Category Archives: Management

RadioShack is Going Down

RadioShack in MallJust yesterday, I noticed the stock price of RadioShack.  It was no surprise.  This company has been sliding down a slippery slope for a decade.  But they didn’t have to…

I’m a ’70s kid.  I grew up in a small town, with a small mall.  We had some bigger anchor stores, but the place to be if you were a smart kid, was the RadioShack that sat right in the middle of the mall.  I’ve already written about my first job.  My second job was this… I arrived for my teenage summer job at the family business.  My dad pointed to some boxes in the corner and said, “There’s your job.”

“Unpacking boxes?” I asked. Continue reading

Describe Your First Job… A Great Interview Question

Lemonade StandYesterday, I saw a great post on an HR site, suggesting an out-of-the-box interview question.  Frankly, these are sometimes a dime-a-dozen, but I really like this as a good interview opener:  “Tell me about your first paying job and what you learned from it.”

My first job, at the age of 14, was on a land surveying crew. My dad owned the business and there was only one job available (my older sister was already working in the office, at the reception desk).  It was hot, sweaty, dirty and definitely not the job that a teenage girl dreams of.

What did I learn at that job?   Continue reading

When a “Casual Comment” is Anything But

Stacked WoodLet’s say you’ve recently become a manager.  No doubt, you’re happy with your achievement.  You have a lot more authority to make decisions and to influence others.  Has it occurred to you yet that there could be a downside to your authority?

Kerry Patterson, in the VitalSmarts newsletter, has written an excellent cautionary tale he calls “the captain’s fireplace”.  You can read the original story for yourself, but here’s a quick summary…  The captain of a military base notices some scrap wood in a dumpster and calls to make sure no one else wants it before he grabs some for his fireplace.

The ensign he talks to offers to find out about the scrap wood and calls the chief of supply to make sure it’s okay.  The warrant officer makes a call, and so on, until the captain’s wife eventually calls to thank them for the wood.   Outside in the supply yard, people are grumbling about how they had to cut brand new boards to fit the captain’s fireplace, when they couldn’t afford other vital supplies.

What happened? Continue reading

How Process Simplicity Could Reinvent Late-Night Television

Netflix Late Night June 2014

Finally, the first woman has landed a late night comedy talk show on a major network.    So, is it CBS? ABC?   Comedy Central?  No, it’s Netflix.

On Thursday, Netflix announced that they would be “reimagining the late night talk show for the on-demand generation,” with an offering by Chelsea Handler.  The show won’t start until 2016, and some industry watchers have pondered the technical difficulty Netflix will face in broadcasting a same-day show.

Ridiculous… Netlfix has two years to solve a technical issue that has already been solved.  There are two technical processes in play here, both of which already exist.  For decades, traditional networks have been taping in the afternoon, to broadcast their late-night talk offerings in the evening.   For several years, Netlfix has been turning “canned” content into streaming content.

All they have to do now is stitch the two processes together… And speed up the resulting process so that it can take place in a few hours, instead of several days. Continue reading

Bully Me Not: A Second Take on Amazon, Hachette & The Rest of Us

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Today’s blog at The New York Times mentions that Stephen Colbert has joined the dog pile of voices condemning Amazon.  The dispute started when – during negotiations to give Hachette Book Group a bigger percentage of ebook revenue – Amazon started to intentionally limit the availability and sale of books published by Hachette.

The other day, I posted about this, remarking that the bigger problem isn’t how Amazon is addressing Hachette, but how book publishers in general take too big a slice of the profits from ebooks, much of which I believe should go to authors.

I’ll admit, I have an overdeveloped sense of fairness.  Continue reading

Where’s the Value in E-Books?

Old Book Spines

There’s an interesting scuffle going on today between Hachette Book Group and Amazon.   In a nutshell, Hachette is trying to negotiate greater profits on sales of e-books.  Amazon is trying to keep more margin for themselves, and as part of their negotiating strategy, has supposedly limited distribution of some Hachette books through their warehouses.

There has been an outcry from the general public about Amazon’s tactics.  We don’t think it’s fair that they interfere with customer orders to provide a negotiating point.  (To be fair, I just took a look at Amazon and did not see evidence that they were holding up order flow on the bestsellers I checked.)  In the media, Hachette is spinning a tale of themselves as “David” (approximately $2.8B in revenue) to Amazon’s “Goliath” (approximately $78.1B in revenue).

The fight between Hachette and Amazon is not what this post is about…

Continue reading

Creating Great Telecommuting

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Have you ever fantasized about telecommuting?  Imagine it…  Email from your laptop on the beach…  Conference calls in your pajamas…  Writing code all night in the south of France, to be able to sightsee during the day…  Of course you have.

Now, let’s ask another question:  Have you ever fantasized about managing a group of telecommuters?  Barking dogs in the background… Sleep-choked voices on early morning calls…  Suspicious absences when deadlines are looming…  No replies to your email… No, of course you haven’t.

While nearly everyone has dreamt of telecommuting, almost no one relishes the idea of managing remote workers.  Not long after Melissa Mayer became CEO of Yahoo!, she banned the practice.  Ford, by trying to reduce remote management issues, became party to a lawsuit  when a worker claimed that a medical condition requires her to telecommute.

“Telecommuting” is a modern management problem. Continue reading

Conflicting Process Goals: Is it You or THEM?

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What’s the biggest problem affecting your business process?  I can tell you from vast experience that most people answer this question with a “they” statement.  Every time I help an organization with a business process, conflicting goals arise.

Consider the following:

  • We could have finished the code if THEY (the customer) had stopped changing the acceptance criteria.
  • The reason we’re behind on billing customers is that THEY (the sales team) don’t bother to send us the invoice details.
  • I could sell more product if THEY (the management team) could approve exceptions more quickly.
  • We could improve quality if THEY (customers, sales, managers) would stop asking us to “rush” something through the production line.

There is seldom just one goal for every process.   Let’s say we are creating a consumer product.  Our goals might include:  product features, secure shipping, timely payment, delivery speed, and/or quality.   Each of the stakeholders who work on the process – to design, source, produce, deliver and warranty a product – have different views of which goal is most important.  To manufacturing, product quality is the primary concern.  To sales, delivering the product in a timely fashion is key.

Continue reading

The Key to Life? Know How to Catch Up

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Life is busy.  Twitter, email, online media, television, online social networking and face-to-face social networking.  I don’t know about you, but I have four email addresses and two Twitter accounts.  I have two phone numbers with voice mail and text.  I have accounts with LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.  I have dozens of actual friends and sometimes I spend actual time with them.

I do what I can to consolidate the streams, but it’s still a lot of information, flowing in each day.  Over time, I’ve learned a critical lesson:  “keeping up” is overrated.  We all step out if the information stream from time to time.  We go on vacation, we get on airplanes, we have the flu.  Sometimes we even just stop paying attention because we’re tired.  What successful people do better than the rest of us is to catch up more efficiently.

Continue reading

Broken Windows and Corporate Decency

Broken Windows

Over the weekend, I became aware of trouble at GitHub, a collaborative center for software developers. Prominent developer Julie Ann Horvath (@nrrrdcore) detailed a campaign of discrimination and harassment at TechCrunch.

She described being harassed by the boys’ club of fellow developers, which she initially just ignored. Then, it appears that – as she gained prominence in the community – she was targeted by one of the founders and strangely, his wife, who was not an employee but frequently on the premises. And her code was wrecked by another developer whose social advances she had rejected. Bravely, she spoke up over the weekend, to describe her experience and explain why she was leaving the organization. Continue reading