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January 13, 2005
Interesting Article On Outsourcing From The Perspective Of Current Employees
Topic: 1) General Management

This post has been cross-posted at The CIO Weblog.

This InfoWorld article portrays a positive outlook for companies that consider outsourcing with respect to employees who have their current jobs outsourced elsewhere. Survey results indicate that while an overwhelming majority of employees are anxious about their futures prior to an outsourcing event that post-outsourcing a majority of employees are more satisfied with positions after the transition. From the article:

The poll, conducted in Europe and commissioned by IT services company LogicaCMG, examined the opinions of 200 employees in large organizations before, during, and after their positions were outsourced. While a majority of those surveyed, 84 percent, felt apprehensive at the prospect of having their positions outsourced, around 70 percent said that they were more satisfied with the new roles they were given following the transition.

One important thing to note, however, is that employment and labor laws differ between the United States and Europe in that European laws are more employee-friendly in the outsourcing area. The article goes on to point out:

Outsourcing is often confused with offshoring, Dunn said, which involves moving jobs to lower-cost markets such as India, while outsourcing involves a company's decision to move a particular operation or function out-of-house. When companies outsource, European regulations stipulate that affected employees retain the same conditions they had in their previous positions ...

Does this nullify the relevance of the study to US employees? Perhaps. However, I do find that articles like this one highlight the importance of showing everyone the light at the end of the tunnel when working an organization through change.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 11:03 PM CST
Updated: January 13, 2005 11:10 PM CST
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January 11, 2005
Quick Thoughts On New Business Initiatives and On-The-Fly Information Technology
Topic: 1) General Management

Over at The CIO Weblog, I pointed out a review by InfoWorld of four hosted, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. Now in many cases information technology (IT) initiatives are thought of as corporate-wide programs, and thus, solutions like these are not in the perview of those within a division of a company launching either a new product, new services offering, or backoffice services operation. It is often presumed that if a new business initiative is successful that the processes of the new program will utilize the legacy platform as its core. In many cases, this will be true and one will not want to introduce another system (because of side effects like having multiple processes in place or having exception processing).


Consider, however, that pilots and new business initiatives can move at breathtaking paces and that hosted applications and application service provider (ASP) software can be introduced sometimes instantly or within a few days. Some can also be reconfigured on the fly when flows need to be optimized. Then consider a perspective that people and processes need to be serviced first (even if it means reverting to paper and pencil or Excel spreadsheets and throwing out the IT to get the job done). Then consider whether hosted software might be a good way to get your pilot done. With the monthly subscription plans of many providers, there is often little financial risk.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 11, 2005 7:30 AM CST
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December 10, 2004
Learning from Lost Deals and the Concept of the Dutch Uncle
Topic: 1) General Management
Today I lost a freelance consulting deal to another consultant. Of course I'm disappointed, but once a deal is lost, it is lost.


I think the most important things to do after a lost deal are to identify learnings with respect to your company's product offering and sales processes and to preserve prospect relationships.


In this case, the consulting opportunity was to provide an operational assessment and to recommend what should be done with backoffice service operations in terms of improving workflow (e.g., eliminating rework, improving service-level performance with customers). Company prospect was a growth-phase company (post Series C institutional financing - backers that I would have aspired to include in my "marketing network" at some point). Additional facts include that the service operation recently underwent a substantial staff reduction based on recommendation from a previous management consultant. Standard management tradeoffs between design for quality versus design for throughput applied for this project.


My proposal was the first submitted and underwent two to three drafts and rounds of feedback between the client and I. Things seemed to be on track with both project scope and price, but my spider sense started to tingle when a week or two elapsed and the prospect invited another consultant into the picture for a proposal.


A week and a half later I was delivered the news by the contact that brokered me into the opportunity. Bad news, Steve. Contract will be awarded to another consultant.


My price was 37% higher than the competition. Additionally, the work was proposed to be completed earlier by the other consultant by a week or so. Now I am not clear the proposals were comparing apples to apples, but at this point this is water under the bridge. Although I will try to get some additional lost deal information, I understand that there may have been some concern that personality-wise I would have been perceived as being brought in to replace the regional management (as this is what happened recently with the CIO of the organization). Additionally, the competition's price was lower. Early timeframe for project completion may have also been a factor, but I cannot definitively say yet.


It is not my intent to try to appeal any of these points to the prospect, but I think there could have been opportunities to try and make adjustments. For example, we could have tried to align the discussions and allay any chemistry fears by bringing in the regional management into the discussions with me before inking a contract.


Now I am not going to go into all of my learnings here, however, I think it is useful to consider a concept I learned in Ford Harding's book, "Rain Making: The Professional's Guide to Attracting New Clients". You need to ask as many people as possible (client prospects included) to be straight-up with you. No silverlining. Why did I lose the deal? This is the concept of getting the prospect to talk to you like a Dutch uncle. To quote a passage from Harding's book, "The person who talks to you like a Dutch uncle does it for your own good ... At its worst ... [problems are] like a cheating spouse; friends know but don't tell you about it. "


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: December 10, 2004 12:43 AM CST
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December 8, 2004
Entrepreneurship Defined By Orientation As Opposed to Size
Topic: 1) General Management
Discussions with a number of dissatisfied folks that I know in the telcom space and within larger companies motivated me to write this entry. I debated whether I should include in the Early-Stage Ventures thread, but then I realized the angle I wanted to take was geared towards people in both small and large organizations.


To simplify the purposes of this discussion (and cutting a number of corners), there are two definitions:
1) Entrepreneurship Defined As A Small Business: starting or working for a company that is distinguished by limitations in size or age more than other attributes (< X people, < $Y in revenue, < $Z in valuation, < A years in age, etc.)
2) Entrepreneurship Defined As An Orientation: working and taking calculated risks to maximize the value of assets available as opposed to overprotecting assets and avoiding risks (trustee orientation/tendency).


Why is this important? If you believe in the Entrepreneurship Defined As An Orientation model, one should then look for entrepreneurial opportunities with whatever company you are working for (large or small). In larger companies, this may mean setting true personal goals with one's manager (as opposed to going through customary motions that may be required by the company's bureaucracy), communicating risks one wants to take (along with the calculated downsides and potential upsides), looking for opportunities to help people both within and outside of the organization, and not getting discouraged when things fail or when ideas get rejected. There's the old saying that "one needs to break a few eggs to make an omelet."


In any case, I think these are important things to consider. As cited by Harvard Business School (HBS) professor Dr. John P. Kotler in his book, "The New Rules" (1995) where he surveyed a portion of the HBS Class of '74, entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs are more alike than they are different. Dr. Kotler does cite four areas where the biggest exceptions bear out: independence, propensity to work hard, need for autonomy, and need for security. If find it interesting to note that biggest difference seemed to be in the area of security. For entrepreneurs, only 2% needed security where for non-entrepreneurs the figure was 18%. This is a 9X difference and should not be treated lightly by those in large companies looking for a change or regretting changes that they had not made to strike out on one's own.


The grass is not always greener on the other side. As an influential figure once said, "Judge me by my size do you? ... You should not." (Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back). The Force lies within and about you.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 9:42 PM CST
Updated: December 9, 2004 2:31 PM CST
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December 7, 2004
Applying Concepts of Personality Typing in Everyday Business ... Also, Extroverts Are Not Bloggers?
Topic: 1) General Management
As a management consultant and general management practitioner, I find it useful to apply concepts stemming from personality typing to everyday business and sales communications. I typically apply a subset of the personality typing framework known as Myers-Briggs typing (more detail here).


In the Myers-Briggs typology, there are 4 dimensions of classification, although I will only address one here. It is the (E)xtrovert versus (I)ntrovert designation. The common misconception of these classifications stems from fact that in everyday use of the English language, extroverts are thought of as "social butterflies" and whereas introverts are though of as people who crawl into holes when approached by other life forms.


Not so. In Myers-Briggs, the E versus I designation refers to how people are energized and *how people process information*. There are many examples of people that are social butterflies but test strongly as introverts under the Myers-Briggs system. These I-type social butterflies are exhausted after networking at parties whereas the E-type social butterflies are dying for more after a party.


So you may ask why does any of this matter? A corollary is that extrovert types, since they are energized externally, process information out in the open. The thought process is literally in front of their faces as you talk with them. They think out loud. They sometimes say things they regret because the thought process is out in the open. They do not process written information very well. Their thought process and brain is literally outside of their head when they communicate. They may say, "let's talk this though" or they may just want to brainstorm in real-time as opposed to exchanging information via email. On the other end of the spectrum, introvert types have a thought process that tends to be internal. When you speak with these people, they tend not to think out loud. You can see such people internally taking the information inside their head while they think about something. They may even need to get back to you and/or see written information before responding to you.


Most management consultants and business managers tend to test as "ENTJ" types. The E refers to extrovert. That said, not all of these people are E-types. Not all of the workers in an organization are E-types either. It is important to look for indicators or even float trial balloons to see what type of person it is that you are dealing with and adapt one's communication style to the target. It may mean using more phone calls and face-to-face with certain people. It may mean more written information with others. It may require different sales closing techniques. It should also be noted that the Myers-Briggs typing does not mean one will always behave a certain way. The classifications are just natural tendencies, and how a person behaves day-to-day may be situational.


Now you may ask how does this relate to blogging? As an ENTJ-type that tests borderline on the E/I dimension, I think I have an interesting perspective here because I consciously try to use a very balanced communication style. I personally feel that blogging, while it encourages networking, is a technology that is biased towards introverts and discriminates against extroverts. This even includes consideration of moblogging (mobile blogging) and other augmentation mechanisms currently in the market. The fact that everything is generally written down in blogs leads me to this hypothesis.


So if blogging is to reach its full potential in the business and management consulting areas, it seems likely that some consideration will need to be made about the impedance mismatch.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com



Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 2:27 PM CST
Updated: December 9, 2004 2:27 PM CST
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October 15, 2004
Friday Cat Blogging ... Skinning a Cat and the Role of Leadership
Topic: 1) General Management
Well someone told me that there is a cat blogging thing occurring on Friday's somewhere on the net. Basically someone takes casual pictures of a cat and posts them in a blog for others to comment. Even though I like cats, I don't quite get it yet. I will have to learn more! In any case, here's my version of Friday Night Cat Blogging ...

It becomes very easy in heated management discussions to get overly intellectual and to try to argue the best way to approach something. While I believe one should avoid taking paths that fly in the face of good management theory, sometimes it is not possible to know the best path. As long as the discussion remains goal-oriented, I think there are many ways of reaching the same goal. Hence, the pragmatic phrase "there are many ways to skin a cat" (where there are many ways to do the task but where some ways are probably harder than others).

In these cases, I think leadership plays a crucial role. Since the path to the goal is not clear, commitment and resolve are needed to get to the goal. Leaders will help the company re-adapt, improvise, and conquer when there are obstacles.

And here is a picture in memorium of one of my cats ...





Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: October 17, 2004 11:38 PM CDT
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October 6, 2004
On the General Manager
Topic: 1) General Management
I was leafing through my copy of "Process Consultation (Volume II)" by Dr. Edgar Schein, Sloan Fellows Professor of Management in the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Edgar Schein website) ... I find it useful to review core foundation works from time to time.


In any case, in that book Dr. Schein summarizes the role and relative position of general managers very well. He writes, "As for general managers, whose responsibilities cut across the various business functions and who manage complete organizational units, in many functions the subordinates are often each more expert than their boss. It is in such situations, where the boss's job is to integrate, coordinate, and blend the expertise of others for coherent decisions, that the skills of helping become most relevant. Such decision processes often occur in groups or involve the interaction of a number of people whose contribution must be orchestrated."


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 9:58 PM CDT
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October 1, 2004
What Makes A Good Manager
Topic: 1) General Management
Mark Cuban, self-made billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, made this comment to me about good management (very deft response from Mark I might add - smart guy) ...

/*** begin email thread ***/

He asks questions the right way

On Thu, 30 Sep 2004 12:01, MAV Feedback wrote:
>
> IP: 129.119.85.141
> Name: Steve Shu
> Email: sshu@s4management.com
> URL: http://www.s4management.com/
> Site: http://www.blogmaverick.com/
>
> Mark,
>
> Recently relocated to Dallas about 7 weekes ago, and I just learned
> about your site. Saw Terdema give a recent talk at an SMU Cox School
> of Business function
> (index.blog?entry_id=455445).
>
> Terdema said that you communicate very little via email with him. He
> said you mostly give answers like "yes", "no", or "do it" to him. Yet
> your blog is packed full of stuff. What's going on? (He spoke highly
> of you as a manager though - for the record.)
>
> ;)
>
> Best Regards,
> Steve Shu
> Managing Director
> S4 Management Group
> Mobile: (773)320-5527
> Email: sshu@s4management.com
> Web: http://www.s4management.com
> Business Blog: https://sshu-s4.tripod.com/blog
Check out The Benefactor on ABC Monday nites !

Thx

m

/*** end email thread ***/



Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 1:01 AM CDT
Updated: October 1, 2004 10:09 AM CDT
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September 23, 2004
The Moment You Think You Are Doing Everything Right ...
Topic: 1) General Management
This afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing Terdema Ussery speak as part of the Cox School of Business Management Briefing Series. Terdema is the President and CEO of the Dallas Mavericks and the CEO of HDNet. Great speaker.


One of Terdema's comments really rang true with me. When sharing some perspectives on business management, he said something to the effect of "The moment you think you are doing everything right is the moment you are doing something totally wrong." I couldn't agree more, as such a type of mindset is reflective of people looking for confirming evidence only and ignoring disconfirming evidence. But apart from looking for disconfirming evidence, there is another way I have seen to promote a constructive business operation. Such an approach involves calculated experimentation and risk-taking, even in mature business environments and even in cases where one is already "winning". If anything, one can always place one or more calculated bets. Who knows? One might get some positively surprising results.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:31 AM CDT
Updated: September 23, 2004 12:44 AM CDT
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September 14, 2004
Notetaking: Bread and Butter for Managers and Consultants
Topic: 1) General Management
Note taking is a topic that I wanted to write about for a long time because it is not only a highly underrated task but also a bread and butter skill of mine. I have received many positive comments on my note taking skills from colleagues, lawyers, investors, customers, and other professionals. Many have even commented that I well earn my pay just on note taking. Note taking is very applicable to general management, consulting, sales, due diligence, interpersonal communications, and facilitation. Here are a few, overlooked golden benefits of note taking:


1) Taking good notes provides a foundation for making better decisions. Why? There is less possibility for selective filtering and recall of information. Managers have a tendency to remember what they want to hear about what's going on in their business. Same mistakes can be made by consultants too, but a good consultant should be trained to be unbiased and to listen to facts (while documenting the rest too).


2) Taking good notes enables a manager or consultant to engage all types of people in an organization. In a popular personality test known as Myers-Briggs (M-B) typing, one of the dimensions of evaluation is whether a person is an (E)xtrovert or (I)ntrovert type. A common misunderstanding of the term of "extrovert" is that it refers to social butterfly types, people that are outgoing and talkative. Similarly a common misunderstanding of the term "introvert" is that it refers to those that have tendencies to crawl into holes when people come around. While this may be true in common English, roughly speaking, the E and I designations for M-B refer to whether a person is energized by actively thinking about information in the open (Extroverts) or process information internally as their normal mode of operation (Introverts). Bringing it back to note taking, written notes help to engage introverts in the company while providing a script for engaging the extroverts (who actually tend to think out loud). If you engage a person using the wrong channel, you may not get the message across at all.


3) Taking good notes can be dovetailed with editorial comments that drive action and change. There is a fine line between being a secretary (accurately documenting what has happened) and being a change agent. Managers and consultants need to be able to do both. Accurate documentation is required for one to be ethical and to drive unbiased decision-making. However, there is also an important power of the pen. How things are framed, played back, portraryed against business value, etc. can influence what actions come next by an organization.




Steve Shu, Managing Director, S4 Management Group
sshu@s4management.com
http://www.s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 10:43 PM CDT
Updated: September 14, 2004 10:51 PM CDT
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September 7, 2004
Applying "Regret" Concepts for Better Decisions
Topic: 1) General Management
Ever wonder how you can leverage the pessimist in you to make better decisions? As a practicing management consultant, I'm focused on facts, quantitative information, benchmarks, leadership, and results. I generally say "pooh-pooh" to everything else. However, there is an important soft side of me that relies on gut feel a bit and sanity checking.

This soft side of me instinctively uses a concept of regret to help ensure broad possibilities are considered, especially when one is at a crossroads. For example, suppose one has converged on making one of two choices that are diametrically opposed and that once the path is chosen, there is a point of no return (e.g., selling off intellectual property of the company or choosing a penetration pricing strategy). Before one commits to the choice, one should ask, "Am I going to regret this decision?" Hopefully, what will be triggered in one's mind will be a process that makes sure that one is looking at the decision from many different angles. For example, one may decide that additional experiments are needed to validate original thinking ("am I going to regret not running additional experiments or will I be able to sleep at night if I commit now?").

In any case, forcing oneself to look at all alternatives by posing key questions of regret can be used in a positive way as a means to strengthen commitment and resolve as opposed to killing momentum. After having considered regret, one should feel better after making a decision, neither worse nor more confused. At least this is one method that helps keep me on track and able to sleep well at night when making tough decisions.

Steve Shu, Managing Director, S4 Management Group
sshu@s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 10:50 PM CDT
Updated: September 7, 2004 10:59 PM CDT
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September 2, 2004
On the Air
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: 1) General Management
This blog complements the S4 Manangement Group website at http://www.s4management.com. The blog will serve as a dynamic place to capture perspectives from S4 Management Group consultants and invited partners.

Initial topics will center around aspects and tricks of the trade that I've found few people make accessible for more general consumption. The initial topics are:
    i) General Manangement
    ii) Consulting Trade
    iii) Early-Stage Ventures
    iv) Business Templates
Please feel free to post your feedback or send the authors comments. Thanks for tuning in!

Best,
Steve Shu, Managing Director, S4 Management Group
sshu@s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 1:01 AM CDT
Updated: September 18, 2004 10:18 PM CDT
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