Archive for January, 2013

It is all a matter of timing…

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

I was out walking a week or so ago when I came across this unusual sight.  I don’t recall ever seeing a daffodil blooming in mid-January and it was made even more striking by a blanket of snow.  I have no idea if this plant will survive its premature growth spurt.  I suspect it will probably have to wait a year before it has the resources to try again.

It is worth considering that there is a lesson here for us.  Often it isn’t the idea behind the change that is wrong as much as the timing is premature.  People change when they are ready to and it is famously difficult to try to force change upon unwilling or unready people.  How do you get them ready?  By communicating effectively with them; ensuring that they understand not only what you are trying to achieve, but that you understand the impact the change will have on them.  They have to perceive some positive benefit to themselves in order to invest their resources in changing.  Once you persuade them to ‘bloom’ you had better be sure that you have created the right environment to support this change and to protect your delicate ‘flowers’ from unseasonal ‘snow’!  Get it wrong and you too might have to wait another year before they are ready to try again… 

A tale of two cultures…

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

I read two interesting and contrasting articles today talking about two corporate giants, Microsoft & Google.  They both have very strong cultures and it is interesting to examine the impact of them.  I’m not pretending this is an in-depth analysis, just an interesting raising of the corporate veil to give a glimpse at what lies behind.

Here is an article which talks about the leadership style of Steve Ballmer and their use of their R&D.  Former Windows sales senior VP Joachim Kempin says in an interview that Ballmer apparently sees up-and-coming talent as a threat rather than a resource, and seeks to protect his position rather than nurture the opportunity it might represent.  He also talks about how the highly innovative Microsoft R&D department fails to exploit its intellectual wares because of fear of getting it wrong.  They apparently had a working tablet years ago, but let Apple make a fortune from that market.  The more senior you are there, the more attention you have to spend on corporate politics and arse-covering.

By contrast I read about Google, who are constantly trying new things, many of which they pull the plug on, but some are game changing such as their Android mobile system.  They didn’t seek to control this and keep it close; they made it open source and threw it to the four winds.  It is arguably the most important mobile platform today and has huge support in the influential and growing Far East markets. 

They are a data-crunching business and apparently they monitor their internal data with equal interest.  Their HR department, known as People Operations, noticed that they were losing more female staff than male ones and set out to find out why.  It was to do with their maternity leave policies.  They changed them, on-the-fly, and allowed new mothers five months leave with full pay to be used as required.  This stopped the leaking of female talent from the business. 

I’m sure there is much more that can be written about both cultures but the attitudes and fears for the those at the top has a huge impact on the rest of the business.  If the boss does it, then you can bet your bippy that others will do so too.  People talk a lot about leadership and it is usually talked about as a positive thing, it also casts a long shadow and can distort behaviour in very costly ways.  Be sure you look behind you to see what is growing in your shadow

Every Dog has it’s Day

Monday, January 14th, 2013

It appears that Apple’s time as the unchallenged ‘cock of the walk’ is over.  They became the most valuable company ever with a value of $622 billion last year.  People queued for days to pay premium prices for their every new offering, it was a gold mine!  However, although the iPhone 5 still sold well and was acknowledged as “The best iPhone ever”, it was not met with unalloyed praise.  It was felt that they had launched a very safe, conservative phone.  The success of other companies with 7” tablets forced them to go back on Steven Jobs decision never to make one “7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad. ….7-Inch tablets are dead on arrival.” [Steve Jobs]  And when they brought the iPad mini to market, although once again it was a product which sold well, critics again criticized them for the low resolution of the screen and it is believed they have a new, more competitive version coming out in the Spring. 

In 2013 Samsung & Google with its Android offerings stole some of Apple’s success.  Samsung sold 30 million of its S3 Galaxy.  Android activations back in July were 1.2 million per day, with 3.7 million over Christmas alone, it is expected that they will reach a billion soon.  It has 80% of the important Chinese market. 

It seems to me no matter how good you are you will hit a phase when others catch-up  and set the pace.  What you do then is very important.  Do you copy them, or hold true to your previous ideas?  Knowing what to change and when to do it is the true mark of business genius.  I can’t offer a golden rule but will say that if you aren’t continually re-evaluating your path and practices then you will be less successful.  Challenge your assumptions, ask daft questions, ask “Why not?” rather than “Why?”  You also know what makes you different and special and if you don’t then perhaps the answer is “Nothing”.  In which case, then you need to decide if you live with this and the risk it represents or if you can create a niche for yourself.

The Law of Unexpected Consequences or the Little Emperor Syndrome

Friday, January 11th, 2013

In 1979 China legislated to stop families having more than one child.  It was hailed as a success and reportedly stopped the birth of 250 million children between 1980 & 2000, paving the way for China’s current prosperity.

However, it is now possible to see some of the other, unintended fruits of this decision.  Families now tend to have a 4-2-1 structure, with 4 grandparents and 2 parents all caring for and lavishing their love, attention and ambitions on a single child.  Not unsurprisingly this has changed that generation of children. They call them ‘Little Emperors’, people who expect the world to revolve around them and having their every whim catered to.

There has been a recent study that that has shown that this popular view is in fact true and scientists tested them.  “We find quite large impacts. Those who are the only children as a result of the policy are considerably less trusting, less trustworthy, more risk averse, less competitive, more pessimistic, less conscientious and possibly also more neurotic,” said Lisa Cameron, of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. “These behavioural impacts could have economic consequences in addition to the more obvious social implications.  For instance, we find that those born under the policy are less likely to be employed in risky occupations, such as self-employment, freelancing or the financial sector. So it may be that the one-child policy generation will be less entrepreneurial.”

All change brings about a series of consequences and inevitably some are not anticipated by the authors of the change.  The old carpenter’s adage, measure twice, cut once is worth bearing in mind.  Take a few minutes after you have decided what you need to do and brainstorm all the likely and possible consequences.  Allow humour and silliness in these sessions as Life often sneaks through just such ‘silly’ holes!  You’ll never anticipate every eventuality but you’ll make a better fist of it if you run this kind of session as part of your planning.