I spent a few years writing down my thoughts about how one should approach problems. If you're looking for a how-to guide, a cookbook, or a reference this book is not for you. If you want to learn by challenging the way you think, pick up a copy.
I just read “Selling to Big Companies” by Jill Konrath.
“Ugh.” Written on a third-grade reading level with a tone of voice often focused on a fourth-grade audience this book was beyond painful. The author adumbrates a plan, but (being a decision maker) I find several of her positions paradoxical. The book does have useful information, but it was not reinforced with compelling stories or anecdotes. As I trudged to the end of this book I realized that reading just the “Key Points” sections at the end of each chapter just might have ameliorated the experience.
Basic premise: good decision makers (like those at big companies) buy on business value, not on shininess of product. Don't sell your offering, sell the value they will realize. Understand the company and personalize the pitch. All of this should be obvious to anyone who is even considering taking a meeting with a large corporation. Unless you are selling commodity services, the shotgun effect never works well in sales. For specialized services, the shotgun effect can be a good marketing approach (if done well) — never a sales approach.
The section on words to leave out of email correspondence due to spam filters was simply uneducated.
It hurt. This blog post is only a method of me expelling my disappointment.
Only buy this book out of morbid curiosity of what one can endure reading.
Yup, I read another book. I think we can all agree we live in turbulent times. Current economic conditions combined with market globalization causes all sorts of fluctuation and chaos. I enjoyed parts of this book, but didn't find it particularly valuable. I believe the lack of value is not the author's fault, but rather a condition of me being a young entrepreneur.
I liked how the author reinforced the concepts by correlating turbulence and chaos to our immediate past (2008). What unfolded in 2008 is still quite fresh in my mind and it forced me to draw more meaningful parallels into the book. While we've had bad economic times in the U.S. before, the last time it was really bad I was only nine years old. I don't have scars from that. The harsh realities that hit in 2008 (and 2009 at least) were more directly meaningful to me as a business owner and employer.
"Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence" by Philip Kotler was really a discussion to help people mentally transition from an old paradigm of business management to a new one. In the old one, there were good times and bad times and the transition between the two was, while not exactly predictable, regular and rather slow (measured in multiples of years). In the new paradigm, there is a realization that shit happens and it happens all the time. Due to globalization and other factors, there is a lot more chaos. In the old paradigm people were taken off guard by the unexpected events of natural disaster (weather, fire, etc.). Now, regular economic fluctuations can take people off guard. Globalization, hypercompetition and the fact that we (as a global community) apparently don't understand how to manage risk well have introduced all sorts of uncertainties.
Business chaotics is the mindset and process of preparing for uncertainties and having plans laid to deal with the shit that is sure to happen, even if we don't know precisely kind before we step in it.
So, why did I say I didn't get much value from this book? Don't get me wrong, I got some... However, I didn't have any revelations as the reviews indicated I might. The reason for this is that I've been an entrepreneur and business owner in the Internet sector for 12 years. My company enables start-ups and other companies intending to serve a global audience on the Internet. We apply technologies appropriately to improve the experience of their users (and thus increase revenues) as well as reduce operational costs. This marketplace has been turbulent since its inception. This is the only type of business environment I know. As such, this book didn't help me transition mentally from the old way to the new way because I don't know the old way.
Long ago I studied Project Management very briefly. OmniTI does a mix of project work and operations work and the orchestration of those two things is quite interesting (more to come on that in a future blog post). Regardless, my understanding of project management principals was getting far to rusty and I decided to read up.
The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management by Eric Verzuh, while likely an awful project management book for anyone serious about learning the deeper craft of project management was an excellent book for me. It runs through a brief history of the topic and then launches into terms, technique concepts and explains their purpose. Occasionally, the author is really talking to the reader as if they will be applying the techniques as a project manager. Given that this book is (appropriately) geared toward someone pursuing an MBA, it seems unlikely that a real (good) project manager would ever read this book.
Most of my colleagues said something like: "A book on project management... must be riveting." I responded that I was actually enjoying it, but around 85% of the way through the tide turned and from thereon out I wanted to gouge out my eyeballs. Miraculously, I pulled through and finished with vision in tact. I'd recommand this book to other business people that have the need to hire and/or manage project managers. The restraint learned by not gouging your eyeballs out at the end of the book can even be applied at times when working with a bad project manager.
The one thing that got me thinking in the book (and that's what I really want books to do) was the articulated different between projects and operations. It was clear and well laid out. It spoke to the intrinsic need for a fundamentally different management style for projects and for ongoing operations. While that itself may be obvious, it make me realize that many of the engagements we take on at OmniTI aren't just "a bit of both" they are both. I'm still collecting my deeper thoughts on this, but suffice it to say I have more understanding and respect for why it is so challenging to manage expectations when delivering fast-paced services offerings on the Internet.
Most of you who read my blog are scalability or performance nuts. Most of you also cast the majority of your focus (like me) on the back-end infrastructure problems. Don't ignore the front-end when just a tiny bit of work can remove a huge amount of suck.
If everyone takes these steps, the web will be a more enjoyable place to visit.