interesting look at web communication

December 12, 2008 at 11:33 pm | Posted in Technology Trends | Leave a comment
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I love the way Bob Warfield over at SmoothSpan is thinking about the various web-learning styles and the quadrants he created and populated.  Interesting to think about regarding how we learn, and also how our  customers learn, and what products/methods are out there.  There were several companies/products that I didn’t recognize.

The “star” syndrome

December 12, 2008 at 1:27 pm | Posted in Business | 2 Comments
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Twice in my coaching career I had to deal with the “star syndrome”. The player that is so good that you find yourself looking the other way when it comes to his negatives, even if sometimes it means a bit of a double standard. That is a hard one for me, as it is for most coaches. There comes a point when you’ve got to make a call on these kids for the good of the team. The decision is agonizing.

I saw this recently not with sports, but with MySQL creator, Monty Widenius, when he publicly went on a rant about a recent decision to release a product. This was not his first action of this sort. Fact is, we find these people in all walks of life, both personally and professionally. They are extremely talented, passionate, brilliant, and often mean well, but their negatives can greatly bring down the infrastructure of a team or organization, especially depending on the maturity of the organization.

Jack Welch in his book Straight from the Gut talks about a quadrant approach he used to help clarify his thinking on this issue. (disclaimer: I listened to the audio book, but from what I heard, it looks pretty close to this:)

welch-diagram

In his years of experience, he talked about how even though the decision can be extremely painful in the short-term because of their results, he has rarely seen it end well when someone just doesn’t fit the corporate culture. The erosion happens in slow, subtle ways that are very difficult to recover from in the end.

I believe the tolerance for the “star syndrome” is directly related to the size and maturity of the organization. Complete speculation here, but I’m guessing Monty’s passion and style were a fantastic, if not utterly necessary, fit in the early days of MySQL. But over time, their mission changed and I’m talking even well before the Sun acquisition. They needed to make money, pure and simple, and that objective was somewhat at odds with their early mission statement and goals. Things changed as they grew but it appears Monty didn’t want to change.

Should Monty go? I don’t know. That’s up to him and his team. But I do know this: organizations are in constant change. Sometimes it’s evolution, sometimes it’s regression, but if you’re trying to build a true team, then cultural cohesion is paramount every step of the way. The problem is often that those who benefit from the star’s brilliance don’t ever see the wake of problems that others must deal with. Monty’s developers may love him passionately because of his talent, but can you imagine the trail of carnage left by this particular action and how it affects so many facets of the company? And this was just one we saw. I know of many others they’ve dealt with internally. That makes for a culture that absolutely undermines the building of a strong, long-term team.

A good idea for one … not many?

December 11, 2008 at 5:58 pm | Posted in Business | 2 Comments

I opened one of my trade mags today. Took it out of the plastic and then… well, then I couldn’t turn the pages. I hate when I can’t turn the pages. The reason I can’t turn the pages is because of inserts, outserts, wrappers, posters and that funky glue that holds papers together. I mean, that’s a real pet peeve of mine. So, I start de-cluttering it and ended up with the pile you see below

decluttered magazine

Somewhere in that pile of papers is my magazine, which turned out to be quite small once I pulled all the stuff out of it so that I could flip through the pages.  Now let me add a disclaimer — my company is responsible for contributing to the problem!  But, it seems like such a good idea at the time.  You have this vision of thousands of readers getting their new magazine and seeing your oh-so-special “appendage”, taking it out, oohing, and ahhing over it.  Scenes of Ralphie enter my mind when he dreams of turning in his essay. (If you haven’t seen a Christmas Story, you might not want to read my blog anymore! 😉

Maybe I’m in the minority.  Maybe other people do react positively to these things.  But for me, I have to say, they are beyond frustrating.  I will rip every one of them off before reading any article in the magazine.  We scream from the rooftops when we get invasive ads in our online experience.  I wonder how many complain to magazine companies?  Or maybe it’s accepted.  Oh, and one last point.  I’m in no danger of being called a “tree hugger” anytime soon, but I do care about the environment.  That pile on my floor… that times the thousands of magazines out there must ultimately leave a carbon footprint the size of Godzilla!

OK, I’m done ranting.  Nothing of any value in this post.  Just needed to vent — and rethink the budget dollars I allocate to these things!

man it’s dark out there

December 3, 2008 at 10:49 pm | Posted in Business, Professional Development | Leave a comment

Coaches love catchy little sayings. I mean, we are full of ’em. I still remember these from various locker rooms over the years:

“You can measure a thoroughbreds speed with a stop watch, but it takes a race to measure his heart”

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

“Character is what you do when nobody is watching.”

And there were countless others. So the other day I was giving an interview and was asked about the economy. I tend to be overly blunt sometimes, so I apparently gave an answer that seemed a bit depressing. My coworker who was there said, “That’s a great downer to end on!” And immediately, one of those slogans from coaching days past sprung to mind, and I added, “But you know, the darker it is around you, the brighter you can shine.”

I do believe that. I have blogged in the past about measuring your worth. I’ve talked about getting honest feedback and knowing where you stand. I’ve talked about differentiation and why it’s important that you know where you stand, whether your company is telling you they buy into differentiation or not. Why? Because right now, you’re being differentiated. We all are. More than ever. You can…

1) Panic.

2) Be grateful and sit around happy that you still have a job.

3) Make a name for yourself.

#1 is unproductive and unhealthy for some obvious reasons I won’t get into. I think you should ALWAYS do #2, but by itself, it leads to complacency. So there is no better time than right now to execute #3 with a passion. Your company needs you now more than ever. They need bright, passionate, dedicated, people who can find solutions to really difficult problems. This is a great challenge for all of us to find out what we’re made of. We will emerge from these tough times. But we can’t miss the chance to GROW through them. If we do, we — and our companies — will be so much stronger on the other end. One more sign than hung in our weight room:

“Without great challenge, there cannot be great accomplishment.”

Sometimes those corny signs make a lot of sense.

much to be thankful for

November 27, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

the title says it all.

Should we have done that?

November 25, 2008 at 11:22 pm | Posted in Professional Development | 4 Comments

A colleague and I were discussing some of the challenges we now face because we chose to take the high road on some things.  Turns out that in the end, it’s created way more work and headache for us than had we just done the “wrong” thing from the start.  He was feeling a little bummed about it.

I reminded him that we never — ever — should feel bummed about trying to do the right thing.  It’s often hard, and Lord knows I’ve got my moments of weakness.  But one thing we should never regret is doing things the right way.

There was a sign that hung in our locker room in college that said, “Character is determined by what you do when nobody is watching.”  That’s true.  In an imploding economy full of those getting away with absolute criminal behavior, it’s tough to remember that.  In the end, money comes and goes but character seems to stick around a long time and it’s a lot harder to make it back once you’ve lost it.

when bad is good

October 31, 2008 at 7:42 am | Posted in Business, Professional Development | Leave a comment
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Pop Quiz.  You’re the manager over the following situation:

  • Objective: Maintain maximum number of product downloads.
  • History: Product downloads have increased 10% each month for the past year.
  • Action: Change methodology that has been in place for the past year and measure for 6 months.
  • Result: Downloads have decreased by 5% each month for the past six months.

Easy one, right?  Fire the person who ran that campaign!  But in the words of Lee Corso on College Gameday: “Not so fast, my friend.” The answer should be: “I don’t have near enough information.”

What if the result of continuing the current plan would have resulted in a 20% drop instead of 5%?  If that were the case, then although things got “worse” they were actually “better” than what could have been.  Ah, but now you’re dealing with “hypotheticals” as our presidential candidates have become fond of saying. But business is often about hypothetical situations and trying to maximize or mitigate them.

Before you make a risky change, you should do all you can to build consensus from folks after you explain the risks of doing nothing, and of making the change.  Even then, you’re likely to get some (or most) people pointing at the raw data and calling it a failure.  But part of your job should be to do everything you can to ensure that doesn’t happen.  It takes a lot of guts to do that because it’s easier to just do nothing, play it safe, and hope for the best.  But as it’s been said many times, “hope is not a plan.”  So be aggressive, but do it in a way that mitigates surprise reactions to raw data that you know may seem unflattering at first glance.

“bail outs” are vogue

October 31, 2008 at 7:40 am | Posted in Business | Leave a comment
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Looks like everyone is jumping on the bail out bandwagon.  Guess it’s just the thing to do these days.   I just thought this was an interesting use of words, and I’m sure quite intentional.

http://biz.yahoo.com/iw/081001/0439046.html

when clouds evaporate your data

October 10, 2008 at 7:31 am | Posted in Technology Trends | 1 Comment
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The surge to the cloud feels like a certainty (as much as anything can be a certainty in technology).  It reminds me of the momentum shifts felt when things were moving to client/server computing, and more recently around virtualization.  I think the media is largely in a frenzy precisely *because* it’s the newest thing we’ve had to talk about of “mass” interest since virtualization.  That frenzy feeds on itself (as evidenced even  by my own posts on the topic).

As such, as with any technology transition, it’s not going to be all rainbows and lollipops.  Here’s an interesting post on what, I’m sure, will be many painful side effects as we move into the world of cloud computing.  Also got some enlightenment from our IT leader at Quest regarding a conference she attended, which I’ll post in a later entry.

need help, go to someone who knows nothing

October 5, 2008 at 9:37 pm | Posted in Business, Professional Development | Leave a comment
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OK, so maybe not someone who knows absolutely nothing, but it may be a good time to connect with someone who has a fresh perspective on your problem. I was thinking about getting the best in the company, from multiple disciplines, into a room every so often to just think about problems. I think it would accomplish at least two things:

1) Makes you understand your problem well enough to explain it to someone who doesn’t know your particular field. That is always helpful.

2) They’re not jaded by any presuppositions in thinking about an answer.

Yeah, I’m sure some of the discussions will be eye-rolling fodder, but I think it would be a very interesting way to go about solving some tough market challenges. Oh, if we all only had 30 hours in a day, doing stuff like this would be no problem!

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