Sunday, May 18, 2008

Here's the answer, it's email

This post will make more sense if you read the one before it first.

It's the Internet, DUH, sometimes I'm just not too quick. And more specifically the problem is email. (By the way I love it, I'm a junkie) We can move ideas, concepts, information, tasks, appointments, assignments, reports, explanations, evaluations and the data that supports all this instantly. All this moves light years faster than our brains can manage it. The information is also highly fragmented. We send 25 little pieces of data as it becomes available rather that sending cohesive and well articulated reports, as we did in the past.

On April 12, 1978 the Federal Express Company issued it's first public shares of stock. It was years before the use of this service became common place. Affordable fax machines started to appear in our offices in the mid 1980's. Do you remember your boss complaining about how expensive the fax paper was. As if to say we have the machine but please don't use it.

In just 20 or so years we have gone from "snail mail" and the telephone to email, web cams, webinars, this includes audio, video, voice, data and images. The only thing missing is the smell of a bad cologne and the occasional coffee spill. In effect, we have real time communication, on demand, around the world and it is virtually free. However, this is only the communication piece of an increasingly complex business landscape.

The elements surrounding a business issue must be assimilated, considered, balanced, shared, discussed, judged and evaluated by humans before final decisions can be made and these decisions are becoming more complex with the passing of time. An added challenge is the human brain is not working any faster or more efficiently now than it did 25 years ago. In fact, the overload of information we are experiencing today is causing us to work less efficiently and less effectively.

So we are attempting to accomplish more with modestly less brain capacity. My observation is we are seeing a lot of activity but not much in the way of achievement in many settings. This is not to say that a lot of really good things aren't happening in the world. I think there are some leaders who have learned to slow things down or to effectively balance resources with the human capability and technical capacity they have to produce winning results. There is no change here this has always been the secret of great managers with or without technology.

Those who haven't figured this out will spin their wheels and their teams will feel the pain and frustration of having no sense of accomplishment in their jobs. In my opinion, there are far too many people laboring in these circumstances. Activity does not equal achievement, productivity or profitability. It never has and never will. The sad part is I know far too many people who are trapped in these unbalanced and unfair environments.

Remember carbon paper? It wasn't that long ago was it?

Ok, now it fits. It makes sense to me now. I think it's horrendously foolish and grossly unproductive to let this powerful new technology throw so many of us out of balance but now I understand. What company uses the tag line "The power of one"? That's me from now on, using the power of one to offset the disruption of email in the universe. Too bad I don't look better it tights and cape.

Thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

I, for one, miss the smell of a freshly mimeographed test paper....

Great post, Lester!

John Agno said...

Lester, now that you think you have the answer to getting your arms around today's cheaper, faster, better global economy, I would suggest that we should all be aware of the danger of hanging on to the status quo:

Here is one of those lost corporate opportunities of yesteryear...

In the late 1950s, Kodak owned the paper copy business using a photo sensitive paper and monobath solution to create an extra copy of a document.

So, when Chester Carlson, a physicist and patent attorney, came calling with the new xerography technology, Kodak leadership turned him down....primarily because to build such a copier would be very expensive, require continuous service support and they had seldom heard of a customer who needed more than one copy at a time.

Carlson then went over to the Haloid Company, also in Rochester, NY, with his new technology where he was welcomed. Haloid then formed a joint venture with Battelle Development Corporation (BDC) in Columbus, OH, for 55% of the patient rights, to invest and develop the xerography technology resulting in three technical improvements.

In 1962, Xerox Corporation (the new name for the Haloid Company with Battelle owning $350 million of Xerox stock) introduced the Xerox 914, a revolutionary new copier that cost $15,000 each.

Prior to the product introduction, Joe Wilson, Haloid Company president, had come up with an innovative marketing approach for this new expensive copier that led to the success of xerography: Lease the 914 copier for only $100 per month and charge the customer an additional $.01 for each copy made on the machine.

The result for Kodak was its paper copier business quickly vanished.