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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Some thoughts on disaster planning

You will come across this as your company grows, the request for disaster recovery plans from your insurers...here are some guidelines...

10 tips for successful disaster planning:

1. Bring together a 'team' which can have a positive or negative force on the implementation of any plans being created - this might mean ignoring corporate structures and mixing peers from operations, marketing and finance.
2. Facilitate a discussion on past successes and failures and identify the lessons they have learned in the process. The team can learn from others successes and failures as well as their own. The ability to carry out this analysis in a neutral environment with an external facilitator will prevent it from falling into a finger pointing and blame-culture exercise and turn it into a positive learning experience.
3. Expose any misgivings the team may have relating to their joint success. Not talking about such things does not make them go away - e.g. Silent thoughts that the task is stupid, has been tried before and failed etc.
4. Ensure the team are aligned on corporate values and expected codes of conduct. Do they also have a mutual understanding on what the actual words mean? e.g. 'Professional' 'Reliable' 'Fit for Purpose' etc.
5. Set clear goals for the group - inertia often comes as a result of confusion and inertia can cause the greatest disasters in a company. If everyone is clear about the expectations from the rest of the group, they will be able to make their own strategic decisions when faced with an unexpected 'disaster' by keeping the goal in clear focus and just changing the route and steps to achieve it
6. Ensure the team can identify a shared priority - alignment on the key success factor for the project/team
7. Make a plan to achieve all goals
8. Have a clear framework for evaluation - re-evaluation and modification of the plan on an ongoing basis will ensure that at the end of the process the result is still relevant to the desires of the company and the individuals.
9. Provide ongoing support relevant to each team member - continual coaching to strengthen each team player physically, mentally and emotionally will make them more adept to handle disasters on the job.
10. Bring the team together for regular reviews, brainstorming and mutual re-evaluation of the common goals and objectives. In the constantly changing world we live in, we need to be fast to react. If you think about the more traditional businesses, their reaction is a little like a major oil tanker which takes several hours for the instruction to change direction to be manifested in the actual movement of the boat. Businesses need to be more like a power boat!



Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Follow on from previous post on Staff compensation

An Interesting post from the two guys at Pure VC ,it explains better than my thoughts were on culture etc...

How many founders do you need for a startup?
Brad has posted today about the topic of founders and how many are needed for a startup. Interestingly, there is a table showing some famous startups and the number of founders. Apparently, two founders seems about average. I personally don't believe there is a magic number. There must be enough of a core nucleus to sustain the vision if someone decides to bail. There must be few enough so that the founding group does not get bogged down by size. The reason I think the topic is interesting is not because there is a "good" number of founders, but more because it touches on the topic of founder ownership.
In working with entrepreneurs, I think there is an obsessive concern with dilution among founders of a startup. Too often I find that when people form a startup they are very weary of sharing the idea with others or bringing others on board. All they want is the funding - they fear that taking on additional founders or employees during the formative stages will dilute their equity.
My response is always that if you are worried about equity, then being greedy is going to be what prevents your equity from being worth anything. Do you want to own 100% of something worthless? or 25% of something extremely valuable?
Sometimes it is better to bring in more people to have more energy, enthusiasm, and ideas. If you are obsessed with equity and people jumping ship prematurely, then feel free to make clauses that allow buyback of founder's stock if they leave within a certain period of time. Feel free to have noncompete clauses. Do whatever you need to do to allay those fears that other people will dilute your ownership. Think of the founding group as being the core nucleus of the operation. You want a strong group with a similar vision. You want individuals that complement each other. You don't want people overextending themselves and doing too much. You don't want people who will clash. You want everyone bringing something to the table.
Let me once again say that the most valuable thing in a startup should be its equity - do whatever you can to increase this value, even if it means giving some away to bring in talent. By seeing this big picture your entrepreneurial experience will be more rewarding and you will be able to share this success with those early founders - these relationships will be something that you will cherish and that you will likely continue to enjoy as you start your next endeavor.

What do you compensate your employees with ?

So what do you pay your employees and why should they work for you ?

I had a think about this last night, what would attract me to a company, or what am I looking for in my next job with regards to package....it is a question that needs to be asked in a start up, how do you attract and retain the best ? Pay market rate or better, Stock options, Pension, Private health care ...these are all good...even get a discounted gym membership for the company...but the key think for attraction and retention is word of mouth ? what is your companies reputation out in the market, is it a sought after place for people to work....I looked at a job local to me, good role, working in a related field, but I knew one of the founders and he is a real piece of work..he had been instrumental in killing his first company he started....(also they have had real difficulty in raising funding wonder why ?) So in answer to my question there is no simple answer, but to start with I suggest build your founding team with respected folk, both in academia and in personal relations, if the guy was a nightmare in the Lab, then he will be a nightmare with your employees.....really think about who you are going to be commiting a big part of your life to when you start a company....it will have a big impact on your future wealth and health....

From the list above of what do you pay..there are some hidden benefits to your company, easy to use PHC, this means you will have staff back to work faster if they are seriously ill and require to be hospitalized. If you have guys on the road a lot think about one the personal valet companies, takes the hassle out of travelling with luggage....and the gym membership will give you a return as well...healthy and motiviated staff if they use it...so look at the benefits and be smart about what you offer think out side the box....


And to something completely different have a read at this post I found on naming your company / product

Check out this blog article called “10 Company Name Types on TechCrunch: Pros and Cons.” The author of the blog, Chris Johnson, provides an analysis of these types of names:
Real words
Tweaked words
Affixed words
Made up or obscure origin
People’s names (real or fictitious)
Initials and Acronyms

This article provides a very good conceptual framework for the process of naming a company or product.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Some food for thought for the start of the week

Well I hope you all had a good weekend, mines was spent deep in the bowls of Yorkshire, left Sat morning for a 4hr drive through speed trap ally for a Sat night Silver wedding, then back up on the Sunday....it was a family doo!! it is amazing to catch up and find out more about your family at these events, I have contacts on the darkside that I never knew about so if I need something or someone "fixed", I will get the family discount, I also have a direct relation working with the Revenue and Customs. So the point I am trying to make is that you have a network even through you family, now if you have an Italian ancestery they you will know all about family, lol. I found these two posts when I was chilling on Sunday, working on the usual plan b search, and thought that they would make an interesting read.

Both found on the "ask the vc blog" run byBrad Feld and Jason Mendelson, they are the co-authors of AsktheVC. Brad and Jason have been working together since 2000 when Jason joined Mobius Venture Capital, a venture capital firm that Brad co-founded. They started writing together on Brad's Feld Thoughts blog in 2005 with their Term Sheet series. After several other series about issues facing venture capital backed companies, Jason and Brad decided to start AsktheVC. Brad and Jason, along with three other partners have recently founded a new venture firm, the Foundry Group located in Boulder, Colorado.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Scott Maxwell of OpenView Venture Partners has an awesome post up titled 10 best ways to lie with metrics. I’m glad to see Scott blogging again – his MIT background shines through with his critical thinking on any topic he goes after.

Everything You Need To Know About Venture Capital

Saul Klein (VP at Skype) has the Great VC Post of the day up. It’s a presentation by Ben Holmes from Index Ventures on Everything You Need To Know About Venture Capital.



Friday, February 23, 2007

A Laundry List for the Entrepreneur

A key facts summary from a White paper on Entrepreneurs, written by Ivan Kaye, a VC "Rain maker" based in Australia www.bsi.com.au

Entrepreneurs come in a million configurations, but some of these configurations have been proven to be more successful than others.
· When planning the launch, take advantage of all the entrepreneurial services—BSI – Business Planning , Growth Strategies, Governmentt Incentives, Investors
· Think of every customer as a partner and business as a mutually beneficial relationship
· Avoid being backed—or backing other people—into corners.
· Innovation is the lifeblood of entrepreneurs, but ensure the backroom and systems are strong.
· Anticipate Your Obstacles
· When starting a business, the only certainty uncertainty. Use all the resources at your disposal to prepare for it.
· Your passion won’t be felt by all - handle it
· Secure enough capital to get you through the unprofitable growth period. Entrepreneurs who are too optimistic at the outset can run out of money early on—and watch their enterprises crumble.
· Know your market
· Getting the company off the ground is only the first of many tests to come. The successful entrepreneur is always looking forward and planning ahead for what’s next. Plan each month something new to tell your investors
· keep overhead low during the growth period. Minimal overhead is sure to impress investors down the road.
· Cash flow cash flow cash flow
· Hire people based on your actual needs, not your projected needs. A small, agile company can best respond to the ever-changing marketplace.
· You must earn your customer’s trust, and crisis situations, though harrowing at the time, are the ultimate test of your mettle. If you can perform when the chips are down, your customer will have complete confidence in you when everything is running smoothly. Always be sure your system can handle a breakdown.
This is the link to the whole white paper....a good Sunday read after dinner....

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Need to Know

Interesting article in the Esquire, not my usual readign material but never the less a thought provoking article...when do you pull up the skirts and show the dirty laundry or when do you hold fire...Knowledge is power...and as I have said before Power can be good or bad depending on how it is used...

Enjoy the read



Some thoughts from a guru Pam Slim on reducing stress

I have to admit the die hard road warriors fresh on the road may not need to read this, but those of us who have spent a few years working in the start up environment may see some similarities vis- a-vie our life's today and what Pam talks about...

Overwhelmed with too much to do or life in general?
5 tips to make things easier

I have often said that the journey to entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. There are times, whether they be at mile 10 or 22 of your 26.2 mile journey (which begins again as soon as you finish it), that you feel overwhelmed, tired, discouraged, uninspired or simply lifeless. Instead of employing the self-flagellating techniques that many of us grew up with such as "work through the pain," "feel the burn" or "get it done by any means necessary," I opt for the mantra that my dear coaching buddy Andrea Lee reminded me of the other day: How can you make it easier?

I remember being startled by the question, as I was in the midst of a "this is hard, I have so much work to do, there is so much I don't know, besides which, I am an incredibly nauseated hormonal pregnant woman and this sucks" kind of a moment. In our modern society, we can try to outdo each other with the list of overwhelming and herculean tasks we have to complete, such as:
"You only get 500 emails a day? I get at least 1200, and more on the weekends."
"You only work 40 hours a week? I work 100+ hours a week on my business."
"I completed a website redesign, launched a new product, tended to my sick mother, served as Chair of our local charity event and baked cupcakes for my son's class birthday party. And that was just today!"
In reality, one of the best reasons to choose to become an entrepreneur is to throw away those outdated notions that more hours at work = more success and redefine your relationship to work.
So how can you use the mantra of "make it easier" to get unburied or unstuck?
Spend a day doing the opposite of what you should be doing.There comes a time when no matter how much you try to force yourself to get things done, your fatigue or resistance will be so great that it is a losing battle. So why stress yourself out? Take a day and do whatever is the irresponsible, fun, adventuresome antidote to the task at hand. Catch a triple feature movie. Go golfing all day. Luxuriate in the spa. Eat junk food. Yesterday was a perfect example for me. I had a podcast to write and record, articles to finish, a class to design and hundreds of emails to catch up on. But I was so nauseated and tired that all I could do was lay in bed all day and watch a 24-hour marathon of Law & Order. Since that is one of my favorite shows, I considered it a divine seal of approval that they chose to run the 24-hour marathon on the very day I was a slug in bed. Although I missed my podcast deadline for the first time ever, I know that it was the right thing to do.

Reduce, reuse, recycle.As a pathologically committed recycler, I love the "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra that was popular when I was running my college's recycling program. It basically states reduce the amount of waste you generate, reuse containers as much as possible, and that which you can't reuse, recycle. Looking at your workload, what can you reduce that will decrease your stress? The "I get 1200 emails a day" is always a favorite for me especially in a corporate environment. My answer is always "Why?" What lists could you get off of? How can you un-cc and bcc yourself from messages that your colleagues or assistants can handle themselves? What can you reuse that will make your job easier? A client once asked me cautiously "Do you think I can re-purpose some of my blog posts into an info product or article? Isn't that cheating?," to which I responded a resounding NO. Reusing carefully crafted material in new, useful ways for new audiences is one of the best things you can do for your business. I saw that Guy Kawasaki is re-purposing popular blog posts for a new column in Entrepreneur magazine. More power to him! Maybe you have a great software product that could be tweaked a bit to fit the needs of a new market.Finally, don't be afraid to recycle. Customers may welcome back an old promotion that worked well. Your new blog readers will appreciate it if you dust off an old favorite post and republish it. "Melt down" some of your old product and create something new and interesting from it without incurring the time and expense of starting from scratch.

Relentlessly delegate and outsource.I realize that you can handle the many tasks of running your business, but should you? What can you offer to a partner, delegate to an assistant or hand off to an outsource company? There are probably hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who have garages filled with product which they spend hours carefully packing and shipping themselves. Why not hire a company to do that for you? The amount of time you spend in this labor-intensive, no added value task could be spent on valuable marketing, product development and sales activities. Don't be so concerned about losing pennies on your dollar that you miss the boat entirely on the appropriate balance of your labor.
Reclaim your place in the natural world.Us modern-day humans are the only species I know of that can choose to ignore the ebb and flow of the natural world. Through climate control, cell phones, Blackberries and remote Internet access, we try to program ourselves to work at full-out speeds every week of the year. This is not how the natural systems work! There is always a planting and a resting season. Animals hibernate after working hard to gather nuts. I am convinced that the reason we have so many aliments and muscle pains and headaches is because we do not respect our need to slow down and replenish energy at certain times of the year. As much as we would like to distance ourselves from nature, our bodies have different cycles of productivity. Instead of fighting them, why not plan your business around them?

Re-gain your sense of joy and humor. For goodness sakes, you don't have to be so serious all the time! We can choose to make work laborious and grueling and thankless by our attitudes alone. If you find yourself grumbling "I have so much to do," "no one understands how much work this is," "I am never going to get this done," guess what, you are probably right! Instead, re-focus on why you are choosing this endeavor in the first place. If you work with people, how will their lives change as a result of them working with you? What problem will your product fix, and how might the world be better as a result? How can you enjoy your relationships more? When you have a big catastrophe, how can you find the hilarity in it and roll on the ground laughing at your stupidity or hubris or stunning lack of foresight?
By employing these techniques, you may find that that which you thought was impossible and overwhelming is actually quite tame and feasible. Trust me, your journey doesn't have to be hard and painful to be successful!


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ten Questions With Michael Raynor

Interesting interview with Michael Raynor by Guy Kawasaki, love the quote from Dr. Pasteure "Fortune favors the prepared mind". Guy is an ex apple guru and now is a partner in garage ventures if you get the chance have a look at his blog, good guy with a keen insight to investing and the VC.

Ten Questions With Michael Raynor By Guy Kawasaki
Michael Raynor has a doctorate of business administration from Harvard and works for a big-name consulting firm so I had to overcome several deep-seated prejudices to read his new book The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (and What To Do About It).
He’s from Canada, and I believe that I am a Canadian stuck in a Hawaiian body (vis-a-vis hockey), so I bent my rules about helping authors with such a pedigree (pedegree?). Luckily I did because his book is quite informative. I don’t know about you, but there are many companies that succeed, and I can’t figure out why. And there are also many companies that fail (some of which I invested in), and I can’t figure out why.
This book goes a long way in explaining how strategy makes or breaks a company. To put it another way, I won’t think I’m so smart if a company that I invest in succeeds, and I won’t think I’m so dumb if it tanks.

Question: Why did Windows kick Macintosh’s butt and VHS kick Beta’s butt?
Answer: Apple continued along the path that it had blazed with the Apple II and the Macintosh: very cool, very high-performing products built around a proprietary architecture of hardware-software integration. This was a perfectly reasonable bet to continue, but it happened to be the wrong one in the personal computer market of the late 1980’s. Like a broken clock, a strategy that never changes gets it right sometimes, though statistically it is wrong more often than not. The iPod is Apple’s latest hit, and it’s more of the same: a cool device built around a proprietary architecture. Apple’s clock hasn’t changed; it still reads twelve o’clock. It’s just that it happens to be noon again.
By contrast, Microsoft built a series of strategic options that positioned the company for success under a variety of different outcomes. Microsoft had what turned out to be a better strategy only because it didn’t commit itself to a single strategy. For example, when IBM began aggressively creating a competitor to MS-DOS and Windows, OS/2, Microsoft collaborated with IBM. The Windows development effort is evidence of Microsoft’s belief in GUI OS’s, but Microsoft was also getting a foothold in applications development for GUI-based systems by writing Excel and Word for...Apple! Corporate customers seemed to think that UNIX had a promising future, and so Microsoft was investing in UNIX too even as it released new versions of the by-then venerable menu-driven MS-DOS.
Sony, like Apple, similarly suffered the fate of a resonable, but wrong, committment. It positioned the Betamax as a high-fidelity video recording device for time-shifting broadcast TV programs. In contrast, Matsushita’s VHS was a lower-performing, lower-cost device. Much to everyone’s surprise, using VCRs to view rented movies turned out to be the “killer app,” and recording fidelity became a secondary consideration.
Sony couldn’t adapt by cutting costs and hence price because Matsushita was, by the mid-1980’s, millions of units ahead of Sony on the VCR experience curve: any move by Sony would have been easily countered. In other words, much as Apple had done in the PC market, Sony made a perfectly reasonable bet that turned out to be the wrong one. Matushita didn’t end up on the right end of this battle because it had a more strategically flexible stance than Sony as in the Microsoft/Apple case. Rather, Matsushita made a different bet that simply turned out to be the right one.

Question: So Apple and Sony didn’t do anything “wrong” per se?
Answer: You could say that Apple’s and Sony’s strategies were great strategies that simply happened to fail. They failed not because of any shortcomings in the strategies, but because of shortcomings in each firm’s ability to predict what sort of strategy would succeed. Trying harder to craft the perfect strategic moves won’t work; companies need to more effectively manage the uncertainty that necessarily colours every strategic decision.

Question: What is the explanation for Toyota’s success?
Answer: A big part of it was being well-positioned for the oil crisis of the mid-1970s. Toyota was influenced by its origins in the Japanese market, where size and fuel economy mattered, and in the U.S., it was focusing on the second car market, where the need for low prices similarly rewarded smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. When the oil crisis hit, Toyota happened to have products that were much better suited to the suddenly-changed environment.
As Louis Pasteur said, “Fortune favours the prepared mind,” so this bit of luck would have been useless to Toyota if it made inferior cars. But of course customers quickly noted Toyota’s vehicle quality. This reflected its tradition of manufacturing excellence, of defect and cost reduction and quality improvement, a system that is known today as the Toyota Production System, or TPS.
By the way, Toyota has been selling cars in the US since the mid-1950s. They’re #2 and threatening to become #1, but it took fifty years. GM overtook Ford as the #1 automaker in the early 1930s, less than twenty years after Alfred Sloan created GM. Toyota’s accomplishment is remarkable, but it took a long time.

Question: You sure make it sound confusing: damned if you do, damned if you don’t—what’s a company to do?
Answer: This is what I call the strategy paradox. That is, the same strategies that have the highest probability of extreme success also have the highest probability of extreme failure. In other words, everything we know about the linkage between strategy and success is true, but dangerously incomplete. Vision, commitment, focus...these are all in fact the defining elements of successful strategies, but they are also systematically connected with some of the greatest strategic disasters.
For example, Apple’s strategy sometimes works great, and sometimes fails miserably. It’s not that Apple sometimes “forgets” what makes for greatness. It’s that what makes for greatness also exposes you to catastrophe. The same goes for Sony.
To produce success, vision, commitment, and focus must be linked to an accurate view of what lies ahead, and nobody can adequately predict the future. If you can guess right on a regular basis, my hat’s off to you...and can I buy your stock? But no one—no one—has any legitimate claim to an ability to make predictions relevant to true strategic planning.

Question: Why can’t companies predict the future better?
Answer: Companies might be able to predict the future better than they can now, but for me the question is whether they will ever be able to predict the relevant future accurately enough for the purposes of strategic planning, and so avoid, or at least mitigate, the strategy paradox. I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon for some deep, structural reasons.
For example, randomness. Prediction requires the identification of a pattern that repeats, because a pattern is what allows you to use what has happened to infer what will happen next. Randomness is the enemy of pattern-based prediction because randomness means that there is no pattern, no way to use the past to predict the future.
In A New Kind of Science, Stephen Wolfram identifies three sources of randomness, the first two of which are relevant here. First, any system must have boundaries that define it, since any system without boundaries would be the universe itself. Second, no system is entirely closed. Therefore, every system is subject to exogenous, and necessarily unpredictable, shocks that introduce randomness into the system. And if you keep on expanding the boundaries to encompass the various externalities, you will need a theory of everything to have a theory of anything.
Question: But what if there were a system that was self-contained and orderly?
Answer: Unless we can specify the initial conditions precisely enough we cannot exploit that orderliness for the purposes of prediction. The problem is that we never really know what counts as “initial.” Exogenous shocks make it impossible to know where to stop defining a system, and sensitivity to initial conditions makes it impossible to know where to start.

Question: What’s the proper role in strategy formation for each level in a hierarchy?
Answer: I’ve found that it helps to think about strategy in two halves: the commitments that all successful strategies entail, and the uncertainties attendant to those commitments. Commitments and uncertainties are only half the answer. The rest of the solution lies in calibrating the focus of each level of the hierarchy to the uncertainties it faces. It is common sense—if not common practice—that the more senior levels of a hierarchy should be focused on longer time horizons. What hasn’t been as widely recognized is that with longer time horizons come greater levels of uncertainty, and strategic uncertainty in particular. This fact has some profound implications for how eacg level in an organization should act.
Board members should ask: What is the appropriate level of strategic risk for a firm to take? What resources should be devoted to mitigating risk? What sacrifices in performance are acceptable in exchange for lower strategic risk? This allows the board to be involved in strategy without getting involved in strategy making, which is correctly the purview of the senior management team.
The CEO should ask: What strategic uncertainties does the company face? What strategic options are needed to cope with those uncertainties? In other words, it falls to the CEO, and the rest of the senior team, to find ways to create the strategic risk profile the board has mandated for the firm.
Divisional or business unit vice-presidents should ask: What commitments should we make in order to achieve our performance targets? For these folks, it’s no longer about mitigating strategic risks, but making strategic commitments. Someone has to take the actions that create wealth, after all.
Managers should ask: How can we best execute on the commitments that have been made in order to achieve our performance targets? To put it on a bumper sticker, they have to “show us the money.” There are no strategic choices to make at this level, because the time horizons are too short—six to twenty-four months. Strategies simply can’t change that fast.

Question: How does your answer change with respect to a start-up?
Answer: Start-ups tend to be enormously resource constrained. Typically they are not able to devote money and time to the problems of strategic uncertainty. As a result, start-ups tend to be “bet the farm” propositions: high risk, with the potential of high reward. Such firms don’t manage strategic risk, they accept it.

Question: Are you saying that by definition a startup is resource constrained, so it should/has to bet the farm on one approach?
The degree to which you manage risk will be a function of your ability to bear risk and recover from setbacks. On the continuum from the archetypal “two people in a garage” to Johnson & Johnson, I take the counter-intuitive view that start-ups are much better able to bear risk: if the venture fails, the people and other resources involved are typically far more easily redeployed than is the case with large corporations.

Question: So if a startup fails for other than poor execution and implementation, it’s “okay” because betting the farm is the way to go?
Answer: I wouldn’t go that far. There is always room for thinking carefully about the risk you face and how to mitigate it effectively. You’ve suggested, for instance, that start-ups can think about betting on sectors, or “customers,” then trying to adapt their products, or betting on products, then adapting things like marketing or distribution to find the right customers. Either approach involves a “core” bet and a series of options on contingencies. Which approach makes the most sense will be a function of the risk implied and the cost of mitigating it.

Question: So start-ups are wrong to simply accept strategic risk?
Answer: Although accepting strategic risk is not necessarily bad, it can be unwise to just accept it without doing your homework first. It’s possible to go to the opposite extreme and squander resources on multiple investments that are styled as strategic options only to find that they actually undermine your primary strategy without securing the desired options. The common problem is not adequately assessing your firm’s risk profile and shaping it appropriately.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Some thoughts on improving innovation for your company

The one thing that I admire the Chinese companys for is the there ability to long term plan, the goverment has 50 and 100 year road maps detailing where they want to be as a country, there corporations have the same vision as well, it may be hard for a start up of 3 or 4 people to think out 100 years, most fo us do not get beyond the 3 and 5 year business plans for funding,but if we are to survive and grow as companies you need to take time and think about what do you want your company to be doing over the next 10 years, how will your company add value in say 10 years to the market place you play in. This following post will give you some ideas on how to grow your road map and build a company culture that has innovation at it's centre.
Unleash the Innovator Within:
By Charlie Fleetham

One of the greatest challenges facing today's entrepreneurs is finding and growing the type of innovative thinking your companies need to survive. But with the right approach, you can uncover hidden leadership and strategic capabilities in both you and your employees. Skeptical? You shouldn't be. Here are five key ways to unleash the hidden potential in your business and achieve high levels of success:

1. Think two generations ahead. Envision your company 50 or even 100 years from now, even if you don't foresee your product or service lasting that long. Such forward-looking reflection creates an umbrella for long-term innovation to occur.
Action Task
Working back from your 50- or 100-year vision plan in 10-year increments, ask and answer the critical "who, what, where, when, why and how" questions about your business. For instance, who will your target demographic be; what will your core products and business focus be; where will your office(s) and facilities be located (nationally or globally); when will key business milestones be achieved, why will your business matter 10, 15 or 50 years from now and how are you going to achieve your business goals.
2. Confront and partner with the unconscious. Experts suggest that of all the experiences, knowledge and data stored in our minds, we are only "conscious" of and actively use just 10 percent of it. The other 90 percent resides in our "unconscious"--it's this part of our mind we can tap into for valuable insights.
Action Task
Daily, for the next 21 days, write one paragraph about some aspect of your leadership process that you want to improve. For example, let's say you find it difficult to take negative feedback from your customers. The more you write about the situation, the more you'll tap your unconscious for innovative ideas about solving the problem.
3. Aim to increase energy, not just efficiency. Do a quick energy audit of your employees to understand what energizes the staff and fuels their personal growth. If you understand what energizes them, you'll be able to implement actions that motivate your employees and increase productivity.
Action Tasks
Ask every employee to identify the three things that energize him or her the most about their jobs. Also ask them to identify the things they're not currently doing that would energize them. Then match your employees to the energizing activities that best fit their talents and skills and needs.
Also ask your staff to identify the three things that steal their energy, such as meetings or preparing reports. Help your management team reduce the activities that de-energize the workplace.
4. Establish the freedom to innovate. Creativity drives change. So tap into your employees' intuitive side by ritualizing "ingenuity time" on the job. Utilizing creative techniques can often help people see issues more clearly and open doors to potential solutions.
Action Tasks
Set aside enough money in your budget for your team to compete for an industry-related contest. It will keep your top people on their toes.
Encourage people to draw a diagram or depiction of their business problem or challenge in the form of a character or situation (such as a person headed into a storm or an animal confronting a group of hostile animals). Then ask that they sketch the conclusion they envision that would resolve the matter. Seeing their problem put to life often helps people envision the best solution.
Enable and encourage your employees to volunteer for community projects and social events to round out their work-life balance in meaningful ways.
5. Start all problem-solving by taking responsibility. Any problem you're directly involved with that you wish to solve requires reflection on your role and responsibility related to that problem. While you may not be the primary cause of the problem, reflecting on your role will help you better understand and acknowledge how you may have contributed to it.
Action Tasks
When you have a problem employee, start the fix by asking yourself: "What changes do I have to make in myself to help this person perform better?" You may not always identify something that needs changing, but the mere matter of asking and spending some time on reflecting will make you a better leader.
When you have to deliver bad news, like a layoff, be sure you tell the survivors what you're doing to retain and reward the employees remaining and keep the lines of
communications open so that people are aware of key company developments.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Some thoughts abouts life from a real old man "Cicero"

After a long day at Forth DD..a few thoughts that came to mind today that ran through my mind spoken by a good old guy...

The six mistakes of man:

1. The delusion that personal gain is made by crushing others.

2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or

3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish

4. Refusal to set aside trivial preferences.

5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not
acquiring the habit of reading or studying.

6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.

~ Cicero, Roman philosopher and statesman, (c. 106-43 B.C.)

Future Opportunites

I was thinking over the weekend w.r.t the post I made on "Did you know" for those who did not see that post it was about the explosive growth knowledge and the availability of knowledge and data over the next few years, and it does not take a rocket scientist to see that there will be a mirrored growth in Software and Hardware to support it. I would ask you to have a look at the presentation and think through what it implies, my initial thoughts were what will be the driver's for the projected growth portrayed , as our population grows and matures, it will feed more of that data in to the Internet, through blogs, online chat rooms, discussion sites, social networking sites, this will be one of the drivers, and as marketing groups use more of the social networking sites to perform viral marketing, point in case Plastic Logic, and Volkswagen on youtube.com, for a low cost of entry you can reach millions of viewers this will become more prolific as the months roll on and drive use of the Internet and knowledge.

The key thought I did have was how are we going to make order out of the chaos off data that will flood our screens, PDA's and Smart phones ? Data will stream out and the amount of time that can be taken up by first level streaming and filtering to get to the useful data will be huge this is an area that will see a lot off opportunity for smart data filtering software, which will need to be far more sophisticated than what we or even the government uses to date. The old saying knowledge is power is also a concern, for who can master the data mine and convert to knowledge will have a huge advantage over the those who don't...even today someone who understands the use of Boolean search on Google can extract data that was only imagined 10 years ago by the IT folks. I see a great opportunity for companies involved with data mining software in the near future, who can role out packages for the commercial sector.

I did not touch on data security as that will become another major area for growth, and who knows we all might have a quantum key coded , coder /decoder for our own personal use, just think data be tracked by the photon.....

Well if there are any companies involved in the data mining business needing a coach or mentor let me know, I would be glad to come join you...

Have a great week



Sunday, February 18, 2007

Some information about the Dragon's den TV show

Dragons' Den
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dragons' Den is a television programme which originated in Japan. The format, which now airs internationally, consists of entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to secure investment finance from business experts — the "Dragons".

Show format
The contestants are people who have what they consider to be a viable and potentially very profitable business idea, but who lack funding. They have around two hours in which to present their business ideas, although only a short section of this is shown on air (usually five minutes, followed by questions and negotiations) in which to pitch their idea to five rich entrepreneurial businesspeople, the "dragons" of the show's title. They have before the show named an amount of money that they wish to get, and the rules stipulate that if they do not raise this amount they cannot get any. The dragons then probe the idea further, often revealing an embarrassing lack of preparation on the part of the contestants or sometimes vain subterfuge of troubling facts, and consequently rejecting the investment. It is common in a show to see five or six ideas and only one that attracts the dragons' money. In return, the contestant offers the dragons a percentage of the company, which is the chief point of negotiation.

Dragons' Den currently screens in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Sweden, Israel and Canada. However, the version that screens in Sweden is the UK production, not a local production. New Zealand has screened the UK series, and the Australian series, and a local series aired towards the end of 2006.

Titled Money no Tora (Money Tiger), this original version was created by and aired on Nippon Television from 2001 to 2004. It was the first entertainment programme in the history of Japanese television that dealt with the concept of business investment. During its three year run, as many as 16 business executives appeared in the programme as Tigers.

In the UK, Dragons' Den is broadcast on BBC Two and is hosted by Evan Davis, the BBC's economics editor. The second series ended on 20 December 2005, with a "Where Are They Now" episode, giving details of the outcomes of some of the ventures from the first series, shown the following day. A third series commenced on BBC Two on 3 August 2006. Continuing the trend for the season finale, another "Where Are They Now" episode for the 3rd season also aired on 20 September 2006, with a further follow-up episode to follow in October.
A fourth series began on 7 February 2007. [2]
The theme tune of Dragons' Den has been credited to John Watt.
The Dragons are:
Duncan Bannatyne
Peter Jones
Theo Paphitis (replaced Simon Woodroffe from Series 1)
Deborah Meaden (replaced Rachel Elnaugh from Series 1 and 2) [1]
Richard Farleigh (replaced Doug Richard from Series 1 and 2) [2]

In September 2006, in an investigation by the Sunday Mirror newspaper, it was claimed that most of the deals were unfulfilled after the programmes were shot. The article claimed that the Dragons either pulled out of the deals over minor technicalities, deliberately offered heavily unfavourable terms to the entrepreneurs in an effort to make them withdraw, or simply broke off all contact with them after the recording. The UK Dragons defended their record, with Duncan Bannatyne saying: "We don't hand over money to people who don't tell the truth.", while Theo Paphitis added: "I kept up my end of the bargain. The show is not about a cash prize, it is about us pledging to invest. But people must tell the truth. Simple." A BBC spokesman said: "After the initial agreement is made on camera, both parties enter a period of due diligence. Sometimes during this period the deals fall through." [3] In fact, the BBC has never made a secret of this, with follow-up programmes openly admitting that many deals ultimately fell through.

Follow this link to the breakdown of the money the dragon's doled out this season on CBC's Dragon's Den. We also break down the statistics by each pitch made by the entrepreneurs
Funding Stats:


I wonder if a good pitch was put in front of them they would bite...or is it all a show really...I think it is all about entertainment....you don't see the Mike Gera's or Jock Holliman's of the world on these shows..but time will tell...would love to chat anyone involved in the show..



Friday, February 16, 2007

Did You Know ?

Please take the 6 minutes to look at this short presentation written by Karl Fisch, a high school teacher at Arapahoe High Schoolin Littleton, CO, and modified by Scott McLeod. It is a profound 6 minute recitation of somefacts of which we all need to be aware as we proceed with our dailyoccupations of business. It certainly has shifted my worldview, and I am nowpondering if it is possible to manage this knowledge process at all.


Have a great weekend



Interview with Peter Jones on the perfect Pitch

I picked this up yesterday, as I lay in bed with the flu...please send the sympathy my way...and off course have a read at Peter's comments on the perfect pitch.

Peter Jones, serial entrepreneur and star of BBC hit show Dragons’ Den, started his business journey at the tender age of 16 and has since gone on to assemble an ever-expanding portfolio of companies, including the £150m turnover Phones International Group.
He is currently searching for budding entrepreneurs to appear in an exciting new programme for ITV1, Tycoon - details below - but has taken time out from his hectic schedule to offer you, the Startups.co.uk readers, firsthand advice on pitching for finance.
Here’s how to impress a Dragon:
“There are five main pieces of advice I’d give to pitchers:
1) Dress appropriately. You wouldn’t ask your bank manager for a loan dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and you shouldn’t expect me to invest in you if you don’t know what is appropriate to wear in a given situation. Dress according to the job you are applying for, or the request you are making.

2) Be confident. You should have faith in yourself and your idea. Often I look to invest in an individual as much as in their concept – so show what you can do! You get few opportunities to pitch directly to investors, so make the most of them. Even if they choose not to invest in you, it is a great opportunity to get some feedback from experienced business people.

3) Be honest about your company and your forecasts. There is nothing more embarrassing than seeing a pitcher crumble when their figures are questioned and picked apart by savvy investors. Do not over-estimate your capability, it will not inspire investors with enthusiasm or confidence in you. Some investments that are made on Dragons’ Den fall through because pitchers over-exaggerate about their business potential, and are misleading about their contacts and their progress so far.

4) Be concise. Make sure that your business plan can be easily understood by those who you are pitching to and do not waffle. Remember, I want hard facts and figures as well as how you are going to make your concept into reality. What you say must inspire investors, without drifting into a fantasy realm.

5) My final, and perhaps my most crucial tip of all, is make sure that you research your idea thoroughly! It is amazing how many people try to pitch to me, without having looked into the market sector that they are trying to break into. Sometimes a simple internet search reveals that their idea has been done before, or that their estimation of demand is completely skewed. Look around at your competitors and see how you can offer a better and more competitive service than them.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Glenda Watson-Hyatt's virtual book tour

An article from Pam Slim's blog, something different for a change, it is an interview with Glenda Watson-Hyatt, who suffers from CP, she is an amazing lady..please read...some days we get caught up in the poor me poor me syndrom..well maybe this will help.....
Glenda Watson-Hyatt's virtual book tour

I thought it fitting that today I am one of 40 stops on my good buddy Glenda Watson-Hyatt's virtual book tour, promoting her autobiography I'll Do it Myself. I have lots of love and good thoughts for her, and I have written about her publishing journey in my ezine in the past. Her book shares the story of her life, in a way that she hopes others will see that "Living with cerebral palsy is not a death sentence, it is a life sentence!"
Glenda is a great writer and one of my favorite feisty Canadians. She wrote this book with her left thumb.
Following is my interview with Glenda about her book:
Q: I know that you bypassed the opportunity to sell your book to a U.S.-based publisher so that you could have it included in Library and Archives Canada. Why was that so important to you?
One issue that really caught my attention while doing my Communications minor at university is how Canadian identity and culture is so influenced by American culture, and how steps are taken look to identify Canadian content ("Cancon"). From my understanding, Library and Archives Canada is one of those steps: only publications published in Canada are eligible for deposit in this library, which preserves Canadian heritage. By having my autobiography I'll Do It Myself in the library, it was my way of contributing to Canadian history. Regardless of where this book may lead me through the years, I began the journey at home.
What advice would you offer all those aspiring writers out there who constantly stop and start their book projects?
If you are serious about your book, if it is your passion, your dream, then keep at it. Take it one step at a time, whether it is one chapter, one page or even one paragraph at a time. Make time to write, which means prioritizing and letting go of tasks that truly aren't necessary or aren't bringing you closer to your goal. Make your writing a priority, but don't lay a guilt trip on yourself if you don't write when you had it scheduled. Creativity doesn't always flow according to schedule; however, if you are more creative at a particular time of day, try to schedule your writing sessions then. If the words don't flow today, try again tomorrow. Word by word your book will be written. When you are done, it is such an awesome and satisfying feeling!
What did it feel like when you cracked open your first box of books?
When I opened the first box and saw my book for the first time, a wave of emotions came over me. Thirty years of dreaming, preparing, researching, visualizing and writing became real in that moment. I had done it! I had written and self-published my book. And they were beautiful! There were a few happy tears. I can only imagine that it is similar to giving birth and holding your baby for the first time.
What have the results been so far of your virtual book tour?
When I began this virtual book tour, I didn't know what to expect, although I did have some outcomes that I hoped would materialize. I am beginning to see those results now. The viral marketing phenomenon is starting to kick in as bloggers are reading my interviews on other blogs and are either contacting me to host an appearance or are mentioning my book on their blogs. The momentum is building now and I sense amazing things are about to happen. Hopefully book sales will soon follow. Overall, participation in and support for my virtual book tour have been fantastic.
What is next for you Glenda?
Because this book was thirty years coming, I want to do all I can to promote it. I still have six boxes of books sitting here, and I would love to do several more print runs before I consider the promotion completely done. I am curious to see what opportunities present themselves by doing all this promotion. I also want to develop an e-course “Accessibility in Action”. Over the years, I have found that people have fears when interacting with those with disabilities because they simply don’t know what to do and they are too embarrassed to ask. I want to address those fears by providing practical information and a safe place to ask questions. The e-course would include topics like what language to use when referring to people with disabilities, tips for when communicating with people with disabilities, ideas for when choosing a gift for a relative/friend/colleague with a disability, suggestions for how to include a classmate with a disability at your child’s birthday party, and many other topics. My goal is to include hands-on and practical information that people can use in everyday life. Meanwhile I wait for my next dream to be planted.
Finally, what is the link for people to sign up to host a stop on your tour?
People interested in hosting a stop on my virtual book tour can check out my schedule (http://www.doitmyselfblog.com/glendas-schedule-and-appearances/) and choose an available date.
Pam, thank you so much for hosting today's appearance of my virtual book tour, and for your support and friendship this past year as I finished writing and then self-published I'll Do It Myself. I truly appreciate it. And I look forward to celebrating with you when your book is published! Happy Valentine's Day, sis.
Happy Valentine's day to you too Glenda! Thanks for your continual inspiration and friendship. Keep kicking my butt to move my own book project forward, as I can use the harassment!
For those of you wanting a great read and some positive inspiration, buy the book!



Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What is an entrepreneur

What is an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur, quite simply, is an individual who owns and operates their own business, assuming the responsibility, risk and rewards therein.

This is a short article on the definition of what is an entrepreneur that I found on the Liverpool John Moores University web site, have a read, let me know what you think

The first thing worth noting is that anybody can start up their own business. Entrepreneurs and business people come from all walks of life and have different backgrounds and life experiences. Many students are often deterred from starting up their own business, as they think that this is a path exclusively open to those who have studied business. If you look at the background of many successful entrepreneurs, one of the things that you notice is that this is frequently not the case. Business skills can be learnt.

Two elements are mentioned time and again by successful entrepreneurs as being crucial for success, namely the motivation and determination to succeed in your business venture and to make things happen. Successful entrepreneurs also have a healthy dose of self-confidence and an optimistic outlook on life. They must be prepared to take risks, but these are calculated risks. They don't plunge blindly into new situations. Instead, they are thorough and prepared, and weigh up the pros and cons of a situation before making a decision.
The ability to identify opportunities, learn quickly and apply this learning effectively are skills which are also important and need to be developed if the entrepreneur wishes to make a success of their business.
Richard Branson is respected both nationally and internationally for his entrepreneurial flair. It is often forgotten however that as well as his large number of extremely successful business ventures, he has had a number of projects that have failed. One of Branson's particular strengths as an entrepreneur is his ability to know when to call the day on a particular venture when it is not working. He is not afraid of admitting his mistakes. Richard Branson failed in business five times before becoming successful



Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Snowboarding Strategy in the boardroom of the Start up

I had a chat with a few of my Students about Strategy and how to choose a strategy,I introduced a thought off the "Snowboarding Strategy" this was something I had picked up on during an executive session with Some Board members of a Snowboarding company....I found an article that encompassess the essence of what I had talked about it is reproduced here, the only caveatte I would add is that I would not ditch completely the skill of planning....have a read and let me know what you think...B.T.W. It was a great pleasure to work with these guys as they had an amazing passion for there sport and there business..they are off course successful...they are working my kind of business...
Snowboarding Strategy

During the 2006 Winter Olympics, a new event was introduced – the amazing Snowboard Cross – which brought the language, style, and unpredictability of the extreme sports culture as a colourful comparison with the traditional ice white world.
The course is full of jumps, bumps, and huge turns that allow competitors to overtake each other as they fight for first place without pushing or bumping into each other.
The snowboarders compete on their own for the first two runs against the clock with the top 32 going through at which point they race in groups of four, with the top two in each heat surviving until just four are left to contest the final.
It's a start contrast to the tactics and approach required for success in many other winter sports including downhill skiing as explained by Graham Bell, a veteran of five Winter Olympics:
"It is so frenetic and you have to think on your feet, you have to look behind you and assess what is going on, decide when is the best time to attempt to pass. The best bet is to get out into the lead and stay out of trouble but that is easier said than done.
"You cannot mentally prepare a good line like in downhill skiing, in this you have to mentally prepare for WHEN IT GOES WRONG."
Snowboarding philosophy is a wonderful illustration of the difference between traditional text book strategy and unorthodox emergent strategy This snowboarding philosophy is a wonderful illustration of the difference between traditional text book strategy and unorthodox emergent strategy. The former imagines a planning process that produces a, "perfect line", to be executed through blind obedience obtained by the carrot and stick while the latter assumes strategy to be something that emerges from diverse places, people, at various times, and for a multitude of reasons,
To paraphrase the conclusions of a superb history of strategy by Hoskin, Macve, & Stone:
"We need to recognise the double paradox which emerges out of the fact that strategy's great success […] First, strategy will be most successful where the future is like the past but that is when it is most unnecessary; meanwhile, it will be most necessary when the future is different from the past, which is when it will be most useless. But, second, it will always be most apt at dealing with internal control even though strategic success actually needs control of the external because that is where the enemy/competition lies: and yet that is where strategy proves so easily disproven and overturned, whether by counter-strategy or simply by events."
To underline the lesson, it is that traditional, annual, planning led, top-down strategy is only useful (1) when the past is the same as the future, and (2) you only need to control internal events to be successful.
If you believe that external events (competitors, customers, markets) have to be influenced, that the future will be different from the past, or that blind obedience is not sufficiently productive then you need some other kind of strategic approach. One that is closer in nature to snowboard cross than downhill skiing.
It also helps if you can get some of the snowboard cultural approach to competing, risk-taking, and relationships – one that finds fun to be as important as winning any particular race and can chat with fellow snowboarders as friends despite national origins or the fact that there can only ever be one gold medal winner.
Take for example Lindsey Jacobellis, world champion snowboarder at only 20 years old, who decided to have fun with a, "backside method grab of the snowboard", (a cool trick to most of us), when she was half a circuit ahead of the rest in the final - and then fell, allowing someone else to grab the gold.
According to the NBC report, "Sports columnists, television analysts and pretty much anyone over 40 were mortified", while Seth Wescott, age 29 and the men's gold medalist in the snowboard cross, explained, "It was good that she got carried away It would have been a shame if she didn't."
Jacobellis pointed out that she was, "just having fun with the sport".
Others complained, like Rick Morrissey, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, saying (without a trace of irony), "It probably would be a good thing if somebody explained to the snowboarders that once they decided to sit at the adults' table, they made the tacit agreement to play to win. They made the decision to act like Olympians, which now means to act professional."
Funny considering that the Olympic Ideal was Amateurism in its finest sense.
Jacobellis wore her silver medal proudly and said, "I think it's silly for athletes to look at a sport as a way to get better deals and endorsements. It's about the love of the sport."
She, along with her competitors, joined the sport for its beauty, for the challenge, and for the vibe. That's why it's great to watch and why the standard keeps getting better and better.
When most companies are ahead they choose to down-hill. They pick a line, they pick fast, long skis and seek efficiency and speed. When successful competitors make any headway against them, they have to adapt, take risks, and choose boards or skis that allow movement, even tricks to get ahead. They have to play to prepare for whatever will happen next.
So Google have an online video service ready to compete with Apple because they let a team put one into operation as an experiment (just having fun – like Lindsey Jacobellis) where Sony had nothing because they want to have a 100 year plan for everything before they are willing to make a move (the play station has been the only exception and that only came about because one lone engineer fought for the right to do it).
And when GM (now almost bankrupt) were ahead of the pack in terms of cars manufactured (and sold) they were willing to just take the obvious line until cooler competitors like Toyota and Honda carried on improving (everyday, whether the customers complained or not!) all the way to victory because they are proud of making things better just because of the challenge – that's why they joined the industry – they loved engineering and they loved cars.
Take a look at every market leader that loses its way and you see a company that has picked a line, stopped adapting, and stopped getting "carried away".
The realists, the penny pinchers, and the cream stealers end up in charge because the corporation has become fat enough to allow their kind of clunky strategy based on what worked last year (only more of the same) and defence of the status quo (internal control of rival ideas) to keep them in clover and company jets.
They win arguments based on some pretence at, "sitting at the adult's table", and, "acting professional", rather than wanting to learn, and grow, and deliver.
What Jacobellis said and did was funny, it was honest, and showed the kind of attitude that allows learning that is at the heart of effective strategy today. Gnarly!
By Max McKeown

Monday, February 12, 2007

Building and Leading High Performance Teams

Building and Leading High Performance Teams
You don't have to be Michael Jordan or Mia Hamm to have the skills you need to build and lead high performing teams.

An Article By Chris Musselwhite

When a sports team is working well together, it can feel like magic. We've all experienced it, either as a team member or as a fan. Fortunately, you do not have to be Michael Jordan or Mia Hamm to have the skills you need to build and lead high performing teams in your organization.
An important leadership competency for any size organization, the ability to build and lead high performing teams is especially critical in small-to-midsize businesses. Here, people must work closely together, wear many hats and work effectively across the organization to get tasks accomplished quickly enough to remain competitive.
In order to understand the competencies needed to build and lead high performance teams, it is helpful to first define a team. Here is a simple but effective description from The Wisdom of Teams (Harvard Business School Press, 1993.)

"A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable."

Using this definition, we can outline three important competencies for the effective team builder and leader.
Promoting understanding of why a group of people need to be a team. The team needs to understand its shared goals and what each team member brings to the team that is relevant and crucial to its overall successes.
Ensuring the team has adequate knowledge to accomplish its task. This includes information relevant to the team's goals and individual job competencies.
Facilitating effective interaction in such as way as to ensure good problem solving, decision making and coordination of effort.
Characteristics of Highly Effective Teams
To better understand how these competencies create effective teams, let's examine some characteristics of highly effective teams.
An effective team understands the big picture. In an effective team, each team member understands the context of the team's work to the greatest degree possible. That includes understanding the relevance of his or her job and how it impacts the effectiveness of others and the overall team effort. Too often, people are asked to work on part of a task without being told how their role contributes to the desired end result, much less how their efforts are impacting the ability of others to do their work. Understanding the big picture promotes collaboration, increases commitment and improves quality.

An effective team has common goals. Effective teams have agreed-upon goals that are simple, measurable and clearly relevant to the team's task. Each goal includes key measurable metrics (that are available to everyone on the team), which can be used to determine the team effectiveness and improvement. Understanding and working toward these common goals as a unit is crucial to the team's effectiveness.

An effective team works collaboratively, as a unit. In an effective team you'll notice a penchant for collaboration and a keen awareness of interdependency. Collaboration and a solid sense of interdependency in a team will defuse blaming behavior and stimulate opportunities for learning and improvement. Without this sense of interdependency in responsibility and reward, blaming behaviors can occur which will quickly erode team effectiveness.

The Roles of the Effective Team Leader
In order to encourage this level of collaboration and interdependency, the team leader must provide the necessary support and structure for the team, starting with putting together the right people. Team members should be selected and their tasks assigned with their natural skills in mind. Not every person is capable of doing every job.
The team must also have the resources and training required to develop the skills needed to do their jobs. This includes cross-training. Cross-training gives team members a greater awareness of how their jobs are interdependent, increasing the team's flexibility and improving response time.

The quality of the team's response is highly dependent on the timeliness of the feedback received from the team's leader, other team members and customers. Receiving timely feedback is crucial to the effectiveness of the team. The effective team leader ensures that feedback reaches the entire team on its goals and metrics, as well as feedback to each individual team member. This feedback must be received in time to make adjustments and corrections. Often, feedback is received too late to have any practical value in the moment, and consequently, it feels like criticism. While it might be useful for future planning, it does not promote immediate corrections in performance.

Feedback is a form of cconstructive communication, another necessary tool in the effective team leader's tool chest. No matter how traditional or innovative the work design, consistent and constructive communication throughout the team is essential. The act of constructive communication can do more than anything else to improve quality and productivity.Timely and appropriately delivered feedback can make the difference between a team that hides mistakes and a team that sees mistakes as opportunities.

When a team views mistakes as opportunities for improving the team's process and results, it's a sign that the team leader has successfully created an environment that promotes problem-solving. People are problem solvers by nature. When they are allowed to create their own solutions (rather than having expert solutions imposed upon them) team members are more proactive and engaged. Teams also have greater ownership of solutions they discover for themselves.

Creating an environment that promotes problem-solving is part of creating an effective team structure. Poor team structure can actually create negative, ineffective behaviors in individuals and impede communication. The responsibility for poor performance is usually a function of the team structure rather than individual incompetence; yet, it is individuals who are sent to human resources or training programs for fixing. If team members feel like they are pitted against one another to compete for rewards and recognition, they will withhold information that might be useful to the greater team. When a team has problems, the effective team leader will focus on the team's structure before focusing on individuals.

Remember: a "willingness" to participate collaboratively as a team member does not guarantee the desired outcome. People thrown into a collaborative situation, especially those without experience operating in this mode, need assistance to guarantee success. Managers who are skeptical of team participation to begin with often throw their people into an unplanned, unstructured decision-making process, responding with "I told you so" as they watch their team flounder.
By contrast, managers who focus on promoting good understanding, ensuring adequate knowledge and facilitating effective interaction, will watch the transformation of their job from one that required constant supervision, fire-fighting, and oversight, to one that allows the leader to focus on serving the needs of the team and each individual team member.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Some light reading for the weekend Is Your Boss an Axxxxxxe?

Crossed Posted from Guy Kawasaki's blog...

Is Your Boss an Asshole?

Question: How many bosses does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Answer: One. He holds up the light bulb and expects the universe to revolve around him.

At a basic level, this determination is very easy: Is your boss rude? Asshole bosses keep people waiting; they yell and scream at people; and they are demeaning. They think they can get away with this because, largely, they have gotten away with this since society tolerates bull shiitake from the rich and famous.
I digress, but I’ve often wondered which came first: Was the person always an asshole or did accomplishing something great (probably by luck) mean that people would tolerate bull-shiitake behavior? One thing is for sure: not all assholes do great things, so there’s no causal relationship. :-)
Thinks that the rules are different for him For example, a parking space for handicapped people is really for handicapped people plus him because his time is so valuable that he can’t walk fifty additional feet. Or, the carpool lane is for cars with multiple people, hybrids, and her because she’s late for a meeting.Doesn’t understand the difference between a position making a person and a person making a position. The vice-president of acquisitions for a big media company is a big deal, but all her power, and therefore the ability to act like an asshole, evaporates without this title. Assholes usually don’t understand that their current position affords them temporary privileges.

Requires “handlers.” This means a personal assistant, appointments secretary/lover, public relations flunkie, and chauffeur. It’s funny but if an asshole didn’t have the position/money/status, he would probably be able to answer the phone, make appointments, talk to the press, and drive himself
Requires the fulfillment of special requests in order to be happy/productive/efficient. For example, she needs a special brand of spring water from the south of France bottled by chanting monks when she’s making a speech. This type of actions represent flexing for the sake of flexing—not because any of this crap is necessary.

Relates to people primarily in terms of what they can do for him. In other words, “good” people can do a lot for him. “Lousy” people aren’t useful. The way a lousy person becomes a good person is by showing that he can help your boss in some way.

Judges people by her personal values, not the employees’ or society’s values. Assholes judge people according to only what they think is important. For example, a boss may value only professional accomplishments, so someone who is “merely” a mom or dad with a focus on a family is therefore inferior.

Judges employees’ results and his intentions. A boss never comes up short when he juxtaposes his intentions (“I intended to do your quarterly review”) versus an employee’s results (“You didn’t finish the software on time”). Instead, a boss should judge his results against his employees’ results and never mix results and intentions.

Asks you to do something that he wouldn’t do. This is a good, all-purpose test. Does your boss ask you to fly coach while she flies first class? Does she ask you to work weekends while he’s off at a hockey tournament? I’m all for using boss time effectively (for example, not making her drop off a package at Federal Express), but were it not that your boss could be doing something more valuable for the company, would she do what she’s asking you to do?

Calls employees at home or on the weekends. Rarely, as in once per year, this is okay, but any more often and your boss is certifiable. His happiness is not your problem 24 x 7. You are entitled to your personal time and space because slavery was abolished a long time ago in America.

Believes that the world is out to get her when faced with criticism or even omission. For example, bloggers don’t write about her because they are all jealous of her. Frankly, it’s more likely that he’s not worth writing about than the blogosphere is colluding against him. This boss needs to learn that “it’s no always about her.”

Slows down or halts your career progress. One can forgive or ignore the previous nine issues, but this one is by far the worst thing an asshole boss can do. Usually it’s a matter of convenience: “How can you leave me? I need you.” For doing this, a boss should go into the anals (sic) of asshole-dom. God didn’t put you on this earth to make your boss’s life better, so don’t hesitate to abandon a boss who holds you back.

You may be concerned that only you think your boss is an asshole. For this issue I offer the “Kawasaki Theory of Perfect Information About Assholes.” It goes like this: If you think your boss is an asshole, mostly likely everyone else does too. It’s seldom true that you think someone is an asshole, and everyone else thinks he’s great.


Have a great weekend..



Friday, February 09, 2007

Morality in Business?

Morality in Business.

Perhaps you have never lied, cheated or stolen. If you haven’t please let me know because you are the first among thousands that I have asked this simple question to in my seminars who answered in the affirmative.

John Adams knew it. So did Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. On the dollar bill we find “In God We Trust” and the second unstated part “but tie your camel” is alive and well too. This is why we are a country of laws – in other words, a republic. Recognizing man’s propensity for serving self over the common good, laws and legal agreements ensure we can uphold the behavioral requirements of a relationship, our country, our liberty and our pursuit of happiness. In other words, so we can keep intact our democracy in capitalism.
Recently, a client read a study that stated MBA students were more likely to cheat than other disciplines. Few if any are bad people. Those that cheated didn’t understand the fundamental importance of their role as future business people in our society and let their pursuit of short-term ambition for grades (and later greed) exceed their understanding of the bigger picture. Some were possibly not bright enough, but most were just not educated or influenced properly to actualize social truth. Thomas Jefferson enacted strong leadership in the direction of publicly funded universities for the purpose of educating people so they would assume responsibility for the common good. First UNC Chapel Hill and later other publicly funded universities were originally created with Jefferson’s purpose in mind. His view was that people receiving a strong liberal arts education would be less likely to overly self serve or cheat the system, thus fewer laws like Sarbanes Oxley would be needed. This of course would reduce the astronomical social waste of human time and money these types of band aids incur for most of us.
There is great confusion between the concept of ethics and morality. I will take some license here. One character finds a loop hole and decides that it is OK to self serve; another considers the common good and decides and acts differently. Both have a type of morality and neither broke the law, yet their morality is quite different. Morality implies a certain value or “belief” and presumes a “right way” of doing business which can be different for different people; whereas ethics doesn’t necessarily do so. This critically important distinction is at the root of many of our social-business issues today. Ethics are neutral, conscious agreements between people and/or institutions for conducting business. Morality, like the “golden rule” can play into the agreements, but ethics only implies people will hold discourse to openly discover an agreed upon path of action together. For example, there can be an ethical arrangement between two drug dealers, yet their behavior is quite wrong from most people’s moral standpoint. For some people morality is rooted in their religious faith with their beliefs and values serving as guiding principles. For others it is what they know in their heart to be the right way to do business. Two client CEOs I polled for this article; one from a large bank and the other from a leading engineering firm, both emphasized there should be no distinction between private and business morality. This view could be tested by hypothetically placing one’s important decisions and actions on the evening news and see if they continue to feel good about their decision and what their children would see, hear and learn to live by.
“…it is our responsibility to continually seek to understand right from wrong and when in doubt seek counsel.”

Being moral is not a passive activity according to one CEO I polled who runs a large services company. He says that it is our responsibility to continually seek to understand right from wrong and when in doubt seek counsel. CEO and owner of a very successful restaurant believes that to knowingly deceive at any time is wrong. Another president of a southeastern bank stated that it is always important to be truthful with associates and customers. If a problem or mistake is made, own up to it and say so. They went on to say if someone isn’t doing a good job let them know; that this act builds trust and a reputation for integrity.
The real test of one’s capacity for morality and ethics is first and foremost an issue of self awareness and maturity. It has been my experience that most of us know when we are doing wrong. When we do wrong we seem to not have the personal capacity to stomach emotional pressure associated with doing the right thing in a difficult situation. Bill McLaurin, Ph.D. a consultant in our firm calls it “the thirty seconds of discomfort to do the right thing.” A top tier executive from one of the premier manufacturing companies in the world said that “listening to the quiet voice of one’s gut tells most of us when things are right and wrong.” It’s easy not to pay attention to this feeling-voice inside when we don’t want to – and then revert to denial or rationalization.

Self-awareness is critically important in deciding rightly because the man who knows his weaknesses of character is much more likely to make the right decision especially when not inclined not to. It is too bad that most ethics courses don’t teach people about the emotional nature of man and instead prefer lectures and intellectual discussions around the content of decisions. Alexander Hamilton, the “original MBA” knew it too as he posed that the study of human nature was the science of sciences. Undoubtedly he and others that established our democracy in capitalism knew too well what would cause us to fail and also what would give us the opportunity to be great.
“The real test of one’s capacity for morality and ethics is first and foremost an issue of self awareness and maturity.”