Loyalty Engineering                                              

Must-Read Books for the Loyalty Engineer

  The first two recommended books, while not in the following list, are described in this preface as they provide context for the list. 

Tim Sanders’ Love Is the Killer App offers compelling reasons why professionals must accumulate knowledge.  His “lovecat” approach to 21st-century business success centers on three pillars, the first being the pillar of knowledge. Sanders suggests “stuff[ing] your plate” with books and creating value currency through shareable knowledge.  Avid business reading transforms a professional into a “theory-slinging, expert-quoting, knowledge-throwing lovecat” who stands out from the pack and who is compelling enough to be called on for help in making decisions and solving problems. 

Phyllis Mindel’s Power Reading provides a simple, efficient reading system that keeps the lovecat process manageable.    

1. Know the Role of a User Advocate

    Creating a Software Engineering Culture, Karl Weigers

    The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, Alan Cooper

Both Weigers and Cooper describe the need for and role of an intermediating user advocate between development engineering and the user community. 

While Weigers focuses on applying software engineering best practices to building “highly capable” software programmers, his chapter on optimizing customer involvement acknowledges a common challenge -- software developers “are not experts in the specialized application domains we support”.  He solves this problem by suggesting that every project include “one or more key customer representatives, or project champions, as integral members of the development team….A project champion is someone who will be an actual user of the system being constructed; he is not a manager, a funding sponsor, a marketing representative, or a member of the software group who feels he can speak for the users.  If the champion won’t be using the program in their own work, they aren’t likely to have a commitment to devoting precious time to the project, nor an accurate perception of what the users really need.”    This multifaceted job “may include bits of systems analysis, internal marketing, customer support, and other roles.”   According to Weigers, the ideal project champion:

·         Is a respected member of the user community

·         Has a thorough understanding of the application domain

·         Has a vision of what the product should be and do

·         Eagerly anticipates delivery of the product

·         Has authority to represent the user community in defining the functionality of the system

·         Has management support for the often extensive time commitment he makes to the project

·         Has enough experience with computing systems to be effective and realistic

See also in chapter four Weigers’ table of technical and nontechnical skills for software developers; these skills apply equally to loyalty engineers.

At his colleagues urging, Alan Cooper wrote his book to “address a business audience who needs to be convinced of the value of interaction design.”   According to Cooper, transferring user-interface design tasks to an interaction designer [or loyalty engineer] does not take remove significant design responsibility from programmers, since “the entire software creation process includes design, all the way from selecting the programming language to choosing the color of the delivery truck.  No aspect of this lengthy and involved process is more design-filled than the programming itself.”  While a common objection to usability initiatives is that such work disrupts the programmers from doing real work, he writes that “[programmers] create the behavior and information presentation that they like best, which is very different from the behavior and information presentation that is best for [us]… There is little difference technically between a complicated, confusing program and a simple, fun, and powerful product.  The problem is one of culture, training, and attitude of the people who make them, more than it is one of chips and programming languages….When the creators of software-based products examine their handiwork, they...see its awesome power and flexibility. They see how rich the product is in features and in functions. They [cannot see] how…difficult it is to use, how many…hours it takes to learn. “

Do note that Cooper does not hold back, and his writing may appear confrontational.

Note: See the book Designing from Both Sides of the Screen for an example of Weigers’ and Cooper’s user advocate in action. This book illustrates the collaboration process between a user interface engineer and a development engineer.  The book’s value comes from its open acknowledgement that each person “sees” different design aspects and holds different priorities of what the user needs or wants based on unique mental models, personality types, and professional education.  If we are to work together successfully, we first must come to see that we think differently.   

2. Plan Structured Collaboration Among Marketing, Sales, Service

    Concurrent Marketing, Frank Cespedes

Cespedes provides a structured, systematic way of creating cross-functional collaboration between sales, marketing and service, while acknowledging the rightful role of service as well as sales in the feedback loop to the product management team.  

3. Anticipate the Challenge of Solving Core vs. Non-Core Problems

    Theory of Constraints, Eli Goldratt

While his other books, “The Race” and “The Goal”, focus on manufacturing optimization, effective influencing and change tactics underpins the book Theory of Constraints.  Goldratt focuses on the “psychological problem” of improvement as he asks, what are the thinking processes that enable people to invent simple solutions to seemingly complicated situations?  He observes that we all tend to concentrate on taking corrective actions that we know how to take, not necessarily concentrating on the problems we should correct and the actions needed to correct those problems.  Thus, a continuous-improvement process may or may not be effective depending on whether it leads to pinpointing the core problems – “those problems that, once corrected, will have a major impact, rather than drifting from one small problem to another, fooling ourselves into thinking we are doing a good job.”

What also distinguishes Theory of Constraints is how Goldratt writes about change management.  Quoting: “What causes us to hate someone? If that person does something to us that we don’t particularly like.  Most of us don’t like to be criticized.  But there is one thing we simply cannot tolerate – constructive criticism.”  He goes on to emphasize two other critical ideas: (1) “[w]e must make sure that the problem we present to our audience will be regarded by them as their problem – a major problem of theirs.  Otherwise how can we even hope that they will commit their brains to attempting to solve it?”; and (2) “[there] is the natural tendency of any person to react to such a situation by claiming, it’s not their problem or at least he/she is not the one who caused it and thus cannot do anything about it…..[When] you try to bring people to realize their own problem, you certainly cannot use their own pudding. Using their pudding means to solve and implement for them. So, in using this method we will have to bring examples of other people’s ‘puddings.’”  In other words, Goldratt writes, show how another company or team solved a similar problem.   

4. Understand How You Think and Interpret Events

    Quality Software Management, Volumes 1 – 4, Gerald Weinberg

Weinberg’s books approach quality and software and management from a cultural anthropology perspective and reveal savvy insights into human behavior in organizations.  A culture is revealed through its products, its language and ways of speaking, its tools and ways of using them, and its ways of influencing and being influenced.  For example, a development team may catch a software fault before it reaches the customer and feed the lesson learned back into the team.  However, the lesson learned may not be reflected back into the organization itself for other teams to benefit.  This pattern tends to exist in cultures with what Weinberg calls a blaming management style – if something does go wrong, somebody must have violated the rules, and management’s model of the world remains correct.    

With Volume 1: Systems Thinking, Weinberg wants us to see that quality is “someone’s definition of quality”. With Volume 2: First Order Measurement, he wants us to recognize how our mental models influence how we interpret events and even purely quantitative data.  Quoting the book: “Before measurement programs make sense for [software organizations] to use, these organizations need to learn to observe human behavior correctly.  However, this sort of direct observation – seeing and hearing what’s right in front of you – doesn’t fit the blaming model.”   Finally, in Volumes 3 and 4, Weinberg incorporates personal change concepts from family therapist Virginia Satir to help us to maneuver ethically through the often emotionally charged atmosphere of changing organizations.

 5.   Be Useful to and Relate Well to Others

    Quality and Me, Philip Crosby

Crosby writes about his career as quality’s iconoclast, a position he earned as he urged quality’s advocates to speak finance, the language of upper management, and make a business case as well as an emotional case for quality.  In addition, he emphasizes the importance of human relations skills and of getting along with other functional groups.  He acknowledges the often unwritten “fact” that “manufacturing, engineering, purchasing, finance and other divisions were the natural enemies of the quality division, as well as of quality in general….People who show up in combat attitude can expect combat.”  However, he instead introduced himself to the manufacturing managers. Quoting from Quality and Me:

“From the superintendent down to the assistant supervisors, they were positive and professional to work with; they took good care of me and were patient with my learning process.  I didn’t find out until later that none of my colleagues in the quality and reliability department had ever done anything like that. They contacted superintendents only when there was a problem.  Understanding the impact of politeness came in handy as I moved along in my career. It wasn’t that I was extra considerate; it was that hardly anyone else was considerate at all. The comparison was beneficial and helped me be recognized as someone who had empathy with working folks.” 

Finally, he urges quality professionals to be useful to their internal customers.  Quoting again from Quality and Me:

“The strategy that had evolved in my mind [of a career] was that learning everything about some function like engineering, manufacturing, marketing or finance was not the way to get ahead. The key lay in being considered useful and reliable.  I found that I was good at understanding problems and that people would tell me things they would not share with management or others.  By nature I was always on time and careful about completing the tasks that I had agreed to do, and I was always where I was supposed to be.” 

6.   Apply Empathy and Seek First to Understand Others

    Project Leadership, James Lewis

    Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman

    Please Understand Me II, David Keirsey

Lewis’ book exposes project leaders to the concepts of managing with emotional intelligence and adapting to personality types to achieve the end-goal of getting work done.  Since project managers must work through people to complete the project, they must know how to deal effectively with people.  Otherwise, as Lewis writes in his book’s preface, “the tools of project management may be of little more us than to help [a project manager] document [his or her] failures with great precision.”  Lewis also writes directly to scientific and technical professionals who dismiss the importance of soft skills since the hard sciences deal with logic and problem-solving.  He reminds us that “[l]eadership is above all else an influence process.  A leader is able to get people to want to do things he or she wants done.”   To learn more about emotional intelligence and personality types, see Goleman’s book and Keirsey’s book, respectively. 

7.   Solve Problems  

    Are Your Lights On? How to Figure Out What the Problem Really Is, Donald Gause and Gerald Weinberg

    Quality Problem Solving, Gerald Smith

These books approach problem solving from different angles. Gause and Weinberg use a whimsical case study of fixing a broken elevator to challenge our assumptions about other people and in turn what we are convinced we already know to be true about a problem and solution.   They want us to see how each functional group experiences the problem differently and thus defines the problem from their perspective.  On a multi-functional team, one party may be unwilling to agree with another’s definition or even to listen to it.  However, “[w]hen one party begins to feel pain in synchrony with the other, we know that the problem will eventually find its resolution” since the participants are able to look outside of their original impression.  Smith focuses on the practical steps of problem solving, showing readers how to step through problem identification, definition, diagnosis, and alternative generation and brainstorming. 

8.   Think Strategically About After-Sale Service

    The Service Profit Chain, James Heskett, et al.

    Service Breakthroughs, James Heskett, et al.

Heskett and W. Earl Sasser, Harvard Business School professors with a service management emphasis, team up with industry leaders in their two books on managing service operations for both company growth and customer loyalty and value.  Such benefits can result from their strategic service vision, which consists of defining target market segments, a service concept, an operating strategy, and a service delivery system.  Implementing the vision requires a business team which recognizes the links between (1) profit and customer loyalty; (2) employee loyalty and customer loyalty; and (3) employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.

9.   Define All Customer Groups – Business Users and Operator Users

    Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore

    Exploring Requirements: Quality Before Design, Donald Gause and Gerald Weinberg

Moore’s classic for high-technology marketers shows how the term “customer” means very different needs and concurrent support strategies depending on where a particular customer is in the technology adoption life-cycle.  Exploring Requirements correctly emphasizes a focus on both the customer who “ultimately pays” for a product as well as “any individual who is affected by, or affects, the product being designed.”   The book’s authors provide a user-inclusion heuristic for brainstorming a list of all possible users; this list then is pruned based on a planned user-inclusion strategy.  For example, the authors suggest that a product team assign one of three ratings -- F for be very friendly to them, I for ignore them, or U for be very unfriendly to them -- based on the way the design should treat a user group.

10. Master the Art of Influence

    Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge, Geoffrey Bellman

Loyalty engineering represents fundamentally a peer influencing role, in which works gets done through influence without authority.  This book shows how to be effective in such a role.

11.  Know the People Steps, Practical Steps of Introducing a New Process

    Adopting the Rational Unified Process, Stefan Bergström and Lotta Råberg

    Institutionalization of Usability, Eric Schaffer

Both books focus little on the technical process in their name and instead walk through the steps of implementing a significant new business process within the product development team.  They take readers from the idea-selling stage through the maintaining-change stage and thus provide a ready-made outline for a project work breakdown structure.    

12.  Learn the Language of Loyalty, Value, Profits

    The Loyalty Effect, Frederich Reichfeld

    Balanced Scorecard, Robert Kaplan and David Norton

Reichfeld, a Harvard Business School MBA graduate, traces the interrelationships of customer, employee, and investor loyalty to company profits and customer value.  Kaplan and Norton explain their breakthrough balanced scorecard model, which incorporates analysis of both tangibles and intangibles in evaluating organizational performance. See also the authors’ complementary books for further insight into their concepts.
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