More on busyness

The concept of "busyness" is something I find particularly interesting. I linked to an article by Harvard Business Review before that discussed the trap of acting busy just to appear to be busy to others or to yourself.

Today I came across an article by Randy Murray in which he addresses busyness from the point of view of a leader working with his staff. He says:

If you tell people to look busy or create an environment in which you give out unpleasant and unnecessary tasks when there’s not enough work, you’ll end up creating serious productivity problems for yourself. Your employees will learn how to slow down work to fill up time. They’ll avoid you. They’ll deceive you about the amount of time it takes to get things done.

In other words, don't persuade the people that work with you to fall into the busyness trap. On the contrary, encourage the to do the opposite.

On the Apple Tax

Jean-Louis Gassée wrote an interesting article on Monday Note titled Steve: Who’s Going to Protect Us From Cheap and Mediocre Now? It’s an interesting exploration, among other things, of Apple’s relentless pursuit of quality and the numerous cheap knock-offs that tend to hit the marketplace shortly after the release of an Apple product.

Remember all those computers and printers copying the translucent blue plastic Apple used in the original Bondi Blue iMac?

I remember owning an Epson printer that used a similar blue. They even used the “i” calling it the Epson Stylus Color 740i. It was a good quality printer as Epson products are, but that translucent blue plastic just made it look cheap.

Back then, Apple products were more expensive than their equivalent1 from other manufacturers. People used to call it the “Apple Tax”. I was always into photography, graphic design, desktop publishing, and video, so from my perspective, once a non-Apple computer was spec’d out to be comparable that Apple Tax seemed to go away.

However, what I found extraordinary from reading Mr. Gassée’s post is when he went on to compare a Sony Vaio that’ intended to compete directly with the MacBook Air. Here’s how he put it:

A nice MacBook Air competitor starting at $1969. The real thing starts at $1299. Quite a reversal of the old world order and, I hope, a source of satisfaction for Jobs.

A similar story is happening with tablets. The iPad price is so aggressive that competitors are struggling to match it with a truly comparable device.

It’s amazing that so many people still think the Apple Tax exists.

  1. Equivalent is subjective of course. Funny that most Apple users didn’t consider other computers as equivalent (not even in the ballpark), while most non-Apple users considered these the same or even “better” than a Mac. ?

Product guys vs. strategy guys vs. finance guys

Roger Martin, the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto in Canada, writing in the Harvard Business Review blog:

Bob is right: the car guys indeed need to be given license to hone in laser-like on customer delight. But the strategists have to help them figure out which customers need most to be delighted. And if both of those folks do their jobs, the counters will have many beans rolling in over the transom. If the middle piece isn't there, not enough beans roll in and the car guys and the bean counters go to war — leaving the customers on the outside looking in, as Bob correctly points out.

By Bob he means Bob Lutz, former Vice Chairman at General Motors Company amongst other high profile posts at various car manufacturers. The article is referencing a book by Lutz titled "Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business" in which he writes about the opposing priorities between different departments and the impact these differences can have in a company's future. The product description for the book at Amazon explains it succinctly:

In 2001, General Motors hired Bob Lutz out of retirement with a mandate to save the company by making great cars again. He launched a war against penny pinching, office politics, turf wars, and risk avoidance. After declaring bankruptcy during the recession of 2008, GM is back on track thanks to its embrace of Lutz's philosophy.

When Lutz got into the auto business in the early sixties, CEOs knew that if you captured the public's imagination with great cars, the money would follow. The car guys held sway, and GM dominated with bold, creative leadership and iconic brands like Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, GMC, and Chevrolet.

But then GM's leadership began to put their faith in analysis, determined to eliminate the "waste" and "personality worship" of the bygone creative leaders. Management got too smart for its own good. With the bean counters firmly in charge, carmakers (and much of American industry) lost their single-minded focus on product excellence. Decline followed.

It's a great book and the post by Roger Martin is thought provoking.