Aug 202011

San Francisco, CA.

Believe you me – they don’t come any better than that. A morning to die for, or, even better, to live for.

I have spent the better part of this gorgeous morning on the phone trying to reason with various Orbitz and JetBlue service/sales reps. Each one of them was courteous, professional and really really really trying to help me.  However, things did not add up between these service representatives, the numerous systems they use (“Please wait one minute, Sir – I need to access another system”) and, may I say, my “legitimate” travel needs.  Actually, I am under a fairly stern warning from one of the JetBlue service reps that I might not be allowed to board my Monday flight from San Francisco to New York because I am also booked to fly with them on Tuesday from San Francisco to Boston. And, “No Sir, we have absolutely no record of your flying with us on Tuesday from New York to Boston. We don’t doubt your word that this is what it says on your confirmation email from Orbitz, but it does not show on our system. Terribly sorry, Sir, we can’t help because you are Orbitz’s customer, not ours. They hold the [flight] record, we have no access to it.”

The reason for my taking the liberty to  bore you to death with my travel logistics is that I am overwhelmed by a feeling of  ‘deja vu.’ I was on the phone 9:00PM to 12:00AM just about every night the past week, trying to streamline software development between Santa Clara, CA and Pune, India. The experience was identical to my personal experience trying to make travel reservations this morning:

  • Highly motivated employees
  • Intelligent employees
  • Knowledgeable employees
  • Everyone is trying hard to do the right thing

The over-arching problem we were working on during these nightly software development teleconferences was identical to the problem I encountered this morning – absence of system thinking that takes into account the end-to-end result. The organizational structure and the corresponding  tools are optimized for siloed organizations – product management, design, architecture, coding, test, IT ops, professional services and customer support  – not for the needs of the customer who simply wants to buy some widget for forty nine cents.

I have the suspicion that I actually brought my travel trouble over my own head. In my infinite stupidity I put the following “story” in the backlog of the service/sales representatives:

As a traveler with a bad knee, I am asking you assign me an isle seat so that my discomfort during the flight will be minimized. If an isle seat is not available, I will gladly pay extra for a Preferred Seat.

This “story” seems to have thrown two airline reservation systems and a whole bunch of travel agents out of balance. I should have known better and not even dare think about such a story, let alone utter it as an explicit parameter of my desired travel arrangements.

Next time I make airline reservations I can, of course, straightforwardly ask for Preferred Seat instead of  saying “I will gladly pay for a Preferred Seat if an isle seat is not available.” I am, however, not quite certain what the corresponding strateg for software development teams might be…


Israel Gat

Israel Gat served as Cutter Fellow and the Director of the Agile Product Management & Software Engineering Excellence practice from 2008 until 2015.


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