Sunday, 20 September 2009

Will provincial values count in the new virtual community?

In provincial New Zealand markets, provincial brand still carries weight . Will the new social media erode or reinforce that differentiator?

I’m a country boy – New Zealand “cow cocky” stock: breaking in the land. Genuine folk – what you saw was what you got. It had to be that way, struggling together; #8 wire, good-enough, ingenuity and resourcefulness.

That’s the roots of provincial New Zealand; still relevant in provincial commerce today where folks have probably become more suspicious and wary of increasingly individualistic “big-city” folks.

For example, a provincial professional firm (my client) recently negotiated to acquire a business in Wellington. Although the capital city of New Zealand, Wellington has many characteristics of a provincial town. Being clearly provincial contributed to my client winning preferred purchaser status and to acceptance by existing staff.

Here’s a prediction: the new social media will magnify the “provincial” brand differentiators because despite the apparent anonymity of the web the new social media, like village community anywhere, lives on genuineness and authenticity: deep interpersonal connection and reputation.

I reckon my provincial clients can do well in this new environment, and they are. Although it may become virtual, “local” will still be the web of relationships between people who are well known to, in continual contact with, and of value to each other, one way or another.

Bad news for the fakes, cons, bullies and manipulators. So watch out for identity theft. Your identity, in the broadest, deepest sense may be even more valuable than now. What will your identity be? Who are you and what will you be?

Brings to mind Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes who’s in a rush to catch the next boat to Paris:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
William Shakespeare. Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82

Polonius has in mind something much more Elizabethan than the New Age self-knowledge that the phrase now suggests. (Macrone, Michael. "To thine own self be true." Brush Up Your Shakespeare. Cader Company, 1990. 2007. 19 Sep, 2009)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Goals for Change

Sign of the times?: Missed achieving the quarterly goals again. Individuals’ performance on supporting actions weak again?

The goal’s good – revenue; profit; prospects in sales pipeline. The supporting priority actions are logical.

So what’s wrong? Lack of focus? Lack of accountability? Lack of leadership? Unrealistic goals? Lack of buy-in?

Could have been any or all of those. Or it could be that the world’s changed and the assumptions that used to apply, the relationships that used to work, the habits that used to be effective aren’t/don’t any more.

The reflex response is typically to increase the focus and accountability; increase “buy-in” by consultation; do it harder! WRONG.

If your firm’s past the 1st flush of pioneer passion and settled into routine with a dollop of cynicism born of frustrated aspirations and broken promises, and on top of that the world has changed, doing it harder won’t work.

It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it: you have to change the way you do it; do things in new, unfamiliar ways that feel as strange as a new golf swing. How do you achieve that when you don’t have a clue what those new ways feel like!? Even understanding those new ways won’t do it. You have to know them (deeply)

You need to experience new ways of behaving; to surface and examine assumptions; to develop and experience new ways of interrelating and repeat them until they are new habits.

It’s not buy-in you need, its engagement.You need a change-project: NOT simply a sequence of agreed tasks with time/quality/cost KPIs. You need a project where the learning is achieved by the whole team; to together develop and practice new ways of achieving those same simple goals.

You need a project with scope that’s wide enough to provide real, strength-fitting action for each team member and a compelling shared purpose that increases your capability to adapt to change and achieve your simple goals at the same time.

If it feels strange then you’re probably on the right track. Most managers, including project managers have never experienced an organisational change project. That’s OK. Don’t pretend. Bullshit kills learning.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Business Friday: Grand Brand Bang.

Instead of dressing down on Fridays the creatives at a large successful advertising agency amuse themselves by dressing up and behaving as Business people: they call it Business Friday. An essential element of Business Friday is PowerPoint presentations with bullets, words flying in, fades, sound effects: the whole palaver.

It’s true! PowerPoint is absurd Business uniform!

Since I last blogged, conversation streams about Brand; Ideas that Stick; and Targeting the Message were brought into comic relief by a single PowerPointed seminar failure.

Mark Gallagher’s compilation “Brand is . . . .”

Verne Harnish quoting his Uncle Wally and Chip Heath on Ideas That Stick.

Stephen Lynch quoting Bob Eckert, featured in Fortune magazine, on Targeting the Message.

The seminar, about business planning and implementation, packaged in PowerPoint to standardise delivery in various locations by various presenters, was a tool for building relationships with prospective clients to help sell professional service.

This particular seminar failed because the ideas that stuck - the impression communicated were predominantly though not overwhelmingly negative. It failed to achieve purpose. Yet the seminar had worked fine for the guy who produced the slides.

I’d experienced similar failed attempts to control seminar quality while teaching General Management at the University of Auckland: the course, part of a new innovative degree in Business and Information Management, was delivered on 3 different campuses. The course seminars were packaged as PowerPoint presentations and printed copies of the slides were included in course-books for students.

The presenters and students believed that the knowledge was the PowerPoint slides: linear, hierarchical, shallow, un-provocative, boring. Learning was stumped not stimulated. Read Edward Tufte The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (now in 2nd edition) to learn how PowerPoint regiments and limits thought, kills presentations and stops learning.

The thing is, content doesn’t make a seminar and regimenting content, especially by PowerPoint, reduces seminar quality. The message, which is bigger than the content, and hence the brand is blunted and distorted by the medium. It becomes Business-like, boring, uniform, more of the same.

Jack Daly doesn’t use PowerPoint in his seminars. People complain about Tom Peters’ slides because they can’t understand them: nothing boring, uniform about those guys.

Never be upstaged by your slides or your other props.