Research in Motion’s public battle

5 07 2011

When executives feel they have to go outside of a chain of command in order to voice concerns, we see perfect examples of the need for Operational Performance Management (OPM).  The current Research in Motion public battle is a great place to start.  An anonymous executive sent an open letter to Jonathan Geller, of The Boy Genius (BGR.com), to call out the current RIM culture.  What is more entertaining about this is the fact that RIM responds publicly, which only makes this sound like a bigger problem.

Highlights of the RIM letter:

  • You have many smart employees, many that have great ideas for the future, but unfortunately the culture at RIM does not allow us to speak openly without having to worry about the career-limiting effects.
  • We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice — the end user doesn’t care. We simply have to admit that Apple is nailing this and it is one of the reasons they have people lining up overnight at stores around the world, and products sold out for months. These people aren’t hypnotized zombies, they simply love beautifully designed products that are user centric and work how they are supposed to work.
  • Teams still aren’t talking together properly, no one is making or can make critical decisions, all the while everyone is working crazy hours and still far behind. We are demotivated.
  • Strategy is often in the things you decide not to do.
  • We simply must stop shipping incomplete products that aren’t ready for the end user. It is hurting our brand tremendously. It takes guts to not allow a product to launch that may be 90% ready with a quarter end in sight, but it will pay off in the long term.
  • The truth is, no one in RIM dares to tell management how bad our tools still are. Even our closest dev partners do their best to say it politely, but they will never bite the hand that feeds them.
  • 25 million iPad users don’t care that it doesn’t have Flash or true multitasking, so why make that a focus in our campaigns? I’ll answer that for you: it’s because that’s all that differentiates our products and its lazy marketing. I’ve never seen someone buy product B because it has something product A doesn’t have. People buy product B because they want and lust after product B.
  • RIM has a lot of people who underperform but still stay in their roles. No one is accountable. Where is the guy responsible for the 9530 software? Still with us, still running some important software initiative. We will never achieve excellence with this culture. Just because someone may have been a loyal RIM employee for 7 years, it doesn’t mean they are the best Manager / Director / VP for that role.
  • However, overconfidence clouds good decision-making. We missed not boldly reacting to the threat of iPhone when we saw it in January over four years ago. We laughed and said they are trying to put a computer on a phone, that it won’t work.
  • Reach out to all employees asking them on how we can make RIM better. Encourage input from ground-level teams—without repercussions—to seek out honest feedback and really absorb it.

All of these are examples of what happens in almost every business culture I have witnessed.  It is certainly not unique to RIM. If you think this is not happening within your business you are sorely mistaken.

What can you do….

  • Foster honest discussions.  Stop punishing those who do not follow the company line. Reward critical thought.  Ask people to do their homework prior to the meetings.
  • Listen.  Tap into the collective intelligence of the organization.  1,000 eyes see a lot.
  • Act out.  Stress your opinion if you have a dissenting idea.If you love your company and passionate about what you do, chances are your opinions probably do matter.




Meeting Expectations

18 01 2010

In a recent MyMidwest (Midwest Airlines) inflight magazine there is a story by Kimberly Douglas of FireFly Facilitation on Meeting Management.  If we look at a couple of the numbers from Douglas’ research we can begin to quantify the impact of meetings.

38,000 msft employees say that their 5.6 hours per week spent in meetings are unproductive.  That’s over 11 million hours of meetings.  Now if we say the average msft employee makes 100k per year (including benefits), that translates to ~ $50/hr.  If we do the math, that’s ~ $550 million a year in meeting costs.

Microsoft’s 2009 annual income was $58.4 billion which makes just their meeting costs roughly 1% of their annual income.  Let’s make a couple more assumptions: that half of that value is waste (more people than needed, run longer than necessary, etc) and we could reduce that by 10% which should be easy.  The result is ~ $22.5 million.  I am guessing here, but it should be worthwhile to at least try and improve upon meeting management and find some other way to leverage that $22 million.

  • What % of time do you spend in meetings?
  • Would your employees feel that meeting management and effectiveness could be improved upon?
  • What would you do with an additional 1% of your annual income?
  • In what ways could you improve meeting management?




Jargon

19 08 2009

This is from Paul Bayne, a guest blogger:

When you’re listening to a presentation, how often do you hear the current management buzz words or internal company acronyms? Do they add depth to the message, or do they serve to increase the status of the presenter by making them appear more versed or knowledgable? When looking back at the information in a historical context, will the language enhance the meaning, or will it detract from it? I worked with a consulting manager who was famous for his use of buzz words. The following paragraph was compiled from the 55 buzzwords used during one 90 minute conference call:

I’m trying to level set your assumptions, so we can then incorporate these concepts into the communication plan’s talk track for an apples to apples comparison of the current state/future state. That should give us the safety net and support mechanism we need to factor into as we create the coathooks to harden the numbers in the discussion document, strategically migrating to a closely aligned, re-engineered future state opportunity model. We’ll then drive away from the shadow tracking spreadsheets into a conference room pilot where we can more effectively and efficiently operate in sandbox mode to hardwire the black box into an actionable white box.

Does your use of language provide clarity to your thoughts and actions, or does it communicate very little while saying very much?





Practice

10 06 2009

On of my favorite hobbies is coaching little league baseball.  During a game last year it hit me that many meetings are run in a similar manner.  Pardon me for the comparision, but the similarities can provide a little humor at a process that all too often needs improvement.

As I watched, I noticed I had three outfielders playing in the dirt, my third baseman had one foot in foul territory, and my second baseman was standing on second base.  I also had a few players that were ready, on their toes, and prepared.

  • How often at your meetings do you have the back of their room paying sporadic attention while most of their focus is either on their laptop or blackberry?
  • How many people do you have playing by their own rules?
  • What percent of the room is prepared and actively participating in the meeting?

As a coach, we know we need a game plan.  Yet often we “wing it” because of experience and love for the game.   Sometimes this works, and sometimes not-so-much.

During practice, we can move people into groups of like needs and work at different speeds to excel learning (or at least repetition).  We can redo things as many times as necessary.  We can freely move people into different positions.

We have the luxury of a practice schedule – organizations and managers do not.  They have to learn while doing.  They do not get trophies for participation.  We need our people to be prepared and active in a meeting or else we are not maximizing our use of time.

If the meeting is to understand a performance issue, then we need to have someone write up the issue and send a brief summary to the team.  We need the rest of the team to have read the brief, done their relevant research, and prepared a list of potential recommendations to discuss.  The meeting should not be about discussing what research needs to be done – it should be about looking at the research and agreeing upon a course of action.





Manage vs. Monitor

21 05 2009

It has always struck me as a little odd that a great deal of marketing literature in the Business Intelligence and Performance Management space talks about “monitoring” performance.  Isn’t the entire goal of this space to help companies actively “manage” their business.  My concern is that “monitoring” assumes that all is well unless some alarm is triggered.  

While it is fine for the thermastat to monitor temperature, perhaps business is a tad more complex.  Instead of waiting for things to get to a threshhold, we need to understand a number of things that all work more or less together to explain a more complex concept.  

Instead of just showing up for a meeting, what if we focus on creating a culture of being prepared for a meeting.  We can then use Business Intelligence as a organized and focused set of tools to help with our prep work.





Clarity – Pick One Voice

17 05 2009

A few months ago during the Presidential inauguration, a concept I have kicked around a bit presented itself in a vivid example.  What stuck me was all the pomp and circumstance, all the background noise.  Did I really want to hear the opening prayer, the closing prayer, all the singing, and the poetry?  No, I wanted one thing – to hear the message this President was going to deliver on how he was going to set up his presidency.  Everything else was in a way, distraction.

As organizations, how often do we set a clear and concise goals for the organization and the individuals?  How many times do we repeat what someone else just said?

When we design KPIs for the organization, do we create a single measure for a goal and use other analytics for support?  Or do we create a number of ways to view the goal?  If we create many definitions, we allow for people to pick the one they want.  Use KPI design as a way to gain clarity of a goal.  Use Scorecard design to gain clarity of purpose.





Customer Lifecycle Value

1 05 2009

Depending upon on how well your know your business, a great discussion to have somewhat regularily is whether or not the customer lifecycle value is increasing or decreasing.  To achieve this we need to know a few things…

  • How much has the customer purchased from us?
  • How long are they likely to stay with us?
  • What does it cost us to serve them?

None of these are necessarily easy questions to answer, but that does not mean we should not talk about these items. Worst case, you should at least be looking at the average revenue and cost per client and see how those are changing. They are probably pretty good indicators of lifecycle value.  If we look at the trends of our revenues, costs (COGS & SGA), and profits per customer this should certainly indicate if we are doing better or worse.

While most of us do this to some degree, we probably also throw in a great deal many more variables and business rules and end up discussing various concepts. What about once a month or once a quarter getting all the department heads together and discuss progress on only these items.








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