Why more airports should have apps, not.

Oh airports, airports, airports. Why do you always do this??? You market yourselves as a convenient location for spending (mandatory) time waiting for a flights to depart, with luxury shopping and eating too little seats that are not in a commercial establishment and then you mess up on some of the most basic things. I could write an entire book about the negative experiences I have had in airports and the appalling customer service that some airlines deliver some of the time, but that isn’t what I will focus on today in this post.

What I want to focus on for today is  why do airports have their own apps? Please answer me. It’s a genuine question that I am really trying to understand. So comment in the bottom if you have a view on this.

Visiting airports as I do I get bombarded with more information on their app and how to download their app than I do on how to connect to their wifi (another topic to discuss) or where the restroom is. And I cannot help but think that they must have wasted a lot of money on these apps. What is the return? Who actually downloads CPH airport app and uses it on a more than monthly basis for a sustained number of months? I suspect that if you look at the demographic you have 2 main groups of people who download and use it, let’s explore these:

  • People who travel seldom and go to the airport or in preparation for going to the airport download the app in the vane hope that it may help them find their way around the airport better. They will then delete it after their holiday is done or not delete it but will never open it again.
  • People who paid for the app to be created.

Can anyone think of anyone else? I can’t. If you answer a business person then you are wrong. I did a survey of the business people I know and none of them have the app. If they did they would have the app for every airport in the world and that is a lot of useless apps.

So who decides in an airport’s organisation that an app is a good investment for an airport or rather how do they justify the expense of paying for an app to be developed for their airport? Some ideas?

  • Marketing think it would be a great way to better promote the facilities the airport has to offer. read; drive more people to the shops and restaurants. This doesn’t materialize as no one uses it.
  • We need to have an app because, you know, apps. Probably the best reason I can think of to have an app. I mean, apps.
  • Our airport needs to be more accessible to all and an app will help travelers find the info they need about the airport quicker/easier. Clearly a user experience walk-through and a bit of money on some improved signage would be a better proposition. How many elderly people have a smart phone and out of that proportion how many know how to download an app and out of that many how many can read your app without then having to look for their glasses, oh and by that time they really should have found a bathroom already. Sorry.

So by this time I think we have 100% established the futility of an airport having it’s own app. So what can airports do to positively improve the user experience? I look forward to your suggestions!

DMAIC drops the mic!

I entertained myself more than I should have with that title.

So yesterday I wrote about how you might want to think more about which method to use to solve a problem before you get into solving it as I am a strong believer that each popular method has its strengths and weaknesses for different types of problems. I am of course assuming in this that you know more than one method or have access to experts across several methods. I realise this isn’t always the case.

So what about DMAIC? Well to start with I absolutely love DMAIC. It is my favorite method to use when problem solving myself and my favorite to coach. I love the elegant connectedness (not a real word) of all the different parts and how they weave together to form a free flow story line from event to causes to significant x’s and back to responses. Just talking about it gets me wanting to do some regression analysis!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with DMAIC WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN???? It is the backbone method for six sigma the hallowed continuous improvement movement based around statistical analysis of data. You can find more about six sigma here. There is a section on DMAIC there as well.

As you might have read in my previous post Do we have a problem, I am not a fan of too much data in problem solving. I find it confuses people and blurs the reality to the point where we can struggle to find the correct path. This would at first glance seem to contradict with six sigma. I mean its about statistics and everyone knows that when it comes to statistics more data is better. So why then say it is so great? The key here is that DMAIC gives you a framework and tools in which to continuously prioritise the different inputs you get, focus down on the important ones, decide how you want to measure them and take control of your incoming data for real good!

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It seems like magic! The first time I was walked through this path by my teacher and mentor Graham I was amazed and astounded in how clear you can make things and take control of information to assimilate it into an interpret-able result!

So going back to the beginning of the post. When would you maybe look to use DMAIC over KT PA (Kepner Tregoe Problem Analysis) for example? My thought is DMAIC:

  • Lends itself to big process problems. It analyzes systems and has the tools to create the understanding of these
  •  If you have easy sets of continuous data DMAIC is going to be your man
  • Problems where you are short on data and you know you need to get out there and gather more (again beware of thinking this all the time). DMAIC has the tools to help you gather the RIGHT data from the start

Anyway, that is it from me with regards to DMAIC. If you want a more detailed breakdown of anything in here please comment and I will do my best to help!

The best problem solving route is…?

I will start by apologizing as this isn’t going to cover the whole topic. But hopefully something interesting for you. There are many different problem solving methods and tools out there that people like to use and they even have different ways of using the same tools as well, which makes life very interesting. It is important to distinguish between a tool and method as a first step (get it?). A tool is a specific method used to execute a step in a methodology. Clear? Just kidding. But to be a little more serious. A method we should consider to be a the highest level set of steps that we need to follow to solve a problem. A tool can be the whole or part of the way to execute a step in a method.

Some of the popular methods for problem solving out there are:

  • Kaizen defect reduction routes
  • Six Sigma DMAIC
  • Kepner Tregoe Problem Analysis
  • A3

There are of course many others. Here where I work we have our own method that we developed to better reflect our organisation and that is great.

I am sure you don’t need me to tell you that wars have been fought in meeting rooms over which method is the best and clearly the real answer is, it depends. It depends on many things but let’s highlight what it should depend on and shouldn’t. You should not select or say a certain methodology is the best just because it matches your personal bias. What do I mean? Unfortunately, I asked a KT consultant once about this and their answer was disappointingly obvious. Ask a six sigma consultant you will probably get a similarly obvious view. I do not believe that one single problem solving method is the best.

Each different problem solving method has it’s own unique characteristics that make it particularly useful to certain types of problems.

This post was inspired when I bumped into my colleague Fredrik the other day. He had been reading this blog (good lad!) and told me he was going to use the KT tools on a problem (he attended a 3 day PSDM workshop that I held a year or so ago). The discussion went to about how the KT problem analysis helps with a certain type of problem and I think it really does.

(What will follow goes into some detail on the KT method so if you don’t know it apologies). There are 2 things that I find most powerful about the KT problem analysis. Firstly there is the obvious IS / IS NOT when describing the problem. The questions you learn, frame the information in such an easily responded to way. Then the distinctions and changes tease out the sometimes hard to perceive but crucially important combinations that can help identify the root cause. In this case there was a change that they already knew about and Fredrik was concerned that this might bias the analysis. So the advice on this from me? Focus on the distinctions and I should have also told him (make sure the possible causes can explain all the facts! Sorry Fredrik forgot that one)

Now this may not seem like it really says when you should use KT over Six Sigma or vice versa but perhaps when you have a sense of what problem faces you think about how you would go about solving the problem with the different methods and then choose the one that seems the best fit. This can at least challenge bias which is the first step to overcoming it!

What do you never leave home without?

As mentioned before I am an occasional international business traveler and have been for some years. I have found over that time the way I have prepared myself for trips has changed dramatically.

In the beginning it was of course a vast novelty (remember that?) and I therefore prepared and packed as if it was a novelty (i.e. going on vacation). I am sure we have all done this and the consequences are always the same. A massive checked in bag that is full of everything, some things I have packed in the past that it amuses me now to look back are:

  • Travel iron – why did I even?
  • Multiple pairs of shorts/swimming trunks – I wasn’t a regular swimmer back then and I wasn’t anywhere near a beach
  • Sun tan lotion – when did I think I would have time on a business trip to lie in the sun long enough to need this?????
  • Way too many clothes for “evening activities” – A suit looks just fine in a bar. Amateur.

I am sure there are many more but those are the ones that come immediately to mind.

Do I need to explain to anyone why you should always avoid checking in a bag? If I do, leave a comment and I will write an explanation there. Needless to say I have learnt now to only check-in unless I cannot physically fit everything that I need into my carry-on. I will pay for washing at a hotel before I take a carry-on. You get your t-shirts folded (first time ever) and sometimes in a plastic cover, AWESOME!

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So, many years later, what are the things that I always pack in my laptop bag or carry-on and am VERY annoyed if I forget? Yes another list is coming people!!

  • Extension cord, why? See here
  • Wet wipes – a friend swears by these when going to Asia. I swear by them where ever I go. The restrooms of restaurants, factories, truck stops etc, inside of cars, trains, buses and aircraft are occasionally poorly stocked so having these on hand is superb. Don’t waste your time with that nasty gel. It doesn’t clean your hands just sanitizes them and then they feel all sticky and horrible
  • Tissues – the pocket size pack. Always handy and takes up no room
  • SPF facial moisturizer – because I’ve never seen a hotel room which has this as a toiletry and you don’t need sunscreen but it’s good to protect your beautiful mug, right? Also apply liberally before and during long haul flights so you don’t look like a dehydrated drunk when you get off the flight. For the same reason lip balm
  • Shampoo – Hotel provided shampoo is nasty and causes dryness and then your expensive suit will have a sprinkling of snow on it when you go to the customer meeting. Way to make a first impression there! Get a good shampoo decant into a mini bottle.
  • iPad – or another type of tablet if you want, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t have an iPad though. Books, movies, games, photos, email, news. Weighs nothing and fits on a tray table in economy.
  • VPN – maybe not a physical thing to pack but all your connectable devices should have a VPN enabled (not just work stuff). I will write a separate article on setting this up soon
  • Noise Cancelling headphones – I bought mine when I went to China 5 years ago. They cost a fortune but they still work perfectly today and I am VERY ANGRY if I forget to pack them. Watching movies or listening to music on a slight is transformed with these and you can drown out noise in airport and hotel rooms as well. They help me sleep and they make the whole experience of traveling more bearable. I use Bose but I am sure other brands are good as well

So that is my list. Please add in the comments other things that you always pack on your trips. Ladies, I am fully aware that there are some additional essentials for you that  us men may not require so please add them in and I will edit the post to have them included!