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Archive for the ‘Continuity’ Category

Encounter, Time and Place. Neighbors become friends.

Posted by Simon on November 2, 2012

Our neighbors are leaving.

A~ and K~, and their children, T~ and L~, are moving to North Africa.

We love them and we’re desperately sad they’re going.

Movie nights; pasta-making nights; sharing tools; shopping favors; book-lending; baby-sitting swaps; recipe-swaps; music-swaps; car-lending; taking both sets of children to the playground; doing multi-family yard sales together; kids’ sleep-overs; kids trashing each other’s places; sharing stresses of work or lack of work; easter egg hunts from the age the kids could only just walk; singing Happy Birthday in English, French and Spanish; A~ jabbing our daughter with an epipen to save her from an anaphylactic reaction to nuts; meals on their back deck; bbqs in our back yard; chats on their stoop; chats on our stoop; chats while snow-shoveling; chat’s beside storm-blown trees; chats beside fire/police/ambulance visits; chats about God, science, history, the future, family life, everything; sharing in grief of losing my dad; K~ sharing story of losing his dad; welcoming each other’s visiting parents, relatives and friends; keeping M~ partying to 4am on New Year’s Day; learning California Stars on the guitar. And so much more.

That’s the both the substance and the fruit of the friendship that’s grown over the years. Friendships are emergent. You can’t decide ahead of time who is going to be your close buddy. You’ll totally freak people out if you do. And not every person needs to become a ‘friend’. There is plenty satisfaction and reward in a simple, cordial relationship. But we’ve had the enormous pleasure of real friendship grow over the years.

It’s not that complicated. Friendship or just good relationship can emerge from simply being around – a combination of encounter (face to face meeting), time (frequency and continuity) and place (meeting in different contexts). That’s all we had really, none of us set out to make friends of each other. But encounter, time and place were the foundation upon which reciprocity, a bit of risk taking, reasonable boundaries, shared and divergent interests bore fruit in a deep affection for one another.

Along with our other amazing neighbors, they’ve given us such a sense of belonging to somewhere, of mattering to someone. It’s been so rich, and so unspeakably fulfilling, to live life on this street with A~, K~, T~ and L~.

God bless you, friends.


Posted in Continuity, Directness, Multiplexity, RelationalProximity, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

rLiving Day 30: Non-Memorial Day (Continuity, Commonality/Identity)

Posted by Simon on May 30, 2010

Memorial Day in the US is the last Monday in May. It’s equivalent to UK Remembrance Sunday which is second Sunday in November. And the message from both seems straightforward: don’t take your freedoms for granted since it was secured by the sacrifice of others, so remember them, and be thankful. Even today there are those dying so that others might be free, so remember them too.

Relational Proximity Dimension #2 is Continuity: A relationship is formed and strengthened by the amount, frequency and span of time we are together. It includes a sense of shared history, and an anticipation of the future.

Relational Proximity Dimension #5 is Purpose/Commonality: Our sense of connectedness and relationship is greater to the degree we have things in common or share a common purpose or identity.

“A nation is a large-scale solidarity, constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has made in the past and of those that one is prepared to make in the future. It presupposes a past; it is summarized, however, in the present by a tangible fact, namely, consent, the clearly expressed desire to continue a common life. A nation’s existence is, if you will pardon the metaphor, a daily plebiscite, just as an individual’s existence is a perpetual affirmation of life. – Ernest Renan”

The above quote was seen previously in this post, and originally by my friend Dana in the comments on this post . It sums up very well what Memorial Day, and Fourth of July, does functionally for people who call the United States of America their nation. Without conscious remembrance of the sacrifices of the past, a people may well forget who they are or why they are. You can’t build a national identity on a shared history if you don’t continually think about or remember that history. And you can’t build a common identity if you don’t ‘share’ – agree with – the reason for the sacrifices in the first place or if you don’t know or agree on what your ‘common life’ is for which you’d be prepared to sacrifice your life.

The combination of the lack of conscious remembrance and a vehement disagreement over the purpose of recent sacrifices seems to be one reason for a loss of national identity within western nations. I don’t know if you feel it, but I feel it.

But it’s an odd, and slightly uncomfortable, thing to build an identity on a common suffering and death even though that’s the normal context for reference to a nation’s character (i.e. who they are); 9/11 being the most recent example. I say ‘build’ as though it’s a conscious act, but of course identity and commonality is something inexplicable and unique that emerges from that cauldron of suffering. Those who have been through it, like soldiers in war, just know … they just KNOW … what binds them together. And when they forget what it was that bound them, then bound they are no more.

One wonders why then do we want to keep remembering the pain, the suffering, the injustice, the cruelty? Why not forget? Why not instead focus on the future, build something new? Or find something else, something stronger, more positive from the past. Or find something transcendent, something not contingent on circumstance. In fact there’s a paradox in that justice and truth screams at us to keep remembering, to never forget! But the goal of remembering, the goal of all proper attention to evil and injustice, is redemption, restoration, justice and peace. The hopeful future together presupposes the redeemed past together.

This paradox is embedded in the title of the book, “The End of Memory: Remembering rightly in a violent world” (which I haven’t read yet so what follows is pieced together from reviews). In it, the author Miroslav Volf – himself trying to ‘forget’ his experience of interrogation in former Yugoslavia – proposes the need and importance of ‘non-remembering’: “To be fully overcome, evildoing must be consigned to its proper place – nothingness”. But he’s not simply saying, “forgive and forget”. He’s talking about a right kind of remembering, the kind that has an aim to know the truth of what really happened in all its ugliness. The kind that for the sake of justice, Will Not Forget! That’s the “end’, the goal, of memory: to expose and reveal the truth. But ultimately, one wants to really ‘end’ remembering suffering and death. One wants just to not have to remember any more.

Like I say, I haven’t read the book, so I hope I’ve correctly got to the essence of it. But regardless, it does seem there’s a paradox here with memory and memorializing.

It’s likely this weekend is just a long holiday weekend for a lot of people. Time to really gear up for summer. Unless, that is, you happen upon a parade (as we had in Somerville today; that’s my daughter M~ above), or have lost someone in the theatre of war so cannot help remembering. And even if for those watching the parades, and participating. I do wonder how much we’re really remembering as we should, so that we can stop remembering as we should.

Paying proper close attention to – really remembering – the fact and reason for the sacrifice may yet restore a sense of commonality and pride in one’s national identity. The people of the United States have made many, many sacrifices for others. Perhaps with some courageous remembering, the right kind of remembering – even of recent wards – there’s a chance the people of this nation could really feel “a large-scale solidarity, constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has made in the past and of those that one is prepared to make in the future.”

As an Englishman, whose father served in Normandy in WWII and died last Remembrance Sunday, Nov 8 2009, I remember and thank you, people of the United States, and your sons & daughters who have given so much for us.

Posted in Continuity, first-follower, Purpose, RelationalProximity, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

rLiving Day 26: Sales Performance (Directness, Continuity, Commonality)

Posted by Simon on May 26, 2010

But, so what?

So what if they lost all those things? The business question is: did sales go down, or go up, because of the decision to stop meeting? Were clients retained? Did those clients spend more? Were negotiations enable bigger margins? Were new prospects found and turned into clients?

If I hadn’t fried my brain last night spending three hours thinking about derivatives, I’d look this up, but I know there’s strong evidence to link employee engagement positively with performance (on a number of metrics). But what I don’t know, and would like to find out, is to what degree and why regularly meeting face to face specifically contributes to engagement and so to performance. The research evidence about global teams seems to indicate that regular face to face meetings is an important part, but only a part, of a team’s overall effectiveness. But I’m keen to know the degree to which face to face meetings actually make all the mediated interactions more effective.

If you have any data to share, I’d welcome it!

Posted in Continuity, Directness, first-follower, Purpose, RelationalProximity | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

rLiving Day 22: “Homeless” (Continuity)

Posted by Simon on May 23, 2010

When I lived in central London, between 1996 and 2002, one group of people I saw more often than anyone else – more than my friends and family – were a specific group of homeless men and women.

Relational Proximity Dimension #2 is Continuity: our relationship is formed and strengthened by the amount, frequency and span of time we are together.

Shirley, Harry, Steve and others were regular guests at a fortnightly meal I helped run at our church near Victoria (which I’m delighted to see is still running.) It NEVER crossed my mind to try to arrange meeting friends or family more often – everyone thinks everyone is so busy it almost feels rude to ask to see people more often.

On The Street
Photo: Garry Knight

Consequently, I cherished this time with these 120-160 men and women every two weeks. The meal was intended to be a simple small act of love and giving. But frankly I found myself needing more from them than I was giving. I needed the stability and reliability of these encounters. And not just ‘generally’. It was about specific people. I would be sorely disappointed if Steve wasn’t there. I’d be sad if Shirley didn’t turn up. And if one of them hadn’t been for a few weeks I’d be thrilled to see them again. This may sound obvious or it may sound strange. But I was deeply conscious of my need for them and deeply grateful to see them regularly over those years; and especially every Christmas day for a huge, all-day meal inside the church (pews moved to the side).

‘Homeless’ isn’t quite the right word for many of them. Many had homes to go to but just preferred to be there that night. Those of us ‘homed’ folks felt the same way. I know for sure several of them chose to sleep on the streets rather than go to their lonely, empty apartments. In addition, they had more consistent relationships than many of simply by meeting together at the regular locations for meals around the city every day and every week.

It doesn’t mean they were good relationships, but I suspect the stability of seeing the same people was a comfort in some way. If they were in fact homeless and broke then a hot meal could be the only reason they were there. But the problems of family breakdown, mental illness or alcohol or drug misuse that were the dominant causes of their situation leads me to believe they deeply appreciated the human face, the smile, shake of the hand, hug, and prayer that those of us who volunteered were able to offer. We appreciated all that from them too.

We could all do with a whole lot more stability and relational continuity in our lives. Not using up time playing Chatroulette might be a start. Then perhaps we should stop thinking about whether this or that person makes us happy or not. Obsession with our own happiness causes us to miss out on a whole lot of loving and a whole lot of deeper, more satisfying relationship. If we’ll just take the risk of seeing fewer people more often, I suspect we’ll have a more satisfying relational life and feel more at home no matter where we live.

Posted in Continuity, RelationalProximity | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

rLiving Day 18: Global Team Dynamics (Relational Proximity)

Posted by Simon on May 19, 2010

IMHO, “Team Interaction Dynamics” should replace “virtual teams” or any notion of a difference between “virtual” and “non-virtual” teams. Unless you’re literally within spitting distance, you’re a virtual team, until you come together again physically in shared space. So the question is, how does a ‘team’ interact,how often and why? How are relationships amongst teams mediated and managed for optimal performance? I want to look at this research and match it against the Relational Proximity model and see how Relational Proximity holds up as an analytical model, and perhaps even a predictive one.

Studying the Effectiveness of Global Virtual Teams. In 2000, Martha Maznevski and Katherine Chudoba published a paper entitled, “Bridging Space Over Time: Global Virtual Team Dynamics and Effectiveness.”[1] Their 21-month study of three ‘virtual’ (i.e. not geographically co-located) teams in a major US producer of technological manufacturing equipment revealed that certain factors distinguished the two successful teams from the one unsuccessful team that was eventually disbanded. They were examined with respect to the dynamics of technology use, choice of media, and group outcomes. This is my summary of a summary by Elizabeth Kelley, “Keys to Effective Virtual Global Teams.”[2].

What made teams effective? What characterised the effective teams had to do with an interplay between task, ‘interaction media choice’ and ‘rhythm’:
– the nature of the task or group (not, “I prefer email”) determined media choice
– if tasks were interdependent they met more frequently
– if tasks were more complex (so the ‘message’ was more complex) they chose richer media
– if the team was composed of greater cultural/professional/national differences they chose richer media
– they prioritized building relationships to enable trust and shared views (this was mostly face-to-face & telephone)
– as trust increased, message complexity decreased, so they changed media choice
– the ‘planned’ meetings were only coordination meetings, regular conference calls, impromptu conference calls
– there was a ‘rhythm’ to their meetings

More about rhythm: “Effective teams also exhibited a strong, repeating temporal pattern to their interaction incidents. The basic rhythm was set by intense face-to-face meetings, with the interaction between meetings defined by a response to previous meetings or anticipation of the next. The researchers characterized the face-to-face meetings as “a heartbeat, rhythmically pumping new life into the team’s processes, before members circulated to different parts of the world and task, returning again at a predictable pace.””

Interpreting findings through Relational Proximity Lens: There’s more to the study, but I’ll take a look at just these findings. Remember, this is what characterized effective teams.

First, noticeable is the absence of learning styles, personality types or personal media preferences as a factor. Kelley’s summary doesn’t mention them. It was an intense 21 month study and I’m sure they would have controlled for those factors or rather picked teams similar enough that styles, types and media preferences wouldn’t vary greatly between teams.

Second, there were three driving factors for interaction media choice a) interdependence of tasks, b) complexity of task, c) level of trust and mutual understanding. In terms of Relational Proximity dimensions, I want to say the nature of the relational Purpose (dimension #5) is the driving factor for appropriate relational Directness (dimension #1). In other words, what they were about and their sense of common agreement on that determined how they chose to interact.

Third, a predictable yet flexible rhythm to their meetings was a major factor in success. The rhythm was determined and adjusted according to a) an upfront decision b) level of mutual trust and shared understanding (esp. in cross-cultural/professional situations) c) previous and expected outcomes. In terms of Relational Proximity, the regularity and future reliability of the meetings (dimension #2, continuity) was determined by their goal (dimension #5, Purpose) and by shared agreement (dimension #4, Parity).

So Relational Proximity is confirmed here to a certain extent. The dimensions have broad definitions and I may be stretching or confusing them a little. ‘Shared views’, for example, is clearly about Purpose/Commonality. But one could argue it’s also about power: agreement requires not forcing your opinion to dominate others, or being will for your opinion to change. I’m not sure if the proximity model has anything to say about task complexity or task interdependence (though the latter implies multiplexity, dimension #3).

Task drives (social) media selection, not the other way around! This study is 10 years old, so it was before the SoMe explosion. But that should only have added media options. It still should be the task at hand that drives media choice, not the other way around. You might ask, “ooooh! what can we do with this new tool?!”, but don’t ever just say, “well, we’re going to have blogs and wikis” without knowing why. Maybe there’s more recent research that builds on this? I know I came across an MIT study in the last couple of years. Can’t find it though. If you know of any on the topic of team interaction dynamics, media choice and the nature of the task/group, let me know. And if you have other thoughts or comments on this research and analysis, I’d love to hear it!

[1] Maznevski, Martha and Katherine Chudoba. “Bridging Space Over Time: Global Virtual Team Dynamics and Effectiveness.” Organization Science; Sep/Oct 2000, Vol. 11 Issue 5, p473-492
[2] Kelley, Elizabeth. “Keys to Effective Virtual Global Teams.” Academy of Management Executive; May 2001, Vol. 15 Issue 2, p132-133

Posted in Continuity, Directness, first-follower, Multiplexity, Power, Purpose, RelationalProximity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

rLiving Day 17: … and balloons and beer (Continuity)

Posted by Simon on May 17, 2010

The full sentence tonight was, “Dear Gooood, thank you for this lovely fooood and C~ and M~ and Mama and Papa and knives and forks and this lovely food and knives and C~’s picture and M’s picture and balloons aaaand beer. In Jesus’ name, aaaaaaaamen.” M~ (3yrs) just looks around the room to find things and people to give thanks for, including herself. I start grinning as soon as she starts praying just wondering what she’ll notice.

I guess and hope most dads have similar stories, not necessarily of giving thanks around the table, but of their children just doing or saying something wonderfully idiosyncratic in the course of a regular day. But I do in fact hope that most dads, and moms, have lots of dinner table stories, or at least that there’s been the possibility.

Relational Proximity Dimension #2 is Continuity: our relationship is formed and strengthened by the amount, frequency and span of time we are together. It includes a sense of shared history, and an anticipation of the future.

“he learned … ‘to be in the present moment, how to live there at least for snippets of time'”

Who did? A man who was diagnosed with late-stage cancer in mid-2005 and changed his life for those last few months. His wife of 27 years I’m sure was grateful. Apparently, because of his job, he’d only had lunch with her on a weekday twice in a decade. Twice. I’m sure his 14-yr-old daughter was grateful too. And I have no reason to doubt that he loved them sincerely. But it took brain cancer for him to focus on that fact enough to do something about it, to realize that they were more important than work. So he, former CEO of KPMG, wrote a book about it, Chasing Daylight. Presumably so that others could learn from his lesson.

In 2005!!!! This happened in 2005! Four years after thousands of people were utterly stunned to be a missed bus, a failed alarm clock, a cancelled meeting away from death and final separation from their loved ones on September 11, 2001. Did he not hear any of those stories? Wasn’t he himself stunned and bewildered on that day and for time after? His office was in Manhattan. Did not those endless horrifying stories of near misses – even more horrifying when told next to stories of those who didn’t make it – make him reconsider his life then?

I haven’t read the book. I just got those details from the editorial review on But I remember hearing about it on the radio when the book came out and having the same reaction. And I don’t want to judge him in particular. God knows, truly, that I’m in no position to judge him or anyone. He just happens to illustrate, for one thing, how unbelievably self-referential we all are. We seem almost incapable, at least in terms of our attitude, of learning from others. Do we really have to always learn only by personal experience? Is our concept of, and suspicion of, ‘authority’ so whacked that we’re unteachable? Don’t we trust anyone else enough to believe that maybe, just maybe, what they’re realizing or teaching may also apply to us? And if we do, can we not hold on to that thought long enough to have a conversation with loved ones about it and perhaps make a courageous decision about it?

Because this isn’t about feelings, and ‘experience’, but about fairly accessible information, priorities, and decisions. But the main point I want to make is about time. And children.

Relationships consist in time. Chunks of time like hours and days. Frequencies of time like daily and weekly. Spans of time like years and years. At a conference on inner-city development once I asked a guy how I could help young kids without parents (he was a residential worker with such). He said, “First, be home for dinner, be a husband and a father at home, be around.” He said, growing up his friends were always at his house because his dad and mom were around. They craved some kind of stability.

Robert Putnam’s research, published a decade ago in Bowling Alone revealed that “every 10 minutes of commuting reduces all forms of social capital by 10%.” Our neighbors may not notice, but our children will. Decisions we make about our jobs and our locations have huge implications on available time and therefore huge implications on relationships. I recognize that many, many people don’t have much choice about where and how (or even if) they work, but to the degree that we have a choice we should exercise it. I’m amazingly fortunate that my job allows me to be home every night. I’m consciously grateful for it every day because I’m aware how significant this continuity is for my kids.

Being able to tell stories about what our children say and do – the delightful and the hideous – in the humdrum of every day life requires being there for every day life. It’s not always possible, it’s not always exciting, it’s sometimes a drag, but truly it’s what makes life worth living.

Posted in Continuity, first-follower, RelationalProximity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

rLiving Day 12: Oily Subcontractors (Purpose/Continuity)

Posted by Simon on May 12, 2010

For a moment there, it looked like IBM had planned to reduce its employee workforce by 75% by 2017, but that turned out to be false. It would have been a great factoid for today given that I also know that Accenture planned to add 50,000 employees this year (which is true, also because I heard from their CLO). The contrasting strategies of employee vs. subcontractor between these two massive consulting companies would have been a nice little talking point.

So I’ll have to settle for BP and ExxonMobil instead.

Furious fingers are pointing at BP for that hideous gloop infecting the Gulf of Mexico right now. One jabbing finger is at the fact that BP let go ALL of its experts and engineers and entrusted subcontractors. This, according to Tom Bower, author of Oil: Money, Politics and Power in the 21st Centrury (on Here and Now– on my local National Public Radio station, WBUR this lunchtime).

Under the leadership of John Brown, who took over as CEO in the 80’s, BP went from a money-losing company to No. 2 in the world. How? “More for less!”. As Bower put it, “let’s get 100% by paying 90%”; subcontracting caused profits to skyrocket.

Relational Proximity Dimension #2 is Continuity: A relationship is formed and strengthened by the amount, frequency and span of time we are together. It includes a sense of shared history, and an anticipation of the future.

Relational Proximity Dimension #5 is Purpose/Commonality: Our sense of connectedness and relationship is greater to the degree we have things in common or share a common purpose or identity. A good relationship has a direction to it, something that is common between the members that holds it together.

This story is ostensibly about trust, but I propose that trust comes, in part, from a sense of common purpose, a sense that the parties involved have a stake in something together. Trust also comes from an expectation of future partnership. Is there enough common purpose (beyond $$) with your subcontractors, and enough shared vision and stake in the future, to enable trust, accountability and a fruitful, creative relationship?

The two main subcontractors involved in this oil spill are Transocean (responsible for the rig and drilling) and Halliburton (the cement casing). The argument appears to be what BP knew or told Halliburton about drilling depth, which makes a difference to the type of concrete used. [Did you know they’re drilling 6 miles down?!]. The argument is also increasingly turning against regulators.

Who’s watching? Interestingly, both BP and Exxonmobil use these subcontractors. A difference is that ExxonMobil retain an army of experts and engineers to ‘second-guess’ (as Bower puts it) everything Transocean and Halliburton do. As I would interpret that; they double-, triple-check everything the subcontractors do, therefore maintaining their standards and maintaining accountability. BP, however, leave the subcontractors to it. In other words, they trust them. Or you could say, the subcontractors trusted BP for the right information. And what of the regulators? Who do they trust? Who do we trust?

Comparing subcontractor relationships I’m curious to know what the relationship is like between ExxonMobil’s engineers and the subcontractor engineers, and what kind of productivity and safety performance they achieve. People scream for regulators (while they also scream for infinite freedom for themselves), but potentially there’s a perfect relationship there, working fine without the need for underpaid, under-qualified (according to Bower) regulators. A comparison between BP’s subcontractor relationships and ExxonMobil’s would be illuminating, I think: shared ownership? shared risk? not just shared profit? Similarly with continuity: is there a future-vision? Not just asking if the contract will be renewed, but do they have a creative vision for the future together?

Anger at “BP” or “Regulators” is understandable even though they’re made of people (or, People, who surely are to be trusted!?). Anger against subcontractors in general is less understandable, unless you’re a cynic. But I think a relational proximity analysis between entities involved in the creative, productive work, would be reveal more hopeful path of trust AND accountability than just blame and more external regulation.

What do you think? No, really, go on. Tell me. Don’t be shy! 🙂

Posted in Continuity, first-follower, Purpose, RelationalProximity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

rLiving Day 8: UK/US ‘Special Relationship’ (Continuity/Multiplexity)

Posted by Simon on May 7, 2010

You’d never know it – if you live in the US – but there was a general election in the UK yesterday, that resulted in a hung parliament. The last election was four years ago and the last hung parliament was in 1974. There was very little US media coverage of the election, so most Americans probably have little idea about it.

Image: screenscrape using Jing from

The US election, which seems to go on for four years even though it’s only held every four years, is covered by the British media head to foot.

Relational Proximity Dimension #3 is Multiplexity: a relation between two countries is better and healthier if they interact in two or three different contexts rather than just one. This is, essentially, about knowledge of the Other.

Relational Proximity Dimension #2 is Continuity: our relationship is formed and strengthened by the amount, frequency and span of time we are together. It includes a sense of shared history, and an anticipation of the future.

With respect to ‘knowledge’; the media is one way the US and UK ‘interact’, get to know each other as nations. So you can see from the example of election coverage that there’s a huge imbalance, not to mention deficit and distortion, of information and understanding between the two countries. Unless an American and Brit meet, or travel to one another’s country, the media is the only way the countries will build an understanding of each other as a people. The news media (let’s be specific here) is just one ‘context’. We need more (type, quantity & quality) if we’re going to have a better relationship.

With respect to continuity; a relationship anticipates a future, and a shared future (Dimension #5, Purpose). A relationship cannot rest solely on its past, shared history. It has a timeline but that timeline has to extend forward if it’s to be considered a relationship. The election coverage doesn’t reveal this, but I don’t get any sense of forward thinking between the countries.

Little knowledge, and little future planning. Doesn’t sound very special to me.

Posted in Continuity, first-follower, Multiplexity, RelationalProximity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

rLiving Day 5: Customer Relationships (Continuity)

Posted by Simon on May 4, 2010

At work today we were running through a virtual version of Forum‘s program, Achieving Service Excellence, on Adobe Connect Pro. Forum was a pioneer in “customer focus” and organizations still come to us because our deep experience and expertise in the customer experience. For years ASE (and its companion, Managing Service Excellence) has helped fancy ice-cream stores, banks, hotels, gas stations and more improve customer satisfaction, retention and spend. A center-piece of ASE is a simple but powerful ‘customer interaction cycle’ (shown with permission below). The behavioral battle for most people is resisting the temptation to go straight to ‘helping’, and then to keep going to ‘keeping’. But that’s not my point here [end of unpaid commercial]: the model presumes you’re going to see the customer again.

Relational Proximity Dimension #2 is Continuity: our relationship is formed and strengthened by the amount, frequency and span of time we are together. ‘Together’ is a function of directness (Dimension #1), so even if you only have an online relationship with someone Continuity will likely still strengthen the relationship.

I’d argue that if we meet once, we don’t really have a relationship. Not that I would approach you like that, especially if I’m a customer service representative. If I meet you once, but expect to meet you again, and you expect to meet me again, then suddenly it’s as though something is at stake, so trust is required and therefore a relationship is established. You can see how the expectation of a future meeting might change how we treat someone.

Two sets of vendor-client relationships may have met exactly the same number of times but because one set has an expectation of a future there is inevitably more depth and seriousness to the relationship. Historical perspective works the same way; having a sense of common history together means you can think and feel and say, “That was us, you and me! We did that. We went through that together!”.

Or, of course, you could look back and say “you keep screwing me over!”. Continuity, like the other dimensions, is a necessary basis of a good relationship but doesn’t guarantee it.

Whether with a customer or a friend, try recalling your history together, and discuss plans for the short or long-term future. Then actually start meeting regularly! See how that changes your sense of the health and vitality of the relationship.

Posted in Continuity, RelationalProximity | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

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