Deal or No Deal

Let me start by saying that I'm no fan of the US Republican party's policies generally. I was also one of the many that were completely and thoroughly shocked when California's voted Arnold Schwarzenegger as their Governor.

But: if you were a sceptic of his ability to govern and lead, I'd encourage you to checkout the Newsweek article on the failure of the Copenhagen talks on climate change and how sub-national interests are pressing ahead to secure their own futures. In it, the steps California is taking are impressive... but I guess it's not unexpected for a state that, if it were a country, would be able to stand in the G8.

It's an interesting parallel to current Australian politics, with Tony Abbott and the Liberal party muddying the waters around the ETS with climate change skepticism. Don't get me wrong, I welcome healthy political debate over legislation that has the potential to make us both a more expensive place to live (if that's possible) and less competitive in the global economy.

But: I think Tony needs to take his head out of the sand and realise inactivity will cost us more than implementing a less-than-perfect framework that could be adapted over time.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:40 AM, ,

SAP World Tour 2009

Earlier in August, I had the good fortune of attending some of the events as part of SAP World Tour 2009 in Sydney.

It was in a similar theme to SAP World Tour 2008 - business issue focused rather than being about technology per-se.

A highlight of the tour was speaker Jeffrey Word, who is also the editor of the book Business Network Transformation. The research in the book focuses on business network transformation (BNT) as it is being executed by leading corporations and is illustrated with extensive real-world examples of successful strategies used by well-known brands. Readers will learn how BNT manifests itself in every aspect of their business and how they can effectively transform their own business networks to achieve competitive advantage and differentiation

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:29 AM, ,

Corporate Confidential

I purchased Corporate Confidential by Cynthia Shapiro from Amazon along with a whole other bunch of books just after I left Adobe.

I can't say I remember what it was about the book that interested me... I think it was a review in a magazine or online. I figured at the very least, any book with a sub-title of "50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know---and What to Do About Them" would be worth reading.

I guess the section "Secret 2 - Layoffs aren't what you've been told" was of interest to me at the time, but I can't say this chapter or any others were particularly revealing for someone who's spent the majority of their career working for American corporations. If you have been similarly working in the matrix and any of these concepts are new, I'd be worried about your awareness of your surrounding environment.

Having said that, there were some useful pieces of information worth keeping front of mind. For example, in the section I've already mentioned above, the first danger sign is where you are highly compensated compared to others. Whoops.

There are many axioms you'd find in Winning, and several other books. In fact, this book positions many of the topics in Winning including a company's real drivers (hint: it's NOT giving you flex time for the fun of it!) and tips for managers (particularly the one I last referred to in The seven habits of a typical bad manager : "praise in public, correct in private"). The section "Secret 50 - Winning is everything" should ram home my point about the parallels. :-)

Another book I'm yet to blog about, Life's a Pitch, echoes the point that "everything is sales" when it comes to influencing your career path within an organisation.

Finishing the comparisons with other good books, echoing Tim Ferris' advice in The 4-hr Workweek, is the section on methods for high-level goal achievement. Simply, it's about writing them down, dividing them into manageable steps and getting on with them! It's worth revisiting To-do lists where I've written about this before.

An interesting section that I've not had to deal with in my career, was "Secret 30 - you can have an office romance without breaking your career". The advice provided is interesting considering that so much of our lives are spent in the workplace that it's inevitable people will be attracted to people they work with.

On reflection, it's interesting to apply some of the thoughts in this book to issues raised in The Price of Loyalty. You'd perhaps argue against that book's central theme - that Paul O'Neill was not rewarded for his loyalty - because he wasn't 'loyal' the the one person he needed to be - his boss, George W. Bush (or Dick Cheney depending on your views as to who was running that show).

Overall, this was a good book that is a quick read (~190 pages) that will definitely reinforce the messaging in the other books I've mentioned here.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:48 AM, ,

The seven habits of a typical bad manager

I came across the article The seven habits of a typical bad manager in one of the LinkedIn groups I'm a member of.

I think we've all had the misfortune of dealing with bad managers at some point in our career's, but as with anything we experience, it's important to use it as a learning experience.

I can think of two distinct experiences with bad managers in my career. Both were 'new' managers - that is they hadn't managed more than a single person before in their career's.

The first was just bad because they were green and did most of the things in the article above. He just focused on the wrong things, despite his good intentions and care for his team. He focused on what time I started, ignoring the fact I'd been working until midnight the day before, and then admonishing me in front of the team. Like it matter's what time I started if I didn't have meetings! Where is the credit for the hours put in and work accomplished? And don't EVER deal with an issue in a team meeting that is more appropriate in a 1:1 conversation.

I learned a lot about managing upwards early in my career.

The second bad manager was similar to the first in that he was also 'green'... but he was different in that I don't think he gave a stuff about the team. My perception was that we were all 'tools' for him to propel his career. I don't have any problems saying that working for him was singularly THE most difficult year of my career & life. I learned a lot but this experience cost a lot - for both myself and other members of the team.

Thankfully, the first managers I reported to in my first job at JP Morgan were fantastic and nurtured me. Without this foundation, I'm not sure I would have learned as much from the bad experiences.

I've blogged about some great resources for people dealing with difficult managers. In Winning, Jack Welch takes readers through a discovery framework through which one can determine if it's them or indeed the manager whom the issue really lies. If it is with the manager, Jack suggests you can either 'put up' or 'shut up' or leave. In Who Moved My Cheese?, readers gain insight into dealing with change that you'd have to undertake by leaving an organisation.

More importantly, in First, Break all the Rules, aspiring or current managers learn how to change their style for building and nurturing their teams.

There are some other highly amusing Additional Seven Habits Articles from Dudley B. Dawson:
1. Seven Habits of Highly Effective Slackers
2. Seven Habits of Highly Annoying Emailers
3. Seven Habits of Disrespectful Work Poopers

Checkout these Demotivational Posters at

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:50 AM, ,

I've joined Open Text

The 1st of May was my first day in the employment of Open Text.

Open Text is the largest independent software company providing enterprise content management (ECM) software solutions, where I'll be helping grow the SAP solutions sales across Australia & New Zealand.

Why Open Text?
As Jack Welch says in Winning, an organisation that is winning energises everyone that is part of it and at present, Open Text is winning.

I believe there are some core reasons for this including:
  1. The ECM market generally is growing;
  2. They provide specific value that is sought during this current recession cycle;
  3. The products are class leading; and
  4. The company's culture.
Drilling down further to each of these points, to the point that timing is everything as reported in Global ECM market to hit $US10.45B by 2015, "the Global content management software market is projected to cross $US10.4 billion by 2015, with Asia-Pacific representing the fastest growing market, according to a new report from Global Industry Analysts, Inc., (GIA)". Such enterprise-content-management software has assumed a growing importance in recent years as companies use ECM software to adhere to tough new compliance laws, like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Bucking the trend during the GFC as the the WSJ article Open Text 2Q Defies Odds; Is It Sustainable? highlights: "Many of the world's largest software companies are cutting forecasts, slashing jobs and restructuring operations as the global recession crimps sales, but Open Text Corp. soldiers on." I attribute this to them providing software that helps companies improve cash flow and operational efficiencies - what COO or CFO wouldn't welcome a sales call from a software company who could help them do that?

To the point of class-leading products, the simplest evidence of this is the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management (source: Gartner, September 2008). You can read the report at the link provided to better understand the quadrant, but simplistically, the higher and further to the right an organisation is in the chart, the better the ranking.

Finally, looking at the company's culture - in particular the APJ team - as I've discussed in
Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?, it's super-critical for the team to be cohesive in order to execute flawlessly. In my first days spent with the team I can honestly say that I have respect for all of them and the skills, experience and passion they bring to the business.

Aside from why the company is winning, another key factor for me personally was to be part of the key business at an organisation. I've found most organisations will leverage the Pareto principle in their investments - they'll focus on the 20% that generates the 80% of returns. Unlike my time with Adobe, the enterprise software market is where Open Text focus and the the line of business I'll be part of is a more significant % of their business than what I was driving at Adobe.

How did I get here?
I took the advice of Meiron Lees (whom I last spoke about in Optimism & Staying focused), specifically: putting my energy into the outcome I wanted in order to avoid distractions. Early on in my job search, the hiring managers at Open Text outlined the great opportunity I've written about above and I decided this is the organisation I wanted to focus my efforts on.

Yes of course I looked at other options, but how else would I have satisfied myself this was the right choice?

In addition to the team at Open Text's case, I believed they had needs that my skills best served. The article Tip for job hunters: build your network and research who you are meeting makes this case pretty clearly: "Don't look for a job - search for a need."

The other point this article highlights is that it was from my existing network that my conversations started with Open Text - I've known the managers there for years, in one case for over 6 years. The difference in the interview process this knowledge makes is quite valuable. Their knowledge of my skills and accomplishments helped my case and my knowledge of their style and needs helped me determine I could be successful there.

PS - just as we did when I left Adobe, we celebrated this occasion by cracking open a bottle of Bollinger's 1997 La Grande Annee - the bottle Adobe gave me in fact !

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posted by Lee Gale @ 6:05 PM, ,

Where all think alike, no one thinks very much

At least according to Walter Lippmann, US author & journalist (1889 - 1974).

Without doubt, the current economic cycle requires managers to critically review their sales outlook (demand) and match output to that outlook. If demand has softened fundamentally across their industry and product segments (an example would be luxury car sales), they are going to have to reduce output and costs associated with it. Pretty basic stuff really.

However, the best managers don't simply follow the crowd, they look at what is unique to their business and determine how they can be best setup for the future.

Many companies have chosen to cut costs as if there will be no upturn in the economy i.e. they've cut workers from their workforce (as Adobe did earlier this year) in order to reduce costs and reduce output.

As Stephen Elop (who worked at Adobe and I have respect for) outlined in
Microsoft's Elop: It's 'Time to Double Down' on R&D, "there are companies that don't make that shift, that don't make the big investments, that don't make the hard decisions. But now is the time to double down and actually make those investments, [so that when the recovery starts] we're in a strong position and can take a share and be more successful than we were in the past."

Granted, for some organisations, reducing headcount is an appropriate move, but there are other approaches that are better suited to organisations that will experience that recovery.

As the article Afternoon shift to be cut shows, Holden:

"... is responding to an 80 per cent drop in export sales as well as declining local large car sales, but the company was aiming to retain its workforce as it prepared for the introduction of a second production line at Elizabeth to build a four-cylinder powered small car.
This is a really good workforce, highly talented and highly skilled – the last thing we want to do is lose that," Mr Reuss said."
They've taken, in my mind, a great step to reduce costs, spread that burden across the entire team equally, and ensure there is a skilled team in place to respond to future increases in demand. Let's just hope they don't go and give their management team absurd bonuses at a time like this.

But if all other options have been discounted and headcount reductions are required, responsible managers will ensure they are aligned to those investments in the future and not 'across the board' cuts.

The HBR article How to Market in a Downturn makes a parallel point regarding marketing budgets (another 'cost') succinctly:
"As sales start to drop, businesses typically cut costs, reduce prices, and postpone new investments. Marketing expenditures in areas from communications to research are often slashed across the board—but such indiscriminate cost cutting is a mistake.
Companies that put customer needs under the microscope, take a scalpel rather than a cleaver to the marketing budget, and nimbly adjust strategies, tactics, and product offerings in response to shifting demand are more likely than others to flourish both during and after a recession".
Perhaps I'm being harsh? After all, as the HBR article, The Layoff acknowledges:
Why aren’t layoffs taught as a subject at business school?... Boards expect executives to do them well, but nobody knows how.

Image by Sanja Gjenero

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:31 AM, ,

SAP World Tour 2008

On November 5th I had the good fortune to attend the SAP World Tour 2008 event in Sydney.

This years event was designed for small to medium sized businesses, which was both relevant to me for my directorship with Enflexion (a small web software business founded and managed by my partner) and my job at Adobe managing what we call "a start up business within an established organisation".

Don't be fooled by the agenda posted on the SAP events site: there were no demos or specifics about technology at all - it was all about managing a business for growth in today's climate.

Dr. Jana Matthews, founder and CEO of The Jana Matthews Group, was the keynote speaker and I think the framework she presented for thinking during the various stages of business growth was simple yet powerful.

I particularly liked Jana's comment when asked "how to motivate employees in this climate". Her response was "I don't see a manager's role to motivate employees, rather, the manager's role is to hire motivated people and then try not to demotivate them whilst managing them".

I believe the tour is almost over (checkout the remaining cities & dates here), but you if you are in locations like Tokyo, San Jose, etc, I'd encourage you to go along to hear the speakers perspective on growing a small to medium business in this economic climate.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:01 AM, ,