Archive for February, 2009

Abandon Yesterday

Great little Change Leadership conversation starter by Peter Drucker over at Branding Strategy Insider:

We do not hear much anymore about overcoming resistance to change, which 10 or 15 years ago was one of the most popular topics of management books and management seminars. Everybody has accepted by now that change is unavoidable. But that still implies that change is like death and taxes–it should be postponed as long as possible, and no change would be vastly preferable.

But in a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm. To be sure, it is painful and risky, and above all, it requires a great deal of very hard work. But unless an organization sees that its task is to lead change, that organization–whether a business, a university, or a hospital–will not survive. In a period of rapid structural change the only organizations that survive are the “change leaders.” It is therefore a central 21st-century challenge for management that its organization become a change leader.

In most cases, yep. Sadly, most business managers are too busy dealing with every-day business issues to help lead their companies towards their next evolution. Many organizations (especially manufacturing operations) tend to be culturally adverse to change. These types of organizations rarely create environments that are likely to produce or retain business leaders for whom change management is a normal day-to-day process. More importantly, these companies tend to get drawn into the death-by-pricepoint mentality: Rather than changing their ways, rather than investing in new designs, new technologies and new methodologies, they opt to seek out cheaper raw materials, cheaper manufacturing operations, cheaper packaging, and cheaper customer service/support, for example.

Unfortunately, there comes a point where the quality of a product drops below standard – whether that product is a pair of jeans, a computer, a car, a pair of running shoes, or plain old customer service. Cheaper begets cheaper. The equation never changes: What you put in is what you get out. Don’t ever expect to take significant cost out of your model and somehow increase the quality and value of your product – at least not without real change being added to the mix.

The saddest kind of company is the one which has an underlying culture of innovation – one where middle-managers have great ideas and their teams are enormously talented – but where the leaders (at the top) are adverse to change: “We’ve been doing it this way for fifty years. Why change anything now?” That’s a great way to force the great ideas out of an organization and foster an insipid yes-man culture.

Unless you happen to be an incredibly great restaurant or an opera house or an artisan of some sort.

Change leadership is not about digging up the next mucky layer of lowest bidders. It isn’t about finding even cheaper labor. It is not about cutting yet another corner. It is about improving processes. It is about improving designs. It is about doing things better and smarter. It is about instilling a culture of improvement and clever ideas and innovation within a company. It is about creating ecosystems in which great ideas can flourish – the kinds of ideas that give companies a competitive edge. Some may be ways to improve a product’s quality and utility while making it cheaper to produce. Some of it may be cost-neutral design improvements. Some of it may be understanding where resources are being wasted, and where they could be retasked.

Abandon yesterday: The first step for a change leader is to free up resources that are committed to maintaining things that no longer contribute to performance and no longer produce results. Maintaining yesterday is always difficult and extremely time-consuming. Maintaining yesterday always commits the institution’s scarcest and most valuable resources–and above all, its ablest people–to nonresults. Yet doing anything differently–let alone innovating–always creates unexpected difficulties. It demands leadership by people of high and proven ability. And if those people are committed to maintaining yesterday, they are simply not available to create tomorrow.

The first change policy, therefore, has to be organized abandonment. The change leader puts every product, every service, every process, every market, every distribution channel, every customer, and every end use on trial for its life. And the change leader does so on a regular schedule.

The question it has to ask–and ask seriously–is “If we did not do this already, would we, knowing what we now know, go into it?” If the answer is no, the reaction must not be “Let’s make another study.” The reaction must be “What do we do now?”

Read the entire post here. Good stuff. Have a great weekend, everyone. 😉

Photo by Chris Wray McCann.

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My good friend and super personal trainer Holly DiGiovine sent out an email over the weekend that struck a chord with me. Here’s some of what she had to share:

When you have a goal that is as huge as the marathon-it will “keep you honest.” It’s not like a smaller goal that you can announce and then put off or fake your way through. Once you sign up, commit months to training, and take your first step on race day-you better have done your homework.

The beauty of this is that it goes against 99% of the natural tendencies of our culture that favors gratification without effort or devotion. But is that kind of achievement ever as satisfying? Linda Hill once told me she loved the quote, “There is no glory in training, but there is no glory without training.” In no way is this more true than in running.

And business.

One thing I’ve found over the years is that many of the folks I train with (and race against) are for the most part as devoted to their jobs (if not more) as they are to running or cycling or triathlon.

Unlike participation in say, golf or softball or basketball – no offense to club/league sports – the type of determination, discipline and emotional focus that comes with training day in, day out for extremely challenging endurance events (often by yourself) tends to bleed over into people’s 9-5’s.

Whether you’re training for a marathon, a century or the Ironman triathlon, one thing you quickly find out is that there’s no room for bullshit out there on the pavement. You either do the work or you’re screwed. Politics won’t get you to the finish line. It doesn’t matter who you know or how well you can work the system. When you’re out there, every weakness bubbles up to the surface and stares you in the eye. Lack of preparation, lack of motivation, lack of dedication will all come back to bite you in the ass. there’s nowhere to hide. They will all find you and jump up on your back to stop you dead in your tracks. The choice becomes this: Do you let them stop you, or do you accept them and keep going?

You learn a lot about yourself, training for that type of event.

You learn a lot about how to break thresholds and get past your own little ego, training for events like these. When you’re tired and sore and hungry but you still have four miles to go, guess what? You still have four miles to go. How you get through these last four miles is entirely up to you. Nobody cares whether you walk those last four miles or run, or hail a cab. Nobody made you set 26.2 miles as a goal. Or 100 miles. Or 144+.

Once you’ve broken past your lack of will and learned to keep going, you are transformed. A similar thing happens to Marines during training. At some point, who you used to be before you went beyond what you thought your limitations were, before you kissed excuses goodbye, before you left all of the bullshit that stood in your mind’s way ceases to exist. You become someone else.

That someone else, the marathoner, the long distance cyclist, the triathlete, the Ironman, he or she walks into your place of work with you every morning.

We all work with two types of people: Partisans of the least amount of effort, and dedicated professionals.

The latter aren’t all marathoners or triathletes, but I have yet to meet an Ironman or marathoner who didn’t take his or her intensity and dedication to their job.

Not that there’s anything wrong with drinking a case of beer and watching sports on TV all weekend, but who you are outside of your work does have parallels with who you are when you are at work.

Something to think about.

Update: Wow. You guys have turned this post into The BrandBuilder blog’s most popular post ever. Over 2,000 views in less than 24 hours already. Thank you all: Fellow runners, cyclists, swimmers, triathletes… It’s amazing to have so many of you respond to this post with so much enthusiasm. You’ve really made my day. Next time you’re in the Greenville, SC be sure to look me up. Lots of great running, cycling and racing out here.

Train hard! 😉

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I am very flattered that Steve Woodruff asked me to participate in his Five in the Morning series, so I will ty to be worthy of what is turning out to become a great Friday morning tradition. Without further fanfare, here are five of my favorite “must read” posts from the last few days:

First, let’s start this one off with a bang thanks to a) Logic+Emotion’s Dave Armano, and b) Ford’s very own Social Media honcho Scott Monty, who delivered a fantastic interview on Fox News this week: In Dave’s “battle of the brands” post, Scott aptly deflates an unfortunate “let’s use social media to create viral campaigns” argument and refocuses the conversation on the real value of Social Media – not as a gimmicky “push” channel, but as a genuine engagement channel where real human-t0-brand connections and conversations take place. Scott is brilliant in his subtle approach and a breath of fresh air in an often hyped-to-death nonsensical monologue about the Twitters and Facebooks of the world.

Dave then takes the conversation to a whole different level by getting into the dynamics of personal brands interacting with corporate brands, using Scott’s very unique position: Already active in Social Media and with a fairly large following, Scott brings his network with him to Ford’s doorstep. For better or for worse, the lines between Scott Monty the person and Scott Monty the very public Ford honcho quickly get blurred. Fascinating and well tempered post by one of my favorite people in the blogosphere. I definitely encourage you to read it, bookmark it, digg, and share it as Dave’s questions will be big topics of discussion in months and years to come.

Numero dos: Via my good friend Gabriel Rossi comes this fantastic post by Landor’s Allen Adamson on the difference between “brand” and “branding,” for starters. Here’s a little bit of magic from that post:

A brand is something that exists in your head. It’s an image or a feeling. It’s based on associations that get stirred up when a brand’s name is mentioned. The ing part — branding — is the signal or expression of the brand that generates images and feelings. Branding signals include advertising, package design, product design, functionality, retail environments, online experiences, public relations and human behavior. Branding is the process by which brand images get into your head.

(I may carry a copy of this post in my back pocket as the topic comes up often.) Allen does an amazing job of concisely going through some essential brand attributes that often get overlooked by busy and stressed out brand stewards. Things like differentiation, relevance, esteem and knowledge. Great little post you’ll want to rediscover regularly if you know what’s good for you.

Trois: This is actually a series of posts assembled by Altitude Branding’s Amber Naslund as a Social Media starter kit. Whether you’re getting started in Social Media or trying to find a concise, simple way to explain it to your boss, aunt or client, everyone will find something of value in the posts – if only Amber’s writing style which I kind of dig. In no particular order:

The Social Media Starter Kit: Blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and plenty more to come, I’m sure. Amber is always a great read, so if you aren’t already visiting her blog regularly, you might want to fix that.

d) Valeria Maltoni’s “Don’t Script, Improvise” (based on Mike Bonifer’s wonderful presentation by the same name) takes us out of the Social Media conversation again to focus on smart business strategery. The skinny: Stop being so rigid and scipted with your business, already. Relax and build flexibility into your model. As Valeria’s post is quick to point out:

“Improvisation invites participation, liberates good ideas, and challenges players to work at the height of their intelligence.”

But beyond that, allowing yourself to improvise makes your interactions with customer come across as fresh and genuine rather than rehersed and unremarkable. Chew on that, then read some more.

And lastly, a little bit of a sidewinder to end this episode of Five in the Morning: Instead of a blog post, check out this great article from IDEO’s Tim Brown published by the Harvard Business Review. “Design Thinking” is a ten page guide to rethinking… well, the way you think about business challenges, product development, marketing, growth, etc. Tim is pretty brilliant and IDEO has been writing the book on institutional innovation fo decades now (they helped develop the computer mouse, for crying outloud), so he knows what he is talking about. In times of economic uncertainty and strategic confusion, his toughts on adaptive innovation and hybrid thinking can’t hurt. Read, digg, stumbleupon, bookmark, share, etc. And if you enjoy the article, consider reading more of Tim’s thoughts on his blog.

Wow. Time does fly when you’re having fun. Maybe we should make this Ten in the morning, next time.

Before I take off, two last little things:

1. If you are discovering Steve for the first time in this post, be sure to subscribe to Steve Woodruff’s StickyFigure blog and don’t forget to also follow him on Twitter: @SWoodruff

2. If you are discovering the BrandBuilder blog for the first time, welcome. You can also subscribe to my feed or connect with me on Twitter: @thebrandbuilder

Cheers, and have a great weekend!

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I’ve been a film fanatic ever since my parents took me to see the first Star Wars movie (now known simply as Episode IV). Since I’ve also been a big advertising fan since… well, since I was old enough to watch TV, it stands to reason that movie trailers (the advertising of movies) kind of rank pretty high on my list of attention-grabbers.

Let me say this again: I love movie trailers. Always have. Always will.

But here’s the rub: Most trailers these days aren’t any good. They used to be. There used to be a certain degree of savoir-faire when it came to cutting movie trailers. They were exciting. They made you want to see more. They made your mouth water.

Not so anymore.

Most trailers now seem to be disjointed and pointless. The rule of the day seems to be “okay, let’s throw as much crap as we can into that twenty-second spot as we possibly can. Priority 1: Explosions. Priority 2: The funniest lines in the movie. Oh… and let’s add 20 extra seconds of useless footage at the end just to explain the entire plot of the movie to the portion of the audience who isn’t savvy enough to want to see the movie without having it explained A-Z upfront.”


To be fair, note that I said “most” not “all.” Some trailers are great. But they are the exception rather than the rule.

And don’t even get me started with the TV trailers. Not even worth the virtual ink. Completely worthless.

So before I go on, let me throw a little note to the powers that be in Hollywood: Please, please, please, stop putting out lousy trailers. Please!!! Aside from the fact that bad trailers don’t entice people to go see the movies they advertise (no, really, think about it), those of us who look forward to them are getting tired of having our expectations shattered by remedial, poorly cut junk.

How hard is it to put together an exciting 30-60 second spot with 90+ minutes of footage? If my neighbor’s kid can do it for free on his Mac and post it to YouTube, surely, a highly paid studio editor can do a half-decent job. Right?

But enough about that. Read the fascinating (and quick) post on Tom Asacker’s blog about advertising’s effect on expectations rather than simply sales. (It deals with movie trailers.) Here’s a sliver:

“Instead of examining the effect of advertising on sales, we examine how advertising affects the updating of market-wide sales expectations. The focus on expectations creates a valuable advantage. Our measure of expectations, which is derived from a stock market simulation, is an accurate predictor of sales.”

Confused? No worries. Click here to read the whole post.

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