Low-Fat Guacamole: Trader Joe’s

GuacamoleThis is such bullshit. A low-fat guacamole marketed with the word “guilt” is both anachronistic (are we living in the 90’s when eating celery was in?) and insulting (the implication is that to enjoy something tasty is to somehow insult the heavens and society).

I’m surprised that it came from Trader Joe’s which usually is ahead of trends. Not in this case.

I think the word “guilt” is addressed to female shoppers, playing upon well-established tropes in which dietary health is reduced to shaming by using vaguely religious wording to spur a purchase decision.

It is wrong and inaccurate. Low-fat diets are actually unhealthy (assuming that the fats come from real food and not sugar). And if something does taste good, there should be no shame for anyone (male or female) to enjoy it.

So whoever approved this message is out-of-date and doing a disservice to consumers.

To erase this blasphemy, I enjoyed a 5-egg omelette with cheese and salsa. I feel glorious, like a god.

We Need Sales!

We are nearly 40% through August, which means that you should be over $9,000 in Bookings right now. Are you there? Do you have plans to be over $14,000 by the end of the week?”

Alec Baldwin - GGGRI saw this on a ValleyWag post about AOL and it made me chuckle (I also used the awesome picture of Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross for this post!). I’ve worked in start-ups and large-scale businesses and have seen a variety of communications (some desperate, some funny, and some very enlightening). I’ve also seen sales teams beaten over the head with this type of messaging and it almost never works except for creating the conditions for increased employee churn, especially among high-performers who just don’t want to hear this, whether it is directed at them or not.

If your product is not moving it may not be because your sales team doesn’t have the skills. Even an average sales person can sell a good product. Very often it is because the product itself, the marketing, and the company’s reputation, don’t align with the core needs, interests, and even ethics of your customer base.

Increased churn or a drop in revenue and new business are actually great opportunities for a company to audit itself and its practices. That kind of self-reflection can lead to an amazing turn-around and an exciting journey. Or you can blame everyone else.

In the meantime, enjoy the greatest (and worst) sales speech in history! (NSFW).

 

Unified vs Law of the Jungle

Steve Ballmer’s re-org from competing and separate units into a more cohesive and mutually-supporting structure should be good news for shareholders and supporters of Microsoft. Kind of a switch from a “law of the jungle” approach to a “unified” single-team approach.

The rationale behind the previous structure of competing business units was that competition breeds success and efficiency.  Based on Ballmer’s switch this apparently did not work as well as hoped.

Microsoft is not alone in this and it is a testament to the people who work there that the company remains a powerful provider of services and entertainment and will do so for years to come. In fact, as I’ve often said, Microsoft is far too easily maligned and not given enough credit for how the company has made the world a far more productive and interesting place, laying the groundwork for other companies to follow (hello Apple).

The company is pushing to hire younger and more flexible workers to support this more collaborative approach and create or maintain its momentum. I base this on the cascade of Facebook posts on the Microsoft Careers page – see below:

MSFT Careers Collagehorrible example of a company embracing the law of the jungle far too much, is Sears. CEO Eddie “Crazy Eddie” Lampert (not a nickname I chose but one chosen by his peers, apparently) broke down the venerable Sears organization into a scrum of competing entities, all fighting for survival while their competition moved forward and away from them. With a stock down 64% and a loss of $10,000,000,000 in sales, the company can rightly be considered the “Detroit” of retail.

Welcome to Sears

Like any organizational philosophy, “collaboration” can become just another buzz-word if not honestly and completely implemented. This includes having the right performance assessments, HR policies, and consistent leadership from everyone. Still, if I were to bet on what works best, I would comfortably put my money down on the company that has a unified org structure and clear goals over a company that celebrates management through gladiatorial excess.

Working Remotely: Manager Skills

Empty OfficeGreat post in Wired about the continuing debate over teleworking vs. working on-site and both sides make valuable points.  Working remotely allows one to be more productive while working on-site enables be on to engage in more spontaneous planning and other creative activity.

The right way in this is a middle way that allows for employees to be where they need to be as needed. Kind of an open-office where meetings are a mix of online and face-to-face, sponsored activities for team-building, and the tools and metrics for managers to set goals and measure success.

The greatest challenge for remote working is not the employee but, rather, the manager. Many managers are not equipped (with skills and tools) to manage this kind of work flow. They also do not have the intuitive skill to communicate with a remote worker, making sure that he/she has the tools and information (both technical and social such as news from the office) to feel part of the work organism that is the modern work place.

At the end of the day, it is easier for a manager to lean out of their office and see their employees, whether that does anything or not is a different matter, than it is to actively engage. And therein lies the difference between good leadership and bad.

WFH

I engaged in a lively and interesting debate online (via Facebook) about the pros and cons of working from home (aka, WFH). It centered around Yahoo’s announcement that, effective this June, employees will no longer be able to work remotely.

Those who were against a WFH policy felt that it promoted slacking and disrupted a cohesive team environment. Those in support of a WFH policy (and that includes me but I do believe there have to be some standards) felt that it flew in the face of the same technology that companies like Yahoo provide and that requiring people to return to a 20th-century work environment was a morale killer of the first degree.

A few made comments that working remotely reduced accountability and performance, though no one could provide any data to support that assertion but they were quite emphatic about this nonetheless.

That last point got me thinking that the reason why some don’t support a WFH policy is that either require having people around just so that they can be productive (which sounds like an issue in itself) or that they do not trust that people outside the office are working as hard as they are (but is working hard working smart?).

So really the issue around a WFH policy is not so much WFH but ensuring that goals and performance measurement is transparent so that everyone, inside and outside of the office, can see everyone’s contributions. Actually, a real-time ticker of success (showing revenue contributions, bug fixes, etc. would be a powerful motivation and accountability tool).

Of course, if a company doesn’t have a valid measuring toolkit and its goals are not well thought-out, then maybe everyone should come into the office…to pick up their last check and head to greener pastures.

We Are All Millennials

We’re told that Millennials in the workplace bring a values-oriented focus to their jobs, looking to see how their contributions play against the wider goals of the organization and requiring that their colleagues and their managers participate accordingly.

They ask why they are doing something and they want to know what they will get from doing it. This article in Inc. likens Millennial participation in the workplace to video games and that makes sense given how even Generation X (my generation) grew up in a video-game heavy environment.

In games, the hero is given a mission and that mission is explained against the backdrop of the bigger picture (“Frodo, take the One Ring to Mount Doom and you can save Middle Earth.”). Along the way, the player gets rewards, grows in strength, and gains more knowledge. By the end of the game, the hero has hit his/her max level and the game is over. Until the next one.

In today’s workforce of shorter tenures and roles based on project timelines, this actually makes sense but not just for Millennials. All of us will be playing multiple “games” of varying length with consequently shorter timelines for rewards and feedback.

We are all Millennials in that regard and employers will do well to play that game too. This way we can all beat Sauron and save Middle Earth!