The enemy of my enemy is my friend

19 07 2011

Strange what a few years means to the technology sector.  Google, once champion of the little guy, the individual, the anti-Mircosoft, now becomes the problem.  The Michigan – Ohio State rivalry of the tech industry was supposed to be Apple and Microsoft.  They have spanned great battles over the years – and better commercials…

Yet, all of a sudden Google is the evil invader in the space.  What else could make Apple and Microsoft consortium partners?

WHAT!!  Wait a second…

Nortel Networks, one of the great patent holders, is watching its power, influence, and ultimately its profits dwindle away.  Up for auction were a sizable number of its patents.  While Google was the early favorite, Apple and Microsoft teamed up with Ericsson, EMC, RIM, and Sony teamed up with each other to outspend Google.

While we get to wait and see what this means for Google, we can wonder what our competition might be willing to do to us given the opportunity?

  • How do external opportunities trigger discussions within the organization?
  • Who monitors the external market for us?
  • How do we leverage information to make timely decisions?
  • How well do we gamemanship our competition?  Are they better at it than us?

 

Advertisements




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.




Obesity in the US

29 04 2011

This is again perhaps a little off topic for me, but it does pose some really interesting strategic points for consideration…

The cigarette of today’s generation is fast food, sodas, and poor eating habits in general.  Obesity in the US is projected to be about 20% of our annual health spending – or roughly $350 billion (USA Today) by 2018.  This means the number will double from 10% of the spending to 20% by 2018.  Food related deaths account for more than half of our causes of death (CDC) and we focus very little attention to it.  And for the first time in decades the US life expectancy is projected to decline by 5 years (National Institute of Health) with this generation.

So from the viewpoint of Strategy, this poses a wild number of potentials.  Depending upon your industry this either opens you to a tremendous opportunity, or a concerning level of risk.

Opportunities:

  • Food industry – being an early mover to healthier versions of your food may attract more customers
  • Education – providing content for school, churches, communities, etc may open more doors for you
  • Healthcare – with increasing costs, providers that can target care to show health gains with children, or keep their clients healthier may see improved demand for their products while at the same time controller their costs.
  • Marketing – Branding your self as a healthy alternative
  • HR – being seen as a healthier employer may improve your retainment and attraction to new employees.  You may also see a reduction in your health care costs over time.

Risks:

  • Fast food – This entire industry may be about to come under ever increasing levels of attack.  The attacks will likely be on menu, ingredients, nutritional labeling, and potentially lawsuits.
  • Sports drinks – As parents become more aware of the level of sugar in these drinks, demand is certainly at risk.  As one of their core segments is children, it is also possible that even the marketing placement will be called into question.
  • Education – As Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has clearly pointed out, he is certainly targeting the school system menu.  Once the parents get involved school district lunch menus will likely need to change dramatically.
  • Healthcare – spiraling costs will force most healthcare companies to make very difficult decisions to remain profitable.

Here is Jamie Oliver’s presentation on TED.

Here you can see the growing obesity problem in the us (CDC).





Pink Bat

9 03 2011

I know I have not published much here lately, but I have been writing a fair bit.  Some of these I have just been a little timid about sharing as they are a little inconsistent with the goal of this blog.

Anyway, while I was doing a little research about my current project I stumbled across this and thought the video was well worth sharing. In a nutshell, train yourself to see solutions to problems.  Train your business to be more aware, to take risks, but more importantly to always be thinking about solutions.

The following video is from Michael McMillian and while the book does not get the wildest of reviews, the concept is and short video is worthwhile.

 

pinkbatmovie.com





Zombie Initiatives and Tasks

5 01 2011

Over the holidays I heard a story on Zombie Processes.  It reminded me of the number of these I have come across in business.  One of the luxuries of being a consultant is you get to ask “why do you do that” or better yet “what would happen if you didn’t do that anymore”.  As businesses grow and scale we often pick up a number of new initiatives, or increase the subtasks, and never kill off old ones.  We also inherit more and more “stuff” that people do that does not necessarily add value.

Zombies: A Zombie initiative/task is something that continues on because no one has done the favor of saying it is either over or complete.  It can also be a task that exists that no longer needs to exist.   Basically it is inefficient effort and time.

Do these exist in your organization? Absolutely and everywhere.  The key is not trying to fix them all at once – this will get you nowhere.  What makes the most sense is to identify your strategic goals and initiatives and start with the processes that support those goals.

Where do you start? Take a look at your critical initiatives across the organization.  Ask yourself which ones are going to provide the most strategic value over the next 12 months.  Pick 3 and define the value of those initiatives.  Are they about increasing/decreasing time, revenue growth, cost cutting, elevating customer value?  Figure out how improvements should be measured.  Set up serious targets and a process to manage improvements.  Roll up your sleeves and get rid of the Zombies.  And while again this is self serving, it does not make it less true – hire a consultant.  Have someone independent to the organization ask the questions.  Especially if this is a new concept inside the organization.  People don’t like change, they fear it will expose them or put them at risk.  This can lead to the wrong motivation for process improvement.

 

Stuff:  This can be projects, tasks, subtasks, processes, or simply job justification work.





Lessons from the Vegas ecosystem

1 11 2010

There is nothing like Las Vegas. Suits and sweats sitting beside each other sharing risk. Long confusing mazes of machines that clank and spin and take more than they give.

We can point to a number of great brands in this age, yet in many ways Vegas might be the strongest brand of all. Its current tagline “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” may also be one of greatest slogans.  It is the perfect pitch that both captures the spirit of the place as well as tap our primal instincts.

Perhaps we can’t create the same type of offering as Vegas, and it may not be our cup of tea, but we should admire it and learn from it for what it has created. What was once a desert, an airport, and a couple casinos is now one of the most interesting consumer ecosystems. Now there are limitless entertainment options at all price points for all audiences.

Above all things, Vegas is all about innovation. They are focused on the customer with unrivaled focus. They test, they listen, and they learn. Vegas is a 24×7 incredibly well lit human lab.

What can we learn:

  • Test, move, learn. Most companies are stuck in ruts.  They do the same things over and over again.  New ideas are forced into ill fitting old marketing programs.  Customers are hit with the same message in various mediums. We fail to hypothesize and test any more.
  • Create and/or leverage communities. Vegas is all about mustering resources around the customer.  Bring more and unique services to your customers so they never have to leave.
  • Fill in gaps. Vegas is always looking at ways to fill in the seams around the business.  How often do you look for ways to not only increase the product offering, but look to enhance the ecosystem around you?  How well do you use the partners whose products depend upon you?
  • Be unique. Where else can you find a castle, a pyramid, a two story lion, and a replica of New York city all on the same street corner.   What is interesting here is that this is where I think the casinos are starting to fail a bit.  Clearly, Vegas is unique but I think the experience is starting to become too similar.  Every casino has a hip dance club, a comedy routine, high end shopping, and now there own Cirque-du-Soleil shows.  Needless to say, the unique stuff is what helps us differentiate ourselves from the pack.  Without it, we start to compete on who is cheaper.  That is a game only a few can win.




Breaking down Profitability

12 10 2010

One of my favorite bloggers / writers, Seth Godin, writes about “When the long tail is underwater” on his Oct 10th blog.  He actually touches on a couple of interesting points, how much time and energy is created that generates no value, and how do we filter out all of this information to understand what is relevant.

Take for example the Droid/iPhone app market…Apps are everywhere, and try to do everything.  Apple and Droid both claim wildly unusable numbers of apps.  With all of these potential apps, ask your friends what Apps that they can’t live without and people get strangely quiet.  I had a few people respond Urban Spoon and one guy mentioned Wolfram Alpha.

Seriously, hundreds of thousands of apps out there and we can’t create a list of “gotta have” apps? Yes, I know there are hundreds of those lists.  Read one of those lists and ask yourself which one will you be using a month from now.

Sorry back to the point…Compare this to your company’s information:

  • How much data do you have?
  • How many reports do you have?
  • How much of it is relevant?
  • How much old stuff is out there that no one has any idea of its worth?
  • How often do you clean up the environment?
  • How quick do people respond?

AND how often do you hear people say… I don’t have the data?  OR I am not sure where I can find the information I need?