Bridging the gap between smart people that know, and smart people that need to know.

There are a number of crowd funding platforms out there today. Personally I’ve been rewarded and burned quite a few times. So I tend to stick to the two largest (Kickstarter and Indiegogo). Frankly I’ve had a higher percentage (backed to delivered) on Kickstarter than on Indiegogo. But in fairness to Indiegogo I do tend to back way out there projects on IG, where as on KS I tend to pick things that I find interesting/already on the market just a new variation.

I find the projects interesting. A few of the descriptions need some work but overall I find most of the projects are impressive. They miss most often on the gap. What is the GAP? The gap is the difference between projection and reality. It isn’t by the way the gap mentioned often (in blaring messages) on the London Subway system. That gap is between the station and the train. IE a small space where if you aren’t careful you can injure yourself a gap. It is also not the clothing “The Gap.”

The Gap and one that isn’t minded often, is the difference between your estimate (guess) and the reality of the world. Manufacturing companies are in the business of making money. So based on that, they evaluate projects and income as important. Where some technology companies make 40% or more profit per items sold, manufacturing is a much tighter margin. They make 8-12% ROSS (return on sales). That slim margin means that they (manufacturing companies) are always looking for volume. If you make 12% on 100,000 in the time period you could have made 9% of 12,000,000 its not good business to choose the smaller project. The math doesn’t fit.

That’s where crowd funding projects go array. First in that they are producing something that hasn’t been produced before. So the companies that partner have to retool. Then as you retool you have to consider the TAM (Total Addressable Market). Honestly of the more the more than 200 projects I’ve backed I cannot think of a single one that was able to address the GAP. Now that said there are a couple in process that have their own manufacturing so they may turn that corner quickly. For the most part the campaign is using OOM, or outside the organization manufacturing, and that’s why their timelines slip.

Not, that the campaigns are doing anything wrong. They are leaping to that other side and don’t know what is there. Some of the coolest tech campaigns I have backed are creating something that has never existed before. So that gap can change, after you leap. The funny thing is, the people with the expertise that campaigns really need to consult, are out there, they just aren’t in the crowd funding space.

People that understand the what and how of manufacturing exist. They are just not in that crowd funding space. They exist in the manufacturing space. They expose the concept of ethical manufacturing and doing the right things. They are the people who 20 years ago moved many manufacturing operations. They understand the issue, problem and how to avoid having an optimistic estimate.

I spent years of my career arguing that senior people had more IP on their laptops than was available in the knowledge system of the organization. I have come to realize that there is an even bigger problem than that room filled with IP on laptops. There is IP (Tribal Knowledge) that is walking out of the building after the person’s retirement party.

The knowledge the new economy needs is sitting in the old economy. We are letting those people ride off into the sunset without capturing what they know.

Want to know the pain of off shore manufactory talk to someone that set it up, ran it, and then retired. Those folks are out there. We just need to talk to them.

I argued with a crowd funding group recently. I offered to connect them to a smart, retired off shore manufacturing expert. They laughed and said the world is different now.

Their campaign failed. Because the reality is we’ve made things for more than 100 years. Recently those things have added connections to the internet, but we have been making things for more than 100 years. The process to build, manufacture and deliver things is the same now as it was 20 years ago. Those who forget the past, are doomed to repeat it (over and over).

Campaign running late? Ping me. I know people that can help!!!

.doc

IP dreamer

So let’s begin the meeting EVERYONE PLEASE SHUT YOUR LAPTOPS!!!!!!

I have been posting a lot about leadership and management lately. As much out of remembering past poor managers as anything. But the reality of leadership is that you pursue it as a path your entire life. There are people I respect not because I fear them, but because they have earned my respect. There are people I fear, have feared for a long time as well. I do not, would not and will not however ever consider them a leader or manager. I worked for a couple of people over the years that I still fear. Why? Because they wouldn’t, couldn’t and didn’t listen to both sides of anything. They heard the side they wanted and ignored everything else. Luckily I don’t have to work for them anymore. I wonder however, if they can live with themselves and the choices they made.

I never fear leaders. I only fear managers. But today I am  not here to bury Caesar and I am not here to praise Caesar. Instead today I am here to wander the edges of hearing. Listening. What an interesting skill. It is one that people espouse greatness at. But I wonder about that. First off, if you walk into a meeting with a computer, open the computer and don’t take notes. What message listening message are you sending? You are sending the “I am very important and my job is being delayed by this meeting.” The listening? Non-existent in that scenario. If you attend a meeting with your electronic device you better send notes after the meeting.

Over the years I have published a number of communication patterns and anti-patterns. From project pirate (the person that enters your meeting, and then basically storms your ship taking over the meeting and sending it in a new direction) to the enabler (someone who walks into the meeting and sits down taking notes). Patterns spawn anti-patterns and anti-patterns spawn patterns.

It is a need not a want to be heard. To have what you are saying validated. That the person you are speaking to doesn’t nod, instead looks at you and says “interesting.” I don’t care if you agree. Argue. Tell me my idea is crap. But give me the two seconds and listen. You listen to me? I will listen to you. We won’t have a Taxi moment “you talking to me?”

That by the way is the difference. I had the fortune to work for two phenomenal bosses when I came to the Maryland area. They listened, when they disagreed they talked to me about why they disagreed. When I disagreed with them, they listened. We had a great team that really spent time listening. The same was true 11 years ago when we started the Microsoft Certified Architect program. Some of my dearest friends to this day came out of the raging arguments that started that certification.

It made me realize what I need from a manager/boss/leader. I don’t need someone who only tells you what to do, and what you are currently doing wrong. I need someone that listens to ideas. Dismiss them as not possible – not a problem. But listen, take the time to hear the ideas. Take the time to hear my side.

I remember dealing with bad managers over the years, walking out of meetings feeling like I wasn’t heard. Like everything in the room was simply the sound of crickets. Meetings should start on time. Meetings should end on time. Certainly there are times when that isn’t possible. But then you start the meeting with the “sorry we are running late.” If the same person is always late, it’s a status thing not a timing thing. They are actually exhibiting a bad leadership anti-pattern (control freak).

Listen. Put that laptop away. You see if someone sends you a request while you are doing something else they will understand. But if you take that laptop into the meeting, you better respond to EVERY SINGLE REQUEST QUICKLY. If you only respond to the ones you want to, you are disrespecting the people in the meeting and anyone that sends you a request that you take time responding to.

Hear. Its about respect. The funny thing is, you get the exact amount back you share with the person.

I guess I did wander back to the leadership and management theme again. Great Caesar’s ghost, oh well. Listening is a really important skill. It shows that you are committed to the person talking to you. You can disagree. But listen.

.doc

management geek

Do we have a management crisis? Or just a management picking crisis?

So lately Linkedin has been full of “leader vs. Manager” graphics and studies showing that companies often hire the wrong people as managers. I wonder why in the age of information we still struggle with hiring and placing front line managers.

I won’t launch into another discussion of good and bad managers. Apparently based on the statistics I’ve been very lucky. The percentage of the wrong person in the manager role is way higher than I have personally encountered. But that isn’t the point of this blog. I am not wandering down the hallway of bad managers again. I hit reset a couple of days ago and I am moving on. Today I am curious about the tools of good managers. Why are good managers able to build solid teams and get results. First off good managers build good teams. You, as a manager, can’t do everything. So you have a team. In building a team the team has to be empowered.

Why is that so hard? You can build a team with any group of people. You just have to have a common goal and purpose. This is why I have said for years that everyone should have to spend a year as a teacher and a year on the helpdesk no matter what your career goals are, it should be mandatory service. You meet so many people that lack the customer service skills you gain quickly on the helpdesk. You meet so many people that lack the simple management skills you gain in a classroom, or you fail as a teacher.

Teachers manage situations and people. We have created an image of educators as not managers somehow. My father always “those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach teachers.” The first part an old adage, the second part was my father’s addition. It is not true however that those who can do, those who can’t teach. Teachers do more than simply do. We forget that like managers the skill of seeing where people are is critical. Connecting with a person as a human being is a huge part of being a manager. You can’t be a manager and not be human.

The mythos of management is the funny thing to me. I have read Peter Ducker’s work, certainly the man was brilliant. He was however, and people forget this, teaching how to manage people and companies. He isn’t a stand along business guru that reveals the answers for a price. He was building and teaching people how to be successful.

It makes me laugh actually. 82% of managers are in the wrong place. Or shouldn’t be managers etc. But we have a pool of future managers right now. They are able opt take complex problems and turn them into teachable moments. They can open someone’s mind to a new way of doing things.  We forget as we age that once math and reading weren’t natural.

We may have taught ourselves to read, but we weren’t born that way.

But Scott, then you are taking those who are good at teaching out of the classroom. There in lies the fatal flaw in pulling teachers to be managers or for that matter stuffing everyone into universal service. The reason there is a failure rate in picking managers is actually two fold. The first part being managers shouldn’t be part of the “Good Old Boys” club. Frankly its that issue that causes many managers to fail. Just because they are part of the club they become a manager. The other reality is some people can teach. Some people can only do. Bad teachers can do as much damage as bad managers. So we can’t put everyone in a classroom. We can’t put everyone on a helpdesk.

But we can stop hiring managers that are part of the club and start looking for people that are managers because they can do and teach.

.doc

Teachers Rule!

At the corner of bad choice, stupid choice and wrong choice. Which one do you choose?

I have often wondered about that Robert Frost poem (the path taken). All of us come upon a path in our lives that isn’t traveled. We all sit at the corner of possible, probably and impossible and ponder.

Sometimes the choice is fast. Not the process to get to the point of the decision but the moment where the decision says now. Make me. Choose which way you will go. In as much the choice that binds us not to where we are but where we will be.

Later as we sit back and reflect we remember those choices. We ponder after pondering. Did we choose the correct path. Did in making our choice we consider all aspects of the choice.

I posted recently on Linkedin about starting over each day. Forgetting the moments that are errors and moving on. The same is true for the choices we’ve made. Some are always good. Some are always bad. You can’t live in a box of only good choices. Such a box would become as much a prison and remembering all the bad choices is. You have to move forward with reality. You will make bad choices. You will good choices. The balance is in accepting that.

The realization that you cannot be bound to the choices you’ve made is important. You are not your choices. I know people who I thought were beyond brilliant that made bad choices. People that tripped and fell. You are not your choices.

I would stand under the shade of the tree rather than the middle of the intersection but you get the concept. All choices lead us to where we are now. The compilation of choices drives us to our current place.

Finding the way to move forward without questioning the choices made is so hard. That is why I think everyone should have to be a school teacher for two years or more. Why? Because you learn that failure is an option. That you sometimes fail over and over to produce results. Not everyone picks up a pen and writes like Hemingway. Sometimes we fail. Teaching and the art of education is finding new ways around failure. If someone doesn’t get something its not about throwing that away, its about figuring why they don’t get it.

Its about accepting the choice was wrong and moving on.

.doc

Futurist

After 22 years, I am starting to wonder if Dish is my future TV provider…

I became a Dish Network customer in 1994. 22 years ago in fact, in Cincinnati Ohio. I ended up wiring two different houses for Dish service in Cincinnati (the one we were in first, and the one we built). We later had dish in Indianapolis and in two houses in Maryland. We’ve been loyal dish customer’s for many years. In the past Dish had a number of technology advantages over Direct and Cable systems. In particular the exceptional SLING system made Dish the go to remote viewing system. But Sling isn’t the advantage it used to be. In fact it actually isn’t an advantage at all. I love to watch sports, so cutting the cable today, isn’t optimal. Having the ability to be cable free and wander around still watching my shows, is critical.

With AT&T’s purchase of Direct TV I wonder now, if I should move. I have held off for years because the remote viewing capabilities were exceptional (wi-fi viewing of the shows you want to watch wherever in the world you are is nice). But now, Direct goes direct to your device and doesn’t need the sling software. Its now tied to your account, not your home and home network. So I wonder if I should change.

When we embraced DISH, it was creating the first digital TV network. Now everyone has caught up. There is a value in bundling services. But Dish still has some significant advantages overall. The technology is still better at the receiver end. The new recovers are 4k with integrated Sling. Its time however for dish to remove the receive local and the rebroadcast restriction on their service. The other systems all allow you to log in and consume direct from the cloud.

I am a gadget fad follower. Until recently Dish was always one step ahead but now it appears they are playing catch-up. That makes me consider changing. It would be an impact to change but the reality is I get to play with the newest features. The cutting edge is an addiction as well as a growing reality.

Not that I buy into hype. I’ve been around Satellite TV for many years. I understand the limitations of both cable, over the air and Satellite systems. Cable has inherent issues (one is they don’t often replace set top boxes) and cable is often late to the new feature game. Over-the-air is so last year. Yes we used to only get the TV stations that were local and broadcasting in our area. Before Direct and Dish (mini-antenna see picture) you used to have to have a Satellite dish in your backyard. You had to change the channel based on the Satellite you wanted to connect with, so the antenna moved.

Simple is good. 22 years is a long time. But I wonder. I started with Dish before the big switch came about. Now most people have cable, satellite and so on. Digital TV is here, and frankly amazing. But the drivers that pushed me ahead of the crowd are still there. I like the concepts of digital TV. I enjoy Hulu and Netflix. I stream Amazon videos. Digital content is the driver that pushed me to Dish in the first place.

In the next month I have to decide what I am going to do. Thoughts? What does the blogosphere world think? Has Dish been outdone by the AT&T/Direct merger? Does cable now have the features and functions that make it superior? 22 years is a long time. But frankly it’s a what have you done for me lately world.

.doc

wondering about my Dish commitment!

Getting past bad bosses is hard. But I am going to try.

I have (and I am sure you have as well) had a number of these bosses over the years. While you work for them you chafe under the thumb because that is how they manage. They keep everyone under their thumb. Then years later when you are free, they still try to control you by basically talking about how bad you are to everyone that will listen. What I realized the other day is I never talk about the other side of bad managers. When you have a good manager. Being a front line manager is hard. You don’t really always get the support you need to succeed.

That’s because the impact of that bad manager is huge. I had a great boss early in my IT career. He was a former IBM person and the director of IT where I worked back in the mid-90’s. If I had stayed in that job it would have only been because of him. He was great manager and always said “one aw-crap outweighs 25 at-a-boys.” What bad managers don’t realize, when they you into the office to manage you because of something you’ve done, the aw-crap they create wipes anything good they’ve ever done. That one movement where they talk to you (and don’t listen) about what you did wrong without hearing your side, wipes all the good.

Over the years I had a great boss in Cincinnati working for a partner. I left a great boss in Cincinnati for a great boss who worked out of Detroit. That boss later became a dear friend – great boss. I had another great boss in Columbus Ohio and then didn’t have another great boss until I transferred to Chicago. The funny thing is those bad bosses still impact me more than the good bosses did. They shouldn’t. I have come to realize that my own advice (just press reset every day) applies.

Bad bosses are like cheap wine. If it doesn’t taste good, pour it out. You aren’t throwing money away, you are just using the wine to clean out the garbage disposal. Reset everyday. If you have a bad boss, find a new one. Loyalty is a two way street. If your boss isn’t loyal to you (and you will know quickly) start considering options.

if you, and with bad bosses and managers you often do, question their ethics – leave. I choose to transfer to a manager once that I knew had ethical issues. He was willing to cut corners and only listened to one side of everything. He put people in difficult situations and then expected miracles. I should have left long before I did. Loyalty is a two-way street.

So celebrate great bosses. Or in reality celebrate great leaders that also manage teams. Welcome the opportunity to express your loyalty to someone that will ultimately return it. Loyalty is a two-way street. If one side has ethical issues, get off the street. If your boss isn’t loyal to you, find a new boss.

I celebrate the great bosses I’ve had over the years. I am going to start forgetting the bad ones. My goal is to be positive and be loyal to the bosses that are loyal to me. The ones in the past who were more focused on their own career or more focused on my being wholly loyal to them, lost me a long time ago. I am letting go and forgetting they ever existed.

So to all the great bosses I’ve had over the years thanks!

.doc

Moving to positive

The lights are on, but NOBODY IS HOME. Time to Automate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Simple is not the edge that cuts. It is the edge that helps you achieve your goals. Automation can be simple. It can also be the razors edge. If you make one misstep, you are cut. The misstep now has to do with the many protocols that are still wandering around. Way too many home automation systems today. The same by the way is true in the world of building automation, too many systems that don’t talk to each other. But building automation has a budget that can be used (year over year cost savings) that allows you to spend more short run to automate because you are saving so much long run. Home automation can’t do that. The savings just aren’t that huge.

There is a missing story here. First off the concept that I have beaten to death according to a couple of readers (Continuation) where what you are doing moves with you. The other story is what you want to automate. Making life a little easier is the goal of my home automation project. Help me do what I want to do in less time. So, listening to music, automating that via using Sonos and Amazon Echo makes the process easy. In my office I simply say “Alexa play classical music” and the Amazon Echo speaker takes over. In the rest of the house I can play classical music on the Sonos system and choose what rooms in the house get filled with sound.

Music was the easy one. (if you live in the Maryland area, ping me and I will connect you with the great team that can do this, fast and well they are amazing). Home security was pretty straight forward as well. Integrating home video security didn’t take the team long. It means I can quickly see what is outside my home, at my front door and inside my home. I can do this from one portable device, and I can be anywhere in the world. Motion is detected and recorded. In the world of video surveillance systems why are there still home robberies? It would seem to me that burglars would avoid homes with security systems because they most likely have video as well.

If you are going to start automating you should also consider what your goal is. I would personally if I were starting right now today would start with door locks. Automate your locks both for opening but also in case you forget to lock the door. Auto locking doors are a great way to solve the teenager forgetting to lock the door problem. Then I would automate your garage door, why? That way when you leave for vacation you can shut the garage door you forgot to shut when you are 30 miles away from home and remember you forgot to shut the door in the rush to get out of the house.

the journey of a 1000 automations just takes the first one done and working. The rest slowly start to fit into the process. You can automate as quickly or as slowly as you want to, its your project. Buildings have to be done in a certain order, the first project requiring that the 2nd and 3rd projects get added. The value of automating elevators is as much making it easier for people to get to floors as it does to manage the lighting and air conditioning of the building. Empty floors don’t need to be as warm in the winter as full floors do, but full floors don’t require the same amount of heating as 1/2 full floors and so on. Lights can be shut off in all empty offices and sections of floors.

Smart homes are here. They will continue to get smarter. They will continue to get easier. But the protocol issue has to be fixed first. Zigbe, Zwave and others have to agree to communicate. The current Cool Hand Luke approach (What we have here is a failure to communicate) won’t cut it going forward. Home automation projects that today start small and build, will be replaced by larger automation projects that are built into the house itself. Those will require one protocol in order to centralize control.

Home automation fixes that terrible realization two towns away form home that you left the iron on, the garage door open and all the upstairs lights on. It sadly will not fix the other travel problems like forgetting the tickets, passports and the luggage. Those are problem you will have to solve without home automation!

.doc

Automation Dreamer