Category Archives: Managing

Virtual teams — community folks could use this technology too

Here’s an article in CIO that talks about the improved productivity of virtual teams. They are grumpy about video conferencing, but like the “shared workspace” systems that are coming into use.

I’ve been following (and using) those systems for a while now, and think that there are some good ones (like Groove) that have finally gotten to the point of being really nifty. But I’m getting even more excited about all the open-source activity in this area. Check out this very cool matrix of open-source “content management systems” and be amazed at the capability that’s available for really cheap.

Which brings me around to Community Computing. Read on…

I’m thinking that these systems could be put to great use by organizers who are trying to move the ball forward for their causes. I’m reminded of the early days of the Internet when Jon Pratt was working on this sort of thing over at the Minnesota Council of NonProfits and how much cheaper/easier these new systems would be.

So while I’m fiddling these systems into use in the private sector, I’m also going to be looking for ways that nonprofits could take advantage of all that virtual-team stuff that the CIO piece is talking about.

"Ten reasons why businesses fail" — More good things to watch out for

A good list posted by A.J. on the Value Management Partners site. Here’s a link to the entry. This is another list to re-check about every 30 seconds or so if you’re running a business. These issues can sneak up on you, and are lots easier to deal with when the problems are just starting.

Read on for AJs list…

10 Reasons Businesses Fail

Not controlling costs.
As soon as a business gets a little successful with a cash flow, they start spending money…frivilously: fancier cards, websites, and other marketing collateral. Add in fancier technology, extra people and sitting on their laurels, suddenly the positive goes negative. Along with costs…

Disregarding or misinterpreting financial records.

This works with costs in that if you can’t read your P&L how would you know if you have any money? On the other hand…

Inadequate accounting records.
You may know how to interpret your P&L and balance sheet, but you’re not getting the whole or correct picture.

Inviting fraud through poor internal control.

If you can’t read your records or are not getting the whole picture, you’ll never know what an accountant, bookkeeper or other employee may be doing behind your back.

Failing to aggressively sell.

Nothing happens until a sale is made.

Insufficient working capital.

No sales, too many costs, that counterclockwise circular motion begins.

Not carrying adequate and appropriate insurance.

Car accident, trip and fall, a minor mistake, they can spell doom when un- or under- insured.

Failing to adequately train and develop employees.

You have to show them what you want done! They can’t read your mind.

Improper strategic planning.

If your having any of the previous problems then you haven’t thought out a plan.

Not seeking advice or professional help when necessary.

You’re good at what you do. Don’t think you can do it all. Sometimes stepping back with a fresh pair of eyes can stop the downturn.

"Should we do this project?" questions

Johanna Rothman has a list of questions to ask when you’re contemplating the launch of a project — here’s the link.

This is a good complement to my Pretty Good Project Definition Worksheet which is a quiz I use a lot when chartering new projects. I may lift some of Johanna’s questions and add them to mine.

Read on for the list…

Is this Project Worthwhile?


Not all projects should be done. Some projects don’t even rate discussion. But sometimes it’s a lot harder to tell when a project is worthy and should be considered. Here are some questions I ask when trying to evaluate when a project is worthwhile:


  • What business need does this project fill? (Does the organization obtain value from this business need)
  • Is this project a strategic project for us? What makes it strategic? (Does the strategic reason behind the project change the importance of the project?)
  • How does this project fit into all the projects we’d like to do? (Does this project make sense for us to do?)
  • Have we done a project like this before? Were we successful? What did it take for us to be successful? Do we have any doubts about our ability to do this project? What are those doubts? (Are we doomed before we start?)
  • Do we have the staff or other resources to do the project? (If we can’t adequately fund the project, what should we do differently?)
  • What is the effect of finishing this project on time, not finishing this project on time, or not finishing the project at all? What ripple effect does this project have on others?


I supposed if I wanted to make this easier, I could have arranged everything in a table with a yes or no at the top of each column, and you could just mark yes or no. If you have enough yes’s, the project is worthwhile. The problem I have with that approach is that when I ask the first couple of questions with a senior management team, the answers aren’t always yes or no. Sometimes the business need is clear. Sometimes the strategic importance of the project is to have a small project to practice a new set of techniques on. Sometimes the time constraints make the business need clear.


If you use other questions, I hope you post them in a comment. Knowing whether a project is worthwhile is a huge part of management’s necessary decision-making. Because if a project is worthwhile, it’s worth funding, staffing, and moving along. If it’s not worthwhile, it’s worth killing — quickly.

A "watch list" for growing companies

Another one from Decker Marketing, this article is pointing at the Dando Advisors site, but i couldn’t find the original article on the Dando site.

At any rate, here’s a list of “business health” indicators. I’m loving this one. I recently had an experience in a company in which every single one of these red flags was flying. Ugh.

Read on for the list…

Dando’s Top 10 Watch List for Growing Companies

Wrong people in key positions. These include friends, family members or long-term loyal employees who are not qualified to occupy key positions.

Poor communications. Senior management feels it is losing control as a result of having less direct contact with day-to-day operations.

Vague hierarchy. Watch out that the leader’s role is appropriately defined considering the company’s size and leadership needs and the leader’s skills.

Bloated hierarchy. Too many people reporting to the president and/or other senior staffers. Thus, the senior management team really does not operate as an aligned team to guide, plan, lead and manage the company.

Management deficiency. There is not an aligned executive leadership and management team that is staffed with individuals who are proven and skilled at getting desired results with efficiency and quality; developing people to successfully do their jobs; identifying operating inefficiencies, overcoming obstacles and implementing the needed systems and structure to correct the inefficiencies.

Imprecise accountability. There is a lack of clarity for management accountability and design of specific data needed for creating accountability.

Poor rewards. There is lack of an appropriate middle and senior management compensation process that is tied to accountability and results.

Old habits. Accounting, financial performance reporting and control systems have become obsolete for the size of the company, and the complexity and level of information needed to operate a more sophisticated company. Sometimes old processes limit the ability to make hard decisions on a timely basis.

Careful growth. Diversification into products or businesses do not fit the company’s expertise and market experience, or acquisitions are made prior to the company being properly structured to integrate them.

Precise balance. The company is not properly balanced between marketing and sales. There is increased competition and a lack of planning to effectively react to the competition and the market.

Business recovery — putting things back on track

This article in the Decker Marketing blog lists ingredients for a turnaround effort. By my lights, these aren’t bad things to do in any project, not just the turn-around efforts. Don’t get me started about how so many projects are miserable just because people don’t run ’em well.

Read on for the list…

1. Get the right people together
2. Have a strong facilitator who owns the plan
3. Analyze root causes
4. Choose the levers that need to move to move the business
5. Identify what every and any team can do to drive those levers.
6. Focus them on these activities. Assert timelines and results for all initiatives
7. Report back soon on status and progress.
8. Have senior management present for accountability, if necessary.
9. Repeat until sufficient progress / trajectory is achieved.
10. Take a day off. You deserve it.

Seven habits — includes a good customer segmenting list

Brian Tracy has a piece on the site that has a good planning list as a starter for doing the customer segmentation. Doesn’t hurt to repeat these questions every few seconds if you’re in a fast-changing market (who isn’t).

Read on for the list…

  • What exactly is my product or service?
  • Who exactly is my customer?
  • Why does my customer buy?
  • What does my customer consider value?
  • What is it that makes my product or service superior to that of my competitors?
  • Why is it that my prospective customer does not buy?
  • Why does my prospective customer buy from my competitor?
  • What value does he/she perceive in buying from my competitor?
  • How can I offset that perception and get my competitor’s customers to buy from me?
  • What one thing must my customer be convinced of to buy from me, rather than from someone else?

RSS feeds for PR folks

Ok, I’ve been one of the ones who took a long time to “get” blogging, so I’m probably going to preach with the enthusiasm of the recently-converted. But it seems to me that there is a tasty middle ground between the monsto-blogs (for example the New York Times front page) and the pipsqueak-blogs (like this one) in which lots of interesting things could happen. One that comes to mind is switching the PR industry away from “pushing” out their stuff (with web pages, email or gawd-forbid fax) towards publishing RSS feeds so that journalists can “subscribe” to their press-release stream and gain all the productivity gains that would arise if reporters could “cover their beat” by watching RSS feeds rather than slogging through the daily deluge…

Nope, not a new idea by a long-shot — Mark Jones has exactly the same idea in

this piece

that ran in


last November. But it’s worth amplifying, and explains why I’m starting to “get” blogging as a useful gizmo for the mainstream business type person.

*My* revelation came while talking to the PR person at a large local outfit and asked him what his day was like. The story he told got me to thinking… He spends his day mostly rasslin’ with the logistics of getting his stuff *out* rather than actually writing. He’s held captive by Joe, The Webmaster From Hell to get the stuff out on their web site. He waits for the fax machine. He juggles a huge list of email addresses.

If our hero had an RSS-capable blog at his disposal, he could push his own content to the web page, and reporters who cover his beat (of which there are many, this is a pretty important outfit he works for) would be able to peruse his stuff the way we watch RSS feeds. You know, “boring” “I don’t care” “yawn” “OH! Now *that’s* interesting…”

I think both sides of the equation would be better off. The PR person would do more writing, the audience would do more reading and a lot of awful middle-stuff would be gone.

I also think there are a lot of projects out there for blog-builders who want to get paid for their efforts. Package this up as the answer to the PR-maven’s problem and go to town.