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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"New" VP: thumbs up!

So I've been checking the front page of the SLD Web site to see if they announce the comment period for the Eligible Services List. Still nothing.

But I did see an announcement today that Mel Blackwell has been named by the USAC board to VP for the Schools & Libraries Program. I don't think that's front page news, since the name of the VP doesn't matter a whit to 99% of applicants; they'll never have direct contact with him. And he's been the interim for what, a year already? So it's not really news. But I guess there isn't a Business section on the SLD Web site, so the front page it is.

I'm happy to have him as VP. I don't know if he's a good manager or not, but here's what I like about him: every time I've heard him speak, he's used the phrase "customer service" over and over. It struck me the first time I heard him say it, because it was so at odds with the experience of most applicants. He says it often enough that when I heard him talking this week, I actually noticed when he missed an opportunity to say it. If I were playing "meeting bingo" (where you pass time in a meeting by making a bingo card with an overused word or phrase in each box and Xing out boxes as people say the words and phrases in them until you have bingo) at the SLD, if the VP were going to be in the meeting, I'd definitely want "customer service" on my card.

And that's a good thing. In my mind, one of the tasks of an executive is to affect organizational culture. And I think it has great effect for him to characterize the SLD's relationship with applicants as "customer service." The repitition is important in changing the way people think. And I think I've seen a change in attitude at the SLD (and Solix, the subcontractor that runs PIA). Not that I've had many problems in the past, but I sense a shift in my dealings with PIA: I am the customer.

Or maybe Mr. Blackwell's repitition has changed my perception.

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