Friday, August 31, 2007

Current Trend of Global Project Management Teams

When the stakes are high, how do you enable your team to collaborate as a team?

August 31, 2007

At I.B.M., a Vacation Anytime, or Maybe None

SOMERS, N.Y. — It’s every worker’s dream: take as much vacation time as you want, on short notice, and don’t worry about your boss calling you on it. Cut out early, make it a long weekend, string two weeks together — as you like. No need to call in sick on a Friday so you can disappear for a fishing trip. Just go; nobody’s keeping track.

That is essentially what goes on at I.B.M., one of the cornerstones of corporate America, where each of the 355,000 workers is entitled to three or more weeks of vacation. The company does not keep track of who takes how much time or when, does not dole out choice vacation times by seniority and does not let people carry days off from year to year.

Instead, for the past few years, employees at all levels have made informal arrangements with their direct supervisors, guided mainly by their ability to get their work done on time. Many people post their vacation plans on electronic calendars that colleagues can view online, and they leave word about how they can be reached in a pinch.

“It’s like when you went to college and you didn’t have high school teachers nagging you anymore,” said Mark L. Hanny, I.B.M.’s vice president of independent software vendor alliances. “Employees like that we put more accountability on them.”

But the flip side of flexibility, at least at I.B.M., is peer pressure. Mr. Hanny and other I.B.M. employees, including his assistant, Shari Chiara, say that they frequently check their e-mail and voice mail messages while on vacation. Bosses sometimes ask subordinates to cancel days off to meet deadlines.

Some workplace experts say such continued blurring of the boundaries between work and play can overtax employees and lead to health problems, particularly at companies where there is an expectation that everyone is always on call.

“If leadership never takes time off, people will be skeptical whether they can,” said Kim Stattner of Hewitt Associates, a human resources consultant. “There is the potential for a domino effect.”

Frances Schneider, who retired from an I.B.M. sales division last year, after 34 years, said one thing never changed; there was not one year in which she took all her allotted time off.

“It wasn’t seven days a week, but people ended up putting in longer hours because of all the flexibility, without really thinking about it,” Ms. Schneider said. “Although you had this wonderful freedom to take days when you want, you really couldn’t. I.B.M. tends to be a group of workaholics.”

I.B.M. officials said they have no idea whether workers take more or fewer days off now than before, and have not studied the policy’s effect on efficiency.

But they point to employee surveys showing that the self-directed work and vacation policy is one of the top three reasons workers choose to stay there.

“Change is change,” said Richard Calo, vice president of global workforce relations. “We had some initial questioning of it. But at the end of the day, you remember how much time you spent. This wasn’t a difficult sell.”

/// With the Tangible Vision, the Compass team adjusts to changes as a team.

Mr. Calo, the human resources chief, said that the open-ended vacation policy is “not a total license to do whatever you want to do,” and that workers are expected to produce quality work, even if the company is not paying attention to when or where they complete it.

The hands-off approach to vacation time, which gradually took hold over the past decade, has come amid I.B.M.’s shift from engineering and manufacturing into services like consulting and is part of a broader demise of old notions of eight hours’ pay for eight hours’ work at a fixed location.

Aided by broadband connections, cellphones and video conferencing software, 40 percent of I.B.M.’s employees have no dedicated offices, working instead at home, at a client’s site, or at one of the company’s hundreds of “e-mobility centers” around the world, where workers drop in to use phones, Internet connections and other resources.

/// This is the future. Employees with no dedicated offices, working instead at home, at a client’s site, or at one of the company’s hundreds of “e-mobility centers” around the world, where workers drop in to use phones, Internet connections and other resources. ///

/// With the Tangible Vision, a project team collaborate anywhere.

Long a trendsetter in human resources — it began offering family leave in the 1950s — I.B.M. is probably the largest company to do away so completely with tracking vacation, although a number of newer, smaller firms have similar policies.

Best Buy has introduced a program called Results Oriented Work Environment for its 4,000 corporate employees, giving them freedom to do their jobs without regard to the hours they put in daily.

Motley Fool, the online investment adviser, has, since its founding 13 years ago, let employees take as many paid vacation or sick days as they need; the company’s director of human resources, Lee Burbage, said that most of its 180 workers take three to four weeks a year. Netflix, the online DVD distributor, no longer allots specific numbers of vacation days to its 400 salaried employees.

“When you have a work force of fully formed professionals who have been working for much of their life,” Patty McCord, the chief talent officer of Netflix, said, “you have a connection between the work you do and how long it takes to do it, so you don’t need to have the clock-in and clock-out mentality.”

/// The higher one climbs in the corporate value chain, the greater the emphasis is on the management and mastery of information. ///

I.B.M.’s vacations-without-boundaries system started in the early 1990s, when managers in the human resources, finance and technology departments questioned whether tracking days off helped the company grow — and some complained that it was an administrative burden.

So the company stopped counting days in a few departments, then gradually expanded the new policy. Since 2003, it has covered everyone in the company, from the chief executive, Samuel J. Palmisano, who has a vacation house in Kennebunkport, Me., to workers at I.B.M.’s chip and server factories in East Fishkill and Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Luis H. Rodriguez, the director of market management in I.B.M.’s software group, said he visits his office here in Somers about once a week, working the rest of the time on the road or at his home in Ridgefield, Conn., where he sat one recent afternoon at the kitchen table with his laptop open.

He said that in six years at I.B.M. he can recall only one time when he asked a co-worker not to take a long weekend off — when their group was about to buy another company — and that calling colleagues or checking e-mail while visiting relatives in Texas or Illinois is a fair trade for being able to work from home so he can spend more time with his children, Alec, 5, and Evia, 2.

“I get an incredible amount of flexibility from the company, but it cuts both ways,” he said. “Because people’s schedules and needs are so structured, you need flexibility at work.”

/// The Tangible Vision handles this matter by displaying the team management priorities in term of changes and contingencies. ///

For most companies, keeping track of time worked and time off remains a critical and transparent benchmark for workers and bosses. It is also a necessity in factories, call centers, restaurants and other workplaces where business would grind to a halt if managers were unable to predictably have enough employees on hand.

“If you look at the organizations that have done more radical things, they tend to be technology companies with salaried people,” where flexibility in job performance “is embedded into the culture of the place,” noted Max Caldwell, a managing principal in the work force effectiveness area at Towers Perrin, a human resources consultant.

Indeed, I.B.M.’s Mr. Calo said that the flexibility has helped the company compete with the more freewheeling atmosphere at start-up rivals in the technology world that have lured away some of its talent over the years.

“We have a reputation of not being as hip as a Google or a Netflix,” he said. “You don’t have to be the coolest guy on the block, but you don’t have to be the Big Blue nerd, either.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


Thursday, August 30, 2007

More FAQs on Compass AE

Following are questions from various inquirers:

1. Is Compass AE a hype?
No. It is a tangible strategic process that has been beta-tested by listed and non-listed clients

2. Would I use Compass AE?
If you have a remotely located project team that has problems collaborating as a team, you will need a process to get your team to collaborate as a team.

3. If I do not see the immediate answer, should I continue reading the site?
The site is still a "Tangible Vision in Progress". If you have any questions, please contact us. We will answer your questions.

4. Are all strategic processes the same?
No. Our process focuses on the use of a specialized "big picture" approach. enables the remotely-located project team to collaborate anywhere regardless
of the distance, the technology, and the project culture.

With our Compass AE process, .a project team can perform the following:
  • Complete the goal by determining the critical path;
  • Avoid obstacles and focus on positive circumstances;
  • Anticipate opportunities;
  • Perform proper pre-stage preparation;
  • Shape the target; and
  • Lead by strategic collaboration.
Can those strategic processes do that?

5. How can Compass AE assist me (esp in a global economy)?
Please e-mail us for the answer at. Service [aatt] collaboration360 [dottt] com

/// More to Come.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Are Your Telecommuting Professionals Connected to Collaborate?

The Bay Area Air Quality Board declared today as "Spare The Air Day". They suggested that people who work in office, should telecommute from home.

Information on
Spare The Air Day can be found here and here.

From Commuterchoice (as of June 30, 2006), there are over 200 worksites; 350,000 employees participating in some sort of telecommute (also known as telework) programs.

# # #

The questions of the day are:
  • Are these telecommuters effectively connected to their corporate office in terms of collaborative operations?
  • Are their e-conference meetings efficient?
  • Are the telecommuters operating efficiently as a virtual/distant team
If not, do they have a Compass for their team to collaborate with?

What kind of Compass should they have? Compass AE.

More to come.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Influence with the Tangible Vision (1)

In this entry, will discuss the strategic side of Compass AE.

With the Tangible Vision, the implementers of the project team influences (shi 势 ) the completion of the goal through indirectness, not through the use of direct forces (li 力).

Objective: Influence the completion by aligning the forces toward the target.

Following are the the four
steps to creating the proper influence:
1. Identifies the Zheng (given) and Qi (unorthodox) variables;
2. Creates favorable match-ups by determining the mismatches;
3. Creates favorable situations by determining
the momentum and timing of those variables; and
4. Takes the initiative to implement the influence.

Amateurs talk about the Will to Win. It is the "Will to Prepare" that counts. To build a good Tangible Vision, it takes a great deal of time and patience to achieve it.

The amount of time the project team takes to build the Tangible Vision is inversely proportionally to the amount of time the team takes to lead (implement) the Tangible Vision.

When a team masters their Compass as a team, they can achieve great things.

--- More to come ---

Copyright: 2006-2007 © Collaboration360 Consultants (C360).
Copying, posting and reproduction in any form (without prior consent) is an infridgement of copyright.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Using the Tangible Vision to "Connect to Collaborate"

A project team without a Tangible Vision is a team without a direction. They have no idea on what strategic matter(s) to focus on (during the meeting time)

August 26, 2007
Minding the Meeting, or Your Computer?

BACK in 1994, when portable PCs started their descent from 15-pound luggables to today’s 5-pound laptops, I started taking mine to meetings at Microsoft, and so did my colleagues. So novel. So useful.

We could type notes. We could get information immediately from our computers instead of carrying a stack of paper or scurrying back to our offices to fetch a file. We could present our slides or show off new products. Geek thrills!

As we became more connected and casual with the technology, though, we embarked on some decidedly less meeting-oriented activities. We read our e-mail if the conversation took a dull turn. We checked news headlines. We surreptitiously logged on to the ESPN Web site.

In the last few years, we even started instant messaging one another during meetings, like eighth graders whispering in class: Did he just say or Does she realize that . Sometimes, people would even wisecrack over I.M., to see if they could make other people in the room laugh.

But now a whole etiquette has formed. The Web site even lists seven rules for using laptops in meetings, including Make Sure There’s a Point and Turn Down Bells and Whistles. In some meetings, especially if the topic is sensitive, it just seems more respectful to leave the laptops closed. On the other hand, if the meeting is covering a variety of areas and the conversation is moving into something I’m not involved in, I don’t feel too bad about catching up on my e-mail. It beats doing so at 11 p.m.

Of course, there are mistakes and boundaries that you figure out over time. Recently, one of my colleagues was standing at the front of a meeting room, projecting some data from his laptop onto the screen. A toast popped up the little square window in the corner that tells you someone on your buddy list has logged on with a message from someone in the audience that his fly was open. This was a joke meant to remind the guy to set his laptop on presentation mode for meetings, which mutes instant messaging, among other things.

Everyone has their own way of handling the laptop question when running a meeting. When it’s me, I may sometimes glance over people’s shoulders to see if their screens look topic-related. Or if I see people buried in their laptops, I may ask for their opinions to see if they’re engaged.

Some speakers start a meeting with Laptops off, please. Others might chirp, Excuse me, we’re having a meeting here, if people are making more eye contact with their screens than with the speaker. Once, one of my bosses slammed the lid of my PC down in a fury because he thought I wasn’t paying attention.

Tablet PCs the kind that sit flat on your lap and are used with a stylus instead of a keyboard seem to be more socially acceptable. Maybe it’s because there isn’t a big dark rectangular barrier that you’re putting up between yourself and the speaker. Maybe it’s because we all grew up taking notes with paper and pen, so it’s more familiar. In any case, you can still do your e-mail, get an I.M. about dinner plans, pay your bills or surf.

But it’s not all etiquette, passing electronic notes and Web surfing. The technology is really useful. I can get data from the corporate Web. I can let my wife know I’ll be late without leaving the meeting room to make a call (and making myself that much later), or answer a colleague’s quick question immediately. Instant messaging lets me see who’s available outside the meeting room to send me information if I need it. Checking who’s online from your PC is like poking your head into the hallway to see who’s around to help you.

Laptops in meetings can be discouraging if the most senior people in the room are frequently looking down at their laptops or, worse yet, typing for an extended time. The presenter has to wonder how much he or she is getting across. I have to say that our senior management sets a good example in this regard. In meetings, I don’t see Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer doing e-mail they’re actively engaged, and listening and asking questions.

Laptops in meetings are also becoming fashion accessories, especially among employees in their 20s and early 30s. Their PCs have stickers like those of a high school binder: snowboard products, or geeky sayings like My other PC is your laptop I’m a hacker. There are political bumper stickers and all kinds of things that show off their interests, their image, their sense of humor.

I guess the computer coming to meetings is like bringing your office’s decorations along with you. You get a better idea of the people you’re meeting with.

SOMETIMES when I’m in meetings all day, I carry around my laptop to keep up on e-mail and phone messages, and to take notes. Many of my colleagues are doing the same, so by the 5 p.m. meeting we’re all looking for electrical outlets.

The more discreet way to check e-mail, I.M., and the Web at a meeting these days is the latest-generation cellphone. While they can’t connect to all the data on your PC (yet), smartphones connected to the Internet, with mobile versions of the same Office software on your PC make it easy for insatiable information seekers to sneak a peek at headlines or send off a quick e-mail without drawing attention. Just make sure to turn off that Girl From Ipanema ring tone.

Dean Hachamovitch is general manager of Internet Explorer for Microsoft. As told to Julie Bick, a former co-worker of Mr. Hachamovitch when she worked at Microsoft.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What Is Inside The Tangible Vision?

The Tangible Vision is a composite of a mission statement, a vision statement and technical scope of what it is about.

It is the goal, the process and the direction used to complete the goal.

The distinction of the Tangible Vision is the emphasis of technical specifics in terms of timeline, costline and various metrics.

The details of the Tangible Vision must be results-oriented, quantifiable and relentlessly upbeat.
- More to come. -

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Compass AE: Establishing the Collaborative Connections and Accountability

With the Compass AE methodology, a project team collaboratively understands the connection between the senior management goals and their goals.

@ the same time, senior management and project team are required to sign off on the Tangible Vision. This step forces everyone to be accountable for their action.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Reasons on Why Some Project Teams Fails

Current trend of project management:
* 60% of all requirements for most projects are re-written. (Borland Intl,;


* 1 out of every 4 projects never leave the starting line (Meta group);
* 30% of all projects are completed on time, on-budget and on target (Chaos Report);
"Only 59% of our projects reach the market. In Europe only a meager 45% get shipped. ..." Jack Ganssle, (07.10.2006)

# # #

Our Analysis:
When a team collaboratively does not understand what is their big picture, they will not collaborate. No collaboration = No project success. It is psychological difficult to force a team to collaborate when they are not connect with it.

Our Compass AE process enables a project team to collaboratively use the Tangible Vision to view the "top to bottom" connections between the goal, the objectives and the requirements. ...
When they connect with it, the process of collaboration begins.

@ the end, the Compass team completes their Tangible Vision on time, on budget and on target.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Popularity of Sun Zi's Art of War

During a competition, a novice reading a strategy book like Sun Zi's The Art of War, is not going to make him or her a better leader or a better strategist or a gameplayer. (unless the book is used as a prop in the game). He/she either have the conscious and the experience of being a good leader at that moment or they will be following a better leader.


Survivor castaways revealed

US network CBS has announced the identities of the 16 castaways who will outwit, outplay and outlast each other in China in the upcoming 15th season of Survivor.

As always some castaways have unusual occupations: 30-year-old James is a gravedigger, 36-year-old Jean-Robert is a professional poker player, 28-year-old Ashley is a WWE wrestler, and 38-year-old Leslie is a Christian radio talk show host.

For the first time, castaways will not start the series in a remote location: they'll be dropped into the middle of bustling downtown Shanghai, before being taken to a Buddhist temple on HuangPu Mountain where they'll be stripped of their possessions.

Contestants will face off in two tribes, Fei Long (meaning "flying dragon") and Zhan Hu ("fighting tiger"), and will each be given a copy of the classic Chinese treatise The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

"The book deals with leadership and how you defeat the other tribe," host Jeff Probst told TV Guide. "It's interesting how much it plays into the game all the way through."

Fans can check out all the new castaways for themselves at the official Survivor: China website.


It has always been my experience to browse through my copy of Art of War a day or so before the competition starts. I focused on the detailed point relating to each specific chapter.

One tradition of the ultra class professionals that I believe in is "... the annual reading and reviewing all of the necessary classics during a quiet and rainy day. "

Then ask myself the following question, "Am I practicing what I believe is right!? ..."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Questions for Those Who Are Building Their Own Tangible Vision

I have a ton of questions for those who are building their own Tangible Vision.

Following are some of those questions:

  • When building your Tangible Vision (T/V), what are the big points will you be defining?
  • What approach do you use to define each component?
  • Does your T/V include the following: timeline, the cost line, the performance metrics and the risk points?
  • Do you prioritizes your focus points? If so, how do you do it?

If you follow those points, you might have a 50/50 chance of completing the job properly.

The few winners who succeed in their plan gets the big reward (gold).

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An Example of Chinese Strategy of Indirectness

Someone recently asked me to enter some interesting examples of the Chinese strategy mindset. The following example is a demostration of indirectness, a favorite approach from the Chinese strategy classics.

The recent alliance of Japan and India is an example of indirectness and collaboration. Both countries understands the notion of competing against China by themselves is suicide.

The objective of Japan is to assist India in building an infrastructure that would benefit the economic state of India and later assist Japan in their manufacturing competition against China.

This grand strategic move by Japan reminded me of a pair of strategem from a book titled "The 36 Strategems" (
Strategem #2 and Strategem #23).

Besiege Wèi to rescue Zhào
(Traditional Chinese:
圍魏救趙; Simplified Chinese: 围魏救赵; Pinyin: Wéi Wèi jiù Zhào)
  1. When the enemy is too strong to be attacked directly, then attack something he holds dear. Know that in all things he cannot be superior. Somewhere there is a gap in the armour, a weakness that can be attacked instead.

    The origins of this proverb is from the Warring States Period. The state of Wèi attacked Zhao and laid siege to its capital Handan. Zhào turned to for help, but the Qí general Sun Bin determined it would be unwise to meet the army of Wèi head on, so he instead attacked their capital at Daliang. The army of Wèi retreated in haste, and they were ambushed and defeated at the Battle of Guiling, with the Wèi general Pang Juan slain on the field.

    In the Second Punic War at the Battle of Zama Scipio Africanus was able to defeat Hannibal's army in Italy not by facing him in the field but by destroying his power base in Spain and menacing his home city of Carthage

Befriend a distant state while attacking a neighbour
(Traditional Chinese: 遠交近攻; Simplified Chinese: 远交近攻; Pinyin: Yuǎn jiāo jìn gōng)
  1. It is known that nations that border each other become enemies while nations separated by distance and obstacles make better allies. When you are the strongest in one field, your greatest threat is from the second strongest in your field, not the strongest from another field.



The question is "does Japan and India have a Tangible Vision to collaborate with?"

- More to come -

August 21, 2007
As Japan and India Forge Economic Ties, a Counterweight to China Is Seen

NEW DELHI, Aug. 20 When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan touches down in India this week, it will be the highest-level step yet in what analysts say is a long-term effort to balance, if not contain, China’s growing economic and political might.

As Beijing’s influence in Asia and around the world has grown, their common interests have forced Tokyo and New Delhi to begin warming their historically chilly relationship and to start forging closer economic ties. The key issue facing the whole region is how to accommodate the rise of China, said Suman Bery, the director general of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, a New Delhi research group. Indian economists estimate that Japanese investment in India will reach $5.5 billion by 2011, compared with just $515 million in the 2006 fiscal year.

Mr. Abe is on his first trip to India. He and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, are expected to unveil public-private partnerships and new business initiatives. Leading the agenda will be a $100 billion infrastructure project to create a high-tech manufacturing and freight corridor between New Delhi, India’s capital, and Mumbai, its port and financial center. It would be the most expensive development project in India, and a third of the bill would be paid by Japanese public and private money. Mr. Abe and Mr. Singh are expected to announce that the two governments have reached formal agreement on the deal.

Japanese business leaders traveling with Mr. Abe will disclose similar deals this week on natural gas, transportation, currency swaps and Japanese investment in Indian educational projects, Indian officials said. Chief executives from Toyota, Mitsubishi, Canon, Hitachi and others have joined a new India-Japan business leader forum, which will meet for the first time on Wednesday in New Delhi.

Consultants are trying, so far in vain, to coin the catchphrase, like the Samurai and the Swami, that will sum up the nascent strategic economic relationship between the countries.

/// Catchphrases do not make a collaborative relationship work

Courting India has come slowly for the Japanese, who were highly critical of India’s surprise nuclear weapons test in 1998. While Japan is a large lender to India, until now it has not been a major investor or business partner. Instead, Japan has virtually sat on the sidelines while countries from Switzerland to Brazil cemented business alliances in India, where economic growth is about 9 percent a year.

Japan’s trade with India was about $6.5 billion in 2006, according to the Indian government about 4 percent of Japan’s trade with China. Whatever doubts Japan had for so long, now India is smelling like roses, said Jagdish N. Bhagwati, an economist and a professor at Columbia University and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. They want to get in before it is too late.

For Japan, India is an attractive market, both for its growing consumer spending and cheap labor. Tokyo also has an interest in diversifying its Asian trading partners and reducing its dependence on China. As an increasingly confident China has flexed its muscle regionally and globally, anti-Chinese sentiment has been rising in Japan, as has anti-Japanese sentiment in China.

India is a much safer bet, in business terms, because it lacks the historical baggage, said Richard Tanter, professor of international relations at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia.

Then there is the straightforward economics. Japanese and other automakers, for instance, view India as a potential manufacturing center that could offer lower labor costs than China. But India’s manufacturing and export potential are still crippled by an inability to move goods in and around the country.

The proposed New Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor could address that problem. The nearly 1,500-kilometer corridor would include a high-speed freight line and nine 200-square-kilometer investment regions dedicated to industries like chemicals and engineering, as well as three ports and six airports.

Infrastructure projects like the industrial corridor are the kind of thing Japanese companies are particularly good at roads and harbors and ways to get into developing countries, Mr. Bhagwati said. Japanese companies were heavily involved in the construction of New Delhi’s clean, efficient subway system.

India, which desperately needs more power generation, could be a particularly fertile market for Toshiba, which bought the nuclear power plant manufacturer Westinghouse last year.

Any deals between India and Toshiba would be far in the future, though. India’s government is still deeply divided over a deal with the United States that allows India access to civilian nuclear technology, and Japan may not support the United States-India nuclear deal, given Tokyo’s aversion to nuclear proliferation.

Still, on Monday, Mr. Singh stressed India’s commitment to nuclear energy during the opening of a new research center in New Delhi, calling oil imports an unbearable burden.

The most successful India-Japan business partnership to date is a venture by the automakers Suzuki and Maruti, which has become one of India’s leading carmakers after a troubled start in the early 1980s. Sales of its reliable, zippy and cheap Marutis were up 17 percent in the quarter that ended in July from a year ago, to 1.6 million units.

Toyota’s India partnership, Toyota Kirloskar Motors, which dates back to 1999, makes about 60,000 units a year. But, last month Toyota executives said they expected the unit to produce 10 times its current capacity by 2015.

Culturally and economically, Japan and India remain far apart, a fact that government officials and economists said could complicate building a stronger relationship. Speaking Monday during a meeting in a New Delhi hotel to discuss the Japanese prime minister’s visit, Mr. Bery, the director of the New Delhi research group, said Japan’s manufacturing is state of the art, which has not been our strong suit.

Minutes later, the five-star hotel fell victim to one of New Delhi’s frequent power disruptions, the lights flickered out and the meeting carried on in the dark.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


fyi- Since the 1960's, Sun Zi Art of War and other Chinese strategy classics became quite "popular read" for Japanese businessmen.

I always found it to be fun and
interesting to use the strategic approach (and/or intellectual property) of your competitor against the originator.

Connect to Collaborate (Working with Your Rival)

To connect to collaborate, both sides need to define their Tangible Vision first.
Collaboration is about everyone cooperating for the greater purpose.

Here is a story on the alliance of Cisco and Microsoft. Whether they can collaborate as one entity would be an interesting story.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Collaborate Anywhere

To collaborate anywhere with great efficiency, it helps to have good tools

August 20, 2007
Hewlett Introduces a Web Feature to Make Document Printing Mobile

PALO ALTO, Calif., Aug. 18 Hoping to alleviate a frustration of mobile computing, Hewlett-Packard has quietly introduced a free service designed to make it possible to print documents on any printer almost anywhere in the world. Cloudprint, which was developed over a period of several months by a small group of H.P. Labs researchers, makes it possible to share, store and print documents using a mobile phone.

The service emerged as the result of a conversation begun at the laboratory this year over how the computer and printing company might benefit from the introduction of the Apple iPhone, according to Patrick Scaglia, H.P.’s director for Internet and computing platforms technologies at the research lab.

The world is going to flip, Mr. Scaglia said. We want to ride the wave of the Web.

The underlying idea is to unhook physical documents from a user’s computer and printer and make it simple for travelers to take their documents with them and use them with no more than a cellphone and access to a local printer.

The service requires users to first print their documents to H.P. servers connected to the Internet. The system then assigns them a document code, and transmits that code to a cellphone, making it possible to retrieve and print the documents from any location.

Later, using the SMS message the service has sent to the user’s cellphone, it is possible to retrieve the documents by entering the user’s phone number and a document code on the Cloudprint Web site. The documents can then be retrieved as a PDF, ready to be printed at a nearby printer.

The service will include a directory service that will show the location of publicly available printers on Google Maps. The system currently works with any Windows-connected printer. A Macintosh version is also planned.

The strategy is an extension of a broader, and all-important, H.P. strategy of indirectly creating a business that will foster the sale of Hewlett-Packard ink and supplies. The strategy has been working well. On Thursday, the company said operating profits from its printing division, most of it from ink and supplies, rose 11 percent in its third quarter from a year earlier.

The service is the first of a series of initiatives the company will take in the coming months to increasingly unhook printing from desktop computers, Mr. Scaglia said. Later this month H.P. plans to announce a partnership with a major retailer that will offer a variety of Internet-connected printing services at hundreds of locations around the country.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


The Technical Vantage Behind the Tangible Vision

With the Tangible Vision, a project team sees the big picture.

Our big picture process gives them the capability to implement the following:

1. Complete the goal by determining the critical path;
2. Avoid obstacles and focus on positive circumstances;
3. Anticipate opportunities;
4. Perform proper pre-stage preparation;
5. Shape the target; and

6. Lead by strategic collaboration.

Does your company possess a grand process that gives your team this type of technical vantage?

Collaboration360 Consultants (C360). Copyright:2006-2007 © All rights reserved
Copying, posting and reproduction in any form (without prior consent) is an infringement of copyright.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Model of Collaborative Teamwork

"... It's a lot about coaching, doing things on the sidelines, making adjustments, getting our quarterbacks to play really well. ..." - Lane Kiffin, Raiders Head Coach

With the Compass AE methodology, a project team uses the Tangible Vision to understand the goal, and the specific objectives. They also use it to adjust to various circumstances.

A team that connects to collaborate is a team that will complete their Tangible Vision.


New coaching technique in RaiderLand
Nancy Gay

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The familiar white Raiders visor was gone Saturday night and so was Lane Kiffin's high-decibel coaching voice. Doctor's orders.

His Raiders were marching up and down Bill Walsh Field at Candlestick, shredding the 49ers' high-priced remodeled defense, yet Kiffin quietly wore his headset and low-keyed it all night. He appeared to let his coordinators - two of the best in the business - do all the hollering, play-calling and directing in a 26-21 49ers' victory.

"Coaching isn't always about yelling. It's a lot about coaching, doing things on the sidelines, making adjustments, getting our quarterbacks to play really well," said Kiffin, who didn't believe he was coaching any differently in his second NFL game.

Kiffin, to his credit, already has shown us he can take charge. And we learned he can delegate when he has to, a pretty admirable trait for a 32-year-old rookie NFL head coach who desperately wants to prove he belongs where he is.

If the Raiders exceed expectations in 2007 and perform a hammer throw to last season's 2-14 record by winning half a dozen games or more, Kiffin will get credit for a lot of things.

Among them: He should be lauded for assembling a hell of a coaching staff.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, architect of the NFL's third-ranked defense in 2006, could have bolted Oakland in revolt when he didn't get the head-coaching job. But Al Davis, Kiffin and his loyal players convinced him to stay.

Hiring Greg Knapp, whose experience running the West Coast offense and tutoring quarterbacks - we'll give him a pass on Michael Vick - also smacked of genius. So was the addition of offensive line coach Tom Cable, he of the zone-blocking technique that allowed one sack and opened up monster rushing lanes and clear passing outlets.

This much was evident Saturday night, when Ryan and Knapp maintained most of the sideline authority. Kiffin nodded, watched and oozed ultimate authority. This has been the arrangement all along, really. Kiffin makes decisions and is the in-your-face voice, as long as the doc says it's OK.

Ryan and Knapp, who ooze experience and credibility, do a lot of the dirty work.

The players know it. They look to those coordinators. The Raiders did last week, when Kiffin was mysteriously laid up with an infection. They also looked to themselves.

"I think it says a lot about the staff, but it also says a lot about us as players," Pro Bowl defensive end Derrick Burgess said. "Hey, this is business and we're professionals out there. We knew we had take care of our business when coach was gone."

The teamwork and mutual respect on the Raiders' coaching staff is 180 degrees from the anarchy that ruled under Art Shell's watch, and you better believe the players are responding.

The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist.
The next best is a leader who is loved and praised.
Next comes the one who is feared.
The worst one is the leader that is despised.
If you don't trust the people, they will become untrustworthy.
The best leaders value their words, and use them sparingly.
When the leader has accomplished their task, the people say, "Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!"
--- Dao De Jing, Chapter 17

Kiffin is not the reinvention of Jon Gruden. The age bracket is about the same, the boyish good looks are vaguely familiar. The energy level - a hell-fire, spittle-spewing, red-faced furor achieved through healthy doses of 30-something adrenaline and, in all likelihood, a case of Red Bull - has been pretty darn close.

But the budding legend of Kiffin, the youngest man ever hired to run an NFL team, took a bizarre twist last week when he, well, sort of disappeared from sight.

Within hours of coaching the Raiders to a 27-23 victory Aug. 11 over the Cardinals in the exhibition opener, Kiffin was flattened by a temperature of nearly 104 degrees.

Eventually, we learned he was hospitalized. For two days. Tests were run. Or were they? For several uncertain days, chaos momentarily returned to the super secret world of RaiderLand.

Players - who had grown accustomed to Kiffin's boisterous manner and presence - had no idea where their coach was when they returned to the practice field Monday. Except that he wasn't there.

Curious reporters finally discovered Kiffin was admitted to a Napa hospital. The Raiders' public-relations machine, which under the best of circumstances, operates with the openness and efficiency of the old TASS news agency, hoped that Kiffin's absence wouldn't be noticed.

Then the Raiders argued semantics: "Hospitalized? Well, he was at a hospital ..."

Across the chatty NFL, Blackberrys and e-mail inboxes began exploding.

When a 32-year-old NFL head coach is in the hospital for two days, you bet there is talk. "What's he got?" one NFL general manager demanded of a reporter via e-mail last week.

"A virus," was the reply.

"Out two days with a virus? Unheard of," the GM wrote back.

There isn't a lot of sympathy in the brutish NFL for head coaches who are felled for two days in training camp by anything short of an anvil on the skull.

In a sense, Kiffin's illness was unique. How many NFL head coaches have been downed by mononucleosis, one of the nastiest viral infections you can catch? High fever, swollen glands, sore throat that feels like you're swallowing broken glass. Would the Type A Gruden have handed off the megaphone to his assistants, even in an exhibition game? Probably not.

But Kiffin, who was a model patient Saturday night despite the urge to dial his vocal cords to "11," became an even better NFL head coach as a result of Saturday's pastoral sideline demeanor.

"I felt fine," Kiffin said, "and I know it's your job (to ask), but I kind of feel it has become a distraction to what we're trying to get done."

Not really. Kiffin kept it from becoming one by trusting his coaches to coach, and his players to play. Change has come RaiderLand. And that can be only good.

E-mail Nancy Gay at

This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tangible Vision: No Vagueness (1)

The Tangible Vision (T/V) is a goal and a plan. As a goal, the T/V is an ideal "intended" outcome that has no vagueness.

Step #1: Begin with an end in mind.
Know your intended outcome before delineating the details.

Step #2: Test it for tangibility.

Step #3: Connect with it.

--- More to Come ---

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Importance of Collaborative Preparation

Our Compass AE training is about collaboratively preparing as a project team in terms of knowing their goal and the specific objectives that must be completed. @ the same time, the team also knows how to manage themselves in terms of changes, consenscus, contingency and consequences.

With Compass AE, your team can collaborate anywhere regardless of the technology, the distance and the project culture.

The question for the day: Does your project team to do that?

[ Thoughts on Proper Preparation ]
  • "Preparation Precedes Performance"
  • "Proper Preparation Prevents Pissed, Poor Performance"
  • "The Will To Prepare" is more important than "The Will to Win".
  • "Know when and how to prepare is the first stage of preparation. ... Knowing what and how to plan is the next stage. ..."
  • "Preparation Pays Profits when Preparation meets Opportunity. ..."
  • Preparation + Opportunity = Success.
# # #
  • "The plan is nothing; . . . the planning is everything." - Dwight Eishenhower, the Grand Thinker of the "1944 D-day invasion of Normandy, France
  • "Failure to Prepare is to Prepare to Failure." - Bill Walsh, the Architect of the West Coast Offense. Former Coach of San Francisco Forty Niners (Super Bowl Champions 1981-82, 1984-85, and 1988-89).
  • " ... Organization leads to preparation. . . . Preparation eliminates the unexpected. Be ready for everything. . . . Overlook nothing. ... " - Brian Billick, Current Head Coach of Baltimore Ravens (Super Bowl Champions 2000-2001)- A Walsh's Prodigy.
  • "If you have a plan, and if you have your direction laid out, you can chart your progress to your dreams at each stop along the way. ... And just as important, all along the way you can see how far you've come." - Michael Shanahan, Current Head Coach of the Denver Broncos (Super Bowl Champions 1997-1998, 1998-1999) - Another Walsh Prodigy.

Collaborative Preparation is the key to Compass Collaboration.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Another Company Lacking the Tangible Vision

Most startups will never have the resources and the timeline to make the same recovery moves as NBC.

With the Tangible Vision, the project team is compelled to think "big picture". They understand the standards of date and value, the cycles of various components, the processes, etc.

The objective is to avoid being in tactical purgatory. This is where one spends time reacting and living day by day.

The Tangible Vision enables the team to understand the basics of a big picture perspective, a grand strategy, a "Tangible Vision". They receive a perspective that is above the day to day grind. This enables them to plot their moves. Most ppl do not ever get to this stage of thinking and implementation. But it is a goal that is worth aiming for.

People forget that tactics are trendy and limited in terms of specific situations. It comes and go.

Strategically, it is the Tangible Vision that counts. Do you have a Tangible Vision?

In a future article, will have an sample Tangible Vision for the readers to think about


August 13, 2007
NBC Making a Clean Start in a House of Mixed Media

After it bought the Web site last year for $600 million, NBC Universal bragged that it had landed a digital darling. The women-focused Internet business was a perfect fit with the Today show, executives said, and would turbo-charge their online efforts.

Few people at NBC Universal are boasting about iVillage now.

Promotions on Today did not spike traffic to the Web site as expected. Veteran Web employees fled after a decision to move iVillage’s offices to New Jersey from Manhattan. Hearst, which had long featured content from Cosmopolitan and Redbook on the site, severed ties so it could bulk up its own Internet business.

Most embarrassing, an effort to increase traffic by introducing a syndicated television program, iVillage Live, resulted in a month-to-month drop in visitors to the iVillage Web site. Introduced last December, iVillage Live, carried on NBC-owned stations in 10 cities, was seen as a failure on its own, suffering from low ratings, poor production quality and a certain nagging cloying quality. It ceased production in June, but is still running in repeats and will return, after a full makeover, next month.

The show’s rebirth is a sign that iVillage’s engines are finally humming. Ad revenue in the second quarter soared 40 percent, and traffic to the Web site is growing. But NBC Universal’s struggles with the online property underscore the snags that can arise when trying to bolt a new media operation onto an old one. The problems also illustrate the growing pains involved in trying to take a mature Internet franchise into the wider world; founded in 1995, iVillage could easily qualify as a rare Dot-Com That Lived.

NBC Universal, which is part of General Electric, is far from alone in grappling with these challenges. Media conglomerates from CBS to Scripps-Howard risk similar integration troubles as they seek growth online by snapping up hot Internet properties, analysts say.

Most recently, Walt Disney paid $300 million for Club Penguin, a subscription Web site aimed at preteenagers, with the goal of melding the site’s penguin characters into the Disney franchise.

The potential potholes, as NBC Universal has discovered, are many. Perhaps the biggest is thinking that the same strategies that yield bountiful results in television will deliver on the Web, said Beth Comstock, NBC Universal’s president of integrated media.

You assume in the beginning that a mention on the ‘Today’ show will drive tremendous traffic, but it’s not that easy, she said. We like where we are now, but boy did we have some tough learning.

Even so, Ms. Comstock said it was unfair to call iVillage Live a failure. The point of the show was to experiment, she said.

/// Experimenting with a purpose means having an "tangible end in mind". Does the "end" justifies the means? This strategist is sure that there are many money-losing projects out there that she can experiment on?

NBC Universal is still tinkering with how iVillage fits into its portfolio. One option under consideration is the purchase of Oxygen, the women-focused cable network, according to people familiar with the matter. The low-rated Oxygen, not exactly a trophy in its own right, has been quietly shopped by bankers for months; Kagan Media Research values it at about $1 billion. NBC Universal and Oxygen spokeswomen declined to comment.

/// An overpriced asset!?

Back when NBC Universal bought iVillage in March 2006, the chairman at the time, Bob Wright, was hungry to jump-start the company’s online growth. He had watched the News Corporation buy MySpace and Walt Disney negotiate a landmark deal to sell television programs on iTunes from Apple. In many ways, iVillage was one of the only big Web sites left without a dance partner.

/// Failure to prepare (without a tangible objective) is to perform with failure in mind.

Candice Carpenter, one of New York’s most prominent Internet executives in the 1990s, was a founder of the Web site and took the company public in 1999. In a sign of the times, shares in an initial public offering sold for $24 and reached more than $100 the next day.

IVillage survived the dot-com collapse partly because of its devoted user base and experienced sales staff. The Web site, known for its Pepto-Bismol pink home page, features a mix of health advice, parenting tips and message boards (Does anyone here regret getting a gastric bypass?). The site logged about 15.9 million unique visitors in July, a 5 percent increase compared with the same month in 2006, according to comScore Media Metrix.

Mr. Wright’s decision to pay $600 million for iVillage at the time, $41 for each unique user stunned some analysts. By comparison, the News Corporation had paid $28 for each unique user for MySpace a few months earlier. Mr. Wright’s boss, the chief executive of G.E., Jeffrey R. Immelt, has since said that the company probably overpaid.

NBC Universal liked iVillage because it was stable, said Peter Naylor, who oversees ad sales for all of NBC Universal’s digital properties. The topics and design were aimed at mature women who would be less likely to abandon the site as soon as a flashier one came along.

But Ms. Comstock, who moved over to NBC Universal from G.E. several months after Mr. Wright first started looking at iVillage, quickly realized that integrating the Web site would be a bigger chore than the company had thought. For instance, the technology that ran iVillage was antiquated and needed a complete overhaul.

We had to decide whether to first launch new products or do the unsexy stuff, like rebuilding the technology, Ms. Comstock said.

She opted for new editorial products, including the ill-fated iVillage Live. As hosts talked about a topic, they encouraged iVillage users to chat about the same thing on the Web site. Some segments, like those discussing hair styling, clicked with both audiences, but most did not.

During that time, a whole new set of Internet competitors popped up. The more stylish started courting iVillage’s advertisers. Newer technology allowed upstart competitors like to have sharply lower overhead costs. And media heavyweights like Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Lifetime Entertainment started pouring money into the Web.

/// Did their Tangible Vision take account of new marketing adversaries!?

Ms. Comstock and Jeff Zucker, NBC Universal’s chief executive, also confronted a more strategic quandary: which digital horse to back. The company, configured by Mr. Zucker to focus on digital media as a top priority, found itself with three different Internet businesses. There was and the array of Web sites dedicated to TV programs; the stand-alone iVillage; and an emerging sector.

We can’t do everything, and you have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to fund these properties properly, Ms. Comstock said.

Ms. Comstock said the retrenchments have helped iVillage. The marketplace wants fast, rapid returns, but I would rather take our steady, long-term growth anytime, she said.

NBC Universal does appear to be making headway. The Web site’s ad sales teams are now fully integrated with the other online properties and the traditional television operation. Ms. Comstock postponed the move to New Jersey.

And Deborah I. Fine, iVillage’s president, has secured new partners to replace Hearst, including, a popular wedding planning Web site, and PopSugar, a fast-growing online community aimed at younger women. Meredith Vieira, a Today co-host, has started to blog for the site, and Ms. Fine has created a new weddings section.

I really think we are doing it right, Ms. Fine said.

/// Ms Fine, ... Do you think or do you know?

More strategic integration with Today has been crucial to the nascent turnaround, said Phil Griffin, senior vice president of NBC News. For instance, the hosts of the morning program have stopped parroting the line, For more information, go to, he said. Now we try to direct viewers to the site by telling them what specific three related stories they can find if they go there, he said.

The iVillage-related segments typically feature an iVillage expert giving advice or discussing a timely issue. The segments themselves have also become meatier, Mr. Griffin said. We’re trying not to do just female stories that are sweet and nice, he said. Translation: fewer beauty makeovers and more coverage of personal finance.

A revamped iVillage Live will premiere next month with a new title and new hosts. The show, formerly taped in Orlando, Fla., will also move to Chicago, where NBC Universal hopes to attract more celebrity guests.

Although iVillage has failed to sustain a month-to-month rise in visitors, a spokeswoman said that the company is pleased to be delivering steady year-on-year increases. NBC Universal does not publicly report quarterly revenue for iVillage, but analysts estimate the site will generate over $120 million in 2007, a 26 percent increase from last year.

/// To play in the game of "Dealing with the Masses", one must understand what are the current trends and what are the on-coming trends. I wonder if the Tangible Vision of the iVillage cover that?

One reason for increases in ad revenue is that iVillage has started working more efficiently with advertisers to weave products deeper into the fabric of the site, said Mr. Naylor, NBC Universal’s senior vice president of digital media sales. For instance, when Schick wanted to advertise razors in the context of things that simplify your life, iVillage pulled related articles from across the site and aggregated them on one page for the company.

They’re protective of their users, but they are very open to working with advertisers, said Shelby Saville, a senior vice president at StarLink, a media buying firm. It seems like they are starting to hit their groove.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


If a company does not have a Tangible Vision that people cannot collaborate through, what good is that goal?

The Elemental Foundation of the Compass AE

Our Compass AE methodology emphasizes the collaborative Build and Connect and Lead of the Tangible Vision.

The Tangible Vision process (the strategy element of the Compass AE methodology) component highlighted the following:
* The prioritization of objectives, activities and circumstances;
* The top down connection between the goal and the path of specific objectives; and
* The management of the stakeholders regardless of the distance, the technology and the project culture.

If your process does not have this strategic foundation, your company needs Compass AE.

# # #

For more information on Compass AE, please contact us at Service (aatt) Collaboration360 (dottt) com.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

An Online Slide Show of Compass AE is coming

If you are interested in viewing our online slideshow, please contact us for the link.
Our e-mail address is: Service [/a/tt/]collaboration360[/d/ott/]com


Monday, August 6, 2007

Does Yahoo Needs a Tangible Vision?

Seen too many teams without a collaborative process for defining their vision and the direction fail.

With our Compass AE process, the Yahoo team would have a collaborative criteria that they can use to determine their priorities and the processes and how it relates to the grand goal.

By seeing the "grand picture", efficiency improves while unnecesary meeting time and redundancy are eliminated.

A team without a vision and direction is like a car without a steering wheel.

My question is ... "Does Yahoo have the Tangible Vision and the drive to take it to the next level?"


Creating a new Yahoo

Verne Kopytoff, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, August 5, 2007

A cavalcade of Yahoo Inc. employees showcased Internet products they had built over the previous 48 hours to hundreds of colleagues crammed into a meeting room during this year's "Hack Day," hoping that their ideas would someday make the big time.

Some gave polished presentations, others were barely intelligible and a couple of the products didn't even work.

Bradley Horowitz, a Yahoo vice president, paid close attention, nodding, clapping and quietly critiquing while sipping a beer. After the event wound down, he walked up to the team that won the "best of" award for an idea related to search and offered to introduce them to a senior executive to "get him enthused and excited."

The internal Yahoo event, where employees whip up products literally overnight, is part of a broader effort by Horowitz to nurture innovation at the Sunnyvale Web portal. After falling behind rival Google Inc. in developing products that win users' hearts and minds, Yahoo is trying to make a comeback based partly on becoming more of an innovator and risk-taker.

Horowitz, 42, who was recently appointed vice president of advanced development, is a prominent part of that effort. Part muse, evangelist and matchmaker, he spends his days trying to help grease the wheels of innovation at the company, which even top executives acknowledge has become too bureaucratic.

Yahoo has suffered a series of disappointing quarters, eliciting Wall Street's ire, a management shakeup and second guessing about the company's direction. Many critics lay the blame on Yahoo's failure to develop a new generation of products so it could more easily chip away at Google and the rising social networking superstars, MySpace and Facebook.

"When you think of innovation and technology companies, Yahoo doesn't necessarily come to mind," said Denise Garcia, an analyst for A.G. Edwards.

For the past few years, Yahoo's new product pipeline has depended largely on buying hot startups, the most prominent of which was Flickr, a photo-sharing Web site. It has blossomed under Yahoo's umbrella by offering users the ability to easily share and comment on photos to the point that executives shuttered the company's internally built photo service earlier this year.

A number of other acquisitions soon followed Flickr: bookmark sharing service,; event listings service, Upcoming; contest site, Bix; and video editor, Jumpcut.

The obvious question was why couldn't Yahoo have built some of these new technologies in-house? Had the leading Web portal lost its cool quotient?

/* Generating profit is more cooler. */

Subversive style

That's where Horowitz fits in. He sports a perpetual 5 o'clock shadow and black-framed hipster glasses. His management style could be described as subversive, harkening to his days as a guitarist in a punk rock band and promoting punk gigs.

Phrases like "taking power from the man" roll off his tongue with abandon. Music is one of his frequent topics, especially when talking about Hack Day and its ethos of fun.

"It's the difference between practicing piano after school in a regimented way versus smoking pot and jamming with your friends in a garage," Horowitz said.

A longtime devotee of meditation, Horowitz once spent a year in India seeking his inner calm and chopping vegetables. Colleagues say he is relentlessly positive without seeming slick.

"Bradley is a person who is unbounded with his enthusiasm and energy from what he does every day," said Andrew Braccia, a former Yahoo search executive who is now a venture capitalist with Accel Partners. "People feed off of that."

Horowitz grew up in Detroit, where he started using computers in grade school during an era it was for the supernerdy. He later went on to University of Michigan, where he spent time in the artificial intelligence lab, before going to Massachusetts Institute of Technology for graduate school, where he focused on multimedia.

He abandoned his doctoral studies to co-found Virage, an online video company that went though an initial public offering, got sucked into the dot-com downdraft and was acquired by Autonomy in 2003. He joined Yahoo in 2004, thinking that he needed to get a year of corporate experience under his belt before vaulting to another startup.

Changing plans

Those thoughts of leaving quickly evaporated.

"Because I had a bit of a devil-may-care attitude - I didn't come here to climb the corporate ladder - I started in a cavalier way doing what I thought was right for the company," Horowitz said.

In his current role, which he assumed earlier this year, Horowitz oversees dozens of employees in three teams, the most prominent of which is called Brickhouse, which opened for business four months ago. It is based in a renovated warehouse in San Francisco, intentionally distant enough from headquarters in Sunnyvale to feel like a startup.

The facility is intended to be a sort of incubator where products bubble up from the rank and file. Employees submit ideas for projects. A board made up of several Yahoo executives - including Horowitz - screens the proposals. Employees who make the final cut are detailed temporarily to the office until the project is complete.

Horowitz explained that the facility may create 10 products in its first year, some of which may look radically different from Yahoo's traditional mass-market fare. But given the risky nature of innovation, perhaps only two of the ideas will ever premiere publicly, he said.

Yahoo Pipes, a service for techies that helps them use data from different sources, was the first project to be shoved out the door. Although it received rave reviews, it hardly has the killer app that is going to close the gap with Google.

"We would love to have the next big hit," Horowitz said before explaining that some of what Brickhouse creates may be invisible to the average user, such as making Web pages load faster.

Creating the next Flickr

Horowitz played a big role in buying Flickr and several of the other startups over the past few years. Though smaller acquisitions will continue to play an important role at Yahoo, Horowitz emphasized, he wants to spawn more products within Yahoo, in part to save money and to make them easier to integrate throughout the Web portal.

"How can we grow the next Flickr internally?" is the question that he constantly asks himself.

/* You got to have a Tangible Vision */

Analysts want to know, too. Getting the product pipeline on track could help revive Yahoo's stalled growth, largely attributed to a lagging advertising business and the juggernaut that is Google.

"I am keen to see this company rise to the reputation it deserves and I certainly feel like we have a lot of work to do to change the headlines," Horowitz said. "The onus is on us."

As a Web behemoth, Yahoo has been criticized over the years for being conservative, and that it is part of the reason the company is struggling today. Big companies tend to defend the businesses they're in rather than jumping into new ones.

"Innovation involves risk, and that's not in the DNA of a big business that is generating a lot of revenue," said Dan Cohen, a former Yahoo executive who is now chief executive of Pageflakes, a San Francisco company that offers personalized home pages.

Horowitz agreed to a point, saying: "It's not like we were an insurance company. But I think (we) will be open to taking bigger risks."

To catalog all the products presented at Hack Days over the years, Yahoo keeps what is unofficially called a "hack tracker." More than 1,200 ideas, some in the works, others that never got off the ground, are organized by theme and are annotated with comments about their prospects and priority in the product pipeline.

Science fair for adults

Given the number of ideas, saying "no" is a big part of his job. Treading lightly is important.

"If you say no in a way that is shutting people down, it is incredibly damaging," Horowitz said.

For Yahoo's Hack Day last month, employees submitted 120 ideas that they showed off in a black tent set up on the lawn at Yahoo's headquarters. The preliminaries had the air of a science fair, with individual teams made up of everyone from Yahoo attorneys to product managers, touting their ideas and asking that fellow colleagues vote for them so that they would make it to the finals.

/* Ideas are exchanged. Ideas are modified and stolen. */

Because some of the products could ultimately be put into development, Yahoo asked that no specifics about them be publicized. Although some seemed pretty far-flung, or would have only niche appeal, several seemed to have potential, according to Horowitz and several of the day's judges, who included Yahoo co-founder David Filo.

During the finals, held in a vast meeting room, with a 90-second timer ticking down on a whiteboard, one presenter gave an impassioned appeal to elevate his idea to the big time, saying, "If you let me push this tonight, we'd be beating Google tomorrow morning."

/* Does that sound like an impassioned appeal!? Sound like a desperate peal for attention. */

However, nothing is that easy at a big company. Anything released must first be thoroughly vetted for privacy, security, patents, licensing and adequate infrastructure, even when innovation is a priority.

E-mail Verne Kopytoff at

This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

# # #

For more information on our team collaborative process, click on the following labels: "Tangible Vision" and the "Compass AE".
You can contact us by going to our
General Information on Collaboration360 Consultants profile page.