Change is accelerating at an exponential rate.  I can imagine that back in the nineteenth century, people wrote about how awful it was that people were spending so much time on the telephone talking to people, sometimes separated only by a house or two, rather than actually visiting them.  However, the break-in period was probably 30 or 40 years for the telephone.  It took Facebook about 8-1/2 days to take over the world.  This is why I am comforted when I see my 8-year-old at the breakfast table reading an anthology of Spy vs. Spy cartoons.  An old beat-up anthology checked out from the public library.  Old school, baby.  No PC monitor, no laptop, no Kindle, no Smart Phone -- just a big old book getting cinnamon sprinkled on it from his waffle.  This also underscores one of the benefits of the baby boomers taking over the institutions -- that a Spy vs. Spy anthology would even be in the public library.  That is change I can get behind.

Monday I was logging onto one of the many websites I use for work that requires a password.  I use multiple passwords, and I don't keep track of which ones I use for which website, so I tried a few and couldn't get in, and I was truly mystified.  I was in a hurry, so I did the smart thing and stopped to think.  It only took about three minutes of staring at the screen to figure out that I entered my email address from my previous place of employment.  From 2006.  Oh, boy.  It was a good, long weekend, but not long enough for me to lose 6 years of memory.  Last year I answered the phone wrong once, with the name of the company I used to work for.  When I worked there, after I had been there about 5 years, I did the same thing once.  What is it about our brain that makes that happen?  There are all these old connections stored in our memory, and sometimes the wrong synapse fires, and an old ingrained habit or behavior resurfaces.  Strange.  


Developing a good habit is a very efficient way of simplifying your life.  If you can get your employees to develop the proper routines for their work--drivers checking in, doing a pre-trip truck inspection, organizing their equipment; dispatchers answering the phone with the proper greeting, entering data in the proper fashion, following dispatching protocols--you can really hone your operation into a machine.  When I drove an impound truck for a living, one of my co-workers called me "The Machine," and I took it as a compliment.  There are times when you don't want to be like a machine, such as when you are interacting with humans, but if you complete your hook-up procedure like a machine--automatic, quick, no mistakes--it gives you the time to be creative when you're playing practical jokes on people you work with.  I've written before about my Catch-21 Program, named in homage to a former employee who kept bemoaning all of the "Catch-20s" in his life, and in relation to the theory that behavior repeated for 21 days becomes a habit.  I used it to help employees who were "forgetting" to do their job.  If they "forgot" to lock up an impounded vehicle when they unhooked it in the storage lot, they would be assigned to check all vehicles in the lot for their next 21 work shifts.  If they "forgot" to do that, the 21 days would start over.

 I also used the Catch-21 Program for paperwork training.  We ran a variety of calls: private property impounds, police impounds, commercial tows, donated vehicle tows, city abandon tows.  I would print out call information from our software program, give the trainee photocopies of blank invoices, and have them complete 21 of each type of tow.  If they didn't look good, they'd keep doing sets of 21 until they did.  I recently got frustrated with all of the calendar items I had in my phone and decided to start numbering them day-by-day.  Daily items went up one every day, so that I knew how many days in a row I had completed the task.  Items that were on the calendar on weekdays only would go up one every weekday.  The idea was that when I got to 21, I wouldn't have to refer to the calendar anymore to remember to do it.  It didn't work.  I think I was developing the habit of remembering to look at my calendar, not to remember to do the activity itself.

There's a fine line between success and failure in this Machine business.  Coaching my son's baseball team now, we're trying to develop the right habits in 8- to 10-year-olds.  Yikes.  We've almost got them to automatically store their helmet in the right place in the dugout.  Knowing when to cut off the throw from the outfield might take a few more practices.  In business, you want to develop habits in your customers.  When someone's car breaks down, you want it to be automatic: they call you to take care of it.  No thought, no shopping around, no indecision--just call you.  We want the same thing from you.  You need a part, you call us.  No thought, no shopping around, no indecision.  We don't have the resources to invest in advanced analytics and web applications that follow you around with emails and texts if you ever do a web search for "ratchet."  Our habit is pretty simple: The Right Part - The Right Price - Right Now!  We hit our mark most of the time, I think.

Have a safe and profitable week.



Nick Kemper


John Welsh
1/28/2015 08:52:36 am

Excellent idea, I've got just the application for this system and I can't wait to implement it!
Thanks for the article!


Leave a Reply.