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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tactical Compass

I was called in to officiate at a funeral yesterday. A long time client had created a core program to outperform the one I had developed with them almost a decade ago.

The old program had been delivering decreasing results every year, but the results of the new one made my program look inspired.

The owner invited me to come by to explain what was happening.

That was pretty easy. Yup, he’s dead, Jim.

What was entertaining was how they had developed their new program by massive internal discussions, like the boys in Animal House cranking up Belushi with, “Toga, Toga, Toga...

From the story they told, their customers never had a chance to they never did.

Our old program had evolved, from looking at what was working, begging and pleading with the customers to take a minute to tell us what they might want that was better, and then finding a cost-effective way to provide it.

We took a middle-of-the-pack performer and made them the segment leader in less than a year.

In the 1800’s, if you were a cotton broker, you could develop a business model and leave it unchanged for four or more generations.

Today, serious tweaks are usually required in less than a year.

It’s less expensive to leave the buyers out of the planning, but it’s also less valuable.

I’ve read how Steve Jobs could create many new product categories all by himself, but I find that getting tactical data from customers points the direction to effective strategy, and at the same time develops the customer base for when the new offering is available.

How much are you hobbled by your prior opinion?

Kick off the New Year Right at Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday Jan 30, 11:45 - 1:00 at the Arlington Chamber Small Business Roundtable

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Did Dr. Welby Need a Certificate?

Marcus Welby, MD had a diploma and a license, both unprominently displayed somewhere in his office. He was known by reputation in the community. Although Welby was a fictional TV character, he portrayed the community doctor.

The community was close and people talked regularly – reputations were shared, recommendations offered.

Today you still need a license and it is popular, but usually not required, to have a certificate if offering a service. This documents that you have the minimum requirements and have passed a test – both originating from the professional society, training organization, college, or university providing the program. These organizations are strong proponents of certification programs – which represents a 'product' in their offerings. The certificate-holders may frame and display their certificate, but will certainly add the designation behind their name in professional documents to convey certificated status. This process evolved as the communities disbursed and local conversations all but disappeared.

Thirty years ago in the human resources field, a certificate program was launched with time-in-role minimums and qualifying tests – all provided by the HR professional society. I carefully reviewed the value of these certificates and determined that they offered no unique advantage to serving in the HR role, did not mean anything to the employees served, and were not valued by the employer. My performance (and reputation) was determined by results achieved for both the 'customer' and 'boss'. Now 30 years later, with many certificate-designated HR roles, performance and reputation continue to be determined on results, certificate or not.

As I see it – when the buyers are segregated from the beneficiaries, certificates do matterto the buyer; however, the beneficiaries continue to evaluate on results achieved. The certificate is an attempt to fill the void of shared community feedback and local reputations. Is this more effective than recommendations on the internet by folks you don't know?

Given the choice, would you rather receive services from a certificated person or one with a positive reputation among their peers? Why?

Kick off the New Year Right at Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away!
Wednesday Jan 30, 11:45 - 1:00 at the
Arlington Chamber of Commerce
4600 Fairfax Drive, Suite 804
Arlington, VA 22203
Chamber office - NEW LOCATION - the building is behind the Holiday Inn on Fairfax Drive.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Communities Of Interest

Someone used Communities Of Interest to describe the many civic and social groups they support. A lovely term...until I started to think about it.

I came to the conclusion that there are few, if any, communities of interest.

The people who support projects are in it for WIIFM. “What’s In It For Me?” As long as the group provides enough value, the supporters continue to contribute.

My new realization was that every person in a group probably has a different definition of WIIFM.

The Internet disintermediates (takes out the intermediaries or intermediate tasks) required for the administrivia of some groups. Setting up a new group gives an opportunity to streamline the processes and reduce the effort required to operate the organization. In other groups, administrivia can become the main reason the survivors stay together.

The enlightened navigator of a community of interest needs to provide enough rewards to allow the group to thrive. That means tolerating the needs of as many of the people who perform as possible.

I’ve wormed my way on to several boards by inventing and supplying recurring services to the members that were later replaced by technology. Several times, the work was not continued, leading to a fast rightsizing of the group.

It’s much easier to scale down than to ramp up.

A thriving group attracts people to the warmth of getting things done. That doesn’t mean they perform for the group. Nor is one lack of performance a permanent condition. One of my favorite navigators spends a lot of time defining successful roles for his workers, his Scouts, his kids.

Fulfilling the role of the enlightened navigator is not a life sentence. I often use the promise of succession planning to get promising navigators to strengthen our offering in a new direction.

Groups follow a sine wave, of up, down, up, down. New efforts are prototypes, and they are infinitely improvable over time.

In golf, good shots come from experience. Experience comes from bad shots. However, good shot or bad shot, if you don’t strike the ball, it doesn’t move.

What is your best advice for improving a community of interest? 

Kick off the New Year Right at Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away!
Wednesday Jan 30, 11:45 - 1:00 at the
Arlington Chamber of Commerce
4600 Fairfax Drive, Suite 804
Arlington, VA 22203
Chamber office - NEW LOCATION - the building is behind the Holiday Inn on Fairfax Drive.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Breakthrough Approach

A common topic at business meetings is smartphones and cellular service, often with a new owner attempting to show the features of the latest phone.

Whether the phone is Android, iPhone, Windows, or Blackberry, the on-board features and upgrades - along with the extensive collection of apps - make this hand-held device the user's portal to the internet, email, text messaging, navigation, or finding deals and restaurants.

The carriers sell time on the cellular network and provide help for some of the basic phone features – such as setting up voicemail - but are not much help with complex questions or undocumented features. Republic Wireless is has created a powerful structure by setting up a community to discuss and solve the complex questions raised by users.

A beginning trend for smartphones is to use wifi when available for voice, data, & text, and use cellular at other times. The cellular signal has a much smaller bit rate and around home and work, the user spends 80% of the time on the faster wifi.

Republic Wireless is capitalizing on wifi/cellular service – they encourage and support a community for excellent user support (better then carrier 'customer service' reps), no lock-in contracts, and unlimited voice, data, and text for a flat rate of $19.95 per month.

Once you buy your phone (with the switching software installed), at activation you are invited to join the user community and contribute to forums on discoveries, problem & resolutions, and suggestions for new features, all raised and answered by users.

Republic is using game theory to encourage participation in the forums by users, awarding points for solutions to problems and discovery of undocumented features. Republic staff participate in the forums as well to validate user solutions, cheer on the discovery of undocumented applications of phone features.

The knowledgebase is an extensive and growing collection of tips, techniques, and answers asked by users and answered by users and staff. The response to user questions is very quick – often within hours.

With this intimate and continuing conversation with other users, the customer gets a flood of referral prospects. The company receives intensive feedback about service and hardware, as well as thoughtful suggestions for improvements. The company communicates with their customers through the forums and users can communicate with each other and develop a road map for future versions of the service, operating system and new business areas.

This innovative collaboration of Republic staff, users, and others creates a rich, functional environment and gives all stakeholders role in a highly responsive process for solving immediate problems and developing future improvements. Their active community setting is not only more effective than other approaches, the savings are evident in the cost of service.

Imagine inviting the users to participate in the discussion, solutions, and development of a communication system – a true breakthrough!

Know of another innovative breakthrough? Please share.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Coming to the end of the year?

Think you should be getting ready for a better year next year?

Stopped because you want a better way to proceed?

Try this:

Why are you excellent?

When I am considering working with someone, my biggest concern is, “Can I trust this guy?” “Is he any good?”

Do you already answer that? How do you figure out what to say?

Well, if you want something done right...(What’s the response?)

So start with, “Why am I excellent?”

However, since Eve, no one has ever done anything by themselves. So next try, “Why are we excellent?”

Then, since customers know best, how about “Why do our customers think we are excellent? Helps to have some kudo letters or written recommendations.

Finally, without vision the people perish. With six months of planned improvement, “How are we going to be excellent?”

So here are four ways to answer the Excellence question: I, we, they say, and we’re gonna!

Which is best? The one you can believe in most. And it changes during the week.

Try the exercise with your tribe. Tell us what you learn. Happy Merry!

Please join us at the Capital Technology Management Hub on December 11 at 6:30 for 300 seconds of Rainmaker 17 – Breaking The Invisible Wall, What we learned at last month’s GMU Annual Startup Challenge Competition at TeqCorner, followed by Joshua Green explaining Cleantech OpenThe World’s Largest Cleantech Accelerator -Funding Green Technology Startups

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Modern Legacy

This is the most blatant example I've seen about how a traditional business can adapt the internet revolution to increase value.

I sat down with a high school buddy, who for the last 40 years has run a specialty instrument company. These instruments, which are globally famous, are used by labs, hospitals, and research facilities - they are the clear leader of biological/electronic devices world-wide.

In the past we rarely met in person due to her extensive travel schedule around the USA and Europe for business development and distributor recruiting and training.

When asking about the business, I was surprised by the changes since we last met – her travel is now almost nil while sales are steady.

Her explanation:

  • Each instrument is showcased by a 5-minute video showing the features from the users viewpoint, how to do typical operations/tests, and a sample of output/report options.
  • The videos are incorporated into their website and available on demand at any time
  • There is an 'anytime' link to take the viewer directly to the pricing/purchase screen
  • She has become the entire sales force, supported by their website and videos
  • A global network of warehouses to provide immediate local delivery has been consolidated to single central national warehouse near an airline hub for overnight shipping.

She now spends time with customers by phone and video conference and uses their input to guide development of new features and products. As a result, her improvement cycle captures and responds to changes suggested by her users, who she admits, know more about the products than the maker.

Effective use of the internet, immediate shipping, collaboration with users, and a rapid development cycle has dramatically transformed this manufacturing business. A poster child of the trend for the future?

Please join us at the Capital Technology Management Hub on December 11 at 6:30 for 300 seconds of Rainmaker 17 – Breaking The Invisible Wall, What we learned at last month’s GMU Annual Startup Challenge Competition at TeqCorner, followed by Joshua Green explaining Cleantech OpenThe World’s Largest Cleantech Accelerator -Funding Green Technology Startups

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Loyalty Up, Loyalty Down

I was watching a friend get crushed by his incompetent superior. It seemed inadvertent, unsuccessful, and painful.

Actually, incompetent was too strong a word. The superior was overmatched by his environment, and didn’t take appropriate action. I see that happening a lot.

Which got me thinking about loyalty.

There is an internal efficiency to demonstrating loyalty down the chain. One action is communicated to all subordinates, behavior improves. Loyalty down is a force multiplier.

Loyalty up is for one person, may be appreciated, often not.

Loyalty down has more impact.

Please join us at the Capital Technology Management Hub on December 11 at 6:30 for 300 seconds of Rainmaker 17 – Breaking The Invisible Wall, What we learned at last month’s GMU Annual Startup Challenge Competition at TeqCorner, followed by Joshua Green explaining Cleantech OpenThe World’s Largest Cleantech Accelerator -Funding Green Technology Startups

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rainmaker 17 – Breaking The Invisible Wall

Last month’s GMU Annual Startup Challenge Competition was the first I remember where I got to sit in the audience and watch…
I wasn’t presenting.

What I saw (and remembered) is an idea that because we are presenting, we have to respect that invisible wall that separates actors from the audience, the cast of Cheers from your living room, separates the presenters from THE BUYERS!

How would you present differently if you were trying to sell those very people sitting in the chairs in front of you? Pretend this is not a drill.

  1. Leave something of value with the judges, audience, and even the other competitors (like our handouts) before the presentation.
  1. Have business cards and special event coupons (implements of selling) at hand and give them to ‘interesting’ and ‘interested’ people.
  1. Provide the judges with required material for the competition (of course), and before the event, give them a summary copy of the points you will make (or plan to), and any complex tables, figures, and charts.
  1. Provide the audience with a single-sheet highlight of the principal benefits of the product/service from the user’s perspective along with instructions how to buy.
  1. Make it easy for people to a) know who you are; b) know how to reach you, on some disappearing slide if you must, but how about on something they can take away?
The Goal: when you leave the stage you have given your pitch AND you have made it easy for people to know who you are and how to reach you to buy something.
What's your story?
Please join us at the Capital Technology Management Hub on December 11 at 6:30 for 300 seconds of Rainmaker 17 – Breaking The Invisible Wall, What we learned at last month’s GMU Annual Startup Challenge Competition at TeqCorner, followed by Joshua Green explaining Cleantech OpenThe World’s Largest Cleantech Accelerator -Funding Green Technology...

Previous Rainmakers:
#15 - Dropping The Other Shoe (9/11/12)
#14 - The Myth of Full Capacity (5-26-12)
#12 - The Future is NOW - Makers (3-11-12)
# 9 - Your Internet Personality (12-24-11)
# 7 - Mark Your Territory (8-22-11)
# 6 - Networking IS Business (5-25-11)
# 5 - Start With an Offer (4-27-11)
# 4 - Time, Talent, and Treasure (4-10-11)
# 3 - How to Sell Your Skills (3-1-11)
# 2 - The Name Tag (1-5-11)
# 1 - Gifts (11-5-10)
And, Introducing Rainmakers (11-3-10)

The Artist

As a young boy I lived with my family in Cuba, where my father was stationed. We lived in a village near the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, and I played with the neighborhood kids or fished off the back deck of the house (when I wasn't in school).

I have a vivid memory of a street vendor, wheeling a rickety cart down the dirt streets each day selling oranges. To a young child's eyes, these oranges were huge (so sweet you had to smile while eating them), and the vendor would peel it for a buyer. He was full of fun, jokes, and laughter as he made his way down the dusty street, clearly enjoying life, his customers, and followers (us kids).

What I remember most was him peeling the orange – he had an old kitchen knife, sharpened so much that the cutting edge of the blade was curved like a replica of Guantanamo Bay – but sharp as all get-out!

He started at the top of the orange and create a single 'rope' of peel precisely a quarter of an inch by a quarter of an inch – it would cascade down in curlycues from the orange at almost blinding speed. Perfect every time. One long peel every time. A peel-rope with ¼ x ¼ dimensions every time.

We kids would follow him for a while, begging for the peel and playing with it until we only had a handful of pieces left...and then we'd beg for another one from the orange vendor.

As an adult, I look back to that experience fondly, realizing that I was seeing an artist at work. He chose to spend his time enjoying those around him and chose to create and meet the challenge of peeling the orange in a distinctive and incredibly difficult way – drawing satisfaction from his creation. I realize now that I was in the presence of a true master – an artist creating a unique experience for the buyer (or the kids following him around).

Illustration of the orange vendor at work today – the 'bagger' at the Costco checkout who engineers a precisely packed cart.

I think about the expressed desire by many in business and public service to have the higher-ups create a challenging and rewarding role for them – and wonder if the manuals, regulations, and procedures we've put in place have extinguished the 'artist' in each of us? 
Please join us at the Capital Technology Management Hub on December 11 at 6:30 for 300 seconds of Rainmaker 17 – Breaking The Invisible Wall, What we learned at last month’s GMU Annual Startup Challenge Competition at TeqCorner, followed by Joshua Green explaining Cleantech OpenThe World’s Largest Cleantech Accelerator -Funding Green Technology Startups

Monday, November 19, 2012

Boomerang Management

Boomerang Kids are adult children who move back into the family home, usually a sign of a weak economy. I loved Terry Bradshaw parading around nekkid in the Fish Room in Failure to Launch.

So here’s a new term, Boomerang Management, for when a former management team comes back and takes over because the current team isn’t getting the results desired. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Often these “boomers” still have significant equity tied up in their former venture.

Frequency? I’m seeing better than one a month.

Outcome? Generally worse than existing. Times have changed, most groups have undergone a radical transformation, most of all the environment these organizations operate in has changed forever.

I was working with a group that got thrown back earlier this year. The former CEO came back from a long retirement with a secret sauce – outbound cold call phone solicitation to businesses! Enough of this social web nonsense! This was the core of the organization!

It took five weeks to hire four and fire six. They hadn’t counted on voicemail.

It’s an executive-centric business view, that the economy rotates around a prime mover with sufficient strength, knowledge, and skills. There’s some kind of echo from when the Pope arrested Galileo for saying the Earth orbits around the Sun.

No matter how hard the Pope protested, solar-centric was the only way the math worked.

Your Boomerang Management sightings?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pirate, Executive, or Administrator?

I see three solutions for many positions. I first noticed this model when we were bringing up the cellular industry, for CEO positions, but have since seen it for many positions in many industries.

The Pirate
A leader in starts and turnarounds, keeps the tribe together with vision, hacks, and personal examples. Budgets are theoretical, because we’re working new situations. There is never enough resource, so we have to apply whatever we’ve got to what we need to get to the next step. Kara Swisher’s AOL.COM: how Steve Case beat Bill Gates,nailed the netheads, and made millions in the war for the Web is a great book showing this type of leadership

The Executive
Makes the most of an existing operation, bringing economical systems and delegation. Has the advantage of historical performance to improve against, often scaling is a major accomplishment. Jack Welch in his heyday defines this behavior for me.

The Administrator
Doing more with less has been the mantra for over a decade. Occasionally I’ve seen fat organizations, but more often I’ve watched poorly defined missions exited. I’ve also seen how this mindset causes organizations to disregard achievable, mission saving strategies. The Administrator often leads to entropy, and is followed by ceasing operations or transferring assets to someone who can create more value with them.

I was explaining this to one of my favorite Pirates last week. Times are hard, and he was trying to sell himself into an Administrator position. Had he grown the company, he would have created havoc. The owners had an emotional attachment to tanking.

After I explained the model and what was expected, he said, “Now why would I want to do that?”

What do your people expect?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Where Is Your Next Buyer?

Where will your next buyer come from?

Sales happen at the intersection of what the buyer needs, what you offer to provide, and a connection between you both. This may be from a conversation across a desk; from an 'ah ha' insight in your blog or presentation; from a referral by another party; or from the other ways of talking your business.

Regardless of how these three elements converge – it is the engagement that's the catalyst for aligning buyer's needs with seller's solutions.

At a program by the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, Pamela Wagner, Vice President of W.R. Grace was speaking about the reduction of employee engagement worldwide and her thoughts on why.

While writing notes during the presentation, I realized that the same also applies to customers – current and potential.

Here's a formula Wagner offered to describe the engagement gap:

Volatile Economy creates insecurity
More Work with fewer employees and resources
Less Sustainable Engagement.

Uncertainty and stress are distracting – affecting employee involvement and the buyer's willingness to commit.

Since the environment is not likely to change soon, the key question is: how do we get ahead of the distraction?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Guarding The Fort

I was working with the management team of a regional company. Their major assets are their facilities, and they work hard to make sure that each facility is the best in its market.

I knew I was in for a treat when the CEO opened the meeting, saying, “We’re doing very well right now, but if we don’t stop doing what we’re doing we’re going to go out of business.” Yow!

As the team spent a couple of hours defining their individual and collective strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, a common theme emerged. This team had worked so hard to perfect their operations, the next step was going to be to make that better known in their communities.

“My people think I have an easy job, I just get in my truck and go out a couple of times a week,” one manager (the first to embrace outside responsibilities) said. “I don’t think my people have the stamina to do what I do every week.”

Maintaining “The Fort” could easily fill all time available. Yet maintaining is not be the same as building their fort. They began putting a change plan together to maintain their existing superiority, while bringing their people out into the community on a managed basis.

Do you have an important activity that is keeping you from being successful?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Learning From Students

The Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland held 'mock interviews' and I had the honor of being an interviewer.

The students came eager to learn from this role-playing exercise. The 'interviewers' are seasoned individuals - most are Smith School Alumni - and well experienced in hiring superior candidates.

My 'interviews' found the 'applicants' well prepared, articulate in expressing themselves, offering direct answers to the questions, and telling stories of relevant situations from earlier part-time jobs.

What did I learn from the students? They are talking about the new normal in the past tense.

An accounting student commented on the radical effect of systems and digital files on the audit function – now requires a team of 2 instead of 10 associates – and felt that a second major in finance will help prepare her for the demands of clients for specific services.

Several other students were in dual-major programs as well – finance and accounting would be partnered with Information Technology – to be agile with both the knowledge and systems recognizing the evolution of these practice areas.

One individual, majoring in finance-accounting, finds math a rewarding exercise in solving puzzles, is a landscape artist, and an avid sports player – had marvelous stories to illustrate answers to interview questions from rich past experience.

Taken together, students are drawing from numerous resources to develop a pretty accurate view of the maturing changes of computerization on processes and practices. In addition, they find time to pursue other interests and gain other experiences – which gives them balance and well-roundedness while providing illustrations to help communicate ideas and concepts.

They are soaking in the various inputs and coming up with a new look of operations of organizations from the outside, while many of us in the working world are heads-down on projects – not seeing the changes around us

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Increasing Value

For Actions
There are three conditions an action has to satisfy to be considered valuable.
  1. You have to get it right the first time,
  2. The thing you are working on has to change physically (work added), and
  3. The customer has to care.
One out of three or two out of three do not qualify as valuable no matter how convincingly you protest.

For Adding Value In Transactions
I remember that value is what costs me nothing, that you can’t get at any price.

Ideas for increasing your value?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Encouraging Is Courageous

I just noticed that “encourage” and “courageous” come from the same word.

I never realized this relationship before. There’s something important in that.

Friday, November 2, 2012

How Right Comes From Wrong

Golf truth: Good shots come from experience. Experience comes from bad shots.

I was watching a group deal with unexpected results. Their first inclination was to explain what was wrong.

One guy started and everyone else piled on. It was just a made up opinion that became shared.

Once they agreed, there was no point investigating further. Time to go to something else.

For many people, naming a situation is enough. Doesn’t solve anything, doesn’t make it better, but it lets everyone move on with misunderstood agreement.

I have a default after-action question, “What was the best thing you learned?

That’s not an idle question. While I’m trying to figure it out, I don’t want some idjut making up a negative label, because then we might accept the label and move on before the useful work gets done.

If I’m going to ponder, I want everyone else doing the same thing, not distracting me with their made-up labels.

H. L. Mencken said, “For every problem, there is a simple solution, and it is wrong.”

I don’t stop at simple solutions any more. The solutions I find are the result of layering what works on top of what works until we come to something useful. A major part of that is staying with a lesson until we get something valuable, which is usually harder than figuring out what is wrong.

What’s your example of looking through the curtain of wrong to discover some right?

Monday, October 29, 2012


Two CEOs were out in the wilderness when a bear saw them and was lumbering toward the two. One CEO took off like a champion sprinter while the other CEO stood with a pondering look on the face.

When the first CEO saw the other one 'frozen' to the spot, he ran back to help – when close he yelled asking what's the problem, 'that bear looks really hungry!'

The motionless CEO turned and said – 'All the analytics are not in yet so I don't know what the optimal response is!'

This story illustrates a paralysis that some leaders experience when they get too deep into decision by analytics or relying too much on external measures and factors.

Before the computerization of records and measurement, analytics were done by hand and the investment in time and labor helped to focus what was important to the success of the mission and targeted results. Now that records and measurements are readily available for virtually anything about the organization, market, economy, and global situation.

It is possible to compare the atomic clock to the system clock to determine time-drift...but why bother? What would be learned?

SEO, OLAP, BPM analytics are useful – like the rear-view mirror in the car is useful, or reading a map before leaving on a trip. Planning for detailed measurement and analysis is effective when done 'backwards' – start from the desired outcome and back into the best way to obtain the information. In addition, limit the routine reporting to a handful of informative items – I had real-time access to a dozen key indicators, like cash, receivables total & aging, payables total & aging, sales volume & scheduled delivery, production output, labor-force & hours, and accrued vacation – which gave me a good picture of current conditions.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in measuring and interpreting that we delay action...and the bear get's us!

What are the most useful key indicators?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Leadership and Management

For over thirty years, “You manage things; you lead people” from Grace Hopper was my guide in distinguishing between leadership and management. This month I’ve had several learnings that make me want to refine that idea. While she could have been wrong, I suspect I am coming to a fuller understanding of the good Admiral.

I’ve always imagined those “things” as file cabinets, common equipment with a defined purpose.

You plan for how many file cabinets you need based on number of files and capacity of each drawer. Last week, Jack and I were running the check-in table at an open source event. Based on the scarcity of people doing other administrative tasks, we were overstaffed. Based on providing high quality welcoming, we were correctly staffed. That wasn’t leadership, however it did generate precise data of our “no-show” rate, which is important in a pizza-fueled environment, and possibly for a couple of other reasons.

As anyone who has ever ordered letter sized file cabinets for legal sized files can attest, having the correct capabilities and attributes is important. Defining capabilities and attributes required of people is not that hard, and seldom done correctly. It is harder now that we are in a time of rapid change. But completing the first attempt means there is a better chance of completing follow-on attempts, until maybe (who knows?) that practice becomes an expected part of a culture.

Nothing like having your file cabinets in the wrong place to assure their lack of contribution. Staging people with proper equipment to meet actual demand is a good trick. I laugh when “managers” ascribe a failure to unexpected demand. I ascribe it to a lack of effective management.

So what about Leadership?

Murphy’s Laws of Combat – Planning, #3 No plan survives the first contact intact.

People are hugely adaptable. They can out-think and out-work other options. That’s why they have survived for all of history. (If there wasn’t history, it was another record, like geologic.)

Leadership involves walking the talk. Whatever you do is what you can expect your best people to do, good and bad. Best you do what you want them to do.

Leadership involves going first, doing the work, understanding the work. How many times have you seen a management requirement, some nice-to-have, that created project failure?

Leadership involves getting the enthusiastic support of the following. That’s not exhortation, That is showing something that absolutely works better. Best practices are either blatantly obvious, or they are not best practices.

Does this change how you observe your favorite leader?

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Difference

Twenty years ago, my advertising agent told me that the difference between cheap Chinese food and expensive Chinese food was the size of the bill. We had been discussing where to have lunch.

That has stayed with me, but yesterday I got a whole new perspective on what it means.

I was working with a software developer, talking about the shift from enterprise software to open source, which led to a discussion about how technology could expand his company’s marketing footprint at much less cost. We’ve built an excellent direct sales program (well, what would you expect?), and I was encouraging him to further leverage his current market position.

He told me that he severely limited the time he spent thinking about his website, and wasn’t even going near blogs or Google Plus. His experience in the past was that he had spent unlimited time improving the company website and had nothing to show for it.

So he hired people who wanted to do that work, but they didn’t understand what the company was offering, or where it was going. His web presence wasn’t helping.

I’m all for delegation, and understanding mission, vision and execution is a lot more important than a discussion about using tables or stock photos on a website.

I am sure there are diners who can appreciate and savor the differences in Chinese food, but when I didn’t know what to expect, there wasn’t any difference.

How do you become a wine expert? Drink a lot of wine. 

How important is becoming fluent in better use of new communication technologies? Not very important, if you don’t care to learn. Perhaps more important to your successor? 

Where ave you had to develop you sophistication to win?

Advice – It's Amazing What Is Heard

Periodically individuals have asked for advice about personal career situations – more so in recent years as folks transition to new roles and organizations, or the search for them.

They start with a description of the circumstances and talk about their concerns.

As I am conjuring up any wisdom I have on the topic, I couch my comments in terms of what I'd do in similar circumstances, and then share the details.

In some cases, the listener's response is a 'Yeah-But' objection before really considering the approach – here's why that won't work for me. After a few of these responses, it seems clear that suggestions for a solution is not the intended goal of this conversation.

When wrapping up the talk, I say this is my view of how I would address the issue, but the listener would be wise to get another view or two and consider the ideas offered
in terms of what is best for you.

Recently, I ran into someone who had asked for my advice when in transition – he has landed and is quite happy in the new position. He said that my advice served him well in successfully landing a new position with exciting challenges and significant opportunity.

To learn from his feedback, I asked what was the best thing he took from our earlier discussion, fully expecting that some aspect of my approach to the issue was the key.

His response: you said get others opinions and consider the information in terms of what is best for me.

The comment brings into sharp focus that we have control over what we say and the points we make – but the listener determines what they hear, interpret, and retain.

It's amazing what is heard.

What are you taking away from my story?

Monday, October 15, 2012


Image courtesy of Idea go at

Technology is how we do things – not the things we do them with...they are simply the tools.

Image courtesy of digitalart at

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wikipedia – To Tell The Truth

Dick Davies attended The Hamilton Project at Brookings conference about education and the Wikipedia came up as a 'problem'. I have talked with many teachers and they tend to poo-poo Wikipedia as a serious reference source – in fact, they prohibit the students from using it when doing projects.

I recall in school, before the internet, reading a synopsis in the Encyclopedia Britannica and not finding any of the cited references at the local libraries. With no opportunity to review source materials I was left to rely on the viewpoint of the writers.

The Britannica was limited by print space available for it's content – its style was abstracts. The editors' work was reviewed by a panel of editors for accuracy and unbiased writing (for those so inclined, metrics: 100 editors, 4,400 contributors, 65,000+ articles).

Wikipedia has a whole community to write articles, offer additional content, and challenge errors or misstatements, as well as an army of volunteer editors to improve the entries (metrics: 275 editors, 100,000 contributors, 23,000,000+ articles). Since the internet is virtually infinite, Wikipedia has not been hampered by the space limitations of print media – it has plenty of room for more lengthy articles and extensive hyperlink bibliographies to supplement the articles. Live links are available instantly from the computer

Before the internet, a significant research consideration was finding data; now with its vast content available, the consideration now is filtering to get relevant data. The Britannica filters the content as a result of the space considerations, whereas Wikipedia is inclusive and the content is filtered on relevancy by external tools.

The Google Search Box typically returns a Wikipedia cite among the top three or four results – a good first filter and introduction to the topic. The live links following the article cite additional sources of information and easily expand the depth of the research. Teachers instill in students that single-source research is not a reliable path to knowledge and these links make multiple sources easier to find since the material has already been filtered.

Structurally the Britannica approach may offer control and consistency, but is limited by available resources (i.e., staff). Wikipedia is an open-source collaborative venture of contributors creating content and a community devoted to making it better and collectively assuring acceptable results – much like ancient tribes did before cities and laws were established.

The Wikipedia project is a good example of how users can create, populate, and regulate a resource by collaboration and an evolving community of dedicated volunteers.

Are there other situations where a similar collaborative approach could produce results. How about an application in your organization?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Metrics and Action

Metrics create data.

Action creates results.

Which do you need?

October 9th is the next Capital Technology Management Hub featuring Sales Lab's Rainmaker 16 LinkedIn – Your Personal Publicist - 300 seconds of pure profit. The main speaker will be Phil Smith III of Voltage Security, Inc., presenting The Payments Ecosystem Security Challenges in the 21st Century.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Moving Forward Is Bottom Up

Jesse asked, “How do I get my best performers to take on new tasks? They are my best performers because they are fully engaged. By definition, they don’t have extra time for anything new.”

Fair enough. We can’t get anything more from them without dropping something. And without adopting new capabilities, the organization dies. Recognize the ol’ horns of the dilemma?

But wait! Adopting new skills is not just done by the fortunate, the favored few! Adopting new skills is the target culture. Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

So adopting new skills starts on the bottom, and giving up skills, which means teaching all you know, starts at the next level up. Which means one reason you want to learn it is because you expect to teach it. Again and again. Now that’s a kickin’ culture!

Learn, do, teach has re-entered the building.

Frank Herbert writes, “Delegate heavily to only the same people and you fell into bureaucracy.” and also, “Remember: Bureaucracy elevates conformity... Make that elevates 'fatal stupidity' to the status of religion.” And that was written during the somnolent sixties (current prequels excepted).

In order to have room to expand, make a habit of giving away the safe, secure activities to people who are new to them, who have a fresh view to improve them, and go grow some funk of your own.

Moving forward is bottom up.

October 9th is the next Capital Technology Management Hub featuring Sales Lab's Rainmaker 16 LinkedIn – Your Personal Publicist - 300 seconds of pure profit. The main speaker will be Phil Smith of Voltage Security, Inc., presenting The Payments Ecosystem Security Challenges in the 21st Century.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rainmaker 16 - LinkedIn: Your Personal Publicist

Do you show up at your best for other 175 million LinkedIn members?

Many posts have been written about developing your profile and contact information for the 'yellow pages' of the professional community – the top part of your LinkedIn page. While this is important and you must build a strong profile and history, it is like filling in the entries for your school year book when compared to your visibility and growing legend by participating in the groups.

To showcase your knowledge and experience by starting discussions and writing comments on other posts – when you continue the conversations and add depth, you get more visibility. Blogging is more demanding than a discussion and commenting – but each is a positive addition to your legend. Be positive when commenting and show your knowledge and mastery.

Here’s how:

Be serious – Start a discussion and comment often and consistently – start a discussion once a week and comment on 2 posts per day

Comment Screens from LinkedIn Groups

 Stick to the topic posted – focus your comments on the topic, add to the body of knowledge
Want to change topics – write a post – don’t derail – create your own; comment on comments your posts receive – no arguments, only write positive points

Blogsite and Blogger

Read an interesting post?- repost it in your group but add value by offering your comments about why you.

Chose LinkedIn groups with topics of interest to you professionally and on which you can contribute to the existing body of knowledge.

You can leverage you visibility in the professional community by using the LinkedIn groups, discussions, and commenting.

Definition: A Rainmaker creates a significant amount of new business for a company. The Sales Lab Rainmaker Series is one rainmaker technique for technologists during the first 300 seconds (five minutes) of the monthly Capital Technology Management Hub Meeting.

Here's the growing collection:

Rainmaker 15 – Make The Most Of Your Choices
Rainmaker 14 –The Myth of Full Capacity
Rainmaker 7 - Mark Your Territory
Rainmaker 6 - Networking IS Business
Rainmaker 5 - Start With an Offer
Rainmaker 4 - Time, Talent, and Treasure
Rainmaker 2 - The Name Tag
Rainmaker 1 - Gifts
And The First Rainmakers (11/3/10)
Go to:

October 9th is the next Capital Technology Management Hub featuring Sales Lab's Rainmaker 16 LinkedIn – Your Personal Publicist - 300 seconds of pure profit. The main speaker will be Philip H. Smith III of Voltage Security, Inc., presenting The Payments Ecosystem Security Challenges in the 21st Century.