Sunday, March 31, 2013

Techies, Parties, and Success

Peter Corbett is the founder of DC Tech Meetup – a monthly meeting of the local community of techies and startups – to encourage demonstrations of latest technology and what's up with the entrepreneurial community. It is soundly build on open source principles - sharing and advancing good ideas. DC Tech Meetup attracts over 1,000 people to each meeting.

This month was Social Media Week – a week long collection of speakers, workshops, demonstrations, and parties - anchored by the DC Tech Meetup Keynote session.

Peter interviewed Steve Case of Revolution about lessons learned from leading AOL and Case's current roles of philanthropist and investor. Two items really popped out for me.

Case said that at AOL he learned to reinvent himself each year – shedding activities that someone else could do better and taking on new projects to learn and grow. Shedding the activities freed up time to take on new projects, while delegating activities gave others an opportunity to grow.

There are three levels of investing – each with a different purpose:
Speed-up capital investing is what Case favors – several notable winners have resulted, including Living Social, Zipcar, and AddThis.

In DC Tech Meetups, Peter is investing - in community, self, and others. The return is powerful – Forbes ranks DC area #1 Tech Hot Spot!

Become wise in 5 minute increments - Rainmakers

Scope Creep

Herman Wouk, at age 97, has written a new book – The Lawgiver – the story of a film project about Moses. It is also an insightful study in the dynamics of a project.

In the book, the character Wouk is the advisor to the 'money guy'. He is to read and offer his approval or rejection of the final script.

Simple – straightforward – clear role at the outset of the project.

Of course he has other projects underway as well – including writing a book about Moses – and is feeling the pressure of balancing obligations with a keen eye to time available due to his advanced age.

Early on, the writer sent Wouk for review her story notes for developing the script. His wife, Betty Sarah Wouk, acting as his agent, asked how this work fit into his agreed role? It doesn't, but he still invested time reading the notes – beyond the scope of his agreement.

Later in the project he received an urgent request from the director to review the almost completed script immediately and give his approval. Being curious, he dropped everything to read the script. His wife/agent again asked how this work fit into his agreed role and refused to permit him to give any feedback at this time.

After about three or four months, the writer completed the script and sent it to Wouk for reading. He read it and approved it – satisfying his role in the project.

The Lawgiver shows a seemingly natural evolution of the project team to expand the scope of team members, the tendency of the individuals to become more involved – with no one giving thought to the effect on their original agreement. The book does a good job of painting a clear picture of how such actions affect most of the participants in the project.

A leader wants to get the biggest bang for the buck, but scope creep causes overuse of resources and missing budgets, yielding unintentional outcomes. Being clear about roles in a project – and sticking to those roles – leads to a more rational use of resources and can open up opportunity for other individuals to gain experience.

Do you have a story to share which furthers the discussion?

Check out Sales Lab Video. Enlightenment with grins.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rainmaker # 18 – Leadership, Technology, and Change

Change is everywhere. Change happens at breakneck speed – BUT it takes time to recognize and adopt/adapt. Recall the typewriter return at the end of each line – and how long it took typists to stop using it in word-processing.

We unconsciously cling to the old models and cite them as ‘rules.’ The Information Interview was a mainstay for job changers to get information and referrals – it doesn't work anymore.

What are some old models/rules that are no longer valid?

Technology is a driver of change. So is the economy. So is the frontier environment where most innovation occurs.

There's more Do It Yourself (DIY) now. More Fix Yourself – reorientation of how you get and use information and vision.

Scale is easy – get 1 or 10,000 units by clicking a box on-line when ordering from a fabricator.

Do your projects on the workbench or the desktop – build your prototypes and learn valuable tips from the process.

Whether you are responsible for just you or are leading a team, or a company, shift from telling your folks What to Do, and instead tell them What you Want. Robots can be programmed to do, people can innovate to satisfy a want.

Change is disrupting the old norms.

Make something – learn – apply – improve – share with your community.

Nike said it best: “Just Do It.”

What's your story?

Previous Rainmakers:
#17 - Breaking The Invisible Wall (12/11/12)
#15 - Dropping The Other Shoe (9/11/12)
#14 - The Myth of Full Capacity (5-26-12)
# 9 - Your Internet Personality (12-24-11)
# 7 - Mark Your Territory (8-22-11)
# 6 - Networking IS Business (5-25-11)
# 5 - Start With an Offer (4-27-11)
# 3 - How to Sell Your Skills (3-1-11)
# 2 - The Name Tag (1-5-11)
# 1 - Gifts (11-5-10)
And, Introducing Rainmakers (11-3-10)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Planning Strategically or A Strategic Plan?

What's the distinction?

A strategic plan is a project, initiated by others – e.g., the CEO, the Board – with some input from the originator but little participation.

Planning strategically is a team project, initiated by the leader of the team, with the leader's input and participation.

First thing to determine for either - what does the originator want to get out of the process? Typically it is: the best path to a specific result; benchmarks for measuring overall organizational progress; the current year operating plan and year 2 and year 3 projections.

Successful planning has three key elements:

  • Why are we here? What's the mission and the leader's vision.
  • How did we get here? What is the history and key results.
  • Where are we going? What will the future be.
In the raw, the discussions may not be as neat and organized as listed about, but the content will fall into these categories.

Recently, I facilitated the day-long strategic planning session for a mission-based non-profit organization in the Washington, DC area.

The NGO has enjoyed hockey-stick growth in programs and funding for it's initial years while carefully building a strong team. It now wants to be more focused and deliberate in the path for growth going forward.

Here's a thumbnail view of the outcome in context of the model mentioned above:

  • What's the goal: structure and growth
  • Why are we here: mission is clear to the team
  • How did we get here: key programs and funding trace the successful growth path
  • Where are we going: Discussion consolidated in 5 functional groups with task-based action plans for each.

The result – a living roadmap to guide actions and evaluate situations as they come up.

Which is more likely to create success – a roadmap or a fancy dust-catcher on the shelf?

What's your view?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Privacy Paradox

At the Verisign Distinguished Speaker, Vint Cerf, one of the founders of internet technology, told us that privacy is impossible on the internet. It is a huge copy machine with multiple copies of everything ingested, and a quest for increasingly more information.

There is a strange paradox about privacy.

One the one hand, there are things we do not share with even the closest of friends and certainly do not choose to have the information available via the internet.

On the other hand, we cheerfully click away our privacy (and sometimes ownership) by agreeing to the terms of service, volunteer information on-line forms (why does a utility app want to know our family income?), and rush to tag pictures of friends as well as publicly share information about ourselves and others.

Others ignore the tenets of privacy - a friend told me about a local TV personality and film crew greeting him as he entered a store: “ come on in and shop while we film you”. He turned on his heel leaving the store and the intrusive video team.

On my social security card there it says DO NOT use for identification – however, many states and localities, as well as the Federal government, require the social security number as an identifier – even used it as a driver license number.

Privacy is a complicated issue with conflicting demands by the individual and others to protect or disclose information. In addition, violating an individual's privacy is an emotional issue.

Recall the firestorm caused by Instagram/Facebook changing the terms of service (TOS) to claim ownership of everything posted on their site and the ability to use the information in any public way they chose. The TOS were revised in a couple of days as a result of the public response.

Give out your name, social security number, and mother's maiden name and you may be sharing your identity with a thief.

As leaders we do not want our organization to be on the wrong side of a privacy issue – best to keep in mind that if we don't collect it, there's no possibility of accident or larceny where we'd lose it. Choose carefully what private information you collect on people; if something goes south, expect the response will be magnified by an emotional reaction.

How do you address the privacy paradox?