Saturday, December 13, 2014

When Santa Implemented SMS (Streamlined Mission Service)

It is the time of year when Santa is getting ready to deliver gifts all over the world. He has one day to cover millions of square miles, and there is no room for mistakes. Over the years there has been some minor crashes on the rooftops, but nothing seriously that would stop deliveries. Most of these crash and stop events were caused by poor sleigh maintenance, lack of flight training for Santa, or poor approach by the lead reindeer. With the increasing competition of cyber-toys, he had also noticed less in demands for old-fashion toys. Santa had realized that he needed to make some changes to stay in business as the lead in toy-delivery, and implemented SMS last year.

It was not a simple decision to implement SMS. The concept of SMS was simple, but it became a huge task to identify root-causes of services malfunctions.


Prior to SMS Santa used a lantern to look for root-causes.
 The beginning of SMS started many years ago when Santa suggested to Mrs. Claus that he should fire everyone who did a mistake, including the reindeer. If he got rid of the “bad apples”, everything would be fine with no issues. Santa set a goal to hire only elves and reindeer that could not do mistakes. Due to public opinion, he had to keep Rudolph the Captain Reindeer on without questioning his performance.  He was convinced that if he hired elves and reindeer that did not do mistakes he would exceed all customer service expectations. Santa tried this approach for several years, but kept loosing elves and reindeer since it seems like everyone did mistakes.

Now, being defeated and humble he went to Mrs. Clause for advice of what to do. Mrs. Claus, who was an SMS expert from managing daily risks for centuries, forced him to implement SMS and to conduct QAP (Quotes About Performance) of past delivery services. Santa objected strongly since he did not understand why he had to implement a paper-trail system, when he had delivered for centuries without any issues until these last few years. Santa blamed the cyber-toys competition as a distraction to elves and reindeer.

However, Mrs. Claus asked a question that made Santa reconsider SMS: ”If you could only pick one person in the whole world to make toys and deliver, who would it be?”
Santa was thinking for a long time until the answer came to him. He happily ran over to Mrs. Claus, believing he had solved the issue to run an operation without SMS and shouted out: “There is only one person in the world that can do this job, and that’s me. If I was to hire only one person, I would hire myself.” 

During the dark long winter nights Santa looks forward Christmas to deliver gifts and happiness.
“There you have it”, said Mrs. Claus, “SMS is to hire only yourself for who you are and what you can do.” Mrs. Claus continued, "Now, go out and fire everyone else so you can get the job done."

“Well”, said Santa, “if I only hire myself, I cannot get the job done and SMS is not doing me any good at all if it is to only hire one person. I cannot make the sleigh fly, I do not have the strength to pull a full sleigh and I cannot operate all the equipment to make toys. The only thing I can do is to be the pilot of the flying sleigh.”

“That is all true”, said Mrs. Claus, “but since you cannot do the job alone, and for you to hire thousands of elves to do the job and provide excellence in service to boys and girls around the world, you have to implement SMS.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked Santa.

“It’s simple,” said Mrs. Claus, “Since you would only hire yourself, you have to make a system in the organization that reflect yourself. You just have to set up a system with policies, objectives and goals to let everyone know what you are looking for. When that is done you establish roles and responsibilities for elves and reindeer and set up processes, or steps, to follow for successful deliveries. After all, you are the leader in control.”

“Yes”, replied Santa, “but I always was the leader and nothing has changed.”

“One thing has changed”, said Mrs. Claus, “from now on, with the SMS implemented, you have to be accountable, and expect accountability from all elves and reindeer. The only way they can be accountable, is for you first to establish a non-punitive policy, where everyone can report issues to you without fear of being fired.”

“Oh…,” said Santa, tonally confused about what Mrs. Claus had just explained.

Mrs. Claus continued, “SMS is for you to take accountability as the AE (Accountable Elf) and set the stage for excellence in service by addressing human and organizational factors in training and performance. Over time everyone will work just like you do, with accountability, and this is as close as you can ever get to hire yourself.” 

Santa went out to hire positive people and train them for excellence in customer service.
Santa finally got the picture. He established an SMS and went out to hire positive elves and reindeer who he trained to do the job better than he could ever have done. The first year of SMS was a bit rough, since not everyone understood the concept. However, this year looks better, as Santa and everyone else is trained up. Santa has practiced his GPS (Gable Plan Slopes) approaches and the reindeer are cared for to be in top-shape for the Christmas run.

Santa was also conducting a QAP of the SMS program, and discovered that the North Pole might not be the best place to operate. With the sea-ice moving, the GPS approaches do not always line up the gable-roof or chimney simulation. Other issues SMS helped to point out, is that the cost by operating at the North Pole is extremely higher than if he operated closer to the market. Still, wanting a place that is remote, quiet and peaceful, with opportunities for practicing GPS approaches, he conducted several risk analysis of places with mountains, runways, available rooftops, chimneys, abandoned sites and cold weather in the winter. The place he found was Butte, MT. Since Santa is invisible during the rest of the year, except for Christmas, there would be no impact for local residents or industry. Santa would be able to train for his approaches from the tall mountains and land in the valley, and the elves would be able to work shift-work during the toy-building season and enjoy their free time with social activities. Santa sat back in his old rocking chair and grinned. He finally could rest for a bit and let his SMS do the job. 

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