Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Civility in the Workplace

This will be more like a Tweet then a blog, but Jean McGuire who was kind enough to attend class last week and provide some of the sociological side of the discussion sent me this blog post on Civility in the Workplace by her former colleagues in Iowa State's extension offices. It discusses the role of agile software development and the importance of designing applications in partnership with those who will be using the applications.

Although since I'm writing up a blog post anyway, I recommend checking out this hour long interview with Don Norman where he talks about service design, user experience vs. usability, and several other topics. Project 1 and 2 focus primarily on what I refer to as 'classical usability' with a lot of focus on Cooper for design and Tullis for evaluation where it's about creating applications where the user can complete a task because the design follows the cognitive concepts in the layout. The service design project is more about the holistic user experience, taking into account not just the usability but also the emotional and other aspects that allow a user to forgive mishaps so long as there is that extremely salient service moment that leaves the customer happy with the overall experience (Norman uses the example of how at Disney everybody hates the lines--which are everywhere and make up the majority of the experience--but almost everybody would go back).

On a final point with service design, I am going to throw out this controversial idea (feel free to discuss in the comments:

Computers will never replace the best waiters and waitresses but very few waiters and waitresses excel past the mediocre level* and computers will always outperform the mediocre waiters and waitresses.

*I am defining "mediocre level" as taking an order and delivering food. E.g. doing their job at the bare minimum.


  1. In regards to the point "computers will always outperform the mediocre waiters and waitresses", I am on the fence on this one. I am saying that because there is always a learning curve with computers. The average customer even these days probably will have frustrations, so I think we have to account for that. Then also we have to keep in mind that computers can be imperfect. Everytime I get into these conversations I think about the issues I have everyday with my phone freezing up at the most "crucial" time when I am trying to take a photo of my son in action. Or one of my applications crashing. I think both human and computers have their own "issues".

  2. My first thought when I read this post was to look at the "mediocre level". In Paris, the level of service is much lower than in the US. Waiters/Waitress are known for being short, almost rude, (I swear they are trained to avoid eye contact just when you need another glass); they really just bring your food and leave you alone until you want to pay.

    Initially, I was shocked, annoyed, but then I got used to it, and expected it. What I realized after living here for 4.5 years is I actually find the dining experience here on a whole more relaxing. The wait staff don't ask me if I'm okay every five seconds. They don't treat my like a child and read the menu to me. If I have a question, I'll ask. And they will never bring you the bill until you ask-- I can stay as long as I want and enjoy my meal without pressure.

    So while initially I was shocked at this level of service (and there are pros and cons), I got used to it, adapted. With this idea, sure there would be pros and cons, but if we are talking about mediocre level of service being this, it could be more appealing than getting one of those really nasty waiters.

    I don't see it replacing all restaurants, as waiters are often central to the restaurant experience itself (their humor, wit, food knowledge, being able to see a familiar face, chat, etc.), but at places like McDonald's I could see it working.


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