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Windows 8 is rather cool – and App-nostic

I am wondering. I have read a lot about how hard Windows 8 is to use on a laptop or a desktop without a touch screen. How its hard to find the things you need, the things you were or are familiar with. Yet, I have a 32-bit version on an old laptop, and after somewhat of a fight to find out how a 64-bit version on my desktop and I am finding both rather cool and certainly more functional than Windows 7.

In fact, I am wondering if those who review or write about this are just in an age group that is hindered by change. I suspect they would have complained when DOS 6.2 switched to Windows 3.11 in that they could not easily enter “cd docs” or “c:\wp\wp  c:\docs\ltr12345.doc” to open their Word Perfect file with the DOS restriction of 8.3 for file names. It must have been tough, the icons were not all on the desktop and the files were not all in a known folder and quite often the executable programs, now call Apps were in a special place.

For those that are struggling with change, perhaps they should try this. Start the PC, get to the main screen with all the tiles and click on the one named “Desktop”. Once open right click and choose Personalise. Then click “Change desktop icons” and select each of the traditional icons, they will appear on the Desktop much like they did on Windows XP and Windows 7.

In fact, at this point the struggling user will realise that the only real difference between Windows 8 and Windows 7 is that Windows 8 has a Start screen rather than a Start button. If you used the “Windows Key” in Windows 7 it would be like clicking the Start button, if you use it in Windows 8 it pulls up the main screen of Tiles.

The things you have running in the background are found by sliding your mouse to top left, when selected the present opened windows will effectively minimise and the other window appear. If you want to close an App you grab the top of the screen and drag it to the bottom. If you have a mouse with a wheel you can scroll in some helpful directions on the Start screen, if not then you need to find a driver for your touchpad.

What I think is incredible, is that with my Hotmail account as the login I now have Office on my laptop, phone and desktop and whenever I log into to which every one and open an Excel spreadsheet its the same spreadsheet (or Powerpoint presentation) on all the devices. I am able to do productive work from whatever hardware I have … Outlook on Exchange, Word, Excel, PowerPoint are the killer Apps and they are connected.

If Microsoft can get their OS onto HTC, Samsung and Nokia as well as Dell, HP, Lenovo and Acer and they spend some money making Corporations aware of the amazing productivity possible by an OS platform that is target hardware generic and App-nostic (like Agnostic for Apps) then they will blow past the Android and IOS arena to, as I have stated in my past blogs, repeat the past. For, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

 

Educare – Latin ‘to draw out’ .. the origin of the word Education that should not be forgotten

Training, Lecturing, Coaching, Mentoring, Teaching are showing the challenge of the English language and its history of being based on Gaelic, Latin, Saxon, Danish and Norman French. That story is interesting, but is for another blog, it involves being conquered many times (German, French) and a plague (1600’s) killing fifty percent of the population, for those that are curious. It results in words like cow (kuh) being used by the animals poor farmer and beef (boeuf) being used by its wealthy consumer … I digress.

So what about Education?

Lecturing is like public speaking. The speech delivers the facts, hopefully the knowledge and the students take what they can. A great lecturer will deliver it in memorable, fun size bites and be a joy to listen to, so its not an easy role. If you have the audience laughing, looking puzzled and keen to ask questions then you can rightly assume you have the X-factor. If they leave mumbling about the assignments or the weather then you may want to find training or reconsider your approach.

In contrast, the trainer takes the students present understanding and turns it into delivered habit of excellence. I suspect we all have thrown a javelin so we know how to do it, the trainer will work with us and if we have passion and flare help us to make it a skill. Its a very tough, full on, draw out the students understanding role but is based on a knowledge base. It is not coaching, its about building skill through repetition, its about building a neural path in the brain that will make the activity a habit, build it into the students subconsious.

Coaching is often, if not always, included to some degree with training. However, the coach does not need to be exceptional at the activity, unlike, I would argue, the trainer. The coach should  just know how to guide the student to improve. I have heard it said the best coaches for tennis players are ex-skiers; they have an eye for form, for balance and for pace and are able to transfer that into assisting a tennis player to improve their game. By way of contrast, the trainer would be the person the tennis student plays the game with, enabling the repetition of the actions. The coach can advise on how to improve, the trainer needs to know how to play well.

Perhaps we should recap here, just to bring it together before we move on. You can read a book on tennis, you can watch a PowerPoint driven class on tennis, however that will not get you to Wimbledon. It will give you the knowledge,  but not skill. In fact, if its not taught, then it’s quite likely to not give you knowledge either, just awareness. I used to laugh when I heard that a product line were training the sales teams around the world, using PowerPoint. I asked the question at the time; “How many top class footballers train looking at PowerPoint in a room”? If you tested the staff at the end of the “training” on their understanding and how they planned to engage the customer base with the new PowerPoint story the results proved the “training” to be nearly worthless. At best they recalled three things, are worst the were confused and hoped to figure it out later. A lecture on the features and benefits will really only create awarness and little more, the staff had to find their own way to transpose it into something that can address a customers pain point or problem. Of course, I could digress as to whether the more informed were looking for a featured, benefit, advantage or as some, struggling to cope with fba, perfer to make feature, advantage, benefit. Simply, its not the exciting thing that the feature does but the real benefit that the thing it does brings to the explicit need … I will leave that thread for another day.

In the tennis analogy, when you are out on the court the trainer will make sure you engage in exercises, repeat the same action many times, may even be the other tennis player you need to practise with. Its helpful if the trainer has played tennis, its actually helpful if the trainer plays tennis well. When you struggle with an aspect, the coach will explain how to adapt to accomodate the difficulty and the trainer will help you repeat that until it becomes habit. Over time you will build up a skill, if your passion drives you on that skill, the ability to repeat something precisely and effectively without thinking, you may become world class.

Another example is learning to drive a car, something most of us have done. If you drive one now and have done for a few years then you have trained to a level that you can do just about anything in the car without thinking. Things like gear selection, speed regulation, sensitivity to other road users, positioning in the road are all what we might call second nature. Our training was to repeat the activity, we rarely have a coach although watching some people on the road I think it would be wise for some, and some go on to advanced driving classes which have a coach to help you to improve. A previous employer of mine sent the whole sales operation on a defensive driving course, to reduce the insurance premiums, where we drove for a day with a coach. A few days later I was very thankful of the coaching as it defused a situation that could have gone very nasty .. ooops!, again I digress.

I do recall a collegue and I fighting back often against the PowerPoint “training” and showing how it could be done differently when together we went to deliver training for a European Distributer in La Gaude, France at their technical conference being held at the Club Med. Together we had developed a single PowerPoint slide, yes that is one slide, for a whole day of training, one team in the morning, one in the afternoon with a total of 25 students per session. The other vendors had hundreds of slides, going into the finest details and in a discussion in the bar the night before they thought we were insane having one slide for training in some 15 products types for the day. That evening we won the best training session award as the audience had been entertained, were engaged, learnt more than they had ever done before and bounced out the the room excited to get on and find some customers for all the new ideas they had.

The secret, the one slide had a problem as a picture that was formed from 5 items. The 5 teams of 5 students were given one of the 5 items that they had to solve. They had to make a single slide and present what they suggested would solve their problem. They were engineers, the problems were design-in challenges and they had to choose components. On the table in front of them they had all the data sheets and user manuals of the products they were being “trained” on.

The creativity, the dialog, the energy, the cool designs, the want to do it with imagination was outstanding. The presenters become the facilitators and the audience built their solutions, preparing to share the logic behind their component choices. Even after lunch the second set of 25 students did not suffer from post-lunch doze, there was no presenter droning on about some detailed feature they are likely to never care about. What we had delivered was training. They were engineers, they already had the knowledge that enabled them to explore technology. They used their knowledge to develop, along with the trainers who knew the subject well, a range of solutions that they all shared and debated to ensure the optimal design was identified for each problem.

Moving on, then of course, then there is Mentoring. Often confused with Coaching, Mentoring is not about repetition until it becomes a skill and honing the deviations to ensure that the repetition is consistent and focussed on improvement. Mentoring is about taking proven knowledge, understanding and skill and sharing that experience with someone trying to do something similar. If I stay with the driving analogy, you are unlikely to seek out a Mentor to improve your driving. A trainer, a coach, maybe but not a Mentor, unless you want to be a Rally or Formula One driver. In the case of a Rally driver you would engage a Coach to help to hone the skills you have and a Mentor to understand what skills you need to develop, and in that instance an ex-world class Rally driver would be a great Mentor. Details like gaming strategy, finding the right line, understanding how the weight distribution changes through a route would be Mentor subjects while the Coach would be about honing what you are doing to be more effective. However, while Mentoring can have a component of teaching, as can Coaching the real subject of Teaching is very different.

Teaching is really special, its about developing knowledge. The Black box methodology being used by teachers in recent years is incredible, it has the student do the work, in a social, questioning, so called formative manner and  what results is new neural pathways that are created as learning occurs. The brilliant teacher leads, ask questions, helps the students explore and helps them find the answers. Education, from its latin root, means to “draw out”, that is to pull from the minds of the students what they know already and using their social interaction to build on what they know and adapt the understanding of the group through questions and deep thinking. They assess themselves, their own understanding and in doing so they build a real understanding, the connections in the brain are used to build and correct their comprehension of the subject.

In 2009 I spent some time teaching Physics in a boys Grammar school in the UK. It was a magical experience. When you have a room of boys curious and engaged, as the lesson you are delivering is asking questions rather than pounding knowledge into their minds, the buzz is incredible. When they all say “wow! sir, that’s the best lesson we have ever had here” at the end of a lesson I challenge anyone to beat it, and yes I am referring to Physics.

Prior to the Black Box research the Honey & Mumford learning styles were just about all that teachig had to go on. The Teacher was told that exposing the student to knowledge, that is trying to fill their heads with facts, was the role. The learning styles theories abound, in basic terms it says that students learn in different ways, duh! (rocket science, not!) Whether its Visual, Audiory, Kinetic (VAK) or the more detailed Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist (Do, Review, Conclude, Plan next step) of Honey & Mumford is a debate that many might enjoy. It has value, but nothing like the change in impact that Black Box principles have.

What VAK means in real terms is the teacher had to say it, write it and demonstrate it and the student had to say it, write it and experience it. Back when I was at school that involved the teacher writing it on the board or reading it from a book and then we had to copy it from somewhere into our own exercise books … OK, OK, you can wake up now!! That paragraph sent me to sleep while I was writing it. The student had no chance, they either had to be personally passionate about the subject or have the drive and determination to find their own way to learn before the test or exam, no wonder so many children never made the grade.

I would say even back then, the teacher who showed energy and drive and conveyed a passion to the audience was the winning teacher. They were not the teacher that had a silent class, they were the teacher that looked to the external viewer as if they were running chaos. They had discussion, dialog, exploration, challenging ideas, questioning expected outcome versus experienced outcome and high energy lessons. They had stories, case studies, history of how the truth was found, even in English they questioned word choice, sentence construction, author thinking, author experience. In Mathematics it was about abstract ideas from number behaviour, in Chemistry it was about the magic of the atom and how new elements have been found and the daft names they have been given, or blowing things up. Of course Physics was about hair raising experiences and is now about how Newton was mistaken, his laws are approximations and that quantum mechanics is a better model, and the fact that after all they are all models.

When I was training to teach I recall a passionate discussion with my students in year 9 (14 year olds) about how a laser works, how it differs from a flourescent tube and a vaccum bulb and the thought path the inventor followed to explore if it was possible to play with excited atoms. I also recall a passionate discussion with the lower 6th (17 year olds) on what mass and gravity really are and how they are strangely related. Perhaps the developed curiousity of my classes will move them to explore their world further and find the cure for cancer, who knows. My mission was simply to make them curious, explorative, to want to know how the world works with our present models. Even the students that found recalling the facts tough were enthusiastic to explore and when tested recalled the facts, and how good can it get was all I could think at the time. I often wonder about what my students are doing now.

I have no idea who said it, but I am mindful of the thought “To teach is to touch a life forever” and as such I ask that those who are teaching, realise that their passion, their energy and their ability to engage their audience are touching their students lives forever. Teach, using Black Box principles, get the students engaged, convey curiosity and passion not knowledge and watch they soar to new heights of understanding.

 

Surviving Redundancy in a deep Recession

Having been exited in 2008 and again in 2010 I have just come to realise I have managed to get to NOvember 2012 and the wheels have not fallen off the bus/truck/bike/skateboard. OK, I have had a mid-life crisis and taken up Rollerblading where most may have chosen the path of long legged blondes and a red Ferrari, but needs must.

Having got this far, and still hearing of friends, business aquaintances and companies being exited from their daily entertainment I thought its about time I shared what I have learnt on the way and help some others. After all a recent Gallup Strengths Finder that is used by many corporations to determine strengths has me as Strategic, Arranger, Positivity, Learner and, important for this post, Includer.

So, the steps.

1. Make your Resume/CV current, relevant and in the format expected of modern recruiters and HR. Three lines at the top, name on the first line (20point), address on the second line(10pt), mobile, home phone and email on the third(10pt). This makes it easy to contact you and makes it easy for the recuiter to remove the contact details without making a mess of the whole document.

The sections you need are Profile, Key Skills, Achievements, Background, Education, Professional Organisations, in that order. However, the first thing to do before building these out is to write out stories of the successes you have seen and where you achieved them. Thing about business success, things that have “wow’d” the business. Whether its sales and huge growth in revenue, or marketing and increases in market share, or manufacturing and improved deliver or lower costs. Write as many as you can recall, as short stories. I found this very helpful, it comes from a great book that should be part of the national curriculum, What Color is your Parachute.

Once you have the success stories then image you have a $, £, € and that you can allocate value to each as an employer. Use that to rank them and from that you have the basis of your Achievements section of your CV. They need to be short, punchy, so you may need to reduce them to summaries of the story. If it helps use STAR to write out the stories, as in Situation, Task, Action, Result. The Result is the Achievement part of your Resume/CV.

Then look through the stories and identify key skills, what was it that you did that enabled you to get the achievements that you have written about. What action did you take. The Achievement statements start with active words (Delivered, Built, Defined) the Key skills is based on the Action you took to secure the Achievement.

Then you write the Background or Job History, where you were and touch on the Achievements you made, the Careers Springboard site has some helpful information although I have found the CV format has become somewhat dated as the contact details take up too much space and their deletion wrecks the page format.

The three line’s suggested are less intrusive, clear and removable! (the last adored by recruitment agencies)

2. Get the software tools. Find a student, age does not matter, they have to be in full time education and ideally with you as a parent. This will make it easier to write your CV as you will have the full Microsoft Office 2010 suite for a lot less than retail as Microsoft enable sales at reduced prices if you are in education.I use Software4Students, but there are others.

3. Find a Computer. Of course, so far I have assumed that you have a computer. However, many of us used our employers computer for personal use and when we had to hand it back it left us without. A search for your local computer recycling company who may even provide discounted computers to the unemployed is worth a look, occasionally the job centre will be helpful in providing details on affordable computers.

4. Get a mobile phone. You may already have a personal phone and you will need to text everyone on your work phone the new number as part of your networking before you hand the work phone back, make it easy for them to update their phone contact entry with the new number. You will also need to try and find a way to capture your contacts, and that can be troublesome and may even breach the terms of your exit. Not much advice I can give here other than get connecting, make contact, even if you lose their contacts details make sure they have yours.

5. LinkedIn is a core to your online existance. Unless your are German or French in which case it’s Xing or Viadeo. I am sure there are other country specific networking sites. The UK has Ecademy, however they have been slow to react to LinkedIn and are now in their shadow. Like so many UK invented things, first to market but not able to capitalise on it. Pity.

Use your newly written Achievements, Key Skills and Background to build out your LinkedIn. Unlike your CV that will be tailored to align with the job requirements of each application,your LinkedIn has the misfortune of having to be generic. Mine is by no means perfect in that its too wordy, does not get to the point and expands on some things that are of no interest to anyone anymore. However, it does not need to be static. It does need to align with your CV very closely, they will check.

It has Recommendations. My advice here, unlike mine, is to write them yourself. Take the Key Skills you have and write a Recommendation for each Skill that you want to reenforce. Then, look at your connections and those that have experience of you using that Skill ask them to Recommend you, sending them what you have written and asking them to use as is or to write in their own words. The point is you do not want 20 Recommendations saying “he was a great team manager when I knew him”, you want 20 different Recommendations each enhancing a specific skill. The higher management, or well known people are those that you should ask the Recommendation to be posted by, the more respected their opinion the better.

6. Manage your connections and your applications. Zoho is a free CRM tool. It will allow you to manage your contacts far better than LinkedIn and LinkedIn will let you export your connections into a CSV file that ZoHo can accept. Then you have a contact manager. Its tough staying in contact, this tool will help. Also, when you make contact with companies for roles its easier to manage in a tool.

I would also suggest you decide a filename format for your CV/Resume. I have DEverittYYCVn-cccc where YY is the year, n is the version and cccc is the company stock ticker or something unique. If you fire out 20 CV’s and 2 come back for interview you want to be sure you are taking the CV you tailored and sent to them to align with the role than another they have never seen.

7. Start your own marketing campaign. Now this may be a challenge, if you have never done marketing. However, I have written a blog about the 12P’s so look for that on here from earlier and consider each P. The one you really need here is Promotion, but the other 11P’s can still be applied. The intention for this stage is to get everyone you know to know that you are looking for a role and be sure they all have your key message as to what you are looking for. This is not networking, this is promotion. Networking comes next.

8. Network. Now this is tough for most who have not been in sales, however it has a major Strategic value that you need to exploit. That is it creates a virtual sales organisation that are selling you on your behalf. Its therefore fundamental that you do not ask for a job when networking, you ask for connections. The sort of statement would be “I am interested in the rapid changes happening in the mobile phone market and I would like to understand more about it, is there anyone you know that I would benefit from speaking to?” … of course, make it relevant to the role you are looking for and despite the challenges keep it going. You will find its likely you will become very well connected, that in time you will know more about the subject than the people you meet and very soon you are bringing real value to your networking meetings. Value that will energise your virtual sales team to promote you on your behalf. The strategic vision, you want to get to the hiring manager before they have spoken to HR. At the point the hiring manager thinks “I need help here, do I know anyone that could help me you need to be already in his mind or one step removed. When he asks someone other than HR if they know anyone your name should be the response and your core value. You also need to develop a Tell Me About Yourself set, the elevator pitch as some call it.

9. Make sure your About Yourself has an action associated. Its not enough in a recession to build a short speech for use in a lift/elevator. You need to decide the three qualities you want to be known for personally and three qualities you need to be known for in business. The personal are trust building, the business are results building. You then need to target your efforts and then decide what makes you interesting, useful and important. Consider the who, what, where, why and how and build that into your short speech. Include an action, even if its asking for another contact to help you know more about the market, business, etc. Its not about collecting names, its about adding value through connections. The more value you bring the more “tradeable” points you have so the more opportunties come your way.

10. Putting your Resume/CV onto job boards. Personally I have had little to no success with this. The internet is too easy for people to apply, the government in the UK will only pay benefits for those applying for roles. This means every role that appears has 500+ applications, maybe more. Not so long ago I applied for a Managing Director role at a software company to be told they had over 500 applications and that the short-list was 5 of which I was one, however 2 of the candidates had run a business with different competitors. I was thankful to go from 500 to 5, however I am sure the retiring owner of the business would have preferred to hand it over to someone he knew who could do the job. The problem with the internet based job boards is they are swarming with activity. You will find the recruiters get all excited when you first post and then they will fade away. If you tweak your posted document they will all wake up again, only to fade away again. Its like fishing in a barrel of apples, the chance of finding a fish are near zero.

Now, all of the above are needed to get established as on the job market and researching for a role. While looking for a role I discovered a number of companies that could not afford to hire but certainly had the need for assistance, they could afford a few days a week or a month. The challenge is, while Redundancy severance is not taxed heavily any income you receive as a sole proprietor is taxed as if it was income from your employment. In the UK that is likely to be 40% and with NI contributions too could make working for yoruself a poor Return on Investment.

My next blog will explore how you can make the most of the smaller opportunities, how you may start a company and yet do so without an accountant, a whole heap of software and a lot of cost burden.

Why have 12P’s in Marketing when 1P will do?

In my recent post I suggested that there are 12P’s in Marketing, (Price, Product, Promotion, Placement, People, Process, Physical Evidence, Privacy, Personal Interests, Personal Networks & Public Commentary) however I was mistaken there is one implied that is more important than any other from anywhere and is missed by all …

The only P that really matters is Problem.

The company you work for was naturally formed to solve a problem the founders identified had commercial value. They found a solution to a problem, whether that solution was a product or a service does not matter, its a solution.

The true, deep, ingrained, unstated role of Marketing is to capture and understand the problem and then define what is needed to address that problem.

Now many of you reading will be saying ‘what?’ as you thought marketing was pens, pencils, trade shows, noise! That would be the communications piece, but yet again its founded on generating awareness of a solution to a problem.

So, sure you can take each P in the 12P set and come up with a coherant plan, however never lose sight of the 13 and perhaps only true P of Problem.

Dave

Shareholder value and how it has damaged us all

Many years ago, in the book Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore described how Shareholder Value was a fundamental measure to aspire to and that to achieve it needed competitive advantage, etc. Now this man can be considered somewhat of a genius in developing what the world now understands as a means to get from exciting innovation to mass market in short swift, of course others of you may have thought that Crossing the Chasm was one of the 50 Sheds of Grey activities.

Despite this genius, I would argue that in the area of Shareholder Value he was wholly incorrect, in error in fact. The end result is we have short-term values and we have personnel management systems that rate with an intention of removing 20% of the personnel per year. In fact we have systems that severance the experienced and learned to make place for hiring the cheap, we have a centralised, benevolent dictatorship structure that is run on rules and regulations and not trust.

The toughest part, the part that many will struggle with, is the fact that the Shareholders are actually losing out from the huge returns that would be possible by grabbing at the short-term, loose change that is left on the table each quarter rather than the huge pot nearby.

Perhaps I am rushing you too quickly into this thinking. If you have read some of my past blogs you will know I am an advocate of looking to the past to find if there is anything that we can learn to help avoid the pitfalls of the present. I would venture that all the “Built to Last” companies, when they were formed, the founder had a vision to be in business to provide value to the customers. The passion was built into the whole offer, the risk undertaken in the belief that the vision would build something special. Perhaps more importantly, those hired were hired because they too aligned with the vision and had the passion to make it happen.

OK, still to fast. Let me think, I know. The thing I probably hate the most is ironing. However, I know a fun woman (really) who loves ironing, especially shirts. She has set herself up in business collecting, doing and delivering ironing. The next step would be to take on staff who are also keen on ironing and to build an ironing organisation (I cannot think of anything worse!) .. similar is going on with dog walking, gardening, house make-overs and more. The founder starts with a passion, not with Shareholder value in mind.

I personally felt this when I joined AMD in 1986. Jerry Saunders’s mantra was “People first and profits will follow” and the culture of the company was such that it was the passion for the whole offer (not just the product) and what it could do for the customer that drove the organisation. Whether it was inventing Ethernet with DEC, a single chip Modem, or Video DRAM, or Programmable Logic or Subscriber Line Card circuits or even Bit-slice (what?) the passion was there.

All the employees, and I mean all, believed in the founder’s mission to “delight the customers” and AMDers were of the same passion and drive across the planet. Some, in the early electronics days, now called IT or ICT, may even recall the “Chip a week programme”. Jerry told engineering and marketing to develop a chip a week for a year (I think they did something like 54 new devices) and power out of the doldrums. Its true, none of the chips made it to the big time, however it energised engineering and marketing to go on with a “can do” attitude. It was that passion which took AMD to AMD64 and changed the world (Intel had to copy AMD, … nah! … really?)

Then Jerry stepped down and the replacement (Hector Ruins, as the Motorola people I knew named him as he left them to join AMD) engaged the mantra “Shareholder Value” and the soul of AMD vanished, the “can-do” attitude vaporised, the belief in the mission to delight the customers disappeared. The cost cutting started, first the programmable logic, then the line card circuits, then non-volatile memory, then chipsets until all that remained was PC processors and a competitor the size of a small planet. A few sparks of innovation appeared, but were quickly snuffed out, then an acquisition of ATI at a time when the market stalled sent the firm into the abyss where it hangs on with its finger tips hoping to climb out.

More recently I have done some work with CISCO, HP and Microsoft and while the former was the leading light in how to engage a partner based channel and develop strategic market and customer engagements that are fulfilled by an informed and educated channel they have now been infected by the Shareholder Value virus. It’s now about quarterly contribution margin, that is high revenue at low-cost, and strategy is just to increase contribution margin quarterly. As for HP, well they are letting 27,000 people go this month and there is nothing to be gained from such action than an increase in Shareholder Value.

Of course, the HR department is told to run covert talent competitions along the lines of “the weakest link” and determine the top 80% and identify and remove the lower 20% to bring in new, young, inexperienced personnel to replace them.

This does reduce visible costs, however business is run by people for people. The annual exit of 20% of the personnel develops a destructive political environment where simply scrabbling to stay higher in the perceptions of others is of greater value than delivery in the role. Rather than motivate the personnel, train the personnel, engage in building cross-functional teams with the personnel they choose to simply keep removing using Pareto’s Principle.

Can I digress for a second. I think this short-term perspective has hit more than traditional business. For example, X-factor is all about rising to the top rapidly by being voted in by the public. Yet, looking back through all the winners since the shows started who is still filling stadiums and selling records in volume. If you have read anything about Elton John you will know he started on tour, in a van and built a craft and a following that eventually led to the highest ever selling album. He still fills stadiums even now. Billy Joel is another.

The debate in my head is how do we escape this short-term perspective, how do we encourage long-term strategic vision or is that something that is beyond change. Perhaps it needs Kodak, Nokia, DEC, Word Perfect, Sun, Honeywell, Nortel to lose their way and vanish to provide space for the new. For certain all those companies started with a vision, chased the Shareholder Value goal, lost the passion of their founder on the way and floundered.

Of course, the golden boy of the moment is Apple. Yet to be that golden boy they had to bring back their founder to re-install their vision. Jobs was certainly not thinking Shareholder Value when he engaged in making an MP3 player fun to use, a Phone able to run Apps, a tablet able to run the same Apps and all in a user-friendly way. It was about the passion to do it different, the passion to have fun with technology.

I think the only way to change this behavior is to legislate, to have long-term strategic growth deliver a significant tax break in a way that has investors benefit from keeping their stock in a business for 2-5 years regardless of how its performing. Some means of slowing the market pace. Either that or the stock market will react by the second and the company performance will migrate to weekly, or perhaps daily and any idea of strategic direction will be lost forever.

Its not about P’s or mix – Marketing for beginners

Many books have been written about Marketing, some with 4P’s others with 7P’s and some talking about the mix. Then there is above the line, below the line, direct, indirect, inbound and optimal! What can it all mean?
Perhaps a better way is to consider what it is not!

Its not sales, as in taking a prospect through to delivery. Its not operations, as in the make it to deliver it and its not engineering or finance. However, it needs all of them to function well.

Marketing, in its rawest form, is that which makes it easier for sales to sell. The baseline assumption is that somewhere, out there in the big wide world, someone has a need, a need for something that will help them solve a problem they need solving.

Lets start with an example. A sales trainer is facilitating a sales training activity to a group of sales people and asks them to write a list of their present opportunities. While each of them are writing a list she walks up to one of the class and asks everyone to stop writing, turning to the chosen person she asks them to sell her the pen they are using. The sales trainee starts with the colour, the feel, the ease of use, the features of the pen.

The facilitator then asks for them to change their pitch to align more with need than features, aim to provide a solution to a problem that the facilitator may have. The sales trainee switches to the benefit of owning a pen enabling them to write when they want rather than have to borrow one from someone else and adds the fact that the cost is so reasonable that loss of the pen will not be a major concern. The trainee has addressed the features and the benefits, but has still not grasped the idea of questioning to find a need.

The facilitator then offers to show the trainee another way, and offers to sell the pen to the trainee. The facilitator takes the pen and immediately snaps it into two pieces while asking the trainee how they intend to write their list of prospects for this part of their training course. She then suggests they need a pen.

Now that is selling, not marketing. Building a set of questions that determine the customers need and that the need is clear. The solution to the need is known then the customers understands alignment with need and solution and as long as its within budget then a sale will occur.

Now, it is possible for sales people to meet many possible prospects and ask each of them if they need a pen, however they will spend a huge amount of time travelling and talking and receive a crazy number of rejections where the majority already have a pen, or do not have budget for a pen or and not in a position to agree a pen purchase.

I am sure there are sales people reading this that have been compensated on the number of compliments slips they managed to collect during the week, usually from door to door prospecting on industrial estates. If your a pen sales person that is one way to find prospects, however the time spent prospecting and the margin on the pen would suggest far better use would be made of the sales person closing qualified prospects than finding new ones.

Another example can be see from watches. The Casio calculator watch is less than $20, while a Rolex Milgauss is around $10k yet both tell the time, in fact the Rolex only tells the time!! As has been noted in many books on the subject, selling anything as a list of features has the effect of significantly reducing the price. I suspect you may be wondering what the need is in each of the watch examples and why would anyone buy a Rolex.  The challenge for sales is to determine need, if they have a need and you have the solution then its sold. The challenge of marketing is to engage the market mix and feed a qualified prospect into the sales pipeline.

The role of marketing, making it easier to sell. That led to the P’s to try and break the challenge into pieces that can be addressed. The initial set was defined by McCarthy as 4P’s namely Price, Product, Promotion and Place, however in the Digital age of the 21st Century its been expanded to 11 P’s (Price, Product, Promotion, Placement, People, Process, Physical Evidence, Privacy, Personal Interests, Personal Networks & Public Commentary)

Now, of course, many of the 11 can be wrapped up into the original 4, although public commentary such as that on Trip Advisor, struggles to fit into them easily. By the way, if someone references “the marketing mix” they are usually referring to the 4P’s or even the 11P’s with above the line, below the line and PR being folded into Promotion.

Perhaps I should raise the question of PR, the relationship building with journalists in the media. PR is indeed an activity that is often engaged with Promoting a solution but can also be engaged in defending a company or product from damaging scrutiny. Where is the latter placed, some sort of inverted negative Promotion avoidance??

I would suggest that the theory is wonderful, the fact is that marketing is all about making it easier for the sales personnel to sell. How its sliced and diced is a matter or preference, a matter of where the budget might be spent more effectively. However, the overall goal is to make it easy to sell.

Perhaps another example may help. In a recent role the organisation had sales people on the ground in the UK, France and BeNeLux but no salesperson in Germany. A board member had heard that Turkey was a huge growth area and requested that Turkey was given immediate attention. Sales immediately started to engage, to determine how to capitalize on this great growth opportunity. A quick check on Wikipedia provided German GDP €2,600,800 million and Turkey GDP €554,000 million, over 4.5x different with Germany at 81m people and Turkey at 71m people. No matter what the growth is like in Turkey to have zero business in Germany and address that will clearly deliver significantly more sooner. The determination of Place to “help sales to sell” can be a tough one but one that is core to success, more so than Price .. reference Rolex and Casio earlier. (In case you are still wondering, the Rolex is not bought as a watch but as a demonstration of status, the brand equity developed through imagery and marketing owners success has placed the Rolex is the aspirational dream space. The Casio may have had techie status when it first appeared, but that dissipated quickly as newer technology appeared).

I recommend that if you have been building a business and have been selling direct, finding customers through all and any means you have, and yet the struggle continues; consider spending some planning time on Marketing.

My personal belief is that it needs to be 12 P’s as PR is so important and is bi-directional and as such does need a place on its own. So, to start yourself a marketing plan why not write out the 12P’s in a list and  ask yourself if you had $12 where would you spend each $1 and why. Where have you seen success already, and failure already, its not all about Price, in fact many professionals in marketing will tell you that you often sell more with a higher price; in fact it depends on what the customer need and for certain if you do not value your offer then nobody else will.

Of course, the other way to significantly increase your qualified prospects list is to call in a sales and marketing consultant as your guiding mentor, your expert to talk through what has worked and what has not and to help you draw up a clear, concise and company wide understood sales and marketing plan. I may know someone who can help there…..

 

 

The adventure of escaping the past?

Following on from Shareholder Value and my blog on the demise of strategy I thought I would share some of the subsequent fun I am having.

A disagreement with an idiot who happened to be my boss found me on the street in 2008 after 22 years of bringing exceptional value to my employer. The rest of the place fell apart soon after, so much for Shareholder Value.

The corporate world was in a flat spin, so I thought what can I do where my passion for team, for marketing, for learning and developing would energize me. The self-esteem from being booted out the door hits an all time low.

The gym was good, but so expensive. However, I started going from 6:30am to 7:30am every day (I figured I would arrive at the gym and start doing something before I had truly woken up – I must admit a few times I woke wondering how I managed to get on the uppy downy rolling road thingy that was half stepper and half jogging track) and start setting up meetings from 9 to 11 and then out networking from 11am to 8pm most weekdays. Nothing, all the people I know were caught in exit danger. Some of those I managed to link to through conversation (not LinkedIn) and had a role were being exited during the interview process. So many times I called up to find “Oh, he is no longer with the company”, yet he had interviewed me the week before for a role.  The safe age group were those between 25-35, the rest seemed to what I deemed cannon fodder.

A friend recommended a book which I read named ‘What color is your parachute’ and did some of the tests that it provides. The book is written in a friendly manner and I think should form a curriculum subject in all schools, by the way. You need to be a teacher, it concluded. You have to be kidding I concluded. However, I always explore, love to learn (in everything I do – even tried Surströmming and Lutfisk in my travels just to be sure I do not like them … no, cannot stand them!) and so I engaged the idiots called Student Finance England and figured out, with all the help of loans, grants, bursaries I could secure a significant income as a student (mainly due to the two hostages I am responsible for (parent), my arriving from the world of business and my age. I convinced myself that teaching and marketing are very similar disciplines, both raise awareness and understanding about the world around you and the value a specific brings to the needs you have. My challenge would be to make the teaching relevant, easy with equations of motion and football, near impossible with something as boring as friction.

Learning to teach is like learning to fly. I don’t mean like a sparrow; leaping out of a nest and hoping it becomes obvious what to do next (although I do think some of my cohort were that way inclined). No, more along the lines of securing a pilots licence.

First the theory, for a free weeks, and then you sit alongside an experienced teacher and observe while taking notes. After many (a dozen or so) observed, noted, reflected on and discussed lessons you then share a lesson. Typically the trainee will do the starter (hello, I’m new and you can try all those tricks that failed on others on me and revel in joy that they are likely to work on me) and the resident teacher teaches the middle and the end. That continues until the day the teacher asks whether you are up for your first whole lesson. You agree, build a plan, share the plan, redo the plan, share it again, wonder how long you will last and then deliver the lesson, watched by the teacher.

After the first, you get to repeat it with other classes, other age groups, different subjects, different teachers and each time the resident teacher is present and watches and help you reflect on the experience. Occasionally the University appears and watches you too. At this stage its 2 days at the University and 3 days at school…. that first day each week at the school giving the feeling of being thrown in an ever deeper pool each time.

Anyway, my mission was to escape the past. Get out of IT (which is in a flat spin collapse as the margins vanish from the innovation) and into something else. Why did I abandon the plan, well the second year of the teacher training is called the NQT year. You have qualified on the academic side and then you have to stand on your own feet and get the flying hours up, you need 12 months experience alone in the field.

The schools know this and so the pay grade is lucky to deliver £26k per year before tax. No loans, no grants, no bursaries, no tax credits, no help whatsoever .. and no way I could continue. Seems the politicians have made a noise about how they are doing something to address the poor quality of teachers by investing in attracting the best, when in fact it’s all smoke and mirrors and behind the curtain its low-cost childcare.

Now, recently the UK government have decided it’s clearly the fault of someone else that the teaching quality is poor. Without much thought at all they have decided to pick on the Universities. They have the intention of having the trainee teacher taught by the school., the school with no resources, little money and no time to understanding education research on learning. It’s not broken, but they are going to fix it anyway.

When I was at school the teachers tried to cram facts into your head. Then test you to see what you remembered. Black Box research has determined that formative assessment is the way to teach, to engage the student in testing themselves, exploring the ideas and working together to determine an understanding. The inclusion of learning styles, the addition of reflection on what has been learnt … Education is a word derived from Latin that means “to draw out” … schools will not have time to develop that.

Escaping the past is tough, in the IT space the book Escape Velocity outlines how NorTel, DEC, Kodak and Compaq lost their way, Nokia is heading that way too. They have not figured out that markets move and that what worked last quarter is unlikely to always work. Phones with Digital Cameras has seriously impacted Kodak and yet they had a digital camera before most.

Likewise, Escaping your past in employment is a challenge. The typecast world wants you to carry a title, the one I use is “forklift truck driver”. If a company is looking for a “van driver” and the applicant has experience of driving forklift trucks then its likely they will take an applicant with experience of driving vans as “its more relevant and a closer fit”.

Those in employment will think I am kidding, those looking for their next role will understand my point fully and be able to provide hundreds of examples. Transferable skills, there is no such thing in an employment bear market.

Sales, Marketing, Banking – the measure is the rule and are we right?

I have just come across a piece of information that I have known to be right but due to MBA’s and Executive pressure surrounding me I have never managed to push through the misguided principles. Groupthink is a known problem in business, the passion to have consensus is so great that finding a fast path using short sentences is key, regardless of whether all alternatives have been explored or whether the strategy even exists.

The piece I read that cause me to write is:

“The most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable (Lloyd S. Nelson, director of statistical methods for the Nashua corporation), but successful management must nevertheless take account of them.” [24] Deming realized that many important things that must be managed couldn’t be measured. Both points are important. One, not everything of importance to management can be measured. And two, you must still manage those important things. Spend $20,000 training 10 people in a special skill. What’s the benefit? “You’ll never know,” answered Deming. “You’ll never be able to measure it. Why did you do it? Because you believed it would pay off. Theory.” Deming is often incorrectly quoted as saying, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” In fact, he stated that one of the seven deadly diseases of management is running a company on visible figures alone.

Now I hope you, the reader have read that more than once as it takes a bit of sinking in to realise that this is an incredibly wise observation. The likes of Peter Drucker and Steven Covey took on the misquote, that is taught in management schools and now even vendor relations managers have a quota and a commission target.

When I was at AMD they insisted that the technical staff flew coach from Europe to Hawaii for the annual conference. The caused the personnel to fly out a few days earlier and use the additional time to try to handle the 12 or more hour time difference. Now, there are two ways to look at this, one that the visible costs were lower so the conference costs contained or two the additional team building that happened from the two days of fun were priceless for the business on the return to the day job. I very much doubt the accountants had a thought to the latter, and in this instance the actual value to the business of the lost weekend for the staff attending was immeasurably huge.

However, those were the days when Jerry ran AMD and his mantra was “People first and profits will follow” and the commitment the company he saw from all the employees was exceptional. Taking on Intel was not easy in later years (AMD had over 80k products and did not really join the PC era with full energy until the 80286 despite having 8088 and 8086 products) and that passion to drive as a global team was huge. It was truly work hard, play hard and all to the same ends.

There was a hiccup when Tony Holbrook took the reins for a while, but Jerry returned, pink suit and all and recaptured the passion to push on to the next hill. If an ex-AMDers from those days read this I am sure they will comment.

Then Jerry put Hector Ruiz into bat. At the handover, at some expensive location in the USA, Hector said that he would drive the company using “shareholder value”. At the time I heard this I was instantly deflated. The sales teams went back from that conference with little or no energy, no passion to make it happen, not va, va voom. As time went on it was about quarterly figures, making the analysts happy (something Jerry rarely did) and soon the checks and balances were in place and the SAP system funded at huge expense and the HR processes in place and the weekly reporting and the measure became the rule. No long term vision, the people were treated as automatons and simply given quartely targets and goals and measured on them alone. As Deming states, one of the seven deadly diseases of management is running a company on visible figures alone.

In my role as a consultant I have met many companies, just yesterday I met another who was panicing about the end of this month, its the end of a quarter and the push to close, to pull in, to stuff the channel, to drop the price, to promise the world is on. The customers have been trained to leave it until the end of the quarter, the sales people are measured by the end of the quarter and the measure makes the rule.

I suggest that the banking business went awry for this very reason. The personnel were being rewarded on achieveing their measures, measures that had no consideration for the immeasurable, and it was the immeasurable that defaulted and impacted a very measured result.

I would like to propose that, as per my earlier posts on an unrelated subject, that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana, circa. 1906 p.28 Reason in Common Sense.

It would seem we really should look back to the past, take less notice of the management books of the present and re-establish that businesses are about people doing business with people and not doing business to meet a measure set by a capitalist financial system mainly run by bankers … did I say bankers, … oh, yes I meant bankers.

Go Google, go …

Some three years ago I tried QuickOffice and after a short while the frustration of the poor integration between the applications and my email client had me move back to Office 2003.

In recent years I moved to Office 2010 and its ability to handle multiple exchange accounts and pop accounts, superb but the calendar still needed some attention as despite the ability to accomodate multiple Exchange accounts the calendars remained apart. However, with my Windows Mobile phone and its full understanding of Powerpoint, Excel, Word, SharePoint, multiple Exchange accounts including multiple calendars I am now impressed and certain that the Microsoft future is strong. So much so that in earlier posts I shouted to Google to wake up … well it seems they either were ahead of me or read the post.

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/google-buys-quickoffice-mobile-reinforcement-ahead-of-windows-8/79211

However, I am still not sure they get the full picture. Its not about just mobile, its not about just on the web, its not about just on the PC its about the whole picture. The inclusion of an email client, a calendar that can handle multiple sources, the spreadsheet is able to input into the presentation application or the document application and the whole lot can either be hosted offsite via the cloud or resident in house.

RIM had it right, they added an Outlook client that enabled the Exchange user to stay in contact with their email and calendar while on the road. Accepting an email invitation to a meeting as a calendar entry was easy and it appeared in the calendar regardless of where it was accepted. The POP or IMAP calendara are single destination and then you have to add something like CompanionLink to capture Outlook to Android, etc. Of course, if you used Google Calendar and Docs and an Android phone all was well, until you arrived at your PC. … OK, many have a laptop and only use that laptop, in which case its easy. However, if your a multi-device person then the nightmare of keeping it all together became the world of geekdom.

Of course, RIM should not have stopped. Once Microsoft sorted out the Exchange interface then the RIM value struggled, Outlook Web Access (owa) enabled a whole bunch of other mobile devices to get to the Exchange email system, even Apple.

Now, its cool that Google have the culture that is not founded on NIH, they have bought a company that has a near professional tool set as they realised their set was not quite finished and they were not sure how to get it there. However, they also need to have PC based tools and they need to have the inclusion of the email client in with the mix of tools.

A simple case, build a spreadsheet of the companies financial numbers for this quarter in comparision with the past four quarters, make it into a graph after pivoting into regional data and then past that as a picture into your email client for your manager to take a look. On agreement then take the graph and paste it as a picture into a presentation. In Office 2010 you only need to think about the data you are moving around, with all the other tools a battle engages that may even need Help or dare I say, the manual.

 

Everitt’s law

If you read earlier posts on here, in particular those entitled “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” or the one about Apple & RIM repeating Apple history, Google repeating Linux history and Microsoft on track to follow their history, then you know I have a view, that I am going to call “Everitt’s law”

Everitt’s law states :
The largest computing (PC, Tablet or Phone) market share will be taken by the platform that provides the broadest choice of hardware vendors that are compatible for the business users killer Application.

Once upon a time it was Outlook on RIM (before it was a phone, sustained by becoming a phone), then it became entertainment (mainly music) on iOS, then maps and search on Android … None of these are killer Applications, but are certainly valued applications.

The business killer Application is the integration of spreadsheets, documents and presentations. There are only really three remaining options in this arena now, Microsoft Office, OpenOffice/StarOffice and Google Docs.

As is often the case, when the geeks get to develop products they never finish. In the case of Open/StarOffice its limping now that Oracle/Sun are no longer containing its development. Google Docs looks like a University research project. Try capturing Excel data and building a graph and then importing it into the presentation tool, its OK if your a geek. Finding your contacts or calendar from the email tool is even a challenge. The only tool that has that ease of use feel is the Microsoft Office suite, pity really.

I therefore suggest that Microsoft Office on mobile with Office 365 cloud support for SharePoint and Lync built on Skype is a killer combination for the business user. The business user will only carry one mobile phone and one tablet, I suspect it will be tightly coupled to Office.

A number of large businesses are asking “why do I own my own postoffice”? They realise that they have a huge overhead running a messaging and collaboration solution that, like the postoffice, could be outsourced. The bandwidth in the interconnection is such that utility computing is not far away, and with that putting corporate quality tools into a hosted environment is a natural step. Office 365 is public cloud, try it, you will be amazed.

In concusion, who really cares about the OS? The users did not really care whether it was DSO, Windoww 3, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7,what they cared about was whether it would run their Application regardless of hardware vendor. In fact Microsoft did get it wrong a number of times with platforms 95, ME and Vista the users simply waited for the next one and then moved. Why?, well they simply needed a dependable platform to run that killer Application.

Microsoft have 18 months if we are on the same timeline as the Apple to IBM timeline of the past. If they can get Office on Windows mobile tightly coupled with cloud and tablets then Office will continue to be the killer App. Its certainly not entertainment, messaging or maps and search.

To recap, to win in the computing arena all of the following need to be present:

  1. A stable OS running on multiple hardware vendor platforms (ie. Samsung, HTC, Nokia)
  2. An application that is uniquely coupled with #1 and is business critical

History was Lotus 123 on IBM PCDOS that was compatible with MSDOS and the clones. I propose this time its Office & Office 365 on Windows Phone. Of course, Google, if they wake up, could invest heavily in Google Docs to get it to corporate grade and as they have #1 could lock in with #2 and in the process win significant support as an alternative to Office … but they need marketing to offset their geeks … pity, but I do not see it happening in time.

Its about the App, not the OS and not the hardware.