Lessons from Scoble – why PodTech failed.

I used to think Robert Scoble SUCKED.  I found his work at Microsoft Channel 9 sucked because it was all Microsoft-centric.  Gee, what a surprise eh?  Bloke works for Microsoft, so OF COURSE he’s going to be all "Hoo Rah Microsoft".

Glad I’ve changed my mind (ie. I was wrong) and now have him on my RSS feed list.

Saw this over at FriendFeed, and some of Robert’s learnings are worth noting.  DO READ the whole feed to get the context.  My comments in BLUE.

I sure learned a lot about how a company can screw up big time.

Brother, I know how you feel.

Major learning’s for me?

  1. Have a story.
  2. Have everyone on board with that story.
  3. If anyone goes off of that story, make sure they get on board immediately or fire them.

Other things I learned:

  1. Make sure people are judged by the revenues they bring in. Those that bring in revenues should get to run the place. People who don’t bring in revenues should get fewer and fewer responsibilities, not more and more.
  2. Work ONLY for a leader who will make the tough decisions (see above).
  3. Build a place where excellence is expected, allowed, and is enabled.
  4. Fire idiots quickly (didn’t happen at PodTech — even if you count me as one of the idiots).

Working for people incapable of making a decision SUCKS. Learn to manage your boss in that case. Or leave.

Failures of companies often happen around failures at the leadership level.

Particularly when they say one thing, and then demonstrate something else.

We never played together as a team. It is why entrepreneurs need different skills after they start their companies. It is not enough to sell people on a dream. You must coach your way to it too.

I have been thinking about what Furrier said about me not having a full picture of what went wrong. First of all I don’t think he is right, but if he is I will add one last learning: never work in a VP position when those above you don’t share a complete picture of the business with you. Especially when that business is a social media one that was pushing transparency and community values.

Never worked as a VP, but that seems right. If you can’t be informed at the VP level, there is no hope for the company.

FastCompanyTV is making our bosses happy (we’re bringing in more revenue than is being spent) but we’re a private company so we don’t discuss our finances in public. About our audience. I’d argue that I know more about our audience than any TV show does and we’re soon going to require logging into FastCompanyTV to comment. Who is making tough decisions? I have a boss and he has a boss but the community is really our ultimate boss.

Listen to your audience. Your audience is the customer and your bosses.

Some Scoble links:
Scoble’s Google Reader Shared Items
IBM unveils nano-projector based VirtuaHuman with 1TB of memory

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And not a word of thanks – on re’orgs

CSC Australia - There was a team of folks who worked near by.  They performed Second Level support type work for a large mining customer, and they (the team) were based in Melbourne.

Then, one day, a re-org occurred, and their jobs were shifted to Sydney.

The team members were told that they had to find other jobs or be made redundant.  I suspect the move to consolidate jobs into Sydney was a bit of empire building on behalf of one manager.

The biggest complaint the team had about it all was the lack of “thanks for doing a great job”.

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If you don’t have a Blackberry, you’re a zero – according to ANZ bank exec.

Quote from Qantas Inflight magazine: If you don't have a BlackBerry, you're a zero. … something I wrote in 2007, which has been sitting in the "should get around to publishing" queue.

Kimberley Reid, ANZ Bank General Manager, Human Resources - Asia Pacific "If you don’t have a Blackberry, you’re a Zero", according to Kimberley Reid, Head of People Capital and Communications, Operations Technology and Shared Services, for the ANZ Bank. And it’s changed ""paradigms"" too.

Yes, I’ve been on an airplane again. Reading the drivel which passes for the in-flight magazine.

Management, aka "The Bosses", often come back from a trip with a bright shiny idea. This months? We want to pilot Blackberrys… "Been reading an in-flight magazine, have we?"

Fantales are more popular than Minties!
Allens Fantales I was training some people last week, and part of the training preparation is to setup bowls of lollies for the attendees to munch on.

Fantales are more popular than Minties, by a factor of 4 to 1.

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21 Things to do when quitting work

RSA SecurID token displaying OFFThis is the list I used when I finished up at my last job. Writing in blue shows what I did/what actually happened when I tried to complete the task. Might be handy for others.

  1. Performance appraisal feedback.  Finish writing feedback for staff who have asked for it.
  2. Print out list of training courses I’ve been on.
  3. Business cards with my new contact details, to hand out to people.
    I used ClickBusinessCards.com.  See this blog post for the why.
  4. Remove all of my property from the workplace.
    Was surprised that no-one asked about my 19″ LCD monitor I had on my desk, which went into the car boot.
  5. Clear clothes locker.
    No, didn’t find any spare charge.
  6. Have security clearances revoked.
    This can take time, so it’s better to start the process early.
    Comment from supervisor: “They were all canceled when we lost the contract”  No they weren’t.
  7. Delete Telephone Teleconference access.
    The company didn’t have a process for this. “”Never had anyone want to do that before.”
  8. Delete Telephone Calling Card.
    same as item 7.
  9. Hard reset of PDA to clear all work-related data.
    And the subsequent re-add of friend’s details took quite a while 🙁
  10. Cancel cell/mobile phones
    The cancellation didn’t go though until the following Tuesday.
  11. Cancel VPN token (Racal SecurID).
  12. Advise support groups that I am leaving and that accounts/passwords need to be revoked.
    “Ummm, why do you need your XYZ account disabled?”  Good security practice for a start.
  13. Send final email to co-workers, saying goodbye.
    Could have done a better job of this 🙁
    A UK based employee wrote this biting email.
  14. Secure format/wipe hard disk, and replace with original disk.  Repeat process.
    Darik’s Nuke and Boot worked well, but it takes hours.
    I had my own hard disk in the laptop as I wanted more space.
  15. Remove password from laptop.
    Laptop had a hard disk and bios boot password.
  16. Clear down Diners Card and return
    I had a credit balance on my Diner’s, which I’m still waiting for Diner’s to refund.
    Diner’s never did refund the money.
  17. Submit any outstanding expense reports.
  18. Claim any outstanding allowances.
    Should have done this, but didn’t 🙁
  19. Return customer security passes and keys.
  20. Advise facilities to revoke all buildings access.
  21. Return staff id and building keys.
    I miss some of the people, but not the employer.
    “Don’t go along to get along; do your best and when you have to, and you will; leave and be something else.”

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“I came up with it all by myself.” – on theft of ideas in corporate life.

Dilbert Boss Stealing IdeasSeen this twice in my 20 years in IT.  This being the theft of someone else’s ideas, and claiming them as their own.

First time I saw it was in the Northern Territory, with the Government’s IT arm, NCOM.

An IT Director published an draft e-Government proposal, lifting large slabs of the text from the ACT Government e-Government documents.

Having been a keen student of e-Government, I remember seeing some of the phrases used in the NCOM report.  A short Google time later, there we go “it’s a copy of the ACT e-Government report”.

The second time was with my last employer.  A colleague, rather the Powerpoint Guru, created a presentation for a Manager.   Manager presents Powerpoint Presentation to Director and Vice-President of my division, to much acclaim.  Much like the Dilbert cartoon excerpt, “I did it all by myself” claimed she, the Manager.

All well and good to try that on, but perhaps next time remove the Red Powerpoint Star from the bottom right corner of the slides you copy.

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Acknowledge the user, to avoid the flack

So said a very experienced helpdesk leader I worked with.

It lets the annoyed customer to get all their annoyances out, and they calm down.  Of course, swearing at a helpdesk person is not permitted.

To get the helpdesk staff to remember "Acknowledge the user, to avoid the flack", he purchased some AFLAC ducks.

What’s an AFLAC duck?  Well have a look here:


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Some meeting etiquette

If you are invited to a meeting by me:

TO vs. CC vs. BCC

  • TO indicates you are REQUIRED.
  • CC indicates that are invited, but not required.
  • BCC means I’m telling you about the invite for your information.


  • it means I’ve checked your calendar, and you are listed as free.
    If you are not free, I would have called before scheduling.
    Or left a reason why, in the invite notice.
  • Do not use “Tentative accept” without telling me why you might not make it.
  • A “Decline” is rude.  Either propose a reschedule or call me to discuss.

Conducting meetings

  • Lateness to anything shows disrespect, so don’t be late.
  • Meetings will have a purpose, some may be informational, and some will require actions to be taken.
  • At the end of the meeting, sum up what was learnt, and any actions required.

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Some email etiquette

Some points on work email etiquette which I “borrowed” from someone else.


As your team lead, you can expect:

  • I will “see” your email within 12 hours.
    If what you want to know is urgent, pick the phone up.  You have been issued a cell/mobile phone, start using it.
  • I generally will not send responses like: Sure, righto, can do, no problems etc.
  • As your manager I expect that you will view your emails as soon as practical, but remember you have a cell phone, so start using it for “action this day” items.
  • Do not cc: me in on emails for no good reason.
  • Mail cc’d to me lands into a separate mail folder.  It’s checked less often than mail sent TO me.
  • I use Return Receipt with those class of people I need to know they have seen the email.
    This is generally “Project Managers” & “Customer Relationship Managers”.

I expect that when you write emails:

  • you will use Punctuation/Capitalisation.
  • will not use use SMS slang/abbreviations or “l33t” speak.
  • you will make a meaningful subject line.
  • People who are in the TO: field, are expected to action the email
  • People who are in the CC: field, are being informed only, and no action should be required.
  • The goal is for all of us
    –  to Manage By Exception (no news is good news)
    – spend less time answering emails, and more time, doing other productive stuff.

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Matthew 22:21 – Render to Caesar …

lexar-usbThere are three things which will get you into trouble in life, thus explains why I returned a USB memory stick to my employer.

It was a surprise to the colleague I gave it to.

“Why not keep it?”

It’s not mine, that’s why.

“Not that they’re going to miss it”

No, but the principle is important.  I’m going to walk out this door with what’s mine, and leave what’s theirs.  And that’s just the way it is.

Sometimes in life you need to light the way for others.

It was a sweet product though.

“It’s policy!”

Never get in the way of:

  • the boss and a cup of tea
  • a politician and a bag load of money
  • a public servant and "policy".

There is a planning application in for a car park expansion next door, the local council sent me a letter about it.

"You may view, or request photocopies at $2 per A4 page, at the council offices".

Packed the laptop and portable scanner, headed down to the council offices, obtained a copy of the documents to view, and was promptly stopped from scanning them.  The conversations went like this:

Service Desk person:

Wait!  You’re not allowed to do that.  It’s against policy.  Calls colleague over
(the Service Desk persons behaviour reminded me of Daleks shouting ‘Exterminate’.  A bystander would have thought I was some sort of anarchist, judging by the behaviour.)

Young colleague

It’s against policy. 
So show me the policy.
In the letter you received, it said you can’t scan documents.
Here’s the letter, no it doesn’t.
Ummm, it’s a copyright issue.  We add a disclaimer stamp to the documents.  It’s policy!
Soooo, if I scan the document, there’s a copyright issue BUT if you photocopy it, there’s not.
I’ll get my Team Lead

Team Lead Planning Department

It’s policy.
So show me the policy.
No policy as such, but we add a disclaimer stamp.
So, apart from the disclaimer stamp, you’re not adding any value here?
I’ll go check with my supervisor (took the documents with her, I did ask for the A0 sheets to be copied)
… 5 minutes later …
It’s an advertised document, so you are allowed to scan it. (documents returned)
Thank you.

Half expected some problems, so here’s what I did:

  • Wore professional looking clothes (suit + tie).
  • Spoke quietly.
  • Challenged "the policy". 
    … as some as someone says it’s policy, you can be 90% sure they’re just trying to stop you asking questions.
  • Noted the names of everyone I spoke with, the conversation we had, and the time we had the chat.
    … made sure they saw me doing this.
  • My fallback would have been to either, photograph the documents, or pay the $46 to get them to photocopy the documents for me..

And here’s what annoys me.  The council could offer a "scanned document" service.  The advantages to them would be:

  • environmentally friendly (no paper used)
  • value added service for little effort
    ie. document scanned once, sold to many buyers.
  • could be made available from the web.


Might write them a letter about it.