What the CEO Wants you to Know

I first heard about Ram in Fortune magazine in an article titled The strange existence of Ram Charan, where his travel regime was dissected: he travels non-stop and regardless of his location, his assistants in Dallas send him new clothes via courier and he returns his dirty laundry to them.

What the CEO wants you to know was the first of his books that I purchased.

This book is from a similar approach to Winning and The Art of Profitability
in terms of it's ease of reading and practical views on business.

In it, Ram takes the principles of 'street smarts' and relates those basics to how a good CEO looks at, and runs, their business. Those principles include margin, velocity and ROE but in a far more engaging way than any business textbook you could pickup. Moreover, it does remind the reader that everyone in a business, whether it is the CEO or the receptionist, is responsible for the organisations profitability.

I managed to bump into Ram in the Qantas lounge in LA whilst returning from Chicago in November of last year - he's quite a nice guy and judging from the people chatting with him, quite populate with Australian executives.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:29 AM, ,

Amazon's Kindle

In December, I was stumped with the question of what I wanted as a gift for my birthday and Christmas. I'm one of those painful people (period?) to buy a gift for as there is truly nothing I 'need' and few things I 'want' that I haven't gone out and bought for myself.

Fortunately, advertising helped me make my decision!

My amazon account told me the Kindle was the leading gift for Christmas in 2009 and that they've finally pulled their fingers out and offered up a version for international users.

Apparently, if you believe the advertising, they sold more eBooks last quarter than physical books. I don't necessarily believe the advertising, but I do believe the market noise around eBooks, which was covered in the ReadWriteWeb article EReader and EBook Market Ready for Growth.

That morning, I had been on my way to Melbourne and arrived at the airport with nothing to read on the flight, having read all the ads in the November Qantas in-flight magazine before & a low battery in my laptop & iPhone which meant I felt the pain of having nothing to read.

When talking about it with my better half, I was sent this Wired article on eReaders which sealed the deal.

Apparently you break even on the purchase at around 15 books as the books are around US$10 versus the $20-35 for a paperback. Given the amount I read, I'd break even by late January.

I'm a bit pissed off: early in December, only the 6" version was available but as of January 2010 (i.e. now), the DX 10" version is available. To be honest, I don't think I'd spend US$489 vs the US$259 for the larger version but it would have been nice to have had the option. Harvard Business Review takes a look at the markets the larger version seems to cater for. It was reported on it's release that the Kindle DX will also be a part of a pilot program at six universities across the country: Arizona State University, Reed College, Pace University in New York, Princeton University, Case Western University and the University of Virginia.

Now you can go out and get the Amazon Kindle reader for your PC and iPhone, but apparently the iPhone version doesn't allow you to browse the Kindle store. Mac and Blackberry versions are apparently coming soon too. Interesting, according to the ReadWriteWeb review, Amazon does not expect that this app will cannibalize Kindle sales as users will probably only use their phones to read for short periods.

There have been tonnes of rumours regarding an Apple tablet (iSlate?) and the Barnes & Noble eReader, but the key selling points for me with the Kindle were:
  1. The 'now' factor - I was looking for a present in December, so maybe the 4 points below are just me justifying my choice to myself!;
  2. The screen: it's e-Ink, not a back lit screen which is supposed to be easier on your eyes and more authentically replicates the book experience;
  3. Amazon's store: you get free wireless access to the store which makes getting a new magazine or book quick and simple. The store combined with the device is the killer app, much like Apple's iPod and iTunes combo;
  4. It is a gen 2 device so most of the annoying kinks have been worked out; and
  5. The ability to annotate, highlight and take notes - something I do a lot when reading.
Interestingly, the magazine experience doesn't work so well on the Kindle. Magazines are definitely optimised with glossy colour pictures, and they don't come out at all well on the Kindle.

However, I've found the book experience fantastic. The navigation is easy to learn and in minutes you wonder why you didn't take the plunge earlier.

We've now got two Kindles in our house (my better half decided they wanted one for Christmas), linked to a single Amazon account so we share all our eBooks.

My buying experience was slightly better: the Kindle came configured to my Amazon account and all I had to do was fire it up. Drew's experience was a little more painful: it wasn't configured/registered and it was an older version of the software so wasn't working with wireless (so couldn't be registered). To fix both issues, about 45 minutes was spent on the phone to Amazon support in India. They also sent us a 3rd Kindle in the process as a replacement and charged me for it. They've advised once they get the 3rd Kindle back, they'll refund me. They are all really minor issues and other than that it's been plain sailing.

Right now, not all books are available as Kindle editions, and then not all Kindle editions are available internationally. For instance, Seth Godin's latest output - Tribes - is one such example - much to my disappointment. Checkout this FastCompany article to learn the ins and outs of Amazon's struggles with publishers. I suspect this will change over time. Due to this issue, it's unlikely I've bought my last physical book, but I have found I'm likely to buy an alternative eBook rather than buy the book I was looking for. That's a message to publishers and writers: don't fight this trend, embrace it. And a message to Amazon: fix your stupid international publishing issues so the Kindle versions are available internationally - you'll lose revenue whilst this persists. Seth has a few of his own suggestions on improving the business model.

If you are an avid reader, I'd thoroughly recommend getting one.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:08 AM, ,

Life's a Pitch

I originally bought this book knowing of my leaving Adobe so thought it would be useful to get my brain into the right head-space for my next role. My partner also constantly accuses me of being too 'nice' at work and not trumpeting my successes nearly as much as I should.

So it was with those points in mind that I picked this book up at the airport on my way over to the United States in December, but as usual, didn't get through nearly half the reading material I took with me.

Fast forward to late February 2009, with several job options available to me, I finally opened this book (and ignore that it took until November for me to blog about it).

The book is organised into halves with each of the authors providing a different approach. Roger Mavity writes the first half and Stephen Bayley the second. Roger's style is more end-result oriented that is concise, organised and business-like, where as Stephen's style is a journey that is more philosophical and colourful. I gravitated more to the first half initially, but after a few chapters the second half grew on me.

This really is a 'must read'. For everyone. At first glance, you'd believe it was only for sales people but about 80 pages in you realise that "the whole of Life's a Pitch".

The first half of the book opens with a brilliant explanation of why 'pitching' matters:
"Life is not a pattern of gradually evolving improvement. It's a series of long, fallow patches punctuated by moments of crucial change. How you handle the long fallow stretches doesn't matter much. How you handle the moments of change is vital

These big moments are not decided by chance - they're decided by how you handle them. How you pitch your case is what makes the difference."
You can either choose to believe that or not... I do - as I made the point in my blog Optimism & Staying focused where I called out Po Bronson's point of similar effect as well as the underlying them to Outliers.

We're then guided through chapters such as:
Beautifully, we're then taken to the application of the pitch with examples such as job interviews, which as Roger notes: "All pitches are a personal test. But they are not a test of you alone. They may be a test of you and your team; they may be a test of you and your idea.... Except in one very special case: the interview".

Finally, Roger finishes up with the psychology of pitching - understanding the transfer of power. Again, to quote "It's about the removal of negatives and the creation of positives". It relates a little to the book All Marketers are Liars in terms of understanding the dynamics of what you are attempting to do. It's this chapter and the following six that segway so nicely from the 'how' into Stephen's... I guess you'd call it the 'why bother?'.

Read it and you will be better for it. Chop chop!

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:54 AM, ,

Driven to Distraction

I've discovered a trend. When I'm about to get on a long flight and I haven't put any preparation into the reading material for the flight, I go for the easy choice - another Clarkson.

Yes I know most long-haul flights have a gazillion channels of entertainment, but they don't operate whilst on the tarmac, takes-offs and landings.

So that's how I bought Driven to Distraction.

It's written in the same format as For Crying Out Loud! i.e. extracts from his Sunday Times column, but it's about cars this time mixed in with him carrying on about... pretty much everything!

A funny light-hearted read that petrol heads will enjoy :-)

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:43 AM, ,

The Lost Symbol & Spartan Gold

Two lighter and entertaining books definitely worth reading:
The Lost Symbol is the latest involving the character of Harvard University symbologist Robert Langdon, following Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. Having beat up the Catholic church in his previous two books, Brown takes a slightly new focus on Freemasonry in this novel.

In typical Brown style, the story takes place over a period of 12 hours with Langdon unraveling a series of codes on a treasure-hunt of sorts to save people lives yet again. Following the formula, this time set in Washington D.C., we are treated to local sites that have far deeper histories and meanings that commonly known.

Spartan Gold is the first in the new "Fargo Adventures" series, co-authored with Grant Blackwood, revolving around Sam and Remi Fargo, a couple who are professional treasure hunters.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:08 AM, ,

Outliers: The Story of Success

My first book review that I blogged was The Tipping Point. This was my first introduction to Malcolm Gladwell and I have to say: I was a fan and hanging out for his next book.

That next book was Blink which looked at the phenomenon of how we make snap judgements and the light and dark sides of that process.

In his latest book, Outliers, Malcolm takes a look at the story of success. "Outlier" is a scientific term to describe things that lie outside normal.

What Malcolm attempts to do is show us is that our sense for what constitutes success is incorrect: "People don't rise from nothing... It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't".

From Malcolm's Q&A on his website:
"...in order to understand the outlier I think you have to look around them—at their culture and community and family and generation. We've been looking at tall trees, and I think we should have been looking at the forest."
As a fantastic illustration, the book opens with an analysis of the Canadian Ice Hockey teams, their selection process based on birth cut-off dates and how that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I found the idea of the disadvantage of being born in December versus someone in your year at school born in January fascinating and quite personal (my birthday is in December) - a twelve month gap in age represents an enormous difference in physical maturity for two ten year-olds. It really does add a new spin to the idea that timing is everything.

The point being made is that "if you separate the 'talented' from the 'untalented' and you provide the 'talented' with superior experience, then you're going to end up giving a huge advantage to that small group of people". If 'talent' if based on age rather than true apples-for-apples skill, your logic is flawed.

Malcolm then introduces us to the "10,000-Hour Rule", claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practising a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

The rest of the book then provides supporting evidence for his thesis.

Most engaging of all though in Outliers is how Malcolm looks at his own family history and personalises the story to conclude the book.

As always, the criticism around Malcolm's books persists: he over simplifies complex social trends. I content that this simplification of macro-trends is what makes Malcolm's books so engaging and easy to comprehend.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:35 AM, ,


I added this book to my Amazon wish-list after having read The Price of Loyalty and being intrigued by the viewpoint:

"When this project officially began in February 2003, I was heartened, though not surprised, to find Paul O'Neill had a striking view of the value of secrecy - that it had almost no value. We both happened to have read Secrecy, a 1998 book by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a friend and mentor to O'Neill, who wrote that twenty years on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had taught him a single sterling lesson: The threat to our national security is not from secrets revealed, it's from bad analysis."

Daniel Patrick Moynihan (as per wikipedia) was an American politician and sociologist. A member of the Democratic Party, he was first elected to the United States Senate for New York in 1976, and was re-elected three times (in 1982, 1988, and 1994). He declined to run for re-election in 2000. Prior to his years in the Senate, Moynihan was the United States' ambassador to the United Nations and to India, and was a member of four successive presidential administrations, beginning with the administration of John F. Kennedy, and continuing through Gerald Ford.

The books originated when, in the Post–Cold War Era, the 103rd Congress enacted legislation directing an inquiry into the uses of government secrecy. Moynihan chaired the Commission. The Committee studied and made recommendations on the "culture of secrecy" that pervaded the United States government and its intelligence community for 80 years, beginning with the Espionage Act of 1917, and made recommendations on the statutory regulation of classified information.

The Committee's findings and recommendations were presented to the President in 1997. As part of the effort, Moynihan secured release from the Federal Bureau of Investigation of its classified Venona file - the history of which is truly fascinating:
  1. President Truman was not told of the contents of made aware of the contents of these decryptions; and
  2. It's potential impact to have shed much needed light on Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs and Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess.

This file documents the FBI's joint counterintelligence investigation, with the United States Signals Intelligence Service, into Soviet espionage within the United States. Much of the information had been collected and classified as secret information for over fifty years.

Mr Moynihan looks at how this culture has impacted decades of American politics, including the Iran-Contra affair and pretty much the entire Nixon administration with it's disastrous culmination in his impeachment.

He also looks at the economic & functional costs of such a culture.

A big part of my interest in this book was how it provided perspective on the Bush II administration and how it can be viewed through the lens of books such as The Price of Loyalty, The One Percent Doctrine and State of Denial. Aside from the Cheney agenda contained within each and it's domination of the administration, all show how a culture of secrecy shaped thinking - even to the point of insane stupidity.

Don't be misled, however: Mr Moynihan wasn't advocating abolishing of secrecy, merely that it shouldn't hidden from scrutiny and that it has a 'shelf life' before it's costs outweigh it's benefits.

Beyond politics, I think many of these lessons can be applied to the workplace. People hoard information as if it is a competitive differentiation for them with their colleagues i.e. people working for the same organisation sharing the same organisational goals. In that context, I was given great advice a long time ago: information isn't power, it's a burden.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:27 AM, ,

For Crying Out Loud!

I confess: this book was a last minute airport pickup as I was worried I didn't have enough reading material for the flights from Sydney to Toronto.

I grabbed it as the last Clarkson book I read, I know you got Soul, was so entertaining. Sadly, this book doesn't quite hit the same mark.

Basically, Jeremy carries on (rather amusingly) about issues he encounters.

Don't get me wrong, it's funny and worth reading... if you are offered a cheap/free copy. :-)


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:06 AM, ,

The Art of Profitability

I first read The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky almost 6 years ago, but I've picked it up recently to re-read again.

The book takes the form of a relationship between a wise mentor, David Zhao, and an eager student, Steve Gardner, to take the reader through the process of understanding the different models. In essence, the reader becomes Steve in his quest to understand the profit models.

The book is aimed at describing and giving insight into each model; it is not an in depth analysis of profitability. Having said that, this book definitely is to understanding profit models as what: Blink is to thinking, Tipping Point is to social change, Crossing the Chasm is to technology adoption, First, Break all the Rules is to people management, and Winning is to business management.

The author cautions readers to "please read only one chapter per week... Think about it. Let it stew." His advice, centered around the mantra that the path to profitability lies in fully understanding the customer, is valuable i.e. watch out for cracks in a business's foundation because they can quickly lead to a collapse.

A must read.

Checkout the book excerpt at Business Know How and an interview with Adrian at Harbus .

I've also uploaded my notes on the 23 profit models here.


posted by Lee Gale @ 2:28 AM, ,

Corporate Confidential

I purchased Corporate Confidential by Cynthia Shapiro from Amazon along with a whole other bunch of books just after I left Adobe.

I can't say I remember what it was about the book that interested me... I think it was a review in a magazine or online. I figured at the very least, any book with a sub-title of "50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know---and What to Do About Them" would be worth reading.

I guess the section "Secret 2 - Layoffs aren't what you've been told" was of interest to me at the time, but I can't say this chapter or any others were particularly revealing for someone who's spent the majority of their career working for American corporations. If you have been similarly working in the matrix and any of these concepts are new, I'd be worried about your awareness of your surrounding environment.

Having said that, there were some useful pieces of information worth keeping front of mind. For example, in the section I've already mentioned above, the first danger sign is where you are highly compensated compared to others. Whoops.

There are many axioms you'd find in Winning, and several other books. In fact, this book positions many of the topics in Winning including a company's real drivers (hint: it's NOT giving you flex time for the fun of it!) and tips for managers (particularly the one I last referred to in The seven habits of a typical bad manager : "praise in public, correct in private"). The section "Secret 50 - Winning is everything" should ram home my point about the parallels. :-)

Another book I'm yet to blog about, Life's a Pitch, echoes the point that "everything is sales" when it comes to influencing your career path within an organisation.

Finishing the comparisons with other good books, echoing Tim Ferris' advice in The 4-hr Workweek, is the section on methods for high-level goal achievement. Simply, it's about writing them down, dividing them into manageable steps and getting on with them! It's worth revisiting To-do lists where I've written about this before.

An interesting section that I've not had to deal with in my career, was "Secret 30 - you can have an office romance without breaking your career". The advice provided is interesting considering that so much of our lives are spent in the workplace that it's inevitable people will be attracted to people they work with.

On reflection, it's interesting to apply some of the thoughts in this book to issues raised in The Price of Loyalty. You'd perhaps argue against that book's central theme - that Paul O'Neill was not rewarded for his loyalty - because he wasn't 'loyal' the the one person he needed to be - his boss, George W. Bush (or Dick Cheney depending on your views as to who was running that show).

Overall, this was a good book that is a quick read (~190 pages) that will definitely reinforce the messaging in the other books I've mentioned here.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:48 AM, ,

Shell Global Scenarios to 2025

I can't remember how I was put onto this book, perhaps it was even a recommendation by Amazon? Regardless, Shell Global Scenarios to 2025 was a pretty interesting read.

Now, the first thing to be prepared for, is that this is presented in the style of a companies' annual report or text-book, so if you are hoping to pickup a gripping novel, this book isn't what you are looking for.

Shell Global Scenarios to 2025 provides us with an outlook on future scenarios influenced by the dominant forces of our times. The Shell website provides text from Shell Global Scenarios to 2050 and has a good executive summary available for download of the Scenarios to 2025.

Shell Global Scenarios to 2025 is particularly influenced by Enron and 9/11. In the book, we are taken through three forces at play:
The three core 'scenarios' influenced by those forces, with the associated trade offs between the above 'unachievable utopias', we are presented with are:
I'd love to read the 08-09 reports because the GFC will likely show a hybrid of the Low Trust Globalisation & Flags scenarios to dominate how we operate as a society during the period 2008-2011.

Of particular note has been how Europe and China are following the US lead on stimulus packages and the ensuring regulatory overhauls as forecasted.

Interestingly, little of the impact foreseen from Enron has occurred to date, but I suspect with Obama in office and the GFC still bubbling along, that will change rapidly in 2009.

The Middle East scenario has played out more, as you would expect given the troop levels of past years. This too has played out more along the lines outline in the Flags scenario - "a turbulent Middle East driven by conflict. Low oil prices provide additional incentives to attempt cautious reform, but this is bitterly contested. Groups unite against common enemies rather than for common objectives".

Both the Low Trust Globalisation & Flags scenarios review the cost of compliance and how that is likely to negatively impact trade. I'd argue the GFC definitely puts a dent in much of the Open Doors scenario panning out, and puts a question on how the Global Environmental Movement (GEM) with externalities such as carbon costs priced in via trading schemes will progress - if at all.

An an interesting point in the Flags scenario is the economic growth outlook. Despite the scenario being conceptually driven by security concerns, it is interesting to see how today's economic situation makes much of these hypothesis likely, including:
Conversely, some of the elements they predict will be unlikely, specifically "the reduced mobility of capital ensures emerging markets (BRICs) receive less foreign direct investment". I'd argue with the US domestic market unlikely to experience real growth in the coming 2 years, multi-nationals will look more intently towards emerging markets for growth.

Finally, one of the most fascinating reviews is between India and China. The historical comparisons of manufacturing value add, rural populations, IT&C services exports & numbers of computers per 1000 people was quite eye opening and provided good data for their summary - that India's sustained growth to 2025 will not be as great as China's (4-6%% to China's 6-8%). Regardless, it is clear both India & China will be the dominant growth engines in my lifetime. That is particularly enforced by the views on African futures and the current drain of critical skills they are experiencing.

In all, an interesting but reasonably technical read.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:30 AM, ,

Liar's Poker

I ordered Liar's Poker book shortly after having blogged The End of Wall Street's Boom having enjoying Michael Lewis's writing style. I was also intrigued to read his story given how long the boom actually lasted - I guess in an attempted to better understand the booms origins.

Within Liar's Poker, Lewis provides his account of his four years with Salomon Brothers from 1984 through the crash of October 1987. This includes his rather interesting (but not unique) hiring, the training program and years as a bond salesman in London.

It's an hilarious story and it will have you shaking your head in disbelief - unless you've worked in sales or on a trading floor: both of which I've done. If you enjoyed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, you'll love this book for successfully combining history, behavioral science and humour. It also serves to explain the current sub-prime mortgage mess that was the catalyst of the GFC we are living through.

The backdrop to the drama was the economic decisions made by the US Federal Reserve in October 1979, chaired by Paul Volcker, whereby they announced that money supply would no longer fluctuate with the business cycle: money supply would be fixed and interest rates would float. As bond prices move inversely with rates of interest, this set the wheels in motion for the events that created the gold rush Lewis shares with us.

The title of the book refers to the game of deceit that many of the best traders (or "Big Swinging Dick's" as Lewis refers to them) played and the relationship the game had to their success as bond traders. According to Lewis, "In any market, as in any poker game, there is a fool. Warren Buffet is fond of saying that any player unaware of the fool in the market, probably is the fool in the market. Knowing about markets is knowing about other people's weaknesses. And a fool, they would say, was a person who was willing to sell a bond for less or buy a bond for more than it was worth".

To illustrate the "iron testicle, market whipping" behaviour at work, Lewis shares the example (amongst many others) whereby a trader attempts to buy on the money market as prices were rising against him. The trader explains to his boss that "He couldn't buy money as all the sellers were running like chickens". His boss responds "Then you be the seller". The trader then sells a hundred million dollars and the market collapses to the price he was originally trying to buy at. He buys back the hundred million dollars plus the fifty million he wanted, and books a tidy profit on the trades.

Having had it pointed out in the book that "Blackjack is the only nonindependent outcome game in the casino" and knowing that when you have the statistical advantage you need to bet big, I'll be reading up on card counting!

It's worth re-reading (or reading for the first time) Michael Lewis' article titled The End of Wall Street's Boom on Portfolio.com from December 2008 - it provides a great footnote to the book. I particularly loved the story about Danny Moses:
When a Wall Street firm helped him get into a trade that seemed perfect in every way, he said to the salesman, “I appreciate this, but I just want to know one thing: How are you going to screw me?”. Heh heh heh, c’mon. We’d never do that, the trader started to say, but Moses was politely insistent: We both know that unadulterated good things like this trade don’t just happen between little hedge funds and big Wall Street firms. I’ll do it, but only after you explain to me how you are going to screw me. And the salesman explained how he was going to screw him. And Moses did the trade.
It also serves to punctuate the point: one man's misfortune is another's opportunity. Whilst most of us were watching our investments plummet, someone was on the other end of the trade enjoying the short sell.

Finally, this book provides an interesting counter-point to Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? in the sense that Liar's Poker shows us the dark side (just as Enron did) to 'culture'.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 5:24 PM, ,

Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?

This book was recommended to my by a colleague during a merger period at Adobe and the one key lesson I took from this book was the role culture plays within an organisation. Prior to this book and the merger at Adobe, my view on culture was that it was a 'soft' and 'fluffy' issue. Afterwards I came to appreciate it is possible the #1 issue managers need to be focused on. Without a high-performing, coherent and accountable team, good results are almost impossible to achieve.

Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? is Louis V. Gerstner Jr's memoir about his time as CEO during the turnaround of IBM - including the recruitment process which is quite insightful. When Gerstner became CEO of IBM in 1993, shares were in freefall and the company was on the verge of collapse. During this period, IBM underwent a dramatic transformation back into an industry leader.

In his frank, direct voice, Gerstner recalls the obstacles he faced: the plans to fragment the company; the inconsistent global policies; the stodgy white-shirt hierarchy and inter-departmental competitiveness; and the rapidly declining sales. Gerstner drops in a number of emails to & from employees during the time to provide colour to the situations he takes the reader through.

I also found Gerstner's views on compensation (and it's role as a lever to influence culture) to have been quite interesting. Again, I previously viewed 'team' compensation plans to be places for non-performers to hide but I've since come to appreciate a combination of team and individual targets to be instrumental in driving a combination of individual and team achievement. As Gerstner writes: "...people respect what you inspect".

This book sits somewhere between Jack Welch's Winning, a 'guide' and Jack: Straight from the Gut, a memoir - and reiterates many of Jack's key points (for example, one of Gerstner's first principles is winning).

If you don't believe culture plays THE pivotal part of an organisations success, I'd recommend reading this.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:09 AM, ,


In my blog Optimism & Staying Focused, I mentioned Meiron Lees who is an executive coach and trainer that I was introduced to last year. When we last caught up for coffee in January and having told him about my changes with Adobe, Meiron handed me a copy of his book.

With D-Stress, Meiron takes us through 7 resilience builders to manage your stress:
  1. Transforming your Thought Attacks™
  2. Asking the right questions
  3. Focusing on the now
  4. Telling a different story
  5. Changing the labels
  6. Observing the feeling
  7. Developing a sense of gratitude
In all, a good, simple and effective framework for changing how you look and react to all the stuff that happens in life.

There were a few points I had mixed feelings about, for instance, I subscribe to Tim Ferris's view on stress - it is really distress (the negative) and eustress (the positive). As such, Meiron really focuses on distress in his book.

Having said that, D-Stress is a good amalgamation of lots of points I believe strongly in, including:
Finally, hat's off to Meiron for offering a course by which to take action to change. Meiron encourages readers to practise just one idea for the ensuring 21 days - similar to Leo Babauta's process outlined by Tim Ferris here.

You can download the 'sampler' here and buy the book online here.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 8:20 PM, ,


During December I read Winning by Jack Welch. Having read Jack: Straight from the Gut previously and enjoying Jack's writing style, I figured this would be a good read whilst travelling.

His first book was more of a memoir where as Winning is more of a 'how to' guide organised as follows:

As Michael Erisman writes on his review of this book on Amazon.com, "The book itself is written in a conversational tone. It is easy to read, and feels as though you are in a dialog with him over a cup of coffee."

I had started out concerned that I was going to come away with stories that were really only applicable to monster-size organisations such as GE, but what really impressed me with Winning was how Jack applies universal principles that are suitable for large and small organisations alike.

A large part of this comes from Jack's distillation of topics that business schools and corporations have needlessly turned into marathon events when really all that is required is having a solid understanding of the key factors at play in both your business and the market at large, and creating a flexible operating plan to deal with them.

One of things I've discovered reading books like this is you can never have too many ideas about how to improve what you do to succeed at your own career, or how to get things done. Whether you take any of the new ideas onboard, dismiss them or simply have an existing behaviour reinforced, doesn't matter.

Three ideas I will definitely leverage;
  1. Realizing that mentors don’t always look like mentors and there isn’t one perfect mentor;

  2. Strategy is a living, breathing, dynamic game - you pick a general direction and implement like hell rather than getting bogged down in the process. Pages 173-180 of the book have "5 Slides" of strategy creation that I'm going to use in the the future; and

  3. The operating plan replacement for the budget introduced on page 198. Again, like strategy, this process at the past organisations I've worked in is all back-to-front. It's about what we can do over last year rather than looking at what the market and competitors are doing and other variables like how foreign exchange or consumer spending will impact the organisation.
In summary, this is a must-read book for everyone and I've already ear-marked a few friends that need to read certain chapters to better comprehend decisions/issues they are dealing with!

Still not convinced? Checkout this interview with Jack Welch on YouTube:

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posted by Lee Gale @ 12:19 AM, ,

State of Denial

I thought it best to get this book blog in before the inauguration of Barack Obama... sort of like closing one door before opening another.

I picked up State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III by Bob Woodward on the recommendations by numerous people I spoke with, both close friends and friends of friends, at the same time I picked up The Tipping Point. Both books seemed to be Zeitgeist around October 2007.

State of Denial is the third in Woodward's series on the George W. Bush administration and I was quiet interested to get into the book given the illustrious career of Bob Woodward. His style of writing definitely appeals to my appreciation for detail, in fact it is quite similar to Ron Suskind's writing as it is built on interviews and presented in a third-person omniscient narrative. Both The One Percent Doctrine and The Price of Loyalty make excellent supplemental reading to State of Denial. Combined, they provide quiet an interesting, almost 360 degree view on the George W. Bush administration.

What is interesting is that Woodward seems to have come 180 degrees (or at least somewhat off the original course) on his opinion of the administration and I think this makes for a great perspective - it's initially neither sycophantic nor overly critical so you feel like you are on the journey with Bob as makes his discoveries and forms his opinions. For example, Woodward believed the Bush Administration's claims of Iraqi WMDs prior to the war, but during this book the truth unfolds. As a consequence, you get a feel for how the mistakes were made and you can appreciate both sides of the coin, so to speak.

Now, it would be fair to state this book appeals to my world views on George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice & Donald Rumsfeld i.e. I think they have done terribly in executing their responsibilities of office and the results speak for themselves. Having said that, if you want a more balanced view on this book, check out MetaCritic.

Let's continue hoping that President-elect Barack Obama doesn't provide journalists with such material for books of this nature. I'd certainly recommend having a 'feel good' book queued up soon afterwards so you can get over your feelings of extreme frustration and disappointment quickly.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:10 PM, ,

The World Is Flat

I was introduced to this book by Simon Dale from SAP at a conference he was the keynote speaker for. Interestingly, I had read an article on the image used on the cover being central to a copyright case, so I was automatically interested. I then heard this book spoken about by several other people in casual conversation (clearly the book had reached tipping point) so felt compelled to read it.

So I jumped on Amazon and ordered The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman (my copy is the expanded version).

I would suggest this book is a must read for any student and anyone in business so they can get a good view on the dynamics of the world we're in today.

I think a good indicator of how popular this book is that Googling "The World Is Flat book" returns 994,000 results! As you can imagine, the NY Times whom Friedman writes for regularly, has a pretty good review and summary.

Friedman not only writes well, but does so on an important subject- globalization - or more specifically the nature of the business world and how the global interconnectedness and outsourcing has leveled the playing field.

How did our current climate come about? There are 10 'flatteners' in total that Friedman lays out for us in the first part of the book (over some 200 pages and listed at Wiki) before explaining "the triple convergence" of all of them to reach tipping point.

But what about the opportunities and threats going forward? Whilst Friedman's view is largely focused on the United States (pages 261 to 392), the issues impact any "first world" nation including Australia. Friedman sounds the alarm with a call for diligence and fortitude - academically, politically, and economically. He sees a dangerous complacency, from Washington down through the public school system. Students are no longer motivated.

At this point if you've been following my blog, you will realise why I liked this book: it appeals to a world-view I have, specifically that we need to be investing in our education infrastructure to remain globally competitive. If you want a balanced view on this book, check out MetaCritic.

When you read through most people's reviews and comments of this book, the key criticism seems to be that the the book is very well-written, but over simplifies many of the key issues - most notably the realities surrounding the fact that in order for such a system to work with any kind of sustainability it needs to create jobs to replace the ones that have been outsourced.

Friedman's answer to this is that creativity and inventiveness will take the place of the grunt-work that's been outsourced. The critics argue that many of our society's most financially successful businesses have never invented or innovated anything, instead relying on finding new ways to produce an existing product in a way that's cheaper and faster than their nearest competitor - thus fostering an environment that's not very conducive to innovation. But isn't 'process' a competitive differentiator? And therefore building a better mousetrap is innovation! Additionally, I suspect only a small percentage of a sector needs to innovate (aka Apple, Google, Netscape, etc) to upset the incumbents (like Microsoft) sufficiently to drive change.

If you'd like to speed read the book (which I don't think you should because you'll miss out on most of the compelling information), Wiki Summaries has it online.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 6:16 AM, ,

All Marketers Are Liars

I was first introduced to Seth Godin's views and style on his regular "Change Agent" posting on Fast Company. The article that hooked me was his amusing views on business schools.

So, on a rare occasion when we were dashing through the airport on our way to a holiday (not work), I quickly grabbed his book All Marketers Are Liars from the shelf.

Seth offers his views on how marketers can discover and tell authentic stories that are believed by those who tell them and listen to them.

It appealed to me as pretty much the whole book is relevant in my work in software sales.

Note, there are extensive references to:
I'd recommend checking these out first in order to get more value out of "All Marketers Are Liars".

Essentially, the key take-away I saw in All Markets Are Liars, was the concept of appealing to people's worldviews and developing marketing (messaging) around that, rather than trying to buck the system.

As Seth proposes, people’s worldviews are different and we don’t all want the same thing. People can see the same data and make a totally different decision - so don’t try and change someone’s worldview. Seth contents that marketing succeeds when enough people with similar worldviews come together in a way that allows marketers to reach them cost-effectively, and therefore your opportunity lies in finding a neglected worldview, framing your story in a way that this audience will focus on and going from there.

But one caveat: a worldview is not forever - it’s what the consumer believes right now.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 3:09 AM, ,

The 4-Hour Workweek

Back in July 2008, Mark Szulc and I had dinner at Great India in Wellington - the place that has kind of become a ritual every time we're both in Wellington together.

On our way back to our respective hotels, we were chatting about career's and the workloads of various paths. Mark asked me if I enjoyed the 'politics' (which is a terrible term for something that I think is quite an important part of an organisation... mmm, blog topic in incubation!), the travel, the workload, etc we both face in our current and possible future roles. I said "yes". For me, my work/career is really like a hobby that I get paid to do. If I had $100m parked in a bank account somewhere, I'd still be doing a version of this every day.

Mark suggested I read The 4-Hour Workweek and let him know if I still felt the same way.

Well, after completing the book, I do. But I would suggest it has opened my eyes to some alternative ways of getting more out of the effort I put into my work.

The core of Tim's framework to an alternative work life is D.E.A.L: Definition, Elimination, Automation and Liberation.

I totally agree with Tim’s view of living your life vs working to save so you can enjoy life in your retirement. Additionally, setting ‘unreasonable’ goals is something my partner and I talk about a lot as we try to find new goals and dreams to chase.

I'm going to follow this introduction up with a few topics that this book has got me thinking about:
  1. Pareto's law aka the 80/20 rule
  2. Parkinson's law
  3. Low information diet
  4. To-do lists
  5. Outsourcing life
  6. When you ask for something can have more impact than how you ask
Tim also touches on topics I've covered in the past including: emphasizing strengths, not fixing weaknesses - this allows you to achieve multiplication of results by leveraging your strengths instead of incremental gain from fixing your weaknesses. For more on this line of thinking, check out First, Break All The Rules.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 3:28 AM, ,

Who Moved My Cheese?

Back in December 2005, Adobe officially acquired Macromedia in a merger agreement. Whilst this was excellent news for customers and shareholders due to the product synergies this provided, the news for employees was less clear-cut, primarily due to all the stress that goes with a merger.

My journey was, frankly, the most traumatic experience of my adult life. My career that I'd been cultivating with Adobe for 3 years prior was completely changed. I moved from an Asia Pacific role reporting to a WW VP based at head-office who had decades of experience at companies like IBM and Peoplesoft, to a local country manager that had no previous experience of comparable requirement.

During this change, I dealt with it largely in my own way, and whilst I had fantastic support from my partner, I didn't really know how to compartmentalise problems at work with my home life.

Thankfully, the year's experience was valuable for my personal growth and my career with Adobe survived. In that year, I learned a lot about corporate culture (which I'll talk about when reviewing the book Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?) , communication with your partner and what you want in life (which I touched on when discussing my fitness program and I'll also cover more later), and dealing with change in general.

I was put on to Who Moved My Cheese? by a colleague at work AFTER I had already really started dealing with the issues mentioned above. :-) Oh well, it was brilliant anyway in providing a frame for the views I had developed.

It's a really short book (96 pages) by Dr Spencer Johnson, author of the One Minute Manager series, but don't let the size of the book fool you into thinking it doesn't have enough content. It is because the book is so succinct and to the point that it is relevant.

Who Moved My Cheese? is written in the style of a parable and describes change in one's work and life, and four typical reactions to said change with two mice, two "little people", and their hunts for cheese. Wikipedia has a pretty good outline.

Who Moved My Cheese? is definitely one of my recommendations for everyone's book shelf. Whilst I haven't quiet mastered the art of not reacting to my cheese being moved (I'll implore my partner not to add verbose comments to this statement!), thanks to the simple reminders in this book, I'm getting a little better.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 3:33 AM, ,


My first book review that I blogged, was The Tipping Point. The second book that Gladwell brings us is Blink.

Blink takes a look at rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye.

I had been introduced to the idea of 'thin-slicing' previously as 'filters' your brain has for what it will and won't take notice of. I can't remember where but I suspect I've just supported the point of the book!

I believe the author's research and assessment of 'blinking' was quite balanced - both the positive and negative views on it - but in taking a look online at the commentary about the book, I marvel at how it appears so many people seem to have absorbed only half the book.

For instance: I don't agree with the Wikipedia comment: "he finds that experts often make better decisions with snap judgments than they do with volumes of analysis". I think Gladwell did suggest in some cases this can be true, but I don't think that's all he suggested, rather, that once we're aware of a situation and the influential forces acting in that situation we can leverage our experience to short-cut much of that analysis. I'd content you had to have done some of that analysis at least once (i.e. study) to fully understand the situation and therefore be able to more rapidly assess it, but I don't think you can forgo that study completely.

As Gladwell writes on his website: "It's thinking--its just thinking that moves a little faster and operates a little more mysteriously than the kind of deliberate, conscious decision-making that we usually associate with 'thinking'".

Interestingly, in writing this blog I came across the book Think, which from the looks of things takes offence at half the argument (the positive aspects of 'blinking') and mounts the opposing argument on the 'snap judgement' front. Given my view is that Gladwell didn't really make the point that we should all just start being lazy with our brains and instead try to understand and harness this power, I'll be skipping Think. Having said that, I'm sure Gladwell is pleased that someone has taken the time to put up an opposing view (assuming they didn't merely attempt to crudely capitalise on his success).

At the very least, you should take away from this book a better understanding of the process your mind goes through when you 'judge that book by it's cover'.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:06 PM, ,

Crossing the Chasm

This is a very retrospective 'review', but I rate Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" as a 'must read', not only for those in the technology industry but everyone who has anything to do with creating and selling products & services (i.e. pretty much everyone!).

Moore's theory centers on the Technology Adoption Lifecycle (TALC), a sociological model that describes the adoption or acceptance of a new product or innovation, according to the demographic and psychological characteristics of defined adopter groups, originally outlined in Everett Rogers Diffusion of innovations theory.

Moore's key insight is that the groups adopt innovations for different reasons and that a 'chasm' exists between between the early adopters of the product (the technology enthusiasts and visionaries) and the early majority (the pragmatists).

Beyond the theory, Moore introduces a lot of concepts and frameworks that will become the bread and butter of any entrepreneur, marketer, product manager and/or sales person.

An example of how ubiquitous Moore's work has become is the references made in other publications. A good example is The Tipping Point reviewed here.

Moore went on to found The Chasm Group, whose work I've had the good fortune of being exposed to at Adobe. Sadly everything produced was/is confidential and can't be shared publicly, but it is succinct and addressed some big opportunities into easy to prioritise and implement strategies.

In researching for this article, I've been reminded that there are a number of sequels to this book, including Inside the Tornado, Living on the Fault Line, The Chasm Companion and Dealing with Darwin. I will add them to my Amazon "Wish List" immediately.

If you are still not convinced to run out and read this book, checkout this quick summary of the key points in the book.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 7:00 AM, ,

The One Percent Doctrine

I first read about this book in either The Economist or Diplomat magazines and a great quote from author Ron Suskind drew me in where he was talking about the Bush/Cheney staff view that they were defining the new reality in which the rest of us live.


Following on from The Price of Loyalty, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 continues to investigate the key themes of the Bush administration: facts and reality give way to Cheney’s management of Bush and the formulation of policy without transparency and educated debate.

Central to the title is the "one percent doctrine": threats with even a 1% likelihood must be treated as certainties. Which in turn results in "the severing of fact-based analysis from forceful response".

In The One Percent Doctrine, we join CIA chief George Tenet as he bends his beliefs as he attempts to remain loyal to Bush, with the end result the mess in the middle east we have today. This drive might have largely been generated through Bush supporting Tenet in the post-9/11 world (the book starts on September 12th, 2001), but I can't say at any point in reading the book I would have made the same choices Tenet made in walking that tight-rope - between staying in the game and making a difference or telling the boss what you want to say.

I think the author has a bright future ahead - I'll certainly be reading whatever he publishes! What I particularly enjoy is that he doesn't tell us what he thinks, rather, he simply presents the thoughts of the individual(s) he is writing about. Having said that, I'm sure any Republican will suggest he is twisting and manipulating words to sell books. I think their response makes me like the book & author better. :-)

You can checkout more details of the book on the author's site: http://www.ronsuskind.com/theonepercentdoctrine/ or on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_One_Percent_Doctrine

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:34 PM, ,

The Price of Loyalty

Inside "The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill", author Ron Suskind collaborates with former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to document his two years as part of the George W. Bush White House.

The book is incredibly factual and detailed, primarily due to O'Neill providing extensive documentation to Suskind, including schedules with 7,630 entries and a set of 19,000 documents that featured memoranda to the President, thank-you notes, meeting minutes, and voluminous reports.

Now, you'd have to wonder why one of Bush's most senior staff members would offer this view on events. These people have long memories and would make the remainder of your life tougher than it needed to be. Well, aside from O'Neill being well off financially, a quick excerpt from the author's note I think underscores why O'Neill provided his account:
"When this project officially began in February 2003, I was heartened, though not surprised, to find Paul O'Neill had a striking view of the value of secrecy - that it had almost no value. We both happened to have read Secrecy, a 1998 book by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a friend and mentor to O'Neill, who wrote that twenty years on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had taught him a single sterling lesson: The threat to our national security is not from secrets revealed, it's from bad analysis."

I loved O'Neill analysis, debates and always “doing the right thing” approach as painted by the author.

Throughout the book, we are treated to the debate of: what is the difference between philosophy and ideology? The conclusion, that I agree with, he makes is, to quote, "Ideology is a lot easier, because you don't have to know anything or search for anything. You already know the answer to everything. It's not penetrable by facts. It's absolutism".

This reminds me on the comments George Soros, international financier and billionaire investor, made in the 2004 elections: "When I hear Bush say 'You're either with us or against us,' it reminds me of the Nazi's," he told the Post. Bush made his "with us or against us" comments during a post-Sept. 11, 2001, speech in which he admonished the nations of the world to join the U.S. in its battle against global terrorism, which affects many countries and has killed scores of people worldwide. But regardless of the context, absolutism doesn't belong in the White House.

The real bombshell this book delivered was the claims that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was not a reaction to the attacks of September 11, but was instead a campaign in the planning stages ever since Bush took office. Documentation provided that supports this is a February 1, 2001, NSC meeting agenda which clearly tables "Political-Military Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq Crisis". I guess the horse has bolted on us doing anything about that now, aside from ensuring members of the Bush White House never hold positions of public office again.

I have to say, this being the third book I've read that reviews members of the George W. Bush White House (the others being "The One Percent Doctrine" and Bob Woodward's "State of Denial"), I can't say I've got a single positive word to say about the current presidency. Not a single one.

You can obviously learn more by buying & reading the book, but I'd also recommend reading more about Ron Suskind on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Suskind and on his own website: http://www.ronsuskind.com/

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posted by Lee Gale @ 6:48 PM, ,

50 Facts that Should Change the World

A typical condition in my choice of reading is something to help pass the time whilst on board a plane.

What criteria do I apply when making this choice? Usually the book will fit into one or more of these categories:

"50 Facts that Should Change the World" fell into the last category.

I'd recommend it to anyone as a bit of a reminder of some of the challenges we face around the world.

Taking a look specifically at the poverty situations covered in the book that are quite eye opening:
There are more, but what this book did for me was again reinforce how great the need is to focus on education as a key method for helping people escape the cycle. Granted, they need to be safe from violence (war, hate crimes, etc) and have the ability to feed themselves before education can begin.

Sadly, our dog (who was a puppy at the time) also decided the book was intriguing... and chewed through facts 8 to 12. :-(

Thankfully I had read these before they were consumed.


posted by Lee Gale @ 3:09 AM, ,