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Frank Patrick's Focused Performance Business Blog
This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Happy Anniversary, ITMS -- This week is the second anniversary of Apple's iTunes Music Store, a significant event for the music industry and for digital life in genera. To get a sense of what impact it's had on me, as if anyone cares, and to learn more about my taste in music than anyone probably wants to, check out my Unfocused post.

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It's a Small World, After All -- In one of my regular reads, Keith Ray's MemoRanda, he writes:
"I never blog about where I work, but I'll make an exception today. I'm working at Intuit, on QuickBooks for Macintosh. You can buy the 2005 version at Amazon. I can't say what will go into next year's version, but I assure you, that if you need small-business accounting software on MacOS X, it will be worth the purchase or upgrade price.
I, too, made a rare mention of my workplace yesterday. The "small world" aspect is the intersection of Keith's paycheck provider and mine. We've been doing some good work for his Intuit recently. Yo, Keith -- mention this to your Quickbooks marketing team.

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Friday, April 29, 2005

The Best of The Best: We're #1! -- See Starting It: The Best of The Best, at the boss' blog; the boss, that is, of us here at DigitalGrit.

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Best Practices? -- Everyone knows a best practice when they see it, right? That means that best practices dominate their markets. According to Uncle Walt at the Wall Street Journal, maybe not...
"Overall, Tiger is the best and most advanced personal computer operating system on the market, despite a few drawbacks. It leaves Windows XP in the dust."
Hmmm...maybe there's a flaw in my opening logic.

Culture trumps technology again.

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Don't Be a Sap -- I knew I liked Sig. In a comment to today's earlier post, he points out that the conversation on culture and technology has branched into a discussion of the self-similarity of processes across company borders that has made them a collection of followers...
"...some monolithic enterprise software makes companies even more identical in how they do things, in ways of business models.

"Love it when they push their wares as being "best business practices". Translated: "This is a copy of how the others do it!" At the end of the day only way you can compete is by getting into the office two hours before everybody else."
How 'bout some word association? You say "best practices", I say "benchmarking", a long time pet peeve of mine, as pointed out here. I'm sure that the "best (so far) practices" that are institutionalized by such entities as enterprise software and massive consultancies have been well benchmarked across a range of companies and industry sectors, resulting in a clown clone war trying to impersonate competition.

Even going beyond the handcuffs of one-size-fits-all software-driven processes, the ones that really do it right (usually those that do it first or close to first), like Wal-Mart and Toyota are the leaders. A couple years ago, I wrote...
...as processes and approaches are copied over and over again, they lose fidelity to the original, just as a copy of a copy of a copy does on paper. As the clarity of paper copies suffer, the potency of approaches suffer, especially when attempts are made to match it to the inevitable different starting points. There is no such thing as a canned solution -- each situation searching for improvement must take a clean look at where they are at, and determine for themselves the constraint that limits their performance, the culture that perpetuates it, and how to use the available tools and techniques to create a new solution for themselves.

Otherwise, such efforts will be limited to crippled attempts at catch-up to those who have gone before.
Those who feel compelled to jump on the bandwagons of the leaders, whether the band's tune is based on EDI, Lean, or RFID, are relegated to, as Sig points out in terms those who buy into the best practices of enterprise software, the role of follower.


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Culture and Technology, Continued -- Yesterday, over at the Fast Company Weblog, Heath pointed to "a conversation" between yours truly and Hugh at gapingvoid on the subject of changes cultural and technological. I appreciate Heath's linkage, but he exagerated about my part in it. Sure, I commented and expanded with a blog entry, but I am compelled to point out that the real conversation is happening over in the comments attached to Hugh's original post. Be sure to check them out.

In addition to this little bit of unearned attention, this topic also introduced me to a new (to me) blogger who I'm sure will be promoted from my "checking out" list to a more permanant position in my feed reader. Sigurd Rinde commented in the conversation, which led me (and Hugh) to his Forthcoming journal, especially this entry. I won't quote it here, but instead encourage you to check out it and the rest of his stuff for yourself.

Returning to the subject of the relative impact of cultural and technological changes, back in the day when I was doing BPR work (business process reengineering -- remember that one?) at what was then AT&T's Bell Labs, we used a three-part approach to the efforts, encompassing Process Management, Change Management, and Enabling Technology. The characterization of technology as the enabler of new processes certainly put it in its place. Whether a triggering enabler (a new technology that lets you start thinking about new processes) or as a supportive enabler (allowing the desired proposed processes to be implemented), it is clear (to me) that the value of the innovation comes from how you use it -- from the new processes that address problems faced by the organization. Technological change merely enables the process change that creates the value.

Technology allows you to change how you do something. Cultural change allows you to consider doing new things. Doing the same stuff faster, cheaper, or better is cool and often worthwhile, but doing new stuff that others can't do because they're stuck in the same culture you were previously stuck in is where real competitive advantage and value come from.

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Friday Fun: At the Movies -- Last week (done) and this week (to-do). (For the latter, my favorite trailer in Quicktime.)

And in honor of this week's new movie...
There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
    -- Douglas Adams
(Thanks to Steve Hardy, the Creative Generalist for reminding me of that quote.)

By the way, please do not follow this advice, but the best time to go to the movies is the first show on Sunday morning. I saw Lord of the Rings - Return of the King with about 8 other people on it's opening weekend. Almost as pleasant as DVD-watching at home, but my home screen isn't big enough for first exposure to effects-heavy flicks.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Culture or Technology -- Over at gapingvoid, Hugh offers...
...A recent thought:

There can be no technological solution without a cultural solution. Cultural solutions are more valuable and profitable than technological solutions.

Agree/Disagree?
Agree!

It's kind of obvious to me that since it's the people within the system that are needed to buy into and use the technology, the "cultural" aspects are primary for the acceptance and use of the technology.

Also, how the technology is applied and the efficacy of it as a "solution" is also dependent on a cultural component. Is the technology being used to simply pave the cowpaths, speeding transactions and analysis in the system's old way of thinking about and doing things, or is the technology a means of supporting a significant improvement that involves a new mindset and set of operating rules -- a "new culture"?

On the other hand, the benefit of a technological solution is that it can help to do just that -- institutionalize a cultural solution so that it gets a chance to eventually become the old method subject to another solution.

Bottom line -- significant, meaningful, profitable results come from the cultural solutions. While they may be made possible or supported by a tech solution, the technological aspect may be necessary, but not sufficient.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Tell Me How You'll Measure Me, And I'll Tell You How I'll Behave #2 -- From Clarke, It's not his fault.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Tell Me How You'll Measure Me, And I'll Tell You How I'll Behave -- Mark Frauenfelder writes about measures and behaviors at Enron, via a recent documentary film...
"Every year, all employees were rated from 1 (best) to 5 (worst). The more money you made for the company, the better your rating. (Skilling was fond of saying that money was the only thing that motivated people). Skilling mandated that between 10 and 15 percent of the employees had to be rated as 5s. And to get a rating of 5 meant that you were fired. This review process was dubbed 'rank and yank.'

"It's no surprise that this algorithm resulted in a corporate petri dish teeming with sociopaths who were taped in phone conversations laughing at the thought of stealing money from 'grandma millies' who were hit with unafforably high utility bills, and urging on the California wildfires by chanting 'burn baby, burn!.'"
Cause and effect, plain and simple.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Gaming the Schedule -- Hal and Glen (and probably others) have beat me to mentioning Johanna Rothman's series on "Schedule Games," but I'll join in on the bandwagon and point y'all toward it as well. The first four include...
Schedule Game #1: Schedule Chicken
Schedule Game #2: 90% Done
Schedule Game #3: Bring Me a Rock
Schedule Game #4: Hope is Our Most Important Strategy
"Schedule Chicken" is one of my favorites. If you've ever seen the HBO Series "From the Earth to the Moon," about the Apollo program, you might remember what was my favorite episode -- the one about the Grumman engineers building the lunar lander. There's a great scene in which everyone goes around the table saying "Sure, my group's on track." until one admits the reality of needing some more time, at which point everyone then backtracks, saying, "Well, since Joe will need more time, we could use it to..." There's other PM wisdom and reality spread out in that episode. Check it out if you get a chance.

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On Multitasking --
"We rightly consider keeping many balls in the air a circus stunt. Yet even the juggler does it only for ten minutes or so. If he were to try doing it longer, he would soon drop all the balls."
    -- Peter Drucker (1966). The Effective Executive.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Cocoalicious: A Cocoa del.icio.us Client for Mac OS X -- A little off-topic, but I'm happy to evangelize nifty Mac stuff. After mentioning del.icio.us the other day, I stumbled across this intriguing app for accessing and managing del.icio.us postings. (Wish I didn't have to use Windows on the 9-5-or-whatever.)

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On Reality --
"I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it."
    -- Garrison Keillor, US humorist & radio broadcaster (1942 - )
From Quotes of the Day - The Quotations Page

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Is your work day reactive or proactive? -- A good question.

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When the Music's Over -- Couldn't decide if this was about business and markets or culture. Chose the latter and put it on my other blog but decided to point to it from here as well. (hmmm...found some writing energy for that one)

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Reading and Recommended: The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century -- The usual insightful analysis from Tom Friedman, warning the developed west to face reality when it comes to the growing economic power of China and India.

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del.icio.us/fpatrick -- I've been getting the guilts for not having time or energy for significant posts. If you'd like to see what's been getting my attention recently, but not making it to this weblog, check out my del.icio.us bookmarks. Within it are a few interesting topics that are incubating (or maybe fermenting) in me. If you don't know about del.icio.us, a "social bookmarking" service, you really should check it out.

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I don't need to know... -- Slacker Manager Brendon claims...
"I don't need to know, if I know where to go."
...as his own trademarked mantra. I wonder how much I owe him for making use of the concept all these years. (He also points to a good piece on the myth of managers needing to know how their team does their stuff. What? Maybe. How? Naah.)

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Friday Fun: Low-Carb Snacks -- For all my fellow boomer borderline diabetics out there, sugar free chocolate dipped pork rinds. No...really.

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

On Problems --
"The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution."
    -- Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)
From Quotes of the Day - The Quotations Page

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Expensive Resources and Constraints -- Engineer2Entrepreneur points to a piece in Forbes on Ten Laws of the Modern World. One of them sounds very familiar to me...
"Gilder's Law: Winner's Waste. The best business models, he said, waste the era's cheapest resources in order to conserve the era's most expensive resources."
Sounds a lot like subordinating to the constraint as well as a refutation of the myth that an idle resource is a waste. (The only time an idle resource is a waste is when that resource is the system's constraint...nothing is more expensive than a constraining resource wasted.)

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Project Paradigms -- Blog buddy Clarke Ching points to blog buddy David Anderson's new email signature...
"”A project is a problem scheduled for solution”, J.M. Juran
”A project is a collection of value scheduled for realization”, D.J. Anderson"
Sorry, guys, the latter is a cute turn of buzzwords, but the former is nice, clean, and simple English that says the same thing to me. A problem is nothing more than the collection of things blocking the attainment of some desired value, and a solution is the object of the realization effort, otherwise, why bother? Customers don't pay good money for just any old product that is realized. They buy/value solutions to their problems.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Sushi Lunch and Project Promises -- Dave Anderson has a great vacation story that leads up to this moral...
"So what is the moral of this story? Iterative incremental delivery and self-organizing burn-down aren't enough! There has to be some analysis of the requirements and an attempt to understand the true customer needs. The customer's definition of quality. Based on this, the priorities should be set for the incremental deliveries. There should be a commitment to the customer - a promise made - and it should be honored."
An important moral, no matter the context. Whether using agile methods, Gantt Charts, or goat entrails, project management is about making, managing, and keeping promises, even if the customer is a 3-year-old waiting for her California Roll.

Another view of the story is in the danger of batching deliverables wrong. In this case, even if half of the order was to be delivered, perhaps the waitstaff (as PM or customer surrogate?) should have managed the batching and prioritizing so each member of the dining party received part of their order instead of an indiscriminant half of the whole table's order. [update - Should've read Dave's whole piece before jumping into a post with my "insights." He actually goes on to make this same point. "Great minds..."]

hmmm, I'm getting hungry.

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Friday Fun: Google Map Coolness -- I know a lot of people have been checking out the new “keyhole” satellite feature of Google’s maps, but I’ve noticed one thing that isn’t all that evident on the usual screens of that I’ve seen on several peoples’ screens, dominated by darker terrain. Check out the “shadow” cast by the address balloon here. (Be sure to close it by hitting the little X and reopening it by clicking on the "pushpin thingie" for full effect.

And by the way, that address still has a few weeks available to rent this summer. Let me know if you’re interested.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A Source of Agile Project Management -- Glen Alleman points out that there are very few things completely new under the sun, and that "emergent" activity can/does/must thrive within "traditional" structures and processes for either to be truly effective.

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