Barack Obama’s (44th President of USA) management style

Barack Obama

Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)

We didn’t come from wealthy families. When we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt. When we married, we got poor together

(Telling students at the University of North Carolina that he and first lady Michelle Obama had “been in your shoes” and didn’t pay off their student loans until eight years ago).

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, 44th and current President of USA

Today’s article is the twelfth in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison, 6th Eric Schmidt, 7th CIOs and the ideal management style, 8th Louis V Gerstner, 9th late Steve Jobs and Tim Cook’s, 10th  Richard Branson and Sergio Marchionne), analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how senior management including  Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

I must admit this is the first time that I decided to delve into the management style of a national country leader. During the last American election I was quite impressed by the way that Obama fought the election on several fronts, including his great oratory skills, defeating Hillary Clinton, using social media and the Internet to raise funds for his campaign, his views on America’s role in the world and Health care to name a few. Now that we are approx. half way through his Presidency, I wanted to find out whether there was a consensus on his Presidency, i.e was he perceived to be good, bad or indeed great. I personally thought that he could go down in the annals of history as not only the first Black President of America but as one of the greatest.

As always, my personal view is that he needs to communicate to the American public his strategy in more detail, coupled with his intentions for the future, along with his successes. For a President who successfully helped solve the American car crisis and introduced America’s first ever Health legislation, he certainly doesn’t seem to be communicating that to the public effectively enough (Maybe he needs to blow his trumpet on his small and large successes to date). He seems to forget that his stakeholders’ are the public and that he needs to communicate with them the reasons why he is the best candidate to secure America’s future prospects.

My writing style had to change as I was not just analysing a sitting President but was also writing about the management style of a manager who is managing an economy and not just an organisation. In comparison terms, that is akin to comparing, well, therein lies the problem, one cannot compare any organisation to a huge country such as USA. This is a country and it is managed by a bond between both the public and private sector.

Frank Burke, American Thinker said, “The President’s inner circle has, for the most part, consisted of Chicago machine politicians. The appointment of numerous Czars, whose functions are neither well-articulated nor understood, has led to confusion on all levels and among the public”.

This seems to be a view shared by David Brooks, NY Times, “Obama has been a delegator and a convener. He sets the agenda, sketches broad policy outlines and then summons some Congressional chairmen to dominate the substance. This has been the approach with the stimulus package, the health care law, the Waxman-Markey energy bill, the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and, so far, the Biden commission on the budget.

As president, Obama has proved to be a very good Senate majority leader — convening committees to do the work and intervening at the end.

All his life, Obama has worked in non-hierarchical institutions — community groups, universities, legislatures — so maybe it is natural that he has a non-hierarchical style. He tends to see issues from several vantage points at once, so maybe it is natural that he favours a process that involves negotiating and fudging between different points of view.

Still, I would never have predicted he would be this sort of leader. I thought he would get into trouble via excessive self-confidence. Obama’s actual governing style emphasizes delegation and occasional passivity. Being led by Barack Obama is like being trumpeted into battle by Miles Davis. He makes you want to sit down and discern.

But this is who Obama is, and he’s not going to change, no matter how many liberals plead for him to start acting like Howard Dean”.

This comment from Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary and former adviser to President Obama provides a unique insight into his management style (Courtesy of Dave Schuler, The Glittering Eye),”If you wrote Barack Obama a memo before the meeting, it is a virtual certainty that he will have read it. If you seek to explain the memo you wrote to him during the meeting, he will cut you off, and he will be irritated. If he, as the leader of the meeting, will ask one or two questions to kick the tires, but will basically focus on how whatever subject you’re talking about fits with the broad vision and approaches of his presidency.

He will basically take the attitude if you’re his financial advisor, that if you can’t — it’s up to you to figure out whether preferred stock or subordinated debt is the appropriate financial instrument for your bailout, and that if he doesn’t trust you to figure it out, he’ll get a new financial adviser, but that is not the question on which he is going to spend time”.

Obviously, every President has faced their fair share of exceptional challenges, highlighted again, the need for direct communication as Lurita Doan, Townhall said, “Obama exhibited colossal managerial negligence in refusing to communicate directly with BP leadership for almost two months. Then, when this negligence was publicized, Obama opened communications and extorted the arbitrary sum of $20 billion dollars to cover liabilities. Twenty billion dollars, without full knowledge of all the facts, without the benefit of a full investigation of the causes and without a final solution for the problem, under the control of one of Obama’s Czars just looks like a slush fund”.

NEIL KING JR. and JONATHAN WEISMAN, Wall Street Journal explains further in great detail how Obama, conducts his office and provides further details into his unique management style, “In a White House ritual new with this administration, the president gathers with his advisers every weekday morning for an Oval Office update and debate on the economy. The breadth of topics is wide, from the underemployed to childhood obesity, and Mr. Obama often dives into the minutiae.

In the sessions, according to those who attend, the president sometimes chafes at his advisers’ limitations, quizzing them on points raised by critics or asking them to do justice to a view other than their own. At times he quotes from letters sent to the White House to counter a stance taken by his team.

A president’s management style can set the tone for an administration. Jimmy Carter was a famed micromanager, often at odds with his own advisers, and he caught a lot of Beltway criticism for his focus on policy details. “If the two risks are operating at too generalized a level or micromanaging, you need to find a balance between the two,” says Peter Orszag, the White House budget director.

In early July, the president ordered a briefing on derivatives — financial contracts that track the return on stocks, bonds, currencies or other benchmarks. Critics had been raising questions about administration proposals to regulate certain derivatives, such as credit-default swaps, which many blame in part for the financial crisis. With advisers gathered round on the Oval Office’s twin sofas, Mr. Obama said he was concerned that the administration hadn’t struck the right balance.

Its proposal called for standard derivatives to be traded on an exchange, bringing them into the open. Critics were calling the proposal too timid because it also would allow “customized” derivatives to continue trading privately. “What is to assure that this won’t drive all derivatives off the exchange?” the president asked, according to Mr. Emanuel.

He says Mr. Obama was frustrated his team wasn’t offering up a full range of views on how to approach derivatives regulation. “Get me some other people’s opinions on this,” Mr. Emanuel recalls the president as saying. “I want more than what’s in this room.”

On July 1, advisers gave Mr. Obama a briefing on “House Prices, Consumer Debt and Consumption.” Among their charts was one showing how homeowners during the boom used the rising value of their houses to borrow more against them. At the end, the president pushed the presentation aside. “Guys, this is great research,” he said, according to Mr. Emanuel. “But you’re telling me that people have been using their houses as ATMs. I could have told you that.”

Letters from constituents appear to play a role in shaping the president’s thinking. Each day, the White House staff combs through mounds of letters and picks 10 for Mr. Obama to read. In May, one from a woman in Georgia caught his eye. She said she had asked a bank to refinance her house, under the administration’s plan to help struggling homeowners, but had been turned down. She mentioned that her “loan-to-value” ratio wasn’t excessive — her mortgage was for no more than 80% of the house’s value.

Mr. Obama scrawled in the margin “Is this how the ratio is supposed to be calculated?” and sent the letter to one of his economists, Mr. Goolsbee, according to a White House adviser”.

The stark contrast between managing organisation’s is made clearer by Steven Cohen, Huffington Post, “Obama relies on a combination of his own intellect, a small circle of trusted advisers and a larger group of outside experts.

Ronald Reagan began the process of deconstructing the federal government’s capacity. This effort to “starve the beast” and destroy federal capacity was reversed during the Clinton era as Vice President Gore led a well-intentioned effort to reinvent government, but the forces of disintegration picked up renewed momentum during the Bush years of 2001-2009. During the Presidency of Bush the latter, federal agencies that needed to build capacity for a new task were required to demonstrate that the capacity could not be found and purchased in the private sector. The underlying assumption of federal management during the Bush Presidency was that government was the enemy and the private sector was the great repository of management competence in America.

The “make or buy decision” requires that every well managed organization constantly ask itself: “Should we do this in-house or should we outsource?” That is a question that should be addressed pragmatically: “what would work best?” Management in the U.S. federal government has the answer provided for them: buying from the private sector is better than making it in the government. In an article I wrote in Public Administration Review in 2001, I argued for what I called “functional matching.” I wrote that some tasks are best performed by government (especially policing), some by non-profits (for example mission-driven health and social welfare programs) and some by private firms (customer driven services and manufacturing).

At the local level, government services are visible and have an immediate impact. While ideology plays a role locally, it doesn’t usually dominate. In New York, the debate over charter schools has an ideological component, but the visibility of education performance measures provides evidence that moves the argument beyond ideology. Local officials are instantly accountable if water is not delivered, waste is not removed, fires are not put out and criminals are not apprehended. In New York City, most social services are now delivered by non-profit organizations under contract to the city’s government. No one thinks about this practice as an ideological privatization strategy. It’s simply the best way to help people in need. As a result of constant pressure to do more with less over the past three decades, New York City government has improved its performance and capacity.

In Washington D.C., symbolism and ideology drive agency management and performance takes a back seat. The story at the federal level is characterized by management incompetence. We have seen it in the Department of Interior during the Gulf oil spill, during the horror show of FEMA during Katrina, and when we analyze the overuse of contractors by an overly-small military presence during the War in Iraq. The lack of concern for capacity and management excellence has driven superb civil servants out of public service, destroyed organizational capability and made it impossible for the government to keep up with a more complicated and technologically based economy. The result has been the type of government performance we have seen in the Gulf of Mexico”.

His desire to formulate effective teams and to achieve the best for his country is highlighted by the article, Inside the Presidents club by NANCY GIBBS; MICHAEL DUFFY (Some excerpts), “There is no conversation so sweet as that of former political enemies,” Harry Truman once observed, and the modern Presidents are living proof. By the time Clinton made peace with Obama, he was also so close to the entire Bush family–vacationing with the father, raising money with the son, even escorting Barbara at Betty Ford’s funeral–that the Texas clan had bestowed a nickname: Brother from Another Mother.

Now in an age of global celebrity, when Presidents live longer and larger than ever, they retain unmatched influence long after they leave office. Plus they’re the only ones who know what the job does to a person.

They called him after he won. “They were all incredibly gracious,” Obama said. “But I think all of them recognized that there’s a certain loneliness to the job … Ultimately, you’re the person who’s going to be making decisions … You can already feel that fact.” He wanted his club initiation to include the entire membership, so he asked Bush to host a luncheon for all four living Presidents in early January. This request caused the Bush White House to gulp hard: Even Carter? aides asked. He has criticized everything we have done for nearly eight years. Yes, Obama said, Carter too”.

I have been reading the Time magazine since a very early age and wanted to conclude with observations from one of the greatest writers for Time (in my opinion), Fareed Zakaria and his article, The Strategist, “In the central battle in the war on terrorism, Obama adopted many of the Bush Administration’s aggressive tactics, used them more aggressively and achieved greater success. Republicans find it difficult to attack Obama credibly on the core issue of fighting America’s enemies because he outflanked them on the right.

When asked to describe the Obama Doctrine, the President has chosen not to respond directly, but he explained that he believes the U.S. must act with other countries. “[Mine is] an American leadership that recognizes the rise of countries like China, India and Brazil. It’s a U.S. leadership that recognizes our limits in terms of resources and capacity,” he told TIME.

A great deal of foreign policy is crisis management. “Stuff happens,” the President said, “and you have to respond.”

The strategy of “rebalancing” might well be the centrepiece of Obama’s foreign policy and what historians will point to when searching for an Obama Doctrine. It is premised on a simple, powerful recognition. The center of global economic power is shifting east. In 10 years, three of the world’s five largest economies will be in Asia: China, Japan and India. The greatest political tensions and struggles might also be in Asia as these countries seek political, cultural and military power as well. If the U.S. is going to be the central global power, it will need to be a Pacific power.

In a speech to the Australian parliament, Obama signaled America’s intent. “The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” he said.

Good foreign policy Presidents (like Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush) managed a complex set of challenges expertly, making few costly errors. Bad ones (like George W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson) made mistakes that cost America in lives, treasure and prestige. But great foreign policy Presidents (like Harry Truman) created enduring structures and relationships that produced lasting peace and prosperity. Obama has been a good foreign policy President; he has the opportunity to become a great one”.

More Info and Reading:

Barack Obama: A Management Appraisal – American Thinker

Convener in Chief – NY Times

The Obama Management Style – The glittering eye

Obama’s Management Style: Bowing and Posturing – Townhall

A President as Micromanager: How Much Detail Is Enough? – WSJ

Changing Obama’s Management Style Alone Will Not Prevent the Next Environmental Catastrophe – Huffington post

Inside the Presidents club by NANCY GIBBS; MICHAEL DUFFY, Time Magazine

The Strategist by Fareed Zakaria, Time Magazine

Warren Buffet’s (World’s most successful investor) management style and CIOs

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...

Image via Wikipedia

“You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right.”

Warren Buffet (1930 – ) World’s most successful investor

Today’s article is the third in a series of articles (First was written on Steve Job’s – Apple CIO followed by Michael Dell (CEO Dell) analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

Warren Buffet is one of the world’s richest men and a very successful investor.  For today’s blog post I have selected a truly unique individual. He works from his office that lacks a computer and surprisingly his desk is bereft of research on stocks and shares.

Before we go any further, one particular event caught my attention that captures a facet of Warren Buffet’s management style. So, I have decided to share it with everyone. According to BusinessWeek, ‘We arrive late to Paris, touching down in a freakish, near-gale-force windstorm that both thrills and alarms our pilot. In four cars, we race as fast as rush-hour Paris traffic allows from Le Bourget to Dassault Aviation Group’s magnificent 19th century chateau–familiarly known as Le Rond Point–on the Champs Elysees. EJA is the largest commercial customer of Dassault Aviation, Europe’s leading manufacturer of business jets. Serge Dassault, the company’s chairman, is hosting tonight’s gala reception and dinner in Buffett’s honor. By the time we arrive, the reception is in full swing. But Buffett takes a few steps into the foyer and hustles up a flight of stairs. It will be a good 35 minutes until he descends and joins the party.

Downstairs, the guest of honor’s whereabouts is Topic A among Dassault’s distinguished guests. It might puzzle them to learn that Buffett is on a transatlantic call to one of his employees. The matter he is discussing with Ajit Jain this evening is not urgent. But it is Buffett’s custom to speak with Jain every evening. If that means keeping 200 of France’s richest people waiting, then c’est la vie.’

What can CIOs learn from Warren Buffet’s management style? Let’s investigate while allowing you to decide.  (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. Business assessment: When looking to invest, Warren Buffet looks to satisfy ‘five’ essential criteria, equally CIOs can apply similar criteria when looking to invest their expertise towards business assessment. Buffet – ‘Never invest in a business you cannot understand.’

Warren Buffet investment criteria CIO ‘business’ assessment criteria
1 Is the company simple and understandable? Is the business model, simple and understandable?
2 Does it have a consistent operating history? Has IT consistently assisted the growth or well being of the company?
3 Does it have favourable, and predictable, long- term prospects? Is IT viewed favourably within the company and can IT predict how it can help the company’s long-term prospects?
4 Is the management competent and honest? Is the IT management team competent and aligned to the business vision?
5 Is the underlying business undervalued? Is IT undervalued? How can IT deliver ‘more’ value from existing resources?

2. Ownership: In the 2010 Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) annual report, Buffett wrote of his holding company: “We tend to let our many subsidiaries operate on their own, without our supervising and monitoring them to any degree. Most managers use the independence we grant them magnificently, by maintaining an owner-oriented attitude.” Buffett wants Berkshire Hathway’s managers to think like owners. Their rewards are tied exclusively to the achievements of their own businesses, not those of Berkshire Hathaway – a principle to which Buffett holds very strongly. “We delegate to the point of abdication,” Buffett says in Berkshire’s Owner’s Manual. CIOs need to instil their teams with similar beliefs. Every individual within the CIOs team needs to think as if they were the ‘owner’s’ of the business, especially the CIOs main management team.

3. Risk assessment and crisis management: Buffet – ‘If there is any significant bad news, let me know early’. The team need to have confidence in the CIO, in order that ‘bad news’ events/issues/problems can be resolved prior to them mothballing to the ‘point of no return.’ ‘An investor needs to do very few things right as long as he or she avoids big mistakes.’

4. Succession: Buffet – ‘send me a letter updating your recommendations as to who should take over tomorrow if you became incapacitated tonight. Anything you send me will be confidential’. CIOs need to have succession planning in order that the business has continuity in the unfortunate event of a CIO not being able to provide management.

5. Business reputation: Buffet – ‘Look at the business you run as if it were the only asset of your family, one that must be operated for the next 50 years and can never be sold’. He adds that ‘We can afford to lose money – even a lot of money. We cannot afford to lose reputation – even a shred of reputation.’ CIOs need to understand that IT systems can enhance and taint a company’s reputation. The recent BP oil spill crisis reflects that as it had a devastating effect on BP’s reputation, wiped millions off its share price, cost billions to settle claims and control the oil spill. Additionally, the irrecoverable loss of both human and marine life, coupled with the environmental damage leaves the oil giant in shambles.

6. Quality management: ”What I must understand is why someone will continue to get out of bed in the morning once they have all the money they could want,” Buffett says. ”Do they love the business, or do they love the money?” CIOs need to have a team that enjoys working within IT and associated line of business.

7. Competitive advantage: Warren Buffett was once asked what is the most important thing he looks for when evaluating a company to invest in. Without hesitation, he replied, “Sustainable competitive advantage.” CIOs need to ask themselves how they can help the business through leveraging IT to create competitive advantage? I covered this a few months ago, in my post, Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality? Companies with a sustainable economic advantage need honest, capable and hardworking leaders to retain their lead. Berkshire-Hathaway’s managers have one instruction: Widen the moat. That keeps the castle valuable.

8. Use numbers to season the points you serve — they’re not the main dish: (Points 8,9,10,11 courtesy of the Harvard Business Review blog) Buffett doesn’t just report on the underwriting gains of their insurance businesses and let the numbers stand for themselves; he explains the terminology, what the numbers mean, and how he and Charlie Munger, his business partner, view them. Case in point: “Our $58.5 billion of insurance “float” — money that doesn’t belong to us but that we hold and invest for our own benefit — cost us less than zero. In fact, we were paid $2.8 billion to hold our float during 2008. Charlie and I find this enjoyable.”

9. Use analogies and metaphors. A great example is Buffett’s description of how many of us felt after the economic collapse in 2008: “By year end, investors of all stripes were bloodied and confused, much as if they were small birds that had strayed into a badminton game.” And he goes on to describe the government’s response: “In poker terms, the Treasury and the Fed have gone ‘all in.’ Economic medicine that was previously meted out by the cupful has recently been dispensed by the barrel.” These metaphors do more to explain his points than paragraphs of technical jargon ever could.

10. Be honest and transparent. Buffett follows-up a recap of 2008 successes with the following revelation: “During 2008 I did some dumb things in investments. I made at least one major mistake of commission and several lesser ones that also hurt. I will tell you more about these later. Furthermore, I made some errors of omission, sucking my thumb when new facts came in that should have caused me to re-examine my thinking and promptly take action.” Instead of deflating his credibility, this kind of refreshing candidness makes the audience more trusting of whatever else he might say: after all, he’s clearly not hiding anything. ‘It is more important to say “no” to an opportunity, than to say “yes”.’

11. Use facts to put things in realistic context. After explaining how bad the economic situation was in 2008, Buffett gave a fact-based context for how to view these realities. “Amid this bad news, however, never forget that our country has faced far worse travails in the past. In the 20th Century alone, we dealt with two great wars (one of which we initially appeared to be losing); a dozen or so panics and recessions; virulent inflation that led to a 21 1/2% prime rate in 1980; and the Great Depression of the 1930s, when unemployment ranged between 15% and 25% for many years. America has had no shortage of challenges. Without fail, however, we’ve overcome them. Compare the record of this period with the dozens of centuries during which humans secured only tiny gains, if any, in how they lived. Though the path has not been smooth, our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time.”

12. Follow your instinct: Buffet – ‘Do not follow the crowd. Ignore the market, the crowd, and its fashions.’‘It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.’

13. Research: Buffet – ‘Do not rely on outside analysis. Do your own research – and do it thoroughly.’ Do not often act on a hunch. Always have sound, well-argued, well-researched reasons for your investments.’

14. Trustworthiness and integrity: Developing characteristics such as trustworthiness and integrity, Buffett believes, is a matter of forming the right habits. “The chains of habit are too light to be noticed until they are too heavy to be broken,” he says. People who stray from these values often show up on Wall Street; they may initially even shine; but eventually they self-destruct. “That is sad, because it does not need to happen,” says Buffett. “You need integrity, intelligence and energy to succeed. Integrity is totally a matter of choice — and it is habit-forming.”

15. Buy at the right price: Purchases must be made at the right price if they are to pay off.

No less an authority, John F. Welch, CEO of General Electric Co., considers Buffett a superb judge of managerial talent. Buffett and Welch have gotten to know each other over the years as golf partners and as rivals in auto insurance and other businesses. ”Take 20 people you know quite well but Warren has just met casually,” Welch says. ”If you ask Warren his opinion about them, he’ll have each one nailed. He’s a masterful evaluator of people, and that’s the biggest job there is in running a company.”

Asked why he has not retired despite his phenomenal wealth, Buffett said the reason is that he has more fun doing what he does than anything else. “The fundamental thing is that the process should be fun,” he said. “I had just as much fun when I had $10,000 to invest as I do now. It’s crazy to do things for your resume. It’s like saving up sex for your old age. You should do what you enjoy as you go along, and work with people you admire. I look forward every day to the next day. I’m wired for this game.”

For the long haul, Warren Buffett’s way must be best. As an associate says, ‘somehow Warren has been able to keep a diverse cast of characters working harder for him than they did for themselves. I see it every day – and I still don’t know how he does it’. Having read all the above, though, you will have a good idea of the maestro’s magic methods. Use them.

Organisations “Don’t get” social media

Social Media: Changing Business

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

POST UPDATED 09.12.11

In general most organisations still don’t understand or don’t want to understand the impact, benefits and competitive advantage that social media can, in many cases, still provide. The problem lies in the half hearted way many organisations introduce social media within the organisation. Brian Glick, in his ComputerWeekly column said that (In summary) organisations in general still thought that employees, if given the option, would spend their time on social media sites instead of working are missing the important point. Organisations could reap significant benefits and it was in the interests of organisations to improve collaboration and communication with ‘customers, suppliers and partners.’ One of the reasons for not adopting social media is that social media is at the stage where email and the Internet were 15-20 years ago. I remember that at the time many organisations used to view email/Internet access in the same way. Now, email and Internet access forms the fabric of most organisations. For those organisations that just ‘don’t get’ social media, I will provide a simple three step process to ‘get you there.’

Step One – The social media policy

This does not have to be a completely new policy; this can be an addendum to the existing computer usage or Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) of an organisation. This should include acceptable/unacceptable behaviour for employees on social media such as blogging, social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter etc. The secret is to embrace social media, get your employees involved and make them your ambassadors in the new world of social media. Tony Redshaw, Aviva CIO captures the essence well, “If you want people to use it, you have to tolerate them using it and not always in the way you expect.” To get you started, here are a few links:

Step two – Internal and external Social Media adoption

Harnessing the power of social media will provide you with two key benefits:

  1. Collaboration and knowledge sharing becomes easier. Organisations of all sizes have struggled for years to capture the expertise of their knowledge experts without much success. Internal Social media platforms make that process simple and employees are encouraged to create ‘expert’ content. Expertise becomes easier to access, as Aviva’s example (QUICK STATS – £350 Billion assets, £50 billion sales, 54000 staff, and currently 120 wikis with potential for 600 more) demonstrates. For example, in Aviva’s case, Tony Redshaw, Aviva CIO said, “One of our people in the Melbourne office was having a complex issue. Someone in our York (England) office saw their online post. Within 24 hours they had related their experience and suggested a way of fixing it, and…problem solved. There was no way before for the two to hook up and for that information exchange to happen.”
  2. The younger generation leaving schools and universities is social media literate. They already have social media profiles on Facebook, MySpace and Bebo etc. Organisations are finding it hard to recruit and retain youngsters where social media equivalents are not available internally and where social media access generally is restrained. The primary reason is that these younger people utilise these technologies to communicate and interact with the world at large. Embracing the younger generation through social media adoption can bring benefits that may not have been anticipated. They will utilise these platforms in innovative ways, providing competitive advantage and adding to the bottom line.

Step three – Setup and monitoring Social Media

Organisations’ spend tremendous amounts of their finances on marketing and advertising but tend to spend no money on correct setup, creating the correct social media culture and actually monitoring social media. For the past month, I have been researching an organisation that thinks that it ‘gets’ social media. The way they have decided to setup their social media, I am sure, in their opinion is correct. Let me just explain how they have setup their social media. They have a blog but only their wholesalers can access it and oh, by the way, they would have to register to read the blog articles. They have setup a social media account with one of the main social media platforms. End customers are not allowed to become members of that group, as it is aimed at the wholesalers only. Customers have been wandering the web looking for information about their products but cannot easily access information about their products or have anywhere or anyone to go to for further information; even product enhancements have been discussed by customers. An independent site talks about the chemical products in their products as naturally occurring and their website fails to display that information. Ok, so why am I telling you all this and why is it important?

Let me explain. Social media is not a tool where the success can be measured in a given time frame/short term. Relationships are developed and nurtured utilising various social media platforms over both short/long term. It is a tool that allows us to interact with each other and our customers. The need is to, ‘engage and interact.’ This particular organisation has not done that. In actual fact, it has unconsciously created all sorts of barriers stopping its very customers reaching and interacting with it. I couldn’t find any evidence of anyone utilising social media to have any conversations anywhere with its customers. Social media is not being monitored and so this organisation has no way of knowing if anyone is posting any comments (positive or negative) anywhere on social media.

For example, I did come across some negative comments that could have been countered by simply informing the customer on where to find the information. Another example covered in my blog post a few weeks ago showed that if , Toyota had monitored social media, it would have become aware much earlier that its customers were unhappy and that it could impact Toyota’s reputation. Here are a few links to get you started:

More SM Tools:

Hootsuite , Tweetdeck , Yoono , Wefollow , Listorious , Twellow , Twellowhood , Klout , Visibli , Quora, Instagr.am , Pitchengine , Addictomatic , Tubemogul , Untweeps, Twitalyzer , Topsy , Ping.fm , Friendfeed , Google Alerts , Postrank , Storify , Backtype , Big-boards/ , Getclicky , Twitterfeed , Twitter Search , Onlywire , Hashtracking , Socialmention , Seesmic.com/ , Flock , Pingdom.com/ , Hubspot , Diaspora , Monitter.com/

Top Commercial Tools for large organisations (Cost more, probably not affordable by small business or for personal use):

Top 20 Social Media monitoring vendors for business

Radian 6 , Lithium , Attensity 360 , Alterian , Spiral 16 , Buzz Logic, Cymfony , Cision , Trackur

In summary:

  • Ensure that you have appropriate policies/guidelines to help employees navigate social media.
  • Adopt social media in a way that benefits your organisation and interact with a wide audience.
  • Monitor social media and use it to interact with your customers, suppliers and partners.
  • The objective internally is to create an environment of collaboration that allows the open exchange of ideas.
  • The objective externally is to create a ‘buzz’ and awareness about your product and organisation, in addition to PR.

I listened, you spoke but did we communicate?

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” – Peter F. Drucker

It was January 1990, I was 21 and had just gone into partnership to manage my own business.  Me and my partners were quite excited at the prospect of purchasing the town’s oldest taxi firm. Naturally, we had researched the purchase and had asked all the questions that we thought we had to ask, except one. The council had at some point written a letter to the proprietor of the firm informing him that analogous to the market traders, the taxi firm could pick and drop off its customers, as its goods were its customers. On purchase and subsequent communication between the council and us, the council denied that the letter existed and even on production of the letter could not find any record of it. This meant that a lengthy battle commenced. One that we were destined to win. What it did do was provide me with my first taste of commercial communication and how what may seem simple and common sense communication, can turn into a nightmare.

Armed with this new learnt lesson, in 1992, the decision was taken to explore further the prospect of computerising the fleet. It was my first taste of managing a computer project and I was adamant that this time around, the communication would be perfect. I had no IT or Project qualifications but I ensured that we communicated well enough what we wanted, had discussed with all our drivers and receptionists’ the failings of the manual system, what they thought would be achieved with a computerised system and had agreed the timelines and the cost. As a result, the system procured did everything that we wanted and beyond. We had a few problems but as the consultants and us had a good communication channel open during the project, most were addressed to mutual satisfaction.

Having experienced IT and project management, I became fascinated with IT and how it had the ability to change lives for the better. Naturally, IT qualifications followed including Structured Systems Analysis Design Methods (SSADM) and I soon found myself  having sold the business working within an IT department. This was the age of the IT Manager and what he thought was good for the business. Project management was something that was done in the construction industry and solutions were the ones we could deliver by trial and tribulation. Purchases were made directly by us and commercial was not involved. Users were someone who were a pain and didn’t really understand what we actually did. Nostalgic value, eh!

Time rolled on and many moons have passed. Communication within IT and the business is still a problem. In many businesses, there is still a culture of them and us. Why? Well, there are a number of communication reasons (In no particular order):

  1. The business not communicating well enough a business strategy.
  2. The business not communicating well enough the vision for the future.
  3. CIOs not communicating well enough with stakeholders within the business the IT strategy/vision and alignment to the business strategy.
  4. Absence of a IT Portfolio office that prioritises projects according to business needs and communicates it to the IT department.
  5. No end user involvement and communication at many stages where their input could be invaluable.
  6. IT Projects not delivering tangible results due to the lack of an IT strategy communicated to the Programme office resulting in projects delivering for example many tactical projects that could have been rolled into one strategic project.
  7. Lack of involvement/alignment and communication between business/technology experts.
  8. Unrealistic expectations, lack of research between all required groups, lack of end user thought capture etc. For example, The National programme for IT (NPfIT) was always destined t o fail, as there are 180 PCT’s within the UK and every single one has a Head of IT. Were they consulted at the start of the programme? Were end users, lets pickout GP’s, consulted on what they wanted? The list could go on..

This is not an exhaustive list and what I want to do is to get all the feedback I can by:

  1. Adding to the above list by listing other forms of bad communication by a) The business b) The IT department.
  2. How can we improve this communication?
  3. What we would achieve as a result through better communication.

I will collect all feedback, revise the article and release an updated version.