Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Pain of Change


Change is hard. If you’re the change agent, it’s difficult to change the “old guard,” who are “set in their ways,” and “don’t get where it’s all going.” And, if you’re one of the ones they’re trying to change, it’s most certainly difficult, with those “newfangled big shots” who seem like “all hat and no cattle” as they spout off odd sounding “vision casting” while scribbling all over the whiteboard.

Well, whichever you are, here’s an exercise that may help you. It occurred to me to try it many years ago and I’ve done it with the wonderful “legacy” employees at every new turnaround leadership gig I’ve had.

It’s really a simple word picture, but I’ve found it’s actually fun and effective to actually, physically try this with at least one of the more willing, extroverted “legacy” staff and at least one of the newer employees. (That last sentence seems kind of like the Brady Bunch, with Mike bringing his three messy boys into Carol’s swanky home of three lovely girls.) Anyway, The exercise should be done in the presence of all of the staff, and I’ve found it seems to help the “changers” and the “changees” better understand one another.

Be self-deprecating. Laugh together a bit more. You’re building a new team culture now.

Here is the ten step process:

  1. Bring a football into a staff meeting.
  2. Throw it to one of the more outgoing “legacy” employees.
  3. Ask them to throw it back to you.
  4. Throw it back to them.
  5. Now ask them to throw it back to you with their other hand.
  6. Laugh together.
  7. Then you throw it with your non-throwing hand.
  8. Laugh more together.
  9. Explain how you know in this new role (as change agent/turnaround leader) you’re asking everybody to do it differently and you know that’s difficult. We all have muscle memory and favor a certain existing way of doing things.
  10. Be self-deprecating. Laugh together a bit more. You’re building a new team culture now. One–not two–where the “legacy” and the “imported” staff are becoming integrated.

Going back to the Brady Bunch thing, Mike and Carol’s kids are starting to get along. But, remember Marcia Brady’s wisdom… “Mom always says, ‘Don’t play ball in the house’.” Seriously, if you have more of a serious office culture, you might want to use a Nerf football or do the exercise outside. It’s quite difficult to throw with your non-throwing arm. Even for the change agent.

What tips do you have for productive change management?


The Genius of Jesus’ Marketing Plan

IMG_1177-0.PNGThere are plenty of books, blogs and sermons about how Jesus and the church need new marketing. This is not that. This is more the observation that Jesus himself, son of God, is a brilliant marketer. And, before you consider this irreverent, please read on and consider.

More often than they’d like to admit (or than they even realize?), people in marketing make the mistake of developing a product or service and then positioning and marketing it by describing all the features with whiz-bang inside jargon that everyday people don’t understand or care about. People only care about benefits. That is, how a product or service can benefit them.

We all know by now that the old model of “interruption marketing” doesn’t work. You know, where the party with the widget to sell disrupts their proposed customer from whatever it is they’re already doing and are already interested in, and then proceeds to tell them about something they may not need or want. Maybe it works a little better when the message is supposedly “contextual,” like a beer commercial during a football game, or sugary cereal in a comic book, or lipstick in a gossip mag. I guess. How’s that working out?

In most cases, the typical marketer tends to pay money to push product-centric advertisements in front of people who then flip past, drive by, or DVR through the ads without looking. But the marketers know this so they look at their “awareness” or “click through” metric and “conversion rate” with the satisfaction of success when they hit low-to-mid-single-digit success at best. And when their bosses don’t see sales tick up, they fire the marketer and hire another one to do it all over again.

That really doesn’t work so well. It might seem crazy, but I think there’s a great case study of “best practices” in looking at how Jesus did marketing. I mean, it’s now some 20 centuries after he walked the earth, and there are are 2.18 billion self-professed christians in the world. That’s one out of three people on earth.

How did he create and sustain such amazing awareness of his “campaign?” Here are my observations:

  • Jesus “studied” any given individual’s or group’s precise need
  • Then he gave “content” away for free, targeted at the precise need
  • That person was so enthusiastic about the content and experience, they wanted more (some willing to pay as much as their life)
  • And they would rush out and tell everybody they knew about it

Summing up, Jesus’ marketing plan was to be “consumer-centric.” He never had a marketing budget, yet he catalyzed the largest marketing department in the history of the world.

How, then, can an organization go about product development and marketing in a way that emulates this? Would that a good idea?

Five Full Days & Nights of My Life, Gone

I remember a few years ago seeing in a Best Buy circular, an ad for five robust DVD box sets, each with a full season of Fox’s “24”, starring Keifer Sutherland. That was a show my wife and I watched weekly at that point.

There all five seasons were, in product “hero shots,” lined up across the page. It immediately occured to me that five seasons of 24, one-hour episodes meant that I had spent five full days of my life watching this show–days AND nights actually. I immediately promised myself I wouldn’t watch that show any longer, and since it was between TV seasons, it was easy to go cold turkey, and I kept my promise and never watched another episode. (The plots were beginning to “jump the shark” anyway.) So I watched a lot less TV.

But it was about that time that my awesome mother-in-law had given me a Nintendo DS Lite with the game “Brain Age”, to keep my brain sharp as I exhausted every level of Sudoku and other brain teasers. I will say it actually did seem to sharpen my mind, so it was a legitimate vice to engage as an adult. This little device was hot with kids’ but there were stories in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times that soccer moms and business people were buying and using these, and I’m in one of those demographics. (Actually, I think Nintendo’s Jedi mind trick is that those three demographics pretty much cover all human beings, at least those in the developed world with at least some amount of discretionary income.)

Well, it didn’t take me long on biz trips and occasional sleepness nights to accomplish all the Brain Tease levels and eventually I picked up a copy of EA’s Tiger Woods PGA Golf for the DS, which I played purely for amusement. I suppose maybe one could make the argument that it was improving hand-eye coordination or saved me time because it was quicker than real golf, but after that I bought Naamco’s greatest hits which had Galaga and Ms. Pac Man–not exactly educational. Now, remember, these were for me, not my kids, because my wife and I kept the kids out of video games so their brains wouldn’t rot and so they wouldn’t waste time they could be using to read or ride bikes. Yes, I was feeling a bit like a hypocrite.

Well, eventually, I discovered in the settings of the DS Lite, a data bank that could tell you how many hours you’d played the games, and I will tell you, it was more than the five days I had lost to the show “24.”

So, eventually I ditched the DS Lite because it sucked up time, but it wasn’t a year or two later that the iPhone and Apple app store launched and again I find myself with Galaga and Ms. Pac Man. And Angry Birds and Words with Friends. And every episode of Fox’s “24” and almost every episode of every other show ever on TV. And every movie. And so on…

Trouble is, my kids know I have these games on my phone and they see me wasting time on them. I find that it’s a challenge to model moderation and balance in helping my kids learn discernment and self discipline. Which I’m still learning in my forties.

Do you struggle with wasting time on amusement? Is this something that’s wrecking culture? Or is it creating culture?

PS. Some day I’ll tell you my Madden Nintendo DS story…

Digital Drivel or Analog Art?

The Grammys awards had a pretty good string of live performances this year, and a great thematic, subtextual message emerged. There were certainly some of the usual flashy getups and hair colors performing and in attendance, but many of those that won last year could have been “flavors of the month,” as good, old-fashioned artistry fared well.

Retro phenom Adele took six, and indie-darling Justin Vernon of Bon Iver won two, saying, “When I started to make songs, I did it for the inherent reward of making songs, so I’m a little bit uncomfortable up here. But with that discomfort, I do have a sense of gratitude.”

Kanye West took home four Grammys, although he didn’t attend and may have been home thinking about his rude interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs a year or so ago? It was interesting to hear Swift singing the lyrics “I’ll be singing this at the Grammys and all you’re gonna be is mean” in her song, “Mean,” which won two Grammys. (Swift says the song is to her critics, most likely to music critic Bob Lefsetz.)

I think Dave Grohl best summed up the theme of the year in receiving one of his four Grammy awards:

“This… was a special record for our band. Rather than go to the best studio in the world down the street in Hollywood and rather than use all of the fanciest computers that money can buy, we made this one in my garage with some microphones and a tape machine.

“This award means a lot because it shows that the human element of music is what’s important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that’s the most important thing for people to do. It’s not about being perfect, it’s not about sounding absolutely correct, it’s not about what goes on in a computer. It’s about what goes on in here [points to heart] and what goes on in here [points to head].”

Do you have any observations or opinions on where music and artistry are heading? Will we get more lightweight, auto-tune, digital drivel or back to basics, master-craft, analog art?