NYC Mayor Making Adults Fat. Why?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is cast as a benevolent Mr. Mom or “He-Nanny” who watches out for New Yorkers, wipes their mouths and fannies, and keeps them safe from evil sugar and 2nd hand smoke.  I’m here to tell you that something else may be afoot… something more sinister and malevolent.

What is certain is that he’s trying to make NYers fat; consider these events:

-He cancelled Halloween and trick or treating so now people will eat all the candy themselves and get fat.

-He still has Central Park closed so we can’t exercise there (and make an adult decision as to whether a road or path is “safe”).  No exercise = fat.
Central Park closed for exercise + NYers with huge bags of unneeded candy. Coincidence?

 

-The YMCA is again closed today which probably is due to some sort of government meddling or funding or tax issues (the ‘C’ stands for Christian so you never know).  No exercise = fat.

-And with no more smoking or large soft drinks allowed, people are drinking more high calorie beer and Red Bull every day!  More calories = fat and since smoking also curbs appetite, this = double fat.

 

It looks to me like NYC’s caring “Nanny Bloomberg” is secretly fattening us all up Hansel & Gretel style for some nefarious purpose.  I’m angry and a bit scared but I must say that my giant bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins looks soooooo tasty that I may yet fall into Mrs. Doubtberg’s evil trap!  You’ve been warned.
Are NYers just Hansels & Gretels to the Mayor’s evil, witch-like nanny?

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The Bradley Fighting Stroller (and Reinforcements)

When did baby carriages and strollers start to come outfitted like Bradley Fighting Vehicles being reinforced for DMZ combat?   Do we really need strollers with, “coil spring and elastomer core shock absorbers and pneumatic tires with schrader valves?”

This 2-turret model enables 360 degree viewing coverage by a pair of driver/occupants

These tricked out behemoths are taking over our sidewalks (which are already made smaller because every bar, deli and diner now has a Frenchie style “sidewalk café” table or two in front).  The last time I checked they were still called sideWALKs, not sideSITs and they certainly weren’t designed for NASCAR-style stroller racing by Manhattan mommies in their sparkling Skechers Shape-ups.

I thought I had seen it all in the strollers as monster trucks category but I was wrong.  I’ve now also seen a triple decker model as well… that’s right, a double stroller with a 3rd crow’s nest seat bolted on above the double (I would assume that the kid that gets that “pole position” spot earned it at potty training time-trial qualifying).

What’s next?  Motorized baby cycles with sidecars à la Col. Klink and Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes?  I sincerely hope that just by saying that I haven’t inspired Vespa or BMW to enter the fray.

An urban “tiny tank” factory has opened in my once-safe neighborhood

Update:  Since my first battles with these combat-ready baby and toddler tanks that were imported from NJ or Long Island a new menace has been added to the war zone – it is called “Giggle” and it produces all manner of sidewalk carnage-causing machines in my own freaking neighborhood!

This cannot stand!  We must rise up and take back our sidewalks or who knows what is next!  Who’s with me?

 

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Pros vs. Joes

Are amateurs killing your team?  Does it make you angry?  If you’re a Redskins, Cowboys or Bobcats fan you’d have to answer “Yes.”  If you work for a technology firm (or most B2B companies), the answer may surprise you.

“Pros vs. Joes” is how some describe the lopsided battles between expertly trained specialists (Pro-fessionals) and enthusiastic amateurs (Joes).  Those battles may begin with the scrappy, confident amateur showing a flash of skill or promise but they don’t end well for the Joes do they?  Defeated, red-faced and frustrated is how those match-ups end.

Amazingly, in sports ownership and business today there is a fair amount of “Pros vs. Joes” competition going on but interestingly many of these “Joes” don’t consider themselves amateurs because they are (or were), a successful professional (albeit at something else).

NBA great Michael Jordan struck out as a baseball player

Michael Jordan was the consummate professional basketball player of his era but has proven to be an “Average Joe” (and saying he’s been average is just me being nice), at running basketball franchises (or playing pro baseball for that matter).  A Joe who thinks he’s a Pro.

Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys) and Daniel Snyder (Washington Redskins) bought their way into big time NFL ownership after being successful “Pros” in Oil and Advertising respectively and each decided they could run their franchises themselves and have been abysmal failures competing with real “Pros” on the field.  This has been true despite each of them having virtually unlimited resources.  Year after year, these Joes keep going though.

Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones ordering pizza for their NFL “Fantasy” draft?

Even old George Steinbrenner (R.I.P.), eventually learned that he needed to hire and empower experts with specialized skills and experience for his organization to win consistently on the field.

The business equivalent of  “Pros vs. Joes” are corporate senior executives who “play” at Marketing.  By virtue of their exalted status in the company they can insert themselves into Marketing strategy and tactics (and they do).  Hey, they took a Marketing class or two in college and they KNOW which TV ads are good or not, so they’re qualified to make Marketing decisions, right?

Why do they do it?  Because they can and because it’s fun for them!  A reward for their success after years of “paying their dues” I guess.  Unfortunately, it leads to disappointing marketing results and a cycle of failure that keeps repeating as long as these Senior Execs “help” with Marketing.  Hire a CMO, increase the budget, miss Sales and ROI targets, cut the budget, fire the CMO, rinse and repeat.  The befuddling constant in this cycle is letting non-experts (“Joes”) get involved and make decisions.  They don’t let amateurs make Engineering or Sales decisions yet they when they do it themselves in Marketing they’re shocked and frustrated when Marketing fails.

Professional CEO? Marketing Amateur Joe? (or both)?

Look, I play in a fantasy football league and do pretty well (my beloved Swamp Foxes with our spicy Laura Croft logo won another title last year), and I’d love a shot at actually doing it for real. Heck, I even played some ball and could throw it 70 yards back in the day so I’m as qualified as anyone, right?

No.

People who can and do use money and/or power to compete head-to-head with real Pros deserve to get clobbered and fail; those who repeat the cycle should be treated for insanity.  Stick to what know Joe-

Michael Jordan’s top picks for the Wizards (#1 Overall), and the Bobcats (#3 Overall) exemplify his “Joe-ness” as an owner.

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Why isn’t the Segway more popular?

Why isn’t the Segway more popular?

Living in a city that has far too many cars, I can’t help but dream about a future that eliminates the pollution, congestion, noise and danger of millions of cars packed into a space far too small for them.

Some “tree huggers” would say that the answer is the bicycle, but these people are just wrong. Riding a bicycle in a city requires a level of commitment to health along with a perilous disregard for fashion this is far too absolute for a normal human being.

It clearly is so bad for the souls that ride bikes, that they quickly give up all will to live, resorting to no longer following the rules of the road by never stopping at red lights, feeling free to ride the wrong way on one way roads and making extra lanes whenever they like. Bicycles are clearly physically and mentally unhealthy.

Cyclist wearing a full-body condom. Embarrassing the environment. Luckily the pointy seat they stick through their gonads, plus the likelihood of a fatal accident ensure this behavior is quickly being removed from the gene pool.

So what other option is there?

I like the idea of a two-wheeled powered vehicle that is easy to drive and runs on electricity. Such a vehicle does exist in the form of the Segway.

The Segway is a brilliant invention. It’s a simple self-balancing platform that you stand on, and lean forward to go forward and backwards to slow, stop and go backwards. Steering is handled by leaning the handle left or right. It’s very simple.

I’ve rented Segway’s in Washington DC, Chicago, A Caribbean Island and even in Florence, Italy. They are a fantastic way of getting around, and would be perfect for any congested city.

Except New York City doesn’t allow them. There is politics involved here, but it seems they have put limits on the use of Segway’s to stop them being used just where they would be most useful.

There is one old man with two walking sticks, who I see riding his Segway up and down Madison Avenue every now and again. He’s wears a suit and a hat and looks quite “dapper”, hangs his walking sticks over the handle bars and zips along at a good pace. While we law-abiding citizens just look on and lust after such a great way to get around the city. I’m not sure if he has some special dispensation for being handicapped or just doesn’t give a damn, but it’s great to see.

When the Segway eventually becomes legal in NYC, I suspect it will prove very popular, and for every Segway in use that’s one less car or full-body-condom-encased cyclist.

It can’t happen too soon!

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What’s in a strategy?

Don’t you hate it when you (and the team around you) spend hundreds or thousands of man-hours to build a strategy and go through the process of getting it agreed to, funded and committed, only to then have the entire playing field changed.

This seems to be the way in which business works these days. A business unit within a large corporation will be asked to grow their business and they all go off to work out the best possible way to do it.

You assume either no increase in budget or an increase in-line with the requested growth target.

You spend the time to build a detailed market analysis, spending a lot of money on external consultants and analysts, focus groups, surveys and meetings.

You meet with all the areas of your business, from sales, marketing, development, finance, procurement, public relations, etc. And get a consensus as to what is going to be delivered.

The plan is built. Graphs are prepared, Spreadsheets are created, a forecast is calculated, decisions are made on where investment will be made, and where things can be paired back.

And the plan is presented, agreed to, blessed and becomes the plan of record… the strategic plan.

And then every single time, it happens! The rules are changed. Budgets are cut, a new idea is brought into the mix, and everyone has to shuffle around. The strategic plan is put to the side and everyone scrambles to deal with this new reality.

And in case you didn’t realize it; that is exactly why the product you just bought doesn’t work as expected.

Why that new camera has a really annoying menu structure.

Why your computer keeps asking you to click okay to accept things that are not important,

Why you keep hitting your knee on that button in the wrong place in your car,

Why the new maps on your new whizzy phone don’t work well,

Why government forms are so complex,

Why the best laid plans of smart, creative, experienced teams never quite turn out as planned.

And that is why dictatorial leaders, (who are often considered to be terrible people managers) save the day. When you look at the best products, they tend to come from companies that are lead by founders, people who grew with the business and deeply understand the long game.

Who would disagree that Ford was most innovative when Henry was in charge.

Sony under the guidance of Masaru and Akio,

Polaroid when Edwin set the direction,

Disney when run by Walt,

HP with Bill and Dave were at the controls,

Touchscreen in the 1980’s…

Apple with Steve,

the list goes on.

I’m not saying that companies have to fail when the founders leave, just that there is something special that a founder brings to a company. It’s a mix of totalitarian dictatorship along with passion for the business and with the experience of success and failure. They may sometimes be bastards, but they have a vision that includes their customer’s needs and the abilities of their own team.

When the ultimate leader of a business is deeply involved in the development and execution of a strategy, there isn’t that need to keep changing direction. And this allows companies to bring out the best products.

It doesn’t need to be a founder, but it does need to be someone who knows a business inside and out. Understands the culture, the customers the products and the market.

You know when a product comes from a company like this, because it just does what you need and doesn’t annoy you in lots of tiny ways.

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What Sales expect from Marketing

Every sales person I’ve ever met will say the following “Give me a customer who is ready to buy a product and I’ll sell it to them. All I need from marketing is for them to give me the leads, I’ll do the rest”.

It sounds so simple, just give them the leads and they will do the rest.
Don’t do anything else, just give them the leads!

Wow it’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that!

A colleague of mine tells the story of when he said to salesman “So what you need is a customer who is ready to buy, and a product that is better and cheaper than the competition for you to sell to them, correct?” to which the salesman said, “exactly, just give me that and I’ll do the rest”

It sounds so simple, again why didn’t I think of that?

The challenge (of course) is that most prospective customers are not ready to buy something, just because the salesman needs to sell something. And being in the right place at the right time takes a lot more than good luck.

Also for more complex solutions, there is a lot of education that needs to take place to get a prospect in the place where they can consider fixing a problem the way your product does it.

It can take months or years of communication to get a business to consider making a large investment, and that is the job of marketing.

The marketing cycle needs to nurture a relationship, promote the brand values of a company, and provide thought leadership. Through these things marketing can speak to hundreds, thousands or millions of prospective future customers, and through careful measurement understand and influence which ones are ready to talk to sales.

At the very end of the marketing cycle, marketing can pass the baton to sales for them take an interested prospect through the complex and delicate process of actually buying the product.

When a sales team has worked with a great marketing team their requirements subtly change for all future interactions. They then ask for a detailed forecast of how many prospective customers are at each stage of the buyer’s journey, and want to know what the marketing team is doing to accelerate the rate at which prospects are progressing. They want to know what the ratio of progression versus leakage is and how many prospects are being recycled.

What happens is that the conversation moves from “just give us leads and we’ll do the rest” to a team relationship, where sales and marketing have shared objectives, goals, tactics, and success is much more likely.

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The discomfort of ignorance

There is an old saying “Ignorance is bliss”. As I’ve learnt more about the world, the more I’ve come to realize that ignorance is the antipathy of bliss. The codification of ignorance as a way of dominating swathes of the world’s population has allowed virtually every terrible thing that has ever happened to take place.

I think there are levels of ignorance.

Level 1 – Your basic “lack of knowledge” type of ignorance.

Level 2 – As you move up the hierarchy you find what I like to call “emu ignorance”, where burying ones head in the sand can make a fact go away.

Level 3 – Then you move up to “abusive ignorance”, where you choose to not tell others facts that would save them from being hurt in some way.

Level 4 – And the pinnacle of ignorance, “controlling ignorance”. This is where people are forced to not learn new things as a way of keeping from improving their lives in ways that could lead to the current ruling class losing some or all of their power.

I can think of many examples of basic ignoramuses, emu ignoramuses, abusive ignoramuses and controlling ignoramuses.

There is an antidote to ignorance, and that is obviously knowledge and the skills to learn and teach.

Anyone who steals power by limiting education is evil.

And the ability to be evil is classless.

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Guns are fun, Mad people are interesting, Just not so sure they should be mixed.

Like all boys and men (I suspect) I have a fascination with weapons and fighting. War movies are good, but zombie movies with guns and axes are often a lot better.

There is something very exciting about playing with weapons; it’s probably an evolutionary survival of the fittest thing. The apes that were better at whacking other apes over the head were more likely to procreate and so those genes have become a part of us.

Well the modern form of having the bigger stick to threaten other with is still something we all desire deep down.

But along with the genes that favor violence, we have also inherited those that allow for rational thought. And when we think about violence, we tend to also think about the possibility of us being hit over the head with an even bigger stick, and that doesn’t seem all that appealing.

In fact the more that you think about it, the clearer it becomes that not everyone can manage their anger, and maybe there are some very good reasons to limit “big stick” availability.

I used to belong to a gun club when I was at university. We fired a range of target rifles and handguns. I wasn’t bad at it, and played in a couple of friendly competitions. The care by which we handled this weapons was probably excessive, pre-training before firing was mandatory, the weapons was stored in very robust safes, and the rounds of ammunition was audited, and there were zero accidents.

A few years later a crazy lunatic in a small town in Scotland, took one of his (legally owned) handguns into a children’s school and shot and killed a multitude of innocent victims. There was an investigation into this nutcase, and while the results of the investigation were slapped with a government secrecy order of a hundred years, action was taken to ensure that this kind of thing would be drastically limited in the future. I suspect that someone very high up in the incumbent government of the time was in someway culpable, hence the secrecy, and the drastic response. But all guns in the UK were taken from the general public. There are now no legally held handguns in the UK by the civilian population, and very restrictive controls on hunting weapons. So quite simply anyone with a gun is going to find the response from the highly trained armed police unit’s rather immediate and unequivocal.

I believe this response to a terrible crime was a little excessive, but it was a response, and the results in terms of weapon-based crime have shown it was effective (some may debate this).

Quite simply there needs to be very strong controls on the access of dangerous weapons by crazed people, no loopholes.

It’s pointless to restrict access to weapons through some legal means but not others, and it’s pointless to stop access to legal weapons when huge numbers of illegal weapons are in circulation if you don’t also control the access to ammunition.

If I wanted to get a gun today (I don’t, this is hypothetical), I know that just by travelling for an hour in any direction I can find an illegal weapon and stock up with legally purchased ammunition at any Wal-Mart store. I know that to avoid waiting periods for legal weapons I could visit a gun show or buy a weapon that has been made unusable, and just by visiting the Internet get information on how to make it usable again. I’m sure there are even more ways, but that’s enough.

The point is crazy people can and do have access to lethal weapons, and that is just nuts.

It’s actually quite easy to limit the access to ammunition, put in place much stricter controls on weak minds, and force people to be much more responsible with the weapons they do own.

The concept that people can carry loaded weapons around in their cars or on their person, for “personal protection” is dangerous. It takes training both physical and mental to be able to use a weapon effectively, and even those who receive regular training find in very hard to be affective in the heat of a confrontation.

The chance of a trained person with a weapon being effective in an unexpected confrontation is very small. More people are likely to be hurt, the more weapons that are in play during a confrontation. And the level of training seems to have very little impact on the outcome.

What does seem to have an impact is the mindset of the participants. If a crazy person takes a gun to a location with the intent of hurting or killing someone then they are mentally prepared for the fight. They may have taken hours, days or weeks to mentally prepare, thinking through what they are going to do. While if you witness a crazy person start to shoot, you are not physically and mentally prepared. And the chemicals released in your body and mind at that moment are not designed to prepare you for rational decision-making. Even the best trained police officer or soldier will confirm how difficult it is to take control of a situation that you were not prepared for. The best can do it, but it takes incredible fortitude and decades of work to get to that point.

The average person who enjoys weaponry is not a professional, they (like all of us) are generally rational and love the machismo fostered in movies, books and computer games. The average person who would carry a concealed weapon into a public place is much more of a danger to themselves and those around them, than any weak minded lunatic with psychotic tendencies.

I like guns, I really do. But I realize that it’s better that as few people as possible take them out in public, own them or use them.

I recognize the fun element, and I recognize the power of them in the hands of soldiers, and the police. But I also recognize that I would do a lot of careful checking on exactly who has them and how they get ammunition, if it will save just one persons son, daughter, husband or wife.

And there are many people being killed by many guns every day.

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Getting everyone into the game of delivering.

Nothing in life is perfect, no one, no company, no product and no marketing. It’s not something anyone want’s to admit, but everything and everyone can always get better.

People que in the rain for days to get the latest brand new model of sneakers or the latest i-gadget from apple on the day of release. And these products are (in the minds of the queuers) awesome, but I would add they are never perfect.

If Apple or Nike were to only release products when they were “perfect” they would never actually release a product and I wouldn’t be writing about them now, because they wouldn’t exist as companies.

Of course there is the other side of this coin and that is products, people and companies that are not good enough. I know many of them, we all do.

We all strive in the direction of perfection, but most of us know when something is good enough to share.

There is a simple way of looking at this. Imagine you want to build a new sound system for your living room. You can buy a complete solution for $99 from your local retailer, and when you plug it in, you will hear something, but it may sound a little unreal, and maybe it could be better. So you upgrade to a $500 system that now sounds much better. But it can get better so you go and buy a $5000 system, and this now sounds wonderful. But if you want to be able to make out the individual violins in the orchestra you could spend $50,000 or $500,000 or $5,000,000. And while the more you spend the better the sound you will hear, there is a point when the difference is so infinitesimally small, that there is just no reason to spend any more. At some point before that, you hit the law of diminishing returns, when the more you spend the less impact the difference makes. And we all make the choice of where this is for every project we’re working on.

Everyone needs to be responsible for helping move in the direction of perfect, but equally we all need to know when the law of diminishing returns outweighs the advancement that is being made.

In great teams everyone is empowered to decide when the part they are working on is good enough. That’s how projects are managed to ensure that time and resources and carefully used to achieve goals.

In some weak teams the idea of perfection is held up as an achievable goal. This means that the team is being setup to fail. In these teams the leaders are often weak willed, unsure and scared to make a decision. We all know these people, these are the ones that make every possible excuse to delay, overspend and under deliver. And are the first ones to throw their teams under the bus the second a mistake is made.

In other weak teams, quality below an acceptable level is accepted, so as to allow projects to move along. In these teams the leaders are more interested in promotion for themselves than the project. They don’t expect to be around when the project is complete and so are not interested in the consequences.

Quite simply both models are wrong.

Great teams are empowered to make decisions as to when the law of diminishing returns shows them that the work is good enough to move ahead. Great teams know exactly how their projects output will be consumed, by whom and when. They have passion for what they are doing. Great teams are made up of people who truly understand what they are doing and why, and are lead by people who are active members of the team. Decisions are made openly and honestly, and the whole team is responsible for the results.

I have had the honor to work with some of the greatest business leaders in the world, and equally I’ve worked with a couple of incredibly bad people who had weaseled their way into leadership positions for which they were totally unprepared and unsuitable. I’ve learnt from both groups. From the former the skills of leadership, teamsman-ship, honor, respect, business and loyalty and from the latter the ability to spot, avoid (where possible) and manage (where not) assholes.

If your Boss happens to be an asshole, it’s probably a great idea not to be this direct about telling people, as this would just make you an asshole as well.

A model I’ve found very helpful is to express all work by the 80:20 rule. We all know that for nearly all projects 80% of the work gets done in the first 20% of the time with the first 20% of the resources. While the last 20% of the work, takes 80% of the time and 80% of the resources.

If you ask several individuals to grade the difference between 85% or 95% right they will not agree which is better. Because there is a point when a product is “right enough”. If you ask a team to decide when a project is right enough, over time they will work out the best way to manage projects to get the best results in the best time with the least resources, and this leads to the highest practical levels of quality.

I’m not suggesting that projects be marked complete before they are ready. But when you recognize that every project is always under resourced, under funded, time constrained and over committed, then you are already deciding to make some choices. Empower the whole team with these choices and you will get the best results.

If a senior manager tells you that nothing but 100% perfect is acceptable then instantly they have self-identified as a complete asshole and you should act appropriately to manage them.

Remember the job of an asshole is to pass crap downwards.

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