Friday, February 20, 2015

Wendell Weeks on Broadband Transforming Internet

Wendell Weeks

April 18th 2002 notes on leadership, business and economics
Do people really value high-quality connections?
Absolutely. We always want the highest-quality connection we can have. Why don’t we use more videoconferencing? Because the quality of the connection is so poor. We value connection to the point where you’ll get on a plane and use a day for a two-hour meeting that you could have done in a video conference, but didn’t - because videoconferencing isn’t good enough.
Wendell Weeks is the President of Corning Optical Communications. His point is that while the investment community is skeptical right now of fiber optics, he believes in the innate value of optical technology for the things that people and businesses need. 

He also appears to have a really good handle on the supply-and-demand phenomenon of business and on the larger business landscape:

Corning Optical Communications is restarting to manufacture fiber because optical-fiber inventories of their customers have come down to a “level appropriate to our ongoing order rate. Restarting production will match our operations to demand.”

To his credit, Weeks does not view the lowered inventory and increased orders as a signal that the market has turned around. Instead, more reasonably, he views these as warranting the statement: “business conditions are not worsening.” 

Weeks does believe that broadband will transform the Internet. Fiber optics is, of course, the vehicle by which more and more things go through fatter and fatter pipes (broadband) at much higher speeds than they could otherwise in the old telephone lines. Broadband will provide the “visual richness” (and speed, of course) that people value dearly in their efforts to connect.

He acknowledges that people got on the Internet bandwagon without really thinking through the needs and implications of their business: “People began to shift everything over to the Internet without paying attention to fundamental economics, such as having [the market] to actually pay for it [e.g., Netzero, "Defenders of the free world”]. Then classic economics stepped in, and the capital markets stopped giving money to every idea. First everything was good; not it’s all bad. It’ll [all] even itself out.”

Reference: French, T.D. & Subramaniam, S. (April 2002). The future of fiber. The McKinsey Quarterly.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

People advantage is competitive advantage

(image credit)

April 18th 2002 notes on leadership, business and economics

This article is a great support for the work that we do at PDI. It rings the bells we have rung on human capital strategy or strategic talent management, and the authors use choice metaphors that I believe our clients will resonate with:
Today development must be embedded in the company’s bloodstream, with all managers responsible for giving team members ongoing feedback and coaching.

As any good gardener knows, to promote healthy growth, in addition to fertilizing and watering, you also must prune and weed. 
The Vice President of Human Resources for a major multinational client has specifically emphasized this critical dual responsibility (i.e. feedback and coach, prune and weed) and has called on PDI to offer solutions. The authors also cite rather evocative examples of what company leaders are doing:
Henri Termeer, the CEO of Genzyme, a company that focuses on developing therapies for rare diseases. He meets regularly with people who suffer these rare diseases: “He wants to feel angry about the pain and loss the disease is causing and [he wants to feel] passionate about the need to help. And he wants to transmit that passion to those working at Genzyme."

The bonding process can succeed only when senior management realizes that the company is more than a mere economic entity; it is also a social institution through which people acting together can achieve meaningful purpose. In the war for talent, organizations are engaged in what one senior executive describes as a ‘competitive for dreams’.

McKinsey and other organizations making the change have found new meaning in the term competitive strategy as they compete for the hearts, minds, and dreams of exceptional people.
Here are the key challenges and responsibilities of both the top executive and the HR leader and, of course, the members of their company:

The Role of the Executive in the “War for Talent” Era
  • A changing view of strategic resources
  • A changing view of value
  • A changing view of senior managers’ role
Implications for HR Professionals
  • The building challenge
  • The linking task
  • The bonding process
Interestingly, and certainly not surprisingly, the authors’ strategic implications for HR include two words that are powerfully related to each other: linking and bonding. The emphasize - in ways that sociologists and, yes, psychologists, do as well - the social institution that is the nature of companies and other organizations. 

Reference: Bartlett, C.A. & Sumantra, G. (Winter 2002). Building competitive advantage through people.  Sloan Management Review (pp 34-41).