Monday, June 29, 2009

Daring Fireball: Regarding the WSJ's Report That Steve Jobs Had a Liver Transplant

Check out this website I found at

From the minute I saw the 'Steve Jobs had a liver transplant story' my spidy senses were telling me this was some form of too convenient disclosure BS from Apple. Regarding Jobs health (and therefore, what else?) I believe Apple plays fast and loose with governance rules on disclosure. And gets away with it. What's happening with CEO's of public companies is material. Anyone who argues these are private matters is missing both the importance of the CEO role (could Jobs be any more important?) and the transparency obligations associated with being 'public'.

Posted via web from Jim's posterous

The Product Management Cringe List

Good starter list. My favourites are 'customer driven' and 'we don't have any competition'. Probably strayed to those myself at some point. Good question: are these all cringeable or natural outcomes of the role?

Posted via web from Jim's posterous

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lesson from a Service Debacle (ok it was only a bagel)

On Friday I tweeted about getting my money back from a Tim Horton's that couldn't make a bagel with butter. Actually it was a 12 grain bagel.

What happened is pretty simple. I went to the counter. Ordered a 12 grain bagel with butter. Handed over my cash. And walked 3 feet to the counter where they make/deliver the coffee/food.

Sounds crazy but I sensed trouble the minute I didn't also include coffee in my order. I could see the nice counter lady was kind of confused by that. However, her job is to plug the order into the computer system - so assuming she did that ok (which isn't necessarily what happened), then I should have been alright.

The second trouble indicator I got was standing at the 'delivery' counter. There wasn't actually any staff member manning the output end of the computer system - the person who watches for food orders and makes them up. Maybe she was in the washroom (something you really don't want to contemplate at a food counter I discovered)? Don't know. Just know that after a minute or four a confused looking person emerged from the kitchen - and immediately got to work serving people who'd come in five minutes after me.

After watching for another minute or two I finally inquired about my bagel with butter - and got the 'wtf are you talking about?' and 'wtf do you think you are?' looks.

This caught the attention of the nice cashier lady who agreed I really had ordered a a bagel with butter. Which lead to a heated conversation about where it had gone. Which lead to the other staff person telling me she'd given it away to someone else. Which is complete BS because I'd been watching the whole time and a 12 grain bagel had never gone through the slicer, the toaster or seen the flat side of a butter knife.

So I asked for my money back - which didn't seem to impress anyone - and left.

Here's my take away from that experience:

1. Tim Horton's is in the coffee business. NEVER order food without also ordering a coffee - even a small. It's confusing to the staff and potentially also the computer system.

2. Sh#*t happens. Especially to me. Regardless of how good a system is supposed to be, timing and other factors can collaborate to throw even the simplest execution into disarray.

3. Sh*#t happens even more when people are involved. I was watching the toaster. It was warmed up and ready to go, it's little mesh conveyer belt just waiting for a 12 grain bagel to track through. I can't speak for the computer system but I'm betting if the human operator actually put the order in properly, it was ready to display it properly.

4. Just because the customer is right, doesn't make them happy. I was in a rush and hungry. It was counting on Tim's to do what they do. They failed and I left hungrier and p'd off. Getting my money back wasn't really what I wanted (a bagel with butter would have been better).

5. Remember the line about happy customers tell like 3 people and unhappy customers tell like 3 million? Well, with technology that is way simpler now. I wonder how many companies get that? I left Tim Horton's and immediately tweeted it from by Blackberry. That got posted to Twitter, my blog, Friend Feed, and Facebook (probably other places too but I'm a little confused right now where everything goes). Given the gazillions of followers I have, I'm sure at least 6 people saw it and Tim's business that day came off by several Timbits and a small coffee.....ok, that's a joke, but just saying....

6. When things do go wrong, having on-site, visible management seems like a good thing. I could have used some help. And watching the staff fight over you isn't particularly satisfying. However, with no one around to take control it actually got left up to me. Getting my money back seemed like the only safe option.

7. Location is everything. Being a slow learner, the bread I normally use to make my toast in the morning was still mouldy Saturday (actually even more mouldy) so I got left again seeking fast food options. Guess what, there is only one choice for me. Tim Horton's.

But I'm going to wait a day until my picture comes off the staff bulletin board before showing my face again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Don't Just Say it. Explain it.

From John Baldoni, Harvard Business Press. This is something I find myself coaching leaders on all the time - not just saying something - explaining it. Most people need explanation, backdrop and context in order to engage.

Explanation is a key attribute of leadership communications. Leaders know to inject their communications with verve and enthusiasm as a means of persuasion, but they also need to include an explanation for the excitement. What does it mean and why are we doing it are critical questions that every leader must answer with straightforward explanations. Here are three ways to become an effective explainer.

Define what it is. The purpose of an explanation is to describe the issue, the initiative, or the problem. For example, if you are pushing for cost reductions, explain why they are necessary and what they will entail. Put the cost reductions into the context of business operations. Be certain to explicate the benefits.

Define what it isn't. Here is where the leader moves into the "never assume mode." Be clear to define the exclusions. For example, returning to our cost reduction issue, if you are asking for reductions in costs, not people, be explicit. Otherwise employees will assume they are being axed. Leave no room for assumptions. This is not simply true for potential layoffs but for any business issue.

Define what you want people to do. This becomes an opportunity to issue the call for action. Establishing expectations is critical. Cost reductions mean employees will have to do more with less; explain what that will entail in clear and precise terms. Leaders can also use the expectations step as a challenge for people to think and do differently. Your explanation then takes on broader significance.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Influencing People

Weird couple of days that's had me reflecting on my connections, work and getting things done. Some basic observations on what seems to help get things done with people:
  • being helpful
  • being sensitive
  • being patient
  • being available
  • being clear
  • being proactive
  • being provocative
  • being firm
  • being a hardass
And some basic observations on what gets in the way with some people:
  • being clear
  • being firm
  • being a hardass
Clarity seems to scare some people all the time - and scares others mostly when it conflicts with their vision, goals and beliefs (duh).

That's when patience works well.

I've noticed that timing is everything and what's right always/usually/mostly becomes obvious over time.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wired Wednesday Non-post

Here are the notes I took on Blackberry at last night's Wired Wednesday event in Toronto. Overall a very worthwhile, well-run and informative networking event.
  • green my apple
  • power maps
  • invoke the hero
  • content as raw material for remixing
  • before: send a message
  • now: connect two people who want to cure cancer
  • what can you learn from Grand Theft Auto? Paris Hilton?
  • see the theme - don't get moralistic
  • not-for-profits are good business too
There was way more. Questions I didn't ask but wanted to: 1) what's the org structure look like - where do the 'web' guys go? 2) it's nice that passion has got you where you are - how will you overcome being entrepreneurs to run your businesses at the next level?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Job Wanted - Consultant, Sailor, BBQ Instructor

Hockey isn't over. It's 10 (Celsius) degrees. Windy as hell. Maybe we'll get summer.

Which reminds me. I don't want to be in Toronto this winter.

I am not a winter person.

Any more.

When I was five, skiing in Ontario was fun. When my kids were five I had a few good winters on a snowboard. Now that I'm the big five (oh), I have as much interest in snow as flying to the fricking moon. Actually, I have more interest in the moon.

My ideal winter job would be:
  • somewhere south of Miami
  • working on a bathing suit shoot for SI
  • all expenses paid
  • rooming with Kathy Ireland
What I would really, seriously consider would be:
  • somewhere that's only had snow once or twice in past 10 years
  • consulting, crewing on a sailboat, taking pictures of sunsets or selling tickets for the snorkeling tour
  • steady if modest income enhanced by some sort of 'performance incentive' (free beer or internet time)
  • some challenge, some excitement and a winter experience that doesn't include sliding, shoveling or filling the windshield wiper fluid
What I have to offer:
  • what do you need? (I don't play guitar)
Seriously, I'm open to a reasonable opportunity that takes me south for a few months. I'm good with boats, dogs, clients and beer. I'm not bad on the internet. I can show you a thing or two about social media, brand building, sales and turning your business around. I can write your blog for you and be you on Twitter.

Being somewhat flexible, if it's necessary to commute between the condo in Aspen and the yacht in the Mediterranean, then I can overlook the winter part. I was a pretty darn good ski instructor in my past.

If you're interested, just send the plane. I can be ready just after labor day, or tomorrow depending on the opportunity.

I'm really looking forward to hearing from you (really, really).

PS. I know it's early. I'll repost this a little closer to bathing suit shoot season.

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