Friday, April 27, 2007

"By the time she starts dating, I wont need to greet her dates at the door with a shotgun..."

"... I will have a digital history of the poor kid and know pretty much everythng about him, before I meet him."

Mark Cuban, who has given up on apostrophes altogether but who makes up for it in trenchant observation, discusses the generational difference in self-documentation. He continues:

We are beginning a generation where much of everything they do will be recorded, monitored and maintained and more importantly, shared online. Every generation of parents has used the tools they can afford to be our kids biographers till they leave home. This generation will have the fortune or misfortune of those tools having an ever declining cost to with no cost per capture (no developing pictures or even having to buy tape), and as it stands today, little or no cost to share all those digital hours online.

Your are what your search results return and so are your kids - Blog Maverick

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Reading :: Good to Great and the Social Sectors

Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great
By Jim Collins

I recently reviewed Good to Great, a bestseller that attempts to define what distinguishes "good" companies from "great" companies based on the author's research. That book focused on Fortune 100 companies and drew several principles from them. However, the book didn't focus on public institutions, nonprofits, and not-for-profits (for which Collins uses the blanket term "social sectors"). In fact, some of the primary points of that book didn't apply well to the social sectors. Collins lists some of these (my paraphrase):
  • Social sector organizations typically don't use business metrics, so it's harder to define "good" and "great"
  • Social sector organizations typically use a more diffuse power structure, meaning that leaders don't have as many tools at their disposal for enforcing their vision
  • Social sector organizations have a harder time easing out people who do not contribute well to the organization's mission
  • Whereas Good to Great makes the company's "economic engine" a chief focus, social sector organizations are far less concerned with profit and more concerned with resources
  • In social sector organizations, "turning the flywheel" has more to do with brand (p.3)
Collins, who himself works at a public university [Correction: Collins appears to run a research lab unaffiliated with a public university -- CS 4/26/2007], recounts that 30-50% of the correspondence he receives on Good to Great is from social sector organizations. So he's written this monograph on applying the Good to Great insights to such organizations. Like Good to Great, the monograph was based on "critical feedback, structured interviews, and laboratory work with more than 100 social sector leaders" (p.3), but he cautions that the study has not been executed to the level of the Good to Great corporate study: "such research studies -- done right -- require up to a decade to complete" (p.3). So with that caution, let's look at some of the key insights.

One useful distinction Collins draws is between executive and legislative leadership skill.
In executive leadership, the individual leader has enough concentrated power to simply make the right decisions. In legislative leadership, on the other hand, no individual leader -- not even the nominal chief executive -- has enough structural power to simply make the right decisions by himself or herself. Legislative leadership relies more upon persuasion, political currency, and shared interests to create the conditions for the right decisions to happen. (p.11)
Collins stresses that the two kinds of leadership skill are not exclusive to a given sector, but legislative skill is more predominant in the social sectors. (It certainly is at my own university). And in the private sector, executive leaders don't have "the same concentration of pure executive power they once enjoyed" either, so leaders in both sectors must bear in mind that "true leadership only exists if people follow when they have the freedom not to" (p.13, his emphasis).

One consequence of more diffuse power structures in the social sectors is that it's harder to get rid of the underperformers. For that reason, Collins argues, "early assessment mechanisms turn out to be more important than hiring mechanisms" (p.15). He encourages us to hire "those who are productively neurotic, those who are self-motivated and self-disciplined, those who wake up every day, compulsively driven to do the best they can because it is simply part of their DNA" (p.15). (This is what a competitive tenure process is meant to achieve.)

Finally, Collins talks about the issue of economic engines. In Good to Great, he argued for the "hedgehog concept," the notion that great companies stayed within the intersection of three circles: what they are deeply passionate about, what they can be best in the world at, and what drives their economic engine. But in a social sector organization -- say, a church -- the focus isn't on profit but resources:
The third circle of the Hedgehog Concept shifts from being an economic engine to a resource engine. The critical question is not "How much money do we make?" but "How can we develop a sustainable resource engine to deliver superior performance relative to our mission?" (p.18)
Collins identifies three components of such resource engines: time (how to get people to contribute their efforts for free or under market rates), money (how to sustain cash flow), and brand (cultivating "a deep well of emotional goodwill and mindshare of potential supporters") (p.18). To support his discussion, Collins describes four quadrants of the social sector, defined by two axes: (1) charitable donations & private grants; (2) business revenues (p.21).

Overall, this monograph does some valuable work in fleshing out the Good-to-Great framework for social sector organizations. It's a fast read, but only if you've read Good to Great already. And like Good to Great, it's written clearly and lucidly. My main objection was that it didn't list the participating organizations or discuss methodology in detail. Nevertheless, much of the advice rings true for those of us working in the social sectors.


TeacherTube is like YouTube, but for posting instructional videos. Pictured below: The "Perimeter Rap."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Outdoing Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page is, of course, famous for playing a double-neck guitar for Led Zeppelin. But former bandmate John Paul Jones has thrown down the gauntlet:

Will we see an escalation? Is this the musical equivalent of a Gillette razor?

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Monday, April 23, 2007

SMS or dinosaur

A hyperbolic open letter about SMS. The thrust: if your business isn't leveraging SMS, you are going the way of the dinosaur.

Communities Dominate Brands: Letter to American Execs: Joining the future of communication, via SMS text messaging

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Facebook is now competing with Twitter

People have been saying that Facebook should either acquire Twitter or reproduce its functionality. Now they have made their choice. Let's see what happens.

Facebook | What's everyone up to?

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Telecommuting to save the planet

Instapundit has a discussion on telecommuting as a way to save the planet by avoiding physical commuting. The problems with telecommuting are alluded to, but not discussed by name. Let's name the big one: telecommuting has not yet come up with a reasonable substitute for colocation. -

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