Foundational Thinking for Good Business

Good epistemology is the foundation for Good Business

High-level conceptual thinking is a critically important skill for successful business leaders. This skill consists primarily of the process of observation and logic to form concepts of increasing integration and complexity. When done right, lower-level concepts become embedded in higher-level concepts, with each rising conceptual level being an integration of appropriate and valid lower-level concepts.

The structure of higher-level concept formation is one that moves from lower level perceptual observations and concepts that can be affirmed from the direct evidence of the senses, to highly abstract concepts that subsume multiple levels and broad integrations of lower and intermediate level concepts. This process of concept formation allows us to embrace and manage the increasing volume of information and complexity embedded in higher-level concepts and work. Read more

10 Disruptive Meeting and Workshop Behaviours to Avoid

People abuse meetings and meetings abuse people.

We are all victims of far too many unnecessary and meaningless meetings.

While managers always complain about this scourge of corporate life, they are themselves commonly the reason for bad meeting behaviour. Rising through the corporate ranks sometimes appears to be a license for engaging in and promoting such disruptive, unproductive, and costly behaviour. Read more

Author Barry Linetsky

Dr. Leonard Berry’s 10 Lessons of Service Quality

Dr. Leonard Berry’s Lessons of Service Quality 1993

While working in the Corporate Planning & Development division at Aetna Canada with SVP Dobri Stojsic in the early 1990s, our small team of strategists was charged with developing a customer service strategy for the organization that would help Aetna become “the recognized leader in service to targeted financial intermediaries and group sponsors.”

This was no small undertaking.

In searching for a methodology to develop a measurable strategy, we discovered the pioneering work of three academic leaders in the field: Leonard Berry, Valarie Zeithaml, and A. Parasuraman. At the time, the work was generally referred to as SERVQUAL. We gathered as much of their published work as we could find and used it as the basis to develop a unique service quality strategy

We created a theoretical and practical process at Aetna that was extremely successful in developing a multi-faceted customer-focused service-quality game plan that was meaningful to customers and employees, and significantly improved the service culture and brand reputation of the company over a number of iterations.

The process we developed for Aetna was later converted into a service quality strategy MBA course and taught for a number of years by Dobri Stojsic in the University of Toronto’s MBA program (now Rotman School of Management). We also converted it into a consulting product for The Strategic Planning Group to help many of our blue chip clients develop and implement service quality plans, among them two large Canadian banks.

On January 15, 1993, Dr. Leonard L. Berry, one of the masterminds behind the original service quality research, Dr. Leonard L. Berry gave a talk titled “Lessons of Service Quality” at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto at an event sponsored by the University of Toronto’s Institute of Market Driven Quality (IMDQ), founded and lead by Dr. Douglas Snetsinger, who was also Director of Rotman’s MBA program at the time.

At the time Dr. Berry held the JC Penny Chair of Retail Studies and was the Director of the Center for Retailing Studies in the College of Business Administration at Texas A&M University, and was the former national president of the American Marketing Association. He is the author of a number of excellent books: Service Quality: A Profit Strategy for Financial Institutions (1989); Delivering Quality Service: Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations (1990); Marketing Services: Competing Through Quality (1991); On Great Service: A Framework for Action (1995); Discovering the Soul of Service: The Nine Drivers of Sustainable Business Success (1999); and Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic: Inside One of the World’s Most Admired Service Organizations (2008).

A more current profile of Marketing Legend Dr. Berry and 2016 interview can be found here.

Here are my notes from Dr. Berry’s presentation, which are as valid today as they were 25 years ago, and worth revisiting.

Dr. Leonard Berry’s Ten Lessons of Quality Service based on ten years of observation and research:

  1. It is too easy to overlook the customer.
  • When it comes to service, only the customer is judge and jury
  • It’s so easy to get it wrong
  1. Lack of commitment is often based on ignorance of management. They are committed, but don’t know what to do.
  • Middle managers must be on the service bus and involved in all service activities
  • Do a better job nurturing, developing, and promoting leaders into management positions
  1. Service quality is hard work.
  • Too often managers pursue an easy solution to a very difficult journey. Cultural change is hard work
  • Disney cleans every square foot every 15 minutes. They steam clean every square foot every evening
  1. It is important to keep the service promise.
  • Core of service quality is reliability, not friendliness
  1. Service quality is also service system design.
  • Service quality is often designed out of the service system
  • Pull of the old paradigm – doing it the way it has always been done. “If it ain’t been fixed, it will break.”
  1. Service excellence is more fun (not only more profitable).
  • Excellence requires the creation of an achievement culture
  1. Common sense in uncommon.
  • If common sense were common, service excellence would be much more prevalent
  • The frozen food section should be near the checkout
  • Q1: What would the customer think?
  • Q2: Does this decision pass the common sense test?
  1. Lesson of surprising customers.
  • You have to surprise customers to exceed their expectations
  • You have to exceed their expectations some of the time to achieve service excellence
  • Interactive opportunities (responsiveness, empathy, tangibles, assurance) are the way to exceed expectations
  1. Quality service and fair play are inseparable.
  • Customers expect fair play
  • If customers think you are being unfair, they think you have provided bad service
  • Customer trust is an important asset
  • Communicate openly both what and why
  • Guarantee your service
  • Ask the question: not only is it legal, but is it just? Is it fair?
  1. Competitive advantage of passion.
  • Needed to inspire leadership and change
  • Are our businesses (departments) run by dispassionate “just a job” managers?

Barry Linetsky is a Partner with The Strategic Planning Group, specializing in value-driven strategic management, and author of The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success (Theme Park Press, 2017), which is available in print and Kindle editions from amazon. A number of my business journal articles are available here. Visit Twitter @BizPhilosopher.

© 2017, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.


Advice For New MBA Students

Prepare for obstacles on the road to an MBA

Shortly after completing my Fast-Track MBA at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Management in 1992 (now Rotman School of Management), I was invited to address the new incoming Fast-Track class to share my experiences and observations. Read more

Why Visionary Leaders Embrace the Value and Wisdom in Effectiveness

“Effectiveness is evaluated efficiency.” Russel Ackoff

Having completed my book The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success and building a website, I’ve been able to spend time this spring and summer between work assignments catching up on some reading in areas of professional and personal interest. Read more

Walt Disney’s Method of Optimizing Success Through Failure

Walt Disney’s Persephone: The Goddess of Spring

Looking back at the long and varied career of Walt Disney, it seems that almost everything he touched – from Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Mickey Mouse to Disneyland and Florida’s Walt Disney World – resulted in success.

Walt Disney surely had the golden touch.

The truth isn’t quite as kind. Walt wasn’t always right and his ideas weren’t always successful.

But Walt Disney was curious and honest, and therefore also committed to recognizing and assessing his own failures and learning from his mistakes. “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me,” he said. Read more

Walt Disney, Pinocchio, and Lessons for Leaders

Walt Disney’s Pinocchio

One of the attributes that made Walt Disney unique amongst movie studio heads in Hollywood was that he was both a businessman and an artist. Walt worked everyday with the sensitivity of an artist and the hardheadedness of an entrepreneurial business owner, leading and directing his artistic and technical staff to create high-quality entertainment that would bring joy and happiness to ordinary people.

Long-time Disney animator and director Wilfred Jackson (1906-1988) provides insight into how Walt worked on his earliest feature-length films in a series of retrospective correspondence letters with author and musician Ross Care from the mid-1970s through the early-1980s that are newly published in the book Disney Legend Wilfred Jackson: A Life in Animation (Theme Park Press, 2016). Read more

I’m In Love With The Amazon Doctrine (or The Once and Future King)

Jeff Bezos, amazon CEO

I just learned about something called The Amazon Doctrine, which explains why I love amazon so much.

The company’s leaders and guiding minds are committed to treating customers right. They invest, learn, and continually adapt to win and keep customers. They help me acquire knowledge, entertainment, and other solutions-oriented products to make me a more productive and happier person. They are what they proclaim to be: the everything store. And they never seem to stop working to make my life better so that I will continue to buy from them. Read more

Author Barry Linetsky

Why You Should Never Utter “Internal Customer”

When customers collide

It has long been recognized that businesses survive when they create and deliver solutions at a profit that customers desire and will pay for by means of voluntary exchange. Business success is ultimately in the hands of consumers. In this sense, the customer is king. The choices made by customers decide which businesses will succeed and which will fail, and so much more in terms of the efficient allocation of resources in a free-market society.

Peter Drucker famously identified this notion as a broader business philosophy he referred to as The Marketing Concept.

Then along came the TQM gurus. Read more

Author Barry Linetsky

Disney History Blog Reviews The Business of Walt Disney

Didier Ghez’s Disney History blog

Didier Ghez, one of the foremost Disney researchers and prolific author of dozens of important books on Walt Disney Studio-related history, is first out of the blocks with a review of my recent book dealing with the business aspects of Walt Disney’s career. The review appeared today at Ghez’s Disney History blog,

The Disney History blog is a great resource for discovering the latest book releases and other miscellaneous items of interest to Disney history buffs. And Ghez’s Walt’s People series of books containing interview transcripts of people who worked with Walt and for the studio is an excellent and highly valuable resource for those with an infatuation for a behind the scenes look at the people and stories that populated Walt’s world. I love reading these interviews and hearing from the artists themselves as they reflect on their own careers and major studio events.

Here’s Didier Ghez’s review in its entirety, published on 20 June 2017. Read more