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February 2010
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The new TV season brought with it a spate of new reality shows, but CBS’ Undercover Boss caught my attention.  The premise is quite simple—senior executives take on front line roles at their own companies to see what’s happening where the proverbial rubber meets the road and to observe the results of the executive decisions made from their ivory towers.  To ensure they receive an untainted and real experience, their temporary reassignments are done without the knowledge of their employees.  The results range from eye-opening and informative to surprising and heart-wrenching.


I was sceptical about the concept and the executives’ abilities to make this work.  First, I was surprised that these senior managers were not recognized as the companies’ leaders, but when I witnessed the size and nature of the companies, as well as their disguises, I quickly realized that this was possible.  The bulk of my scepticism, however, was reserved for the lack of visibility that these executives possessed about what was actually happening in the trenches, in particular how their managerial decisions translated to these same front lines, but more importantly how they impacted business operations, their employees and the company’s customers.  How could they be totally blind to this precise interface between their company and the market?


More than 25 years ago,Tom Peters and Robert Waterman Jr. penned In Search of Excellence, a best-selling, business book that focused on concepts to achieve corporate superiority.  As part of this treatise, Peters and Waterman intimately discussed the concept of management by walking around (MBWA) and the value that executives derived by engaging in such practices.  The idea of mingling with the troops, observing what was happening and seeing how things were done, offered executives an unfiltered feedback mechanism.  For years after the book’s launch, you would hear the MBWA term employed, or you would see managers wandering around their companies.


Although I’ve enjoyed the episodes of Undercover Boss that I’ve seen, what I find most disheartening is that such a wide chasm continues to exist between the executive offices and the troops on the front line.  You would think that Peters and Waterman’s instructive work would have educated management about their need to be aware, but Undercover Boss confirms that this is not the case.  How can we ensure that executives have the vision that extends all the way to the front lines?


Ryck Marciniak - Guest Blogger

Sucking Your Own Exhaust: Over the top reaction to Health Care Bill

I'm watching with great amusement the meltdown going on over the passage of the health care bill.   While it is comfortable to only hang out with people who share your views, it can get ugly  quickly when reality sets in.  

I'm actually talking about companies here.

Yesterday I had a fun lunch with a bunch of people from Novell.  I used to work there 12 years ago.  Half the people hadn't changed their world views in 12 years.   At the end, it was just me and the sales people.  They knew what was going on and were up on everything.   Very refreshing.

Aa  If you are in marketing, you have to get very uncomfortable, get into the field and understand what is going on.   You need an Eeyore to keep you grounded.   So be enthusiastic about what you are doing, but always keep an eye open to reality.

Inuit TurboTax does not work with Intuit Quickbooks Mac

I manage our business on a Mac.  I bought the latest copy Quickbooks 2010 for Mac.   I knew it a little bit quirky because to send to the accountant running Windows, you need to export as Windows.  No biggie.

Aa   The corporate tax returns were due Monday.   But I wasn't worried.   The books were reconciled each month and up to date.   I installed TurboTax Business in my Windows virtual machine (Intuit hasn't gotten around to developing a Mac version yet, because they must believe real accountants don't use a Mac).   I exported the qb file to Windows.  And tried to import them into TurboTax.

TurboTax puked: "unsupported file format".

I ended up having to print out the P&L statement and keypunch every number into TurboTax.  And after doing some research, found out that Intuit TurboTax does not work.....ever....with Intuit Quickbooks Mac.   Now that's good product planning.  "Choose Easy"

Subaru Customer Service

Aa  I drive a Subaru.  Yes there is a lot of snow here, but as important, the dealer service is great and the factory tries to do the right thing.  Even if it may take them a while.  4 years ago I was getting a gas smell on really cold days.  A couple of years ago I had the fuel rails replaced.  Turns out it was a design / supplier problem, and they are paying for the repair after the fact.  How about that?