To The Victor Goes The Spoils

Pursue your objectives with a focused, almost reckless, abandon until the end. Ben knocks it out of the park with his current blog. Here’s a few of my thoughts on the topic.

[Break Through The Walls]
While reading Ben’s blog, the section about “Objective-Based Pursuits” really struck me. Greene challenges us to put away all distractions to develop a “perverse pleasure in experiencing internal conflict”. To hug/embrace the pain, challenge or opportunity by being still in its presence. Basically, take time to let it really soak in!

[Personal Story]
I was reminded of the surgery and subsequent recovery/rehab around my completely ruptured Achilles tendon years ago. The injury was easy, the surgery was easy (as I was totally out) but the rehab was a killer. It was the most intense pain I had ever experienced. The crazy thing is, my mind actually began to embrace the pain of each rehab exercise as I was absolutely desperate for the end result … the ability to once again be able to walk with a normal/balanced gait. I actually looked forward to the painful experience each day as the result was so much greater.

[Success & Innovation]
In the movie Caddy Shack, Chevy Chase stated it best when he gave us the great advice of “Being one with the ball.” This is really the key to success and innovation. To be engulfed with, empathize with, live with, be in the moment with and be in the skin of the pursuit. To live it, breath it, smell it, touch it, see it, hear it, taste it … to be one with the ball and to fully understand the root cause, the opportunity or the challenge means you are on the right track to creativity and innovation.

References

Do Hard Things [Book]
http://therebelution.com/books/do-hard-things/

City Slickers – Secret to Life [Movie Clip] Just One Thing
http://www.bing.com/search?q=city+slickers+just+one+thing

Living With A Seal [Book]
https://www.amazon.com/Living-SEAL-Training-Toughest-Planet/dp/1455534684/

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Top 13 Intranet User Revelations

Common Intranet User Experience, Ownership and Support Gotchas with related twitter type tags to get you thinking about your intranet …

For any company unveiling the “new intranet”, expectations are high and the pressure is on to deliver the next best user experience in collaboration and communication for the enterprise.

0) What’s up with the response time
#FirstImpressionsStillCount, #YouHave3Seconds, #MyDeviceIsStillClocking,
#Metrics Measure Business Outcomes, #Average Page Load Time, #WorkSmarterNotHarder, #HeyAreYouHavingTheSameProblem, #LetsGoGrabACoffeeWhileWeWait, #SoMuchForNewAndImproved, #ItWasSupposedToSmellBetterToo, #WasLookingForwardToTheFreshPaintExperience

1) What’s up with the top 5 reasons for the intranet
#WhyIntranetObjectives, #IntranetRepresentsCulture, #IntranetIsFaceOfPossibleUnderlyingTechnologyIssues, #CanYouSayTechnologyBlindSpots, #IntranetIsFaceOfContentManagement, #IntranetIsFaceOfKnowledgeManagement, #IntranetIsFaceOfProjectManagement, #IntranetIsFaceOfISAndBusinessAlignment

2) What’s up with the login prompt for the intranet
#AlreadyOnTheNetwork, #DoIHaveAnAccount, #AmIAnEmployee, #TechSavvy, #IsThisACollaborationTool, #IsThisOurIdentity, #WhatElseIsMissing

3) What’s up with the home page carousel [review past article]; pick your poison …
#ChoppyScrolling, #UselessDistractions (what moves gets your attention),
#HeavyImages (page load impact), #VerticalScrolling (to the max)

4) What’s up with the home page content [review past article]
#WhatsThePurpose, #WhoCares, #HelpMeFindXYZ, #WheresTheFrontDoor, #INeedToFindEmployeeDetails, #WhatDoesLeadershipWantMeToKnow, #WhoOwnsTheHomePage

5) What’s up with home page relevancy
#IWantToGetToWhatInterestsMe, #GiveMeAReason, #DesktopShortcutsContinue, #WhatsRelevantToME, #ShowMeMyConnections, #WhereIsDelveWhenINeedIt, #WhereAreMyNextTrainingCourses, #ShowMeMyRecentDocuments, #ShowMeMyWeather, #ShowMeMySports, #ShowMeMyPTODetails

6) What’s up with the feedback
#WheresTheFeedbackLink, #DoesMyOpinionCount, #AreWeAboutContinuousImprovement, #IsAnybodyThere,

7) What’s up with the “Out of the Box” (OOTB) Get a Trial and Experience All of the Available Features
#O365GetATrial, #O365EveryCanGetATrial, #O356TrialAvailability, #O365ReviewOOTBFeatures

8) What’s up with all the custom branding stuff
#O365WhyBrandSharePoint, #O365TheOnlyBrandingYouNeed, #O365WhenDidYouLastBrandWord, #O365WhenDidYouLastBrandExcel, #O365BrandAtYourPerilAndCost

9) What’s up with all of the Customizations #O365WillWeBeAbleToGetTheNextFeatures, #O365CustomizedFeaturesWillCostYou, #O365PayMeNotOrPayMeLater, #O365ConfigureNotCustomize, #0365UpdateImpact=IncreasedCosts, #O365UpgradeImpact=LostFeatures, #O365TurnTheShipAroundCaptain

10) What’s up with the Group/Team Collaboration Sites
#WhereAreTheCollabSites, #WantSoonerThanLater, #GroupTeamSitesShouldBe1stPriority, #LetsAlignWithBusinessGoals, #LetsWorkBetterTogether

11) What’s up with delegating content management 
#CentralTypingPoolOutdated, #BusinessCanDoThis, #WeCanDoThis, #SmarterNotHarder, #PushDownControl, #EmpowerYourEmployees, #WhoOwnsTheIntranet, #IsIntranetCollaborationTool, #IsThisAnotherRehearsal, #CanIGetInTheGame, #TiredOfWatchingFromTheSideline

12) What’s up with content accessibility
#DeviceAgnostic, #NetworkAgnostic, #iDeviceCompatibility, #CanITravelWithMyContent, #CanIRe-SyncL8TR, #HowWillIKnowWhereMyContentIsOnMyLocalDevice, #WhatIsOneDrive, #WhatIsLocalStorage, #CanICollaborateOnContent, #CoAuthoringWhat, #YouCanDoThatOutsideOfTheNetwork, #ShutTheMouthFlap, #GetOutOfHereWithYourProductivityJunk, #NewWayToWork, #NotAboutWhereYouWorkButWhatYouAccomplish

Enjoy.

Other Resources
10 Things For Every Intranet
O356 Content Co-Authoring
What Content Belongs On The Home Page
9 Mistakes That Turn Your Corporate Intranet Into A Ghost Town

 

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Get Customer Focused!

The majority of my work experience (~30+ years) has been on the IS/IT side of the fence. As of recent, my current role is in technology but on the business side of the fence. I am seeing for the first time what it is like to “really live” day-in and day-out on the business side and understand beyond a doubt the importance of IS/IT aligning with the business. It is a two-way street; though, from the perspective of each side, it often feels like it’s only one-way.

Contrary to what you may understand about the Business side of the fence, in many instances, the Business side is hand-cuffed from accomplishing what they need because they are waiting for some action (tools, permissions, functionality, application updates, etc.) on the IS/IT side to be accomplished. And know that any amount of time feels like an eternity during the waiting game.

With this article, I seek to highlight and stress with every cell in my body the imperative importance of IS/IT as well as the Business to perform the following short list. I will seek to update this article as I am prompted.

  • Seek First to Understand
    Put the Business Analyst hat on in each meeting. Ask the open-ended questions to gather information. Ask the closed-ended questions to confirm specifics. God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason … listen twice as much as you talk.
  • Focus on the WHAT
    This is similar to the first/prior bullet but worth calling out. Eliciting requirements is really an art in many ways. There are a variety of tools and techniques available that make this endeavor more fun than challenging. To understand the current state of whatever you are dealing with is a critical first step in any journey. I always think of the Shopping Mall Map as an example … it usually shows a RED X and states “You Are Here”. We must know where we are, where we are starting from, our surrounds, our conditions, our environment and use all of our senses as well.
  • System Requirement Specification (SRS) Template
    Let’s not only talk about the requirements, let’s document the $&^#$%^ requirements so we can reference them later. So, we can have something in black and white that can continue to be updated, added to, talked over, questioned, clarified and God forbid referenced in the future when yourself or others need a refresher on the System, Integration, Application, Procedure, etc.If you don’t have a SRS Template, email me at kerdirks@yahoo.com and I will be glad to send you a sample template. Yes, I worked hard years ago with a co-worker of mine at a prior business … we put our heads together, consolidated some great basics into a template and then perfected it as we worked through each project. Know this … that the SRS is the final document that brings all of the project details together and that there are other tools and techniques in the BA/PM toolbox that are needed ahead of building out the SRS document of any project.
  • Ask The Questions
    The Business side of the fence is tired of all the excuses and delays from the IS/IT side of the fence. If you don’t understand something, ASK. If you need more information, ASK. If you find yourself twiddling your fingers most of the day at your desk, that’s a clue to get up and talk with someone who knows. Anyone. Just do something!
  • Do What You Say You Will Do By When
    Complacency is the killer of many businesses. And, it is also the killer lurking under the Culture of every business. There is nothing more frustrating than IS/IT broken promises, delays and excuses upon excuses of why something is not done yet. The IS/IT side of the fence needs to understand that the Business side can see through your excuses; let’s just stop the nonsense, commit and put in the hours to get whatever it is DONE.
  • Empathize
    Unless you emotionally engaged, you are really not intellectually or academically in the game. Think about those in the profession of acting, performing, sports, speaking, music … you and I are not at our best, we are not at our peak, we are not in our zone, we are not at our best focus until we are actually living in the shoes of the one across the table, across the room, across the street, across the desk, etc.
  • 100% Present
    You can’t be thinking about other things when I am talking. Put down the phone and hit the silence button. Show me that you are listening by repeating back to me what I just said. We all need to be better with this one. Practice. Practice. Practice.
  • Failure is OK
    The Business wants the truth. If you don’t know something, say it. If we can’t move ahead because the players/stakeholders/team are too apprehensive about breaking something, then let’s find a safe place to play, to try out features, to test the limits, to do crazy things … but staying still in the same old place is insanity and a plain waste of all of our time.
  • Collaboration
    If we are going to be working together on this task, project, team, initiative, then let’s be clear about one thing … both sides need to be ok with transparency. Invite me to informational as well as the actionable meetings and discussions. Let’s not hold back. And if things weren’t always this open, then let’s bury the hatchet or pound a stake in the ground to indicate that we are big kids willing to let by-gones be by-gones and let’s move forward and onward. I’m tired of sitting in the ditch of life, how about you?
  • Write It Down
    This is worth stating again in a little different form. Writing down the meeting notes or notes from a phone call or a co-worker drive by can come in handy later. It is most likely that some of those notes may find their way into broader meeting conversations and ultimately end up in the SRS document in another way, shape or form.
  • Project Plan
    Provide a visual that resonates with your team, project or event discussion. That provides clarity of WHAT, WHO and WHEN at a minimum. A visual of and by itself communicates a ton of accountability and responsibility especially when referred to on an ongoing daily basis where everyone can see it and everyone must speak to their piece of the pie.
  • 9 to 5
    When I look back at my IS/IT career, some of best projects I have been on required me to work above and beyond my regular 8 hour day. It’s those times when we sweat shoulder to shoulder, sweat hour by hour and stress day by day that are the most rewarding when we finally make it to the finish line. I can count only a handful of projects across the landscape of my career where I really felt that I was part of close-knit team. The best memories are those where we as a team dug in, went over and above and got the job done. Remember that anything worth doing is worth doing well.
  • Cut The Fat
    There is a saying and studies that confirm that we will fill whatever time we are allotted with something. When push comes to shove and a project deadline looms, this is the time when the special stakeholders dig in and make things happen. Usually this means that some of the things that were originally part of the project will not be done. It may also mean that the traditional ways of making things happen need to be re-thought and re-architected. In our daily lives at some point, we will be forced to improvise and adapt. What we have in front of us will not work; and we need to think outside of the box. To brush aside the “business as usual” ways of thinking and doing and innovate beyond the norm to get things done more efficiently and by the deadline. And not that quality will be sacrificed as that’s not what I mean. Attaining the same level of quality, we instead found a way to accomplish the same things with less time, less code, less people and with the same or better level of quality in our deliverables. Remember this … that the walls in our life were not constructed to stop us but to separate those of us who would stop from those of us who will prevail in spite of the obstacles in our face.Instead of telling your customer “no”, find a way to cut the fat to get it done!
  • Innovate
    There is a time to follow policy and a time to think outside of the box when the deadline looms and progress wanes. The business lobbing tasks over the IT wall and vice versa does not a successful project make. Though humorous at times, it is great to be able to lob the alleged largest task over the wall to the other side. If we are truly working as a team, this attitude must not prevail.
  • Accept Responsibility
    Talk is cheap. It is so un-team-like to bring up ideas and assign to others when we should assume the assignment. Another one is where a task has been on the table or “in progress” for weeks and there is always another excuse why it can not be completed.

Summary

Customer Focus is a two-way street. It requires constant care and feeding from both the Business and the IS/IT sides of the fence. For a business to be successful, both sides must learn to work, play and have fun together. Notice the hard work comes first. The celebration commences when the work is complete. The work takes time, effort and people and often hours over and above the typical 9-5 daily schedule.

Hope you enjoyed … not go thrill your customers, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc.

Kerry

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A Self-Destructive Life Style Is Not Our Identity

Def Con II Meeting Experience

In the past, I have had the opportunity of experiencing a self-destructive meeting where I observed the following.

  • the meeting invite included multiple business and IT personnel
  • the meeting invite included no agenda
  • the meeting purpose was about eliciting business requirements for a system change
  • the focus for the bulk of the meeting by the leader was …
    • on the technical solution that already existed
    • on hearing the leader defend the solution
    • on how the new changes would make the system run slower
    • on how the new changes would make the user experience horrible
    • on how the new changes did not conform to the existing solution
    • on the HOW instead of the WHAT
  • from the business user perspective
    • the meeting invite did not provide an agenda or prep guidance
    • the meeting did not build on the existing business/IT partnership
    • the meeting leader was
      • talking/demanding more than listening
      • not taking any notes
      • not asking open-ended questions to understand the business context
      • not asking closed-ended questions to nail down specifics
      • was focused on the HOW and not the WHAT
      • saying “no” with both words and body language
      • was saying the “system would run slower” because of the proposed changes
      • was not interested in the business user perspective
      • not helping all attendees understand the larger group requirements
      • wasting everyone’s precious time
      • basically set us on a course to Def Con II

This saying by Benjamin Franklin is so true, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. There was definitely a lack of planning involved here!

Collateral Damage

This meeting debacle got me thinking of other potential areas of our lives that could also be self-destructive. If due-diligence and planning do not take place in our personal lives as well, are we simply a victim of our circumstances or can we really control some aspect of what we must endure or enjoy each day? Can we chose? Do our choices matter?

Recognize The Signs

Are there daily habits in areas of our lives that are counter-productive and ultimately self-destructive to ourselves, our relationships, our work environment and our personal lives? What I found is that basically the same things that are self-destructive at work are the result of self-destructive habits in our personal lives … view the 12 Signs of Self-Destructive People.

Change

Don’t let a self-destructive life style spill over into a self-destructive work environment. The secret to change is in our daily routine.

The 3 Step Program

  • Make a Choice
  • Intentionally Develop a Plan of Action
  • Execute Changes Daily

Develop a healthy routine that impacts everyone around you with a positive, productive and “can do” attitude.

Enjoy your day!

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Book Review: Living With A Seal

Quick Link to Book on Amazon (268 pages)
Sub-Title: 31 Days Training with the toughest man on the planet.

My quick summary of the book follows and also includes some great resolution tips for 2017. I couldn’t put this book down and devoured it in a few hours. Highly recommend.

  • Everyday do something uncomfortable
  • Break the big stuff down to bite size pieces
  • Control the mind
  • I can do more than I think
  • Go against the flow (aka; traffic)
  • Fruit till noon (see book: “Fit for Life”)
  • Stay uncomfortable to innovate
  • Mix up the routine
  • Stay out of the comfort zone
  • Oxygen deprivation produces more red blood cells
  • As Fast As We Can (AFAWC)
  • Focus
  • It’s less about WHAT, and more about WHEN and HOW
  • Finish what I start
  • Do the right things right
  • Think on WHAT I need to think about
  • Break the pattern for safety
  • Fear is a great motivator; Anger is the other
  • Protect your primary
  • With fitness, there’s never a finish line
  • Believe and see to achieve
  • No hostages, no excuses
  • Abnormal = Normal
  • Simplify
  • Embrace the unexpected
  • Coasting is for pussies

For more details, view Jesse Itzler’s Blog

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2016 In Review – My Job Hunting Experience

[HS] = Comments and Hind Sights
The Beginning
– in Sept of 2015, prayed for a job change
[HS] i need to be carefully aware of what I write down and pray about
[HS] words mean something http://builttobrag.com/importance-of-words/
– in May of 2016, was laid off by employer for lack of clients
[HS] i will later realize this to a huge blessing
[HS] i have an advantage over those who are employed; i am available anytime and i am hungry
– losing a job is like dealing with a death
[HS] this is my 2nd job loss in 15 years; never say never; play the hand i’m dealt
[HS] this is where i surrender and trust the Lord has me and my family’s best interests and future legacy at heart
Take Action
– dusted off the resume, cover letter, enrolled for the LinkedIn Premium service
[HS] to “invest” means an initial sacrifice with the hope of greater future rewards
[HS] started applying for jobs on Indeed.com, LinkedIn.com, and other job posting sites
[HS] my job search would ultimately consume me for the next 7 weeks
[HS] tip: apply for multiple positions at the same business as applicable
[HS] tip: to demonstrate interest in a business, “LIKE” each business on Facebook and “FOLLOW” each on LinkedIn
[HS] i have learned that job hunting is a process that takes times; my timing is not their timing; budgets must align, paper needs to be shuffled, people need to meet, options must be considered, etc. etc.
Take Time to Grieve
– depression and the feeling of helplessness during a job loss is normal
[HS] i am hardest on myself
[HS] repeat out loud daily: “this job hunting process takes time”
[HS] don’t dwell on the would have’s and could have’s, take intentional actions
[HS] enjoy this time (praying, biking, walking, reflecting), as it will be short lived
[HS] take time to reflect and enjoy the small stuff (ie; ants gathering provisions, birds chirping, the sun on my face, journaling, watching the jets fly across the sky)
Purpose In The Journey
– my decision for getting into consulting the last 2.5 years was well founded as my heart was to help more businesses get up-to-speed on the SharePoint technology and i wanted to step out and grow personally and professionally; other considerations
[HS] worked with some great clients who i still stay in contact with today
[HS] proved to myself that I DO have what it takes
[HS] pushed me to join more user groups, present at technology conferences and network with others in Omaha and across the country
[HS] pushed me to mentor, to share, to be more real and vulnerable and to think more of others than myself in so many ways
[HS] consulting was the most rewarding experience of my life; everyone should experience it (similar to the military)
Progressing Thru The Grief
– the best thing about depression is knowing that it’s the 5th stage in the 7 stages of grief
[HS] recall the Shawshank Redemption quote, “get busy living or get busy dying”
[HS] that reality hit me fresh between the eyes, “gosh darnit people like me” (ie; SNL)
[HS] my wife communicated her confidence in me that bubbled up from her prayer time, “nothing is wasted … all of your talents, experiences and roles to this point were for a purpose … all of your skills will be needed in your next job” … i would lean on this vision throughout my journey
[HS] blessed am I with such a grace filled and encouraging wife
[HS] shake it off, stomp it down and rise above the victim of circumstance mentality
https://betterlifecoachingblog.com/2010/04/15/the-donkey-in-the-well-a-story-of-persistence/
Proactive Actions
– the premium subscription of LinkedIn provides access to technical training resources
[HS] complimentary access to Lynda.com is included so i got busy brushing up on my technical skills
[HS] Lynda.com is now a part of the LinkedIn family; shortly after, Microsoft bought LinkedIn
– there was a peace in the storm; the desires of my heart were overruling the doubts of my mind
[HS] i had perfected a well-oiled system of being fed job postings from numerous sites on a daily basis, would review each and record those that applied to my skills, followed up with recruiters throughout each week to review status, reset expectations, strategize, etc.
[HS] i kept working on my skills, soaking in the experiences and information like a sponge, not knowing from which direction another door would open; i had to be ready whatever that exactly meant
[HS] i finally surrendered the results to my Lord
[HS] i learned to rest
[HS] i learned to enjoy the daily bike rides, the breeze on my face, the prayer time, the sitting still time watching life happen around me, the feel of a twig in my hands and the fresh surface below its surface as i peeled back the bark
[HS] i am reminded of the simplicity of life away from the chaos of the business world and how i need to think more of connecting with people in a real way and not let the “urgent” small stuff of life distract me from what’s really “important”; that my words and actions will always be more about the “fragrance of Life” to others … a fragrance that attracts others to me; a fragrance that builds others up; a fragrance that listens and really hears and understands before uttering a single word or solution; a fragrance that values others more than myself
Mountain Top Experience
– my 12 year mountain top experience was really a valley in disguise
[HS] after my 1st job layoff, i worked at HDR for 12 years where the experiences were filled with the best people in technology, the benefits were great and it felt like a mountain top experience … but out of my prayer life i was compelled to leave the comfort of the mountain to the next experience that i now describe as the wilderness where i learned new things, trusted in new ways and that was preparing me for the next step of the journey … i knew the wilderness experience was complete with the culmination of the layoff and the perfect timing to move on but to where ???? … trust, actions, moving forward … another experience in my life where i stand at the shore, look across to the other side and question how i will ever get to the other side … a miraculous bridge, boat, zip-line or helicopter will appear and wha-la i’m on the other side in the blink of an eye.
– the process takes time; waiting is the hardest part
[HS] a friend of mine encouraged me through his words and ongoing prayers to apply for multiple job postings at the same business(es); this was great advice
– i later received a call from a local business regarding multiple positions, of which, two (2) were a good fit … that call happened on Friday (6/24/16) during my morning bike ride
Keep Options Open
– the waters parted like the red sea
[HS] the week of July 4th was busy with 3 interviews scheduled for the week; two (2) of the interviews were with the same business where there were two open positions; up to this point, i had a number of 2nd and 3rd interviews but then it was just silence like the positions were cut or filled but i had received no confirmations either way; frustrating to say the least; as encouraged as i was with 3 interviews scheduled for the same week, i set my expectations low and went into the interviews with my best foot forward. All of my job hunting experiences and life experiences, talents, skills and roles up to this point would play into these interviews … the first position i interviewed was such a great fit that i later wrote this in my journal, “.. if not this job, then i will need to re-think my job hunting strategy.” As i think on that statement now, i’m not sure what i was thinking as my next step … it was more of an outward expression of an inward frustration that there had been so many great interviews up to this point and i had thought i was a great fit for these other positions as well and then the process with these businesses would just go dark. It’s like being out in a great speed boat and then somebody drains the fuel, the lake or both and there i sit … great expectations but no mobility.
BUT, this time would be different. I would later receive an offer that Friday (7/8/16) for the position that i gladly accepted.
Trust Your Abilities
– nothing wasted
  [HS] I have heard others speak on this topic as well; understand your abilities and their worth
  [HS] when the table of my life is upended and the cards are strewn across the room by the wind, i know that it is not a time to cry over the spilled milk; but rather, a time to prepare for the next step and to know that there is something better on the horizon; i may not be able to see it now, but it’s coming and the sum of my experiences and my next actions will propel me to the other side and it will be great.
Summary
– journal your experience to learn about yourself
– the job process takes time
– find a faith filled friend
– be aware of the 7 stages of grief
– get past the depression stage as soon as possible
– trust your past experiences, talents and skills to propel you to what’s next
– apply for multiple positions at the same business if the postings apply
– set personal expectations appropriately
– prepare, execute, follow up
– rejoice when the red sea parts
If you found this article helpful, consider forwarding to others who may need this perspective.
Enjoy and Happy New Year (2017) !
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What I Learned About United Airlines Baggage Claim

This is a deviation from my regular posts but thought it important to document.

Summary Points

Follow these points to make the best use of your time and experience and to best ensure your luggage arrives promptly. Don’t wait for your luggage to miraculously appear at its final destination without your intentional actions to make it happen! I hope your experience goes well and that these steps are helpful.

  • As soon as you know, find a baggage claim agent nearest the luggage carousel and document the lost luggage details as best as possible
  • Call the lost luggage phone number (available approximately 24 x 7) to request that your luggage be put on the next available flight and wait until the details are confirmed. Morning calls have the shortest wait times.
  • Text message updates are nice (if the airline process workflow system actually connects with the back-end data system VERSUS simply sending a useless message)
  • Monitor the flight on the airline web site
  • Pickup your luggage
  • Close out the ticket with the baggage claim agent
  • End of story; enjoy

The Details

My daughter recently returned from studying abroad in Limerick, Ireland. On her return trip thru Newark, NJ en route to Omaha, NE, her luggage was held up in Newark.

As we were documenting all the details with the lost baggage claim agent in Omaha, a passenger on a flight 2-3 days earlier was wanting to verify the status of her luggage which was still stuck in Newark and it contained a majority of her clothing, etc.

Back to us … the agent verified we had all of the documentation (ie; phone #, web site, luggage tag id) we needed to follow up with United the next day.

The next day I called the lost baggage number and bypassed the auto-response by simply stating that “I needed to talk with an agent”. I had to state it twice as the auto-response ensured me that it could assist me better than an agent. I really wanted to talk with a real person who cared! The first call in the morning had a wait time of only 8 minutes. My subsequent follow up call the same afternoon was 30 minutes. The estimates were really accurate so for best service times call in the AM.

The agent taking my call was a bit difficult to understand but it was probably a combination of his accent and my expectations. Anyway, we progressed through the process where he verified all the important information and ensured me that I would now receive regular updates throughout the day on the status of the luggage. And he was correct, throughout the day I received the same message verbatim “United bag update for file OMAXXXXXM. We are working to locate your baggage and will keep you updated every 6 hours until we do. http://united.com/bagtrack “. Well, needless to say, this message simply showed me that they had no clue where my daughter’s baggage was and my trust barometer with United was quickly digressing. At this point, anyone could have run off with her luggage and no one would have been the wiser. My thinking is that United should have already known whether her luggage was actually in Newark and should be notifying me of that fact in the text so we can all get our actions set on the next steps. Otherwise, how did they know in the first place that her luggage was really stuck in Newark. It appears that the people and the technology are sending mixed messages in this scenario.

After receiving two(2) of these same text messages in the morning, I decided to follow up around noon to push for more action. I bypassed the auto-response again and was greeted by an agent who assured me that they had the luggage. I asked about availability of flights to Omaha that had room for her luggage. He checked a number of flights and found one arriving at ~7pm that night. Perfect! We left the call under great terms. And, then I continued to received the same text messages … “United bag update for file OMAXXXXXM. We are working to locate your baggage and will keep you updated every 6 hours until we do. http://united.com/bagtrack “. What is going on here ?! I know you know that we know that you have the luggage and what flight it will be on … your text messages are really just templates that spit out the same message every 2-6 hours, provide no value and simply cause more frustration than anything.

A few more text messages later, I was on the phone again. This time there was the 30 minute wait which was pretty accurate. I kept my phone on Speaker Mode and turned up the volume while I did other work and had other conversations.

I was again greeted by an agent who assured me that the luggage was on flight UA3861 arriving at 7pm. Great! The looming question is, “Why didn’t I receive that all important update via text so I wouldn’t have to waste both of our time?”. Sorry, I digress. He said to call back about 8pm to verify the luggage was checked in at the airport. I thought, “there’s no way I’m going to call back at 8pm … why would I want to put myself through that ordeal again.”

Rather than calling the number to bypass the auto-response message again, I opened my friendly browser and navigated to United.com and kept checking the Flight Status until the plane landed. It was a 10-15 minute drive to Eppley Airport where I had the luggage off the carousel and in hand within 10 minutes of arriving. I thought I would be courteous by checking in with the lost claimed baggage agent to assure her that the “whole process had worked” and that I was a happy client/passenger. She scanned the bar codes on the luggage tags and we parted … no one being the wiser that the system is broken and that simple fixes don’t need to cost a bunch of money to attain huge benefits and brand recognition and ultimately money to the bottom line of your balance sheet.

Here’s to you and yours and to safe travels during this Holiday Christmas season.

Enjoy your journey.

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