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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.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Evan Burfield Keynote at DevFestDC 9 28 12

Evan Burfield, Chairman and Founder of Synteractive. Chair of Startup DC. Co-Founder of the National Piggy Bank. Social and technology innovator.  gave the closing keynote at DevFestDC

(Dick’s notes, Dick’s fault) We have two interconnected problems. National – deep crises on many levels. The country’s broke, depending on your facts, $350K to $1.7 million per household. Cost of energy in this country is increasing, education costs 3 times comparable countries, medicine two times (at least), 25% of our Iraq/Afghanistan veterans are unemployed. 
We are at a junction. In the Collaborative Age, knowledge defines your value. 
At the same time, our institutions are Manufacturing Age mastodons. They persist for years, eventually the bubble will pop. We have an opportunity to reinvent those institutions. 
The last opportunity to upgrade our institutions was at the end of the Cold War, The Peace Initiative. 
9/11 and the dotcom bubble killed small business DC. We have a huge opportunity. 

DC Region advantages –
1.      Every corporation and NGO has a presence in this city.
2.      Unbelievably high data manipulation demand and skills.
3.      Highest density of developers in the world. 

As Chair of StartUpDC, I want to knock down barriers to this growth. I see three challenges.
1.      Latent Capital – Harder to raise capital now. Some solutions:
1.1.    K Street Capital Initiative - Lobbyists traditionally invest in real estate and restaurants. “A place to store my wine.” Introduce appropriate technology to lobbyists.
1.2.    Crystal City Capital Initiative – Introduce Defense Contractors to appropriate technology.
1.2.1.      Development programmers and government programmers don’t like each other because they don’t know each other.
1.3.    Diaspora Capital – Introduce Immigrant Capital to appropriate business opportunities. 

2.       Corporate Engagement – Google buys a company, founders leave, create a new company, Google buys new company. It’s a well-known left coast model. What about here? 
3.       Talent – Government technologist and Startup technologist don’t like each other. They don’t KNOW each other. Mix ’em up and solve some problems. 
Who other than entrepreneurs are going to tackle these problems? 
Look at where we were in 2002. No smartphones, no Facebook, little Google, good Prodigy. Where are we going to be ten years from now? 

DC is the most powerful city on earth. Must be the leader. 

Someone will be replacinng the mastodon ecosystem over the next 3 – 5 years.