Revisiting the Wisdom of two Toastmasters

by Susan Ellsworth

A few months ago, a fellow Toastmaster observed that the real value of our program is not what one does inside our meeting room walls….it’s what we do outside our meeting places with what we learned within the program. Years before Pequod Systems was formed, I was sitting in a Toastmasters meeting and hearing comment about the actions of a member that the group did not quite approve of. Finally, one Toastmaster looked around to the group and said, “You know, there really is value in negative examples. You can learn what NOT to do.” In their own way, both these Toastmasters validate our operating belief in telling the outside world that customers deserve products that have been well-tested and that they are not beta testers for products pushed to market before they are thoroughly well-tested and debugged.

Lately I have been reminded of one of our core values. We believe it is inappropriate to promote to our customers—let alone deliver—products that were frankly pushed out the door too soon. Recently a significant upgrade of a product we know about was released. Within days, I was reading complaints from the manufacturer’s partners that said

“But even beyond firing up exotic new hardware, I think [company] could do more to improve overall [product] performance. As mentioned a few times above, performance drops are completely expected when users upgrade from [version] and [version] (of course no one wants to be told this _prior to _ upgrading, else they’d never upgrade). Performance is almost always the first thing users complain about after upgrading. Some customers have even threatened to force us to roll them back to their old [product] version, which of course sends us scrambling to do anything we can to eek out more performance.

Of course, we could just require all upgrades to have brand new, dedicated high powered servers (even if their existing server meets the min [product] specs). But I’m not even all that convinced that the performance issues are strictly related to the server alone. I think the [product] client app itself is also to blame for sluggish-ness, at least in part (yes, on machines that meet the min reqs). So that would mean, not only upgrading the main server but also workstations. This has the net effect of pushing the overall upgrade cost beyond the reach of many customers.”

For this reason, when a new product is released, we watch for comments and avoid treating our customers like beta testers who pay us for the privilege of using software that has not been thoroughly tested and is not ready for distribution. The connection with those Toastmasters? Over the more than twenty five years we have been associated with Toastmaster, we have learned to articulate and share with others our core values.  Delivering quality products is one of them.


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