Skip to main content

Posts

Is innovation sufficient?

Governments, business theorists and business media are obsessed with innovation. Vast sums of money are expended on government-sponsored research. Something’s bound to pay off with a ground-breaking new technology that will increase jobs, wealth and foreign-exchange earnings, won’t it? However, innovation is only the start of the process. We’ve got plenty of innovation, and we aren’t short of new businesses either. The problem is creating better, larger businesses that can foot it internationally (with full overseas operations, not just exporting).

The Economist explored the same issue, reporting on those who question the fear of US companies being overwhelmed by technological innovation coming out of India and China.
So does the relative decline of America as a technology powerhouse really amount to a threat to its prosperity? Nonsense, insists Amar Bhidé of Columbia Business School. In “The Venturesome Economy” ... he explains why he thinks this gloomy thesis misunderstands innovation…
Recent posts

The move from manager to executive

Many young technology companies do very little to build the leadership skills of their people, relying on recruiting or being acquired to solve their future leadership needs; and where’s the payback if a fast business sale is the aim? More established businesses and public sector organisations send their people on courses to acquire entry-level technical, commercial and team leadership skills. Some governments actively encourage this by subsidizing industry training programmes. But what about developing senior management?

Promising managers are often sent to various executive education programmes, although less so in mid-size organisations, despite increasingly valuable and relevant programmes targeted at them. But even in the most committed organisations, if there is no supportive context for the manager to move up to the next level, he or she may struggle to make the shift, and fail. Professor Doug Ready of MIT's Sloan Business School has published several papers on making the mo…

Bank on your back? Act like a receiver

I’ve had this conversation often, including with myself on a couple of occasions. Most businesses go through a major financial crisis at some point. You just don’t hear about most of them unless they prove fatal. The banks are very tough on anyone in breach of their bank covenants (key financial targets which have to be met or the bank can call in its loan).

Assuming your business is salvageable, the best way to keep the bank from sending in the receivers is to be tougher than they would be. By that I mean that you should think like a receiver - drastically chopping expenditure, cutting staff, closing branches, taking a large axe to management, killing off non-profitable products and services, and so on. Not half-hearted measures, but really tough-minded ones. If you’ve got a plan that the bank can easily see is tougher than what they’d do, you’ve got a chance of staying in control - providing you actually do what you said you’d do. And you’ve got a better chance of preserving some …

Don’t assume technology is the answer

IT guy Mike Riversdale makes some common sense points on his website:
... the chatter about “collaboration” one tends to hear now-a-days (and boy, isn’t there a lot) all centres around “on-line collaboration” … the use of the computer as the ultimate collaboration tool. What a load of plop.I sat with a fellow “on-line collaboration / community wrangler” a while ago and we both used pen and paper as our collaboration tools of choice.… when I talk with organisations about collaboration I always ask if they use whiteboards, meeting spaces or Scrum-type meetings to collaborate as they can be the most cost effective, most efficient and, let’s be honest, the easiest way to collaborate. Mike ran an collaboration and information project for me. Most of his success came not from the technology deployed, but by good old fashioned simplicity and clarity in project management and communication. Mike’s comments reminded me of Toyota’s production management systems - coloured lights, white boards…

The importance of knowing how you make money

If you’ve thought much about why your business exists, you’ve probably come up with some worthy statement of business purpose. Good; but what about making money? I’m not denigrating high ideals of business purpose, but a business that doesn’t make money can’t achieve those ideals. Some business leaders seem ashamed to explain this fact of life to their staff. Indeed, in many companies, most staff do not understand how the company makes money or their responsibility and role in that. That’s madness. If your people don’t understand your business model and its key metrics, any targets you set may seem capricious or arbitrary. That can mean wrong operating decisions and a high probability of staff not taking responsibility for their own contribution (or lack of it) to the viability of the business.

Let’s look at a very simple business - hourly-billed services (basic labour or top-end professional services):
You pay people for 52 weeks of 5 days = 260 days a year. At 8 hours per day,…