The Continuing Bank Saga

Today, I am an almost excited man.

I’ve just seen a news headline that the particular bank that has become my nemesis (the one with the same letter three times in the name) has just been the busiest recruiter at IIM-Ahmedabad.

So, all my problems will now be over. Maybe soon i will even receive my bank card. Those who read the piece i wrote on 13th February will be aware I was having an itsy bitsy little problem trying to do something as simple as a replacement Debit/ ATM card from said un-named bank.

Well, the saga after the last i wrote was that i had requested the bank (after spending hours trying to navigate the labyrinth of the phone banking) to send the card again. I did receive phone calls on two occasions from the courier company. On both occasions arrangements were made for delivery at my home at 4.30pm and arrangements to guarantee that someone would be present to receive ……… but, it wasn’t necessary as nothing came. Now, it’s all been quiet for the last 9 days which probably means that I’m back to stage one. Dare I risk running the gauntlet of the phone banking again?

Or, shall i simply wait a little while and let the formidable brains of IIM-A to solve my problem? However, i fear that might take a while. First, someone will have to write a case study, then they will have to drink lots of coffee, stay up loads of nights and then may well propose that accounts like mine get closed as customers like me don’t represent a big enough profit margin (and he’s also a trouble maker).

Oh well, i guess this makes sure i don’t spend too much. But, everyone should know – your bankers really love you lots, and lots, and lots. Honest!!

The Power of Choosing

We all have choices about how we respond to what happens in our lives.

Wanted to share this wonderful piece of film which is about making empowering choices, refusing to give in to the tough things that may come in to our lives. it’s also about love and devotion.

Enjoy:

The Value of Teacher Teamwork & Collaboration

An interesting article related to some new research highlighting very strong opinions held by teachers there that the more they collaborate, the better will be the quality of the education received by students.

Metlife Survey of American Teachers

The report highlights that traditionally, time for collaboration is more in primary than secondary education. It comes from America, where typically secondary school teachers have around 22 contact hours per week. This should be lessof an issue here in India, where the teachers in most of the better schools are not handling more than about 16 contact hours per week.

However, it begs some interesting questions;
a) Will teacher collaboration only happen if school management creates organised structures, regimes and processes?
b) To what extent should individual educators be able to argue for independence and autonomy in what happens in their classroom against an institutes desire to have teachers collaborate?
c) To what extent should teachers’ lessons be observed by others?

On this latter point, within TSRS we are increasingly coming to view that there are two different types of scenario where lessons may benefit from being observed. The first kind of observation is one done by a line manager, with a formalised, open and transparent reporting/ feedback process. These are about ensuring that the lessons in the school and the methodologies being adopted are congruent with school mission, values and policies – are we all singingin harmony?

The second type of lesson observation we want to encourage is the type where a peer-colleague as ‘friend’ sits in on lessons and then shares a two way exchange of ideas afterwards which is part of “us becoming the best we can be”. It is considered important that for complete trust these types of observations do not entail any formalised reporting to management.

However, this comes up against a hard reality – there is something in the nature of schools as environments that all too frequently makes teachers very cautious in sharing open, honest feedback about performance. In fact, that goes further – even Principals and line managers shirk away from drawing attention to weak performance out of (misguided) collegiate loyalty. Here’s an example of what I’m referring to;

Denver Post Article

So, here we have a survey where, confidentially, a whole mass of teachers are acknowledging they have colleagues who are doing a sub-standard job, and yet 99% of all teachers get ‘satisfactory’ or better ratings through a performance management system.

Of course, teachers don’t find a problem by and large with sharing frank, open feedback with the children in their classrooms, or their parents. So, why should it be so hard to apply the same standards to each other. Most teachers say they are frank with students because they want them to fulfil their potential – so can’t we do that for our peers too?

The final point that jumped out to me from the Metlife Survey was that only 42% of teachers reckoned that all or most of their students took their responsibility for education seriously, whilst 96% of students reckoned they did. Plainly a big mismatch in expectations and belief about what constitutes taking responsibility. Also, students have long felt the need to ‘pretend’ they don’t really care about academics. However, all too often the ‘devil may care’ image doesn’t match the real, behind the scenes effort they’re putting in – sometimes we need to trust them and recognise ‘the game’.

Parents Fostering Learning – The Obama Recipe

There may be many things on which i don’t see eye to eye with Barack Obama, but his latest recommendations for how to bring up children in ways that foster effective learning in school really struck a chord with me:

Obama Article

No TV on school days, bed by 8.30pm and 9.00pm for his 8 and 11 year old daughters. Their own alarm clocks and complete responsibility for getting themselves up in the mornings, full parental involvement and attendance at all PTA Meetings.

Such an impossible recipe? All makes a lot of sense to me.

NLP in Education

NLP, or Neuro Linguistic Programming, is a suite of activities and skills which are about increasing acuityΒ  – the ability to understand how one’s own mind is working and how the minds of others are working. Only by developing such fine-grained skills can one aspire to build higher levels of rapport with others.

I have to confess to being a passionate advocate of NLP, right since i got my first training in the skills around 17 years ago. At that time i was a banker. I saw positive benefits in my leadership skills, ability to motivate and lead employees, relationship skills with clients – leading to stronger client relations, more referrals, more cross-selling and higher customer satisfaction ratings.

I also credit NLP techniques learned with improvements that happened in my presentation and public speaking skills around that time.

I have long believed there was a strong place for NLP skills for teachers and in schools. However, as this article from the UK Telegraph newspaper clearly shows it is plagued by simplistic criticisms, some of which have their roots in deep-held society views about “how children should be” and what is meant to happen in a school classroom.

Telegraph Article

When will there be a full acknowledgement that in education we are here to teach children, not to teach “stuff”. I have shuddered at times when i have sat in a teacher’s classroom (TSRS excluded, of course!), watching them ‘teach’ almost as though the students in front of them are completely invisible.

Does it matter whether or not a student has understood what their teacher or classmate has said? Who should it matter to? If you ask students whether they understood, might there be reasons why they may choose not to admit they didn’t understand? If so, how else but through strong conscious or unconscious awareness of sometimes very small clues in body language is a teacher to know whether a student understood?

Ultimately, if teachers care most about learning and less about ‘teaching’, then surely they will see it as a vital lifelong quest to add whatever they can to the tools and skills at their disposal that enable them to build higher rapport with individuals, groups – to understand better the working of their own mind, those of their learners (and also their parents).

Teachers are in the ‘human potential’ business – those who are not very interested in human beings might need to rethink their career choices!

Soccer League – Week 5

Lots of indications coming through from the school games coaches that the matches are getting ‘better’. Teams are getting to know each other, to understand their strengths and how to make the best of them. Playrs are finding their ideal playing position, so not switching around so much.

It may have been Valentine’s Day, but no love in some of these results!

Here are the results for Week 5:

Day – 5: (14th February 2010)

Classes : 2 & 3

Match – 1 : Mighty Warriors Draw Crusaders 1 – 1
Match – 2 : Western Express Beat Flying Dragons 2 – 1
Match – 3 : Dare Devils Beat Falcons 3 – 1
Match – 4 : Mountain Lions Draw Artic Wolves 2 – 2
Match – 5 : Power Strikers Beat Heros 1 – 0
Match – 6 : Gunners Beat Shooting Stars 4 – 2
Match – 7 : Super Stars Beat Golden Eagles 5 – 1

Classes : 4 & 5

Match – 1 : Blazers Beat Western Express 7 – 3
Match – 2 : Knight Riders Beat Crusaders 10 – 0
Match – 3 : Flying Dragon Beat Golden Eagles 3 – 0
Match – 4 : Mighty Warriors Beat Gunners 10 – 3
Match – 5 : Super Stars Beat Dare Devils 3 – 1
Match – 6 : Mountain Lions Draw Falcons 1 – 1
Match – 7 : Heros Beat Shooting Stars 3 – 1
Match – 8 : Artic Wolves Beat Power Strikers 1 – 0

Classes : 6 & 7

Match – 1 : Heros Beat Golden Eagles 6 – 5
Match – 2 : Artic Wolves Beat Crusaders 5 – 1
Match – 3 : Dare Devils Beat Gunners 7 – 2
Match – 4 : Falcons Beat Western Express 9 – 1
Match – 5 : Mountain Lions Beat Power Strikers 5 – 3
Match – 6 : Super Stars Beat Shooting Stars 7 – 6

Classes : 8 & 9

Match – 1 : Shooting Stars Beat Mountain Lions 5 – 1
Match – 2 : Power Strikers Beat Dare Devils 4 – 0

The ‘Real’ Inconvenient Truth on Education

About three months ago I wrote about the film being made by Sir David Puttnam in UK called, “We are the People We have Been Waiting For” taking an in depth and thoughtful look at the current state of education and what needs to change. It carried a Youtube video of the advnce trailer of the film.

David Puttnam Film

In that piece I suggested that some were calling that film the equivalent of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for education. Well, I guess we need to stop calling it that, on the basis that Davis Guggenheim, the Director of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ has now made a film about the state of education in America which had its premier to strong reviews at the Sundance Festival recently. It’s called ‘Waiting for Superman’.

Here’s yet another country where intelligent, thoughtful people are ready to stand up and question what is being done in the name of education. In my view it’s vitally important that people engage in these debates everywhere.

Here’s an interview with the Director:

A Review of the film: Hollywood Reporter

Soccer League – Week 4

This week saw some high scoring games. Players are now getting to know their team mates better, their strengths, best positions on the field etc. and teams are beginning to work out some strategies and tactics. We should see the standard of games improving over the next few weeks. This week saw some very high scoring games:

Results

Day – 4: (7th February 2010)
Classes : 2 & 3

Match – 1 : Power Strikers Beat Artic Wolves 5 – 1
Match – 2 : Shooting Stars Beat Heros 2 – 1
Match – 3 : Gunners Beat Western Express 3 – 1
Match – 4 : Mighty Warriors Draw Golden Eagles 0 – 0
Match – 5 : Flying Dragons Beat Crusaders 2 – 0
Match – 6 : Dare Devils Beat Super Stars 2 – 0
Match – 7 : Mountain Lions Beat Falcons 1 – 0

Classes : 4 & 5

Match – 1 : Shooting Stars Beat Artic Wolves 3 – 0
Match – 2 : Heros Beat Western Express 4 – 1
Match – 3 : Blazers Beat Crusaders 3 – 2
Match – 4 : Knight Riders Beat Golden Eagle 10 – 1
Match – 5 : Gunners Beat Flying Dragons 1 – 0
Match – 6 : Mighty Warriors Beat Dare Devils 9 – 1
Match – 7 : Super Stars Vs Mountain Lions (Super Stars Won the Game by Walkover)
Match – 8 : Falcons Beat Power Strikers 5 – 1

Classes : 6 & 7

Match – 1 : Mountain Lions Beat Western Express 7 – 1
Match – 2 : Artic Wolves Beat Gunners 6 – 1
Match – 3 : Super Stars Beat Crusaders 7 – 6
Match – 4 : Falcons Beat Golden Eagle 9 – 1
Match – 5 : Dare Devil Beat Heros 9 – 5
Match – 6 : Power Strikers Beat Shooting Stars 10 – 7

Classes : 8 & 9

Match – 1 : Mountain Lions Beat Power Strikers 3 – 2
Match – 2 : Shooting Stars Beat Dare Devils 9 – 1

Banks – Anyone for Service?

As an ex-banker, maybe i should thank the bankers of today for reminding me almost every single day why I am so thankful that i am no longer amongst their number.

Bankers don’t make anything, they don’t create anything – their reason for being is ‘service’. However, i am completely convinced that for most of them their service mantra consists of “We’ll be no worse than the rest” – which, of course, must work if enough of them stick to it. Mind you, a great opportunity for a bank who come along and dare to treat service like it REALLY matters to them!

What makes me say this?

Well, let’s take the well-known Big Indian bank (not naming, but the same letter appears 3 times in the name!) who want as many as possible of their customers to use their phone and internet banking services. OK, fair enough and actually quite a convenient approach – except when there’s a problem.

My problem was simple – Debit card had developed a split and needed replacing. So, 1 hour on the website searching for the right button that would let me apply for a new card. not finding a button to serve the purpose, I sent a mail requesting a new card.

Having heard nothing, logged on to website again a week later – short mail waiting for me. For this, use the phone banking or visit a branch. So, i phone the number……….

Then begins the torturous journey in an alternative universe, one in which nothing is real and the torturers have devised the most cunning verbal and numerical maze. If this, type that. If this and this, then type that. If i think I’ve heard the option i was looking for and i type in my answer before the menu finished being delivered I fail the test and get cut off. I make a mistake in guessing which menu option I need (how dare i not be as expert in the terminology they choose to use – I deserve everything i get!).

Eventually, i’ve been cut off a few times and started over again more times than i can remember. 1 1/2 hours have elapsed. At last, i seem to be getting everything right. I even manage to use guess work to get past the voice message where the tape has become mangled and the words completely indecipherable – I’m going to make it! The last hurdle, nearly, my date of birth. I’m so close to getting to talk to a real life human being i can see them in my mind, sitting in the call centre poised, waiting for the phone to ring! But, ugghhhhh, “You have exceeded your permitted number of tries. Please try later”

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thankfully, I avoid the temptation to test how rugged my phone is when it comes in contact with a wall.

Two days later – success. I’m through. I report the issue. I’m told my existing card will be cancelled and a new card and PIN will be issued. Fair enough. it will happen in the next week.

A week goes by. A PIN number arrives. Woohooo, what progress.

But, no card. Then an SMS – your card has been cancelled.

So, I start again running the gauntlet of the mystery messages and dead alleys of the phone banking. On about the fourth attempt I get through to my second real life human being. I’m encouraged to explain the whole thing. However, I’m not hearing anything that suggsts the person at the other end of the line is listening. In fact, i now realise he was probably cursing because they get measured by how quickly they deal with enquiries (I was probably stinking up his averages!). I give him the reference number from the previous enquiry – but now, he gets to deliver his revenge – “Sorry, the system is down right now so i can’t check that. Please call back tomorrow.”

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Next day. Armed. Ready. I launch myself in to the labyrinth again. In only two attempts i’m through and in to the realm of real live people. I’m getting better at this.

Again, I set out my situation. I give the old reference number. then, a great one – “It was returned and cancelled because nobody was present at the delivery address”.
“When was te delivery attempt?”
“29th January”.
“I was just discharged from hospital the day before – I was at home all day on 29th January.”
“No, the delivery couldn’t be made.”
“I’m sorry, are courier companies now suddenly so honest, that you trust the word of the courier company over your own C-U-S-T-O-M-E-R?”
Silence ………………….
“You can pick up your card from a branch”
“I don’t want to waste half a day going to one of your branches. That’s the whole reason i use phone and online banking!”
etc. etc. etc. until, finally and begrudgingly there was an agreement to ‘try’ to deliver to my residence one more time.

Don’t you just hate customers? Don’t they just get in the way while we’re trying to do our jobs!

“So, when will the courier try to deliver, this time?
“I can’t say”

So, now, I wait. Fully expecting that when it all goes wrong it will be my fault. Because, I’m a customer.

Another big problem issue to me is the way the banks (collectively) want to charge a fortune for things which actually enable them to cut costs! We’ve been exploring the opportunity for all parents to pay their school fees. From a bank’s perspective this is great news – less footfall in branches, less manual processing of thousands of cheques a year etc. etc. Fully automated processes with almost zero marginal cost per transaction. So, just why do they need to charge the sorts of fees they talk of for such services?

Could it be that they need to extract revenue out of all their ‘good’ customers to cover for all the money they lend and never get back from ‘bad’ customers?

What fine, sensitive service!

Then there’s the particularly classy ones who see customers as walking commission opportunities. They know what pays the best commissions and that’s exactly what they’re going to sell you. Don’t ask awkward questions about ‘fit’ or justification as to why that product for you. They are the products of a system.

Blame the banks who ‘incentivise’ them in inappropriate ways and then look the other way without asking awkward questions of the ones who bring in the big fat commission amounts. And, blame the non-existent regulatory environment which means no redress for the customer sold the wrong product at the wrong time etc. But, at the end of the day blame the public and customers who tolerate this shoddy treatment. Their/ our tolerance means we get the service we deserve and no bank can be bothered to summon the effort to really deliver genuine customer service. And, so it will remain, until customers find their voice, speak up and refuse to tolerate bad service.

Ultimately, a genuine, high quality customer service orientation is, was and will always be, the most sure-fire route to success, revenues and a strong business. Delighted customers reward companies with amazing loyalty, referrals, more spend per head and …… worth remembering, a higher level of loyalty and tolerance should there be a glitch or a problem.

Somewhere along the way, some people have got to overcome some issues – customers are to be served, not to be turned in to commission generating units. Not to be extracted from to justify our positions and status. Serve them. I mean, really serve them – and the rewards will be ours.

Disaster Preparedness & Disaster Management

It was probably at least a year ago, when we were being plagued by bomb scares etc., that the management of the school decided that we were not willing to take anything less than a full-on effort towards disaster preparedness and disaster management. It was decided that we would start out with a detailed pilot project at Aravali, that we will then roll out to the other campuses.

Seeds India were selected as expert partners to work with. I have to say they have been excellent partners for the school to work with, cajoling and pushing when necessary, motivating and encouraging and always very professional.

The work done has been really thorough and has offered some great opportunities for students to get very actively involved, for example with risk identification audits covering every room and space in the school.

The pilot at Aravali has now moved in to advanced stages, with training for teams of teachers and students who will form certain groups;
Search and Rescue Task Force
Fire and Safety Task Force
Safety and First Aid Task Force
Evacuation Task Force

The first two of these groups were engaged in training programmes yesterday, the latter two today. These workshops will be followed by a variety of mock drills involving the whole school.

Here are some pictures from yesterday:

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