High Output Management – Andrew S. Grove

One of the best business books I’ve read in a long time.  Short book, common sense and to the point.  Written by Andrew Grove former CEO of Intel.

I would challenge anyone to review their own workplace, their own work practices using some of Grove’s ideas.

Liked the simple idea on the manager’s preparation for decision making:

  1. What decision needs to be made?

    English: Portrait of Andrew Grove.
    English: Portrait of Andrew Grove. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  2. When does it have to be made?
  3. Who will decide?
  4. Who will need to be consulted prior to making the decision?
  5. Who will ratify or veto the dcision
  6. Who will need to be informed of the decision?
Pity it does not happen more often.
On meetings I think he is right: two types.  Are we talking of a process oriented meeting (one-on-one, staff meetings, operations reviews) or a mission-oriented meeting?
The discussion of hybrid organisations and dual reporting is straightforward and recognises the reality of how many businesses need to be structured.
Liked the honesty of his section on performance appraisal. And his clarity on the importance of this process, the need for preparation and the rationale for the process in the first instance.
Not sure I fully agreed with him on his views on trying to retain people who say they are going to leave.
Finally – he is very clear on the manager’s role and responsibility for training – including preparation and delivery of training. I would see this as a major failing with many managers in industry.  And a major missed opportunity.

 

 

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How to be black?

Baratunde Thurston at ROFLCon II
Baratunde Thurston at ROFLCon II (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First came across Baratunde Thurston on the TWIT show – as a panellist on Leo Laporte‘s show.  And Leo plugged the book hard.

Just finished listening to the book via Audible.  Have to say thought it was a great listen (and therefore read). Baratunde Thurston is, amongst other things, a black comedian. I found the book thought provoking, stimulating and funny (at times).

Thurston has a very open and positive approach.  And this is also reflected by the panel participants.  In many respects while the subject is ‘black’ the theme could be ‘how to be …anything?’.  The message is that it’s up to the individual to make the experience positive.

Notwithstanding all of this, the book does not shy away from discrimination experienced by black people.  And Thurston’s own upbringing, his father having been shot when he was only a boy, by a far sighted mother who was ambitious for him is well documented.  The combination of attending the private school (Sidwell) while learning about his black roots and customs is brilliantly contrasted.

Well worth taking the time to read or listen to.

 

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Review: Chinamerica: Why the Future of America is China

Name:  Chinamerica: Why the Future of America is China

Author:                Handel Jones

ISBN 978-0-07-174242-9

In many respects this book seemed to me to describe the natural follow on from much of what Tom Friedman had pointed out in his excellent work, The World is Flat.  China’s wealth is growing – and with it, its influence and power.  America’s preeminent position on the world stage is under threat, slipping and, in some fields, gone.

We are familiar with the themes: hard work and ambition, flexible labour force, growing population, currency manipulation, lack of respect of intellectual property rights, powerful, central control, controls over imports, growing foreign currency and gold reserves.  Jones provides interesting commentaries on developments in specific industries: automobile, electronics (including contract manufacturing), steel and software.  He also deals with the assimilation of Hong Kong and forecasts a future assimilation of Taiwan – driven by economic imperatives on both sides.

With respect to the US Jones has a number of concerns, including: non competitiveness, lack of commitment to research, disproportionate influence of the agriculture lobby, slipping educational standards.  Most importantly he sees a lack of strategic (medium and long term) planning in the context of competing with China (and other countries).

Living in Ireland I was particularly struck my Handel’s analysis of the educational backgrounds of top leaders in China (pp142-145).  The group is dominated by people with engineering and science backgrounds.  Perhaps this explains the target of 1,000,000 engineering graduates per annum by 2015.  In Ireland we seem to specialise in having governments dominated by teachers, lawyers and accountants.

The automobile industry is an excellent example of contract between US and China.  The US industry has recently been bailed out.  It is crippled by high costs – including the health benefit costs associated with retired workers.  China is currently ahead of its plan to build 15,000,000 cars and trucks per annum by 2015.

China is not without its challenges – in terms of mass poverty, underdeveloped rural society, rising expectations of its people, creating work for its people, competition from other countries, requirement to improve quality of its products.

Jones has not given up the ghost on America.  But he sees a need for change – and outlines this in his 8 point ‘restructuring plan’ – to include:

  • 5 and 10 year planning
  • National metrics
  • Financial support for building corporations to compete
  • Cuts in social spending
  • Financial incentives to increase exports
  • Tax subsidies to build new industries
  • Efficient manufacturing within US

In conclusion Chinamerica provides a useful comparison between industrial and economic growth in America and China over the last 10-15 years.  Jones provides useful insights into the reasons for the divergence and proposes a number of actions required to be taken in order for America to compete on a level playing field.  Will be very interesting to watch how this plays out in the next 5 -10 years.

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Google making progress re privacy issues

Looks like the US government is less concerned than some European governments re Google and data privacy…’Google has whacked one mole out of many, at least in the United States, where the government announced yesterday it has closed its investigation into SpyFi, the Street View data-collection controversy’.  For more detail

I think this speaks to different cultural outlooks on privacy across different jurisdictions.  Is this down to the fact that the notion of ‘privacy’ is disappearing in certain countries?

Irish government to appoint a CTO?

So the government published its paper: Knowledge Society Strategy: Technology Actions to Support the Smart Economy.

There is already plenty of comment – on twitter, in the blogs, on the news and there will be more over the next few days.  Comments ranging from ‘a lot of waffle’, ‘telling us what we already know’, ‘where’s the meat?’, etc.  But buried in the report are enough reference points to show where we’ve been making progress and where we’ve been falling behind.

When I read Friedman’s ‘The world is flat’, listing his concerns about the state of education, engineering in the US, I felt he could have been writing about Ireland.  Ironically he references Ireland as a country pulling itself up and leveraging the flatness of the world.  However the shortage of maths proficient secondary school leavers is a major concern and cannot be fixed over night.

The topics discussed in the paper are very worthy of attention – and do represent opportunities for Ireland Inc e.g. cloud, green data centres, networking.  Delighted to see reference to semantic web – not really that surprising after €25m of government investment.

I just picked out one small detail from the report (p45):

The Government should appoint a high level CTO with the authority to drive cultural change across the many departments and agencies.

I have commented previously on such appointments in the US – within the Obama administration.  I would strongly support such an initiative – though she/he will need plenty of support from Mssrs. Ryan and Lenihan.

Golf making most of web and social networking

I thought 3 made a brilliant job of promoting the Irish Open – using networks including facebook.  However I think the opportunity to play a virtual round at Bethpage for the US open beats this.

This is an example of the web adding significantly to the the user experience ie to the TV golf spectator or the golf newspaper article reader.  Anyone who takes the time to play 18 virtual holes at Bethpage (not having playing the real course) will have a greater understanding of the challenge to be faced by Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington, etc.

And then there’s the traffic, the advertising potential, etc.

Good luck to all of you who try.  I hope you have more skill at virtual golf than this blogger.

Is your Doctor (GP) using information technology?

Is your doctor still writing up manual cards to track your checkup visits?  Is your doctor writing out prescriptions for you to take to the local pharmacy?  When you attend a clinic for XRays, MRIs etc how are the records forwarded to you/ your GP?

Huge investments being approved in the US to drive ePateint records/ ePrescribing – with targets for cost saving, improved patient care, etc.

Interesting discussion in recent BusinessWeek article re adoption of these solutions – and major costs involved for individual doctors or small clinics (e.g. 3 doctors).   Also covered in a Reuters story re ePrescribing  last month.

Given all of the challenges facing us in the Irish economy will be interesting to see how we can implement these types of solutions in the Irish market place – to drive quality of service and greater efficiency (and cost savings).