We live in a deadline-oriented world. There can be little question about that as we are hit with that fact since well before we are born. While it may be your “birth-day”, prior to that it was your mother’s “due-date”. When we have talked in the past about the three basic resources, Time, Money and People, it is only Time that we can not get more of. Throughout our lives and careers, we are given targets and times that we are challenged to hit. We are then measured, reviewed, graded, etc. on how we did and then progress accordingly. Or at least that used to be the case. Has it really changed?
As is typically the case, I read an article that got me thinking. This one was by Jessica Hartogs, an Editor at LinkedIn, titled: “Workforce Less Forgiving than School” (https://www.linkedin.com/feed/news/workforce-less-forgiving-than-school-4509203/). It was a very short blurb where she cited a Wall Street Journal article titled: “Young Workers Seek Mental Health Accommodations, Employers Try to Keep Up” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/managing-mental-health-at-work-is-a-juggle-of-rights-and-realities-11581523201?mod=business_lead_pos5).
As you might guess the gist of the topic is that we as a society are making progress with coming to grips with mental heath issues associated with our members. We all understand and try to make accommodations for mental and emotional disabilities, just as we do for physical ones. This is obviously done with varying levels of focus, and success. We have seen this with the evolutions and accommodations that have occurred in our institutions of learning.
Students with these types of disabilities and disadvantages are given the accommodations of extra support, extra time, etc., when it comes to delivering their assignments or taking their exams. I don’t think there is anyone who could or would argue with these accommodations for these students to assist them in their studies.
Now let’s shift to business and organizational environment. Here again we will find a situation where deadlines and demands will be placed on all participants. However, most of these deadlines and demands are usually created as a result of an interaction or demand by a customer, or some other external entity. I think we all understand and agree that when dealing with a customer, we will usually find ourselves in a “competitive” situation. When we are dealing with a customer-imposed deadline, there is usually little that can be done in the way of addressing accommodations.
This is just one example. Marketing programs have launch dates where everything must be in place before they can go live. Finance and accounting have rules, some of which may be mandated by regulation, where books must be closed, and reports issued by certain dates or time intervals. The list can go on and on.
The point here is, are we putting businesses into a no-win situation when it comes to providing accommodations for these disabled / disadvantaged individuals?
I am by no means qualified to make any judgements as to what or how any such accommodations should be put in place. I will say however that in the global competitive environment there are many competitors that are not even contemplating making any such accommodations. They are in the competitive environment and are subscribing to the adage “the early bird gets the worm”.
They have recognized that rightly or wrongly, customers will accord some advantage to those that are first on the scene and able to deliver on their requirements. This is part of the “Fast, Good, Cheap” trio of criteria in the customer decision making process. The usual addendum to this trio of criteria is that you can only “Choose Two”.
I have written in the past of how the importance of “Good” has fallen over the past while. We are in a disposable environment for both consumer and business purchases. “Good” now no longer seems to carry the weight that it once did. All quality levels are viewed as somewhat the same and are viewed more in the context of what is paid for them. We seem to now expect Superior / Good / Quality as table stakes for even playing, and will only pay more for it for our “luxury” purchases, and even then only when we are truly looking for and willing to pay for it.
This leaves fast and cheap as the primary customer decision criteria. How cheap is it, and how fast can the customer get it? No business wants to ask for extensions or miss any deadlines when it comes to dealing with customers. What’s more most customers do not well tolerate vendors who either cannot or do not meet their desired deadlines. I think that we all can agree that businesses that are slower to meet customer deadlines and demands will be at a competitive disadvantage.
It is against this backdrop that we seem to be requesting some businesses to make accommodations for those with disabilities and disadvantages, for the one item that up to now customers seem to have been unwilling to grant them, more time.
While it may be reasonable to make special accommodations for those with these types of disabilities and disadvantages in the university environment, where all members will be equally governed by the same accommodation rules (by the university representatives and professors), it may be entirely something else when the same accommodations are expected to be implemented in the open market environment where all do not have to play by the same rules, and the ultimate arbiter, the customer, gets to make their decisions based on the criteria of their choosing, which are usually price and speed.
This is a topic that I really don’t have an answer for. I believe we all wish to be socially conscious, but at what price? It is also obvious that we also live in a global, ever more competitive business environment. I have only touched on the competitive issues and disadvantages that could arise in certain situations. Many companies find themselves on the global stage competing against other organizations that may not have as strong a sense of social responsibility.
And all are dealing with customers who for the most part do not bring social consciousness or social responsibility into their decision-making criteria. They are dealing with customers who again, for the most part are concerned about their financial bottom lines, either corporate or personal.
It seems that adapting the rules of competition to accommodate those with disabilities and disadvantages can only work well, when everybody abides by the same accommodation rules and criteria. When it is attempted to be implemented unilaterally in an uncontrolled competitive environment, it would seem that it only passes the disadvantages along to those that make the accommodations.
While the article that got me started on this may have been titled “Workforce less forgiving than School”, it may be better stated that when it comes to deadlines and demands, customers are the least forgiving of all.