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Revelations on the web- did I really say that? June 25, 2009

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
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Everything done on the web is a revelation. All the sites we visit and what we do there, reveals something. Sometimes we do it willingly, sometimes not. Even when we are part of the anonymous rabble and rolled into a trend aggregate, we still reveal something demographically. 

The web today requires that we do this. Social Media interactions is all about providing data about you. Getting engaged and involved within the viral community means sharing, communicating various bits and pieces about you. 

Email was an early way to reveal stuff on-line. You added  things at the end of your note beyond the basic contact information. For a long time, my email signature included a witty quote, a surprise bon mot, for the reader.  I have used different sayings on multiple sites and systems.  It is just one way to convey who I am. Get the recipient to pause for a second and reflect on the philosophical gems embedded in those few short words. It provides a way to project, or insert, a part of my personality.  Quotes I have used in the past include :

  1. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
  2. Change is inevitable; *growth* is optional.
  3. Never mistake motion for action. (my current phrase and longtime favorite)

Each one a priceless pearl and an attempt  to reveal something of import in a brief verse. Kind like a early, yet, static tweet.

Adding a thoughtful message goes beyond email. It extends to Social Media also. Your digital profile on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn may be the same. Or, it may be intentionally different. You can choose a multi-faceted presence and each one reveals something about you.

Our persona can vary based on who we interact with and what we want to reveal about ourselves.What does your email signature say? Do you use humor or present a strictly professional message? Do you reference something from your past with family and friends? 

For myself, the biggest revelation is to be consistent both on-line and in the real world. Are you surprised or did you know that already?

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Execution – Flawless vs. Good Enough June 17, 2009

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
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I attended an interesting talk today titled ‘Flawless Execution’. Interesting topic on getting improved and consistent performance from your team. The event was organized by the Rochester Small Business Council (SBC). Kudos to them for scheduling this event. The main speaker, from Afterburner Consulting, was a retired Navy fighter pilot who flew F-14s. He described how they plan each mission and the elements involved in the planning. The steps they use include  :

  1. Plan
  2. Brief
  3. Execute
  4. Debrief

For the armed services, that dedication and commitment to execute a common process is the difference between life and death. Literally. So it follows that having a debrief of what worked and what could be done better is a key part of that process. The speaker also stressed that during that discussion, it is nameless and rankless. That is, everyone involved, be they leaders, peers or  subordinates, are candid and admit to mistakes. They also point out to each other  improvements. It is win-win for each individual and also the team. It makes perfect sense and the candor for a subordinate to call out a squad leader on their mistakes – within the debrief session- is an accepted military practice. The team attitude is ‘I made a mistake, I will fix it’.

When the process is run with flawless execution, the result is a Win. Successful mission, objective realized. Live to fight another day. In the military, those aren’t cliches, they are the truth.

In the business world, having a common, repeatable and reliable process is a good thing also. Flawless execution by your team will lead to increased sales. It better, else what good is perfect execution if it doesn’t lead to sales? That is another problem. For now, let’s assume the team is working on the right things. Getting your team to be consistent where everyone knows their role can be trying at times. As a manager, having consistent team performance can be very challenging. There are lots of reasons for this admittedly and you control a good part of that. Some within a teams’ control; other things are beyond their control.

In business and in war,  speed is a key enabler. For many, omitting the Debrief part of the process is tempting and easy to do. Roll the Lessons Learned into the planning – save some time. Works for awhile – until the Lessons Learned are gone. Then, a team repeats mistakes; does not learn, can’t pass on their knowledge to others. Lost opportunity, lower sales and things slow down. Not good business.

The speaker also stressed contingency planning – ‘What if’ scenarios. If the Squad Leader is taken out, what is the chain of command? If there is equipment malfunction, what is the backup plan? One all those elements are in place (steps 1-4 and contingency), then the team is ready to perform its’ mission.

The business consequences of not making a sale, losing to a competitor are not as drastic as in military combat. It is not life and death.  We tend to use the military based cliches, but they never have the same intensity or impact.

All told, it is not a new process, not a radical way of managing. It is common sense. I have heard this in other forms in the past; I’m sure you have too. In the business world, we tend to make assumptions about these steps and the process in general. Not every team has SMART* goals. Getting everyone you work with committed to,  and, using a common process can be an unrealistic goal.  For most businesses, simply having a process  is good enough. Some times, execution is good, others; not so much.  From my experience, that is due to the corporate culture and management style. What is accepted behavior? How are people rewarded? Do they each have SMART goals? Don’t assume so.

Flawless execution requires everyone in the organization is using the same process in the same way. I have seen this in the past with ERP projects. Lead, follow or you’ll get run over because ERP is coming. Common process, common goal, common deployment of teams working on the same timeline. Works and there are lots of consultants willing to help you get there. 😉

Do you want your execution flawless or just good enough? Your choice and your teams’ also. Good luck.

*Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timed.

Twitter – fad or here to stay? June 8, 2009

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
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It is amusing to me the consistent number of  people questioning the value and longevity of Twitter.  Mixing metaphors, I find the focus here is between the preacher and the choir here while the congregation is on the sidelines. There is no need to convince the converted. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.* 

Mind you, the ironic part to me is these are posts on the Twitter site.  Tweet equivalents include :

  1. “Do you think this will be a useful marketing tool?”
  2. “Is it just the new thing until something else comes along?”
  3. “Why should I use it?”
  4. “What do I talk about?”

On several other sites, I have read blog posts about it, columnists have written numerous articles, and lately, the mainstream media pundits have discussed at length. I’m sure you have seen and read much of the same.

My answers :

  1. Yes! Where have you been (using my inside voice)?
  2. It is becoming a common and accepted business practice to connect and interact with  customers.
  3. See above.
  4. Talk about what you know and hopefully, something that others will connect with and care about.

Imagine the related ensuing discussion on another topic. For example, a conversation gearheads might have on the comparative automotive merits between Chevy and Ford. Potential quips from that dialogue (diatribe?) would run something like :

  1. “I’ll take a classic ’57 T-Bird anyday.”
  2. “Shelby Cobra Mustangs rule!”
  3. “‘The ’72 SS Chevelle is one of the all time muscle cars.”
  4. “Corvette is the only American made sports car.”

The difference with gearheads is they have the conversation standing next to the car, or whilst enjoying sustenance and an adult libation. Imagine then in the Twitter scenario the debate in merits of Fords vs. Chevy occurred while driving. Doesn’t happen, except maybe in  a  ‘B’ movie scene.  And that’s my point – that scenario is the equivalent of those tweets on Twitter.

I say “Enough already! Move on people.” At this point, tweeting about the value of Twitter is redundant and a waste of time. If you get it, you don’t need to ask. If you don’t get it, observe, absorb and learn. Tangent topics to assess value and measure such as Heisenberg Uncertainty principle come to mind also, but I digress.  Twitter is a good tool; versatile, flexible, quick and reliable. Certainly a powerful and useful communication tool for our time but, it is not a panacea. 

To be sure, I use Twitter myself and have refrained from comment about its’ viability. Referencing Gladwell again, I submit we are beyond the Tipping Point now. There are enough mavens, connectors and salesmen/women that espouse Twitter to agree that it is beyond a fad.  Going forward as the lifecycle moves beyond a fad, the metrics defined and accepted to assess and measure value will mature. We will learn and agree on how to commonly gauge success. Just like we did with measuring horsepower, compression ratios, wheelbase and 1/4 mile times. For me, the SS Chevelle always  was just out of reach, but, that is another story.

 

*For those who used the Internet (not web) back in the before time, this was the catchphrase for a regular contributor to the Newsgroup for movies. If memory serves, his moniker was BillyBob. His reviews were laced with good ‘ol boy humor and inserted that phrase from time to time. Disclaimer here as the years I read them date back to the early ’80’s.

Integrated Social Media – Life without Words June 3, 2009

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
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Much of the Social Media world seems to focus currently on communicating via words. In our digital information age, I find it interesting that video and audio is not as common (yet) in the SM community. It’s not that integrated with audio and video. I know that will change.  

Of course, digital video and audio content is easy to generate and share. That’s not my point. With words, we have a robust tool set developed over time to manipulate and manage text. Makes sense since we have been using text and publishing words for, like, a long time now. Think Gutenberg press. Lots of advancements since those days. We have adopted the written word into our behavior, cultural norms and so on. Words and the print world are internalized within us.

Fast forward to the interweb. Again, lots of resource like SEO with meta and key words to aid in text searches. Great tools – for text. Not so much for video. Seen any good search tools for video lately? If you wanted to search for a specific scene, how would you describe it visually? Looking for a particular event or person in video? Today, you use words. At times, not very effective since you have to still visually insepct the images.

Looking down the road, I believe we will develop the visual and audio toolbox equivalents we have for text. As we have only used video and audio for a relatively short time, advancements may take some time. But, I have no doubt it will happen. Imagine being able to edit videos as easily as you can with text files. Same for audio – seamlessly replace/insert/modify music sequences. New applications will provide the ‘Search and replace’ ability for both video and audio. The technology changes that result in easy to sue tools to manage video and audio is on its way. It will change our thinking and our language in ways we aren’t aware of yet. Think how SMS and the realted acronyms has changed our verbal and written communication styles. The same will happen for video. Perhaps, the change will occur first with audio. Much easier to deal with technically (today). The innovations needed will come from the web community. New businesses will start to offer products and services to enhance our communications both with auditory and the visual.

June 4 update – Just saw this on the WP site (honest!) and wanted to share re: videopress. Will have to read (watch?)  this.

http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/announcing-videopress-com/

Some would point to Photoshop. Great tool – can do lots of things. But, complicated. I have heard people say “been using it for years; only know it a little” or “I only use what I know how to do”.  A steep learning curve there. If you had to take a class to use a pencil, would you think the barrier is to high to use it?

 BTW, ditto for still images. Some basic tools are there and there are getitng better. It’s a long way to go to match what we have for the printed word. 

Life is lived in technicolor and  Coldplay says ‘…I can feel the wave coming.’ I feel it. Can you envision communicating without words? Send me your visual  response – I’d be happy to see it.

On Social Media – Who is a expert? June 2, 2009

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
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Everybody’s talkin at me about Social Media (SM). I’ve seen all good people with lots of posts and tweets about SM ‘experts’ lately. Tangents to songs come to mind here and a nod to Neilson and Yes; but I digress.

At first, I thought there are experts, are there? Well, now. Bully for them. Then it occurred to me that no, they aren’t. No one is yet. Perhaps, they are farther along the learning curve than others but not an expert (yet). Don’t be fooled by anyone who labels themselves a SM expert – not there yet.  In the true sense of community, we are all learning together. We glean tips and tricks from each other, help define what is & is not  accepted practice. That’s the fun part about this time, eh? Guiding, shaping and otherwise helping define how we interact and ultimately what are cultural norms. We’re making history. OK, deep breath. Goos-fraba.

I read Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent book,  ‘Outliers’,  a while ago. In it, he defines being an expert via the 10K hour rule. The rule states that to achieve the status of expert in any given topic, it is accepted that you spend 10,000 hours working on a particular skill.

Thus far, there are no Social Media experts because of the time constraint. Do the math. Even if someone spends 3000 hours a year on SM, it would take more than 3 years to reach such expert status. 

I’m not an SM expert and neither are you. We may be someday, once we hit 10K hours. In the meantime, we help each other learn, share, agree on many things and dis-agree on others. Willing to listen; happy to discuss.