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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Once Upon A Time, There Were Three Keiretsu

Bruce Schneier gave a talk at Authors@Google about his book, Liars and Outliers:Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive. I watched it a couple of months ago, and he provided a lot to think about.

What started as an off-hand observation and has since become increasingly useful is his metaphor of the Three Keiretsu. Keiretsu is a Japanese organizational structure of multiple companies in interlocking relationships for mutual benefit.

Bruce said that smartphones are feudal relationships where users pledge their loyalty to overlords, the phone of their choice, Apple, Android, or Windows phones.

I am a data point for a technology executives survey. They call, ask questions and I answer. I then get their reports and I learn new stuff.

Several years ago I took the call and the first question was “Has the mobile phone become the dominant web browser?” From their follow-on questions, I figured out it had.

Since Bruce mentioned keiretsu, I’ve come to understand how true his observation was and how high the silos are. Users of the three keiretsu make different use of their smartphones. The smartphone dictates how people work.

I am a maker using Google search, maps, sites, email, docs, forms, blogs and other tools for years before I got my smartphone.

I’m not cheap, I’m frugal. I use the Google tools to make useful software applications, that are often similar to commercially available software, except each does exactly what I want, usually around leadership or sales. Perhaps the Android keiretsu is for the frugal successor to Heathkit aficionados.

At Sales Lab, we have multiple Google Calendars for different projects, and they just show up for all the Android users. I am trying to integrate an iPhone user into our web tools, and so far she has minor capability.

But the iPhone has a better music system. She calls all her Apple gear “Shuffle” (a previous iPod) so I get requests for the red shuffle, the big shuffle, the other shuffle. Married people talk that way.

I think her iPhone has better battery, and it just works. As long as you want a stock application. Maps on her iPhone was the reason I decided to get a smartphone. I’ve been told I’m a reluctant adopter.

I wasn’t aware of the differences until I tried to combine functionality between handsets.

As an Android user, I don’t seamlessly switch my music across devices. But then, I think wearing earbuds walking in the city shows a lack of situational awareness. I keep seeing people bouncing off cars and buildings.

Microsoft realized their version of reality before smartphones. Several years ago I set up web presences for a half dozen companies at once and my cheapest resource was a dot net (Microsoft) programming team. By the third website launch, I remembered to ask the builders to uncheck the box that made the site available only to Exploder browsers. Who knew?

The few Microsoft smartphone users I’ve watched seemed to get value being text heavy and document specific. But earlier this month, I saw an Android user sending his documents from his Google Drive, pre-built answers for when the questions come up.

For me, all smartphones are a less capable version of a computer. However, they are more available. Most internet users consume, they don’t author, and a phone is a convenient way to consume.

To which keiretsu have you pledged your fealty, and how is that working out?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Words And Actions Make Leaders Great

Greatness is a perception by others. What makes a leader great is more than achieving the mission, goal, or results – greatness is also about how he or she got us there. It's a complex set of factors not adequately described by a couple of words – but we can get in the general vicinity with these three traits:
  • saying what you will do
  • doing what you say
  • inspiring others to do their very best to achieve goals/results.

George Washington is admired as a great, if somewhat reluctant, leader. These two stories from the closing days of the Revolutionary War highlight his ability to inspire followers and achieve seemingly impossible results.

The momentum of the war was shifting in favor of the Colonial Army under General Washington's command and he wanted to press this growing advantage by crossing the Delaware River again to mount an unexpected attack on the British and the Hessians. Unfortunately, there was a huge problem – most of the troops had fulfilled their commitment to serve and were preparing to return home.

The troops had turned down an offer to pay them for continuing another 6-weeks, then the General visited the bivouac areas of the various units to speak with the men. His message was that there would never be another point in their lifetime that they could make such an important contribution to the freedom of their country as they could in the upcoming battle, AND that he would be honored to fight beside them to win the victory. The troops committed to joining him.

What money could not accomplish, a humble personal appeal to do for the greater good won their hearts and shortly, won the war.

After winning the Battle of Yorktown, General Washington and his senior commanders received a message that British General Cornwallis wanted to surrender. When the Cornwallis party arrived to present his sword in surrender, they attempted to present it to Washington – he refused to accept the sword and pointed to his second in command, General Benjamin Lincoln to receive the sword. By this simple action, Washington made clear that he did not see Cornwallis as an equal, and, more importantly, General Lincoln receiving the sword of surrender removed any doubts that Lincoln had Washington's support and confidence (Lincoln had lost a major battle to Cornwallis earlier in the war).

Great leaders are aware of the effect of their words, actions, and messages – direct and indirect – on their followers and others, and make good use of opportunities as they present themselves to reinforce the importance of the mission and goals as well as value subordinates bring to achieving the results.

See the New World – A View from the Big Chair

Monday, November 18, 2013

Intro...and Outro

I see a lot of advice about how to start relationships, that networking, firm handshake, clear eye stuff.

Earlier this month I got a delightful call from a 20 year customer asking permission to introduce me to a new prospect. We hadn’t spoken in years, but still like each other a lot, and he told me he has been reading the blog posts every week.

That got me thinking about how relationships maintain and what makes them dissolve, the “outro.”

Years ago, I was walking on the sidewalk and a customer pulled up and asked if I had time to go to lunch with him. We hadn’t spoken in several years after our project was completed, but we were thrilled to see each other. I jumped in his car.

We lunched, talked, and I remember he said it wasn’t time that eroded relationships, as we were able to start right where we had left off. Great afternoon, haven’t seen him since, and I was grateful for his observation.

I think that transactions are the stuff of relationships, relying on and being relied on. When there are no appropriate transactions, the relationship waits.

What makes the outro is too many promises not kept, creating a relationship better not maintained.

I’m not disappointed when a relationship goes away, because I can usually see it coming from a distance. And not all relationships should be maintained, we all grow and change what is important to us.

Kinda makes me want to cherish the ones that work while they work.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

One Pagers

How do you start your new projects?

How do you remember what happened in meetings six months later?

Saturday I started two projects in a whole new area of my life. I had been collecting information for a week, and needed to figure out what I knew.

I wrote two one page descriptions, one for each project, adding everything I had written in my notes, using the internet to fill in what I hadn’t taken the time to find previously. A venture capitalist once said, “You don’t write what happened in the meeting, you write what should have happened.”

In less that an hour I had two one page descriptions of what had been accomplished. I was able to circulate them to other people on the project and get valuable additions in less than an hour.

After a meeting, I will type my written notes, answering any questions noted while the conversation was occurring, using the internet to flesh out the beginnings of ideas, related details, and taking the time to improve the first draft questions and ideas of real time.

I put in links, telephone numbers, quantities, dollars, knowing that later they may be important.

That one page provides the foundation of further work for me, for others, and is usually highly valued by the other people in the meeting, reminding them of ideas and actions that were lost in the conversation.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I got a chiding comment about Civility. “You write about longer conversations opening more options. You should be selling what your company is offering.”

Fair enough.

Through a quirk of career, I was a product manager designing offerings before I ever got into the field. As a matter of fact, I fought going into the field because headquarters was where careers were made. I hated to leave the bridge because things could change while I was out of the loop.

As a product manager, I would try to ask the technical staff what they were building, but mostly I was told what to emphasize by my superiors. Which I emphasized, since my game was getting promoted. I had a good thing going as a product manager.

In the run-up to Y2K, I was wooed by an IBMer sales professional. He had come out of the Marines, started at the bottom shuffling punch cards, and worked his way up to Corporate VP of an IT Firm.

When I look back, it was silly what he had to do to overcome my ignorance and fears, but I was his project, he gaffed me on board. Once I started working with customers, I found that even my most successful marketing had been by accident. Customers had all the power and all the knowledge of what they wanted.

As a recovering product manager, it was easy for me to replace management advice with customer advice. The customers and I would work hard to flesh out what they wanted enough to pay for.

Then I would take it back to headquarters and try to get the order filled. There were some amazing repercussions.

We were told to increase service revenue as much as we could. The goal was to have service revenue equal product revenue. We got my projects up to services at four times product, which resulted in the head of service delivery telling me I had used up my service quota for the April. I was done.

Turned out it was easier to get service providers than product, so our team recruited an outside installation team, and we lurched forward.

In a six month period, we created a new template for doing business, which resulted in the four largest transactions in the company’s history, all from taking extraordinary time to define what the customers really wanted. Like a junkman, I’ll take whatever is offered and work with it until we get something we can use.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Reformatting the Hard Disk...Twice

In the early days the Personal Computer, a major upgrade was the addition of a 20 megabyte hard drive – plenty of space for programs, files and other treasure.

However, floppy disks were required for sharing files (predates networked computers, and long before WiFi). Several times a during a day I would need a formatted disk to hand-carry a file to someone also working on the same project.

DOS (where we had to type out all the commands) had a program to format disks – put a floppy in the drive, access the program, specify the formatting instruction, and hit enter to begin the process.

The program quickly formatted the disk – but once activated, there was no escape or undo to stop the process.

The early version of the format program assumed the default drive was to be formatted – which, unfortunately, was the hard drive - so when the enter key was hit, the hard disk was formatted, unless a floppy drive was specified...there was a fail/safe message “Are you sure: Yes/No” (which defaults to “YES”) before the formatting begins.

As with many repetitive routines, formatting became a mechanical thing – do this, type that, hit enter. Works fine unless one forgets to change the default to the floppy drive!

When I skipped the default drive step – the computer cheerfully reformatted my hard drive – oh drat!!!! why did I do that? Then I spent lots of time to reinstall all the programs and reload all the files to that newly reformatted drive, pledging NEVER to do that again.


After some time, I skipped that critical step and once again reformatted the hard drive for a second time – I immediately recalled my 'joy' from that earlier time. Now I had learned the lesson and changed my routine to ensure the floppy disk was the target to be formatted. My success was bolstered by a change in DOS requiring the drive letter to be entered and the availability of pre-formatted disks.

Routines that become mindless and mechanical, but have significant potential for disaster, need a proactive fail/safe of some sort – pilots, for example, use a paper checklist to document the pre-flight inspection and preparation.

It is pretty much impossible to avoid the mindless – mechanical human approach to repetitive processes, but designing out the potential of a misstep (or seriously reducing its risk) is a valuable investment in avoiding a catastrophe and wasted resources.

Want to cut 80% of project time? Try Value Added Work Analysis

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I was presenting something completely new today, one time only, and had a meeting with a potential buyer. They wanted to see me, as we both know this could be a substantial opportunity for them.

About twenty minutes in, they lost focus, became bitter. We continued, because they were and are still interested, seeing a potential windfall. Ten minutes later, I was gone. They had all the detail they needed, so we are both considering while I chat with some other buyers.

Driving away, I was reflecting how civility, manners and optimism, may or may not have anything to do with the final outcome, but sure make meetings more productive, increasing the possibility of unexpected benefit.

Sure, we could radiate professional boredom, but I wonder how many opportunities are missed after we’ve gone to the trouble of getting face-to-face?

This was a wakeup call for me. Civility improves board work, committee work, and team work.

Or, consider Selling Innovative...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Old Joe

My life consists of putting up with existing conditions.”
Jostein “Old Joe” Hordnes

Quote of the Weekend
I’m gonna call you “Blister.” You show up after the work is done.”
Trisha Yearwood

WordPictures - Phrases That Lit The Bulb!

Friday, November 1, 2013


About Talk And Accomplishment...
Talk is usually the beginning, not the end.

A group document is not a collaborative document. Do you know the difference?

About Work – Some new perspective.