Examples of Tough Combing Labels

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  • Hey, you wanted to test your combing/labeling skills, right? You wanted to hone your ability to grab the most descriptive verb possible, and pull out the implications of what the person is really trying to say? Here is a set of examples with a little discourse about why I suggest the label I suggest. The original labels have been suggested by people I am mentoring through the combing process.

    • original label: Compare Other (Higher Paying but Fewer Benefits) Jobs w/Mine – “I put a pencil to it. I mean, I know exactly what my benefits are, and I’ve looked at other jobs … if I was to give up my benefits and retirement … that I get now, because the first five years you went somewhere, you’re not vested, so you’re basically giving that up, and that’s ten percent of my salary, so you put a pencil to it, and then a lot of people don’t pay all your health insurance …”
    • my change: Since his emphasis is “putting a pencil to it,” I assumed that meant that he calculated the value of his benefits, and I changed the label to start with the verb “calculate.”
    • question: He calculates the value of his benefits because he is comparing his low-pay/good-benefits job with a high-pay/poor-benefits one. Should there be 2 tasks: ‘compare my job…’ w/a subtask of ‘calculate value…’? or one: ‘calculate value of benefits to compare my low-pay job w/a high-pay one’?
    • my answer: Good point. I actually used the label “Calculate How Much My Benefits Add to My Income Here” so that it emphasizes that he is calculating to come to a decision point. In conversation with him, the gist of this bit was that he was deciding if the benefits were still high enough to compensate for going out and looking for another job. Instead, I can change this label to “Decide If Benefits Here Add Up to Compensate Low Wage.” There are several other tasks around “Consider Leaving Low Paying Job if Good Benefits Cut” and “Value Benefits Equally w/Career Interest” that I don’t think we need to break it into sub-tasks. The answer about sub-tasks is always in the context of what other tasks you’ve pulled, and if they basically cover what the guy is intending to communicate to us.
    • original label: Feel Stripping Out Benefits Hurts Company in Long Run – “Now, that’s been changed, and a lot of new people coming in … aren’t gonna get that, so… I actually think they’ve hurt their selves. A lot of benefits are being stripped … as new people come in, and I think … in the long run it’s gonna hurt them.”
    • my change: This is his opinion. We can skip opinions.
    • question: What if his philosophy is: “good benefits are needed to retain talented people?” He is only staying at this job for the excellent benefits.
    • my answer: Since he is not in a position to hire people, and he is not talking about hiring policies or changing the benefits, it’s just him griping. He hasn’t even made a move to recommend changing the benefits policy yet. If he had formally recommended changes instead of just complaining, then we could use this. But his beliefs about good benefits to retain talent were not put into practice at all. He was complaining because we gave him an opportunity to complain. He might not have anyone who solicits complaints in his normal day-to-day life, so it may not be his normal behavior and should not be captured in the mental model.
    • original label: Think Lower Quality Employees Result From Stingier Benefits – “… and the new people coming in … you get less quality people, I think.”
    • my change: This is the same opinion, basically. I was trying really hard to steer him away from “like this/hate this” discussions, but he definitely started out thinking this was a conversation about what his opinions were. Usually these things are the fault of the interviewer, and you get to read it with a grain of salt and say to yourself, “Wait just a minute here. This doesn’t explain anything. It starts to get at a philosophy but falls way short.” So skip this one. Delete it.
    • original label: Serve on Committee to Write 5 Yr Tech Plan – “I’m on the committee to write the technology plan, you know, the five-year plan we’ve got to get
    • my change: If he was talking about writing a 5-year plan, then the verb “write” is the key here.
    • original label: Work w/Internal & External Groups – “I also had to work with not only our people here, but I went to … meet with the contractors and do follow-ups and then meet with contractors individually.”
    • my change: “Work” is a pretty non-descriptive verb. I changed this to “Follow Up with External Contractors.”
    • original label: Keep in Touch w/Local & State Employees via Meetings, Calls, & Emails to Determine Needs – “The state, the meetings, yes, there were meetings with the local employees to see what they needed, because they have a supervisor on
      site, and then the rest of it was basically phone calls, emails with the people from the state with their organization.”
    • my change: I clarified the label to “Solicit Network Requirements from State Employees.”
    • question: His behavior is “meet w/people” but the underlying reason is to “determine requirements.” Hence your label, right?
    • my answer: Yeah. “Meet” is a really vague verb, as is “Keep In Touch.” When I see those, it’s an indication to dig deeper into the reason for the meetings and the keeping in touch. “What is going on here? Oh, it’s to solicit the requirements from people, over time, via a bunch of channels, but my main goal is to solicit requirements.”
    • original label: Consider Future Needs when Making Recommendations – “a cheap one that you could get with … 50 licenses, or you could spend another 100
      bucks and get an unlimited number of licenses … and she’s like, ‘Well, we don’t need that. We’ll never have more than 25,’ … I’m like, ‘You don’t know this.'”
    • my change: The label is a little too high level. I changed it to “Argue That $100 Is Cheap Compared to Risk of Needing More Than 25 Licenses.”
    • question: Does the specificity of “$100” complicate the grouping?
    • my answer: Nope. I will ignore the specifics as I group. At this point when you are labeling quotes, I want you to be specific so that sometimes I can just group the label without even reading the quote. I want the label to cut to the chase so I can use it quickly, since grouping takes so much mental capacity. I will probably put this with other tasks that are specific about other things, but general about persuading someone about spending or future costs or upgrade decisions.
    • original label Get Called for Help b/c My Extensive Working Knowledge of the System – “There’s probably nobody else here that really understands it from A to Z… if something goes wrong, they call me, because … I have such a working knowledge of every intricate bit and piece … I normally do have the answer.”
    • my change: “Get Called” is a passive verb–he’s not doing anything. I labeled it “Answer Questions About The Systems I Know So Well.”
    • original label: Express Frustration w/Inability to Reach Vendor – “I brought up the fact … that I couldn’t get hold of them, and the guy that’s in charge … he’s on there, too, and he goes, “Well, you can always call the center. They always know how to get hold of the guy.”.. And so I told him … “I couldn’t even get through your center … even they weren’t answering,” and he, you could tell, is silent, you know.”
    • my change: This label is in the middle. Either it’s an emotion (Feel Frustrated) or it’s a behavior (Express My Frustration to Vendor). I think it’s the latter.
      And I would label it more clearly as “Point Out Vendor is Not Always Available,
      Despite Claims.”