Thursday, January 31, 2013

DeMolay International Airport

"Dad" Matt Blaisdell recently sent me a link to an article by acclaimed author Seth Godin (with a first name like that, what's not to like?) Godin runs several blogs, many of them concentrating on marketing and business. In one post, from January 27, 2013, Godin talks about his dislike of flying - or rather, of having to use airports to fly. His discussion actually makes points about organizations. Many of the points he hits on can relate directly to DeMolay. Let's take a look... (my comments are in italics.)

"I realized that I don’t dislike flying--I dislike airports. There are so many things we can learn from what they do wrong:

No one is in charge. The airport doesn't appear to have a CEO, and if it does, you never see her, hear about her or interact with her in any way. When the person at the top doesn't care, it filters down.

If your Master Councilor and Advisory Council aren't taking the reigns and being leaders, no one is going to understand what is going on.

Problems persist because organizations defend their turf instead of embrace the problem. The TSA blames the facilities people, who blame someone else, and around and around. Only when the user’s problem is the driver of behavior (as opposed to maintaining power or the status quo) things change.

If something goes wrong with your Chapter, man up and admit it. Finger pointing solves nothing.

The food is aimed squarely at the (disappearing) middle of the market. People who like steamed meat and bags of chips never have a problem finding something to eat at an airport. Apparently, profit-maximizing vendors haven’t realized that we’re all a lot weirder than we used to be.

At first, this one doesn't seem to fit, but think again! You need to realize who you are marketing your Chapter to. Are you interesting the young guys so that they recruit their friends, or are you only doing things that make a couple of members happy? Think about how you plan and organize things so that everyone is excited.

Like colleges, airports see customers as powerless transients. Hey, you’re going to be gone tomorrow, but they’ll still be here.

Your Chapter isn't forever. Just because the other guys in your Chapter are doing the work and recruiting members doesn't mean it'll survive. Every DeMolay has to step up to the plate to keep the Chapter moving into the future. Remember, if you stopped taking in members today, you're Chapter will, without a doubt, cease to exist in 9 years (at the maximum.)

By removing slack, airlines create failure. In order to increase profit, airlines work hard to get the maximum number of flights out of each plane, each day. As a result, there are no spares, no downtime and no resilience. By assuming that their customer base prefers to save money, not anxiety, they create an anxiety-filled system.

Just remember, sometimes cheaper isn't better. When planning your Chapter activities, keep Risk Management in mind. Going to "Joe's Backyard Paintball" may be cheaper than Skirmish, but the professionalism, safety, and experience may not be the same.

The TSA is ruled by superstition, not fact. They act without data and put on a quite serious but ultimately useless bit of theater. Ten years later, the theater is now becoming an entrenched status quo, one that gets ever worse.

As we've always said, don't just do things because that's what you've always done. It's okay to question why things are done the way they are. Improvement only comes from understanding.

The ad hoc is forbidden. Imagine an airplane employee bringing in an extension cord and a power strip to deal with the daily occurrence of travelers hunched in the corner around a single outlet. Impossible. There is a bias toward permanent and improved, not quick and effective.

If you see an issue with your Chapter that you know you can fix, then by all means, do it! While everyone should be aware of how the issue is being resolve, waiting isn't going to help some problems. For instance, if you know a chair in the Chapter room is broken, don't wait until the meeting starts to fix the issue. Be proactive and let your Advisors know. 

Everyone is treated the same. Effective organizations treat different people differently. While there’s some window dressing at the edges (I’m thinking of slightly faster first class lines and slightly more convenient motorized cars for seniors), in general, airports insist that the one size they’ve chosen to offer fit all.

This goes back to the earlier point - your Chapter has to meet the needs of its members. Not everyone is interested in the same thing. Make sure you plan events and activities that appeal to everyone - and speak up if you don't enjoy the activities being planned!

There are plenty of potential bad surprises, but no good ones. You can have a flight be cancelled, even go to the wrong airport. But all possibility for delight has been removed. It wouldn't take much to completely transform the experience from a chore to a delight.

This is a great metaphor for meetings. Don't make meetings a chore. Have some fun! Do something different! As a Master Councilor, bring a surprise to share with your members. Making meetings interesting and fun is an important aspect of our program.

They are sterile. Everyone who passes through leaves no trace, every morning starts anew. There are no connections between people, either fellow passengers or the staff. No one says, “welcome back,” and that’s honest, because no one feels particularly welcome.

Feeling welcome is the most important compliment you can give to a new member. Let them know that you're excited they're part of your Chapter and that you want their input. Cliques help no one.

No one is having any fun. Most people who work at airports have precisely the same demeanor as people who work at a cemetery. The system has become so industrialized that personal expression is apparently forbidden."

Again - if I haven't stressed this enough - have fun! If you make your Chapter events fun, then everyone will get involved and your Chapter will grow. Each Chapter develops its own personality. Some Chapters love community service, others enjoy ritual, while some are into sports. Find your Chapter's personality and enjoy it!

See you on Monday!

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

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