Thursday, April 29, 2010

Leading Outside the Lines
Integrating formal metrics and informal communication can lead to new levels of performance.
by Jon Katzenbach and Zia Khan

This is an extremely important topic and one worth the added effort to read the full article. They offer case studies of how to address the issue.

"Balancing Hard and Soft
In every company, there are really two organizations at work: the formal and the informal. The formal organization is the default governing structure of most large companies founded in the past century. Businesspeople recognize the formal organization as that rational construct that runs on rules, operates through hierarchies and programs, and evaluates performance by the numbers. If you have been trained in the “hard” disciplines like finance, technology, or operations — as so many senior managers have — you have probably learned to operate naturally in the formal domain, deploying tangible factors like job descriptions, organization charts, process flows, and scorecards.
The informal organization, by contrast, is an agglomeration of all the human aspects of the company: the values, emotions, behaviors, myths, cultural norms, and uncharted networks. The power of the informal is visible in every organization every day — it is an undeniable, emotionally resonant force. Even the most rational managers recognize that the informal organization within a company can create effects that seem like magic, especially in situations of change or transformation. Unexpected leaders emerge from the ranks. Passion swells up and pushes work forward. Units and operations swiftly transform themselves. And there are also less positive effects: Unexpected opposition lurks in the shadows, anxiety and fear hold work back, and critical operational improvements are derailed…..
Organizations that sustain high performance over time have learned how to mobilize their informal organizations while maintaining and adding formal structures, each in sync with the other. And in general, people appreciate the value of “leading outside the lines”: of balancing formal and informal measures in the pursuit of higher performance…..
But it’s difficult for any manager, even one who has a predilection for the informal, to understand exactly how to lead outside the lines. There is, after all, no universal recipe book: The right balance of formal and informal measures will look very different depending on the company, the business, and the circumstances.'

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rethinking Gospel of the Web
NYT, April 11, 2010

I believe this is a very important article that highlights many key features of Apple’s success and lessons on creating the ultimate in competitive separation:
• The incredible power associated with creating a true “industry standard” where others create new offerings for your platform
• The importance of leveraging powerful platforms –like iTunes—to the success of any new product
• A reversal of success for a strategy of “control”—Apple failed with their initial Apple computers in controlling all aspects of programming to the benefit of Microsoft. In that case, the ubiquitous of PC’s gave Microsoft the standard since their operating system dominated this segment; Apple was never able to create the standard for their early computers. This situation is now reversed where now they ARE the standard. See our earlier posting on Apple’s Innovation Radar analysis.
• Customer experience is a key attribute in today’s world for creating competitive separation. No one is better at it than Apple!

"….a general consensus has solidified among the otherwise fractious population of People Who Think Big Thoughts About the Internet……
That unifying creed is this: Open platforms promote innovation and diversity more effectively than proprietary ones…….
Over the last two years, however, that story has grown far more complicated, thanks to the runaway success of the iPhone (and now iPad ) developers platform — known as the App Store to consumers.
….The App Store must rank among the most carefully policed software platforms in history. Every single application has to be approved by Apple before it can be offered to consumers, and all software purchases are routed through Apple’s cash register. Most of the development tools are created inside Apple, in conditions of C.I.A. -level secrecy. Next to the iPhone platform, Microsoft’s Windows platform looks like a Berkeley commune from the late 60s…..
And yet, by just about any measure, the iPhone software platform has been, out of the gate, the most innovative in the history of computing. More than 150,000 applications have been created for it in less than two years……
Perhaps more impressively, the iPhone has been a boon for small developers. As of now, more than half the top-grossing iPad apps were created by small shops…..
The decision to route all purchases through a single payment mechanism makes great sense for Apple, which takes 30 percent of all sales, but it has also helped nurture the ecosystem by making it easier for consumers to buy small apps impulsively with one-click ordering. People don’t want to thumb-type credit card information into their phones each time they download a game to distract the kids during a long drive in the car. One-click purchase also supports lightweight, inexpensive apps, the revenue from which can support small software teams…..
Consumers are also willing to experiment with new apps because they know that they have been screened for viruses, malware and other stability problems as part of the App Store’s approval….
Apple took a lot of heat waiting a year after the introduction of the first-generation iPhone to open the App Store. At the time, it contended that it wanted to ensure that the development tools it shipped met its standards. The success of the App Store suggests that this patience was well worth it….
Of course, innovation and democratization are not the only reasons to champion open platforms. Given the current size of the iPhone’s installed base, as well as the projections for the iPad’s adoption, it is troubling that one company can single-handedly veto any new application on a whim…..
Apple could certainly quiet a lot of its critics by creating some kind of side door that enables developers to bypass the App Store if they wish. An overwhelming majority of developers and consumers would continue to use the store, retaining all the benefits of that closed system, but a secondary market could develop where more experimental ideas could flourish."

Monday, April 05, 2010

A Framework for Generating More Demand While Spending Less

I STRONGLY urge you to go to this site and read through the presentation.