Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Is the election getting exciting?

Election day is eight days away. For many the excitement is growing, yet for others, burnout is setting in. We will shortly have a new US President - either George W. Bush again, or John Kerry. Will life change for most people? You bet it will! Yet most voters will be casting their ballots based on impressions, not on a clear and accurate understandingof the implications. Most people know more about what to expect from their detergent than political candidates.
In our society, the marketplace is more of a pure democracy than politics. We have multiple choices of detergents, or dog food, or toothpaste, and we can test the alternatives at low risk and with the ability to replace it if we don't like it. This is why commerce is more exciting than politics.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Is business losing control?

I read recently in the Wall Street Journal that in the Comsumer Packaged Goods industry, 17.4% of revenues are being spent to buy shelf space. These companies have been gradually losing control of their business over the past thirty years.
Equally, we read that major corporations such as Marsh & McLennan or Citicorp are engaging in dubious practices and indictments against Corporate Officers are being considered. If so, they will simply join management from Adelphia, ENRON, Peregrine Systems, CA and many others.
The inmates are indeed running the asylum and we have to take back control.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Lipservice to customer satisfaction

We keep on hearing about how important customer satisfaction is to many companies, yet their actions suggest that it really is not very important. Business often acts as though it believes that customer satisfaction and shareholder return are mutually exclusive.
Objective evidence shows that companies which believe in product quality and customer satisfaction perform better than companies which do not. However, many people do not believe it as it seems to be counter-intuitve. Sometimes things are counter-intuitive. If they were not we would not need data and analysis.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Why are people their own worst enemy?

So often we see that people behave in ways which hinder their own success. We see people being rude to others when the only possible result is to enrage them. We see people fail to co-operate or to help each other and end up with a suboptimum result. Why do people not see that ego can hurt themselves? Are glory and recognition so important that many will sacrifice their own interests for them? We hear that it is better to share in a success than wholly own a failure, yet so many act as though they would rather own the failure.
I see with so many alumni and networking groups that a few people do the work while most others simply enjoy the results. Yet the people who do the work rarely are rewarded. Perhaps by continuing to provide unpaid effort, they are rewarding and training for selfish behavior. I continue to believe that peopl ehave good intentions. It is a pity that they do not see the value of contributing.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


I have been preaching simplicity for many years now. Simplicityhas many benefits, it tends to reduce costs for all in the chain. It will speed up all activities. It will increase customer satisfaction, and it will make it easier to fix something whrn it goes wrong. Over 15 years ago, I was talking about "disintermediation", where the reducition of steps and intermediaries makes all more effective. Dell computer showed us how! About five years ago, I endorsed the book "Simplicity" and its companion "Work 2.0," by Bill Jensen. Now I would endorse David Teten's blog http://www.teten.com/brain-food/ which extends the concepts very effectively.
We lose so much when we complicate life and business. So much that is really simple is presented as complex and made that way. Like Alexander the Great sclicing through the Gordian knot, a razor sharp blade is often more effective than a complex activity.
Let us apply this to every activity. I am not suggesting simple-mindedness. Simplicity is often quite difficult, and requires a lot of work.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Is Marketing Obsolete?

In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Marketing was "hot". Following the introduction of the brand management sytem as P&G in 1922, the marketing philosophy had been slow to spread until many years later it exploded. For several decades, it looked as though it would be universally adopted. However, less than half of the Fortune 500 companies havc a Chief Marketing Officer, whereas virtually all have a Chief Financial Officer. Marketing became more technical, specialised and tactical. For many marketers, they saw their major challenge to be getting more money to spend. As Nirmalya Kumar, Professor of Marketing at London Business School has suggested, although the understanding of Marketing Strategy has spread to CEO and CFO, the function of Marketing has become less relevant. Since anyone thinks they can do Marketing Strategy, the need for a CMO is far from obvious as long as technical experts are in the organization to execute. So while other functions have become more strategic, perhaps Marketing has become a technical specialty. In many industries and companies, Marketing has been split into Product Management, Channel Marketing and Marketing Communications. Strategy and Financial consultants not only feel qualified to assist clients on Marketing issues better than Marketing consultants, but many clients agree.

Sub-optimization rules

It is amazing how businesses resist learning from others. I see frequently that companies persist in reinventing the wheel - badly. Yesterday I was on a Delta Airlines flight. This airline boards by a large number of "zones" which seem to be assigned inorder of how much you pay for your ticket. American Airlines uses a smaller number of Zones, and while Zone 1 does consist of higher fare and premium frequent flyer members, the rest seem to flow in spacial sequence of seat assignments. Of course, Southwestm which manages to board planes faster than anyone, simply uses open seating and assigns groups by when you show up at the airport. There should logically be one solution which is best for a given profile of flight. Southwest may have a different one from an international carrier, but if two airlines are flying coast to coast, then one of the systems employed must be the best. Yet each airline invents its own.