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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.

Friday, May 29, 2009

NY Times Skimmer -- After several weeks (months?) of use, the New York Time Article Skimmer has become my regular first source of straight news online. Great navigation and interface. (If only the iPhone's NY Times app weren't so glacially slow updating, it might have been a close second, but now I never use it.)

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Creator vs. and Revisor -- OK. I'll admit it. As a project manager for creative endeavors, concerned with keeping the effort moving toward promised delivery dates, there's the occasional frustration with multiple reviews and revisions impinging on the schedule. Sometimes (?), even after the one or two or three contracted revisions and "final approval" has been granted, there's someone else who has a better (or maybe just their own) idea for a minor tweak to a few words or to the position or color of an image on a website.

Or sometimes, during the original production of the deliverable, the original copywriter or designer is of the perfectionist bent. Where I see output that is "good enough", the "creator" has changed role to become "revisor", as described in a recent Engines of Our Ingenuity podcast (transcript)...
"Thereís a scene towards the end of the 1984 movie Amadeus where an impresario demands that Mozart finish the opera he promised. "Oh, it is finished," Mozart replies. "Up here," he says, pointing to his forehead. "The rest is just scribbling."

"And thatís our "genius" fantasy, isnít it? Einstein, poring over dreary patent applications while working out the theory of relativity in his head. Mozart, taking musical dictation from God, as a pathologically envious Salieri imagines it in Amadeus. The perfect product is somehow out there in the ether, perfectly finished at the cosmic factory. We just have to find it -- the rest is just scribbling.

"But it rarely works that way. Maybe it never works that way. A creator may work at a white heat, but thereís a cold shadow by his side. Let's call the shadow "Revisor." Revisor has no first thoughts, only second thoughts. Revisor also has a terrible case of OCD. He's always asking the same question: could it be better?"
"Could it be better?" Of course it could. Everyone involved askes that question throughout a project. But assessing and defining the incremental amount of "betterness" versus the impacts on the budget and schedule of the project are sometimes non-trivial exercises.

The thing is, though, my frustration is usually only a short-term exasperation and actually can serve a purpose. It gives me something to whine about so people keep it in their head that we're managing schedule and effort/budget as well as the quality of the product. (Although when (usually) the tweaks come from the client side, I don't whine too loudly. Just enough to lay some subtle guilt on the "revisor" through hints that these are unexpected changes and that there is not necessarily zero impact -- unless, of course, they are so significant that a scope discussion is triggered.)

Actually, if the project is appropriately sold, and expectations are realistic, the classic project management dilemma of delivering top quality versus delivering profitably and on time rarely ever really kicks in if I've been able to set up the project with appropriate schedule risk buffers. But that's a subject I've touched on before, many times.

So, Mr. or Ms. Revisor -- revise on toward perfection. I'll let you know when you might be causing problems and have to start considering what's "good enough".

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Links & Snips
  • 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."

  • The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life) - John Maeda: (Recommended book. You can browse it at Amazon.)

  • 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!"

  • iPhone Development: 12 Tips To Get You Started - from the often useful Sitepoint
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    Sunday, April 05, 2009

    Taste for Makers -- Digging through my backlog of blogfodder, I can across this great piece on design. The section headlines...
    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...
    Go read the whole thing.

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    Thursday, December 06, 2007

    On Design and Marketing --From Phillipe Starck's talk at TED 2007...
    ...there are different types of design. The one, we can call it the cynical design, that means the design invented by Raymond Loewy in the '50s, who said, what is ugly is a bad sale, La Laideur se vend mal, which is terrible. It means the design must be just a weapon for marketing, for producer to make product more sexy, like that, they sell more, it's shit, it's obsolete, it's ridiculous. I call that the cynical design.

    After, there is the narcissistic design; it's a fantastic designer who designs only for other fantastic designers. [laughs]

    After there is people like me, who try to deserve to exist, and who are ashamed to make this useless job, who try to do it in another way, and they try, I try, to not make the object for the object but for the result, for the profit for the human being, the person who will use it.
    It's all about the users' needs. Take care of them, and the marketing almost takes care of itself.

    Then, again...isn't marketing merely the process of 1) understanding the needs of potential users of your products/services, 2) making sure those products/services truly meet the important needs they're designed to address (the connection between marketing research and product design), 3) crafting compelling offers around the satisfaction of those needs, and 4) communicating those offers where those potential users might be found (where marketing meets advertising and selling, which are different things).

    (Of course, putting it all in perspective, this is from a guy whose own site annoyingly takes over the user's browser window size to land-grab the whole screen.)

    Another line that grabbed me from the talkÖ
    Nobody is obliged to be a genius, but everybody is obliged to participate.
    Not sure why, but it grabbed me nonetheless.

    Whole transcript and video version at http://blog.ted.com/2007/12/starck.php, although be advised he rambles off into a more metaphysical direction about us all being mutants, and designing stories for a future we really can't know, and that the best we can do is leave blank sheets of paper and the "best tools" for those who follow us.

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