After Water

East Porterville, California: the alarming and thoughtful true to life tale of how grossly irresponsible stewardship of the land has contributed to the water running out in this community. Susie Cagle’s blog not only addresses the actions of human behaviour and the scourge of climate change, but the how, and why communities need to be active in their own futures.


Susie Cagle | Longreads | June 2015 | 21 minutes (5,160 words)

The sun was going down in East Porterville, California, diffusing gold through a thick and creamy fog, as Donna Johnson pulled into the parking lot in front of the Family Dollar.


Since the valley started running dry, this has become Johnson’s favorite store. The responsibilities were getting overwhelming for the 70-year-old: doctors visits and scans for a shoulder she injured while lifting too-heavy cases of water; a trip to the mechanic to fix the truck door busted by an overeager film crew; a stop at the bank to deposit another generous check that’s still not enough to cover the costs of everything she gives away; a million other small tasks and expenses. But at the Family Dollar she was singularly focused, in her element.

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Solution Saturday: Help! My Boss is Incompetent

Image courtesy of Leadership Freak

Image courtesy of Leadership Freak

Dan Rockewell has put together a short, but thought provoking list on dealing with an incompetent boss. In particular his article challenges perceptions, the need for empathy and perhaps it’s our own actions that will determine our relationship with the boss in future. Click to go through to his article here: Solution Saturday: Help! My Boss is Incompetent.

The Art of Giving Feedback 


Image courtesy of iosphere at

The giving of feedback that people hear comes down to two choices: the direct approach, or the sandwich approach. In essence, men prefer the direct approach i.e. the filling in the sandwich or the “don’t sugar coat it method, whereas women will begin by making a positive statement, deal with the negative filling and finish with a positive statement.

Having said that, there is no one size fits all solution. It is very much horses for courses. If you are providing feedback using the direct method and you aren’t getting through, switch to the sandwich method and so on.

Cindy Tonkin explores this notion further in her very good Blog: Giving Feedback That People Hear regarding Deborah Tannen’s research in this area.

The Almost-Real Science in ‘Orphan Black’

A very insightful article on the role of women in TV, how Orphan Black stacks up on the science regarding cloning and genetics and that Mary Shelley’s (the author of Frankenstein) mother perhaps kicked off the feminist movement…


On television, women don’t usually play grownup human beings; they play slightly oversize children, helpless and pouty, driven by appetites they can’t possibly understand. At the show’s surfeit of interesting, adult females, the mind reels. That they are merely egg containers would seem boringly reductive, in a biology-is-destiny way, except that it’s such an interesting answer to science fiction’s big question: Who creates life? It could be said that “Orphan Black” is a feminist “Frankenstein,” if it weren’t true that “Frankenstein” was a feminist “Frankenstein” … One trick, in “Orphan Black,” is keeping the story ahead of the science; another is keeping the women ahead of the men.

— If you’re not watching “Orphan Black,” a BBC sci-fi drama about six? eight? twelve? clones, each played by the unbelievably talented Tatiana Maslany: start. Today, preferably. (The third season premiered earlier this month—two seasons won’t take long to binge-watch.) At the New Yorker

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Statutory Obligations – The Hand Of A Light Touch?

Sean Fletcher

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

For those of us in the Western World, our statutory obligations generally consist of how society is regulated through the use of legislation.

Here in Australia, the battle between the current level of statutory compliance as opposed to a “light handed touch” to our regulatory responsibilities, is once again on the menu.

The Abbot Government recently released the Final Report of the Harper Review regarding the National Competition Policy. In short, the Harper Review has recommended that the key to Australia’s economic re-invigoration is through the use of the “light handed touch” approach.

As much as this would be a welcome relief to many i.e. the hope that there may well be a reduction in the statutory obligations for businesses and organisations in general, the reality is, if history is anything to go by, the most likely outcome is that there will be an increase in regulation, but perhaps not as onerous as what we would normally expect.

Why Do We Have Regulation?

Well, as we all know, the need for regulation is so that the economic markets can run smoothly, people are kept safe and the environment is protected. Regulations are also in place regarding those things that cannot be dictated by the marketplace, and would typically fall within the ambit of the “public interest”.

We exist at an interesting time. Since 2008, financial pressure has driven industry and governments around the world to find solutions to problems caused by regulators asleep at the wheel and certain players in key markets taking advantage of those who actually needed protection.

A colleague of mine once said to me (in my former capacity as a local government CEO) that my job was to try and keep what he and others did regarding business fenced in, and that it was his job to try and break out. To my mind, the analogy regarding the role of the regulator and the antagonist could not be put any better. Needless to say, I replied I didn’t quite see it his way, but I did appreciate the sentiment.

At the end of the day, the use of statutory power is only as good as the people who have the responsibility for administering it. One thing that has become noticeable during the last two decades is that we are all resource (people) strapped, and the regulator is in exactly the same boat. Whether this will change, now that the Australian economy is cooling, remains to be seen. Although there may be more people to choose from for key jobs, it doesn’t mean that the regulators will take on experienced staff to help them do what they do. After all, the Australian Tax Office, just to name one, has systematically reduced its staff numbers to meet the Commonwealth Government’s budgetary constraints.

Further to this, in discussions with colleagues recently, the same old chestnut emerged: who is left regarding the various regulatory authorities with the relevant technical knowledge and skills to advise on what is acceptable from a regulatory (safe) viewpoint. It would seem that government bureaucracy is now more about policy and procedures developed for people in the frontline who really do not appreciate the finer detail, and cannot give the immediate response that is so often required.

In the days when I actually worked for a State government regulator, the key we found to resolving tricky regulatory matters was the use of common sense. This meant having a very good understanding of our regulatory responsibilities and applying this in a way that would meet our clients needs in a timely manner! “Impossible”, I hear you say, but I can assure you, this can be done. The issue comes back to understanding the forces of change, and with that the push and pull effect of the “public interest” regarding such factors.

Then there are the State and Territory regulators meeting with the Commonwealth on a regular basis to try and reach consistency across the Commonwealth. Not everyone wants to play ball, and many good public servants and other stakeholders involved in such a process become burned out through the frustration and time it takes to reach an outcome.

Of course, another key ingredient is this: those who are regulated, or are protected by regulation, need to participate in the process. In other words, it is far easier for the regulator to help those who help themselves. Granted in this scenario, the regulator needs to be approachable in the first instance.

So, at the end of the day, even if we do achieve the “hand of a light touch”, will it really produce what we need?

What’s Coming Up!

Over the next few posts I am going to look at some key issues regarding statutory obligations including:

  • Whether the recommendations of the Harper Review will gain traction; and
  • The impact of the final report into the plumbing industry in Western Australia including the proposed changes and the length of time it has taken to do the review and its impacts.

If you have a point of view, let me know

Sean Fletcher is the Principal Consultant at Strategic Teams, Sci-Fi enthusiast and plays the guitar. 

‘America’s Best Investment Ever,’ According to ‘Bowling Alone’ Author Robert Putnam

Robert Putnam, the creator of the field of research known as “Social Capital” clearly comments on the connection between a person’s background and their ability to undertake education based on whether they socially engaged or socially isolated as a child


 America’s best investment ever, in the whole history of our country, was to invest in the public high school and secondary school at the beginning of the 20th century. It dramatically raised the growth rate of America because it was a huge investment in human capital. The best economic analyses now say that investment in the public high schools in 1910 accounted for all of the growth of the American economy between then and about 1970. That huge investment paid off for everybody. Everybody in America had a higher income.

Now, some rich farmer could have said, “Well, why should I be paying for those other kids to go to high school? My kids are already off in Chicago and I don’t care about [other kids].” But most people in America didn’t. This was not something hatched in Washington – small town people got together and said, “Look, we…

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Following Up On The Customer Service Triangle

Sean Fletcher

In my last post (20 March, 2015), I commented on the magic of Karl Albrecht and his Customer Service Triangle. In today’s Blog, I am going to discuss how to use the Service Triangle at a “lower level”.

The great thing about the Service Triangle is that it can be used at any level within an organisation and at any level regarding what you are trying to achieve.

In this instance, I have used the Service Triangle, in very simple terms, to tease out the main features regarding the holding of an event. The matters required  to be addressed are shown in the picture below:


As can be seen in the above diagram, using such a tool will allow you and your team to quickly brainstorm and plot what is required regarding the undertaking of any activity. With the above example (and I haven’t included all the issues), it can be seen that there are a number of key considerations as follows:

Customer: Who is the event for i.e. the demographic?

Strategy: Is there an event management plan for the holding of this event?

People: Who is responsible for the event and are appropriate staff/others allocated for the event?

Systems: What are the key things required to run and support the event?

At the end of the day, the success or failure of running an event, undertaking a project or realigning an organisation will rest on the strategies we use to assist us formulate the best way forward.

What systems and strategies do you use?

Sean Fletcher is the Principal Consultant at Strategic Teams

Happy Easter Everyone

Sean Fletcher

A very Happy Easter to everyone from those of us here at Strategic Teams!

Sean Fletcher is the Principal Consultant at Strategic Teams

The Magic of Karl Albrecht

Sean Fletcher

In this age of “Gurus” there is one, for me at least, that has stood the test of time. His name: Dr Karl Albrecht. His work will forever remain a key part of the customer orientated world in which we live.

Karl understands the human psyche only too well.  His tools and insights have provided invaluable approaches when dealing with the perceptions of not only the varied customers out there, but those regarding our staff as well.

During the last 18 years, I have often thought of engaging Karl’s services to assist me with improving the many different service delivery environments in which I have worked. Alas, I was never able to achieve this.

However, my lack of achievement on this front has never prevented me from using a number of key tools developed by Karl and his team. One such tool I use regularly is the Customer Service Triangle (Found in: Customer Service: The Only Thing That Matters; and Service America: Doing Business in the New Economy). It has, time and again, proved to be a very useful framework regarding the customer experience and one that I have used to actively engage staff.  The Service Triangle allows you to not only understand why customers and staff do what they do, but to also come up with ways to improve the work environment, which in turn leads to creating a much better experience for the customer.

Karl’s (and Ron Zemke’s) goal has always been for you and I to understand the importance of bringing the customer into the heart of the organisation through aligning three key elements: the strategy of the organisation, the engagement of the people that work for the organisation, and the improvement and selection of systems that will assist the organisation deliver value.

The Service Triangle can be implemented at the highest level or utilised deep within the heart of an organisation regarding a particular project, task or event.

Customer Service Triangle

An Adaptation of the Customer Service Triangle Developed By Karl Albrecht

The Customer Service Triangle is simple in its form and beauty, but quite magical in terms of the outcomes it can deliver. Give it a try…

Sean Fletcher is the Principal Consultant at Strategic Teams

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