The Ship of (April) Fools

Question: Where does one find the most incompetent collection of managers and leaders in America today?
Answer: The Bush White House.
Ouch!
Doug Smith, one of America’s smartest consultants, doesn’t mince words…

Doug Smith on Brand Delivery

Writes Doug Smith on his blog:
“…brand is the upshot of three related human actions: promising, delivering and experiencing. Employees (a category that includes executives) promise and deliver. Customers (and investors who are not actively involved in companies) experience. Most of us have yet to catch up with the latter two of these activities: delivery and experience. Because we are bombarded with logos and symbols and promises, we tend too rarely to look beyond the promising to the delivery and experience.
“That is, until the experience is entirely out of line with the promise.”
Read the post to get what “brand delivery” really means. Smith also gives us an example – FOX vs. WaPo – guess which one has a consistent brand delivery…

The Top 30 CEOs: Where’s H. Lee Scott?

From Barron’s via Business Innovation Insider:
Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway
Kenneth Chenault, American Express
George David, United Technologies
Lew Frankfort, Coach
Richard Fuld, Lehman Brothers
Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric
Steven Jobs, Apple Computer
Richard Kovacevich, Wells Fargo
A.G. Lafley, Procter & Gamble
Arthur Levinson, Genentech
John Mackey, Whole Foods
Raymond Mason, Legg Mason
Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide Financial
Anne Mulcahy, Xerox
Steven Reinemund, Pepsico
Glenn Renwick, Progressive
Steven Roth, Vornado Realty
Bob Simpson, XTO Energy
James Sinegal, Costco Wholesale
Robert Toll, Toll Brothers
My question: Where’s H. Lee Scott?

More on Wal-Mart: Child-Labor etc.

Fast Company senior writer Charles Fishman blogs: “Is Wal-Mart’s Factory Inspections Program a Fraud?”
Here’s an interesting snippet:
“But if you look closely at Wal-Mart’s own 44-page report of its performance (issued last June), Wal-Mart’s factory inspection program begins to look like an energetic PR effort, more than a serious effort to protect factory workers.
“Of the 12,500 inspections in 2004, only 8 percent were surprise inspections. That means 92 percent of Wal-Mart’s inspections of factories in Bangladesh and Nicaragua and China were announced in advance — the Wal-Mart inspectors made an appointment to come see how the factory was run.”
Oh, man.

“Paid-Placement” in the Blogosphere: Wal-Mart Doesn’t get PR, and Edelman Doesn’t get Blogs

Wow. Now Wal-Mart tries to do a PR move using bloggers.
How stupid is this? And just how stupid is Edelman to advise them to take this route?!
“Paid-placement” or even the appearance of paid-placement does not work in the blogosphere. If there’s one thing companies need to learn from the Republican tactic of “buying” good press, it’s that it fails. And in the long run it destroys your brand.
Of course Richard Edelman doesn’t blog about this on his blog. I’m sure they’re working on a “plausible explanation” and we’re going to hear about it in a few hours, or days… (Let’s watch their response time!)
Businesses who think blogs are just like any other media are going to learn their lesson the hard way, like Wal-Mart. I can’t say I feel sorry for them at all.
The NY Times article reveals how businesses (and traditional PR shops like Edelman) view the media (and now the blogosphere) as mouthpieces for their “messaging.” I tell you, those days are over. Wal-Mart can change its image, but only through actions, not PR. Why not start by doubling employee wages (remember Henry Ford?).
The message to Wal-Mart executives: think “fair-price” not “lowest-price.” In the long run, the “lowest price” mentality destroys shareholder value by destroying their employees and their suppliers.
Question: What if Toyota was run like Wal-Mart? The result would be – GM!
The full article (disclosed in public interest):
March 7, 2006
Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign
By MICHAEL BARBARO
Brian Pickrell, a blogger, recently posted a note on his Web site attacking state legislation that would force Wal-Mart Stores to spend more on employee health insurance. “All across the country, newspaper editorial boards — no great friends of business — are ripping the bills,” he wrote.
It was the kind of pro-Wal-Mart comment the giant retailer might write itself. And, in fact, it did.
Several sentences in Mr. Pickrell’s Jan. 20 posting — and others from different days — are identical to those written by an employee at one of Wal-Mart’s public relations firms and distributed by e-mail to bloggers.
Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.
But the strategy raises questions about what bloggers, who pride themselves on independence, should disclose to readers. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, has been forthright with bloggers about the origins of its communications, and the company and its public relations firm, Edelman, say they do not compensate the bloggers.
But some bloggers have posted information from Wal-Mart, at times word for word, without revealing where it came from.
Glenn Reynolds, the founder of Instapundit.com, one of the oldest blogs on the Web, said that even in the blogosphere, which is renowned for its lack of rules, a basic tenet applies: “If I reprint something, I say where it came from. A blog is about your voice, it seems to me, not somebody else’s.”
Companies of all stripes are using blogs to help shape public opinion.
Before General Electric announced a major investment in energy-efficient technology last year, company executives first met with major environmental bloggers to build support. Others have reached out to bloggers to promote a product or service, as Microsoft did with its Xbox game system and Cingular Wireless has done in the introduction of a new phone.
What is different about Wal-Mart’s approach to blogging is that rather than promoting a product — something it does quite well, given its $300 billion in annual sales — it is trying to improve its battered image.
Wal-Mart, long criticized for low wages and its health benefits, began working with bloggers in late 2005 “as part of our overall effort to tell our story,” said Mona Williams, a company spokeswoman.
“As more and more Americans go to the Internet to get information from varied, credible, trusted sources, Wal-Mart is committed to participating in that online conversation,” she said.
Copies of e-mail messages that a Wal-Mart representative sent to bloggers were made available to The New York Times by Bob Beller, who runs a blog called Crazy Politico’s Rantings. Mr. Beller, a regular Wal-Mart shopper who frequently defends the retailer on his blog, said the company never asked that the messages be kept private.
In the messages, Wal-Mart promotes positive news about itself, like the high number of job applications it received at a new store in Illinois, and criticizes opponents, noting for example that a rival, Target, raised “zero” money for the Salvation Army in 2005, because it banned red-kettle collectors from stores.
The author of the e-mail messages is a blogger named Marshall Manson, a senior account supervisor at Edelman who writes for conservative Web sites like Human Events Online, which advocates limited government, and Confirm Them, which has pushed for the confirmation of President Bush’s judicial nominees.
In interviews, bloggers said Mr. Manson contacted them after they wrote postings that either endorsed the retailer or challenged its critics.
Mr. Beller, who runs Crazy Politico’s Rantings, for example, said he received an e-mail message from Mr. Manson soon after criticizing the passage of a law in Maryland that requires Wal-Mart to spend 8 percent of its payroll on health care.
Mr. Manson, identifying himself as a “blogger myself” who does “online public affairs for Wal-Mart,” began with a bit of flattery: “Just wanted you to know that your post criticizing Maryland’s Wal-Mart health care bill was noticed here and at the corporate headquarters in Bentonville,” he wrote, referring to the city in Arkansas.
“If you’re interested,” he continued, “I’d like to drop you the occasional update with some newsworthy info about the company and an occasional nugget that you won’t hear about in the M.S.M.” — or mainstream media.
Bloggers who agreed to receive the e-mail messages said they were eager to hear Wal-Mart’s side of the story, which they said they felt had been drowned out by critics, and were tantalized by the promise of exclusive news that might attract more visitors to their Web sites.
“I am always interested in tips to stories,” said one recipient of Mr. Manson’s e-mail messages, Bill Nienhuis, who operates a Web site called PunditGuy.com.
But some bloggers are also defensive about their contacts with Wal-Mart. When they learned that The New York Times was looking at how they were using information from the retailer, several bloggers posted items challenging The Times’s article before it had appeared. One blog, Iowa Voice, run by Mr. Pickrell, pleads for advertisers to buy space on the blog in anticipation of more traffic because of the article.
The e-mail messages Mr. Manson has sent to bloggers are structured like typical blog postings, with a pungent sentence or two introducing a link to a news article or release.
John McAdams, a political science professor at Marquette University who runs the Marquette Warrior blog, recently posted three links about union activity in the same order as he received them from Mr. Manson. Mr. McAdams acknowledged that he worked from Wal-Mart’s links and that he did not disclose his contact with Mr. Manson.
“I usually do not reveal where I get a tip or a lead on a story,” he said, adding that journalists often do not disclose where they get ideas for stories either.
Wal-Mart has warned bloggers against lifting text from the e-mail it sends them. After apparently noticing the practice, Mr. Manson asked them to “resist the urge,” because “I’d be sick if someone ripped you because they noticed a couple of bloggers with nearly identical posts.”
But Mr. Manson has not encouraged bloggers to reveal that they communicate with Wal-Mart or to attribute information to either the retailer or Edelman, Ms. Williams of Wal-Mart said.
To be sure, some bloggers who post material from Mr. Manson’s e-mail do disclose its origins, mentioning Mr. Manson and Wal-Mart by name. But others refer to Mr. Manson as “one reader,” say they received a “heads up” about news from Wal-Mart or disclose nothing at all.
Mr. Pickrell, the 37-year-old who runs the Iowa Voice blog, said he began receiving updates from Wal-Mart in January. Like Mr. Beller, of Crazy Politico, Mr. Pickrell had criticized the Maryland legislature over its health care law before Wal-Mart contacted him.
Since then, he has written at least three postings that contain language identical to sentences in e-mail from Mr. Manson. In one, which Mr. Pickrell attributed to a “reader,” he reported that Wal-Mart was about to announce that a store in Illinois received 25,000 applications for 325 jobs. “That’s a 1.3 percent acceptance rate,” the message read. “Consider this: Harvard University (undergraduate) accepts 11 percent of applicants. The Navy Seals accept 5 percent of applicants.”
Asked in a telephone interview about the resemblance of his postings to Mr. Manson’s, Mr. Pickrell said: “I probably cut and paste a little bit and I should not have,” adding that “I try to write my posting in my own words.”
In an e-mail message sent after the interview, Mr. Pickrell said he received e-mail from many groups, including those opposed to Wal-Mart, which he uses as a starting point to “do my own research on a topic.”
“I draw my own conclusions when I form my opinions,” he said.
Mr. Pickrell, explaining his support for Wal-Mart, said he shops there regularly and is impressed with how his mother-in-law, a Wal-Mart employee, is treated. “They go real out of their way for their people,” he said.
Wal-Mart’s blogging initiative is part of a ballooning public relations campaign developed in consultation with Edelman to help Wal-Mart as two groups, Wal-Mart Watch and Wake Up Wal-Mart, aggressively prod it to change. The groups operate blogs that receive posts from current and former Wal-Mart employees, elected leaders and consumers.
Edelman also helped Wal-Mart develop a political-style war room, staffed by former political operatives, which monitors and responds to the retailer’s critics, and helped create Working Families for Wal-Mart, a new group that is trying to build support for the company in cities across the country.
At Edelman, Mr. Manson, who sends many of the e-mail messages to bloggers, works closely on the Wal-Mart account with Mike Krempasky, a co-founder of RedState.org, a conservative blog. Both are regular bloggers, which in Mr. Manson’s case means he has written critically of individuals and groups Wal-Mart may eventually call on for support.
Before he was hired by Edelman in November, Mr. Manson wrote on the Human Events Online blog that members of the San Francisco city council were “dolts” and “twits” for rejecting a proposed World War II memorial and that every day “the United Nations slides further and further into irrelevance.” After he was hired, Mr. Manson wrote that the career of Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island was marked by “pointless indecision.”
Wal-Mart declined to make Mr. Manson available for comment. Ms. Williams said, “It is not Wal-Mart’s role to monitor the opinions of our consultants or how they express them on their own time.”
In a sign of how eager Wal-Mart is to develop ties to bloggers, the company has invited them to a media conference to be held at its headquarters in April. In e-mail messages, Wal-Mart has polled several bloggers about whether they would make the trip, which the bloggers would have to pay for themselves.
Mr. Reynolds of Instapundit.com said he recently was invited to Wal-Mart’s offices but declined. “Bentonville, Arkansas,” he said, “is not my idea of a fun destination.”

Weep, Deming, Weep: Why US Automakers Can’t Learn

Is Deming crying?
It seems like the US Auto industry is intent on destroying itself. See for example, Doug Smith’s “Removing The Deck Chairs From The Titanic”. Smith says:
“GM still doesn’t ‘get it’ when it comes to the value side of it’s products. As previously noted, GM invested heavily in product design and manufacturing flexibility — that is, the capacity to move quicker to provide new products. It can now bring 15 new products to market quicker than ever before. And, what are the deck chair managers doing with this flexibility. 13 of the new products will be re-designs of full size SUVS.”
Aaargh…
What is wrong with these people? What happened to Deming’s 14 points? It was Deming who said: “If you want to ruin a company, send it American management”
So what’s going on? IndustryWeek‘s John Teresko talks about the Toyota Way, and asks two questions:
1) How does Japan’s leading automaker keep getting better?
2) What keeps competitors from emulating that performance?
While U.S. manufacturers in many sectors have used practices from the Toyota Production System (TPS) to boost performance substantially since the mid-’80s, they have used it improperly, experts say. Instead of embracing TPS as an overarching philosophy, they have used it piecemeal as a toolbox. These companies’ leaders must revive their strategies to mimic Toyota’s in order to compete, which means reversing the popular notion that lean and other TPS-derived concepts are tools to be used selectively to achieve departmental milestones.
Read the whole thing. Look for this fun quote: “cost reduction is not a strategy unless you want to commoditize or go out of business.”
P.S.- For those of you who have forgotten Deming, here are his 14 points:
1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.
2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
6. Institute training on the job.
7. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company (see Ch. 3).
9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.
– Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
– Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
11. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
12. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.
13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.

Wal-Mart vs. Target vs Walgreens vs Costco

From a NYTimes article:
Though Wal-Mart is three times larger than its next biggest retail rival, Mr. Scott appears to be preoccupied with competitors whose individual store sales are growing faster than Wal-Mart’s — namely Target and Walgreens.
Asked about Wal-Mart’s stock price, which has fallen 11 percent in the last five years. Mr. Scott said: “You cannot have Target or Walgreens beating you day after day after day.” Mr. Scott wrote that one reason Wal-Mart’s same-store sales were growing more slowly than Target’s was that Wal-Mart’s customers earn less and have been squeezed worse by soaring fuel prices.
“Wal-Mart’s focus has been on lower income and lower-middle income consumers,” he wrote. “In the last four years or so, with the price of fuel being what it is, that customer has had the most difficult time. The upper-end customer got a tremendous number of tax breaks about four years ago. They have been doing very well in this economy.”
He said having to pay $50 to gas up a car did not change anything for rich customers, but did for those who didn’t earn a lot. “It changes whether or not you go to the movie, whether or not you buy new sheets, whether or not you go out to eat.”
At several points, Mr. Scott addressed criticisms that Wal-Mart health plan was too stingy toward its employees. He said that Wal-Mart’s health plan “stacks up very, very competitively” with other retailers. In a knock at companies that provide more generous benefits, Mr. Scott wrote: “One of the things said about General Motors now is that General Motors is no longer an automotive company. General Motors is a benefit company that sells cars to fund those benefits.”

OK. Let’s get this straight:
1) Wal-Mart is targeting lower income and lower-middle income consumers, i.e. its employees.
2) Wal-Mart won’t pay its employees a decent salary w/ benefits.
3) Wal-Mart says its same-store sales are growing more slowly than Target’s is because Wal-Mart’s customers earn less and have been squeezed worse by soaring fuel prices.
Sounds like one of those destructive cycles brought about by narrow-thinking from upper-management…
Let’s look at two other alternatives: Costco and IKEA.
Wake up Wal-Mart. Get some values.

Aligning HR with the Business

Now that HR has decide that they need to be perceived as strategic, they’ve decided to put start measuring the ROI of HR. How? Human-Capital Metrics.
The problem with HR is HR. In a majority of companies, business and HR are not in alignment.
Why? Because most businesses treat their employees as costs, not investments. As long as that’s the prevailing attitude, all attempts to measure the value of HR using metrics will be in vain…
There are exceptions – see Laurence Haughton’s interview– especially the part about IKEA.

What Global Warming?

The current wave of “warming” is the longest in 1,200 Years. According to the researchers:
“We found that between [A.D.] 890 and 1170, there was statistically significant widespread warmth corresponding approximately to the so-called Medieval Warm Period… However, the most widespread warmth was found not in the Middle Ages but during the 20th century.”
Here’s the article.
The researchers believe that “this latest paper might be the nail in the coffin for the small minority of very vocal climate change denialists who continue to challenge the conclusion that the recent warming of the Earth’s surface is out of the ordinary.”
Dream on, scientists. The people who deny global warming don’t believe in science. They believe in money. And the money says there is no global warming. They won’t believe it even if they see it… Right, Texxon?

I Work with Fools

The stupidity of business – exposed.
Why is it that stores don’t let you surf the Internet in the store? [I know they’re scared I’ll compare prices… but aside from that?]
Recently I needed some information to make a purchase, so I asked the store manager if they had an Internet connection where I could look up my information. “Sorry, you can only visit one site, ours…” he smirked.
I went home to get my info, and the company lost about $500.00 in sales, because I couldn’t stand the attitude.
The customer is not content to sit in a box any longer…

The War on Science: Politicizing NASA

From the New Your Times. This made me so mad, I posted the entire thing:
February 4, 2006
NASA Chief Backs Agency Openness
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
A week after NASA’s top climate scientist complained that the space agency’s public-affairs office was trying to silence his statements on global warming, the agency’s administrator, Michael D. Griffin, issued a sharply worded statement yesterday calling for “scientific openness” throughout the agency.
“It is not the job of public-affairs officers,” Dr. Griffin wrote in an e-mail message to the agency’s 19,000 employees, “to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA’s technical staff.”
The statement came six days after The New York Times quoted the scientist, James E. Hansen, as saying he was threatened with “dire consequences” if he continued to call for prompt action to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. He and intermediaries in the agency’s 350-member public-affairs staff said the warnings came from White House appointees in NASA headquarters.
Other National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists and public-affairs employees came forward this week to say that beyond Dr. Hansen’s case, there were several other instances in which political appointees had sought to control the flow of scientific information from the agency.
They called or e-mailed The Times and sent documents showing that news releases were delayed or altered to mesh with Bush administration policies.
In October, for example, George Deutsch, a presidential appointee in NASA headquarters, told a Web designer working for the agency to add the word “theory” after every mention of the Big Bang, according to an e-mail message from Mr. Deutsch that another NASA employee forwarded to The Times.
And in December 2004, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory complained to the agency that he had been pressured to say in a news release that his oceanic research would help advance the administration’s goal of space exploration.
On Thursday night and Friday, The Times sent some of the documents to Dr. Griffin and senior public-affairs officials requesting a response.
While Dr. Griffin did not respond directly, he issued the “statement of scientific openness” to agency employees, saying, “NASA has always been, is and will continue to be committed to open scientific and technical inquiry and dialogue with the public.”
Because NASA encompasses a nationwide network of research centers on everything from cosmology to climate, Dr. Griffin said, some central coordination was necessary. But he added that changes in the public-affairs office’s procedures “can and will be made,” and that a revised policy would “be disseminated throughout the agency.”
Asked if the statement came in response to the new documents and the furor over Dr. Hansen’s complaints, Dr. Griffin’s press secretary, Dean Acosta, replied by e-mail:
“From time to time, the administrator communicates with NASA employees on policy and issues. Today was one of those days. I hope this helps. Have a good weekend.”
Climate science has been a thorny issue for the administration since 2001, when Mr. Bush abandoned a campaign pledge to restrict power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, and said the United States would not join the Kyoto Protocol, the first climate treaty requiring reductions.
But the accusations of political interference with the language of news releases and other public information on science go beyond climate change.
In interviews this week, more than a dozen public-affairs officials, along with half a dozen agency scientists, spoke of growing efforts by political appointees to control the flow of scientific information.
In the months before the 2004 election, according to interviews and some documents, these appointees sought to review news releases and to approve or deny news media requests to interview NASA scientists.
Repeatedly that year, public-affairs directors at all of NASA’s science centers were admonished by White House appointees at headquarters to focus all attention on Mr. Bush’s January 2004 “vision” for returning to the Moon and eventually traveling to Mars.
Starting early in 2004, directives, almost always transmitted verbally through a chain of midlevel workers, went out from NASA headquarters to the agency’s far-flung research centers and institutes saying that all news releases on earth science developments had to allude to goals set out in Mr. Bush’s “vision statement” for the agency, according to interviews with public-affairs officials working in headquarters and at three research centers.
Many people working at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said that at the same time, there was a slowdown in these centers’ ability to publish anything related to climate.
Most of these career government employees said they could speak only on condition of anonymity, saying they feared reprisals. But their accounts tightly meshed with one another.
One NASA scientist, William Patzert, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, confirmed the general tone of the agency that year.
“That was the time when NASA was reorganizing and all of a sudden earth science disappeared,” Mr. Patzert said. “Earth kind of got relegated to just being one of the 9 or 10 planets. It was ludicrous.”
In another incident, on Dec. 2, 2004, the propulsion lab and NASA headquarters issued a news release describing research on links between wind patterns and the recent warming of the Indian Ocean.
It included a statement in quotation marks from Tong Lee, a scientist at the laboratory, saying the analysis could “advance space exploration” and “may someday prove useful in studying climate systems on other planets.”
But after other scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory queried Dr. Lee on the statement, he e-mailed public-affairs officers saying he disavowed the quotation and demanded that the release be taken off the Web site. His message was part of a sequence of e-mail messages exchanged between scientists and public-affairs officers. That string of messages was provided to The Times on Friday by a NASA official.
In his e-mail message, Dr. Lee explained that he had cobbled together the statement on space exploration under “the pressure of the new HQ requirement for relevance to space exploration” and under a timeline requiring that NASA “needed something instantly.”
The press office dropped the quotation from its version of the release, but in Washington, the NASA headquarters public affairs office did not.
Dr. Lee declined to be interviewed for this article.
According to other e-mail messages, the flare-up did not stop senior officials in headquarters from insisting that Mr. Bush’s space-oriented vision continue to be reflected in all earth-science releases.
In the end, the news release with Dr. Lee’s disavowed remark remained up on the NASA headquarters public affairs Web site until The Times asked about it yesterday. It was removed from the Web at midday.
The Big Bang memo came from Mr. Deutsch, a 24-year-old presidential appointee in the press office at NASA headquarters whose résumé says he was an intern in the “war room” of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. A 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he was also the public-affairs officer who sought more control over Dr. Hansen’s public statements.
In October 2005, Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word “theory” needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.
The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”
It continued: “This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.”
The memo also noted that The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual specified the phrasing “Big Bang theory.” Mr. Acosta, Mr. Deutsch’s boss, said in an interview yesterday that for that reason, it should be used in all NASA documents.
The Deutsch memo was provided by an official at NASA headquarters who said he was upset with the effort to justify changes to descriptions of science by referring to politically charged issues like intelligent design. Senior NASA officials did not dispute the message’s authenticity.
Mr. Wild declined to be interviewed; Mr. Deutsch did not respond to e-mail or phone messages. On Friday evening, repeated queries were made to the White House about how a young presidential appointee with no science background came to be supervising Web presentations on cosmology and interview requests to senior NASA scientists.
The only response came from Donald Tighe of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “Science is respected and protected and highly valued by the administration,” he said.
Dennis Overbye contributed reporting for this article.

Marshall Goldsmith: The Need to Win

“One of the most common challenges that successful people face is a constant need to win.”
Marshall Goldsmith says that the more we achieve, the more we tend to want to “be right.”
At work meetings, we want our position to prevail.
In arguments, we pull out all the stops to come out on top.
Even at supermarket checkouts, we scout other lines to see if there’s one that’s moving faster.
He has a very, very good point.

Third World, USA: The Hidden State of the Union

While I was thinking about the “State of the Union,” I fell upon this article – “Decision-Making and Coping by Functionally Illiterate Consumers and Some Implications for Marketing Management” by Madhubalan Viswanathan, Jose Antonio Rosa and James Edwin Harris in the Journal of Marketing .
The article says:
Over 20% of the US population consists of functionally illiterate consumers, yet we know very little about their thinking and behavior.”
The article talks about how we need to market to these consumers to sell products more efficiently. Here are a few examples of what marketers can do to make the retail environment more friendly to illiterate customers (and for many others as well):
Clear, obvious presentation. Clear presentation of bottom-line prices for all items in a consistent color would enhance the information environment for low-literate consumers. The final price should be plainly presented, in addition to the original price and the discount. Moreover, the use of dollars and cents off rather than fraction or percentage off can make the final price concrete and obvious. Retail outlets should also consider simple computational aids for their customers, such as devices attached to shopping carts that scan product labels and keep running totals.
Consumer-friendly store layouts. Easy store layouts that minimize clutter and confusion are important for all consumers. But the layout takes on even greater significance for functionally illiterate consumers. Of particular significance are changes to layout that take away from the experience of shopping in a familiar environment. Prominent store signs should be supplemented with visual representations of product categories. Similarly, shelf and other in-store displays can communicate product information and make comparisons easier. Graphical representations of size, ingredients, and other information needed for comparisons would also be very helpful.
Helpful staffing. In light of the life experiences of low-literate consumers and issues of self-esteem and dependence, friendliness and trustworthiness are vital in building customer relationships. Their customer loyalty seems to follow from friendly encounters that engender trust. Like many of us, they want to feel understood and appreciated. Specialized training for employees should sensitize them to the unique characteristics of low-literate customers. Such an investment may well lead to a sustainable competitive advantage stemming from strong customer loyalty.
The solutions marketers devise for illiterate consumers may well coincide with solutions for a variety of other groups such as novice consumers, time-constrained consumers, consumers in developing countries, and consumers shopping in different environments, such as a foreign country.

Welcome to the Third World, US of A. Don’t worry about the poor, let’s just make sure we can sell ’em something!

Stupid Research: The Importance of Being Pretty

Here we go again. Wired has a story on The Importance of Being Pretty.
They’re talking about your website.
Says Wired: “Internet users can give websites a thumbs up or thumbs down in less than the blink of an eye, according to a study by Canadian researchers. In just a brief one-twentieth of a second — less than half the time it takes to blink — people make aesthetic judgments that influence the rest of their experience with an internet site.”
The study in question comes to us from Dr. Gitte Lindgaard, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa. She’s the “NSERC/Cognos Industrial Research Chair in User-Centred Design” at Carleton.
No one mentions the report title, but I believe it’s this one: “Attention web designers: you have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression”, Behaviour & Information Technology, 25, 115-126, Lindgaard, G., Dudek, C., Fernandes, G. & Brown, J., 2005.
In the study, researchers discovered that people could rate the visual appeal of sites after seeing them for just one-twentieth of a second. These judgments were not random, the researchers found — sites that were flashed up twice were given similar ratings both times.
“Unless the first impression is favorable, visitors will be out of your site before they even know that you might be offering more than your competitors,” said Lindegaard.
But the results did not show how to win a positive reaction from users, admitted Lindgaard. “When we looked at the websites that we tested, there is really nothing there that tells us what leads to dislike or to like.”
And while further research may offer more clues, she said the vagaries of personal taste would always be a limiting factor. “If design were reducible to a set of principles, wouldn’t we find an awful lot of similar houses, gardens, cars, rooms?” said Lindgaard. “You’d have no variety.”
This study is just another example of lab-myopia. It’s dangerous. And detrimental to real-world business performance. Lindgaard doesn’t get it.
The real question is: how many people who come to your website do something you want them to do – buy something, opt-in, download a whitepaper, join a discussion, etc. The question is NOT if you have a pretty site, but: “How effective is your site?”
I’m not the only one turned off by this type of stupidity:
Gerry McGovern: “It is unquestionably true that people are highly impatient on the Web. However, it is hard to understand how people can get an impression of a website in one twentieth of a second, when most webpages takes several seconds to download. (Laboratory conditions are not the same as real-life conditions.) Function and visual appeal do not have to be in conflict. However, it is clear that the websites that are making the most money are focusing much more on function than visual appeal. What would be the value of asking people to rate the visual appeal of Ryanair.com, Aerlingus.com, eBay.com, or Yahoo? We need to be careful about the questions we ask because they could lead us down the wrong path.
Jakob Nielsen: It’s a dangerous mistake to believe that statistical research is somehow more scientific or credible than insight-based observational research. In fact, most statistical research is less credible than qualitative studies. Design research is not like medical science: ethnography is its closest analogy in traditional fields of science. User interfaces and usability are highly contextual, and their effectiveness depends on a broad understanding of human behavior. Typically, designers must combine and trade-off design guidelines, which requires some understanding of the rationale and principles behind the recommendations. Issues that are so specific that a formula can pinpoint them are usually irrelevant for practical design projects.
Online, form without function is a disaster.
And that’s why I get mad at “lab-researchers” like Lindgaard.

Trust: Mad Cows & Japan

I don’t blame the Japanese at all. At least they’re trying to protect their citizens. From Marketwatch:
“Japan said it will halt U.S. beef imports until Washington clarifies how the parts got into the shipment. Japan lifted a ban on U.S. beef just a month ago.
“U.S. agriculture authorities are investigating how a shipment of animal parts at risk for mad-cow disease wound up in Japan despite a pledge not to export those parts, the government said Friday.”
Here’s what shocked me in the article:
“The incident comes on the heels of a two-year ban on U.S. beef imports into Japan that Tokyo imposed after discovering a case of the disease in December 2003.”
Hello!
I gave up eating beef a few years ago; can’t say I miss it at all. Does anyone trust the government anymore?
Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain’t what they used to be
No, no
Where did all the blue sky go?
Poison is the wind that blows
From the north, east, south, and sea
Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain’t what they used to be
No, no
Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas
Fish full of mercury
Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain’t what they used to be
No, no
Radiation in the ground and in the sky
Animals and birds who live nearby are dying
Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain’t what they used to be
What about this overcrowded land?
How much more abuse from man can you stand?
My sweet Lord
My sweet Lord
My sweet Lord

PR vs. Advertising: Barking up the Wrong Tree


Again, from the Economist:
“…PR is surprisingly effective, at least according to a recent study by Procter & Gamble, the world’s biggest consumer-products group. P&G is a firm that marketers pay a lot of attention to, not least because of its advertising budget of some $4 billion. It has always been at the cutting-edge of marketing—P&G is credited with inventing the television soap opera as a new way to sell goods. But with fewer people watching television and the circulation of many papers and magazines declining, the firm has become pickier about where it spends its advertising budget. Increasingly, it wants a measurable return on investment from its campaigns.”
Read it in the news >>
My point- at least PR is trying to tell a story.
So how does advertising fight back? With knowledge and entertainment, and yes, branded-experiences. Problem is most agencies are too stupid. Maybe it’s the stupidity of the clients.
Both PR and Ad agencies are inauthentic. Why do you want to hear propaganda and lies all day long? Give us truth, knowledge, insight, and a little bit of humor. Talk, don’t preach. Get a conversation going. And don’t talk about your products unless I ask you a question.
Of course, I’m talking about double loop marketing.

Stupidity 101: Newspapers and Freebies

Asks the Economist:
“IN A letter about pay-rises to staff at the Sun last year, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, Rebekah Wade, its editor, remarked that in future the paper’s success would probably depend more on free CDs and DVDs than on its journalists. British newspapers are frenziedly giving things away, and in Germany, France, Italy, Poland and throughout Latin America papers are also increasingly relying on freebies to try to attract new readers. In Britain the circulation of national newspapers fell by 3% in 2005, following a 2% decline in 2004. The same pattern of falling circulation is being repeated across Europe and the United States. So are all the free gifts a sign of desperation from newspapers, or an entirely sensible new marketing strategy?”
My “hero” Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Sun and the Times, said last November that he dislikes it because “people grab the paper, tear the DVD off and throw away the paper”. He’s right.
This is the same kind of stupidity that software companies engage in when they give away free T-shirts. They don’t attract the target audience, but end up with droves of kids wearing “.NET” T-shirts. A friend of mine used to give away free T-shirts to the homeless, until his boss found out. Hurts the brand, you know.
Bet you 85% of the people grabbing the CDs and DVDs don’t read the paper at all.
This is what I call GM-style management.
Read all about it!

Don’t Cry for Hollywood

From the Economist:
” Hollywood took 7% less at the box office in 2005 than in 2004 and growth in sales of DVDs has slowed. Internet video threatens the satellite and cable systems of companies such as News Corporation and Time Warner. Dozens of advertisers are shifting budgets from television to such places as the internet and billboards. Brand-owners hate it that people are using digital video recorders to avoid their pitches. And if media firms move on to the internet themselves, they risk losing their films and television programmes to pirates.
and
“Any media business has two products to sell: its content (to readers and viewers); and its audience (to advertisers). The task for old media is first to protect its advertising revenues by amassing audiences online and, second, to offset their viewers’ intolerance of mass-advertising by making them pay more for content—which they are increasingly willing to do. It will not be easy, but then saving the heroine never was. ”
Read the article >>
Hollywood has lost its imagination. The irony of it all – Michael Eisner gets his own show on creativity and innovation while the very company he helped destroy [Disney] is negotiating vigorously to acquire Pixar.

Doug Smith: What Do People Who Work at the IRS Stand For (Part 2)?

Doug Smith lets the IRS have it:
“Ought the people at the IRS care about and seek to reduce cheating? Of course. But, when employees at IRS go home at night and tell their family about ‘what their shared values stand for’, do they seek to say, ‘we believe so strongly in catching cheaters that we accept and indeed defend the need to make poor, innocent and law abiding people even poorer.’ ”
Strong stuff >>
I’m amazed at Doug Smith’s constant and unrelenting fight to set things straight. Take a look at www.douglasksmith.com. See what I mean?

Underwhelming: McKinsey’s 2006 Predictions

The nerds at McKinsey are at it again with their sweeping generalities and “big-picture” historical perspectives.
The article – Ten trends to watch in 2006 – is rather underwhelming:
“Those who say that business success is all about execution are wrong. [what?!!] The right product markets, technology, and geography are critical components of long-term economic performance. Bad industries usually trump good management, however: in sectors such as banking, telecommunications, and technology, almost two-thirds of the organic growth of listed Western companies can be attributed to being in the right markets and geographies. Companies that ride the currents succeed; those that swim against them usually struggle. Identifying these currents and developing strategies to navigate them are vital to corporate success.
“What are the currents that will make the world of 2015 a very different place to do business from the world of today? Predicting short-term changes or shocks is often a fool’s errand. But forecasting long-term directional change is possible by identifying trends through an analysis of deep history rather than of the shallow past. Even the Internet took more than 30 years to become an overnight phenomenon.”
Here are the trends they’ve identified. Wow, I’m speechless.
Macroeconomic trends
1. Centers of economic activity will shift profoundly, not just globally, but also regionally.
2. Public-sector activities will balloon, making productivity gains essential.
3. The consumer landscape will change and expand significantly.
Social and environmental trends
4. Technological connectivity will transform the way people live and interact.
5. The battlefield for talent will shift.
6. The role and behavior of big business will come under increasingly sharp scrutiny.
7. Demand for natural resources will grow, as will the strain on the environment.
Business and industry trends
8. New global industry structures are emerging.
9. Management will go from art to science.
10. Ubiquitous access to information is changing the economics of knowledge.
Advice to CEOs – if this is the advice you’re paying McKinsey for, save your money! Just read your Economist and the Global Province every week and you’ll come out ahead!
Poor show, Mr. Davis. If you’re listening, Fred Gluck – it’s time to get back in and take names and kick some …

China’s 5 Surprises + 1

From S+B:
Five facets of business in China may surprise most outsiders:
1. Local entrepreneurs are interested in producing global brands, not just low-cost commodities
2. China has become a hotbed for rapid innovation
3. Executives from around the world are moving to China for the long haul
4. Good management and transparency are starting to count more than patronage, at least in some sectors
5. China is becoming a catalyst for growth in emerging markets throughout the developing world.
Let’s add another surprise:
6: China is becoming a market for high-end luxury items once thought to be “exclusive” for the western elite and Middle-East oil-barons.
Also:
“Because they are in such a hurry to make a place for themselves, and because it is still early in the life cycle of their ambition, Chinese entrepreneurs tend to give the impression that they don’t care much about quality. However, that is not universally true. Many of them recognize the trade-offs among cost, quality, and time that exist for any startup, and they have explicitly chosen designs and processes that sacrifice quality for the sake of speed and cost savings.
“But this doesn’t mean that China will always be a nation of commodity enterprises; indeed, many Chinese businesspeople know the price of a Motorola phone in Chicago or a pair of Nike sneakers in Manhattan. They ask themselves, “If I can make these things, why can’t I sell them for higher prices?” Some of them are already laying the groundwork for the evolution of their industries from low-cost producers of shoes, handsets, and components to branded enterprises.”
Read the entire article here.
This will come back to bite almost all of our western “outsourcers.” See “Innovation Blowback” by JSB and JH3 >>

Who Speaks for the Earth?

Time for a rant…
From the Guardian:
“It is on climate change that Labour has chalked up its worst record since it came to power. Tony Blair may have been good on the rhetoric in the run-up to the G8 last year (though his wobbles on Kyoto did huge damage) but the domestic front has been an abysmal failure of broken promises and backtracking. “Betrayal” doesn’t quite convey the intensity of the environmental movement’s shock at how, despite all the evidence of the urgency of tackling climate change piled up by scientists over 2005, the government has succeeded in doing very little other than reigniting an old (and many can reasonably argue, irrelevant) debate about the nuclear option.
“But the anger and frustration is only intensified by the fact that, frankly, outside a few well-informed environmental activists, nobody is much bothered. The environment was virtually invisible in the 2005 election. Even more galling, environmentalists saw the hundreds of thousands of development campaigners pouring on to the streets of Edinburgh and the millions who watched Live8 and asked themselves: why can’t we match that?
“Looked at objectively it makes no sense. Climate change will dwarf the damage the common agricultural policy subsidies wreak on African farmers; it is already costing at least 150,000 lives a year as warmer temperatures encourage disease, and erratic rainfall will starve millions in coming years. Here is an issue that makes all the aid and debt deals of 2005 look like an afternoon parlour game. Yet such was the momentum of the Make Poverty History campaign that climate change slipped off the public radar and environmental groups felt they couldn’t compete.”
So who speaks for the Earth? Certainly not Exxon. Not Bush or Blair.
Well, the Earth speaks for herself. And we just are beginning to feel her anger:
– The prairie burns, children.
– The ice-caps are melting.
– The frogs are dying.
– Goodbye polar bears.
It doesn’t matter if you’re red or blue, get ready for three or four Katrinas a year.
We may be teaching sustainability to a few kids here and there, but our business leaders are too blind and our political leaders too corrupt.
Will the mainstream media ever cover this?
Grizzly-shooting, anyone?

Mental skills ‘worse after sleep’

This is the kind of sensationalized news release for “research” that states the obvious: don’t operate heavy machinery immediately after waking up.
A person’s thinking ability may be better after being awake for 24 hours or being drunk than it is following a good night’s sleep, a study suggests.
A University of Colorado team found understanding and short-term memory were worse in the minutes after waking.
No duh.
“Nobody should be doing anything really important for 15 to 30 minutes after they wake up.” says Dr Neil Stanley, of the British Sleep Society.
There, case closed.
I wonder if anyone is doing research to find out if mental skills are better or worse immediately after watching FOX news, or for that matter, 6 hours on the X-box…

Women Leaders Sit in the Back of the Bus

“There’s no substitute for personal experience, and both O’Connor and Ginsburg suffered sex discrimination in trying to get an education and a decent job practicing law afterward. O’Connor was offered only legal secretary positions after getting her law degree. Ginsburg was asked by the law school dean what it felt like to occupy a place that could have gone to a deserving man, and she was refused even an interview for law clerk after graduating. The stated reason? Her gender. Those kind of experiences undoubtedly played a role in Ginsburg’s consistently pro-woman rulings and O’Connor’s upholding of principles underlying women’s rights in the workplace.”
With Alito, there are justified fears that women (and minorities) will continue to be given the seats in the back of the bus- by business, government, and society.
Read the article from Alternet >>
Meanwhile, Gloria Steinem says:
“In a general way, women become more radical as they get older. The pattern is that women are conservative when they’re young. That’s when there’s the most pressure on us to conform, when we’re potential child bearers and sex objects. And we lose power when we get older. Which is a very radicalizing experience.” Men are the opposite, she said — rebels when they’re young, uptight when they’re grown-ups.”
I sort of agree with her.
The sad thing is that for business in the US, women are the key differentiators. Look at Japan – where women (for the most part) aren’t even allowed on the bus.
Treating women as second-class workers is just bad for business.
From Peter Drucker:
“Knowledge gives choice. It also explains why we suddenly have women in the same jobs as men. Historically, men and women have always had equal participation in the labor force — the idea of the idle housewife is a 19th-century delusion. Men and women simply did different jobs. There’s no civilization in which the two genders did the same work. However, knowledge work knows no gender; men and women do the same jobs. This, too, is a major change in the human condition.”
and
“The greatest competitive advantage of the United States is that it attracts top knowledge workers from around the world — not just because they earn more money but because they are treated as colleagues, not as subordinates. Knowledge workers don’t believe they are paid to work 9 to 5; they believe they’re paid to be effective. Organizations that understand this — and strip away everything that gets in their knowledge workers’ way — will be able to attract, hold, and motivate the best performers. That will be the single biggest factor for competitive advantage in the next 25 years.”
Too bad we’re turning our backs on this as a nation.
See also: Advice to Women who would be CEOs: “Stay away from HR”

Advice to Women who would be CEOs: “Stay away from HR”

Another blurb in Fortune caught my eye:
Why aren’t there more female CEOs? Interestingly, that question (Nov. 14) inspired many more comments from men than from women, and plenty of them echoed this one, from Henrik S.: “When a man in a high position fails, the reason people give is never ‘because he’s a man.’ Imagine, for example, how different the press coverage would have been if Michael Eisner had been Michelle Eisner.” Most correspondents passed along advice for young female go-getters. The consensus: More women need to major in the sciences and engineering, go to business school, and, as one reader put it, “stay away from jobs in soft support-staff areas like HR, which don’t usually lead to the top no matter who (male or female) is doing them.”
It is a sad fact that women are just not getting to the top.
The culprit in my view is cultural inertia coupled with myopic vision in the boardroom.
See also: “Leadership in Your Midst: Tapping the Hidden Strengths of Minority Executives” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Carolyn Buck Luce, and Cornel West (yes, that Cornel West).
Here’s the article abstract:
All companies value leadership–some of them enough to invest dearly in cultivating it. But few management teams seem to value one engine of leadership development that is right under their noses, churning out the kind of talent they need most. It’s the complicated, overburdened but very rich lives of their minority managers. Minority professionals–particularly women of color–are called upon inordinately to lend their skills and guidance to activities outside their jobs. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, who heads the Center for Work-Life Policy, and her co-authors, Carolyn Buck Luce of Ernst & Young and Cornel West of Princeton, present new research on the extent to which minority professionals take on community service and other responsibilities outside the workplace and more than their share of recruiting, mentoring, and committee work within the workplace. These invisible lives, argue the authors, can be a source of competitive strength if companies can learn to recognize and further cultivate the cultural capital they represent. But it’s hard to convince minority professionals that their employer respects and values their off-hours responsibilities. A lack of trust keeps many people from revealing much about their personal lives. The authors outline four ways companies can leverage hidden skills: Develop a new level of awareness of minority professionals’ invisible lives; appreciate the outsize burdens these professionals carry and try to lighten them; build trust by putting teeth into diversity goals; and, to finish the job of leadership development, help minorities reflect on their off-hours experiences, extract and generalize the lessons, and apply what’s been learned in other settings.
Frankly, it’s even worse than this. Most companies (not just in the US) are still run by paternalistic, chauvinistic and yes, racist, management. I’ll blog about this soon.
In the meantime, stay away from HR, PR, and Accounting- if you want to get to the top, that is.

Kawasaki: Top 11 Lies of Entrepreneurs

Here’s a great post from Guy Kawasaki on the lies entrepreneurs tell, and sometimes actually believe:
I get pitched dozens of times every year, and every pitch contains at least three or four of these lies. I provide them not because I believe I can increase the level of honesty of entrepreneurs as much as to help entrepreneurs come up with new lies. At least new lies indicate a modicum of creativity!
1. “Our projections are conservative.”
2. “Gartner says our market will be $50 billion in 2010.”
3. “Boeing is going to sign our purchase order next week.”
4. “Key employees are set to join us as soon as we get funded.”
5. “No one is doing what we’re doing.”
6. “No one can do what we’re doing.”
7. “Hurry because several other venture capital firms are interested.”
8. “Oracle is too big/dumb/slow to be a threat.”
9. “We have a proven management team.”
10. “Patents make our product defensible.”
11. “All we have to do is get 1% of the market.”
Read the full post here >>
Disclosure: I have to say I’m guilty of #8 🙂

Abramoff, Business Ethics, and Peter Drucker on Decision-Making

Find me an honest politician, and I will spare this world. We looked everywhere, but could not find an honest politician.
I’m kidding here, but just barely.
“Abramoff is the central figure in what could become the biggest congressional corruption scandal in generations,” writes the Washington Post.
And today there’s another story: apparently “the U.S. Family Network, a public advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay and claimed to be a nationwide grass-roots organization, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to tax records and former associates of the group.”
And:
“Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman’s former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them the funds came from Russian oil and gas executives. Abramoff had been working closely with two such Russian energy executives on their Washington agenda, and the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.).”
“The former president of the U.S. Family Network said Buckham told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay’s vote on legislation the International Monetary Fund needed to finance a bailout of the collapsing Russian economy.”
Everyone knows how corrupt politicians are. These days, it seems worse than ever.
But now we are looking at the Enronization of Business, all business.
If competitive advantage is gained through “bribes,” then why should business ever play straight?
Is corruption the core-competence of successful businesses? What happened to the rule of law?
From Exxon to Wal-mart, businesses have lost their way. In their hurry to boost shareholder value, they are destroying their brands and their future.
They are playing in Box 1 and ignoring Box 3.
So why is this happening? Why are so many smart businesses (and politicians) being so dumb?
The answer comes to us from the late Peter Drucker:
Drucker tells us this story about Alfred P. Sloan Jr. who is reported to have said at a meeting of one of the GM top committees, “Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here.” When everyone around the table nodded in assent, Sloan says: “Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”
Drucker’s point is that “unless one has considered alternatives, one has a closed mind.” Decision-making for Drucker is best only if based on the clash of conflicting views, the dialogue between different points of view, and the choice between different judgements.”
The first rule of decision-making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement.
Alas, few business leaders or politicians tolerate dissent in their ranks. In fact, they work hard to eliminate nay-sayers.
And that is the root cause of all this corruption. Not money, but bad choices, bad decisions. OK- perhaps it is money after all.

SBA Incompetence

Doug Smith says: “Getting something — anything — wrong 85% of the time demands extreme “Brownie/FEMA” like incompetence — incompetence on a scale that, seriously, shreds the use of the word ‘administration’. ”
In this case, he’s talking about the Small Business Administration.
Apparently 85% of small businesses that got disaster recovery loans for 9/11 were not impacted by 9/11 in the first place.
Asks Smith: “Are you or anyone you know aware of any program or business or initiative that failed in its purpose and objectives 85% of the time?”
Read all about it >>

William Dunk: Systems on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown

Says Dunk:
“The world of broken systems is also a world of broken communication where citizens will have to be ingenious beyond belief to fight entropy. Broken systems turn ordinary citizens into guerilla fighters.”
Read Dunk’s brilliant “letter” here >>
Better yet, subscribe:
Simply send an email to join-globalprovince@lyris.globalprovince.com. Leave the subject field and the body of the email blank. You will automatically be subscribed to the Global Province.

How Executives Waste Time Together

Thumbing through my “moth-eaten” (I use the phrase in jest) September 2004 issue of the Harvard Business Review, I stumbled across an article which made me raise my eyebrows.
The article makes the case that companies routinely squander their most valuable resource – the time of their top executives.
What was interesting about the article was the actual breakdown of how top management spends its time together in meetings.
The data was collected across 187 countries in a joint study by The Economist Intelligence Unit and a consulting company. Here’s what they found: out of the total time available for senior management meetings – 250 hours per year – managers spend on average:
62 hours on operating performance reviews
27 hours on crises of the moment
22 hours on administrative issues and policy
22 hours on workforce issues
18 hours on corporate governance
14 hours on financial policy
12 hours on investor communications and guidance
11 hours on team building
10 hours on succession planning
6 hours on litigation
6 hours on community service and social responsibility
3 hours on “other”
The total “nonstrategic” time per year is 213 (out of 250). Which means that in any given year, only 15% of meeting time is available for strategic issues. That’s 3 hours a month left for critical activities like strategy development and approval – at best.
And worst of all, they didn’t even mention golf!

Robots Easier to Talk to than Humans

“When answering the android’s questions…Japanese subjects were much more likely to look it in the eye than they were a real person.”
The Economist highlights the agenda behind Japan’s race to perfect their robots:
“Many workers from low-wage countries are eager to work in Japan. The Philippines, for example, has over 350,000 trained nurses, and has been pleading with Japan—which accepts only a token few—to let more in. Foreign pundits keep telling Japan to do itself a favour and make better use of cheap imported labour. But the consensus among Japanese is that visions of a future in which immigrant workers live harmoniously and unobtrusively in Japan are pure fancy. Making humanoid robots is clearly the simple and practical way to go.”
Ouch. Read the article here >.

Bethlehem: Walled and Silent

From the Voice of America:
“Every year at this time, Christians around the world turn their attention to Bethlehem, a small city in the West Bank, where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was born. Christians have lived in Bethlehem for centuries, but now many are leaving. A bloody Palestinian uprising and the construction of a massive security barrier around the city mean the Christmas spirit is quickly disappearing.”
How still we see thee lie…

Measuring Democracy: The Journalists-in-Jail Index

In 2005, we have 125 journalists sitting in jail (that we know of).
China, Cuba, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are the world’s leading jailers of journalists in 2005, together accounting for two-thirds of the 125 editors, writers, and photojournalists imprisoned around the world, according to a new analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The United States, which is holding journalists in detention centers in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, rose to sixth among countries jailing journalists, just behind Uzbekistan and tied with Burma, CPJ found.
Is this a good way to measure democracy?
See the numbers here >>

Prediction for 2006: Outsourcing the Lawyers

The legal profession in the US is about to be turned upside down. With American lawyers costing $300 an hour or more, Indian firms can cut bills by 75%.
Can’t be done? Don’t be sure- we’ve already outsourced our engineers, now it’s time for the lawyers. Like the engineering and construction firms before them, the big law firms will view this as a cost-cutting, “competitive” move.
See this article in the Economist >>
Oh, almost forgot, do you want fries with that?

Mark Cuban Shreds NYTimes’ “Journalistic Integrity”

Laurence Prusak [“Lorenzo”] told me recently he’s studying the “democratization of knowledge.” I’m going to tell him to look at the “democratization of media” as well.
He can start by checking out Mark Cuban’s blog. Cuban’s had two run-ins with the NYTimes, and both times the reporters have chosen to mischaracterize Cuban. Well, the “blog-maverick” doesn’t take this lying down; instead, he just blogs about it here and here.
Finally, he asks: “NYTimes Sunday Business or Bloggers. Who has higher standards?”
Another step in the slow march towards the “democratization of media” ? I think so.
Unfortunately, the news media in the US is a joke. See my previous posts:
Fantasy News: The Great Uncyclopedia
Small Business Offshoring about the WSJ
Koppel Steps Down: The End for Nightline?
The business of news is business. They’re not interested in the truth. Leave it to the poets to go after the truth. See Harold Pinter’s Nobel Lecture: The Pen Against the Sword. And of course, we’re going to ban the poets from the Republic (following Plato’s advice). Did you know that Gabriel Garcia Marquez isn’t allowed to step on US soil? Bet you Harold Pinter won’t be given a visa either.
Mark Cuban is a foot soldier for a bigger cause than he realizes. He’s fighting to preserve integrity and, in the bigger picture, democracy.