Seth Godin on the “New Normal”

We’re getting out from under here so I’m digging through my own stack of stuff.  It has been exceedingly hard to post, but I’ve tried not to skimp on my reading.  That’s the least I can do to stay connected.

I’ve linked to Seth Godin a number of times, and not just because of his marketing chops.  Seth’s best posts tie complex phenomena directly to the choices we make with our personal and professional lives.  His post “The forever recession (and the coming revolution)” challenges us to recognize that much of the angst of the “New Normal” is driven by one’s perspective:

Stressful? Of course it is. No one is trained in how to do this, in how to initiate, to visualize, to solve interesting problems and then deliver. Some see the new work as a hodgepodge of little projects, a pale imitation of a ‘real’ job. Others realize that this is a platform for a kind of art, a far more level playing field in which owning a factory isn’t a birthright for a tiny minority but something that hundreds of millions of people have the chance to do.

If we project managers cannot thrive in the “New Normal”, than no one can.

A few observations on Mumbai…

Seeing the names “Taj” and “Oberoi” in the news so often was disconcerting to say the least.  Though I’ve never stayed at either chain, everytime my team or I prepare to travel to India we’re usually choosing one or the other.  No surprise here that these chains were targeted by terrorists looking for Americans and Brits (n.b., changed per a commenter’s feedback) to make global news.  As one of my commenters noted, most of the nearly 200 killed were Indians (16 non-Indian dead at this point).

The world in all its wonder and worry seems so close by, even though I’m not traveling a lot these days.  I just talked with a blogging mate who two weeks ago had been eating at a Mumbai location that was attacked.  In July, I left Bangalore just after the election and just before a rash of bombings. 

Maybe the world feels close because the coverage of Mumbai felt so familiar, especially when when US news channels went to the India news channel coverage.  After many jet lagged nights in India, I knew those Indian news outlets very well — the graphics, the anchors, the language.  I even smiled seeing those text messages commenting on event coming from Krishnan, Aparna, Lakshman, etc. scrolling across the bottom of the screen.

Are labor unions attractive these days?

I was a little perplexed by the title of this post by Rita McGrath (post here).  Perhaps it is simply my temperament and perception of today’s unions.  Even when I was washing dishes and slinging hash, I never only once seriously considered entering a unionized workforce (I had a brush w/ UPS).

I would find it hard to work in a seniority — not performance-based — culture.   The union label on a product used to mean something.  Is still does in highly-skilled trades.  But too many white collar unions have lost the focus on craft and quality; in fact, they seem hostile to it.  Not my cup of tea…

However, I think McGrath has a point about how greed, bailouts, and globalization may well drive employees to try collective action, bargaining, or representation again:

To me, it’s a powerful testament to the laws of unintended consequences and the idea that every action prompts an equal and opposite reaction. If the ways in which large corporations wield power over their people is increasingly seen as unfair or even illegitimate, we can expect a lot more momentum on the part of labor.

Given all that, does the labor movement look more attractive to you these days?

SAP, India, and Innovation — this article understates the impact

It isn’t that this article by Navi Radjou of Forrester is wrong (here), but it misses at least three areas in which SAP leverages India’s talent and mind-set  Sure, what Ranjan and the SAP India team have done (and are doing) is impressive, but the impact of India and a globally adaptive approach are far more widespread:

  • Solution Development: I won’t belabor this, but many key parts of the SAP solution portfolio are developed in India.  The various SAP Labs sites in India moved quickly from coding functions, to designing modules, to delivering entire solutions.
  • Global Services Delivery: Jan Grasshof’s team is much more than a simple “me-too” outsourcing shop.  I was in Bangalore last week and saw the sophistication and speed with which they could bring value to the table.   A great example — coincidentially with Nokia, also in Navi’s article — was when SAP Global Delivery both supply chain expertise and rapid prototyping to accelerate an implementation. 
  • Management Development: My organization’s management program includes one week in Bangalore, a measure of how integrated a global mindset has become in our way of working.  SAP sends executives and managers half-way around the world so they can feel, taste, and touch what this new business world is all about.  We also have exchange programs — even within projects — to ensure better, more consistent communications and understanding among our various teams.

Delivering Global Projects

Craig Borysowich’s post on special considerations for international projects (here) IDs some important factors.   Also, I have to like a guy who went for the Modigliani image (see here).  Here is his list and my comments:

Impact of Distance — The extreme distance between “home base” and the customer site can be extremely costly to the project.  Make sure there is enough money in the budget to cover the level of effort that is required to travel and live in the customer environment (including the costs of whatever trips home are to be provided for the members of the project team).

This point gets glossed over when budgeting, it is critical to have co-location early in the project, but some projects try to economize by cutting out early travel, which compromises team and trust building.  An early investment in co-location will also allow remote collaboration techniques — calls, Webex, videocon, etc. — to be more effective.

Make sure that the number of resources required to do the job has been estimated realistically. With projects that are operating out of home base, it may be possible to conduct a site acceptance test, for example, with two people working for two weeks. If anything unexpected were to occur in this scenario, it would be relatively easy to bring in back up personnel.

Our experience is that many projects try to manage globally-delivered projects with the same amount of project management resources.  This strategy ends up being penny-wise and pound-foolish, often to the extreme.  The cost arbitrage for technical and business resources has trade-offs in efficiency (which Craig notes). Continue reading

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