"It's out of our control..."

It's a big problem for many businesses that there are many elements of your product or service delivery not always within your control.

As an example; my current employers produce software (very good software) that is merely one part of a solution. We cannot influence how the product is integrated into other software elements to provide the product the end user will see. We have no control over the competence of the people installing the final solution or training the end users in its use, no matter how many filtering mechanisms we put in place when selecting partners. This can be rather depressing, as we occasionally get caught in the backlash directed at problems that we didn't cause and cannot fix.

However we can control the quality of the software we produce and the quality of the support we give to our integration partners. The larger problems I refer to above don't stop us from taking pride in our work, even if others subsequently do their best to blow the project that we are but a small part of.

I write this article sitting in a tatty, freezing, first class carriage of a First Great Western train travelling from Plymouth to Reading. Currently the train is running 50 minutes late. This isn't First Great Western's fault, they don't control the signalling or the weather (evidently there's been a lightening strike on some signalling equipment). They do however control the quality of the delayed journey. There are ways to make even a delayed journey acceptable:

  • Heating the carriages above freezing point.

  • Supplying information that lets people know what's going on.

  • Wifi so those with connected devices (pretty much everyone in the developed world) can work out the implications of the delay for themselves or do some useful work.

  • Buffet car staff who don't act as if they are doing you a favour by relieving you of the equivalent of the GDP of a medium-sized developing country in return for some truly awful coffee.

These, and many other ways that I'm sure other passengers can think of, are simple but positive steps to improving the quality of the part of the service that FGW do control.

If you are part of the total package, then even if every other element that makes up that package goes wrong, there's no law against you doing your utmost to make your contribution, no matter how small, outstanding. First “Great” Western's inability to understand this is truly dissapointing.