Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I couldn't articulate this thought better than Seth Godin did in his blog. I hope he doesn't mind I'm reposting it on mine. Thanks Seth Godin - we see the same problem in the present and have the same hope for the future.


Let's not race to the bottom.

We know that industrialists seek to squeeze every penny out of every market. We know that competitors want to drive their costs to zero so that they will be the obvious commodity choice. And we know that many that seek to unearth natural resources want all of it, fast and cheap and now.

We can eliminate rules protecting clean water or consumer safety. We can extort workers to show up and work harder for less, in order to underbid a competitor. We can take advantage of less sophisticated consumers and trick them into consuming items for short-term satisfaction and long-term pain. These might be painful outcomes, but they're an direct path to follow. We know how to do this.

In our connected world, commodity producers are under intense pressure. The price of anything that's made to a spec, or that responds to an RFP, is instantly known by all buyers. That means that there's an argument made by big corporations for each country to charge corporations the lowest possible tax rate, to loosen environmental regulations down to zero, and to eliminate employee protections. All so that a country's commodity producers can be the cheapest ones.

I know we can do that. There's always the opportunity to cut a corner, sacrifice lifestyle quality and suck it up as we race to grab a little more market share.

But the problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win.

You might make a few more bucks for now, but not for long and not with pride. Someone will always find a way to be cheaper or more brutal than you.

The race to the top makes more sense to me. The race to the top is focused on design and respect and dignity and guts and innovation and sustainability and yes, generosity when it might be easier to be selfish. It's also risky, filled with difficult technical and emotional hurdles, and requires patience and effort and insight. The race to the top is the long-term path with the desirable outcome.

Sign me up.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


The end of the article reads:

“You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards,” said a current Apple executive. 

“And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China.” 

Enough said. Shame on Apple and everyone who turns a blind eye to these types of practices in pursuit of a toy. 
I'm reading the New York Times article about Apple and I'm just sick to my stomach. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/business/ieconomy-apples-ipad-and-the-human-costs-for-workers-in-china.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

So much of what I read is familiar - although extreme. Have suppliers clamoring to work with you, take apart their financials so you know actual cost and then allow a minimum profit. It's the new American way... and we reward these companies with tax breaks. Maybe this time - because the story is about the iconic American company, Apple - the country will understand what is happening and what they are complicit in.

Yes, there is such a thing as too much profit if that profit comes from these types of practices. Here's a short blurb from the article. You have to read it for yourself.

"Apple typically asks suppliers to specify how much every part costs, how many workers are needed and the size of their salaries. Executives want to know every financial detail. Afterward, Apple calculates how much it will pay for a part. Most suppliers are allowed only the slimmest of profits. 

So suppliers often try to cut corners, replace expensive chemicals with less costly alternatives, or push their employees to work faster and longer, according to people at those companies. 

'The only way you make money working for Apple is figuring out how to do things more efficiently or cheaper,' said an executive at one company that helped bring the iPad to market. 'And then they’ll come back the next year, and force a 10 percent price cut.'" 

We are a better country. We are a better people than this. 

Friday, April 9, 2010


Have you noticed how data is getting more respect than knowledge these day? How new industries are sprouting out of the insatiable need for numbers to crunch? Why risk making a decision on your own when you can quote data instead, right?

No, not right.

Of course you need data to make an informed decision. Heck, you need data to know if you have the data you need (stop me). But I'm terribly uncomfortable with the way that data has become a cover to hide behind or a curtain that separates groups within a company.

Take Six Sigma, for example. I love the fact that Six Sigma uses a PROCESS to arrive at a conclusion. Oh, I love process. I love Deming. I'm a bit of a geek that way. There's nothing lovelier than a good, solid, clean and clear process. But I see many Six Sigma'ers (what do you call them?) focusing so much on gathering data and then presenting that data in the approved Six Sigma way, that the original objective is forgotten. The data BECOMES the objective - the means AND the end. People fall in love with how impressive the amount of data is and how cool the data looks. Who wouldn't be impressed by a 24 page Excel Workbook full of numbers, graphs and pivot tables? But how do we know the numbers are correct? Where did the data come from? What was the objective of the data gathered? What does it all MEAN anyway?

Okay, okay... take a deep breath.

Not long ago, I read a wonderful article by John Ribbler titled "Analytics are for Cowards." Besides shaking me up with a terrific title (I'm a sucker for a good title), the actual article didn't disappoint me. It was filled with thought-provoking statements such as:

"Without intuitive, creative visionaries, who understand what motivates and satisfies people, there are no products and no customers. Without managers, accountants and engineers, the products do not get built, delivered or serviced correctly. Is it true that the members of the first group are generally daring and the people in the second group cautious? Yes it is. A balance between the two is the perfect order of the business world."

Cool, right? Remember Myers-Briggs? Emotional IQ? I like this guy. Anyway, Mr. Ribbler continues:

"Yet, as a company gets larger the chances increase that it is run by the risk aversive, fearful group, in partnership with financiers — people who have no knowledge of the customers, products, manufacturing, distribution or service. When that happens, they sustain themselves with analytics and statistics, the business world’s universal shield for cowardice."

Wow. Yeah.. We all know companies like that - good, solid companies that lost their way.

I love numbers. I've always loved numbers. And because I love numbers I know that when numbers are generated without fully understanding the assumptions on which those numbers are based, well... numbers can lie. It's not hard to make numbers lie. It's not hard to manipulate data. It's the sport "du jour." And plans based on lies, as Mr. Ribbler says, are "the tools of cowards." "You need insightful business people working with numbers crunchers in order to deliver real solid value."

I couldn't have said it better myself. Right brain, left brain working together towards a common goal. Not at war, but in sincere appreciation for the value each brings to the table. I know we can go there again.

Maybe next time I'll discuss the companion article to the one above - "Less Numbers and More Math." Am I getting too heavy, people?

Friday, March 26, 2010


It's not obvious at all, is it?

How you can add a comment so we can all engage in a real discussion.

I think I can help.

Go to the bottom of the this or the last post and find the "0 comments" line. Click on the "0 comments" section and a new window will appear allowing you to speak your mind. And the "0" will go away.

Please speak your mind. I'm not one to talk to myself for any length of time. Thanks!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Inspiration can come at any time, they say.

I was inspired to start this blog after being asked to speak at the recent Publishing Business Conference and Expo in NYC. As a panelist in the Magazine Production Roundtable, I was asked to share with production executives ideas on streamlining the process to handle increasing workloads, to (further) cut costs, do more with less.... blah, blah, blah.

Oh, and boost morale in a challenging time.


I'm frankly tired of seeing people pushed to exhaustion. I'm appalled at the fear that is present in the workplace today. Those who are brilliant and brave are worried about bringing up a new idea or suggest a new way. They'll get noticed. Best that everyone keep a low profile, don't make waves.. survive. Companies feel comfortable in reducing their workforce, asking the survivors to do more with less, work harder and be afraid.


You don't grow by cutting. Continuing to squeeze suppliers for even greater reductions will result in less suppliers, weaker suppliers and a lack of innovation. The hunter will become the hunted. The Golden Age of Procurement is, hopefully, coming to an end.

It's time to rethink our cost-cutting ways and focus on cutting the cost of your own internal chaos.

You've already cut your printing costs, you've already reduced your supplier base, you've already risked getting less by paying less. The time to look at your own house is way overdue. Let's start building something instead of tearing things down for a change. See how that all works out. Here are some things to think about:

  • What are YOU doing that is costly to your company or to your suppliers?

  • What can you stop doing?
    (Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's right.)

  • What technology can you introduce to work faster and smarter and do more with less (staff)?

  • How about a bit of investing in your staff, in your process, in your future?
More later... it's late.