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Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: Potatoes and Meat

Saturday, December 26th, 2009


Today’s Odd Bits are kind of a hodgepodge, but in the twisty corridors of my mind they do fit together.

First the potatoes.

Do you believe all the experts, academicians, pundits and just-plain-people who keep talking about how the so-called Great Recession is permanently changing America’s stuff fixation? I don’t, I just think people will find a way to do the same thing covertly—call it inconspicuous consumption.

On the other side, have high-end retailers really changed their attitude towards customer service? An exec from Saks Fifth Avenue said, “Every customer is valuable and they’re even more valuable today because there are fewer of them.” Does that mean they will revert to form when there are more of them? Another little gem buried in this article shows that consumers haven’t changed all that much, after all, who really needs an $18 bottle of nail polish?

Microsoft, the company people love or hate. Since I’m in the latter camp I was delighted to see that they lost on appeal and the $290 million judgment for violating a patent stands. Their reaction is typical of today’s worst corporate MAP, since “…new versions [of Word], with the computer code in question removed, would be ready for sale when the injunction begins Jan. 11.” They stole, but that’s OK because getting caught won’t interfere with business and apparently the money is no big deal. Still more intriguing is an article at CNN wondering if Steve Ballmer will be out in 2010, “Ballmer has shepherded Microsoft to vanishing mobile market share (now just 7.9 percent of the market), a hesitant tiptoe into software as a service, and a general sense of retreat in emerging markets.” (Be sure to check the two links at the end of the story.)

And then there is Facebook, which is one of the top two time-wasters since time began (the other is Twitter). Besides providing you with a whole new set of virus to worry about, it’s obsessive (in case you hadn’t noticed) and the best defense seems to be defriending.

Enough with the potatoes, you need meat to balance your last meal here. And for that kind of substance you can’t beat Harvard.

Specifically, you can’t beat Michael C. Jensen, the Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus’ fascinating paper on integrity.

“Integrity in our model is honoring your word. As such integrity is a purely positive phenomenon. It has nothing to do with good vs. bad, right vs. wrong behavior.”

Therefore the worst villain has the same integrity as your favorite saint. Interesting premise, well worth reading.

Image credit:  nono farahshila on flickr

Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: A Bit of This and That

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

glassesThere are many ways to build a career and Brian T. Moynihan chose one of the most unlikely—he fell up the corporate ladder into the CEO job at Bank of America.

It was a familiar role for Mr. Moynihan, who, in many ways, has had a career of falling into bigger jobs at the bank when executives were fired or shunted aside.

What is the essence of human nature? Flawed, say many theologians. Vicious and addicted to warfare, wrote Hobbes. Selfish and in need of considerable improvement, think many parents.

Nope, biologists are finding that babies are innately sociable and helpful to others—unfortunately they (we) grow up.

Would you like to live to be 100 or more? Several Wharton professors offer up a thoughtful overview of what that kind of longevity could mean.

Last, and maybe least, I decided that I shouldn’t miss the Tiger Woods band wagon, but only because KG Charles-Harris sent a scan of a great satirical take on the whole thing and it was just too good to resist.


Image credit:  MykReeve on flickr

Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: 3 Review Don’ts

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

glassesThe dreaded annual review is on us once again, so I rounded up some great information to help you deal with them.

The second most important thing to know about performance reviews is that using software to write them creates a totally inauthentic experience for your people.

Number one-and-a-half is a great commentary on the stupidity of waiting to apply a retention tourniquet until an employee is frustrated, disgusted and ready to leave.

The most important thing to know about performance reviews is that they should be ongoing conversations throughout the year.

Most managers understand the need to help their people grow and do their best to give them timely feedback—although some do a better job than others. But even the managers who are good at it have trouble when it comes to providing feedback to their top performers, even though they are often the most eager for challenges and growth—neither of which can happen without candid feedback.

Image credit:  MykReeve on flickr

Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: Culture Do’s and Don’ts

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

glassesIf today has any unifying theme it’s a focus on management being smart, instead of the opposite.

Let’s start with my favorite customer service example, and one I’ve written about often, Zappos. CEO Tony Hsieh has a fierce focus on his customers that he fosters with a culture of fun for his people.

What he doesn’t do is use customer relationship software in place of the human touch, but a lot of CEOs think you can accomplish the same thing with a bunch of bits.

Michigan’s Dan Mulhern focuses on the importance of good corporate culture, especially in a downturn. He says that now is not the time to ignore culture even with the extra-challenging circumstances that Michigan faces.

Can a large corporation learn from its mistakes? Many don’t, but BMW did. It botched it’s acquisition of Land Rover by trying to impose it’s own culture on a totally different product, but avoided making the same mistake with the Mini Cooper.

Finally, can the people who built mint.com find happiness inside the large corporation that acquired them? They seem to think so.

Image credit:  MykReeve on flickr

Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: Definitely Odd Bits

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

glassesA post on Harvard Business Blogs entitled Every CEO Should Write an Annual Memo To The Board caught my eye, not for CEOs, but for you. You may not be CEO of a company, but you are CEO of your life—your vision, your plan, your effort. You deal with the same problems as every CEO and you owe it to yourself to do the same kind of appraisal of the current and the coming year. Read the article and if you have problems tweaking it to fit you I’ll be happy to help.

With the start of Christmas shopping I have a suggestion that anyone business junkie would love to have—it’s a new book called Story of American Business: From the Pages of the New York Times.

Last is a story that will make you see red—at least I hope so. There is great controversy over the hiring of illegal aliens, but that’s not today’s focus. Given the reality of businesses hiring them the real question is do they deserve the same treatment as legal employees or does the fact that they are illegal give managers carte blanche in how they are treated? This isn’t a hypothetical question. Watch this video and share your thoughts on the manager’s actions.

Image credit:  MykReeve on flickr

Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: Hard to Believe

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

glassesThursday I wrote Too Busy to Manage, on the idiocy of eliminating not only bonuses, but also positive feedback, and I have more excellent incentive information for you today.

First is a forward-looking article from Wharton about how and why—shocking thought—incentives should focus on the long-term. Wow, I didn’t even know anybody in the US could spell long-term.

Another wild idea from WSJ Online suggests that “the best way to keep them from leaving is to prepare them to do just that.” Check them out, you may be surprised.

Speaking of the long term, check out this overview of how Southwest Air Line has kept its industry lead. If you’re a long-term reader you won’t be surprised that the key has been insane customer focus and a fun culture.

More surprising news courtesy of Steve Roesler. “Men may be more willing than women to sacrifice achievement goals for a romantic relationship. This according to a new study by Catherine Mosher of Duke Medical Center and Sharon Danoff-Burg from the University of Albany.” Actually, ‘surprising’ is a gross understatement.

My last pick was chosen to add some levity to your day. Would you write an advice columnist if your openly part-time hooker co-worker was turning tricks on company time and then brought her other job to the office. “What really got me upset was when my co-worker was having sex with a client in our public restroom.” Read the whole story and tell me if you think it’s for real.

Image credit:  MykReeve on flickr

Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: Culturecopia

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

glassesWay back in the late seventies I was telling clients that their company culture was important. I didn’t use the term, because it was considered ‘smoke and mirrors’; but culture has always been the deciding factor when a person joins a company or leaves and also the bedrock of innovation and productivity.

From tiny Elk River, MN, where a local president says, “Sportech’s culture is one of the company’s top competitive advantages,” to Canada where “Canada’s most-admired corporate cultures are outperforming the rest — despite the economic downturn” to Internet powerhouses like Amazon and Zappos to Southwest Air Lines all credit their strong performance to their cultures.

Yum Brands is hitting its current marks and laying the foundation for the future with a massive cultural overhaul.

Yum! Brands, the owner of chains such as KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, Dave Novak, the chief executive, is presiding over a training programme that he says is the “biggest culture-change initiative in the world today”, affecting all of the firm’s 1.4m workers spread across 112 countries.

Culture drives the success of the Ritz-Carlton according to its president Simon F. Cooper.

A culture is built on trust. And if leadership doesn’t live the values that it requires of the organization, that is the swiftest way to undermine the culture. No culture sticks if it’s not lived at the highest levels of the organization.

From the start, right along with the marketing and financial plans, Administaff co-founder Paul J. Sarvadi focused on a culture that would empower employees.

…very few people spend the amount of time and effort to develop their people plan,” says Sarvadi, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Administaff Inc. “What’s their people strategy? What is the culture they want in their company? What is their organization and leadership philosophy for the company? How do they want to award people?

Once upon a time Covidien was Tyco Healthcare (yes, that Tyco), a company going no where. It agitated to be spun off, dropped a toxic name, changed its culture and is now a $10 billion 41,000 employee global innovation powerhouse.

Covidien had to make changes to everything from its product development process to its employee evaluation and compensation program.

Whether you’re part of a giant enterprise or an individual out on your own reading stories about how other companies embedded the right combination of hard practices and the right MAP in their culture will show you what to do.

Sure, you’ll have to tweak the idea to fit your needs, but you’ll be surprised how similar the basics are once you strip away the trappings.

Image credit:  MykReeve on flickr

Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: Interviews with 2 Successful Entrepreneurs

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

glassesEntrepreneurs, you got to love ’em—at least most of the time.

Two great interviews today; just two because one if fairly long.

First is Dany Levy, founder and editorial director of DailyCandy in an interview conducted by Anthony (Tony) Tjan, CEO, Managing Partner and Founder of Cue Ball, a venture and early growth equity firm.

Daily Candy is “a daily email newsletter that provides readers with an essential nugget of hip, insider advice about “what to do today,” began in New York and soon spread to a dozen other U.S. cities and London.” Levy took in one majority investor 2003 and the company was recently acquired by Comcast for $125 million.

There is both a written interview and a video, but Harvard doesn’t provide embeddable code, so you’ll have to go there.

Next, Henry Blodget interviews 25-year-old Mark Zuckerberg who started Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004.  Five years later, it has 300 million users and $500 million in revenue, and it’s worth something north of $6 billion.”

Many wonder what someone that age know about running a company that size, but Zuckerberg makes the case for not only hiring those smarter than you, something every has heard, but also listening to them.

Below is the full interview, the short version is here, if you prefer, but the full interview is well worth watching.

Image credit:  MykReeve on flickr and The Business Insider

Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: Culture And Innovation

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Got some cool stuff for you today.

More from Business Week’s Innovation on why now is a great time to juice your innovation efforts and what a number of companies are doing. Whether you run a large company, are a micropreneur or working for the man, but dream of doing more you’ll find ideas and encouragement in the stories. Don’t hesitate to click around on other topics. Innovation offers up amazing stuff.

Another BW story sounds a cautionary warning on the recession’s potential effects on a generation of workers, similar to what happened in Japan a decade ago.

On a lighter note, here is an update on how Zappos is using social media (why are we not surprised) to further connect their culture and their customers. Think about how your company could benefit and back your suggestions up with this and other articles, especially if their about your competition.

Finally, Have some fun and read through the winners of this year’s Ig Nobel Awards. The Ig Nobels are given by Improbable Research, “Improbable research is research that makes people laugh and then think. We collect (and sometimes conduct) improbable research. We publish a magazine called the Annals of Improbable Research, and we administer the Ig Nobel Prizes.” I love the Ig Nobels; they demonstrate the amazing creative spark found in the human race.

I hope you enjoy my picks and find both information and inspiration in them.

Image credit: MykReeve on flickr

Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: Culture This And That

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

I do love culture, not pop culture, but the cultures that arise in companies, whether intentionally or not.

Last month I read an article on corporate culture with some surprising comments from John Chambers, Cisco CEO and Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle.

There have been many articles over the years about France’s 35 hour work week and the power of its unions. But all is not roses in the land of wine and baguettes. Read the real story of unhappy employees and a sky high suicide rate and you just may have something else to be thankful for next month.

Finally, follow through with these 4 actions described by Steve Roesler and I’ll guarantee you’ll change the culture of your group, boos productivity and have a much happier team. Just 4 things to wrap your MAP around; now that doesn’t seem too much to ask, does it?

Image credit: MykReeve on flickr

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