorithms and robots appear to be more reliable. There is a simpler solution at every consumer’s disposal - the summary. This is a key task of every negotiator and is the process by which both parties summarise what each has said, agreed upon, and committed to. The summary provides clarity, avoids misunderstandings, and builds a common view on what is required of both parties. 


In each of the cases above a clear, concise summary of agreements may have avoided much confusion. In the case of the restaurant, the following could be stated, “This booking is made on the basis of the understanding that meal service must be completed by 8 pm to allow us to walk to the concert hall. If this service does not occur, then no charge will be made for any food and drinks consumed prior to our departure. Is this agreed? Have your staff been informed and agreed to make it possible?”. Perhaps this could be noted in the case of an online booking. 


In the second case: “You understand that this equipment is critical to the opening of my restaurant by 1st of November. You can commit to providing the goods by the 20th of October to allow for installation and testing? Let me understand the steps between my order and the arrival of the goods. Who will complete each of the tasks and by what date? Please email me to confirm each of the tasks has been completed and that the goods are on their way.” 


And in the final example: “Can I please have your name and phone number, and could you forward me a copy of the internal order for the goods and their delivery date? You understand that I have hired contractors for this task and the order must be delivered in full by the due date. If there is any doubt about that date, please telephone me.” 


A summary is easy to do, clarifies expectations, and provides for stronger outcomes.   

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