Project Review: How Service Corp. Handles Psychology

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2005-01-13 Print this article Print

A step-by-step guide to help you decide how much money your company should allocate to protect its network.

What a Project Leader Should Do
  • Give both sides of the story. In regular meetings with your executive sponsor, talk about negative as well as positive developments. It helps the sponsor feel in-the-know and further cements support.
  • Get better feedback. To present new software to business units, enlist one of their peers. Be there for questions, but recognize that it's more comfortable to hear about change from someone you know than a full-time technology specialist.
  • Train everyone. Training a few "key" people and expecting lessons to proliferate may save training dollars, but it rarely results in a properly taught staff.
  • Empathize. Try to remember the way you wanted to be trained and managed back when you were a grumbling underling.

What a CEO Should Do
  • Tell it. Humans crave stories of conflict and resolution (True Grit, Star Wars, etc.). Repeatedly tell a narrative about why the company is doing the project, what problems it aims to fix and what role everyone has in making it work. Stories incite feeling and motivate action. PowerPoint slides don't.
  • Be dramatic. Don't downplay the change involved in a big software replacement. People can interpret that to mean you don't think the project is any big deal, so they can ignore it.
  • Be strong—stand aside. You hired managers for their talent and ideas. Now let them work. Micromanaging line items on the project plan deflates the self-confidence of your leaders. When they feel steamrolled, so will their staff, jeopardizing the project.
  • Walk the walk. If a new system is so critical to the company, you should be using it.

Expert Assessment

Service Corp. grew "by issuing debt and buying up a lot of properties—funeral homes and cemeteries—all over the world. It didn't do the best job in operating those. When you acquire 500 funeral homes, chances are you inherit [different software] packages.

"They're reaching the end of paying off debt. The software overhaul begun in 2002 is a good start because it digitizes administrative work [done] on paper under the old system. You can't do anything to increase funeral demand."

Bill Burns, financial analyst, Johnson Rice & Co., New Orleans

Managing What You Measure

MeasureWhat It IsExample
Additional services offered by staffCount of extra services sold, such as Web site memorial or an extra limousine for the familyNumber of products sold in a funeral package: 14
Referral attitudeA gauge of customer satisfactionPercentage of customers who would recommend funeral home: 98.6%
Staff professionalismA rating of funeral directors, cemetarians, and office personnel by customersWorkers rated "excellent" in manner and helpfulness: 48.6%
Pricing clarityA gauge of how clearly funeral home staff explain prices and payment termsContracts challenged by customers: 7.8%*



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