Sunday, April 20, 2014

Technology: Can It Go Too Far?

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.   - Bill Gates

First, a disclaimer: I'm no techno-phobe. For many reasons:
  1. Technology, like anything renewable, has been hardwired in us to embrace. We smile at babies
    Please don't let this happen to me.
    because they're fresh new specimens of ourselves, and there is, I believe, an inherent drive to procreate and seek out, protect, and promote the new version of anything, whether it be one of our own species, or the new iPhone 6 (this September, I'll be there on the sidewalk from the night before). 
  2. At fifty-four, I'm now in danger of being teleported to Planet Unhirable by any employer who believes no one over forty can find the power-on button. Staying current with new technology is simply survival, by maintaining both the reality and the perception in others that I'm not out of touch. 
  3. The jobs on most estates actually require it, so I support it. As in many service jobs, satisfying the client means doing more in less time, and in-person meetings, once replaced by voicemail, then email, are now conducted through various means of texting and conferencing. No doubt, in five years, we'll all look back on texting and Go-To-Meeting as embarrassingly prehistoric methods of meeting with co-workers, as newer - and unimaginable as of now - technologies take their places.
  4. I grew up watching Batman. Alfred Pennyworth, the consummate Butler, just knew how to navigate through it all so well. He's my first memory of someone who really loved their job; and he utilized technology in a home with such finesse, that I just knew, even at age five, one day I'd be a Butler, too.
But technology can go too far. 

My local gym, with good intentions, has now installed treadmills, whereupon your data is uploaded to a cloud and you can then stream your progress reports to your iPhone, when you have more time, later. Because, as we all know, while on a treadmill, one just doesn't have time to deal with thinking about getting into shape, as one is spending that time catching up on emails, video presentations, national news, and editing and texting spreadsheets.

I realized this morning how happy I am this new treadmill cloud technology did not exist last summer when I decided to drop forty pounds, because, simply, I never would have been able to. I would have, instead, spent the following three months uploading heartbeat trends while sorting the day's cascading stream of urgent emails, mostly cc's. Yet, instead, what happened last summer is that I passed by a mirror - technology that's not too exciting, yet has been efficiently in place since the second century A.D. - and decided it was time for a change. It was a powerful visual that only a mirror knows how to do, and one I would never have paid attention to if I'd focused my energy at the gym on studying metrics of how I was doing by uploading then downloading the clean, presentable, photo-shopped, color enhanced, and re-assembled metric cloud version of myself. 

I see the same trend now developing in training and human resources. As both a national and local chapter member of American Society for Training & Development, I've noticed there's lots of discussion of what apps trainers are downloading to keep up with metrics they are purchasing, from ASTD, on, well, the apps that trainers are downloading. But, very little actual doing or even talking about doing, eh, training. 

Egg alerts: This is just all wrong.
Best of all, I stopped into a store today and saw the egg tray - you know the one - the one that alerts me through wi-fi when the last egg is lifted from the tray, letting me know... that I've just lifed the last egg from the tray. To be fair, I think there's an option to delay the alert or even set up group alerts, in case different teams on my estate need to be co-alerted about the egg tray status - or, perhaps, if some team members are allowed this information only on a need-to-know basis. After I download the manual and send it to the treadmill tonight, I'll read it and follow up with an updated post for you later this week. It would be preferable, though, if everyone reading this could simply text me their cell numbers so I could group-text this update (I mean, the update about the alert delay option, although I'll include a link to an online survey, first, to see if there's also interest in details of the other egg tray alert options).

In which ways is technology actually serving you - and helping you to serve your Principals - on your estate?  

And in which ways could we engage in some reflection on how to approach high technology effectively - along with all efficient means to complete the mission of service?