All posts by TriStrategist

A Strange Coffee Culture

Perhaps no other retail business can better illustrate the small-to-big retail growth process than Starbucks – from a single store in 1975 to 18,000+ stores in 30+ years, limited lines of retail products in the offering, heavy brick-and-mortar dependency, a decent sized corporation, yet trying to grow in global scale with scattered and outdated IT infrastructures and a questionable culture.

Starbucks has long been known for its infamous “consensus building” culture. Seldom the employees who left the company had anything more encouraging to say about its culture. A former Starbucks senior officer, an ivy-league graduate with degrees from both Princeton and Yale Law School, who left the company and now heading a Seattle startup company, said recently “With such a culture, nothing can be done there.” No wonder in their IT department, almost all projects run late or over budget. Yet their culture, on the other hand, is very calculating to the pennies: Most of the coffee beans to the stores are supplied from Mexico or Southeast Asia, the cheapest areas to get those (not Ethiopia as you might think); they drive hard bargains with landlord; every employee has to report allocation and hours; and extremely penny-wise to use consultants/contractors. Inside the company everyday, everyone are running around with lots of meetings, most of them are for those “sync-ups”- almost everyone wants to know what everyone else is doing so that they can have a say. All managers, no matter how remotely related to a project, request to be invited to every project meeting. Even when they can contribute little, they want their presence known and respected. Layers and layers of “sync-ups”, but can never be synced up enough for any meaningful decision to be made timely. Of course prep after prep meetings for one senior management meetup. Every minute thing needs consensus or sync-ups. There is no accountability, only plenty of superficial niceties on the surface.

In such a culture, rarely competent people can tolerate or be tolerated. Then what left are less competent managers and people in survival mode and who do what they can do the best: fear-driven behaviors(for job security), self-serving, cover-one’s-own-butt, micromanagement, in-fights. They have high focus on money saving, but can’t see that the largest costs are right in front of themselves- the penny-wise-pound-foolish ways they run their business, organize people and make decisions.

In November 2013, Starbucks lost an arbitration lawsuit with Kraft for $2.76B for its corner-cutting contract practices. Recently, the company is also over the news on the unfair pricing over the coffee offerings in China, their fastest growing region. One can say these were the results of being cunning. Yet, most of their business are still done in the very old-fashioned manual-labored retail ways. Their IT infrastructures and processes are far from ready to support the needed global efficiency. How far can they go in today’s changing world?

Coffee business is a low-entry business. Starbucks is not the first one who invented the popular combination of “espresso + foamed milk” and they will not be the last to use it. A culture that encourages mediocre dominance, to the best, can only perform mediocrely in the long run. Everything changes and no company will last forever.

The Evolution of Internet and Mobile Markets in China

The internet and mobile markets are fairly global and universal in many ways, but in China, “Chinese-characteristic”, as many Chinese leaders describe their economic development models, indeed applies to their internet and mobile market evolution. Compared to the western progress, Chinese market has been through more of a leapfrog mode and bypassed many middle stages.
 
It all comes with
the cultural. More and more Chinese business people and entrepreneurs have realized the distinction. Once they combine the technological innovations from other parts of the world to their own characteristics, a unique Chinese market is born. They hope that one day these unique offerings will be accepted by the west and other parts of the global- to the realization of a full circle of technology innovations and influences.
 
Evolution Stage One: Mass Internet and the information sharing age

Internet entered China rather late. The national infrastructure that supported the mass internet access has come into scale only in a little over one decade, thanks to the trans-Pacific fiber optic cables(first put into service in 2000), western investment and technology support, as well as Chinese government’s open market policies. Quickly the penetration flourished within such a large population who are so eager and curious to know everything outside after being labeled as “closed and backward” for centuries. The dominating scenes of the earlier age of this stage were those overnight internet cafés on street corners filled with smoke and younger people. Then high speed cables, desktops and laptops quickly entered common households at affordable prices, including remote cities and areas, and for all generations.
 
Evolution Stage Two:  Social media and
Ecommerce

Chinese like to stay in touch and chat.  In the old days, everyone sat by street corners or in someone’s yard, now they have moved online. Local chat tool QQ enters household vocabulary. Text messaging runs everything. Sina, Sohu, Wangyi(163.com), Baidu, Alibaba, …, one after another internet startups became the symbols of a golden age of Chinese entrepreneurship. Weibo, WeChat (or Weixin, from Tencent), etc, offering similar functions to US Twitter, Facebook, etc but tailored to local Chinese, all flourished quickly in China, reaching millions of Chinese users in a short time window.     

Most Chinese love to shop for deals too. With the modernization of the banking and credit card industries, online shopping which was way lagged behind the US or Europe, all of sudden is catching up in lightning speed.  Transactions over one Single’s Day on 11/11, a fairly new thing from Alibaba, immediately eclipsed the entire US Black Friday sales. This year in 2013, Alibaba processed $5.75 billion total sales on one Single’s Day while American spent a total of $1.9 billion on Black Friday and Thanksgiving online combined.  China is easily on the way to become the world’s largest e-Commerce market. Remember this is only with 40% of the internet penetration in China at this time,  where still mostly the young, educated, and those living in cities, know how to shop on line doing e-Commerce transactions.

This is a stage that many people in China may have become too eager to jump start a new internet-based business or invest in one. Watch for some of the bubbles from the quick evaluations. It is still a growing market and growing process, far from maturity.

Evolution Stage Three: Mobile internet and new mobile devices with special chips or sensors.

This is the stage that’s been currently forming. Wasting no time, Chinese are catching up fast on what are available and advanced in the US and other places. Well, more and more, they start to value what they have locally and what could be truly “Made-in-China” too.  China is quickly becoming the world’s largest mobile user market as well. It’s the fastest revenue growth region for Apple (IPhone and IPad), faster than Starbucks coffee and all fast food chains, and it is the key contending market for almost all device makers.  Nokia used to lead here, but now Apple, Samsung, Google, HTC, LG, etc, nearly everybody, A local mobile phone producer and startup Xiaomi (named from a very Chinese-characteristic idiom in WWII) in August this year was valued at $10 billion USD just after three years in business. News just came out that on November 28, 2013 (the US Thanksgiving Day), it sold 150,000 smartphones under 10 minutes just through WeChat media alone.

Many of the young entrepreneurs in China today have finally realized the uniqueness of the China market in internet and in mobile. Robin Li, the CEO from Baidu and a Peking University graduate, mentioned about it in a recent Bloomberg interview and many talked about it in high-tech conferences with Chinese entrepreneurs. For Mobile Internet, it’s an entirely different platform than traditional internet. Mobile search is different than desktop search; many applications are going to be designed especially for mobile internet. This is a space everyone can compete on even ground nowadays. 

High-tech industry evolves around the synergy of software and hardware. China is where many new devices are going to be made and new ideas are coming from. Even for many US companies, thinking about trying and implementing new ideas for mobiles, China is the first stop.  Years of activities as the “world’s leading factory” have left enormous experiences, expertise and experimenting spirits in China for “making everything possible”.  With the increasing demands for more smart sensing devices and customized applications, agility in China’s manufacture capability will play a key part in leading the innovations on providing new chips (China is also the major silicon manufacture destination), new sensors and new applications for smart mobile usages. This unique Chinese-characteristic advantage has already been realized by the local entrepreneurs and they just need to organize their ideas.  

Evolution Stage Four and onwards:

What’s next? A truly innovative indigenous high-tech industry for China, or the world’s largest software, internet and mobile market? It could all happen in coming decades if not sooner. To become so, China needs invest in foundation software and technologies.  Open Source provides a golden opportunity for the young and ambitious Chinese entrepreneurs to start on an even platform with the world and invent new without being labelled as “copy-cats”. A leading industry needs a well-formed self-evolving system. China hasn’t done much about forming their own sustainable high-tech management or innovation systems. They need that journey, with a lot more dedication, patience and longer-term planning than the current market and society have been displaying. Playing catch-up can only go so far as to stand side-by-side by your peers, but to lead forward, it needs the vision, the boldness and a good support system. Fortunately money and investment is no longer a thorny issue for many existing or becoming entrepreneurs in China. A new dawn is reckoning.

Reference news articles:

  • A Single Chinese Company Dwarfed All Of America’s Black Friday And Thanksgiving Online Sales In One Day:

http://www.businessinsider.com/alibaba-dwarfs-americas-black-friday-2013-12

  • China’s Xiaomi sold 150,000 smartphones in under 10 minutes… using a chat app:   

            http://thenextweb.com/asia/2013/11/28/chinas-xiaomi-sold-150000-smartphones-10-minutes-using-chat-app/

 

What Has Apple Done Right?

Even when Steve Jobs were alive at Apple, Apple was not mentioned as a “great organization” or a “well-managed company” from the traditional sense. It is a great business from the perspective that they launched such cutting-edge innovative products in the world and in consumer technology fields, that they have beaten competitors by a large margin both in time and in profits. The huge profitability generated for Apple from these products has rarely been matched even years after the launch. They have also significantly raised consumers’ expectations on the future high-tech products and enhanced imaginations of a generation worldwide. How did they achieve the remarkable feat?

1. The Collective Genius. Steve Jobs might be a great intuitionist, perfectionist, motivator, promoter and negotiator, but many of the innovative ideas from Apple’s products were not directly from his mind. What he was good at, was to identify where the problems were in consumer products and intuitively know which revolutionary ideas were the best from all the brilliant people that he surrounded himself with. He never tolerated bozos and he can give trust to his selected people around him. He simply knew how to motivate his best people to come up with the best ideas and encourage them to perfect them and realize them, to “think different” and try the impossible. He used these secretive “project teams” for advanced ideas and gather all the needed best-fit resources to focus on each individual great idea until something came up to satisfy his superb senses and intuitions – “That’s just right and insanely great” for the market.

2. A Giant Lead Time. From IPod, to IPhone, to IPad, each great product was a revolution in high-tech consumer industry.  Apple completely leapfrogged competitions by a huge margin. When the products were launched, many competitors hadn’t even thought about the ideas or the direction that Apple had taken. From the idea inception, to perfection, to manufacture and finalization, Apple had at least one and half or two years lead time ahead of the completions. This is definitely not an easy feat to achieve in this highly competitive industry. They did it, with the beliefs, the motivations, the drives, the collective minds and hearts, the effective identification, negotiation and collaboration process with partners. If Apple keeps this tradition, depending on if Apple can make it a tradition in their system regardless of if a strong visionary leader exists or not, it can enable their lead and success for a long time to come. It will be very hard for Apple’s competitors and followers to catch up with Apple in such a business if they don’t have some truly original revolutionary ideas to start with and can’t implement 3-4 times faster than Apple.

3. The Immense China market. Every great idea needs a great implementer to realize it. Apple needs fast and creative implementer, precise manufacture, and a low cost. Apple believes in China market, its unlimited potentials both from consumer thirsts and manufacture prowess, and they have fully utilized it. Jim Cook has been focusing on China for a long time. There in China he found the best manufacture partners who are willing to meet the “perfection” needs of manufacturing for Apple at a very low margin. It was calculated that for each IPhone sold around $500-600USD, Apple’s China manufacture partners only took about $5 USD. He could find nowhere else with such readiness, capacity, inventiveness, agility and willingness for such large-scale manufacture activity at such a low cost. Jim Cook has paid many visits to China and emphasized many times to investors that Apple’s future grown potential revolves a lot around China. For the sales, the Greater China region is Apple’s fastest growing region with triple-digit growth by beginning of 2013. Apple even breaks out China revenue on its balance sheet just to highlight the sheer growth and importance of the region. Apple apparently has a much better understanding and appreciation of the culture of the region than many of its US competitors. For such a culture, long-term thinking, respect, compassion, tolerance and fairness far outweigh short-term calculations, aggressiveness or ideology dominance in business. When the Chinese government demanded an apology from Apple due to some issues, Apple delivered such an apology. It might be awkward for many of the US mentality, but that’s a smart and easy move for Apple to win the minds and hearts for its indispensable partners and consumers in such an unlimited market.

We have to respect Steve Jobs for what he had initiated and implemented to transform Apple. From $18 billion market value in 2000 to $455 billion in 2013, it becomes the largest company per market value and the most profitable. Today, it is a time of great changes for many businesses.  Leaders who can understand the dynamics of the world markets, the industries, and minds and hearts of the customers, and who have the courage to lead them with great innovative products and services will always be the ones we look forward to.

A Seesaw Business and its Survival

The Boeing Company (NASDAQ symbol as “BA”), founded in 1916, is world’s largest aerospace company with many very long-time employees among its nearly 170,000 work force worldwide. It is one of the largest employers in the US. It engages in two sides of the business: Commercial Airplanes (BCA) and Defense business (Defense, Space & Security). By Year 2012, BCA counts about 60% of the total revenue of $81.7 billion and half of its total employees, and Defense about 40% of its revenue.

The business model was set up after the major mergers with the expectation that the two sides of the business would weather each other- when the Commercial business going through the down cycles, Defense business can provide buffers and vice versa:  slow yet steady for years. With the acquisition of McDonnell Douglas in 1997, a big piece of defense industry was added to the original commercial focused plate. Besides the initial turmoil with Wall Street after the immediate marriage of the two distinct parties in a downward economy of the late 90s, things appeared never better or never more stable along with the rising economy. Therefore , within 10 years after the merger, the management must have gotten a little bit too complacent as scandals coming up from the top one after another.

After the MD merger in 1997, Boeing possessed the dominate presence in the aerospace industry in the US and in the world. The company culture started a paradigm shift as well. Two seemingly different types of businesses were merged together each with different needs and means to succeed. Commercial business faces market-driven competitions with innovative technologies and low-cost manufacture as the key to compete,  while Defense requires good relationship with the government for its lucrative long-term contracts although deals with its slow movements.  To the outside, it looked like a happily-ever-after marriage and Boeing became almost a bellwether company since then.

The seesaw model had worked fine for years. Did the top management ever foresee the danger of such a model in the longer term? While operating in two sides of the business with a much larger of defense contracts mixed into the revenue-generating venues, MD’s culture and management team seemed to have gotten a larger say inside the company while Boeing’s traditional culture was forced to change. Government contracts may have guaranteed terms of stable money flow, but it can also dominate the company’s culture from the process of dealing with government’s heavy and bureaucratic cycles instead of facing the ever-moving international market competitions, wooing officials to win contracts instead of focusing on building better airplanes, relentless number crunching and bottom-line calculations instead of people focus, culture focus, engineering focus like it used to be …

To modern age technology-driven businesses, government’s technology infrastructure and adoptions are almost always two or three generations behind the cutting-edge on the market. Their heavy regulations and bureaucracies can make everything move at a snail’s speed. That would not match well with the growth needs for a market-driven commercial business.

Nowadays, not only the economy crisis impacts every corner of the Commercial business, global competitions in every industry spring out like wild flowers. On the Defense side, government has started to tighten the defense budget and loads of regulations came up after the event of 911. Safety net is no longer safe and the seesaw all of sudden got pushed by heavy weights on both ends at the same time – getting stuck.

The winds are blowing from all directions. A company’s culture can decide its future path and survival rate under big storms.

“Culture trumps strategy, every time!”

See http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/03/culture_trumps_strategy_every.html

Boeing has been facing many crises lately. The serious delays of 787 Dreamliners and many of its latest PR mishaps may be just the tip of an iceberg. There is no surgical solution to change a slow-moving, slow-adapting big elephant culture. The process will not be trivial to make an elephant dance again. It could be facing even more painful decisions ahead, to the company and to its people, esp. those people who have had their lifelong career rooted in the company. .

There are only few limited ways to transform such a large heavy company under crisis and there is also limited time. No matter which solution, predicted or totally unexpected, likely a fresher and more competitive culture is needed to ensure its future survival and growth.  Letting competitions and innovations be the main drivers again and hope it could dance very well once more. It is and will be a very good management case study for the 21st century.

The Age of Human-interacting Software as the Drivers to Hardware Has Come


For decades in the past, the capabilities of silicon chips have been the drivers for the software business- how we design the software and what functions can be performed based on these silicon chips. Capital-intensive fabs of the silicon industry decided that only a limited few large players can dominate the markets and thus the products based on these chips have more or less the similar fashions on how they can behave – like the PCs in decades. Limitations of the chips were directly reflected in the limitation of the software. Everything behave like computer or machine logics.

Tidal waves of consumer electronics are coming. Mobile devices have proliferated in every corner of the society – smaller nimbler faster chips, multi-functional units, versatile designs, lighter weight, smaller footprint, multiple global vendors, ubiquitous customizations,…, all come from the boom of consumer needs which challenge seriously the traditional ways of making hardware and software. Now things have completely changed- hardware chips can almost be produced just in time based on the needs of the device manufacturers and software companies. New techs like 3D printing, new manufacture concepts of leased manufacturing based on customized specs, etc. allow design innovations to blossom like never before. Enhanced human interaction needs also render beauty, intuitiveness, versatility, flexibility, connectivity, portability in the design of every modern product.

This is a new revolution- It’s all human again in using the technologies.

The Painful Reality of Business Transformation- Innovate Faster or Die Sooner


Tidal waves of disruptive changes are coming and threatening the very core of once super successful dominating businesses like IBM, MSFT, Intel, GOOG, Boeing, etc. Let’s focus on technology industry first. We’ll leave Boeing’s story to another article later.

It is no longer a speculation; it is the reality. Look at the PC industry:  smaller, lighter, more personal devices like tablets and smart phones are enjoying the exponential growth, while the global shipment of boxed PC has been dwindling faster and faster – already dropped almost 11% year over year by Q2 2013.

For MSFT and Intel, yesterday’s high-profit breadwinner can no longer be sufficient to feed today’s hunger.

Innovate Faster or Die Sooner

Eastman Kodak was a classic example: too slow a response to the digital transformation means being a dinosaur on the earth after the meteoroids pounded. This time they knew the disaster was coming and saw their own demise helplessly.

 

Similar stories are always present in the history of business.   

 

IBM once had the mainframe dominance in worldwide markets and the company run like a family. Years of transformation from an old steady mainframe and PC manufacturer to a technology service company did not pass through without the pain. The elephant finally danced a little bit. Today, it still has to continue transforming itself and locating its next footing of dominance or greatness.


Even for GOOG, the Wall Street darling of the latest decade, is seeing the tidal waves towards it. Pay-per-click search revenue is shrinking with business owners turning more and more to mobile advertisements for better ROI. A business based solely on a set of search algorithm can be unsustainable – there could always be another set of smarter faster algorithm down the road (maybe by some college kids again), even if the dominance (or monopoly, or purchasing power) today could delay any infant competitor’s marketability. Smartly GOOG has been trying to diversify their business in mobile and other areas for years.

 

All companies, no matter what dominant positions they may have built over the years, are seeing the waves coming, not on the horizon, but already in their backyard, feet or inches away from reaching their front porch. Today, no company can afford to stand still and in fact no one can stand still.

 

Have these companies ever feared that this day will eventually come? Have they followed the beliefs of human evolution,  especially of the expansion of human brains and senses, the cravings for grander aesthetics, productivity, ubiquitous connectivity and existence?

 

Have these once smart companies already had tomorrow’s breadwinners in stock? Not quite.  Many of them are just scrambling to play the catch-up games, not at all can be one step ahead of the game. And that could be a dangerous sign.

 

Business without a long term strategy on promoting innovations as part of the life, without the constant sense of urgency facing competitions can be easily swept away by today’s tidal waves.  If luck is on their side and right strategies are put in place timely to change the playground so that they can maneuver one or two steps ahead of everyone else, they may still transform and survive, but it needs the right visionary leaders to lead them into the next generation.

 
The Human Factors

How about the human factors? Every business’ success is about its people’s collective mind powers, energies and achievements. Culture trumps strategy every time. Without a long term focus on innovation at the very core of the company culture and its business values, catch-up or slim-fast schemes may only save the management for days, but not for years or decades. In fact many such schemes may not work at all or take effect fast enough to escape the tsunami of today’s changing world.

 

Many companies are going through the painful business transformation at this very moment, no matter due to the worldwide economic recession, the increasing global competitions or the fast technology advances.  Some traditional companies are struggling in the survival mode. For so many long-time employees, the human toll of such transformation could be severe. Cost-cutting and layoffs are usually the first means adopted by the management from its modern day quick-fix toolbox.  Inside many non-performing business units or “cost-centers”, uncertainty-driven emotional burdens can be felt everywhere. Fears and insecurity usually bring out the worst human traits and create many wasteful office dramas. It absolutely takes a lot more management skills and thoughtful thinking than a relentless number-crunching to lead through such a business transformation with grace, respect and consideration to its long-term success with people in it.

No company can be lasting without a cultivated winning culture with its people playing the essential roles. Without a proper culture in place, no matter how lean a company can be, it will not guarantee its survival from the next wave.

Steve Jobs and his Bozo theory

We admire Steve Jobs for what he had accomplished in his relatively short life time. Beyond his talents, we should take a deeper look at his courage. Not many people in the modern time can beat his true courage to stand on his own and not to be fooled by any other.

Forbes magazine published another article by Eric Jackson on “The Ten Life Lessons From Steve Jobs We Should Never Forget”.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2013/01/22/the-ten-life-lessons-from-steve-jobs-we-should-never-forget/print/

It’s amazingly refreshing to notice the 2nd lesson: Don’t tolerate bozos around you. Here is the paragraph:

“Throughout his life, Steve had a great “bozo” detector. He did a super job of not letting bozos proliferate at his companies. He weeded them out if they were there – until they weren’t. You’ll never be perfect at it and neither was Steve but the key thing is that bozos sap energy from you and the best people in the company working with you. Bozos make bozo decisions. Bozos hire worse bozos beneath them. Stamp them out. Don’t let them take root around you.”

For any truly competent people, we can’t agree more on this truth, but very few in our current society besides Steve Jobs had called it out. Don’t we just tolerate bozos a lot more nowadays in the names of team work, collaboration or simply being pleasant?

For company leaders, especially those top leaders who want to bring a business from good to great, Steve’s bozo theory is super important to remember and an effective detector can be essential for success.

However in consulting industry, diplomacy and pleasing personalities are often the necessity to the extent that it could be both the short-term winning card and the long-term poison. Leaders in consulting need to be mindful about how they play the cards to win business and at the same time to stay true to oneself and to the principals. The establishment of a truthful competent image of the company and its people will be forever lasting no matter for providing products or services.

Is “Agile Methodology” Truly Agile?

Companies which start thinking about adopting Agile or Scrum Methodology in their software development or IT support cycle because it seems to the current fashion in the industry may need some careful thinking.

Before answering the question of the title line, the first question need to be answered by these companies in fact is: Is your software development a creative endeavor or a commodity production? Or can your IT cycle be reduced into assembly line stages? If the answers to the above question are ambiguous, then think again whether Agile/Scrum method is suitable for you.

From TriStrategy’s observations of many software/IT companies using “Scrum Methodology” or groups in high-tech industry trying to mimic it in order to stay in fashion as the name itself seems to indicate, the success is far and apart and the results can be just the opposite sometimes.

If a creative endeavor is absolutely critical in making software product a success, then what’s the point of measuring human creativity by the yardstick of an hour? If a well-motivated group of individuals need to communicate timely and collaborate closely, what’s the point of showing up in daily stand-up meetings with the people who often sit in next cubes to you and answering others’ dry inquiries about what you have done in the day or why you are doing or not doing the assigned small tasks? If we can all expect that every piece of software feature or IT action can be measured by the hour based on some average mind, why do we need hire so many high-paid skilled talents in these fields instead of just creating some standard robots with measurable movements for each small step for the task? Why do we value experienced leaders or project managers to have the uncanny abilities of placing resources at their best strengths and motivate them to achieve the most?

If one day, the tools and technologies have advanced to such a degree that many of the current creative efforts can be done by the machines, then software and IT industry will enter into a whole new age that is comparable to the industrial revolution time of the assembly lines. Then this “agile methodology” may be better termed as “measurable assembly-line method”. Will that ever be true for all software development or IT environment?
One time, a fairly senior director at a big software company described to me that their online services group with scrum by the master’s book resembled a running a train which routinely stops or leaves at regular intervals. All people in the group are put into this routine, days in and days out, reported and pushed by the scrum hours. Then he wanted to seek advice on the group’s worries about the current stage of degrading morale, depressing atmosphere and the exodus of their talented resources in their “agilely” managed environment. He was describing exactly a typical environment that can be the result from this methodology if rigidly applied. In simpler terms, they turned a creative work environment into a grindstone or assembly line for everyone. I told him that the reasons are simple: human are not machines and businesses vary. Creative people cannot be fitted into square holes, no matter what the so-called “scrum masters” may say.

The logic and approach embedded in Scrum methodology can be questionable if we are not in the least in an age that all software and IT cycle can be done by robots. It simply humiliates human capabilities, demotes the true values of creativity, passion, individuality or ingenuity, and amplifies the distrust of workplace devotion and collaborative spirits.

It’s such a great relief that we heard from neither Steve Jobs nor Bill Gates on promoting the so-called “Agile Methodology”. Because they had in their own experience created completely opposite type of atmosphere that they knew would work, a lot more productive, creative and exciting for people to work together to achieve the best they can. They believed in creativity, productivity and human potentials in the true sense. Their time has not fully passed yet because we can never live without creativities for new products, new tools and new services.

We cannot foolhardily accept any superficial hype. There will be people who might fall into the categories whose jobs could one day be replaced by robots or tools, but it would happen only because they permit it in their minds and actions. Human potentials are unlimited. Unlocking them is the key for any success. Suppressing them with rigid process or controls will serve just the opposite. Similarly intelligent humans will never yield to the robots or the robot-minded, because they want to create them and use them, not to be controlled by them.

Boeing’s Dreamliners yet to have dreams come true

Boeing’s 787 line has been suffering some serious setbacks and bad PR lately. Well, it’s one of the most publicized product lines for Boeing. It has a long delay and it attracts long attentions. The result of any mistake is thus amplified by the time duration of the product finally coming to the market after years of delays.

It’s not the only noticible story ever in the business world. Another big company, once neighbors to each other,  has similar “Lessons Learnt” to Boeing still fresh in mind: Microsoft’s Vista launch. After 5 long years of waiting and delays, the product was reviewed unfavorably by the customers. Microsoft quickly corrected the actions in the next better OS launch after Vista, but a quick fix for an airplane model may take some time. Still, how Boeing deals with the current challenge will be critical for the big company’s image.

There hasn’t been such a Murphy’s Law which states: A significantly delayed project will result in poorer quality and worse customer acceptance. Well, it is very much the truth though in many cases. 

So what are the true reasons behind these significant drawbacks or failures?  Too many creative ideas? Too many unpredicated innnovations? To much publicity resulted in unrealistic expectations? Too daring? Too hard to manage? Bad economy? Yet, wait please, aren’t all of these already included in the normal categories of project management tasks – especially risk anticipation and risk management? To the end, a well-planned and well-managed project should encompass all and still can lead to a successful product completed on the expectations of time, budget and quality. Sounds like the true talents of such capability are still rare in big companies. People are usually the most unpreditable cause of any major failure.

6 Common Business Strategy Errors

We like very much the summary of the common errors on business strategies from the book Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works. By A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin, Harvard Business Review Press, 2013.

The Economist magazine today helps give a succint notes of these common strategy errors:
 

  • The Do-It-All strategy- No choice, no priorities.
  • The Don Quixote strategy-  Attacks the company’s strongest competitor first like a fool.
  • The Waterloo strategy- War on too many fronts at once.
  • The Something-For-Everyone- Tries to capture every sort of customer at once.
  • The Programme-Of-The-Month-The populist approach, pursuing whatever fashionable in an industry as a strategy.
  • The Dreams-That-Never-Come-True strategy- Never translates ambitious mission statements into clear choices about which markets to compete in and how to win in them.

Business leaders are tasked to make their strategies work and avoid these common errors. That may be easy to say than done. For new business, we’ve seen so many easily falling into the above categories. We all need keep in mind and keep practicing.  And then, most importantly: “no strategy lasts forever”.