Archive for May, 2008

Web 2.0 & summer: 1 day off, 2 ships, 3 thirds

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Memorial Day weekend, like July 4th, means more to me each year as my sons near enrollment in our adult world.

After 5 weeks of Web 2.0 presentations with clients from 3 continents, the nature of these discussions are in a third chapter: ‘We’ve tried a few related projects and want to pick up the pace (aka make investments) where it makes sense.’ Seventeen months ago, chapter 1, clients wanted to know ‘if this Web 2.0 is for real.’ During News Corp’s acquisition of Dow Jones in mid-07, creating a sibling for MySpace, chapter 2 centered on ‘how should we get started?’

As you might expect, enterprise executives are more interested in Web 2.0 as it might enable collaboration to capture the organization’s knowledge and to inspire innovation amongst employees, customers and partners than they are in the tools of Web 2.0 – blogs, podcasts etc, although low-end, low-cost video is compelling.  The thinking is something like, ‘If Wikipedia gets it done with 8 full-time employees, why can’t we do a little better with a lot larger staff?!’

As we talk about the next generation of Internet-savvy employees and customers, I emphasize that regardless which Web 2.0 tools or principles take hold, there will remain the need for two ships: leadership and scholarship.  My eighteen-year-old once suggested to me, “Don’t just yell at me, show me!” which I interpret to be a useful model for both Web 2.0 marketing and management.

My favorite leadership story in tribute to those we honor on Monday:  20+ years ago at a start-up software company, we interviewed a just-graduated engineer from NC State for a technical sales position. He offered capability and charm, but no measurable, related experience – a recipe for rejection. At lunch, one manager noted that the candidate had been fraternity president and asked what management lesson from that experience might be applied to developing our software business?

He replied in an even tone that in such an unorganized, chaotic environment where he had no real authority, he observed that “the mission of the top 1/3 was to keep the middle 1/3 from being like the bottom 1/3.”  Ten seconds of silence ensued; then our General Manager asked him how soon he could start.

Welcome to summer! There’s lots to look forward to.

Leadership Old, Leadership New and Leadership Navy Blue

Monday, May 5th, 2008

Memorial Day weekend, like July 4th, means more to me each year as my sons near enrollment in our adult world.

I observe that the main difference between our generation of managers and those raised on the Internet is that we grew up in a world where Knowledge is Power. Getting ahead often meant knowing the most. They grow up in a world where Everyone Knows and where the Sharing of Knowledge is Power. For our organizations to succeed in this transition, we must be coaches more than managers so that our employees can be players more than spectators. This behavior is different than we’re used to and will require commitment, character and courage – hallmarks of leadership.

Leadership, like innovation, assumes many forms and representations:

IBM’s announced this morning that our VP for Innovation & Technology, Nick Donofrio, will retire in October. We dreaded this notice. Every time he addressed us, his candid, simply insightful and passionate remarks informed every employee of an IBM that was and strives to be in this uncertain and exciting time. After forty-four years with the company (he and System 360 joined in 1964) he won’t be replaced – ’cause we can’t.

I hope that you had the chance to read the description of the women’s softball game in Ellensburg, Washington last month between Central Washington and Western Oregon.  Sara Tucholsky of WO hit a home run to put her team into the lead. Rounding first base, she twisted her knee, falling to the ground unable to continue around to home plate. The game’s rules prevent teammates from assisting one of their own players around the bases.  No problem. Two players from the opposing Central Washington team carried Sara to second base, to third base, and to home plate so that her hit would count.

On Saturday, the USS North Carolina, SSN -777, was commissioned into naval service in Wilmington, North Carolina. This nuclear-powered submarine is about 350′ long with a crew of about 140 and can be required to patrol underwater for up to 60 consecutive days.  If you’re ever doubtful of the caliber of our young Americans or want to observe the power of purpose, please take a tour of one of these impressive boats.

Now you know a little bit of what I know, please put it to use. Nick would appreciate it.