Archive for March, 2009

Kiss Theory Goodbye. Five proven ways to get extraordinary results in any company. Bob Prosen

October 20th, 2007 ~ Delirium Tremens @ Carmic...
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Kiss Theory Goodbye. Five proven ways to get extraordinary results in any company. Bob Prosen. 2006 ISBN 139780977684809.  I recently needed to research the area of execution ala Larry Bossidy.  Bob Prosen had sent me his book quite a while ago so I pulled it down and had a terrific read.  The author is a good clear writer ( along the Rockefeller Habits style). He has  a wealth of very useful experience to pass along to companies, not for profits, public and private.  I found myself agreeing on page after page as we have seen our consulting practice move more and more to following up the strategy work with execution  assistance. If companies could do this work already they would have done it.

Unlike the Rockefeller Habits, this book has much more depth and pragmatic do it this way now advice.  The reader gets a very clear sense of the disconnect between what companies set out to do and what they really do. I appreciated Prosen’s symptom – causal explanations eg. Symptom – an organization gets bogged down in meetings = executives who are unwilling to make a decision. Too true!  If you also realize that execution is an area that needs improvement, this book will be very helpful to you.  I took copious notes not just for clients but my volunteer organizations.

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Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty. The new rules for getting the right things done in difficult times. Ram Charan

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 15:  Bank of America CEO ...
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Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty. The new rules for getting the right things done in difficult times. Ram Charan. 2009. ISBN 9780071626163. Very helpful little book with the kind of advice Charan is famous for. I took away a few things that made a lot of sense. Assume the worst scenario and plan for it. If things are not that bad you can adjust later. It is human nature to think that things can not be that bad.

Once you have the plan in place, create a plan for the when things get better – you will have the advantage over those who do not move quickly enough. Thus the Lehman CEO went down while the Merrill Lynch CEO lives to fight another day.

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The Age of Turbulence. Adventures in a new world. Alan Greenspan.

The Age of Turbulence
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The Age of Turbulence. Adventures in a new world. Alan Greenspan.2008.ISBN 9780143114161.

Reading this book immediately after The Snowball, I was struck by the similarities in world view between Buffett and Greenspan. They both believe in free market capitalism, they are both mathematical wizards and they grew up personally protected from the Great Depression , and yet they  followed very different paths.  Buffett went on to be the premier capitalist and Greenspan became a consummate public servant.

The history lessons in this book are terrific and give another side to many of the events that Buffett discussed. The real gem in my mind is Greenspan’s analysis of the BRIC, South American and EU nations plus their challenges. Taking his projections and todays’ events you see pretty well exactly how things will progress, some of it already.  If you are doing business world wide you must read these chapters as well as the McKinsey work  (and the Economist stats tables weekly)  if you desire to succeed (survive) in these markets.  Greenspan’s 40 years at the tiller and numerous interactions at G7 and G20 meetings are invaluable.

I believe he is right. Inflation will return, as will higher oil prises.  The US has an education  (k-12) , Retirement and unfunded Medicare, Social Security crises ahead of it.  He makes telling arguments against propping up old manufacturing industries.  His analysis of the current meltdown rises above todays’ politicizing.  As well his is the first logical voice that shows the dangers of populism in politics, raising  a fear that Obama may get himself into some dreadful morasses.

Surprising to me that this was such an easy to read book. He does mention that learning Fed Speak meant the loss of the use of English umtil he left.   Good for a back and forth coast to coast plane ride. You will want to savour this one.

Experiences from bank runs during the Great De...
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Social Security Poster: old man
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How the Wise Decide, The lessons of 21 extraordinary leaders. Bryan Zeckhauser & Aaron Sandoski

End of summer / Fin del verano
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How the Wise Decide, The lessons of 21 extraordinary leaders. Bryan Zeckhauser & Aaron Sandoski. 2008. ISBN 9780307339737.   The authors ( Venture Capital  associated) boiled the thoughts of the mostly US leaders into a coherent set of six principles:

  1. Go to the source
  2. Fill a room with barbarians
  3. Conquer the fear of risk
  4. Make vision your daily guide
  5. Listen with purpose
  6. Be transparent

Then the authors  wove the stories of the 21 interviewees showing these core messages. The idea works very well and it makes for an informative and interesting read.  I could not help but think that over riding the analysis was thate individuals needed to be people of strong and good character.

Not  a big book – so it would work for a four hour plane ride. and not take a lot of room.

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Buying In. The secret dialogue between what we buy and who we are. Rob Walker

The Clash, Chateau Neuf, Oslo, Norway, May 21s...
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Buying In. The secret dialogue between what we buy and who we are. Rob Walker. 2008. ISBN 978  Quite the author, he is able to link cool hunting, trend setting, media watching and even William Gibson around branding today.  If you want to really feel like an isolated fossil, some of the discussion of “famous” brands will age you.  I saw some of what he is talking about on Lincoln Ave in Miami Beach. But I did not know what I was looking at!  In discussions with a local artist I am learning just how true a story this book is telling.  If you care about getting generational buy into your company or product, this book is required reading (just like No Logo was) . Good airplane read, logical and well written ( well he is a NY Times columnist)

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The Snowball. Warren Buffett and the business of life. Alice Schroeder

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...
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The Snowball. Warren Buffett and the business of life. Alice Schroeder. 2008. ISBN 9780553805093. An authorised biography that still seems to tell most things like they are, this is one hefty book (838pp). Too heavy for airflights, I read a bit every evening.  It reads like a novel, which is a credit to the author – she has some good skills.  It is enjoyable and the sturdy reader will learn a lot.  You learn the philosophy, background, strategy and incredible skills of the Sage of Omaha. Anyone in the market will enjoy it, if they are smart enmough to understand. Students should read it.  I am glad that Obama just might be listening to this guy.

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Mastering the Hype Cycle. How to choose the right innovation at the right time. Jackie Fenn & Mark Raskino

Hype Cycle 2006
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Mastering the Hype Cycle. How to choose the right innovation at the right time. Jackie Fenn & Mark Raskino. 2008. ISBN 9781422121108.   RocketBuilders has used the Gartner Hype Cycle many times to analyze a technology and applications. Having this book brings all ehe Gartner experience and view points together. It is actually two books.  The first half, is abook about recognizing the Hype Cycle and what technology builders and innovators can (should) learn from this.  The second half is for companies that want to innovate but want to be sure to get started when the Cycle is working for them. Others could use the book to help save stalled innovation projects.    I especially enjoyed the examples and overall pragmatic style (utility) of this book. Check it out more at the book website, www.gartner.com/hypecycle.

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Travel_log_ Miami_feb 2009

miami-beach1

We had the chance to start and stop this trip in Miami (Thanks to Alaska Airs direct service from Seattle) .  If you have not had the chance to be a tourist in Miami- I suggest you do it.  South Beach with the restored Art Deco buildings is really quite something.  We tagged along with a local museum tour as they explained all the lingo with Art Deco-eeybrows, frozen waterfalls, decals, porches and so on.

I noticed that the locals are much more active than other cities – it is more like California/Vancouver this way. If your loved one likes to shop. Lincoln Ave is a good place to stay away from.  The shoe stores alone will break you.

Enjoy the snaps.

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Art Deco in South Beach
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Ocean Drive - South Beach, View towards the no...
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Miami Beach, Florida: Girls dancing at Mango's...
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Travel_log_St Lucia_feb 2009

st-lucia-soufriere-petit-piton12CastriesSt. Lucia

We fell in love with this Jewel in the Caribbean. After we waited fruitlessly for the scooter guy who was operating on island time, we lucked out with Guys Car Rental ([email protected]). Elvis (not Presley) came up with a little Mitsubishi car. After a few quick tips, we headed off to Gros Islet at the very tip of the island, where we set eyes on the first stunning views of St. Lucia.

You see the Atlantic crashing on the west side and balmy Caribbean gently caressing the eastern shores. This is just past Raffles Golf and Country club – immaculate greens and obviously no waiting at $285 a round.

We turned around and threaded our Mitsubishi through the grid lock of Castries, the capital and headed south to Soufriere (Sulphur in French) home of the twin Pitons, Petit and Gros – the twin peaks made famous in Romancing the Stone. We wound up and down this hilly trek, it took all of 90 minutes to cover 37 km. A paved road all the way but enough pot holes to lose one’s car in. A real driving challenge. In this part of the world you don’t pave unnecessarily – roads are narrow, ditches are open and deep, and drivers become very cautious. The scenery on this hilly west coast was stunning- you had to stop so often just to capture another once in a lifetime shot.

We got in beach time and met up with another Canadian, Chester (from Chatham, Ont.) who has been spending 6 months every year for the last 30 years in this little paradise. He let us in on the local highlights – terrific scuba dive sites, a good scuba shop, good sailing, great fresh food. We were convinced just with the swim we had – warmest water yet, refreshing and cleansing too. We decided to check out the Caribbean’s only (famous) drive-in volcano and sulphur hot springs. Bad mistake! It was inundated with tour groups. We turned turtle and headed back to Castries.

Dropped off the car at the airport, spotted a little Caribbean snack shack on the beach across the road and zeroed in on their local menu. With a nice cold Piton beer in hand, fresh rotis, chicken curry & hot sauce on our plates we watched the Barbados/British cricket match with a group of islanders.

St. Lucia, a definite destination for island lovers!

Romancing the Stone
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Pigeon Island National Park
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Travel_log_Antigua_Feb_2009

st-johns-antigua-carlisle-bay2

St. John, Antigua

Thanks to Noel Jackson (Govinda’s Scooter Rentals), our transportation today was a Peugeot Scooter to traverse the Island with. He pointed us towards Darkwood Beach which was supposed to be an easy 20 min ride out provided we could find our way out of this hairy, congested little town of Antigua. After much cursing & swearing on Amanda’s part, we finally wound our way out towards the coast. Reg took a dip in the ocean at Darkwood Beach, then on to other beaches. We came across a fabulous spot called Carlisle Bay where we stopped for another dip, even found an empty conch shell as a keepsake. Our next destination was supposed to be the highest point but our gas tank was showing close to ¼ tank, there was no gas station in sight so we cautiously trundled our way through Fig Tree Drive (a rainforest grove), stopping to enjoy more coastal scenery until the signs led us back to St. Johns. Our Peugeot was not built for North American frames, towards the end of the day, Amanda’s thighs were crying out in pain. Noel was glad to see us back in one piece, with no dents or scratches to his vehicle. We did a walking tour of down town Antigua, stopping at the local market & chatting with a couple of vendors about spices. Stopped for a quick bite of curry chicken roti in a little side alley cafe (Paradise Cafe) washed down with a cold Wadaddli beer.  Amanda was able to supplement her sandal collection with a locally made all leather hand tooled product.

We are thoroughly amazed at how friendly and helpful the Islanders are in all these islands – one can never really get lost. It has been a godsend for the number of times we had taken more wrong turns than right ones. There are limited road signs & directions. I actually saw my life flash before my eyes when Reg took a turn towards oncoming traffic once and another time headed down a one-way street the wrong way! We were saved by a tooting horn behind us. I could just hear it……”G..damn tourists!”

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