are you living in the best looking house in a run down neighborhood?

Think about your business….  your products, your services, your model. Are you in a place where you are trying to be the best looking house on a run down block?  Meaning, have you become a commoditized industry, or surrounded by commodity products/services no matter how hard you try to be ‘solution’ or ‘value’ driven?  If so, complete reinvention might be necessary to revitalize everything from your employees to your customers to your products.  It doesn’t matter how hard you talk about being differentiated, if you are operating in a commodity market, at the end of the day, price will carry the day.  So take a hard look and be honest – are you really delivering a commodity? If so, are you willing to run down operations to maximum price efficieny?  If not, are you spending valuable resources trying to dress up your house to look better while still living on the same block?  Is it time to move (dramatically reinvent)?

Of course, if you are this house, all bets are off :o)

Scaleable Social – the dangers of automating in a context-sensitive world

Tragedy struck in Colorado again this weekend.  Thursday night / early Friday morning, a shooting rampage at a local theater.  Friday morning, an automated NRA tweet (prescheduled, apparently) from the NRA ‘AmericanShooter’ account asked “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”

As someone responded…. “Perhaps NRA should read the news before tweeting”, but an autopost can’t do that.

A good example of the danger of using auto responses/posts/etc., in the socially connected world. People expect you to be more aware of local events for sure – I still maintain that social takes real people with real experience in the local area to be pertinent, which makes it very difficult to scale in traditional command and control ways.  The NRA has a pretty sizable following in Colorado (obviously, hunting and fishing is a big part of the economy in our State), so not knowing how a tweet like that will play in an area where a shooting tragedy has occurred is problematic for sure.

Why do you read?

Pew recently put out an infographic showing why people read…. their research was exploring an interest in e-readers. They cite 46% of Americans over 16 as having read an e-book or a long format article online.

•26% of those who had read a book in the past 12 months said that what they enjoyed most was learning, gaining knowledge, and discovering information.
•15% cited the pleasures of escaping reality, becoming immersed in another world, and the enjoyment they got from using their imaginations.
•12% said they liked the entertainment value of reading, the drama of good stories, the suspense of watching a good plot unfold.
•12% said they enjoyed relaxing while reading and having quiet time.
•6% liked the variety of topics they could access via reading and how they could find books that particularly interested them.
•4% said they enjoy finding spiritual enrichment through reading and expanding their worldview.
•3% said they like being mentally challenged by books.
•2% cited the physical properties of books – their feel and smell – as a primary pleasure.
•In their own words, respondents were eloquent and touching. One respondent noted: “I am an English teacher, so I read to save my sanity from grading essays.”

Stack Ranking – Performance Management Run Amuck

The practice of ‘forced rankings’ or ‘stacked rankings’ as a routine practice comes in and out of popularity among human resource professionals and managers. It is often implemented during times of downsizing and then sticks around, insidious in its convenience in driving performance management because it produces pretty charts and graphs, while slowly sucking the lifeblood out of employees.  In my mind, it is a lazy approach to routine performance management, either giving both HR generalists and managers an ‘easy out’ in evaluating people (“you are a ‘2’ because I HAD to give someone a 2”) or preventing people who truly want to advocate and grow their people a disincentive because someone has to be poorly rated, so it is easier to leave some people behind.

In a startlingly frank discussion of the practice at Microsoft, Kurk Eichenwald at Vanity Fair recently published an article on how stack ranking created a disincentive to innovation and growth.  Check it out at Microsoft The Lost Decade.