Friday, February 29, 2008

New tricks for old dogs? I don't think so....

Have we all learned that sometimes the "Founder's Touch" is not what the doctor ordered? With apologies to Steve Jobs, it's rare that the founder of a company or original leader can recreate the magic that spawned a successful company in the first place. Dell reported disappointing results yesterday and it seems as if the world was surprised by this. Michael is just another in a long line of founders / original pioneer CEOs including Howard Schultz, Joe Gibbs, John Mack and Jerry Yang that tried and ultimately failed to deliver the same results they did the first time.

This should be an important lesson for corporate boards trying to revive their once-lusty brands, perhaps you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Market conditions, pricing power, industry stage, consumer awareness, all factor into the success of a company and CEO's often (but not always) benefit immensely from their effects in driving success.

The times they have a changed for ol' Mike down in Austin and he may or may not be able to pull this one out. I hope that he does for the sake of many at Dell but if not, they should've seen it coming.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Enjoying the Caymans

Spending time this week at my company's President Club event in the Cayman Islands. What a beautiful spot and an amazing reward. Thank you for the nomination and win folks!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Snow news is good news

So, what do you do on snowy, icy days that keep you out of the office? How bad does it have to be for you to stay home? Being a hearty New Englander, I'm typically undaunted by weather of all types on work days. I actually look forward to the challenge of braving the elements, scraping Kevlar-like sheets of ice off my truck and gingerly navigating the roadways on my way to the office. Getting into work is like a badge of honor and the reward is an empty office with plenty of conference rooms.

I can't say the same for many of our fellow workers out there in the Arctic-like former Confederacy. One mention of snow or freezing rain and you might think that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were spotted outside the Shenandoahs. Thank goodness for virtual workspaces or the region's economy would grind to a screeching halt.

What is your work like? Any ideas for making snowy days more palatable and productive with your co-workers?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Microsoft playing nice in the software sandbox

Interesting announcement today from MSFT by releasing documentation and easing the restrictions and limitations that have haunted open source and third party developers who wanted to work with their commercial products.

On the surface, this seems like a giant olive branch to the open source community but in reality I would argue this is the first step in their next world domination strategy. By opening this up, they are directly throwing the gauntlet down to Google and their Google Docs applications.

These two proverbial rams on a mountainside are just coming to a head yet again. This is just another battle in the overall war. Stay tuned!

I wonder now if MSFT will remove all OEM fees to developers who utilize their core and repackage or include in other shrink-wrapped products.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Overwired? Overtired? Spread too thin? How do you simplify?

An article on MSNBC today talks about a reporter that claims to be "Over-wired". What do you think? Are you entangled with massive cables and cords and constantly plugged in? How do you cope with the relentless stream of information that hurtles at you during the day? What strategies do you use for managing your day that you can share?

I recently participated in a program called "Speed with Purpose" led by a great instructor named Jeff Irby. His premise is that by slowing down your intake and by using a defined system, you can effectively become more productive in your day to day life. I've incorporated many of his tools and techniques and have found enhanced productivity and focus on my core values.

This program is one of many approaches to simplifying and managing our lives in this hectic, digital age.

What is the best tactic that you use on a daily basis to organize and simplify your digital life?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Is there anything to the rumors that Microsoft might start offering Netflix movies through the Xbox? This would be a big coup for Netflix as it struggles to maintain ground in the movie rental business now that Apple, Amazon, et al are cutting into the market that they previously owned along with Blockbuster. However, the real question is this, of the 40M households with an Xbox, how many of them already get their movies via Netflix and/or Blockbuster. Does this represent a significant enough boost to invest in this technology addition? Also, do you think that Jr. is going to let Mom and Dad use his Xbox to download movies when he wants to be on Xbox Live playing Halo 3 with his friends?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Social Copycats?

I just read about the "mashup" phenomenon of social copycats today and it really blew my mind. Who are these people? What is it about humanity that they are so enamored with being someone else instead of themselves? Now, don't get me wrong, if someone was truly fascinated by my impressive background and wordsmithing skills and decided to do a little drag-n-drop onto their Linked In page, I'm cool with that. Just don't start taking too much credit for my accomplishments and especially not my children.

Where is this going to stop though? Will someone start taking complete sections of Exec bios off of websites and founding virtual copies of companies? Will someone start a virtual sports league using fantasy football data and pictures of the players? I can appreciate that immitation is the finest form of flattery but for real folks, time to get a life of your own. My life story is not a Wiki to pull from. To contradict Dr. Evil, "The details of my life are quite consequential."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Special Visit

Just got a special visit from my wife and beautiful little girl Samantha as a surprise for Valentine's Day. Certainly a great mood lifter for a strong finish to the day. Thanks babes!

Here's looking at you Cupid!

This morning I actually got to see Valentine's Day through the eyes of a child. The idea that we bring candy and cards to friends at school or work is so far away from what most typical adults would consider acceptable behavior. I'm probably one of the millions that feel V Day is so overhyped and commercial that there is no meaning behind it. However, my son was so excited to hand out his good wishes to all his friends and teachers that it was really refreshing.

I submit that perhaps the only idea today is to be kind to others and surprise them by doing something nice for them. Hold the door, get them a cup of their favorite tea, send them an interesting news article or even, god forbid we do this in DC, let someone into traffic ahead of you. Maybe that can be our politically correct Valentine to others.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

For whom the bell tolls

Will it be the Democrats or Republicans this year? I can't honestly say at this point. Our primary was held yesterday in VA and being a Republican supporter, I found few reasons to actually get out and rock the vote. At this point in the game, either candidate remaining is a losing option for me. The good ol' Red Staters are seemingly mailing it in this time with McCain or Huckabee as their options. Neither is a strong option against the Democrats IMHO.

Obama has been rallying his "cult of personality" zeitgeist to dizzying results in recent primaries and he handily trounced Hillary yesterday around the beltway. This is a disturbing trend for Republicans and is eerily reminiscent of what Bill C. did back in late '91 and early '92 building momentum that couldn't be overtaken.

How do you feel as business people and technologists about the possibility of an Obama regime? How will your strategy shift if he is elected to the Presidency given his policy leanings? Do you think it is too early to add a Maple Leaf to our Stars n' Stripes?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Yahoo, Yahoo, Yahoo....

What are you waiting for? I can understand that you are trying to maximize shareholder value but really folks! Take the bid already. Counter with a share price that you would take and get moving already. By dragging your feet and basically hitting a forehand over the net back to MSFT, you're being a slow, inefficient monolith just like they are further illustrating why you two should be together in the first place.

Here's how a negotiation should work between you two. "Hello Yahoo, this is Steve B. at MSFT. Care to sell your company for $31/share (way more than what you are currently worth btw)?" You, "No thanks Steve, but how about $35/share?" Steve B, "Sure, let me check with my bank, hold a sec.....OK, let's do it and get to work."

See how easy that was? The idea is merge quick, be nimble and attack Google. Not slog through it, kill the morale at both companies, muddle the brand and die a long painful AOL/TW death.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Who's snooping who?

According to a story in the WSJ today, we are more exposed than we previously thought when online. The intelligence community, foreign police services, even teenagers who are still wearing braces can tap into your Skype communications, private chat room trysts and see what color your underwear is from a satellite.

The funny thing is that those most concerned with privacy are the same people doing things that they wouldn't do in public.

I am a firm believer that privacy is a relative term. You must be able to hide in plain sight and stop worrying about who or what is looking into your business. As most parents of young children can agree, there is nowhere in the home to just "get away". Work calls, emails, chats, etc. are monitored. You can't sit at a coffee shop on WiFi without worrying about an over the shoulder snooper or password sweeper. If you want to truly be private in your life, the wild hills of Montana are a great place to start. That being said, you might be even easier to pick out without the masses protecting you.

I find that if I want to get away, I go to work or off to exercise. That allows me time to just shut my office door or pound some treadmill miles to truly unplug.

What do you do to get away and gain some privacy?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The invevitable FBOP and what to do about it.

You've all had it happen to you. You saw it coming and couldn't do anything about it until it was too late. Then you didn't have the heart to pass it to someone else. Now, I'm here to tell you how to avoid the FBOP. That's right, the Flaming Bag O'Poo.

My creative thought of the day really surrounds some short term strategies to avoid the FBOP:

1) If the attempt is made in person, suddenly begin speaking in tongues and ignore the handoff.
2) If the attempt is on the phone, immediately hang up and dial in after a 5 minute "underground parking garage exit" interlude.
3) If you can't avoid it, receive it and find a minion to quickly "assign" it to.
4) If you are alone, immediately spill your drink on them and run.

How would you avoid the FBOP?

Worker Productivity Drops??? GASP!

What to do? What to do? Perhaps I should blog about how I'm not working at this moment and thus contributing to the national epidemic of falling worker productivity. Is this a surprise to any of you out in work land? I know that I struggle every day to keep ahead of the slogging pace of my company, competitors and co-workers to actually produce something. It seems that to actually invoice someone or quote someone for work, it takes 2-3x what the actual work ends up being. But does that mean I'm not being productive? I still end up producing work and money at a profitable clip for my company.

There is a Sisyphus-ian feel to all of this worker productivity hype. For a long time now, the US has been the leader in services-based business around the globe. As we continue to lose our services economy edge to other countries, isn't this a good thing? There is only so much leverage we can exert on individuals to perform more and more work? The real pressure is to innovate, create and identify new areas for growth in our economy otherwise we might all just spontaneously combust from the adverse friction created by our commute gridlock.

What have you done recently to make yourself more productive? What tips can you offer that have made you a better contributor?