Thursday, 16 July 2009

Realistic About Opportunity!

Many people may not be too aware of 'who' CISCO Systems [1] is. Today, there's a very good chance that 90% of your internet is delivered by a collection of CISCO products.

In a recent interview with McKinsey Quarterly [1], John Chambers outlines his view on expansion and dealing with expansion in good- and lean- times. Something he explains very well is the simple formula that lets companies like Samsung, Hyundai, Toyota or a Google take a new business into a market challenger or market leader in more than one industry [2].

In my book the lesson here is, before you try to get creative or invent your version of my-way; the basics are virtually immutable.

My focus on Chamber's key points are worth repeating . . .

  1. Be honest and realistic about causes of the current circumstances and your situation.
    • How much stems from the macro- and market environment?
    • How much is self-inflicted?
  2. Plan appropriately
    • How deep will the down-turn go?
    • How long will the down-turn last?
    • Usually a down-turn will go deeper, and last longer than you think.
  3. Getting closer to your customer
    • Use the situation to learn about the customer
    • Use your advantages to expand in market-adjacencies
  4. Implement strategy
    • Use your customer proximity to think
    • Innovate
    • If it works . . . build on that, when it doesn't -- Stop and fix it first.
  5. Two of the biggest lessons from 'mistakes'.
    • Move too slow ... Meaning you need to be capable and agile.
    • Moving too fast ... Moving before you have the capacity and capability is a recipe for increasing your challenges.

-- John Chambers, CEO, CISCO Systems [1]

In the emerging economies[2] the key factor to get right is quality and processes. As Chambers puts it, having your processes right is an essential for growth, so the process must be scalable. Cisco being Cisco, look at the leverage available by networked enabled technologies.

So! What's do-able? The things you can reproduce, the things you can give to others to reproduce (i.e. out-source), etc.

I am thinking, of scaling as a potential "6th Maturity Challenge" after a superficial observed) five developmental pahses described by Griener's[3] -- Once we appreciate the existing situational elements of the business climate and the economy. That too falls to Chamber's comment to maintain integrity with-self.

For me, the future will be about keeping it together as you move further apart (global, time-zones, and cultures). I think it is more than something to keep in mind -- It looks like it is an essential if you are looking at some future oriented activity.

再见 (zài jiàn),
Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. Chambers, John (2009) "McKinsey Conversations with global leaders: John Chambers" (CISCO), McKinsey Quarterly, San Jose, CA., May 2009 (accessed: 13-Jul-2009).
  2. Li, J.-T. & Kozhikode, R.K. (2008) Knowledge management and innovation strategy: The challenge for Latecomers in Emerging Economies. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 25, 3, pp. 429.
  3. Greiner, L.E. (1978) Organization Practices in the five phases of growth. Harvard Business Review, 76, 3, pp. 61-62.

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Tuesday, 9 June 2009

99% Execution

There's an aphorism that, 'there's no strategy without execution'. The challenge is that if you haven't done it before, or at least had some practice some place then 'execution' is probably what you did before following the new "objective(s)" with "a plan".

I don't think that "strategy" is a plan; in the best light objectives and a would be a project. And speaking from a background in a project culture, a continuous project process itself can be a very effective strategy when that approach matches your customer's desires.

To me a strategy is what you do all the time that aligns you with the objective, it is on-going and relentless. Activities that are not-strategic might still be necessary to the routine and they need to be acknowledged too. One question to ask is, "How is my business served by this?"; could be the tax office is necessary to your legitimate survival (for example).

If I'm half-right about what is strategy, then here's a couple of simple strategy execution steps.

  1. Deliver your service and product efficiently and effectively.
  2. Serving your customer's happiness/satisfaction (not your accountant or your technical staff).
  3. Continuously measure the customer's satisfaction in different ways.

There's a lot of things that make a big difference, for and against, in three simple guidelines. And it's true you can add more. When I got to show cases and expos and chat to people, I more or less use those three things as a framework to understand their marketing strategy. It not unusual for people to remark that I've picked up on their challenges in that short under 5 minute chat. I know the rate their consultants charge too.

If you want to get value for your consulting $, check what they are telling you in priority order. Because if you can't deliver your product it doesn't matter how good your service is. If you don't know how to measure how much the customer likes you, you don't know how satisfied and how happy/unhappy she is. Just making a broad brush point, there is one thing I'll add.

If your customer is complaining the like you and they want to be happy with you. It is like being married, if you partner stops complaining, watch out.

再见 (zài jiàn),
Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. Moorcroft, D. (2008) "Five Suspicions About Our Profession". Strategic Communication Management, 12, 4, pp. 7.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Will the Real World(cc) Please Stand-up?

Last week was an interesting week for me personally. Let us say that it revolved around a lack of agreement around a point of customer service. In typical fashion, we were left with the service provider holding ground, and the service consumer [me] needing to either swallow the lumpy parts or escape the contract. I escaped the contract, and the service provider will continue to be "right". Good on 'em.

There are quiet a few lessons to take away from this experience. The one I wanted to drill down on today was inspired by a comment from an associated "third party" with a vested interest in working for this or a similar service provider in the next three months. Nonetheless his comment is a common sentiment in commerce and especially in industry. He said ...

"These are the 'rules' -- This is how the real-world works and you need to change your attitude or you'll get the same outcome[s]."

The real, real-world where things get done. The real-world exchanges money for value and satisfaction. Do you make repeat purchases when you don't like the taste of your meal, if you are not satisfied? There's less money around to facilitate these exchanges and I reckon people will be MORE value-for-money conscious ... To thrive, I'm led back to user centred design [1].

The future of design is human-centered, David Kelly (2002)

My informant's view of the real world is based on a publisher model. This is the model government and large organisations with "market power" to define their world view. Part of the argument, is that individual treatment raises the costs -- True. Service is about listening first, and matching expectations.

The provider my example claimed that the information request satisfied by a competitor in under 15 minutes, was unrealistic. While that supplier wasted 5 x business days ... The let major competitor produce the 'unreasonable' over the phone and post an information pack that arrived the next day. What costs more?

There are at least two 'real-world' models here. There is a 'real-world' where the supplier sets the rules and may claim flexibility but there is a limit. Often these are services most often, because tangible products are easier to demonstrate problems -- A hair-dryer that doesn't work can be seen and counted and replaced. With a service, it is possible for employees to convince the his consumer that, "the customer is not always right".

A second model considers that:

"The customer is always your customer ..." when the customer is satisfied.

One more insight, was that consumer & user of a product is not always the 'customer' who pays the invoices. I noticed that "the rules" probably means don't let the customer see unhappy users. Sometimes it is easier to "blame" the user for not being happy (i.e. dissatisfied). It is a short-sighted way to operate in my opinion.

Your version of the real-world is the one that pays-back over the long-term -- You could be be a lot happier with knowing that your (paying) customers are happy because their users are happy.

Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. Kelly, David (2002) The future of design is human-centered,

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Monday, 23 March 2009

Not Making Sensemaking

I saw the story about Tesco's new IT infrastructure project[1]. My comment isn't about the project, because with 20+ years with ITC, this idea makes a lot of sense to me.

Virtualisation…helps Tesco provide a better service to its customers.

“Virtualisation is key to providing a cost-effective, efficient and future-proofed data centre, and XenServer has been key to helping Tesco achieve its ambitions for a virtualised environment.
... ... ...
This looks like one of those totally sense-making and irresistible developments in technology that demands to be followed and taken advantage of. At a rate of 1500 virtual sales messages per second, it’s difficult to see how future shopping at Tesco and other chains could anything other than electronic.

-- ISN (2009 [1]).

What do you make of that little journalistic (or copywriter[??]) throw-away, "totally sense-making and irresistible developments". The purpose of the phrase is to get you into the idea that this "totally" makes sense dude!

The author is using sense-making as a proactive event, as if you can make a story out of the future that hasn't happened yet like a 'future past'. The future past construct is one that is sometimes used in hypnotherapy, often used in sales, and other persuasive language. When that's what happens, that would be pre-emptive sensemaking.

What does [good] pre-emptive sensemaking do your you? Pre-emptive sensemaking is a knowledge application like the thought experiments[4] Einstein used to develop his Special Relativity theory. Pre-emptive sensemaking must apply, or follow the seven sensemaking processes [2,3] BEFORE the event. That is before deploying your system and observing ti in operation for six months, for 5 years if that's your projected solution's life-span. This is like a pre-mortem.

When you put the effort in to engage in future sensemaking, you get a better result; you save a lot of time and money; and one more thing. You should rapidly figure out that no matter how much you know now, you will know more after you finished and that means engaging your natural sensemaking at each stage during development. What we can call re-caps and post-mortem.

An investment in future sensemaking is totally sense-making, when it is executed with sympathy and accord with the natural process sensemaking.

Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. ISN (2009) "Tesco virtually streets ahead with new I.T.", International Supermarket News, 16-Mar-2009.
  2. Will Mason (2009), "Your Future's Most Valuable Resource", Musings on Effectiveness, 08-Feb-2009.
  3. wikipedia (2009) "Sensemaking", Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, (accessed: 23-Mar-2009).
  4. wikipedia (2009) "Special Relativity", Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, (accessed: 23-Mar-2009).

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Monday, 9 March 2009

Sir Nicholas Stern - Economic Recovery & Climate Change

Here's a link to a video of a recent interview from Sir Nicholas Stern with McKinsey’s Matt Hirschland.

Connecting Climate Change and Economic Recovery

Economist Nicholas Stern discusses the downturn and its effect on the climate change agenda (March, 2009 [1]).

Two thousand and nine is a crucially important year. We are in the middle, I hope it’s the middle, of one of the worst economic crises the world has seen—certainly the worst since the 1930s. We have to have a big fiscal stimulus package to pull us out of this. Monetary policy is moving in the right direction, but there’s a limit to what monetary policy can do. This needs a stimulus package probably around 4 percent of world GDP—around $2 trillion, taking all countries together.

The second thing we must have in 2009 is a strong international agreement to deal with an even bigger crisis, which is the climate crisis. That, too, means that we’re under great pressure on time. The longer we delay, the more the greenhouse gasses build up, the more difficult the starting point for action becomes.

~ Sir Nicholas Stern [1], former Royal Economist.

I actually believe, and hear people say, they often know what to do. What helps you to DO it?

That becomes your choice. You can find a consultant, who will keep you on track. You have to choose the track. Change is not easy, after you change yourself, there are all the 'others to change' as well. One of the many lessons for me, is that your successful 2009 initiative includes a integrated measuring and information sharing. You want to tie all the threads together and you need an outside view to show you the changes made invisible by tomorrow's past habits.

再见 (zài jiàn),
Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. Stern, Nicholas (2009) "Connecting Climate Change and Economic Recovery", The McKinsey Quarterly, Mar-2009. Interviewed by Matt Hirschland in Brussels on January 26, 2009.

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Saturday, 7 March 2009

Move Forward, or Fall Behind

Firstly, I have a little disclosure. I was a trained guide with the NSW National Parks for 16 years. Well before, sitting at the back of my first university macro economics class, the thought struck me that constant economic growth seemed unsustainable. My lecturer set me right, people can sing for me, I pay money, that is also economic growth.

Back in those days, sometimes you couldn't see Chatswood from the Pymble hill. My eyes & throat stung every day in Los Angles; except for Santa Ana days, then dust irritated my eyes. It's OK if you think I have an agenda. Pollution isn't good.

On that first tip to L.A. I sat next to an Aussie chemical engineer visiting the USA to help them with their pollution clean-up technology. That's economic and export growth. Looking-up at blue sky after returning to Sydney I decided to enjoy nature more.

That might be about 20 years ago; this week the newspaper is carries almost the same stories. Back in the day, it was pollution from soot, SO2, heavy metals, etc.

Message one: move with the flow. These things will move forward under its own momentum.

This week's story concerned the impact of carbon trading[6] on small businesses (SME [7]) in the reasonably successful industrial (Hunter) region. I personally believe that everyone underestimates the CO2-e volume for SME-s.

He said most small to medium enterprises estimated that their electricity charges and fuel costs each accounted for less than 6 per cent of their total operating expenditure.

"However, more than 10 per cent reported that their fuel costs represented more than a quarter of their operating expenditure," Dr Paradice said.

~ Dr Paradice, Hunter Valley Research Foundation (HVRF) [6].

Dr Padadice not wrong, I simply feel there is more. My (stress) guess is that if estimates show say, 6%, the real impact might be closer to 8% or even up to 12% (yes, double). Realising this as a 'fact' (worst case 'fact') can be turned into a significant competitive advantage!

There are two phases to making that happen. The first is to measure usage, and develop a 'scientific' model for of your operation. By scientific, I mean measurement-based. Newcastle is fortunate to have world's best practice Energy Management TQM processes [3] on its own doorstep. Many other cities, if not whole countries have held the waves at-bay like King Canute. Sadly, we see too few stories on proactive Climate Change successes.

Message two: keep it Real. Simple challenges can become advances in your own backyard. In Newcastle ... check out Together Today (Climate Cam) [3]. Portland, OR; London, UK; Seattle, WA; Newcastle, Au or Newcastle, Au -- It could be you lead the world in energy and CO2-e & energy-pollution management.

Research shows that localised competitors can develop into 'cognitive communities' [5] that share a common model of their world, or competitive environment. I feel the same can be said for building a 'can do' cognitive community ALSO. Don't you agree?

Message three: Get your community excited. Do what you need to to mitigate the impact of CO2-e pollution and look forward to the benefits in cost savings, efficient operations, and innovations that will make you a World Class Player.

Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. DCC (2009) "About the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme", Department of Climate Change web site, Australian Government (accessed: 06-Mar-2009).
  2. Maiden, M. (2009) "Mixed messages, but carbon trading pressure is rising", The Australian, revised: 06-Mar-2009 (accessed: 06-Mar-2009).
  3. NCC (2008) "Climate Cam", Newcastle City Council (Australia), revised: 21-July-2008 (accessed: 16-Jan-2009).
  4. NOVA (1997) "Local Air Pollution Begins at Home", Australian Academy of Science (accessed: 06-Mar-2009).
  5. Porac, J.F., Thomas, H. & Baden-Fuller, C. (1989) "Competitive Groups as Cognitive Communities: The Case of Scottish Knitwear Manufacturers". The Journal of Management Studies, 26, p.397.
  6. Strachan, Julieanne (2009) "Carbon Trading Cost To Hunter Business", Newcastle Herald, 05-Mar-2009.
  7. Wikipedia (2009) "Small and Medium Enterprises" (SMB, SME) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, revision: 01-Mar-2009 (accessed: 06-Mar-2009).

Friday, 27 February 2009

How is your web page costing you money?

I know you are enjoying this week, because I am. You know, lots of web pages leave me in awe of the art and really cool stuff on them. That's really great if your name is Medici or one of the other art patrons on the internet. And I totally agree, that the web is a great place for artistic statement.

On the other hand, if your web site is there to serve your business, who do you have doing your external review? Research shows that you have 50 milliseconds to secure the reader's attention on your web site [1]. After that, you have a few brief seconds more to pass-on your message. What does this mean to your business? If the web page doesn't do its job, your web site is costing you money.

If you want your message to stick, the visual impact of the web page needs to match your message. Your message has to be very straightforward. Some poeple will say keep it simple. I agree, because you won't go wrong with "simple". You can be sophisticated when your message and design are straightforward. It never hurts to understand your customer. Finally you need to keep the site attractive with fresh content and by reappraising the design.

What is your plan to keep you web site fresh, vital and productive? This pair of articles bring a few key points to light.

There are some great designers out there, who know the right questions from their experience with customers, and there are talented people who care enough to do the right thing for you. To be frank, why are you asking a "designer" or a "coder" to embody comprehensive knowledge of marketing practice and theory?

Your web site is media. The content and performance of the web page should be part of your integrated marketing framework. Think of marketing like fishing. And integrated framework is like fishing with a net -- Think trawler or those guys who fish for a living dragging their nets into the river and hauling the customers (oops, fish) ashore.

The alternative way to fish is to cast many lines into the river, and constantly run around checking each still has bait on the hook, and hasn't lost a catch because you were busy on a different line when that customer called.

The question to ask, is "who benefits?" When you have someone in house or external who can get inside your marketing needs and who understands the technology, your customers benefit, you benefit. When your adviser is focused on one or two parts of the result, the benefits can favour the area of attention. So you get great design and lousy performance; great marketing promise and no delivery; ... My least favourite outcome is when you end-up with 5 pages or so that look almost exactly like all your other you competitors.

It's not your designer's job, to determine HOW to differentiate you from the competition. In this day, that is your business' hub. A radio channel can help you a message on the air, and the time their marketing professional gave you is reflected in the rate you pay. You deserve to get the best from your marketing technology. My MOST favourite outcome is when your web site is coordinated with your business' marketing framework to amplify the results from that same $1 you invested in all of your marketing as an whole.

An integrated marketing framework can reduce the total spending needed, or magnify the results from the same cash outlay. Begin by making sure your web page gives returns on your investment.

Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. Lindgaard, G., Fernandes, G., Dudek, C. & Browñ, J. (2006) Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression!, Behaviour & Information Technology, 25, 2, pp.115-126.
  2. Reardon, Craig (2008) "Why You Should Sack Your Web Designer", Smart Company, 16-Jul-2008.
  3. Reardon, Craig (2008) "Why You SHOULDN'T Sack Your Web Designer", Smart Company, 23-Jul-2008.

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Thursday, 26 February 2009

Common Sense (on You Tube)

I am researching sensemaking and knowledge management. That give me an opportunity to trip across related subject matter that could be interesting, suggestive of new opportunities and helpful to readers like your good self.

I typed in "common sense" on You Tube and found 11,400 hits. The range was between songs, comedy, comments and blogs. As you may recall, I'm a GoogleTechTalks fan so I decided to make a scan by the tech talks channel; with only 4 videos found (see below, last week).

What surprised me is not so much the low number, as that none of the four seem to have anything in common! There's quite a range. Three of the four are somewhat esoteric. I've added another link to the single tech talk on touches on sensemaking (that I mentioned last time). You can see the full set at the end of this post.

The Green brothers[2] talk is informative about the kind micro-broadcasting and the future for interactive media."Knowledge connectivity ..."[3] probably isn't what you think. However if you don't mind a little graph theory or maths, you could find it interesting to see how devices agree to trust each other. There may be lessons for social groups and networkst too -- Who knows? Dr Lenat's[4] talk on teaching computers common sense and Dr Chi's[1] about how folk on social media behave are the kind of thing I was looking for about ways the new media may work in the future and how we work now. Finally, Dr Rienhoff's[5] tale is both a heart breaker and a light of hope in a networked world.

Why mention these completely different clips, connected only by a chance coincidence of being tagged as "common sense"? Perhaps its serendipity? One of these items might mention one of your favoruite subjects ... Who knows? For myself, each story looks at an aspect of modern life, and carries with it implications for our future interactions and new ways for thinking new economics: making money.

Take a look if you have a few minutes -- Start thinking about how that item could be used to change the way things are done. Leave me a comment, I love to hear feedback.

Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. Chi, Ed H. (200) "Augmenting Social Cognition: From Social Foraging to Social Sensemaking", GoogleTechTalks, You Tube, 15-Feb-2007.
  2. Green, Hank & Green, John (Brotherhood 2.0) (2008) Nerdfighters: Insider View from a YouTube Persona, GoogleTechTalks, You Tube, 28-Aug-2006.
  3. Greve, Fabíola (2008) Knowledge Connectivity vs. Synchrony Requirements for Fault-Tolerant Agreement Problems for Consensus", GoogleTechTalks, You Tube, 18-Apr-2008. This video may not be immediately interesting, and I'm unsure if there's a wider implication. For people running interconnected applications on the internet, it is interesting news.
  4. Lenat, Douglas (2006) "Computers versus Common Sense", GoogleTechTalks, You Tube, 30-May-2006.
  5. Rienhoff, Hugh (2007) "My Daughter's DNA", GoogleTechTalks, 29-Nov-2007.

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Friday, 20 February 2009

Customer Cognition

Good to see you again.

I want to use the subject matter in the first part of this talk to illustrate a point about our interaction with customers, suppliers and others in the world. This comment about having a textbook pre-worked for me, as if I had a personal tutor to show me the new information and things I need to revise. Wouldn't your study have been a LOT easier, if you'd hired someone like that?

The entire talk itself may be a bit specialised, however it is terribly fascinating about how groups interact and self-moderate.

"Imagine getting a textbook with all the pages and topics that YOU are interested in, or need to pay attention to?" ~ Chi (2007 [1])

Just in case you hadn't seen the word before, a "flame" or "flame war" is basically an argument on-line, where people attempt to verbally burn each other.

Ideally, you want your suppliers to be like that personal tutor or Dr Chi's pre-highlighted web sites. By the same token your best customers probably expect you to have the textbook pre-highlighted for them. That's why treating each buyer personally makes lots of sense.

Some of the other implications from the web based research could suggest ideas for you to create solutions in your area of interest or your business.

Of course my interest is in seeing you enjoy what you doing with improved processes and designs to improve customer experience[2]. One clear possibility implied by Chi's talk[1] is that people learn and adapt as they become more familiar with a situation. To me, that says you need to keep the customer experience FRESH.

Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. Chi, Ed H. (2007) Augmenting Social Cognition From Social Foraging to Social Sense-making. Google Tech Talks, 15-Feb-2007, (accessed: 30-Dec-2008).
  2. Lavers, P. (2008) The Importance of the Customer Experience in a Down Economy, London, Customer Futures, (accessed: 20-Feb-2009).

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Saturday, 14 February 2009

Turning a Down Turn Upside-down

Hi ya ...

Remeber that ol' saying, to "turn that fown, upside-down"? Same thing with a down-turn, actively seek ways to up-turn in a downturn. And the best news, it that thinking cost little (a few coffees or a catered lunch) and can save or even make millions. The alternative of ...

'... tempting [workforce] reductions starve and therefore delay promising projects while allowing unworthy “zombie” ones to linger. Worse, wholesale layoffs destroy morale among the remaining staff and can even prod your very best [people] ... to accept the severance package ..move elsewhere. Companies should take a more strategic approach to cutting R&D costs, by using today’s difficult economic environment as an opportunity to upgrade the R&D organization’s focus, practices, and management.'

- Barrett, Musso, & Padhi (2009)[1]

If this is not your 'thing'; that's OK too, it is the right approach that matters. Imagine you're a small organisation with 30 or 50 people ... The biggest initial gains are not the hi-technology, big projects you see in the papers. You didn't need to 'invent' an iPod in 2001 [2]. It's my observation that the best bang for your buck (time) are the customer oriented, 'easy' things.

Your customer focused innovations begin with your people as well and while the right new product or service can be a winner, they usually involve resource commitment too. As a large or small business you can look a your customers' needs and find ways to add customer value to help sales.

Earlier I spoke about sensemaking. You can advance with improvements without a specific R&D function. As a smaller firm, you can do much better than the 'big boys' imho. You probably already have a cross-functional group of knowledgeable people who know and trust each other.

You can be an agile company. You may already have the capabilities of an agile company. A down-turn may be an opportunity in disguise, spring for some coffees and think about it.

Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. Barrett, Christie W.; Musso, Christopher S. & Padhi, Asutosh (2009) Upgrading R&D in a downturn, McKinsey Quarterly, February 2009.
  2. iPod product overview, (wikipedia)
  3. IBM; (2008) Unlocking the DNA of the Adaptable Workforce, The IBM Global Human Capital Study, 2008 (PDF, 72 pages).

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Your Future's Most Valuable Resource

Good to see you again.

The New Year celebrations have been forgotten, and it is time to find answers to the question, "What is our response?" Let's begin by leading, don't respond, create. Earlier, I mentioned that things are changing. Tomorrow can be as different as today is to 1808. Yes. The flow of change hasn't slowed-down with the flow of money [1]. Begin with now, act and enact; don't respond.

People tend to "defend"[3] when they are not 'permitted' to understand, or come to understand, the situation. As I write we wonder if the USA defend by aping defensive policies in the EU[4]. When times are tough, we spend less and you look to get the best for your $1 spend, too. And you look for ways to get better results by reducing the out-flow of money (spending). Hey that's cool, spend less, get more. How?

The short answer, is to support agility, creativity and responsiveness in your team. Think of the current business climate as an ecological shift like an encroaching desert. Effective sensemaking among your friends and in your organisation is vital to meet a changing world[5, p.464].

  1. Social context ... encourage conversation and discussion. I include contact with external sources of information to avoid groupthink.
  2. Personal identity ... maintain a stable context of just who someone is and what they represent.
  3. Retrospective ... preserve elapsed data and employ processes to make use of the data.
  4. Salient Cues ... ensure the right, relevant and useful cues are scanned for and recognised. For example; number of customers might be more important than gross dollar sales.
  5. Ongoing flow ... keep people busy, acting and enacting the next thing. Introspection is ot a pause, it is part of forthcoming steps. In my pre-sales meetings, I could highlight two things that went well, one unusual thing, and one problem; then in planning we ensure that we have options to respond or repeat these things (as desired).
  6. Plausibility ...encourage people to swap and match plausable accounts. Some places call this a "reality check". There needs to be more — We want the plausible stories, not just acceptable, and critical thinking.
  7. Enactment ... encourage action, replace hesitation with smaller steps. He who hesitates, defines smaller steps to meet or detours around the issue.

Quickly. Let's perform our own reality check. You can't afford this 'stuff'. I appreciate you thinking, it: (a) offers a Social context; (b) recognises to your individual perspective and Identity; (c) is couched in Retrospective situation of 2003-2008; (d) may not be checking the right news and Cues; (e) {missing in action}; (f) isn't really swapping Plausible accounts, everyone said the same thing[6]; and (g) encourages no Enactment, merely shrinkage or retreat.

Talk things over with the team. Adroitness is your most valuable resource.

Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. "Monetary economics" (wikipedia).
  2. Jakovljevic, P.J. (2006) Tactical Human Resources Evolves into Strategic Human Capital Management, Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC).
  3. Lawrence, Paul R.; & Nohria, Nitin; (2002) DRIVEN: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices, Boston, MA, Jossey-Bass.
  4. IANS (2009) Are the EU and US edging towards a new trade war?, The Economic Times, 7-Feb-2009, 08:21 hrs IST.
  5. Weick, Karl E. (1999) Sensemaking as an organizational dimension of global change; in Weick, K.E. (Ed.) Making Sense of the Organization. Oxford, UK, Blackwell Publishers.
  6. Foster, Richard (2008) Creative destruction and the financial crisis: An interview with Richard Foster. The McKinsey Quarterly 2008 (6).

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

2016 ... will you recognise the way things work?

Did I tell you about, Albert Einstein? He said,

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." [1]

Unfortunately, I don't recognise too many people who apply that to their large problems until there's no other option (including me sometimes). I think it is part of the human condition to find a 'sweet spot' or 'comfort zone' and prefer to use the tried and true. [2]

A quick scan of the environment will show you that the way things are is pushing change in social structures and endeavours. The pace of change itself has accelerated since Einstein made that comment. The economic system may finally realise that it NEED-s reasonable and equitable rewards up and down the production and supply chain, without that consumption dries up. Finally, if we are lucky we may just side-step an collapse and complete reset of the natural environment. All that on or about the 2016 time-frame. (Why 2016? No reason, it is and arbitrary choice.)

An environmental reset can be avoided by changing the way we think about our ecology. The idea of CO2 and other green-house gasses as "CO2-e Pollution"[3] is one move to shift our thinking. More traditional societies probably kept a kind of ledger [4] of their consumption (input) and effluent (output). If you didn't, you needed to pack-up sticks and move your village when the midden got to smelly or your ran out of game. There's enough humans now to make that impractical -- Exporting your effluent down-river or down-wind only delayed the boomerang's return.

I commented on an "Global Economic re-Boot" as an upgrade of your PC's software. It is a literal analogy, to me. It isn't just the behaviour that changes, the internal logic and mechanics will need re-assessment. I'm not equipped to out-guess the 'great minds' who husbanded the current state-of-play. My feeling is that everything we are doing now is embodies old thinking and while helpful, my reading is that the effect is leading any response the powers that be bring forward. May be it isn't so much a reboot, this is a paradigm shift from PC to MAC -- From a mouse with two buttons and a little wheel, to the single-button mouse (no wheel).

What does that mean for you? Opportunities abound for people thinking outside the square. For me, you ask? I'm one of those people who consistently thinks outside "your square". As noted above we all of us find changing our inner kind-of-thinking[1], one of the first reactions is to defend[2] a (comforting?) status quo. People with the edge are the ones who move fast, who use the way things are (and about to be) to create a net benefit.

I also pointed out my understanding that a major structural change is needed to provide a reasonable and equitable reward and exchange system. For purely selfish reasons too, if you can't provide your customer with enough of the means to acquire your good or service, your income shrinks. The trick in a modern system, is that the person providing your customer with the means to provide your income is NOT you, most of the time. Until recently it has been banks, finance companies and fund managers[6]. This must sort itself out in the normal way of competitive (natural) selective that complex system ecologies establish dynamic-balance.

"When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." -- R. Buckminster Fuller [5]

The pace of change will accelerate. This can be a good thing or a not-so-good thing. Change seems to encourage 'defensive' behaviours like hoarding, protective strategies, defending what can be defended (say a thinking[1] or reputation) before seeking solutions. Change often creates confusion and selective focus of attention. It can also be disruptive[7].

What if you were an MP3 player manufacturer 2001 prior to Steve Jobs' iPod launch? Would you have built a marketing model around the new MP3 player configuration? No one did. Consequently Apple expanded the MP3 and mobile media market virtually unchallenged. Did they follow with a competitive model? Not really. A 20/20 example highlights the drawbacks of marketing myopia, what you need is someone like me with his/her head out of the sand; someone ready to apply marketing far-sight.

Once more, the coming changes will no doubt reveal a 2016 world as different from today as we are from the innocent days of 1908.

Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. Albert Einstein Quotes
  2. "Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices", By Paul R. Lawrence, Nitin Nohria (2002)
  3. Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (wikipedia)
  4. (reference required)
  5. R. Buckminster Fuller Quotes
  6. "The Global Financial Crisis", Ravi Batra (2008)
  7. Creative Destruction (wikipedia)
  8. mbi Marketing
  9. Foster, Richard (2008) "Creative Destruction and the Financial Crisis", McKinsey Quarterly, Dec-2008.
  10. Greiner, Larry E. (1978) "Organization Practices in the five phases of growth" (12manage): If global systems also fall victim to Greiner's maturity model, is the global economic infrastructure experiencing a known crisis (per Greiner), or an emergent crisis?

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Sunday, 28 December 2008



Seriously. I know for a fact that you know a lot more than you give yourself credit for. More exciting, and of far more value to you, are the things you don't know, the things you discover.

Hunkering-down to weather the storm was once a strong temptation in challenging times. In today's markets and conditions this strategy can benefit enterprises with a deep strong storm cellar.

An old saying says, "Don't tip the baby out with the bath water." The common thought is to be sure we keep "the baby". Wait! There's more. It reminds you to eject the soiled, soapy, tired, old bath water – It reminds you to get some fresh water!

supercalafragalisticexpialidocious – Let in fresh ideas!

Keep and improve customer value with "your baby". Build-in customer value from the fresh ideas, insights, and elements that come with new "bath water".

New opportunities, bring relationship and partnering potentials – You can do without that storm cellar now.

The value of things you didn't know you knew is what it brings to your business that your customers love and your competition cannot imitate. The trick is to let go of what you think you know, and grasp what you know, and don’t think you know it.

Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. (wikipedia, 2008) Mary Poppins (1934; 1964)
  2. The idea is to respond to 'challenge' by saying, or thinking supercalafragalisticexpialidocious; everything other do now will not resolve the key elements of the solution (1964; wikipedia, 2008; see: [5, 6]).
  3. Nicholas, Tom (2008) "Innovation lessons from the 1930s", McKinsey Quarterly, Dec-2008.
  4. Foster, Richard (2008) "Creative Destruction and the Financial Crisis", McKinsey Quarterly, Dec-2008.
  5. Greiner, Larry E. (1978) "Revolution is Still Inevitable", Harvard Business Review, 76(3), p.60.
  6. Foster, Richard M. & Kaplan, Sarah (2001) "Creative Destruction", McKinsey Quarterly, Aug-2001.

    "The first Standard and Poor's index of 90 major US companies was created in the 1920s. The companies on that original list stayed there for an average of 65 years. By 1998, the average anticipated tenure of a company on the expanded S&P 500 was 10 years. If history is a guide, over the next quarter century no more than a third of today's major corporations will survive in an economically important way."

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Saturday, 13 December 2008

One Customer Too Many

Good to see you again!,

A big lesson from the current economic hiccup, climate change, etc. is to keep scanning for opportunities. One organisation's failure is often ripe with potential for opportunity(s).

In just under 10 days, I've discovered many household names that seem to have one or two surplus customers. A few weeks back I pointed out a gap in my customer service expectation with one of the smarter businesses who fixed the problem 'created' by their out-sourced service provider. After a good resolution there were ... 8 dreadful encounters to make-up for one positive one. Can the customer relations barometer be swinging against meeting customer expectations? Was it just me having a poor week?

Your opportunity can be ... What value can you make from (competitor) performance gap?

I'll give a couple of examples. Size matters. A small firm can know its customers well enough to deal with problems at an individual level. Resist as many temptations to add distance between you and customers as you can. If you need to make a service department or outsource; check that your service provider is providing service -- Unfortunately a few service providers have eyes on the 'service contract' not on the customer.

Your customer's ecology consists of over-lapping service experiences with all kinds of organisation and relationships[1]. In my opinion, a non-satisfactory experiences means that the customer's expectations are reinforced, not diminished. It often puts passion behind their preferences.

A recent media campaign from one of my eight non-rich-experiences caused to think: 'they must have one or two, too many customers'. It just reminded me of a non-good experience.

Do you have too many customers in your business?

Things to remember. Any customer calling, or writing, with a problem is your most valuable marketing researcher. Ask for her/his preferred solution. Understand how advertising works; if you do have one too many customers, advertising can reinforce a sub-optimal experience too. Become ecologically mindful to optimise your marketing investment[2].

再见 (zài jiàn),
Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. HOOLEY, G. J., PIERCY, N. F. & NICOULAUD, B. (2008) Marketing Strategy and Competitive Positioning, 4th Edn, Pearson.
  2. Everything your customer believes (and perceives) about you is your 'marketing'.

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Thursday, 11 December 2008

Your Customer's Ecology

Welcome ...

What do I mean by the title, your customer's ecology? That's a good question, because my comment stems from a customer value or customer service perspective. A customer's ecology is the environment that serves that person or provides that customer with value.

This is a different type of ecology, in a customer's ecology the rewards are the benefits your customer values, and the prices are the things the customer's must exchange for that reward. Your business, or organisation, is inexorably linked to each customer's value perception, as Rummler & Branche and others [2,3] have said since the 1940-s.

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." — John Muir [1]

"Nineteenth-century environmentalist John Muir found that each component of the ecosystem is in some way connected to all other components. The brouhaha over the snail darter, which ultimately halted construction on the Clinch River breeder reactor, was not just about a tiny fish that affects very few of us; it was about tampering with a small tile in the environmental mosaic. Each tile that is removed or changed alters, if only in a minute way, the balance of the picture.

"Similarly, we have found that everything in an organization’s internal and external “ecosystem” (customers, products and services, reward systems, technology, organization structure, and so on) is connected. To improve organization and individual performance, we need to understand these connections. The current mosaic may not present a very pretty picture, but it is a picture. The picture can be changed or enhanced only through a holistic approach ..." [2, ch.3]

Management science draws a boundary at the shop counter or display window. It is the part of your customer's ecology where you have direct influence; and elsewhere ...

You need to make your customer value distinctive and attractive for your service and products. Put another way your offer needs to be one of the features in the customer's ecology. The aim is to become an integral part of this customer's regular life-pattern.

Just as recent events have shown we are more and more connected. The important thing is to stay in-touch with your customer's ecology and the customer her (or him) self. It is worth keeping that in mind, you may think 'it' is about being 'efficient' -- In reality, 'it' is about 'effective customer value'.

Ask about Customer Architecture ...
References ...
  1. Muir, John (1838-1914),
  2. RUMMLER, G. A. & BRACHE, A. P. (1995) Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart, 2nd Edn, Jossey-Bass. (
  3. Value Engineering (Miles and Erlicher, ),
  4. See further blog topics on Your Customer's Ecology

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Sunday, 30 November 2008

Are customers lost in your shop?

G'day there,

Good to see you again. I hope you've been well. There's a niece little slide-show below that gives you a good insight into the value of appropriate web design.

What is your web site for? Meaning, it's purpose and the objectives is the web site expected to deliver, or at least facilitate. The purpose matches a customer based strategy. If your web site was a simple shop, the most appropriate web site designs are the designs that make visiting your store a pleasure. Flick through these slides.

Click to see more of Ruth Ellison's slide shows.

I like this slide show because almost everyone has visited a 'government like' site. Most of the time you don't lose sales if the customer gets lost. Unfortunately that also has some times meant there was less incentive to make it easy to find stuff. You can find good examples of inappropriate design, inappropriate non-design, as well as appropriate design.

How about your web pages? Do they make money for your business, or are your potential customers locked outside your shop, or worse still; do they wander, lost inside?

Make your web sites an investment in a business asset.

Ask me about Marketing Technology ...
References ...
  1. Ellison, Ruth (2008) on LinkedIn
  2. My Slide Share favourites on LinkedIn

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Saturday, 22 November 2008

Global Economic re-Boot

G'day dude,

I remember a little while back, talking about 'global change', that's not just global climate change, global economic shake-up – All kinds of systems. We are all more connected than ever before. This is a social, physical, technological, logistical, environmental and economic fact of life now, not an esoteric wisdom. It is simple to detect evidence for this now, from Wall St to Struggle St.

"Organisations of the future are likely to be vertically disaggregated: functions typically encompassed within a single organisation will instead be performed in independent organisations. The functions of product design and development, manufacturing, and distribution ... will be brought together and held in temporary alignment by a variety of market mechanisms." [1] (emphasis added).

I deeply love chatting and investigating the happenings that explain such a 'coming feature' of the world's future. I find that many less interested in what works, and more committed to defending personal beliefs. Some fine examples will be collecting their (metaphorical) cups of soup in London (Barcelona), Singapore, New York (Fort Lauderdale), etc. over the next few years. That's why I am writing to you ~ You are canny, you see a shift too, or parts of the whole. You're special.

Nominally my figuring is that the current public global events are similar to growing pains for structures of socialisation, in the widest sense. Previously, say after the 'Great Depression' there were adjustments and people more or less resumed business as usual with the new economics (Keynes). Until now.

This time, the economics are stable, and the people are different. Even 'under classes' aspires to wealth and improvement. The Keynesian 'reasoning man' is supplanted by Shaw's [2] unreasonable man ...

"A reasonable man. "The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him... The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself... All progress depends on the unreasonable man." [3]

On a fundamental level humans, in general, have been manufacturing 'unreasonable people'[3] with expectations. It is worth considering the fanciful metaphor of: 'A Knight's Tale' (2001) movie, where the son of a Middle Ages' freeman attains the rank of Knight. At that time any commoner with a sword could be executed in the street.

At times of great change, it is important to ask yourself, "Is this a cyclic thing? Or, is it a structural change?" Is the global society simply having a re-boot or is it installing a new operating system?

My mind considers that the world community is building a new structure. Such a process can take many years to organise itself and settled into stable patterns. We can't say if the final relationship will be as Miles & Snow [1] divine or not. Perhaps a process of aggregation will find us in a world dominated by a few large corporations. What is true now, is that your customers' world and hence; your world is in constant change and keeping pace with change means you are a only little behind the game.

How do we make this observation work for you? How do you make money from this situation? Answer: we make-up guidelines to cover the next 12–15 years. Let's begin with your strengths – If you will do only one thing for the next 15 years, begin with that one thing. Then you can look at how the changes of the influence your relationship with the people who want to pay you for what you do. One of your rules will be the time-horizon to work in ahead of now, within your endeavour: 3 months, 8 months, one or two years? Create a strategy to match your technology needs with the pace of the changes around you.

Considering the current environment as an upgrade, rather than a re-boot is a very powerful way to view current circumstances. If the times are not a-changing, that's OK too because you will walk away with a framework to thrive in dynamic marketplaces. There are always dynamic marketplaces.

Ask me about Marketing Technology ...
References ...
  1. Miles, Raymond E. & Snow, Charles C. (1984) "Fit, Failure and the Hall of Fame", California Management Review. Berkeley: Spring 1984. v.26, i.3; p.10 (19).
  2. Keynes, John Maynard (1883-1946)
  3. Shaw, George Bernard (1856-1950)
  4. Kelly, Kevin (1997), "Twelve Principles of the Network Economy", Wired Magazine

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Friday, 5 September 2008

Better, Faster, More cost Effective -- Who delivers Results?

Hail friend ...

As I write, it is raining non-stop. A fair time to pop-up a little note on effectiveness.

Actually I want to refer you to a research article from Noble and Mokwa.[1] The paper itself is about research into the drivers behind successful project implementations. If you are interested, it is a key paper in Marketing Management. I was both interested and surprised by one of the results around motivation, commitment and success.

The research project evaluated the contribution of "Organisational Commitment" to successful project implementation. Surprisingly, there was no correlation between commitment and "Implementation Success". By contrast, two key success indicators were: "Role Commitment" on the personal level, and "Strategy Commitment" at the workgroup level[1, p.70]. That set me to thinking ...

Who give me the best outcome? A loyal friend or a focused 'professional' (and/or 'amateur')? Yes the focused individual with a commitment to "doing the best shoe shine" possible!

Are there learnings and implications for business and the development of your ideas; your product or service? And my answer is "Yes." Unfortunately (for you), I see this a lot with solo and small-team collaborations. First salient points of 'best practice' -- A competitive endeavour (project, business or mission) must have several key in place factors (in this order), with some 'roles' so you know who I mean.

And at times you may need more than one of 'each', or a mixed-bag ... Depending on your purpose. What I find very interesting, is that your book keeper, as skilled and efficient as he/she is ... Is not necessarly an especially "Role Commit"-ed person for your Marketing Technology! To my mind, the "why" is simple. Book keepers like order and systems and a balanced ledger, statement of financial position, etc. (With all due respect to balancing the books ...)

Does that person commit to the role :: "best marketing person", "best systems analyst", or "best engineer" they can be. On reflection, who would expect a book keeper or graphic artist to do your engineering, or to do your plumbing ...

Now the "gift" from this thinking ... How to choose a consultant, business partner, etc.

I would personally prefer a committed 'expert' that I find abrasive to a well meaning person with the appropriate skills; or worse a motivated "willing to learn" staffer, that's not committed to the position.

Think about that. What's the difference for your bottom line? If your potential is honestly ready for the world, it's millions. Are you so rich that you can let go of thousands of thousands of dollar$? Wow, .... Will you adopt me!!

Ask me about Marketing Technology ...

References ...
  1. Authors:Michael P. Mokwa, Charles H. Noble Title: Implementing Marketing Strategies: Developing and Testing a Managerial Theory Source: Journal of marketing, ISSN 0022-2429, Vol.63, Nº.4, 1999,pp. 57-73.

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