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Love these Principles

Well worth the longer read… but some principles every marketing team should embrace.

  • Cross-functional teams — collaboration among different disciplines fosters creativity
  • Small, dedicated, co-located teams — optimize for team communication and bonding
  • Progress = outcomes, not output — measure all work by its impact on real customers
  • Problem-focused teams — the team is focused on a business problem, not a set of tasks
  • Removing waste — ruthlessly jettison processes that don’t help move outcomes forward
  • Small batch size — work in small increments where possible to test ideas in the world
  • Continuous discovery — understanding prospects and customers is an ongoing journey
  • GOOB (“get out of the building”) — go talk to real customers in their environment
  • Shared understanding — teams aren’t just a sequence of siloed contributions
  • Anti-pattern: rockstars, gurus, ninjas — team cohesion is better than stars
  • Externalizing your work — get ideas out of heads and into tangible forms
  • Making over analysis — just debating ideas is a waste, go try them out
  • Learning over growth — learn what works before you rush into scaling it up
  • Permission to fail — breed a culture of experimentation, which breeds creativity
  • Getting out of the deliverables business — focus on customers, not documentation
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Eat or Be Eaten

Over the past couple of decades, The Chasm model has been the centrepiece of nearly every conversation I’ve had about launching new technology. 

While its merits are many, lately I’ve been wondering how applicable it is in business-to-business markets. Sure there are early adopters. Perhaps even an early majority. Its the late majority that seems to be in trouble. 

Having sat around harvesting revenue from their customer base the late majority one-day wake-up to face a revenue precipice. In short, the early adopters and majority reach a tipping point and start acquiring their customer base en-masse. Powered by the economics of the cloud (not just technology but also business) these new players scale at speed – achieving continuous growth rates in the high double and even triple digits.

We see a couple of shifts driving the acceleration of the new players. For instance, Cloud technology and business models on the supply side, and then mobile on the demand side. Entrepreneurs emerge from both sides presenting the late majority with an impossible force to counter – and their brand advantage and customer relationships are quickly weakened.

The message is clear. Rather than wait for the late majority, fuel the high-growth early adopters and watch them grow. Who would you rather be backing – or be – the eater or the eaten.

 

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Small Business Must Smash Bureaucracy Before It Takes Hold

One of the many great things about working in a innovative, high-growth company is the lack of bureaucracy.

I’m not talking about the paperwork and paper pushing kind. I’m talking about what Gary Hamel rightly defines as:

“Strategy gets set at the top. Power trickles down. Big leaders appoint little leaders. Individuals compete for promotion. Compensation correlates with rank. Tasks are assigned. Managers assess performance. Rules tightly circumscribe discretion.

Bureaucracy “constitutes the operating system for virtually every large-scale organisation on the planet. It is the unchallenged tenets of bureaucracy that disable our organisations.”

It frankly doesn’t exist. That doesn’t mean we don’t have processes and some of the checks and balances a good company should have. What it does mean is that deep in the culture is the capacity for making, creating and doing.

Its a deeper cultural and attitudinal bent that enables a company like Xero, Vend or Simple compete successfully with large incumbents. It is nearly impossible to replicate and highly perishable. I’ve seen it ferment in large organisations only to be quashed by incoming leaders, not by direct mandate but through subtle cultural cues.

The cultural contrasts between a company where bureaucracy is minimal and one where it is maximised are clear if you have every lived and worked in both. Little things stand out. The first values individualism and the quality of work. The second values conformity and standardisation of work. The first values ideas and impact. The second values marginal and non disruptive improvement.

Companies that are creating immense value and game-changing new platforms are those who have effectively sidelined bureaucracy in favour of a new way of working.

So, how will you smash bureaucracy in 2015 and turn it to a competitive advantage?

Read:

- Why Bureaucracy Must Die – Forbes

- Bureaucracy Must Die – Gary Hamel, HBR

- The Core Incompetencies of the Corporation – Gary Hamel, HBR

- The Drucker Forum Reading List – HBR

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Lids Down

One of the downsides of working in tech isn’t just that you are surrounded by seriously distracted people, but you become one over time. Nearly every tech company I’ve worked in bears one common management practice that needs to change – the constant presence of managers distracted by devices during crucial conversations.

I’ve struggled with the notion of banning laptops from meetings. They are such a powerful tool when used well – but they rarely are. The glow of the screen has roughly the distraction power of a tub of ice cream, or, as Clay Shirky says more ominously – second-hand smoke.

I’m now convinced that any meeting can improve if computers and any other digital distraction is removed. Print the agenda before going in. Produce minutes in the 10 minutes following – bash them out. And if time doesn’t allow, allow the first five minutes of any meeting for prep, and the last ten for reviewing the minutes. Meetings with Bezos start with everyone reading the papers for the meeting ahead.

Statistically you will do better. Take the impact of banning laptops from the classroom.

We found that participants who multitasked on a laptop during a lecture scored lower on a test compared to those who did not multitask, and participants who were in direct view of a multitasking peer scored lower on a test compared to those who were not. The results demonstrate that multitasking on a laptop poses a significant distraction to both users and fellow students and can be detrimental to comprehension of lecture content.

Focus on the conversation not only increases, but how we are interacting. The presence of devices not only dulls our ability to process and contributing to the conversation – but also our ability to determine how we should best react to the conversation.

Improving the quality of decision making doesn’t require we completely banish the computer – but rather we put it to good use when and were we need it, and then recognise the conversation can’t happen with its glow present. Or at best, the quality of the conversation wont be what we want. Clay points to a brilliant analogy:

Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of the elephant and the rider is useful here. In Haidt’s telling, the mind is like an elephant (the emotions) with a rider (the intellect) on top. The rider can see and plan ahead, but the elephant is far more powerful. Sometimes the rider and the elephant work together (the ideal in classroom settings), but if they conflict, the elephant usually wins.

So, which conversation are you going to focus on in 2015 – the one in front of you but not present, or the one in front of you and present.

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A Quote for the Age of Anxiety

A great observation and highly relevant as many contemplate the ridiculous notion of New Years resolutions:

I can only think seriously of trying to live up to an ideal, to improve myself, if I am split in two pieces. There must be a good “I” who is going to improve the bad “me.” “I,” who has the best intentions, will go to work on wayward “me,” and the tussle between the two will very much stress the difference between them. Consequently “I” will feel more separate than ever, and so merely increase the lonely and cut-off feelings which make “me” behave so badly.  Alan Watts

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Start With Replatforming

My contribution to what will be I am sure a tsunami of predictions…

Marketers need to go beyond digital as a discrete discipline and view it as the foundation of modern marketing. This first and foremost necessitates a replatforming of marketing from spreadsheets, random tools, and vendor-specific technologies to a coherent platform from which marketing can be orchestrated. Marketing workflow, assets, performance analysis, and orchestration will all need to take place in the cloud if marketers are to compete. As marketers look to returns on these crucial investments, a new generation in marketing decision support systems will provide the insight into aggregate marketing performance, breaking them free of narrow and myopic ROI analysis.

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