Two flat's and a fast leak

Back in January in my blog titled Fixing a Flat, I looked at the news regarding GM, Chrysler & Ford. In particular, I singled out Ford as being most likely to emerge out the other end of this tunnel.

Looking at the scoreboard, GM & Chrysler aren't doing well at all. On February 19th, they both requested more money from US taxpayers (see MarketWire) - more than US$20bn in fact.

In its restructuring plan submitted to the Treasury late Tuesday, Chrysler suggested that it believes that the “best option for the U.S. auto industry” would be a GM/Chrysler merger. I'm confused as to why neither GM nor Chrysler would do anything different in a merger that they couldn't both do in Chapter 11: namely cut their workforce, restructure debt and put a plan in place for a more basic existence than they are currently on - all aimed at surviving during the period of significantly lower unit sales.

In my view, the government funds might best be used to take over the pension liabilities that both companies would have to get off their balance sheets and avoid 'ownership' of any of these companies.

WSJ highlights that GM & Chrysler bankruptcy fears are already impacting their sales, whether they go into it or not.

Ford on the other hand, seems to be handling itself well given the circumstances. I'd suggest the tough task of negotiating labour costs with unions appears to be something they are handling better than GM & Chrysler (see It appears this is due to a better relationship between Ford and the unions (see

At this stage, Ford is maintaining their position on not requiring government funds. DetNew's assessment seems pretty on the money:
"Amid bleak outlooks for the entire industry, the latest federal submissions by GM and Chrysler depict two companies whose prospects look worse today than they did two days ago. Ford's look pretty much the same -- seriously challenged, but no closer to asking for federal bridge loans than last week or the week before."
Forbes goes on to say:
"Ford looks like a survivor--but it is still a borderline case. Should a couple of other Detroit icons go down--not that anyone wants them to fall--then Ford would be the last American standing, which could be an advantage."

Let's hope they make it through without a handout from taxpayers.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:17 AM, ,

Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?

This book was recommended to my by a colleague during a merger period at Adobe and the one key lesson I took from this book was the role culture plays within an organisation. Prior to this book and the merger at Adobe, my view on culture was that it was a 'soft' and 'fluffy' issue. Afterwards I came to appreciate it is possible the #1 issue managers need to be focused on. Without a high-performing, coherent and accountable team, good results are almost impossible to achieve.

Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? is Louis V. Gerstner Jr's memoir about his time as CEO during the turnaround of IBM - including the recruitment process which is quite insightful. When Gerstner became CEO of IBM in 1993, shares were in freefall and the company was on the verge of collapse. During this period, IBM underwent a dramatic transformation back into an industry leader.

In his frank, direct voice, Gerstner recalls the obstacles he faced: the plans to fragment the company; the inconsistent global policies; the stodgy white-shirt hierarchy and inter-departmental competitiveness; and the rapidly declining sales. Gerstner drops in a number of emails to & from employees during the time to provide colour to the situations he takes the reader through.

I also found Gerstner's views on compensation (and it's role as a lever to influence culture) to have been quite interesting. Again, I previously viewed 'team' compensation plans to be places for non-performers to hide but I've since come to appreciate a combination of team and individual targets to be instrumental in driving a combination of individual and team achievement. As Gerstner writes: "...people respect what you inspect".

This book sits somewhere between Jack Welch's Winning, a 'guide' and Jack: Straight from the Gut, a memoir - and reiterates many of Jack's key points (for example, one of Gerstner's first principles is winning).

If you don't believe culture plays THE pivotal part of an organisations success, I'd recommend reading this.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:09 AM, ,

Rethinking 'Crossing The Chasm'

In doing research for my blog on Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" back in October, I had come across this article on ReadWriteWeb titled Rethinking 'Crossing The Chasm'.

I sadly hadn't had a moment to read it until recently but thought it well worth a blog.

Interestingly, I'm not sure their use of the iPod as a case study is actually valid. A key point Moore makes is that chasm crossing only applies to break-through technologies. My personal view, and you are free to comment and challenge it, is that the iPod was merely an evolution of the venerable Sony Walkman leveraging new technologies. I would however concede that the iPod with the combination of iTunes would better qualify as a chasm leaping hero. To summarise: it was the combination of iTunes with the iPod (which was otherwise just another digital music player) that leaped the chasm.

I agree wholeheartedly with the conclusion that the speed at which we're operating at has dramatically increased and the Chasm Theory may need to be adjusted for this speed.

I'm going to go surfing for data on adoption cycles... I'm sure since computers, mobile devices and now social networking sites, things are getting out of control !


posted by Lee Gale @ 5:29 PM, ,

Jaguar XJ220

According to AutoExpress, Jaguar are reviving the XJ220, to be called the XE. Ian Callum's styling as per these early renderings is simply stunning!

What is interesting is the timing... you'd expect Jaguar to wait until the GFC has subsided and sales picking back up again.

It's likely the XE will be going head-to-head with the likes of the Audi R8, Ferrari California & Maserati GT.

The original XJ220 was my favourite supercar growing up (if indeed I have grown up!). I wonder if I still have the model I bought at a motor show all those years ago?


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:27 AM, ,


In my blog Optimism & Staying Focused, I mentioned Meiron Lees who is an executive coach and trainer that I was introduced to last year. When we last caught up for coffee in January and having told him about my changes with Adobe, Meiron handed me a copy of his book.

With D-Stress, Meiron takes us through 7 resilience builders to manage your stress:
  1. Transforming your Thought Attacks™
  2. Asking the right questions
  3. Focusing on the now
  4. Telling a different story
  5. Changing the labels
  6. Observing the feeling
  7. Developing a sense of gratitude
In all, a good, simple and effective framework for changing how you look and react to all the stuff that happens in life.

There were a few points I had mixed feelings about, for instance, I subscribe to Tim Ferris's view on stress - it is really distress (the negative) and eustress (the positive). As such, Meiron really focuses on distress in his book.

Having said that, D-Stress is a good amalgamation of lots of points I believe strongly in, including:
Finally, hat's off to Meiron for offering a course by which to take action to change. Meiron encourages readers to practise just one idea for the ensuring 21 days - similar to Leo Babauta's process outlined by Tim Ferris here.

You can download the 'sampler' here and buy the book online here.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 8:20 PM, ,

Awkward Conversation? Determine your Objective

I consider the piece of advice below to be one of the singular most important lessons I've picked up in my professional life.

I can't find the original article that I made notes from, so if I've 'stolen' your intellectual property, I'll apologise in advance and happily republish this blog if you contact me :-)

My notes of the advice:
Have you thought about whether you really need to have the conversation?

Have you considered exactly what you are trying to accomplish?

  1. Some conversations are unnecessary. Sometimes the conflict you are feeling may be inside your head, rather than between you and someone else. Sometimes, what's called for is a change in behavior rather than a conversation.

  2. Some objectives are inappropriate. You may be entering a difficult conversation hoping to change the other person. But that's not a realistic goal. Alternatively, you may be looking to blow off steam. Acknowledging emotions can be helpful as part of a conversation - but just venting your feelings and then walking out isn't likely to be productive.

  3. Some conversations should be given up. Sometimes despite our best efforts, nothing helps. And if changing the whole situation is impossible, then you have to learn to live with it.
There are really only three reasonable objectives for a difficult conversation: learning the other person's story, expressing your views, and attempting to solve the problem together.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:46 AM, ,

Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG Makes An Appearance In Jay Leno's Garage

I came across this at

Whilst not as insane a performance car as the SL65 Black that I blogged about in Oct 08, the SL63 retains it's folding hard-top roof. I'm particularly looking forward to experiencing the the new AMG-developed 7-speed MCT "Multi Clutch Technology" - Merc's double-clutch rival to Porsche's PDK that was added to the 911, Cayman & Boxster recently.

"If you're in the market for a new Mercedes SL63 AMG, Jay Leno recently spent some time with the consummate model, featuring the roadster on his Jay Leno's Garage website. In the roughly ten minute video, Jay outlines a number of the model's features and tech specs, eventually taking it for a spin on the streets of California. There's not much you haven't already seen, and some of Jay's stated tech specs are a little off, but if you have some free time this Monday afternoon, it's worth a few minutes of your time.

To watch the video in its entirety, hit play above, sit back and enjoy."


posted by Lee Gale @ 5:57 PM, ,

One man's misfortune is another's opportunity

Given the current state of the economy, my own employment situation and being on the board of a small business - I am frequently having conversations with people about when things will turn around and what they will look like in the aftermath.

There is no doubt, things will never be the same again. They will be similar, but different... and that's okay.

Occasionally, someone will ask "what if things never get better?"

I have pretty strong views that they will. I guess you would have deduced that from reading my blog on Optimism & Staying focused.

Reading this Business Week article titled For Some Small Businesses, Recession Is Good News sums up nicely why I believe the system might crash, but can be rebooted.

Whilst large corporations who have been consolidating and operating on "hyper growth, massive scale & nimble-as-the-Titanic" operating models are certainly going to be hurting during this cycle, the invisible hand ensures individuals, then small groups and then larger groups will find ways to adapt and profit in the new environment. This in turn helps reboot the system: slowly but surely.

Another example: as most industries were hurting as oil prices went up, Exxon Mobil reported a profit of $45.2 billion for 2008, breaking its own record for a U.S. company, and even as its fourth-quarter earnings fell 33 percent from a year ago. A good example that when someone is losing, someone else is winning... and a good example that fortunes can change rapidly.

There will be light at the end of the tunnel... we just have to do all the right things to survive in the tunnel for a while.

Image by Giuseppe Crimeni

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posted by Lee Gale @ 5:53 PM, ,

Continental Test Flight Uses Algae as Fuel

I read the article Continental Test Flight Uses Algae as Fuel by Saabira Chaudhuri for FastCompany with quite a great deal of interest.

In a nut-shell, what happened was "In a 90-minute test flight, a Continental Boeing 737-800 used a 50-50 blend of biofuel (algae mixed with jatropha, a weed that bears oil-producing seeds) and normal fuel to power its number two engine."

As the article goes on to note, there are a few things of particular interest:
How cool is that !!!!

I guess what would be interesting to learn is: how much energy/cost is required to convert Algae into biofuel? HowStuffWorks has a good article on the process, but the costs are not quantified.

What is quiet interesting is how much investment has gone into this sector recently: US$179.9m this year (I assume US calendar year?) according to this article by GreenTechMedia. What is also interesting from this article is that the company doing significant investing, Cascades Investments, has Bill Gates as a major shareholder.

Do you still have any doubts that the next wave of innovation and growth is coming from biotech?

Hopefully we are going to read more on this throughout 2009 !


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:26 AM, ,

Fitness update #3

It's perhaps overdue to provide an update on the progress on my fitness program that I embarked upon last June.

My last DEXA scan was done before leaving on holidays on Nov 27th. The results were good - body fat is down to 21% which is good progress from October '08's scan of 24% and June 08's scan of 30%. At the same time, muscle mass is up indicating I've made progress in both directions.

December was very much a 'treading water' month with holidays, work travel, Christmas and New Years celebrations making it hard to maintain the gym schedule... so I haven't had a scan since as I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have changed much.

In a move to break past the current barrier, both from a results perspective as well as the mental one, I've enlisted Andreas' help three times a week. An added side benefit is the exercises will stick in my mind better by training all three with him each week - for those of you that have used a trainer you'll know you often spend the session just trying to do what you are told and sometimes forget the details of the exercise as written in your diary.

Interestingly, I was reading this Men's Health article, that said:
"Looking good can help you land a better job and a better mate. In a recent study, researchers at Yale University found that a significant bias against overweight people--stereotyping them as lazy, less valuable, and less intelligent--exists even among health professionals whose careers emphasize obesity research. So imagine what that Fortune 500 HR specialist thinks."
Hopefully that will help me with my current job search! ;-)


posted by Lee Gale @ 7:42 PM, ,

2010 Mercedes E-Class

Back in January, I blogged about the upcoming E-Class Coupe, which will be based on the new E-Class sedan.

Whilst, in my mind, not as interesting as the E-Class Coupe or the S-Class, the pictures online do give you an idea of how the interior will look for the Coupe.

Looking at the pictures, I think it looks a little clunky from a few angles (I think the E-Class Coupe looks considerably better), particularly the front and rear 3/4 shots, but like the S-Class, whack the AMG body kit on it and that solves the problem. Even better, get the AMG 6.3 version and get the body kit as standard! :-)


posted by Lee Gale @ 2:30 AM, ,

Optimism & Staying focused

Back on the 31st of Jan, I wrote about in Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face and promised I'd elaborate on optimism and staying focused on finding the next challenge.

How can you do this when you feel like you've been punched in the gut? In a nut-shell as Winston Churchill said "For myself I am an optimist - it does not seem to be much use being anything else."


Okay, easier for me to say that in February - two weeks after I've left, two months after I was told, three months after I was part of the process to review cost containment in our region (so no surprises) and after a severance hand shake that affords me time to look for the next challenge.

I learned the hard way during the merger process between Adobe & Macromedia back in 2006 (and subsequent counseling in early 2008) to focus on what you can do vs being caught up lamenting what has changed or what you have lost.

That seems particularly hard these days as with the current global financial crisis, the media (predictably) is focusing on the negative. Negative stories sell newspapers, but they do nothing for people's confidence. Negativity creates a sense of resistance, and while resistance to unpleasant conditions is an expected human condition, it also stymies your capacity to act and focus. The reality is that in tough times there are just as many opportunities as there are in good times - maybe even more.

Some great resources worth referencing:
Before spending time on a stress-inducing question, big or otherwise, ensure that the answer is "yes" to the following two questions:
  1. Have I decided on a single meaning for each term in this question?
  2. Can an answer to this question be acted upon to improve things?
If you can't define it or act upon it, forget it.

Now that we're out of the negative mindset, we can focus on picking ourselves up and getting on with the job of finding the next job.

Author & coach Meiron Lees, made a good point when we met last: put your energy into the outcome you want in order to avoid distractions.

Now get going!

Image by LittleMan

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posted by Lee Gale @ 7:02 PM, ,

Help for managing your email

So far we've looked at Managing Email and getting stuff done and Writing emails properly - saving yourself and other people time, so I thought I'd offer a little more help in the war against declaring e-mail bankruptcy: you don't need to do this the hard way - you can cheat and get help!

I'm an MS Outlook user because:
  1. I manage several email accounts so a mail client is easiest in order to have everything in one place;
  2. I want access to my email online and offline;
  3. I always have used it so I'm familiar with the tool i.e. I'm productive with it; and
  4. It has been the corporate standard of the all the companies I've worked at.
There are some pretty cool Outlook features such as being able to find all messages in a thread, that when used, can seriously cut down your inbox.

The news that Gmail will soon have an offline client means users can then bolt on a few tools, such as Xoopit, to assist them.

Yahoo! Zimbra Desktop could be useful... I haven't used it before, so if anyone has comments on it, feel free to do so.

Postbox looks quite interesting so I've signed up for the beta of that... but I can't tell from their website if it is an add-on and if it works with MS Outlook. I guess I'll find out.

A tool I have used is Xobni (inbox spelt backwards). It is an Outlook plug-in that saves you time finding email conversations, contacts and attachments. I used a beta version about 9 months ago and did find some tools to be more helpful than others. For instance, Xobni automagically extracts a contact's phone number from their signature - very cool!

I did uninstall the beta because I found with Windows Search, Google Desktop AND Xobni's search all running, my laptop ran like the proverbial dog, but perhaps the current release has solved that issue.

See Xobni's product demo'd here:

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posted by Lee Gale @ 11:37 PM, ,


During December I read Winning by Jack Welch. Having read Jack: Straight from the Gut previously and enjoying Jack's writing style, I figured this would be a good read whilst travelling.

His first book was more of a memoir where as Winning is more of a 'how to' guide organised as follows:

As Michael Erisman writes on his review of this book on, "The book itself is written in a conversational tone. It is easy to read, and feels as though you are in a dialog with him over a cup of coffee."

I had started out concerned that I was going to come away with stories that were really only applicable to monster-size organisations such as GE, but what really impressed me with Winning was how Jack applies universal principles that are suitable for large and small organisations alike.

A large part of this comes from Jack's distillation of topics that business schools and corporations have needlessly turned into marathon events when really all that is required is having a solid understanding of the key factors at play in both your business and the market at large, and creating a flexible operating plan to deal with them.

One of things I've discovered reading books like this is you can never have too many ideas about how to improve what you do to succeed at your own career, or how to get things done. Whether you take any of the new ideas onboard, dismiss them or simply have an existing behaviour reinforced, doesn't matter.

Three ideas I will definitely leverage;
  1. Realizing that mentors don’t always look like mentors and there isn’t one perfect mentor;

  2. Strategy is a living, breathing, dynamic game - you pick a general direction and implement like hell rather than getting bogged down in the process. Pages 173-180 of the book have "5 Slides" of strategy creation that I'm going to use in the the future; and

  3. The operating plan replacement for the budget introduced on page 198. Again, like strategy, this process at the past organisations I've worked in is all back-to-front. It's about what we can do over last year rather than looking at what the market and competitors are doing and other variables like how foreign exchange or consumer spending will impact the organisation.
In summary, this is a must-read book for everyone and I've already ear-marked a few friends that need to read certain chapters to better comprehend decisions/issues they are dealing with!

Still not convinced? Checkout this interview with Jack Welch on YouTube:

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posted by Lee Gale @ 12:19 AM, ,

Australian Government's stimulus package

On the 3rd of February, the Australian Government announced a A$42bn stimulus package.

Key measures funded by the announcements Nation Building and Jobs Plan include:
In all, I think a much better package than the cash handouts done in the $10.4 billion Economic Security Strategy announced in October 2008. My belief is that cash bonuses rarely get used for the purposes intended... all they do is prolong bad habits.

I was particularly happy to see the business investment tax break as I believe this is much better spending for our economy that individual consumer spending due to the fact it goes towards creating income. I'm happy to have someone with economics study debate and correct me on that point.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 7:21 PM, ,

Fisker Karma

Okay, I've gotten my blogging about the Tesla Roadster out of my system. I promise. For now. :-)

Fisker Automotive has unveiled the Karma S concept at the Detroit Auto Show - a two-door convertible with seating for four based on the Karma sedan.

Yay! Another cool hybrid to get the petrol heads (should that be changed to car enthusiaths?) on the bandwagon. It's an interesting point that most new hybrid noise is around performance cars... the Big 3 could learn some lessons from this in producing products people actually want. Apparently the team behind Fisker designed the Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage, as well as the BMW Z8 Roadster.

The Karma is billed as an "extended-range plug-in hybrid", which translates to running solely on electric power with a petrol engine as a generator. Fisker claims fuel consumption of ~2.4 litres per 100 km (or 100 mpg in US speak).

WorldCarFans gives us these choice pictures below (and you can see their pictures of the sedan online):


posted by Lee Gale @ 5:03 PM, ,

More Tesla Roadster anyone?

Back in November 08, I blogged about the Tesla Roadster.

Then in December 08, I blogged about Top Gear's test of the Tesla.

Now I'm going to share with you Tim Ferris's, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, blogging about his test drive of the Tesla.
What is it about the Tesla that intrigues me? I'm not entirely sure really. I think I'm still stoked that not all electric cars are going to be mind-numbingly boring pieces of crap built by The Borg, I mean, Toyota.

PS - Apparently there is now a "sport" version of the Tesla. :-)


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:19 AM, ,

Writing emails properly - saving yourself and other people time

A few days ago, I blogged about Managing Email and getting stuff done, and in doing so suggested that a significant issue that creates more email than necessary is poorly written emails.

Allow me to rant: I can't tell you how much it gets up my nose how the vast majority of people use their CrackBerry - punching out one line answers to complex issues as if merely replying solved the issue. I've got news for you - it doesn't! All it does is create more emails to try to clarify what wasn't addressed properly the first time.

You can save yourself a tonne of time by thinking about what you are writing and doing it properly the first time. Granted, this doesn't guarantee others will automatically reciprocate, but it does raise the chances.

Back when I enter my first corporate job with JP Morgan, I was pretty confused as to the conversational style most people used for email. Email was pretty new to the masses and everyone was learning how to use it.

I can't remember the book I read but it was on effective writing and not specific to emails and it's value was in it's simplicity. It had all the key tips including:
The book was actually geared towards getting what you wanted done i.e. have people read the email and take the action you wanted.

Seth outlines a good checklist here, and whilst it is largely written with respect to who you are emailing and why, there are some good questions you need to ask such as:
Another good piece from Seth worth leveraging is Write like a blogger.

I really wish I could find that book... it think it was Effective Business Writing :(A Guide For Those who Write On the Job).


posted by Lee Gale @ 3:40 AM, ,