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Archive for March, 2009

Ducks In A Row: Are You A Simplifier Or A Complexifier?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I’m a simplifier; more than that I really dislike complexifiers, but, sadly, their numbers seem to be increasing daily.

In work situations especially adding complexity is a way to demotivate the people around you (above, beside and below) and set everyone up to fail.

Sometimes what sounds like complexifying turns out to be just poor communications once you sort your way through what was said.

But there are a number of folks out there who honestly believe that complex equals smart and simple equals dumb. If that’s the case give me dumb every time.

Complexification isn’t a minor problem and often leads to major difficulties—think complex products like derivatives, Windows, phone menus in which you can get lost for days, low productivity, poor morale—the list is endless.

Here are four ways to know if you’re a complexifier

  • Are you met with blank looks when you describe something?
  • Is “huh” a typical response to what you say?
  • Do you frequently have to repeat what you say?
  • Are you constantly asked to explain what you mean?

And here’s what to do if you find you are one

  • First decide whether it’s what you mean or how you think.
  • If the problem is how you say it, i.e., the communications, take advantage of this post and if you want more help give me a call me at 866.265.7267.
  • If it’s how you think then you need to look at your MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) and identify why you prefer difficult/complicated/elaborate/intricate/convoluted/confusing
  • Changing MAP is a process that requires developing a special type of awareness

The great thing is that it’s always your choice.

Now a quick note about simplifying.

Brian R Nichols passed on a great idea in his comment on last week’s Ducks In A Row: A Tool To Make Reviews And Management Easier.
Here it is in Brian’s own words.

“The GSA looks like a good simple tool that I’ll have to try. Another simple tool I got from one of my former bosses is what he called a significant events log. It is basically a diary for each subordinate kept in an Excel worksheet. Both positive and negative comments are entered as warranted. It helps funnel the entire year into the review, not just the successes or failures of the moment.”

Call it an SEL Funnel; it will make your ongoing feedback and reviews even simpler while preventing selective memory from rearing its ugly head.

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: flickr

Barrett’s Briefing: Eyeballs Or Money?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Back in the late 20th century the business model for dot-com businesses was “Attract the eyeballs (website visitors), and the business will follow.”

Many businesses executed that model, such as AOL, FlyFishing and an embarrassing host of others, almost all gone by now.

Over time the model of attracting eyeballs simplified to Google—just Google.

Since then Google has created an effective advertising model for websites that attract eyeballs. It’s called AdSense, and the model is very simple.

Attract a large number of visitors (eyeballs) and Google will monetize those visitors through its AdSense advertising program. Google selects ads that match the profile of visitors to your website, posts the ads on your site and shares a portion of the ad revenue with you.

Google keeps all the control and can limit your revenue.

Social networks and blogs are perhaps the poster children for this Adsense business. Social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace generate revenue primarily from advertising.

The community creates the content that attracts the eyeballs, and the eyeballs attract the advertisers.

Blogs are only a little different. For a blog the author creates the content, rather than the community. But after this, the model is the same. The content attracts the eyeballs, and the eyeballs attract the advertisers.

Write a compelling blog and the eyeballs/advertisers will come.

Unfortunately this is a model for a lifestyle business, not a long-term business. Over time the competition increases and Google lowers the payout, so the revenue decreases.

Is there an alternative to the model of ever-declining revenue from Google Adsense?

Yes, create some old-fashioned value from the data itself.

The Data is the Business

Last week I discussed the concept of creating business value by collecting and selling data. That is a good alternative to the Adsense advertising model:

Create value in the data.

The benefits of a data sales business model are compelling:

  • Low start-up costs. Use the cloud for your computing and storage. Google and others offer free access for applications with small bandwidth demand.
  • Easily scalable. Add storage as the database grows. Add bandwidth as customer demand grows.
  • No delivery cost – the user shops and selects and takes delivery online.
  • Minimal cost of goods sold (COGS). This really depends upon your data collection model.
  • Immediate global access and delivery.
  • Captures the value of the “long tail.”
  • Relatively easy to protect. Compared with code, a database is easy to protect.
  • Even the meta-data (data about the data in the database, e.g. statistics) has value. Think of the top 10 lists, such as the “most popular search phrases” that Google publishes.

But if this business model is so good, why isn’t everyone starting a data sales business? Maybe they are…

Join me next week when we discuss what type of data sells.

See you all then.

Leaders Should NOT Be Cowboys

Monday, March 30th, 2009

One of the hardest things that growing companies face is the need to stop shooting from the hip.

I hear the reasons not to all the time, from startups, small biz, entrepreneurs, et al:

  • It will ruin our culture.
  • It stifles creativity. It’s for larger companies.
  • It’s bureaucratic. It’s too time consuming.

“It” refers to the underpinnings of all successful companies. “It” includes the following in order of importance:

  • Financial controls that include
    • monthly statements of revenues by product;
    • discounts;
    • costs by department;
    • cost of goods sold;
    • inventory;
    • receivables aging;
    • stock issuance;
    • cash flow;
    • manufacturing yields;
    • hiring by department
  • Annual operating plan covering the above financial measures
  • Organization charts and definitions of responsibilities
  • Hiring process
  • Long-term planning
  • Centralized information technology implementation and planning

Whether it’s just you, or one, ten, fifty, or more employees, whether full time, part time or virtual, you need viable processes to keep you focused—think of it as coloring inside the lines.

Everything on this list can, and should, be scaled for applicability, but all are important to every business endeavor.

Those that don’t directly apply may be tweaked, e.g., manufacturing yields can change to productivity measures; a very few, such as “stock issuance” may be completely discarded if the action is truly warranted.

Sure, they can’t all be implemented at once, but none of them will happen as long as your MAP rejects or begrudges them—after all, you’re the boss (CEO/president/managing partner/owner) and people will follow your lead.

Finally, don’t confuse process with bureaucracy. Process is like MAP, it gets you where you want to go, whereas bureaucracy stifles whatever it touches; process, like MAP, is ever-growing, while bureaucracy is carved in stone.

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: flickr

Pay For Performance

Monday, March 30th, 2009

In a post last week I asked for opinions on the ideas presented in a series of articles in Business Week on managing smarter but especially one that claims that “treating top performers the same as weaker ones is ‘strategic suicide'” and said I would add my thoughts in a future post.

Bob Foster left two interesting comments (well worth your time to click over and read). Regarding pay for performance he tells the story of a company where everybody from the CEO down all quit.

“Taking on the task to salvage the company, I hired new people that met unusual qualifications: they had to be qualified for the job they were applying for; they had to be unemployed and available immediately; they had to work at sub-standard wages; they had to work while knowing the company could close at any minute; and they had to work without supervision. The team that came together produced a highly successful company, and it was not because of high pay, or performance bonuses (there were none). The team stayed together, and performed, because of mutual respect, trust, appreciation, and consideration—people were ‘valued.’ To me, this is the truest form of ‘pay for performance.'”

I agree that trust was one of the key ingredients in what Bob accomplished, but it wasn’t the only one—or maybe I should say that it needs to be based on fairness and honesty.

Bob says the pay was ‘sub-standard’, but I assume that it was universally sub-standard relative to position and experience. If he had chosen to pay part of the team, say 10% more than their peers, the team wouldn’t have coalesced.

And that is exactly why I disagree with the idea of paying top performers, AKA stars, big sign-on bonuses or higher salaries than their peers.

  • Based on my own experience, 98% of star performers become stars as a function of their management and the ecosystem in which they perform. Change the management, culture or any other parts that comprise that ecosystem and the star may not survive.
  • Just as a chain is as strong as its weakest link there is no star in any sport, business, media, etc., who can win with a team that is subject to constant turnover and low morale.

Consider this common example.

Two people are hired at the same time with the same background, same GP0 and similar work experience, but with the one exception. One graduated from a ‘name’ school and the other from a community college. Starting salary is $50K, but the manager adds a 20% premium to the first candidate’s offer on the basis that she must be better to have gone to that school.

Neither candidate lived up to their potential because the manager made poor choices. In doing so he set both up to fail but for different reasons; one thought she had it made and the other that he was low value.

Merit bonuses fairly given for effort above and beyond acceptable performance levels make sense as long as they don’t come at the cost of developing new talent.

But one problem with ‘pay for performance’ is the pay often comes before the performance, but there are others and I’ll discuss them more Thursday. In the meantime, here are links to five posts from 2006 that give more detail on the trouble with stars.

Stars—they’re in your MAP

More about stars and MAP

Rejects or stars?

Star compensation

Retaining Stars

Image credit: sxc.hu

Quotable Quotes: Words To Live By

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Considering the news with which we’re being inundated this seemed like a god time to offer up something a bit more positive.

Not sugar and syrup that you wouldn’t believe anyway, but the kind of one liners that are worth printing out and sticking on the monitor and taping to the bathroom mirror.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and it looks like work.” –Thomas Edison (Entitlement has more letters.)

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” –Mark Twain (If they don’t encourage you to climb they won’t offer a hand if you trip and fall.)

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.” –Benjamin Franklin (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter…)

“Live as if you are to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you are to live forever.” –Gandhi (Teach this to your kids and tattoo it on your frontal lobe—it’s the best advice you’ll ever get!)

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: sxc.hu

mY generation: Hahaha, A Job…?

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

See all mY generation posts here.

Seize Your Leadership Day: Ann Mulcahy, John Chambers And Jacqueline Novogratz

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Three great interviews on tap today with lots to learn.Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the embed code to work for either video (the Washington Post and McKinsey may need lessons from YouTube:), but they’re both worth clicking over to watch.

First up is Anne Mulcahy, chairwoman and chief executive of Xerox Corporation, a company that she took over on the brink of extinction and turned around. “In 2002 this company lost almost $300 million, and by 2006 we were making over $1 billion.” Now that’s a turn around!

When asked what the secret was, Mulcahy said, “It isn’t a secret sauce. It’s actually fundamental communications, in terms of your ability to really get out there and be with your people, tell a story. People really have to begin to believe in a story to get passionate about the direction the company is going in, which hopefully you’ve been able to do through the way you articulate it, simplifying the complex so that people can get their arms around it and see how they can make a difference. There’s nothing quite as powerful as people feeling they can have impact and make a difference. When you’ve got that going for you, I think it’s a very powerful way to implement change.”

Next is a video interview with John Chambers of Cisco Systems. The dot com bomb blasted Cisco and Chambers brought it back. In the interview Chambers talks about managing in this downturn, how collaboration is the next phase of management style, change, and identifying market transitions. He also discusses how business leaders need to “earn back” public trust, how he is adapting the company and why he’s “far from a perfect leader.”

Finally is a great McKinsey print and video interview with venture philanthropist Jacqueline Novogratz.

“As a venture philanthropist, Acumen Fund’s Jacqueline Novogratz leads entrepreneurial projects across the globe—many of which put women at the helm of emerging local businesses. In this video interview, she discusses her experience developing other women leaders, the way they have shaped her own approach to leadership, and the different leadership cultures she sees at play in the public and private sectors.”

Fabulous. Do click over to see the video and read the print part, also.

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: flickr

Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: Three Culture Champions

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Alexander Kjerulf over at Chief Happiness Officer shared a fascinating write-up (one of the case studies for his new book) about Wim Roelandts, CEO of Xilinx, managing through his eighth recession. During 2000 recession Wim decided there was a better way than the standard Silicon Valley of repetitive rounds of layoffs—and he proved there was. He called his strategy “Share the pain;” it was completely voluntary and 2799 out of 2800 employees opted to take the graduated pay cuts. He held fast in spite of opposition from both his Board and Wall Street analysts and it worked.

Next is a new book by Dave Hitz who co-founded $3 billion NetApp, number one of Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies To Work ForHow To Castrate A Bull & Other Corporate Survival Tips looks like a great read. Enjoy!

Last but certainly not least are two takes on Tony “A company’s culture and a company’s brand are just two sides of the same coin” Hsieh, the guy who built a billion dollar company on its culture. Both are takes on his keynote talk at SXSW 2009, but bring out different points. The one from Fast Company includes seven steps to incorporate Zappos core values into your company; the other is The Onion’s Baratunde Thurston via CNET.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Image credit: flickr

Lousy Managers Can Never Lead

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Did you know that you can’t lead if you’re a lousy manager? No matter how many leadership classes you take, books you read and seminars you attend if you don’t build good management skills you won’t lead anyone anywhere.

(By the same token, and I’ve said this many times, if you don’t practice so-called leadership skills you’ll have a tough time managing today’s workforce.)

Steve Wyrostek, in a guest post at Brilliant Leadership, has a list of actions so you can figure out if you’re a bad boss or a good one. He says “that a managerial jerk can never achieve good, sustainable results.”

True, although bad managers are known for bringing lots of fresh blood into their area—and then spilling it.

The trouble is that you can be a lousy manager without being terrible, a jerk or downright evil.

Call it lousy by benign neglect.

These are the ones who leave their people alone to find their own way with little guidance and less feedback.

Rather than manage they often focus on the big picture, providing their people with a detailed vision of what the future holds, but no operational map of how to get there, how far they’ve come or how far is left to go.

Leadership skills are important, but they can’t come at the expense of good management.

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: flickr

Money, Moxie And Motivation

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Although “money can’t buy happiness” may be debatable, it’s a fact that it can’t buy a strong, motivated workforce. For over 30 years I’ve been telling managers that people who join [the company] for money, will leave for more money.

Having listened to thousands of candidates during more than 20 years of headhunting, about 85% have the same top three desires—although not necessarily in the same order:

  • To make a difference.
  • To be treated fairly.
  • To matter [to boss and colleagues].

And there are lots of tangible ways to show appreciation, reward effort, lighten the deadline-induced stress and just have fun

What do you do to motivate your people without killing the budget?

Image credit: flickr

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