Month: June 2013

La Mode Australienne Apocalyptique

A while back,  I saw this rather fab ensemble in the Montcler window in Chamonix (the original post is here).

Chamonix

It’s so clear why the French lead the fashion world – they put together a totally ridiculous outfit and manage to make it covetable.

So,  at the beginning of winter in the southern hemispere, looked what turned up in the shops in Sydney:

Australian fashion

There’s clearly been a very antipodean take on the original French design, with the French influence being diluted and reworked as ‘Awkward Norwegian Party Troll’.

What do these 2 outfits say to us?

The French look is saying:  “je suis soignée;  the epitome of élégance ” as Mademoiselle shrugs and pouts à la Francaise, puffing noxious clouds of Sobranie into the atmosphere as her rat-like muppet dog pees on your mixed fibres Fair Isle legging.  Does she care?  Absolument pas.

The Australian version is asking: “does my bum look big in this hat?” (if you have to ask, the answer is always yes).

The luxe vision of dreamy, cream cashmere is replaced with the eye-watering horizontals (the horror, the horror) of Fair Isle.  Fair Isle is not a kind design, and it’s particularly unkind when stretched across the backsides and thighs of dumpy Australian tweens.

Another clue is that hat.  The French version has an almost Anna Karenina touch – it completes the sophistication of the outfit.  The Australian one says ‘look at me, I’m an idiot’.  

Is there some sort of fashion hate thing happening here?  Who would do this to young women?

Just asking.

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British Airways Long Haul – That Flight – Part 2

This post has been a bit delayed – it’s part 2 of this post from December 2012 (specially for Danuta 🙂 )

So, after 2 hours in the the Singapore Qantas Club lounge, its back onto BA16 and the haven of comfort and serenity that is 43D (not) for the remaining 14 hours to London.  

My ankles have really swollen up – but they do this every time so I’m not too worried.  Won’t make that mistake again. 

There’s a different crew on this leg and while the previous bunch were rather indifferent, this lot seem a bit cheerier.  Unfortunately our aisle has someone who is older;  efficient, but in a rather brutal way – without any personal warmth at all.  She stalks up to a row in front of me and barks at a teenage male passenger about the overhead lockers (he was wearing a trilby so he clearly deserves it).   The FA in the other aisle is a bubbly girl who addresses passengers as ‘love’.  And she has tinsel in her hair.  I want to be on that side of the plane – probably everybody else does too.

In one of my wide-awake-but-slightly-crazed-from-lack-of-sleep phases, I start thinking about the customer experience I’m having.

Take the food.

On Emirates, dinner on the plane is a bit like opening your presents at Christmas – you know something good’s about to happen because there’s an attractive menu to inform you of the delights ahead.  Then there’s the build up as we go through the heated towel ritual.  When it eventually arrives, the tray has lots of interesting little packages –  ooh salad-y thing with smoked salmon, ooh delicious pudding, ooh cheese and biscuits to go with the shiraz, ooh, warm croissant with butter and jam (breakfast), ooh little chocolate to have with coffee.  It’s nicely done.

With BA there is no menu and a fairly bare tray.  I’m not complaining about the sufficiency which was fine. Quality was adequate at best.  It was just very clear that nobody gave a stuff: ancient, cold, dry croissants;  ‘chicken or beef sir?’ as the standard descriptor.  And no chocolate to go with the coffee (thank you Tanya for the Maltesers!).

In case you’re thinking ‘she’s a bit pouty over the lack of an After Eight mint’ it seems indicative of 2 very different approaches:

  1. BA:  what can we get away with?  Let’s strip out everything and put the bare minimum back in. Quality and service don’t matter because it’s the back end of the plane.
  2. Emirates:  what can we do to provide a premium product at reasonable cost?   Menu?  Tick.  Tiny chocolate for post-dinner coffee?  Tick.  Heated croissants with butter and jam for breakfast?  Tick.  A choice of wines?  Tick. Heated towels for any nose-picking South Africans?*  Big tick.  *I realised later that there must have been a handwipe sachet in with the plastic cutlery.  I didn’t notice it and neither did the South African.

I’ve mentioned before that the organisation I work for is completely focused on customer satisfaction and the customer experience.  I compare what’s happening to me on BA with a recent experience at my bank where, despite my being a techno-dullard, the concierge showed me a new way to bank a cheque quickly and easily at an ATM (amazing!).  Best of all, she managed to do this while being totally professional and charming and not making me feel like an idiot or ‘I should know better’.

Being an FA must be a hard job but there appears to come a time when they lose the ability to relate to economy passengers as human beings, and view them as livestock.   I cringed for the teenager in the trilby – nobody needs to be spoken to or humiliated like that, especially in front of a cabin full of people.   It just shouldn’t happen.

BA needs to get back the ability to affect customers positively.  They appear to have forgotten that all of us on that wretched plane have paid a fair whack of money to be there.  In exchange for all that very hard-earned dosh, I expect to get from A to B safely, to be treated as a human being and receive a reasonable level of service.

Seems like it’s too much to ask.

Life Lesson No 3: That’s Not a Meeting, That’s a Mess

Some people love big meetings.   I’m not a fan, especially of the set-piece, 3 hour workshop with 20 participants, unless they’re very well run and controlled.

In my experience, a meeting is rarely about discussing what’s on the agenda (unless I’m running it of course).  Expecting logical thought processes and the ability to relate the words coming out of people’s mouths  back to an agenda item, well that’s too much to expect isn’t it?  Yet another case of high expectation being dashed against the jagged rocks of reality.

My view is that meetings are an opportunity for the organisation’s sociopaths to display their wares.  Some observable meeting behaviours stand out:

Show Ponies:  look how much I know!  Even though it’s not got anything to do with this meeting!  I can talk for hours about this (or about anything – just ask me).  Aren’t I just fab!  Smirk smirk smirk; it’s all about me!

Terminally Depressed Detractors:  generally older males with deep knowledge of the business.  Do not like to have thoughts or knowledge challenged, especially by a woman.  Highly resistant to change. Will bang on about favourite grievance given any chance at all. Thinks they’re a mover/shaker (In that cardigan? Oh please.)

Ferals:  I’m too busy for this. And too important.  I must type noisily on my laptop all the way through the meeting, responding to major crises that require my considered input.  I can multi-task you know (this is the male version – the female will have already taken over the meeting).  Jumps in to demand irrelevant information and additional analysis on any and every subject.

Nowadays I have a few simple rules:

(i)   if there’s no agenda, objectives or expected outcomes:   I’m not going

(ii)  use of blockers eg after 1 minute of drivel unrelated to the point being discussed:  “thank you Torquil, noted, let’s move on” or “Serena, could you just explain how your point is related to the meeting objective?  Just so everyone’s quite clear”

(iii)  opportunity cost:  if A < B (where A = $ value of my hourly rate listening to you and B = $ value of doing some proper work on which my bonus is based) then it’s hasta banana.

Neil has an interesting way of dealing with meetings which are descending into chaos;  he bangs on the table and bellows “JUST SHUT UP” at the rabble of assorted bozo project managers and under-performing middle management.  Stunned silence.  Yes, he has actually done this – he’s my meetings hero.

I once worked for a company that during a takeover regularly flew lots of the other company’s people from Birmingham and London for day-long workshops  in Edinburgh.  It cost a fortune.  They’d arrive in a semi-sullen state (they were being taken over after all), not having done the pre-work and spend the day in the conference room farting and eating our biscuits.  It took a lot of meeting time and effort to overcome their tactics of wilful obfuscation and time-wasting with the usual ever-present background drone/whine of ‘this will never work’.  Ultimately successful but exhausting for all involved.

And one arrogant git of a project manager I worked for treated meetings like pitched battles, derailing any attempts to allow us to work collaboratively towards an outcome.  He walked out of one meeting puffed up and pleased with himself and said smugly “ah, X was a worthy adversary”.  Meanwhile his project’s heading down the pan, his project team are stressed beyond belief and a month later the project was cancelled and he was out of a job.

I wonder if he ever managed to work out why.