Management Theory. It's all bunk

Management theory has been a huge boon for writers, pundits and MBA’s for the last 30 years or so. It’s a multi billion dollar industry with endless books, conferences, experts, acolytes and general fan boys hanging on the every word of the “gurus” of management. Thousands of people make a living in this world, telling individuals, companies and governments how best to run themselves and their businesses, even their whole economies.

But there’s a problem, it’s all nonsense. Your first reaction to this is probably What !?!?!

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Why I'm proud to be a chump

Before I get any further into this I want to state for the record that I’m a chump. I’m one of those people who believe in queueing up, that the best person wins, that you shouldn’t litter the streets, or park across the lines in the parking lot. In other words I believe in playing by the rules and think we would all be better off if everyone else did as well. That makes me a chump in the modern world. In today’s world being a chump is a losing strategy. Today we are increasingly living in the world of the wise guy.

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Knock Knock. Who’s there? It’s the end of the end of the world as we know it

Back In March I announced that Interop in the Video Conferencing market was dead (I like a provocative title ;-))

And today Google announced the official launch of Google Duo its consumer friendly Video Conferencing product. From what I’ve seen so far Google Duo is nothing particularly special. Like Apple FacetimeMicrosoft Skype, Google’s own Hangouts, and a host of others it’s simply another consumer based Video Conferencing solution, so why does it matter?

There are a few reasons

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The upside down manager

In business the majority of people start their career as an individual contributor and work their way up to being a manager of others. It seems like the logical thing to do.

We start out not knowing anything, get educated and then stop doing it to manage other people doing it.

There is somehow a concept in business that being good at doing something automatically ensures being good at managing others doing the same thing.

Business, is the only business, that thinks that way.
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A million mouths

I wanted to give some sense of the rate of change in our society and why so many people are so frightened of a future they feel they  incapable of coping with.

Although the human mind tends to work in a linear fashion, our growth rate is exponential. To give a sense at the speed in which human society growing, let’s examine agriculture and sustenance, as a useful analogy of human development.

For humans, subsistence level – the minimum required to feed and sustain a person – is considered by the United Nations to be about $400 a year. It took humankind about one million years to get the point where we could feed a million mouths; where we could reach this subsistence level for that many people.

If you liked this piece please give it a thumbs up. It will enable more of your friends to see it. If you really liked it, live a little, share it ;-)

The next major Excession Event was farming, which occurred in multiple places around the world almost simultaneously. Around 5,000 BC,  once farming was established as a concept, humanity increased the rate in which it could feed another million people at subsistence level to every 200 years. We went from a million years to 200 years in a less than a thousand years.

Fast forward to the post-Industrial Revolution era, to the world economy as it is today. Humanity now feeds another million mouths, in economic terms, every 90 minutes.

In 7,000 years, we've moved from a million mouths every million years to a million mouths every 90 minutes.

Today, we can feed another million mouths on the planet in actual food terms every 10 days. This rate of increase in the wealth of human society is just incredible, and it continues to increase.

If you were to grow the world economy at the same rate it has grown over the last 50 years on average, by the year 2050, the world will be 4.8 times richer than it is today. And by the year 2100, it will be 35 times richer than it is today.

Not every individual will be 35 times richer, of course. But certainly, the end of poverty in any meaningful sense, as we know it today, is absolutely going to happen. The scale of the society we would have built by that point is just inconceivable. But it’s happening right now: The world will change more in your lifetime than in the last 2,000 years combined.

If you lived 500 years ago in an English village, you probably died in a house you were born in. You never went more than seven miles from your house. The only education you got was what the priests told you on a Sunday morning. You weren't plugged to any kind of world affairs. So even if you had an idea – and frankly the chances of you having one were pretty low, as you weren't in a position to come up with any – who were you going to tell?

Now, we're in a world where the most impoverished farmer with a cellphone is more connected than the President of the United States was in the the Reagan era.

About the Author: Simon Dudley

Simon is a contrarian. He makes a habit of being the guy who questions the orthodoxy, the guy who doesn’t believe it just because the good and the great said it’s true. This has not always been good for his ascent up the corporate greasy pole. However it’s been very good for his employers if they are prepared to listen.

The Book The End of Certainty "How to thrive when playing by the rules is a losing strategy" explains why groupthink and the doing what you’ve always done is no longer the right move.

The Excession Events Podcast is available on iTunes and Google Play

He is also a business speaker specialising in the transformation of business models.

To keep tabs on his work please follow him on:

A new project management plan

Over the years I’ve sat in hundreds of negotiations with clients. It is after all one of those things I do, a lot. There’s always the talk about the specification of the project and what the client needs. Once that is hammered out we get to the bit of the deal that salespeople get paid for. The bit about the money.

How much is this going to cost me? Asks the client.

The sales person depending on their experience and proclivities will either start to go through what the client is getting, and then squeak out a number, often with a question mark at the end, or if more experienced and more self assured state the number.

The client’s role is to then roll back in their chair, suck in a lungful of air and exclaim that that’s a preposterous amount and the supplier needs to do the deal for less. The salesperson almost always gives away something, often far more than they can really afford to, a deal is struck and everyone goes about their day.

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Never mind the quality, feel the length


I started with the idea that quality was a one way street, once you experienced something better, like a business class airline seat, or a CD, or Blu Ray DVD, you would struggle to go back. I was wrong.


That doesn’t mean quality doesn’t matter, it just means it only matters a little bit.


Now before I go further into this let me define the definition of quality for the purposes of this article. I will define that as the quality of the individual call. The number of pixels, the color fidelity, the frame rate and latency.


These things do matter, but many players in the industry have perhaps lost sight of what really matters in pursuit of an ever higher quality of call.


So if I’ve been wrong what does matter and why?


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Most manufacturers know what their clients do with their products. After all if you’re a tool maker you know your clients use your tools to achieve certain things, it’s obvious.

Screwdriver manufacturers know their clients use screwdrivers to screw in screws. Hammer makers products are used to whack things with, like crinkle cut nails. It’s obvious.

Except it’s not that obvious

Many manufacturers are so sure that their product is used for a certain purpose that they don’t speak to their clients, widely and often enough, to ascertain what the real use is. As a result they do things like make an improved screwdriver, a phillips head type for example. These cross tipped screwdrivers are obviously far superior, they grip the screw, give more leverage, and are quicker to screw in and out. What’s not to like about that?

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It's probably not a conspiracy, probably

I am not a believer in conspiracy theories. Occam's razor states the simplest explanation is almost always the most likely. As a result this post is difficult for me to write, because honestly I’m actually struggling to believe the conclusions that might be drawn from it.


On Monday this week (June 13th) I wrote two stories. One was about the Polycom/Mitel merger and the other about the purchase of Linkedin by Microsoft.  I posted both to Linkedin, something I’ve done every week since starting Excession Events a little over a year ago.


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Why everything will be ok is a terrible thing to say

It’s one of the first phrases our parents say to us. “Don’t worry, everything will be ok”. Whether we’ve fallen over, crashed our bike, or lost a pet. We grow up hearing and then repeating that phrase. We all do it. It’s natural, it makes us feel better to hear it, even to say it.


The trouble is, sometimes it’s a lie, and it has some very bad consequences.


The problem with the phrase “Don’t worry, everything will be ok” is that the very strong implication is that things will fix themselves or that someone else will sort things out. It takes away responsibility from the person who is told it, it even takes away the responsibility to act from the person saying it.

When you fall off your bicycle age 4 and your Mum rubs your scuffed knee it’s completely reasonable to use the phrase.

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Robot lawnmowers and the future of sales

What I learnt from Robot lawn mowers

Studies show that clients are increasingly knowledgeable about the products and services they purchase, with the result that over 60% of the sales cycle has been completed before they even contact any potential suppliers.

Some folks are debunking the myth that the sales cycle is nearly over before sales is involved, but interestingly the effect of getting out in front of the opportunity still applies. To read more about that read this article: Debunking the myth

Either way this changes the role of sales completely. Previously the salesperson would be perceived as the “expert” and would help the client frame the problem before suggesting a solution. Of course the role of the good salesperson was to frame the problem around their own solution. It’s one of the arts of sales.


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Ben Franklin, Ballons and why we never see the future comning

Benjamin Franklin was famously asked what use he thought this newfangled thing, the hot air balloon would be. He famously replied, “What use is a new born baby?”

It’s interesting to note that many of us smile at the naivety of the man who couldn’t see the future of flight, and nod at the wisdom of Dr Franklin.

Strangely though 99.9% of us are much closer in outlook to the naive man than to Dr Franklin.

Now one could easily argue that Dr Franklin was one of the greatest polymaths in history with an extraordinary mind and for more on that you should try think link to Dr Franklin’s Wikipedia page.

Naive friend

Today however I want to concentrate on our naive friend, the one we all look down on, perhaps indulgently as a simpleton, or perhaps more harshly as an idiot utterly incapable of understanding the huge ramifications of the things presented to them right in front of their eyes, someone so naive that they can’t see a future in which the world looks utterly different to the one of day.

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End of Quarter madness

Like many people involved in the IT industry I’ve got used to the ritual of end of quarter madness over the years.

For many years it was my job as a manufacturer's rep to squeeze our distributors and resellers so that they placed their stocking orders at the end of the quarter. As the targets went up, and the numbers increased, the job would get harder and harder until this process started to seriously damage the relationship between the manufacturer and its partners.

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The consequences of failing to understand catastrophic risk

It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not, it’s happening anyway

I was at the ETS16 conference in Austin Texas yesterday at which people from the electricity generation and distribution industry were discussing how they are planning to cope with a world where sea levels rise by 5-10 feet over the next 30 years.

5 feet of that will be caused by ocean expansion as it warms and with ice melting.  The additional 5 feet would come, and come very quickly if a large piece of the Antarctic ice shelf breaks off and melts into the ocean. This is looking increasingly likely to happen. The consequences for ocean currents would be devastating.

The presenters made no pronouncements on whether the climate change was man made (although 97% of scientists in the field believe it is), or simply part of the Earth’s cycle. Either way it’s happening, and we as a society aren’t even beginning to think through the consequences.

On the one side the environmentalists want to concentrate on stopping more carbon escaping into the atmosphere and are reluctant to deal with its consequences because they feel it gets polluters off the hook, and on the other side deny it’s even a thing. The core infrastructure world doesn’t care about the politics, it cares about the consequences.

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Are cities still the primary engine of scientific growth?

Agglomeration is a great word. Basically it means that like minded people move near each other to make their lives easier and be more productive. Hence filmmaking in Hollywood, the Tech space in Silicon Valley, or the financial houses clustering in New York.

Patents as measure of innovation

One of the ways to measure agglomeration is to study how many patents were cited in other patent applications. That way clusters of innovation could be observed. Two researchers, Jay Bhattacharya and his colleague Mikko Packalen, of Stanford University, analyzed millions of patents issued between 1836 and 2010. The idea was to understand how one good idea led to the next. they were looking to prove if living in a big important city really mattered when it came to innovative thinking.

Big Cities were great

What is interesting, is that for over a hundred years until the 1980’s, there were strong advantages in living in the big important cities. But by the early 2000’s that advantage had collapsed.

The authors of the report don’t suggest there is no advantage to these centers of excellence, but that their effects are much less than in previous generations.

Smaller cities are better now

It is interesting to note that Video Conferencing, the internet and the ability to still be plugged into the world even when remote from the centers of excellence is changing society. One has to wonder if we even need big cities any more. Smaller cities often have much higher qualities of life for their citizens.

Personal perspective

Personally I got into the Video Conferencing world because I lived the other side of the world from my Dad, and the technology gave me the hope that I could continue to have a close relationship with him even though we were ten thousand miles apart. It seems to me that the research cited here shows that the Video Conferencing industry has had a positive effect on the world, and I for one am very proud of that.

The ability to be at the center of an industry while simultaneously living wherever you like is is transformational. All we have to do as an industry it show the rest of our society what we can achieve. It’s been surprisingly hard to get businesses and individuals to understand the power of Video Conferencing. Let’s hope Jay and Mikko’s work helps us push this agenda further.

Here’s the original piece on NPR.

Are big cities still a primary engine for scientific innovation?

About the Author: Simon Dudley

Simon is a contrarian. He makes a habit of being the guy who questions the orthodoxy, the guy who doesn’t believe it just because the good and the great said it’s true. Even when it’s a bad idea politically he can’t help but speak up. This has not always been good for his career, but it’s generally been very good for his employers if they are prepared to listen.

The Book The End of Certainty "How to thrive when playing by the rules is a losing strategy" explains why groupthink and the doing what you’ve always done is no longer the right move.

To keep tabs on his work please follow me on: ExcessionEvent

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The why and how of the reinvention of sales

Recently I spoke at the CRN event Xchange (XSP16) in Los Angeles

I was asked to present on the changing face of the IT industry and how the Cloud is affecting the reseller world.

I decided to concentrate my 50 minute talk on a single aspect of this transformation. The role of the sales person. After all there's only so much one can say in one presentation and make the material actionable.

The role of marketing has been transformed by the rise of CRM, marketing tools, and big data. A department that 15 years ago was often thought of as a cost center is now at the heart of many businesses. Sales however hasn’t gone through that transformation, yet. It needs to. My talk is about that aspect of the transformation of Boxes to the Cloud.

I hope you enjoy the podcast, and would love to hear your feedback on the ideas discussed within it.

Here is the  first part of the: XSP16 presentation

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Interoperability was declared dead at Enterprise Connect 16

Having spent a couple of hectic days at EC16 in Orlando last week I think it’s safe to say all the major players in the video conferencing market have abandoned the notion of interoperability. One could argue their previous attempts were at best half hearted, but now all the pretense has gone.

Industry standards sort of good for clients, horrible for manufacturers

Since the mid 1990’s when H.261 and then H.263 took over from algorithms like SG.4 the industry has been at least nominally been working toward an interoperability standard. It of course has major advantages for clients to have all the systems talk to each other, but it’s pretty bad news for the manufacturers, particularly the larger and more innovative ones. Ideally a manufacturer wants to have a compelling piece of technology unavailable to their competitors to lure clients and then lock them in.

Interoperability isn’t just just measured in ITU standards, it can also be measured in the ability of systems to communicate and be management by different systems. Here are a couple of examples.


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