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    Thursday
    Aug022012

    If you're not sure who the customer is, then it probably isn't you

    I don't really care about the Olympics, with the exception of a couple of Men's Basketball games I'm looking forward to catching. For some reason I find it a little odd that so many people suddenly fake interest about things like archery or air rifle or synchronized diving for one day every four years just because we hope our 17 year old kid can defeat the 17 year old kid from some other country.That looks like a fun game, I must admit

    But even in my state of extreme Olympic apathy, I have caught, as I am sure you have as well, the ridiculous amount of complaints about the USA TV coverage of these Olympic games, being brought to US TV's, (and smart phones, and tablets, and computers), by NBC.

    The chief complaint?  Tape delayed TV coverage, i.e., not televising certain marquee events as they happen live, (mostly in the morning or early afternoon in the USA), and 'saving' them for Prime time broadcast later that evening when TV audiences are at their peak, and in the only part of this that matters, when advertisers pay a hefty premium for commercial time.

    Of course in the modern, social age, where everyone is a critic/pundit/expert, the Tape Delay strategy has resulted in what has been branded a colossal #NBCFail, with Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the more traditional news outlets results of the actual competition outcomes are just about impossible to avoid for the five or six or seven hours lag until NBC deems it appropriate, (and most profitable), to air on TV.

    So what many Olympics fans are left with (at least here in the USA), is what amounts to a set of pretty poor options - watch events live on a computer or smart phone (in the middle of the day, not always possible or convenient), try and avoid news or social media reports of event outcomes all day and watch the prime time broadcast (not really feasible for most), or give in to curiosity or inevitability and learn the event outcomes ahead of time, and watch the prime time tape delayed broadcast anyway, (you know, to get all the 'human drama' stuff). 

    All three options kind of stink, and if you really cared about this stuff, I can understand your frustration.

    But here's the thing, NBC doesn't care about you. NBC is delivering what the customers demand, and they ain't you. The customers are the advertisers, and what they demand - lots and lots of eyeballs on its prime time broadcasts, is definitely being delivered despite the tape delay #NBCFail approach.

    You want to know how you can get over your anger and frustration with NBC's Olympic coverage?

    Just keep reminding yourself that you're not the customer, you're the product. Say it with me again, you're not the customer, you're the product.

    And file the NBC Olympics broadcast coverage into the file along with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, foursquare - and wherever else you waste spend your time these days.

    Now I have to get back to watching my new favorite sport, Team Handball.

    Wednesday
    Aug012012

    Operationally Competent, or How to Reserve a Seat at the Kid's Table

    We all love Apple, right?

    I mean what's not to love, (putting aside for the moment it's tricky and ongoing problems it the supply chain and workers that may or may not exhibit the tendency to hurl themslves from the roofs of factories at an alarming rate), they have redefined the smartphone market, created the tablet market, and converted legions of fans worldwide and morphed from 'the other guys' in computing, to a global and incredibly profitable industrial colossus.

    Apple's 2nd quarter in 2012, one that was rated a 'miss' and a disappointment by many analysts just happened to offer up these kinds of figures:

    Quarterly revenue - $39.2B

    Quarterly net profit $11.6B

    35 million iPhones sold

    11.8 million iPads sold 

    4 million Macs sold

    That's some miss.

    And with the latest iteration of the iPhone set to drop in September, Apple certainly figures to continue the insane sales and earnings momentum.

    Just imagine how much they would earn if they cared about sales and profits.

    What's that you say? Of course they care about sales and profits.  Well, take at look at this recent quote from Apple Senior Vice President of Industrial Design, Johnathan Ive:

    "We are really pleased with our revenues but our goal isn't to make money. It sounds a little flippant, but it's the truth. Our goal and what makes us excited is to make great products. If we are successful people will like them and if we are operationally competent, we will make money," he said. 

    Makes sense right, and is completely logical for a product company. Focus on making great products first, last, and at all times, and it is likely that financial success will follow. Not terribly profound either, until you did a little deeper into the piece, and find that little nugget that Ive, Apple's guru of design, imparts about the rest of the organization and the process, i.e., those parts of the company not involved in 'making great products'.

    What does Ive and Apple feel they need out of those functions, (and in theory, people).

    Operationally competent. Not wonderful. Not fantastic. Not 'best in class'. Just operationally competent. 

    Don't screw it up for us product builders. Don't get in the way. And, by implication, don't ever forget which side of the table you sit on.

    Sure, Apple is kind of an outlier. It's products continue to enjoy such love and popularity in the market that it would be kind of hard for the 'operationally competent' folks to rain on the parade. 

    But, if you really think about it, not screwing up might be the extent of their potential contributions as well. 

    It's always tough sitting on a General & Administrative Expense line, but it stings a little bit more when you see the differences between you, the G&A guy, and the real earners.

    Builder of Great Products v. Operationally Competent.

    Choose wisely.

    Tuesday
    Jul312012

    #HRevolution 2012: You know you need to be there

    The fifth, and I am sure the best ever, installment of the HRevolution (Un)conference for Human Resources and Recruiting leaders and professionals is set for Sunday, October 7, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.

    We will shortly be releasing the HRevolution 2012 agenda which can be found here, and once you have a peek at the stellar line-up of stars that have graciously agreed to present and facilitate at the event, you can rush over to the registration page and reserve your place here.

    I am sure you will agree with me in that with the incredible list of presenters, and the amazing opportunity for interaction and networking that the much-less-formal format of HRevolution provides, and finally the amazing value that the HRevolution event offers compared to the typical HR conference, that you simply must, as a smart and savvy HR professional, make time in your Fall calendar to join us in Chicago.

    With A-list session presenters like Gerry Crispin, John Sumser, Kris Dunn, Laurie Ruettimann, Lance Haun, Elaine Orler, Jason Seiden, William Tincup, Tim Sackett and more, the HRevolution 2012 event promises to be truly a can't miss date this year.

    I am really honored and proud to be a member for the fifth time of the HRevolution organizing team, and I can say truly and honestly that this year's event will be the best we have ever produced.

    Also, and in an incredible value, everyone who registers for HRevolution will be provided a discount code good for $600 off the published conference rate for the 15th Annual HR Technology Conference, which commences immediately after HRevolution ends. So truly, you can come to HRevolution on Sunday, October 7th, then stay for HR Technology from October 8-10, while enjoying the largest discount available for HR Tech.

    Look, don't take my word for how fantastic HRevolution will be. If you are not sure, or need more convincing, I challenge you to log on to Twitter today and tweet:

    'I'm thinking of going to #HRevolution in October. Is it worth my time?'

    I promise you'll be convinced after you see the responses.

    I hope to see you in Chicago on October 7th!

     

    Monday
    Jul302012

    A Tale of Two Job Actions

    Two different labor negotiations caught my attention recently and the differences in how they were resolved, (or have not been resolved), paint a nice contrast in how tipping the balance of power in any negotiation continues to be a function of scarcity and ability to add unique, distinct, and not easily replaceable without significant switching costs value.

    Exhibit A - The three-month long strike at Caterpillar by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

    Points of Contention (simplified and abbreviated) - The company wants the union to accept a new six-year labor agreement, with wages essentially frozen for the duration of the contract, and with workers contributing an increasing percentage of pay towards healthcare costs. The union is countering that in a time of record corporate profits, that the company should not be demanding concessions from the union, and should consider the union and the workers as partners in success, and share more equitably the fruits of a great run of results.

    (Likely) Outcome - hard to say for sure, but the recent history of labor actions in the industrial US suggests that Caterpillar management will emerge with all or most of the concessions they are seeking.

    Exhibit B - Adult cast of the ABC TV comedy 'Modern Family' form a united front and stage essentially what amounts to a strike to achieve a significant pay rise for the coming and subsequent seasons.

    Points of Contention - The cast, realizing the success of the show, and the strong bargaining position they held, basically wanted to maximize their earnings.  The show's producers, also understanding the success of the show, wanted to continue to ride what is often elusive popularity in the entertainment world, while of course, keeping production costs as low as possible so as to maximize the show's profits.

    Outcome - The Modern Family cast all won hefty wage raises, although not fully what they were originally seeking. They also won a small stake in 'back-end' money, essentially a form of profit sharing, and agreed to one more year on the contract length than they originally wanted.

    The moral to all this?

    No, not the completely obvious conclusion that it is better to be a highly paid entertainer than a industrial factory worker, although in many ways that seems true.

    No, I think the real story is that no matter what you do your negotiating power, leverage, and ability to extract the absolute best deal in any situation is almost completely a function of how easily replaceable you are.  And the corollary is that we now live in a climate with a persistent and stubborn economic slowdown, and where the basic math doesn't seem to make sense.

    A world where finding about 800 new and cheaper machinists seems like a more realistic possibility than finding 6 different funny actors.

    Whatever you decide to do, better make sure there aren't 800 more just like you waiting for you to slip up or make a tactical negotiating blunder.

    Happy Monday!

    Friday
    Jul272012

    Off Topic - A Better Way to Share Your Bio?

    Grinding to the end of a long week and was close to bailing on the Friday post, (Shock!), and then late last night I caught this piece on Mashable, 'Turn Your Personal Data Into an Interactive Infographic', and clicked through to Vizifiy, a new service that takes your social footprint, (at least the parts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Foursquare), and turns it into a neat, interactive, multi-page infographic.

    Here is the summary page of my Vizify bio: (click for a larger image)

    I've seen a few of these kinds of dynamic, graphical profile builders before, but I think I like Vizify the most of what I have seen so far because it's multi-page design sort of takes the viewer through a bit of a story - from a clickable summary, to professional history, to a set of keywords used frequently on Twitter, and even to a view of the places most frequented as interpreted from Foursquare check-ins.

    Most of the individual pages can be edited by the user, as well as the display order and some of the content of the auto-generated pages, that again are pulled from existing information on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But even with that limited capability to shape or personailze the Vizify infographic, it still does present personal, social network information in a cool and interesting way.

    I know, before you get all up in my grill, I know the traditional resume is a long way from being rendered irrelevant by fancy infographic tools like Vizify, or even the more pedestrian and accepted LinkedIn profile.  But one day, eventually, and maybe because this is just me wanting this to be true so I don't ever have to help my 11-year old son write a ridiculous two-page summary of his life one day, I hope that tools like Vizify, and whatever comes next, will eventually serve as a suitable and more complete personal history/bio/reflection and then all the resume coaches can finally find something better to do with their time.

    Vizify is still in beta, you can sign up for an invite here, let me know if you get a chance to play with the tool and what you think about the dynamic, infographic profile replacing the traditional resume?

    Have a Great Weekend!