Tuesday, February 27, 2007
You only get one chance to set expectations for the cost and lead time of a project. If you come out of the gate too low and then have to raise the cost and lead time estimates it is perceived as a bad thing. Never let anyone talk you into giving a thumbnail estimate.
It is easier to budget for a project that is similar to one you have already done. In these cases you try and budget yourself 10% extra so that you allow for unknowns. Things you have never done before are hard to budget for. You simply do not know what you are doing because you are learning. When you don’t know what you are doing make your best guess and list you assumptions. At least when an assumption changes you have some justification to change your estimate.
Leave Time in the Schedule for the Money
It takes a lot of time for the money to get straightened out. First you have to get the quotes, then you have get them requoted in a format you can work with. Next you have to make a decision, and get that decision approved in the form of funding, and finally, the PO’s need to be processed. This hidden process can eat up weeks. It is best to call out quoting, funding approval, and PO release as milestones. Calling attention to them helps people understand how these things can be gates.
Provide A Chinese Menu
Most of the times Marketing doesn’t know what the cost and lead times are for a given set of features. They have a given set of dollars and time so they know that they need to make tradeoffs. That’s why they need you, the project manager. They like to have everything summarized on one page so they can pick and choose what they like.
The Project Manager Is Responsible
If a project fails it is always the project manager’s fault. This is not always fair and one of the reasons that so many people despise being project leaders. If you see your project destined for failure you have two options. Ride it out and take the hit, or move somewhere else. (Note: With enough effort you can usually pull it out.)
You Will Take a Hit
Eventually, if you do enough projects one of them is going to fail. Project failure is good for a couple of reasons. First, you get true insight into how people feel about you and that’s just good information to have. Second, it gives you a chance to see what you are made of. If, you place you personal worth on what work thinks of you a failure can be crushing. But, if you survive a couple of project failures you learn how much you can really take. Knowing what you can survive is a truly empowering thing.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Secret #3: Product innovation requires mastering the anal details.
Someone on the project has to completely understand the anal details of the project. You can’t sort of know them, or think you know them, or hope that you will figure them out later. You need to know them. It’s ok for the details to be interspersed among a couple of people, but someone has to know them.
The anal details are a prerequisite for success, otherwise you try to build airplanes with wire harness’s that are too short, but rarely can you communicate these details up through management.
Management doesn’t have time to make sure that every part on the bill of material is correctly costed and has the appropriate burden apportioned to it. And if you try to communicate the nitty-gritty you can be seen as irrelevant. (Note: The best bosses will look for evidence that someone knows the details.)
So what you end up doing is making it all look easy on the surface, offering up succinct reviews, and then scrambling like mad to make sure that everything is really lining up the way that it is supposed to.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Sunday, February 18, 2007
My hero’s at Belken have a 12 outlet surge protector that solves my problem. With six outlets widely spaced on the outside of the unit I can again easily fit everything into one device.
Seven years ago I would never have purchased a 12 outlet protector because I didn’t need it. But now I do. If this happens to surge protection needs, it happens to everything else. As a consequence something that fizzled in the market place seven years ago might do great now. That’s way companies need to be continually learning and challenging themselves. Never accept the status quo because it may now be the wrong thing.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
For years Fisher Price has been at the mercy of retailers like Walmart and Toy-R-Us for product placement. Having to offer more and more discounts to the retailers for the privilege of getting on the shelf. The catalog allows Fisher Price to develop there own relationship with the customer, avoiding the retailer and keeping more margin. For those that still go to the store for product they now know to want Fisher Price products because of what they have already seen.
The catalog gambit only works because they are offering great new products. Take for example the ActiveGear Stroller. It carries an infant car seat, your groceries, another child, the neighbor’s dog. The stroller fixes my “the kids grow and I don’t have the right gear” problem and my “how do I carry all this stuff (other kid) and the baby too” problem.
Another good example of a great product is the Easter themed little people set. By creating themed characters they are increasing the probability that people will splurge to get a cute little toy that they haven’t seen elsewhere.
It will be neat to see where the catalog takes Fisher Price. Fueled by great products might Fisher Price break the retail shackle forever, or might the catalog end up being scrapped, simply another marketing sinkhole?
Monday, February 12, 2007
It seems that Fortune will not be hosting a 2007 Business Innovation Forum and therefore have suspended the operation of the blog. I think the decision not to have the conference it a reinforcement of the notion that Innovation is jumping the shark. (Ok, so I was a year ahead of my time.)
But, I am glad to see that editor Dominic Basulto has decided to continue his passion for Innovation over at his personal new blog called Endless Innovation.
Dominic has a knack for the relevant and interesting as well as a lot of access to cool things.
"I prepare as hard as I possibly can," said Manning, whose study habits are legendary. "Sure, you feel nervous; you feel anxious. But I don't ever feel pressure because I feel that I have done everything I could to be prepared for [a] game. There have been plenty of games where I said, 'I wish I could have that throw back.' Or, 'I wish I had seen that linebacker.' But I have never left the field saying, 'I could have done more to get ready for that game.'
"That gives me peace of mind. That is how I am dealing with this week."
Thursday, February 08, 2007
What’s really amazing is that we are still being subjected to these constraints today. A good example of this would be products that come with batteries already installed. Batteries have a shelf life, so if the Musical Turbo Tail Tigger that you bought only lasts a couple of days from the time you bought it you think nothing of it to just change the batteries. In reality, that Tigger may have been sitting around for over a year, the battery slowing draining. Or, the Tigger manufacturer went cheap on the batteries so they drained faster than they should have.
Regardless of why the batteries don’t last, we don’t mind that they don’t. There’s nothing we can do about it. They wear out, we replace them. We don’t call the manufacturer and complain. By the way, there’s nothing suppliers can do about it either. Products from China have a two month lead time before they even get into your distribution system, let alone your retailers, and batteries drain over time.
And this is how whole new industries are created. If someone could figure out a way for the power system to be indefinitely fresh until ready to use it would change everyone’s perspective. Then, when your Turbo Tail Tigger gave out after a couple of days you would call the manufacturer and complain. If you can solve a problem that people aren’t even aware that they have you can have a profound positive affect on mankind.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Is offering cheap ink innovative? You bet. If Kodak can make a healthy profit with a substantially lower fixed cost, then they will enjoy great earnings for the years that it takes to drive the last high cost producer out of the business. This is what Dell did to the computing business.
The catch is that Kodak’s quality and reliability need to be good enough for people to perceive the value of the lower cost cartridges. “Good enough” does not mean that the quality is on par with the incumbents, it means that people won’t mind the defects because they are saving so much on cartridges. The other catch is that the company needs to be profitable before their debt comes do. Kodak lost $600 million last year.
The future of ink jet printing will be fun to watch. If Kodak’s can gain some share there is going to be a mad scramble at HP, Epson, and Cannon to cull costs.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
I've been using SKYPE at lot lately to talk with China. The quality of the picture is "good enough" for being able to read body language. Since the Chinese culture is so big on personal relationships real time video conference is only going to ease the ability to do business in China.
TurboTax lost their bid for my business this year. Ususally they offer me a free year of virus software, but this year they didn't. Instead, TaxCut won out by being $20 cheaper and offering the free virus software. It just goes to show that unless you can offer an advantage that people care about you can't hold a price premium.
Ever heard of Confluence? It's from an Australian company Atlassian. The gist is that it is a fully functional dirt cheap Wiki. I actually offered it as a stone cold lead pipe lock as a million dollar idea to a company recently. Imagine hosting a secure Wiki to centralize all the project information the client needs to be successful. There are a ton of Wiki's that I've looked at but Confluence is the best.