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.
"Individually, many of those 140-character “tweets” seem inane.
But taken collectively, the stream of messages can turn Twitter into a surprisingly useful tool for solving problems and providing insights into the digital mood. By tapping into the world’s collective brain, researchers of all kinds have found that if they make the effort to dig through the mundane comments, the live conversations offer an early glimpse into public sentiment — and even help them shape it."
1. Instant, Real-Time Search Results...
2. Monitoring Something You Care About...
3. News Updates...
4. Instant Communication with Friends...
5. Twitter as a Productivity Command Line...
6. Ask Questions, Get Answers...
And from Kottke, there's nothing wrong with a bit of trivial diversion now and then...
"...you'd like to think that most of your daily conversation is weighty and witty but instead everyone chats about pedestrian nonsense with their pals. In fact, that ephemeral chit-chat is the stuff that holds human social groups together."
Project Management: Multiple Personality Disorder Required -- Good piece over at ProjectSteps: Project Management Paradox, which goes into some of the rocks and hard places that [project] managers find themselves between when doing their thing. It's based on Tom Peters' old book, Liberation Management - a good one - my old copy is well worn. Some of the dilemmas to be navigated include
Total Ego versus No Ego...
Autocrat versus Delegator...
Leader versus Manager...
Oral versus Written Communication...
Complexity versus Simplicity...
Big versus Small...
Patience versus impatience...
"Publicity is the act of getting ink. Publicity is getting unpaid media to pay attention, write you up, point to you, run a picture, make a commotion. Sometimes publicity is helpful, and good publicity is always good for your ego.
"But it's not PR.
"PR is the strategic crafting of your story. It's the focused examination of your interactions and tactics and products and pricing that, when combined, determine what and how people talk about you."
If a lot of "PR firms" actually do Publicity, as Godin suggest, then a lot of "Marketing firms" probably just do Advertising, making pretty pictures and websites and getting them out there, but leaving the strategic development of market offers to those who own the offers - the clients. Maybe that's as it should be, maybe not, but should they be calling themselves marketers or advertisers?
And if you're looking for expertise in getting your message out into the world, be sure you ask your prospective service providers 1) how they see the difference between publicity and PR, and marketing and advertising, 2) what bucket they see themselves in, and 3) what in their service confirms their answer.
"If one aked me to what do I think one must principally attribute the singular prosperity and growing force of this people, I would answer that it is to the superiority of its women." - Alexis de Tocqueville
...to a New England town hall and a Bronx student council meeting, Democracy - coming to the USA.
"It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A."
- Leonard Cohen
Linkage: Johanna and Esther -- You may have noticed a core group of blogs and sites that I tend to link to. Obviously they are the one's I read. In addition to Glen Alleman, two of my regular go-to gals (so much for PC) are Johanna Rothmann and Esther Derby. Here's a pile of posts from them that are worth your time.
From Johanna Rothmann:
Why Everyone Needs to Manage Their Own Project Portfolio - "...Developers (and testers and writers) need to let go of old work. Their managers need to stop assigning everything that smells like that old thing to those specific developers, and add in the new requests to the entire project portfolio....The key is for everyone to know what they are working on for a short while, and what their personal backlog is..."
Measuring Productivity: More Difficult for Managers - "...how to measure knowledge workers. For software project teams, it’s easy: the number of running, tested features over time. The features have to be complete. No partial credit for partially done features. But what about for managers? That’s a little trickier..."
Which Kind of Project Are You Working On Now? - "...Especially in this economy, I would do as little as possible on keep-the-lights-on projects, avoid normal growth, and see if I couldn’t transform my business. But that’s my strategy, and fits my risk-taking approach, not yours. Do you know what kind of project you are working on? Should you be?"
Specialists AND Generalists - "...if you have a project with many specialists, you end up with lots of politics as people seek ascendancy for their particular concerns. If the specialists are acting as vendors to a project team, those specialists may not be invested in the delivery goal of the project, only in delivering their part answering their concerns."
Three Myths about Teams - "...Teams that are working well together make the work look easy. They work at a purposeful, yet relaxed pace. They even look like they are having fun."
Visibly Valuable - "...Here are 10 things you can do as a developer to make yourself more visibly valuable, which may keep you off the RIF list..."
They've also got a few books, most of which I've read, and all of which I would recommend...
You (Don't) Get What You Pay For -- Or maybe "Pay for what you don't get".
A couple weeks ago, I posted a piece ononline pricing for content or services, encouraging developers of valuable content or services to not shy away from pricing their offerings appropriately. Sometimes, however, setting fees and prices can go a bit too far.
Unfocused: Why Healthcare Costs So Much -- I wasn't sure whether to label this post as "unfocused", i.e., related more to politics, arts, society, science, and culture than my usual management, webdev, and (recently) mobile content. While there is certainly a socio-political aspect to the subject, there's also the fallout of the legacy of the absurd employer-based healthcare we've got in the US that impacts costs unrelated to the actual work at hand. That said, it's a much bigger subject than business. So, "unfocused" it is.
That said, I just want to point you to a series of posts from Andrew Sullivan's "Daily Dish". Sullivan is a prolific observer of social issues, and his style is partially based on pointing to and quoting from others' work. His blog doesn't have comments, but he does do a great job of editing and passing along emailed responses to his provocations. The recent series, started with Why Healthcare Costs So Much and continuing here, here, and here, so far, is a prime example of his best work.
Strongly recommend the thoughtful and insightful responses from his readers.
(And if you don't know him from TV commentaries or elsewhere, here's a good profile of Andrew Sullivan, my favorite Catholic, conservative, gay, pro-Obama, Brit-American pundit.)
* How much will throughput increase due to this change (throughput = sales - totally variable costs)?
* How much will actual costs change due to this change? (Note: saving a man-month doesn't count unless you plan on firing someone.)
* How much investment will we need to institute this change?
Things get complex when you start trying to allocate costs/savings/benefits to parts of the organization, be they departments or products. It's best to keep these questions at the organizational level, which is where any "bottom line" exists anyhow. Sure, the answers can be developed via bottom-up analysis of increases and decreases at the department or product level, but the answers themselves only mean anything at the organizational level.
The advantage of posing the questions in terms of throughput, operating costs and investment is that, unlike allocation schemes like traditional cost accounting and ABC analyses, these pieces can be simply added to arrive at the right answer, while the other methods muddy the water with weightings and other manipulations.
But I digress. The question on the table is about benefits. It's about what you can do with the results of the investment that you couldn't do before, and whether that new capability addresses some sort of constraint that's impeding you. From Jack...
Another way to look at this is to use Goldratt's idea that "technology is only beneficial if and only if it diminishes a limitation." I think the statement can be broadened to "an intervention is only beneficial if and only if it diminishes a limitation." Goldratt breaks this further into four questions:
1. What is the power of the technology?
2. What limitation(s) will it diminish?
3. What rules were followed because of the limitation?
4. What new rules should be followed now?
The first two questions are about identifying the real benefits, if any - the "why". The last two questions are about "what" needs to be replaced and "how" the new environment needs to be managed to maximize those benefits.
"...The worst problem is that shortening services add another layer of indirection to an already creaky system....
"...The transit's main problem with these systems is that a link that used to be transparent is now opaque and requires a lookup operation....
"...The publisher's problems are milder. It's possible that the redirection steps steals search juice — I don't know how search engines handle these kinds of redirects. It certainly makes it harder to track down links to the published site if the publisher ever needs to reach their authors. And the publisher may lose information about the source of its traffic....
"...But the biggest burden falls on the clicker, the person who follows the links. The extra layer of indirection slows down browsing with additional DNS lookups and server hits. A new and potentially unreliable middleman now sits between the link and its destination. And the long-term archivability of the hyperlink now depends on the health of a third party....
"...There are usability issues as well...."
Go read the whole thing, especially for his final paragraph prediction about what is likely to happen with this issue.
"Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of witnesses." -- Margaret Millar
Reminds me of something I read a few years ago on jroller.com that now seems to be a dead link:
"Meetings should be for network communication not 1-to-many, many-to-1. Effective meetings seem somewhat ad-hoc, though with defined goals, and no one really "runs" them, though they may be facilitated. If it's just presentation of information, it shouldn't be a meeting."
But by the way, a sales pitch is not just a "presentation of information"; from Why do we meet? - Thinking Faster:
"We generally meet to educate, inform, persuade or sell ideas, in which case few people need to speak and therefore few people need to attend, or to generate alternatives, provide different or unique insights or gather data, in which case everyone who attends should contribute."
How to detect bullshit - Scott Berkun: "Great teams and families help each other detect bullshit, both in others and themselves, as sometimes the real BS we need to fear is our own."
Protecting the Workgroup - Fast Company: "...in high-performing groups, the leader 'protects' the group from the larger company, whether lobbying for more resources or shielding the group from company interference."
Designing Interactions - Bill Moggridge (Recommended book.) - First sentence: "Who would choose to point, steer, and draw with a blob of plastic as big and clumsy as a bar of soap?"
Leading Ideas: Walk the Fine Line - Fast Company: "By definition, if you want to create something extraordinary you've got to leave the majority. You've got to break free from commonly accepted ideas and practices and go out on a limb. The catch, of course, is that you risk your sanity in the process. It's never easy to be a non-conformist, dissenter, or rebel. You end up walking the fine line between crazy and brilliant. But if you want to look back on your life and smile, it's necessary from time to time."
We specialize in everything - Seth Godin: "It's okay to specialize in being a generalist, of course. By that, I mean that there are many problems...where someone who can see wide and doesn't have an allegiance to a particular solution is exactly the right person to call. I rely on generalists all the time, and so do you. My point is that you never call on these people when there's a better specialist available. And in the old days, a little town could only support one generalist, so it wasn't an issue. Today, especially in high-value situations, that's just not the case. So, yes, generalize. And specialize in it!"
Optimism is the Disease -- Sometimes I worry that, when in brainstorming sessions, I'm not able to keep my mouth shut regarding concerns or obstacles associated with the ideas that come up. Fortunately, I think I know how to express them without sounding like a nay-sayer, and anyhow, if I'm going to be involved in the implementation of these ideas as a project manager, prudent risk management requires such feedback. From Herding Cats: Why We Need Professional Project Managers:
"Optimism is the disease, feedback is the cure..." is a Kent Beck quote."
Some time ago, I wrote about something similar to this in one of the earliest columns in my Unconstrained Thinking series. Back then, I pointed out that people are great at being negative. We are always willing to talk about our problems -- we love to "bitch and moan." If someone offers a solution, it's real easy to point out what's wrong with it -- unintended side-effects that the solution creates or why it won't really accomplish its objective. And once we've agreed that something might be a good idea, most of what goes through our minds is why we can't make it happen -- obstacles and hurdles. As I wrote in the old piece...
Have you ever been in a brainstorming session in which the facilitator was one of those "cheerful Charlies" who tell the group that it's against the rules to say anything negative about an idea? How many rounds of ideas went by before you were biting your lip?
The point is that our problem solving processes should not rely on unnatural positivism, but rather on what people have demonstrated as a common core competency -- the ability to throw wet blankets.
"There's a growing conversation about the 'rules of social media' and the consequences marketers face should they violate them. But there's only real rule of social media: don't be boring. So long as you do not bore your audience, you are free to try anything. That goes for individuals and brands alike."
Unfocused: Friday Fun: The 1960s Lyric Edition -- Can anyone point to a better line than the first one in the following?...
I was floatin' in the ocean greased with suntan lotion
When I got wiped out by a beach boy
He was surfin' when he hit me but jumped off his board to get me
And he dragged me by the armpit like a child's toy
As we staggered into land with all the waiters eatin' sandwiches
He tried to mooch a towel from the hoi polloi
He emptied out his eardrums, I emptied out mine
And everybody knows that the very last line
Is "the doctor said, 'Give him jug band music
It seems to make him feel just fine'"
And, finally, going beyond just songs of the Sixties - The Archive of Misheard Lyrics offers up their current funniest of the year - from the Eighties: Robert Palmer's Addicted To Love...
Might as well face it, you're a d**k with a glove.
(Can't guarantee whether that site has real misinterpretations only, but even if concocted, this one's even funnier when you remember that the song came out around the same time that one gloved Michael Jackson was in his prime.)
"...99.7 percent of students have a mobile communications device and the rates of sending text messages, e-mail, photos and videos are increasing.
"Text messaging has overtaken email and instant messaging as the main form of communication for college students, 94 percent of whom send and receive text messages.
"When using their mobiles to keep in touch with family and friends with 59 percent text, 17 percent call, nine percent send IMs and seven percent use email."
Sounds real promising for mobile marketing firms; a ready-made audience comfortable with text as a regular communication channel. However, as we at Again Mobile are careful to educate our clients and prospects, considerable care must still be taken in addressing this or any other group via mobile methods like text, as is pointed out by the rest of the Business VOIP piece. Benefiting from reaching these frequent texters may not be the slam dunk that the raw numbers suggest...
"As lucrative as many believe mobile marketing will be, there are warning signs. The study indicates 52 percent of respondents received ads on their cell phone in the last few months, up from 24 percent in 2005. But a backlash might be building.
"'In 2005, we found that 30 percent of students said they were annoyed at getting an advertisement, and that has grown to 48 percent in the most recent survey,' says researcher Michael Hanley, Ball State journalism assistant professor.
"'What good is an ad if nearly half of your target market is not happy about receiving it?' he asks."
A couple lessons here. One - and this should not really be a new one given our recent passage through a long political silly season - is that you can't always take at face value what someone says or writes, despite how much you want it to be true and relevant. (duh...)
Another - more specific to the subject of mobile marketing - is that, as in the realm of email communication and other "social marketing", the idea of "permission marketing" is paramount if you don't want your message to be dismissed or vilified as spam.
And going beyond the recommended double opt-in and frequently offered options to opt out, for the text portion of your campaign to be "sticky" and appreciated, it needs to be designed with benefit for the recipient in mind. It needs to provide what they want or need in the mobile context. Location-specific, timely, incentivized, connective (social), or entertaining content are the primary appreciated uses of mobile marketing. To be valuable for you, it needs to be valuable for your target audience as well.
"...If you ask people to deliver results, you are likely to get them. If you measure or assess people on how they perform certain tasks, such as yelling at program staff, or how well people work on a task in isolation, you will get what you measure. But it won’t be what you want.
"Remember to measure what done means, not the tasks people do..."
One more time...Tell me how you measure me, and I'll tell you how I'll behave. (Goldratt)
Radio Interview: Pew Internet and American Life Survey -- A couple days ago, I referenced the Pew Internet and American Life Survey in a post about Ambivalent Networkers. This week's show from On The Media touched on the impact of the internet on society, and also offers up a 28 minute uncut interview with Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
[Note: If you are reading this via a Facebook note, you may or may not have access to the embedded audio player. If not, you can find it via the "View Original Post" link below, or directly from On The Media via this link.]
It's important for us to remember that there are others out there who are into the technology not for its own sake but to solve specific problems, and who may not be excited about the possibilities but rather confused or overwhelmed by them.
"Maybe evolutionists and creationists can't find common ground because they really aren't even having the same argument. Scientists are fighting to preserve their ability to answer how unimpeded by why. Creationists are fighting to have answers to why, unthreatened by answers to how."
[On mobile platforms,] "There’s been no expectation that anything would be free," said David Chamberlain, an analyst with In-Stat, a market research firm. "The telcos have been very careful not to give stuff away."
It may have to do with each industry’s origins. "Information wants to be free" has long been the rallying cry for many Internet pioneers. As the mythology goes, the designers of the Internet envisioned it as utopian and open — two words rarely used to describe the phone experience.
One example of the stark difference between the phone and the computer is the concept of micropayments. Newspapers and other content producers have examined the method — getting people to pay for content with a nickel here and a dime there — as a possible answer to their revenue problems on the Web.
But the phone industry has had a micropayment system for decades. Ever since the local telephone company charged a customer an extra 35 cents to hear a recorded weather forecast, the phone industry has been charging for content.
"This group represents 1 in 5 of heavy users of mobile internet -- the people who text on phones most often -- and they aren't happy. Pew reports this group feels overwhelmed with the need to stay connected, out of fear they may miss something, and are growing frustrated with the constant variations of social media options to communicate."
I suspect the "ambivalence" this group feels is probably related to marginal value received from what they feel is "forced participation" in a range of channels. As Ben implies at the end of his post, those of us who live in the world of mobile and interactive have one perception of the experience, getting value from these activities in the form of exploration, entertainment, and excitement about possibilities; "We're still adding icons to our iPhone."
It's important for us to remember that there are others out there who are into the technology not for its own sake but to solve specific problems, and who may not be excited about the possibilities but rather confused or overwhelmed by them.
Unfocused: "Science Education" in Texas Threatened Again -- Listened to an analysis of recent Texas science textbook guidelines on this week's On The Media...
For two decades, critics have argued that the Texas Board of Education's science standards have allowed creationism to creep into public schools and textbooks. Last week the board changed the language, creating the latest arena in the clash between creationists and the scientific community. Both sides explain why the subtle language change may greatly affect how evolution is taught in Texas and the rest of the country.
"...the state Board of Education, in a muddled decision, rejected a state science curriculum that required teachers to discuss the "strengths and weaknesses" of the theory of evolution. Instead, the board allowed "all sides" of scientific theories to be taught.
"...by all means let's "be honest with the kids," as Dr. Don McLeroy, the chairman of the Texas education board, wants us to be. The problem is that he is urging that the argument be taught, not in a history or in a civics class, but in a biology class. And one of his supporters on the board, Ken Mercer, has said that evolution is disproved by the absence of any transitional forms between dogs and cats. If any state in the American union gave equal time in science class to such claims, it would certainly make itself unique in the world (perhaps no shame in that). But it would also set a precedent for the sharing of the astronomy period with the teaching of astrology, or indeed of equal time as between chemistry and alchemy. Less boring perhaps, but also much less scientific and less educational."
One can only hope that a science teacher, when faced with a student who suggests some alternative "theory" that is non-scientific, has the preparation and to point out the scientific weaknesses of any proposed science fiction or fantasy and therefore the reasons it doesn't belong in the science classroom. Hopefully s/he won't cave in to fear of being accused of (or punished for) "religious defamation".
Good design is simple...
Good design is timeless...
Good design solves the right problem...
Good design is suggestive...
Good design is often slightly funny...
Good design is hard...
Good design looks easy...
Good design uses symmetry...
Good design resembles nature...
Good design is redesign...
Good design can copy...
Good design is often strange...
Good design happens in chunks...
Good design is often daring...
Recent Linkage: Herding Cats -- Not enough time to do these justice with my own commentary, but here's some recent posts from Glen Alleman that I've been sitting on...
Herding Cats: Making Credible Estimates "The art of estimating the cost and schedule aspects of a project a fraught with problems. The primary issue is the belief that estimates are either credible or completely worthless. Both extremes are wrong of course. But a reality check needs to be taken, before understanding how estimates can be put to use..."
Herding Cats: Status Reports "Status reports always seem to be a thorn in the side of many project managers and managers in general. Status reports tend to be "wrong headed" in general. Here's how to fix this and get back to adding value..."
Herding Cats: Useful Project Management Quotes "Many times I'm sitting in a meeting or driving along thinking about projects I'm working on, or even better riding my bike far away from home and a thought comes to me about how to wrap up a complex concept in a simple phrase. Here are some that have come to the surface lately..."
Bring Your Cell Phone to the Opera, Please
"A coming production of [the Mozart] opera "Cosi fan tutte,"...will ask audience members to vote at intermission for which characters should be married in the opera's final scene."
- Just turn them off between the intermissions.
SitOrSquat iPhone/Blackberry App to be sponsored by Charmin "According to P&G, SitOrSquat for iPhone and BlackBerry is a Wiki for recording and accessing bathroom information, including data on where to find bathrooms, changing tables, handicap access and other amenities--users may add new content to the service and provide feedback on featured toilets. So far, SitOrSquat has compiled information on more than 52,000 toilets in 10 countries worldwide--in addition, more than 1,600 users have downloaded the app to their mobile device."
- I guess if you have Yelp and Urbanspoon to help with the input...
Entrepreneurial Enabling of Entitlement -- [Rant Mode On] I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of people whining about things like the insertion of ads or the possible inclusion of "premium" membership in their (and my) beloved Twitter. And then there are the Facebookers who have freely used Zuckerberg's - and his investors' - expensive servers and tools to share their life stories, but are the first to blindly sign up for silly groups called something like "We Will Not Pay To Use Facebook. Need As Many Members Possible To Stop This!".
"...the startup culture has caught this disease that there’s something unnatural in being profitable from the get-go. That making money early means you won’t make it big later.
"It’s depressing and it’s wrong, but I also think it’s going to change. I think the days of the traditional San Francisco startup approach are numbered. It’ll be flushed down the drain along with CDO’s and zero-down mortgages."
I know that over the years I've happily paid for stuff of value to me - like premium Flickr and Blogger accounts. (Blogger was in the early days, for which I got a Blogger hoodie when they sold out to Google and went fully free.) Also, my contributions to my local NPR station have grown to help sustain all the podcasts that fill my iPod and my commute. And just the other day, a friend ragged on me for buying a particular iPhone app when one with very similar functionality was out there for free. Setting aside a couple differences that beckoned me, there was also something about the willingness to charge that gave me that confidence that there might be more enhancements coming down the line and that the builders were serious about what they were doing. Who knows? Could happen.
I'll gladly cough up more for online product that I value. And builders of such products and services, if they have faith in the value of their offerings, need to have commensurate faith in their users to find that same value and be willing to accept fair pricing - happily.
"...The gap of confidence between small companies and big ones is growing. We used to rely on the security of big companies. That's why we worked for them. And hired them. And put our money in them.
"But with the virtual collapse of AIG, Lehman, Citibank, GM, Chrysler, and many more — now even GE is in trouble — all that's changed. Now it's a risk to do business with the big ones.
"We simply don't trust companies anymore. We trust people. And in big companies, it's hard to even find a person to trust as we scream "operator" into our telephones only to get transferred to another menu whose options have changed.
"That gives small companies a huge advantage...
"Small is the new big. Sustainable is the new growth. Trust is the new competitive advantage..."
Reminds me of my old TOC training, in which Goldratt's premise was that the goal of a for-profit company was "to make money now and in the future". The word "more" was not included in that goal, suggesting that staying in business - sustaining the ability to continually satisfy customers and provide employees with security - took precedence over growth for growth's sake. Growth (and "more" money) would come organically if you took care of customers and employees and managed the market and operations according to a constraint-based Process Of On-Going Improvement (POOGI).
Just rambling here, but maybe the point is that the risks of growth and size include the eventual lack of ability to shift with economic changes, which then threatens employee security and satisfaction, which, as Bregman suggests, threatens customer satisfaction and confidence, which threatens the ability to make money which threatens employee security and so on. Personally, in my career, with only one exception, my own satisfaction seems to have been inversely proportional to the size of the organization within which I've found myself.
When Mobile Sites Are Done Right -- This note from Mobile Marketing Watch - CNBC Mobile Traffic Explodes Tenfold - suggests the growth is related more to these current economic news-heavy times, but IMHO, if the site were not appropriately designed for mobile (and limited in functionality compared to CNBC's standard web presence), it wouldn't have garnered that growth.
I know it probably wouldn't have earned an icon on my iPhone.