Category Archives: Strategy

ROC – Return on Curiousity?

This is a story about the future impact that Waterloo can have on the country and maybe even the world.   But it’s NOT about Blackberry.  Crazy, you say?

Today, on a beautiful Friday afternoon in late September – what could be one of the last great summer-like days of the year we did somethign crazy.   We said “to heck with that” and headed indoors to a crowded lecture theatre in the Engineering building at the University of Waterloo.  It was worth every minute. Continue reading

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Filed under Change, Commentary, Organizational Change, People, Startup, Strategy, Waterloo

Did Zuckerberg do it on purpose?

A post has been making the rounds on the internet titled, “It’s Becoming Clear That No One Actually Read Facebook’s IPO Prospectus Or Mark Zuckerberg’s Letter To Shareholders.

I had to admit that I was on the people who hadn’t read it.  Of course, why would I?  I wasn’t going to be buying any Facebook shares.

I didn’t need the  prospectus to know that the hype was not justified.  No matter how I looked at it, I couldn’t find a rationale that supported the price.

Where do I start?

If you understand what is going on in the world of on-line advertising — if you did the slightest bit of homework — it would be obvious that it would have taken a small miracle for Facebook to deliver earnings that would justify the sale price.   The only people who were going to make money on this deal were the original shareholders and  those same people who gave you the mortgage backed securities debacle that nearly torpedoed the US economy.

Or even without understanding the industry, if you looked at the fundamentals alone — earnings versus share price — there was no possible support for the share price.

The only explanation I could find for the price?  P. T. Barnum once said,  “There’s one born every minute.”  I wasn’t going to be part of it.  So I paid no attention.

And frankly, I wrote off Zuckerberg.

That, as it turns out, was a mistake. Continue reading

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Filed under Commentary, People, Strategy

Corporate Sanity Officer? Imagine That!

It was 8:30 on a Monday morning when I got in to work.  I was just back from my vacation.  My office was a shambles.  It had been torn apart. There was dust everywhere.  My whiteboard had been taken down and was leaning against a chair, the edge of which had rubbed out part of a work of inspired genius from a Friday “chalk talk” with our lead architect just before I left.   It was the perfect image of destruction.  Thank god I had taken my laptop with me.  My docking station was encased in a plastic cover, but that cover was full of dust.

In the middle of what once was my office was a stranger in a yellow hard hat staring at at the skeleton that was my wall,  with the aluminum studs exposed.   Another was on his knees, monkeying with the bottom of a stud that he appeared to be wiggling back and forth.

What the hell was going on here? Continue reading

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Filed under Change, Organization, Strategy

The Mile High Club

I got your recent email.  The chirpy tone and bringing me up to date with what was happening made me feel strange.  Didn’t you know that we’ve broken up?   Didn’t you get the message?

When I stopped coming around, didn’t you ask why?

Now, how do I say it?  Let me try this.

Get lost.  Scram. Get out of my life.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

It’s sad that things have come to this.  We used to be so close.    I was your number one guy.   You remember the pet name you called me?  Elite.  I simply called you Air Canada but I did it with such affection.  Continue reading

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Dream Team – Or Your Worst Nightmare? In praise of the “B” Team

Everyone wants that perfect team. We are taught from the time we start in business that the secret to project and corporate success is getting the “very best” people in the right positions.  The “dream team”.  Get that right and you are 90% of the way to giving the competition a real butt-kicking.

That’s what we imagine. Excitement builds. We’ll get the best people, from the best schools, people who are “up and comers”! Get me the “A” performers! No “dead wood” on this team!

What a load of crap. Continue reading

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Filed under Change, Organization, People, Strategy

I’ve been value propositioned!

Value proposition. How I hate that term. The reaction unfortunately is visceral. It brings back memories of a time when I was heading a global practice area and made frequent trips to our New Jersey office.

I don’t know what they put in the kool-aid in that office, but everyone was the same. I always got the feeling that they were on the edge of their chair, pushing forward, always pressing their idea as if the intensity of their effort would mow down any objections that dared rear their head.

I’d come out of a different culture, one which valued dissent. We taught, even encouraged diversity of opinion believing, as my friend Craig Hubley articulated so well, “every unanimous opinion is wrong”.

But that world ended and I found myself part of a new company with a different culture. Objections were not highly prized in this culture. You weren’t “on the team”. I learned that the hard way. Continue reading

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Filed under Organization, Social Networking, Strategy

Think small…change the world

Don’t kid yourself. Thinking that you can find new solutions is not only a matter of science. It’s a matter of faith. It’s not faith founded on belief without substance or experience.

But sometimes our experiences play tricks on us. We don’t see the real problems and the real solutions. We’ve been conditioned not to see that solutions do exist. We’ve been trained to play the game a certain way. We can only see the solutions that are “acceptable” or fit the “accepted wisdom”.

Someone once said that “for every difficult question there is a simple, direct answer. Unfortunately, it’s wrong.”

I’ve found that to be so very true. As I work with process transformation using LEAN techniques, I’ve been struck by how many times the real, lasting solutions to tough problems are counter intuitive. They go against traditional wisdom.

I’ve learned that you have to balance these contradictions. I’ve learned to do things that seemed outrageous at first but really work. You have to slow down to speed up. I’ve learned that bigger isn’t better – that you can produce more efficiently in smaller units which are produced at the rate they are consumed. I’ve learned that you have to give up control to get a disciplined regulation of an organization. Sound like nonsense to you? That’s okay. I didn’t accept half of this stuff at first.

It took me a long time to realize that biggest impediment to problem solving is the way we stick to the things we “know” and rule out new and novel solutions. We do this even when our existing solutions are what is causing the problems.

What makes it more more insidious is that we don’t even realize what we are doing this until, for the lucky few, someone comes along and shows us that the emperor has no clothes.

The problems we face are large and important. If we merely show that our current wisdom is leading us off an abyss, we have not solved the problem. We’ve created another — hopelessness. When people fell hopeless and helpless, they simply go into denial. What we need is the faith and belief that there is a solution, if only we can see it.

How do you get people to try new solutions which their whole education and all general wisdom tell them are “pie in the sky” or “dreams” or will just plain never work? I said earlier that I’ve seen the results and now I have faith. But in our scientific and logical world, faith and belief is not enough. It’s rare that any of us have the position to bring a group or an organization along solely on the basis of faith. Real leaders can sometimes do this. It takes tremendous courage.

For the rest, we need to have some proof that if we let go of our current blinders, we can find solutions to even apparently insoluble problems. Only then do we stand a chance of helping others to rid themselves of the the baggage that is obscuring the solution from their view.

The proof is out there if you want to see it. I encountered that today. I’d like to share it with you. Continue reading

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Filed under Change, Lean, Social Media, Social Networking, Strategy