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?

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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…

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“Bee” The Change You Want to See

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My grandfather kept bees.  By the time I was a child, they had sold the farm and moved to a 2-acre parcel where my grandmother kept a kitchen garden and my grandfather kept bees.

A few years ago, when we started hearing about colony collapse disorder, I couldn’t help but think about my grandfather’s bees.  I wondered vaguely if the problem might be coming from the industrialization of beekeeping operations.  Maybe the variety of backyard beekeeping made for happier bees.  There is a remarkable small company in Oregon – Bee Thinking – whose owners must have wondered the same thing.

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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

What I Believe…

Sun and CloudsSomething is coming together these days.  Last year, we got a new pope, one who is shocking the world with simple messages of tolerance and compassion.  Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that it is okay for town meetings to include prayer.  I’m feeling the rumblings of something, breezing through the social fabric.  It’s like a gathering storm of faith, after a long drought where intellectuals disdained religion.  So I think it’s time to talk about something I’ve been thinking about for a long time… What I believe.

This is not the most personal thing I’ve ever written.  But it is (so far) the most personal thing I’ve ever posted here. 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.

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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.

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Broken Windows and Corporate Decency

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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

Stop Communicating…

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Communication is the biggest problem in human life.  Not because it’s a bad idea, but because we do it all wrong.  So let’s drop our typical vision of business “communication” to start something much more effective: “dialogue.”

I’ve been reading an interesting discussion of project managers on LinkedIn.  The discussion started with a question about the most important element of successful projects.  A large percentage of the comments center around project communication with a recurring theme that said roughly this: “you can be the world’s best communicator, but some people just won’t get with the program.”

Bunk.

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A Look at Women and Influence

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Today is International Women’s Day, so it’s fitting that I capture a few thoughts on women and influence.  Last year, Warren Buffett said, “America has forged (their) success while utilizing, in large part, only half of the country’s talent.  For most of our history, women — whatever their abilities — have been relegated to the sidelines.  Only in recent years have we begun to correct that problem.”

Women are often relegated to the sidelines.  Despite Sheryl Sandberg’s advice that we “lean in”, there are forces at work that have nothing to do with an ability to get the job done.  Many of those forces are benign, a simple artifact of decades (centuries) of male-dominated societies.  Women do things differently, and those differences are somewhat hard-to-understand for the pantheon of men-at-the-top.

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