Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Myth of Product Completion (The Unsung Heroes Who Move Products Forward [from NYT])

Behind every hero is a support team that collaboratively supports him or her.

If you are running a small-medium sized company, how do you get your company competitively ready to contend with your larger competitors? Quietly, you hope that your team are collaborating well as a team.

Behind every hero is a support team that collaboratively supports
him or her.

If you are running a small-medium sized company, how do you get your company competitively ready to contend with your larger competitors? Quietly, you hope that your team are collaborating
well as a team.

My questions to you are:
Does your company possess the same resource capacity and manpower as your competitors?

If your team fails as a team, can you survive the failure like a larger company would?

Is your company using the same team collaborative process as your competitor?

What team collaborative advantage does your company have?

Is your project team collaboratively moving as a team?

When they collaborate, do they see the big picture of how everything connects?

Is your company moving as one single entity?

If not, ask yourself the question "Will your company survive in the next three years?"

Does your project team hold the key to the success of your company?

Does your project team need a Compass to collaboratively understand what direction they are focusing on?

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September 30, 2007
The Unsung Heroes Who Move Products Forward

AT first blush, the iPhone from Apple, the new microprocessor family from Intel and the ubiquitous Google search engine have nothing in common. One is a gadget, one is an electronic part and one is a service.

Yet all of these products much acclaimed for their creativity depend on obscure process innovations that, while highly complex and lacking glamour, are an essential part of establishing a winning edge in commercial electronics. Indeed, the success of Apple, Intel, Google and scores of other technology companies has as much or more to do with their process innovations as the products that inspire loyalty among fans and admiration from foes.

First, a definitional detour. Processes are the stuff in the proverbial black box, the alchemy unseen by consumers or the inelegantly termed end users who buy computers, cellphones, cameras and all manner of digital devices and services.

Snazzy products are the stuff of legends, romanticized by early adopters and skewered by neo-Luddites. Yet while these products bring glory to companies, novel processes are often more important in keeping the cash registers ringing.

The proof of this proposition is that while companies often spend millions to advertise and market new product designs and innovations, they guard intensely the details of their process innovations.

Consider the question of Google’s greatest business secret. Is it the algorithms behind its search tools? Or is it the way it organizes vast clusters of computers around the globe to answer queries so quickly? Perhaps predictably, Google won’t disclose the number of computers deployed in its vast information network (though outsiders speculate that the network has at least 450,000 computers).

I believe that the physical network is Google’s secret sauce, its premier competitive advantage. While a brilliant lone wolf can conceive of a dazzling algorithm, only a superwealthy and well-managed organization can run what is arguably the most valuable computer network on the planet. Without the computer network, Google is nothing.

Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, appears to agree. Last year he declared, We believe we get tremendous competitive advantage by essentially building our own infrastructures.

Process innovations like Google’s computer network are often invisible to the public, and impossible to duplicate by rivals. Yet successful companies realize that maintaining competitive advantage depends heavily on sustaining process innovations. Great process innovators often support basic research in relevant fields, maintain complete control over the creation of every aspect of a product and refuse to rely on outside suppliers for important components. Certainly, there are exceptions to these patterns, but even companies like Apple that buy essential processes on the open market nevertheless invest in gaining a working knowledge of the technologies and an understanding of their future arc.

Intel treats its process innovations as a competitive weapon, striving to create a new generation every two years. That enables the company’s chips, even if there were no changes in their design, to perform better and cost less to make.

Consumers are usually blind to the importance of novel processes. Even when they learn about these innovations, they tend to think only of the product itself.

The average consumer doesn’t care what processes are used, says Mark T. Bohr, an Intel physicist who oversaw what is arguably the most important advance in decades in the technology for making microprocessors, the brains inside computers and other digital devices.

Faced with ever-faster chips that threatened to explode into flames, Intel searched desperately for new processes to make microprocessors. Enter hafnium, a rare metal. Designers led by Mr. Bohr in Hillsboro, Ore., chose hafnium to replace silicon oxide, the venerable insulator in chips and a material used in making glass. Mr. Bohr also helped to identify new materials, whose identity Intel is keeping secret, for the crucial transistor gates that sit atop a chip’s insulators.

On Nov. 12, Intel will begin shipping its first chips using the new processes. Gordon E. Moore, Intel’s co-founder, recently declared that the hafnium-and-gate process innovations should allow his so-called Moore’s Law, whereby chips grow ever faster and less expensive, to hold true for some time.

Despite the enormity of the achievement, Mr. Bohr is relatively anonymous, even within Intel. The work of process development comes second to creating new designs for chips, he says. Not surprisingly, when Intel starts shipping the new chips, neither the hafnium nor the gates innovations will be trumpeted as selling points. Rather, Intel will emphasize how customers can benefit from using the chips.

If process innovations are unheralded, consumers may misunderstand the nature of technological change.

Process innovation tends to receive less attention from the informed public for the same reason that incremental innovation tends to receive too little attention: it is more difficult to encapsulate in a press release or photo opportunity, says David C. Mowery, a business professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a scholar of technological change.

Process innovation, even more than most product innovations, also tends to realize its economic potential through a lengthy process of incremental improvement based on learning by doing and other types of learning, he added. So ‘breakthroughs’ in process engineering are, if anything, even rarer than in product innovation.

As a result, process gurus are resigned to playing in the shadows, leaving fame, if not fortune, to others. John Feland, human interface architect at Synaptics Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., knows this enduring truth of invention. He helps design arrays of sensors that drive the touch screens in the newest cellphones like the Prada from LG. Such touch screens are earning raves from consumers, yet Mr. Feland is essentially an invisible man.

My job is to make our customers look like heroes, he says philosophically. Then he sums up the special role played by fellow members of the process tribe: We are like Q to James Bond.

G. Pascal Zachary teaches journalism at Stanford and writes about technology and economic development. E-mail:

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Importance of Connecting with a Tangible Vision

A team that connects and leads with the Tangible Vision means that they are committed
to complete the goal with a specific team approach.

Connecting with the Tangible Vision also brings cohesion to the team.

If you want to know how to build, connect and lead with the Tangible Vision, please contact us at service [att] collaboration360 [dott] com

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September 25, 2007
Jets’ Line Brings Offense Together

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., Sept. 24 With an average height around 6 feet 5 inches, the Jets’ offensive line could walk even a little taller Monday, knowing it contributed greatly to a 31-28 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The line neutralized Jason Taylor, one of the N.F.L.’s top pass rushers, and allowed running back Thomas Jones, an off-season acquisition from the Chicago Bears, to meet expectations.

The offensive line wore them down and gave me some creases to run through, said Jones, who gained 92 of his 110 yards in the second half.

The Jets’ line also shielded quarterback Chad Pennington, who returned from a high ankle sprain and was sacked only once. Credit for that goes largely to the second-year left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who made Taylor look like something other than the Pro Bowl defensive end that he is. Taylor was limited to two tackles and no sacks.

It definitely was a team effort, Ferguson said. There’s so many different guys that step up at critical times, so it’s hard to pinpoint, but it’s just a great unit.

The Jets’ offensive line strives for cohesion, meeting up for weekly dinners and off-season cookouts.

Whatever it is, communication can solve any problem that you face, Coach Eric Mangini said. And it’s better that you’re all wrong together than half right or half wrong.

/// This is what connecting with the Tangible Vision is all about. When a team connect with their Tangible Vision, they connect to collaborate.

One concern for Mangini, though, was how his defense allowed Miami to rally for 15 points in the fourth quarter. For the game, running back Ronnie Brown gained 99 yards receiving primarily on screens and 112 yards rushing.

Mangini said he would not be surprised if the Buffalo Bills (0-3) tried to exploit that apparent weakness in the teams’ matchup Sunday.

Some people are true copycat coordinators where if you get beat on a play they’re going to run exactly that same play to see whether you got the problem fixed, Mangini said.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Anthr Day in the Global Economy (India Outsources)

Is this the new trend of the 21st century? India companies becoming the global IT middlemen.

Presuming you are a project implementer. You are located in London. Your marketing guy is in San Francisco. Your ad agency is located in NY City. The outsourced techies are either in
Mumbai, India
or Shanghai, China.

The technology, the project culture and the time zones are the collaborative challenges.
How do you get your team and the outsourced expediters to collaborate as a team?

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September 25, 2007
Outsourcing Works, So India Is Exporting Jobs

MYSORE, India Thousands of Indians report to Infosys Technologies’ campus here to learn the finer points of programming. Lately, though, packs of foreigners have been roaming the manicured lawns, too.

Many of them are recent American college graduates, and some have even turned down job offers from coveted employers like Google. Instead, they accepted a novel assignment from Infosys, the Indian technology giant: fly here for six months of training, then return home to work in the company’s American back offices.

India is outsourcing outsourcing.

One of the constants of the global economy has been companies moving their tasks and jobs to India. But rising wages and a stronger currency here, demands for workers who speak languages other than English, and competition from countries looking to emulate India’s success as a back office including China, Morocco and Mexico are challenging that model.

Many executives here acknowledge that outsourcing, having rained most heavily on India, will increasingly sprinkle tasks around the globe. Or, as Ashok Vemuri, an Infosys senior vice president, put it, the future of outsourcing is to take the work from any part of the world and do it in any part of the world.

To fight on the shifting terrain, and to beat back emerging rivals, Indian companies are hiring workers and opening offices in developing countries themselves, before their clients do.

In May, Tata Consultancy Service, Infosys’s Indian rival, announced a new back office in Guadalajara, Mexico; Tata already has 5,000 workers in Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. Cognizant Technology Solutions, with most of its operations in India, has now opened back offices in Phoenix and Shanghai.

Wipro, another Indian technology services company, has outsourcing offices in Canada, China, Portugal, Romania and Saudi Arabia, among other locations.

And last month, Wipro said it was opening a software development center in Atlanta that would hire 500 programmers in three years.

In a poetic reflection of outsourcing’s new face, Wipro’s chairman, Azim Premji, told Wall Street analysts this year that he was considering hubs in Idaho and Virginia, in addition to Georgia, to take advantage of American states which are less developed. (India’s per capita income is less than $1,000 a year.)

For its part, Infosys is building a whole archipelago of back offices in Mexico, the Czech Republic, Thailand and China, as well as low-cost regions of the United States.

The company seeks to become a global matchmaker for outsourcing: any time a company wants work done somewhere else, even just down the street, Infosys wants to get the call.

It is a peculiar ambition for a company that symbolizes the flow of tasks from the West to India.

Most of Infosys’s 75,000 employees are Indians, in India. They account for most of the company’s $3.1 billion in sales in the year that ended March 31, from work for clients like Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.

India continues to be the No. 1 location for outsourcing, S. Gopalakrishnan, the company’s chief executive, said in a telephone interview.

And yet the company opened a Philippines office in August and, a month earlier, bought back offices in Thailand and Poland from Royal Philips Electronics, the Dutch company. In each outsourcing hub, local employees work with little help from Indian managers.

Infosys says its outsourcing experience in India has taught it to carve up a project, apportion each slice to suitable workers, double-check quality and then export a final, reassembled product to clients. The company argues it can clone its Indian back offices in other nations and groom Chinese, Mexican or Czech employees to be more productive than local outsourcing companies could make them.

We have pioneered this movement of work, Mr. Gopalakrishnan said. These new countries don’t have experience and maturity in doing that, and that’s what we’re taking to these countries.

Some analysts compare the strategy to Japanese penetration of auto manufacturing in the United States in the 1970s. Just as the Japanese learned to make cars in America without Japanese workers, Indian vendors are learning to outsource without Indians, said Dennis McGuire, chairman of TPI, a Texas-based outsourcing consultancy.

Though work that bypasses India remains a small part of the Infosys business, it is growing. The company can be highly secretive, but executives agreed to describe some of the new projects on the condition that clients not be identified.

In one project, an American bank wanted a computer system to handle a loan program for Hispanic customers. The system had to work in Spanish. It also had to take into account variables particular to Hispanic clients: many, for instance, remit money to families abroad, which can affect their bank balances. The bank thought a Mexican team would have the right language skills and grasp of cultural nuances.

But instead of going to a Mexican vendor, or to an American vendor with Mexican operations, the bank retained three dozen engineers at Infosys, which had recently opened shop in Monterrey, Mexico.

Such is the new outsourcing: A company in the United States pays an Indian vendor 7,000 miles away to supply it with Mexican engineers working 150 miles south of the United States border.

In Europe, too, companies now hire Infosys to manage back offices in their own backyards. When an American manufacturer, for instance, needed a system to handle bills from multiple vendors supplying its factories in different European countries, it turned to the Indian company. The manufacturer’s different locations scan the invoices and send them to an office of Infosys, where each bill is passed to the right language team. The teams verify the orders and send the payment to the suppliers while logged in to the client’s computer system.

More than a dozen languages are spoken at the Infosys office, which is in Brno, Czech Republic.

The American program here in Mysore is meant to keep open that pipeline of diversity.

Most trainees here have no software knowledge. By teaching novices, Infosys saves money and hopes to attract workers who will turn down better-known companies for the chance to learn a new skill.

It’s the equivalent of a bachelor’s in computer science in six months, said Melissa Adams, a 22-year-old trainee. Ms. Adams graduated last spring from the University of Washington with a business degree, and rejected Google for Infosys.

And yet, even as outsourcing takes on new directions, old perceptions linger.

For instance, when Jeff Rand, a 23-year-old American trainee, told his grandmother he was moving to India to work as a software engineer for six months, she said, ‘Maybe I’ll get to talk to you when I have a problem with my credit card.’

Said Mr. Rand with a rueful chuckle, It took me about two or three weeks to explain to my grandma that I was not going to be working in a call center.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Competing in the Global Economy: “Is Your Team Connected To Its Vision?”

Does your project team go through this situation? If you do, you need Compass AE.

Project Gold Rush

It was a long 31 weeks. Members of Team Alpha were relieved that they had completed the implementation of "Project Gold Rush". It was Apex systems’ latest marketing campaign that would give them the lead in a new marketplace. The product was now in the hands of their international users. nothing to do but wait for their feedback.

Mr. Green, the director in charge, sat alone in the semi-dark conference room. He sipped cold coffee and scrounged a box for doughnut halves leftover from a meeting the day before. He was rightfully proud of his team’s achievement in this grand endeavor. But there was no smile on his face. "Pride cometh before the fall", he heard his inner voice say. Damn proverbs. what should have been cause for celebration was in reality a potential backbreaker. How was he going to explain to senior management why he requested another $250,000 Po?

As Green pondered, he rose from his chair and paced toward the wall of white boards that faced him. someone had scrawled an anonymous message The Longest 31 Weeks of My Life. A cold sweat dripped down his forehead. The project was three weeks past the expected launch date and a quarter million over budget. senior management decided to continue with the project only because of the great profit potential.

When the project started, two of Apex’s larger competitors were one month behind in their entry to this marketplace. now they were breathing down his company’s neck.

Green muttered, "This is my second global project. I should‘ve learned from the mistakes of the first fiasco. How’d this happen again? we had our best international project talent implementing this project. we used the best web-conferencing technology and we still made mistakes! we had a plan, and it fell apart. Then the team stopped working together. what did we do wrong? we can’t continue operating like this. How will I know when they’re collaborating as a team? what’s the solution to this problem? "

The secretary walked into the meeting room. "Mr. Green, the CEO and the Vice President wish to speak with you, "she barely whispered. where was that pretty smile she always wore?

Copyright: 2007 Collaboration 360 Consultants. All rights reserved. Copying, posting, or reproduction in any form (without prior consent) is an infringement of copyright.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Current Dilemma in a Westernized Global Society

For the global strategists. much time is wasted in traffic jams and waiting in lines. In the 90's telecommuting was considered to be the solution. The problem was that there was no tangible answer to this dilemma.

It is only a matter of time, that telecommuting will be the accepted protocol for running an organization.

If the companies are going to properly telecommute, they will need to learn how to collaborate without borders. With our Compass AE methodology, the project teams can collaborate without borders.

The first step is finding people who can telecommute and operate as a team without any managerial oversight.

Distant team collaboration becomes tangible. With the current availability of web conferencing technology and information systems, project teams no longer need to meet at a central location. Members usually operate at home, client's office and coffee shops with web access. They connect and collaborate with each other with their Tangible Vision.

More information on Compass AE and Tangible Vision can be found in this blog.

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September 18, 2007
Traffic Congestion Is Getting Worse, Study Says

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan may be facing harsh criticism from opponents these days, but the findings of a new national study offer a sobering wake-up call: drivers who commute between New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are wasting more time and money sitting in traffic than ever before.

According to the new study, the average motorist in the Tri-State area spent about 46 hours bogged down in rush-hour traffic in 2005, up from an average of only 15 hours two decades ago in 1985. Those 46 hours are the equivalent of six full work days, seven night’s of sleep, or five days of school — all of them wasted on roads and highways because of accidents, delays and the sheer volume of cars on the road.

But the report had other grim news as well. Besides spending more time in traffic, the average motorist is also spending more money, a total in 2005 of an extra $888 in lost time and added fuel consumption. That’s up from $784 in 2004, and $660 in 2003 — a relatively rapid increase. Nationwide, New York ranked No. 33 in this category in 1985; now it is No. 18.

The findings are likely to become grist for Mayor Bloomberg and those looking for a lift to his congestion pricing plan, which would charge a fee to drivers entering the busiest parts of Manhattan. In August, the federal government awarded the city $354 million to implement the plan, but that amount fell short of the roughly $550 million that Mayor Bloomberg had requested. The plan has also faced opposition from the City Council and the State Legislature, two groups that must approve the plan in order for the city to receive the federal money.

The new report, which looks at traffic trends across the country, was conducted by researchers at the Texas Transportation Institute and financed by the federal Department of Transportation. Over all, it found that the average amount of time wasted in rush-hour traffic nationwide has mushroomed from 14 hours in 1982 — the first year the study looks at — to 38 hours in 2005.

While the plight of motorists in the Tri-State area has worsened steadily since 1982, they have not fared as badly as drivers in California. In Los Angeles and Orange Counties, which earned the worst ranking, drivers wasted an average of 72 hours in rush hour traffic in 2005, and suffered $1,374 in lost time and added fuel consumption.

Los Angeles and Orange Counties have ranked No. 1 in the category of wasted travel time every of the study except 1984, when they were ranked No. 2. By comparison, the Tri-State area commute ranked No. 5 in 2005, and No. 15 in 1982.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


Current Trend of Global Collaboration

It is only a matter of time that the old way of "traveling to collaborate" will decline. The amount of time that is being wasted in waiting and traveling is quite a lot.

There is a time and a place for traveling and there is a time and place for using video conferencing. Spending time waiting for an airplane can be used in other productive ways.

Are you tired of waiting?

With our Compass AE process, you and your team can collaborate anywhere. It does not matter what technology or what project methodology your team are using. It is all about connecting the team to the Tangible Vision.

The current dilemma is that most people do not know how to collaborate as a team, with or without the challenge of distance and individual culture

Another dilemma that we discovered is they do not know how to collaborate with the latest video collaboration technology.

In a future entry, we will talk about the importance of making a collaborative decision quickly in a global economy and how to integrate Compass AE and video conferencing as one collaborative protocol.


September 18, 2007
U.S. Working on Its Welcome

In February, Eric Rozenberg, a Belgian travel executive, was en route to a convention in Cancún, Mexico, from Brussels when, he says, he experienced firsthand what other foreign travelers had told him about the problems of getting into the United States.

He said an official took him aside with no explanation as he went through immigration in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and sent him to a separate room.

After waiting there nearly 90 minutes, Mr. Rozenberg, who travels to the United States on business at least six times a year, said, he very politely asked another officer what was taking so long. The officer glanced at Mr. Rozenberg’s passport again, told him to wait another 10 minutes, then handed it back to him without explaining what had happened.

The officer asked if he had missed his connecting flight, Mr. Rozenberg recalled. When he replied that he had, he said casually: ‘Oh, sorry about that; just tell them you were detained at immigration,’ Mr. Rozenberg said.

Similar complaints from foreign business and leisure travelers have led the United States government to take steps to improve the treatment of travelers upon arrival. In February 2006, the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security announced a program, called Secure Borders and Open Doors, aimed at balancing the increased need for security after the 2001 terrorist attacks with the desire to ease travel to the United States.

Last February, the Homeland Security Department started the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, or TRIP (, which provides an online form travelers can use to file complaints electronically about any travel-related government entity. It offers more transparency and a one-stop location for travelers who feel, say, they weren’t treated properly or missed a flight because of a D.H.S. employee’s actions, said Kelly Klundt, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the Homeland Security Department.

But while government officials say they are trying for change, there is no way to tell if progress has been made. Ms. Klundt said she did not know if the government kept statistics on complaints about poor treatment by customs and border officials.

Geoff Freeman is the executive director of the Discover America Partnership, a Washington lobbying group of leaders from the Travel Business Roundtable, Marriott International, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, the Travel Industry Association and other companies and organizations. Since the organization was formed last September to promote the United States abroad, it has received hundreds of phone calls and e-mail messages, he said, from foreign travelers complaining of poor treatment by customs and border officials.

But, Mr. Freeman said, while most people who’ve come here from overseas since 9/11 say the entry experience is poor, beyond the airport, their U.S. experience is good enough that they’ll probably come back.

The partnership also found, however, that if foreigners had not visited the United States since Sept. 11 or had never visited, the stories they’re reading or hearing about the poor entry experience are discouraging them from visiting, Mr. Freeman said.

He said statistics from the World Trade Organization showed a 17 percent increase in worldwide travel since Sept. 11, while data from the United States Office of Travel and Tourism Industries showed travel to the United States declining the same percentage over the same period.

Former Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, who served as the first secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is working with the Discover America Partnership to find ways to improve the entry experience. By and large, my former colleagues do a good job, Mr. Ridge said. But anecdotally, I’ve heard we have to be a lot more sensitive. If even one traveler in 10,000 has a bad experience, that ripple effect is harmful.

Prakton Mal, who was born in India, lives in Oslo and is a Norwegian citizen, said many of his colleagues would rather participate in a videoconference than travel to the United States and risk embarrassment and ill treatment.

/// *** The continuing trend of more people wanting to use video-conferencing tool.

In March, he said, while on a business trip, he was treated rudely by a very sour and impolite immigration official at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport because he had forgotten to sign and date his immigration form. It was a small incident, but it could have been avoided, Mr. Mal said. He said he takes 18 international business trips a year, and I sometimes feel that the United States stands out with their arrogant behavior toward innocent incoming businesspeople.

One executive, an American citizen who was born in France, said he presented his American passport to a customs official at Miami International Airport after returning from an overseas business trip. The official noticed he was also carrying a French passport.

He told me it was illegal to carry two passports, the executive recalled. He held both passports in front of me and asked, ‘Which one do you want me to destroy?’ like it was a game.

The executive, who did not want his name disclosed because he was concerned that might affect his business dealings, said he insisted he had the right to carry two passports because he was a dual citizen. (A State Department spokesman confirmed this; the law specifies only that American citizens must present their American passport when entering the United States.)

The official kept him waiting about half an hour, then returned both passports, the executive said. But he said he’d put a note in my file that I was breaking the law and I’d get stopped the next time I traveled. He said he filed a complaint electronically, but they didn’t even acknowledge receiving it.

Ms. Klundt said all customs officials were required to take an annual professionalism training course, which is updated every year. We’re concerned about these negative situations and want to address them, she said. But we also need to focus on our mission, which is keeping bad people and bad things out of the country.

Mr. Ridge said it was that occasional rude person who creates all these horror stories.

The welcome mat has a little dust on it right now, he added. We have to spruce it up a bit.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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September 17, 2007
Seeking Relief

NOW what?

Usually, fall brings relief from summertime air traffic delays, cancellations and missed connections. But this year, some travelers are not betting on it.

I’m certainly not going to be happily whistling on my way to the airport, thinking the troubles of the summer are over, said Will A. Allen III, a management consultant from Raleigh, N.C., who is on the road or in the air more than he is home.

So far, this year in air travel merits a place in the record books. During the first eight months of 2007, a quarter of all domestic flights arrived late. Late flights also created a deluge of missed connections, and flight cancellations were higher than ever. In the three months ending Aug. 31, 52,840 domestic flights were canceled, according to That number compared with about 16,000 in the same period last year.

/// *** Ask yourself, do you want to spend your time waiting? ... With Compass AE, you and your team can "video-conference" as a team properly.

About the only flight that took off on time this summer was the space shuttle, said Joe Brancatelli, whose subscription business-travel Web site is

Airlines usually blame bad weather for problems, and given that the air traffic control system is stretched to its limits, weather can cause excessive delays, even in the fall, said David L. Beckerman, the director of consulting services at Back Aviation Solutions. In a system where carriers have cut domestic capacity and really need every aircraft in service to carry their high passenger loads, this is more problematic than it was a few years ago, he said.

Adding to the problems, the airlines say, is congestion caused by a surge in the use of corporate jets as business travelers try to avoid delays. The situation will only get worse as new four- to six-seat business aircraft, called very-light jets, come off the assembly line.

Shrewd business travelers usually pride themselves on having a backup plan. Given the current mess, how can people cope? Stay home, Mr. Brancatelli said, not entirely facetiously.

Avoiding crowded major-hub airports is one limited alternative. In recent years, some business travelers have been using smaller outlying airports — like Manchester International in New Hampshire, 50 miles from Boston, and Ontario International, 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles — with point-to-point routes that avoid frantic connections. Manchester’s passenger traffic, for instance, increased to more than 4.5 million last year from 1 million in 1997.

Traffic growth at such airports comes mostly from point-to-point travel, often in short-haul regional routes but also in longer ones by nimble carriers like Southwest Airlines.

For the first eight months of 2007, Southwest, whose national route network was built around point-to-point flying, had an 8.3 percent increase in passenger miles flown. On the other hand, American Airlines, which builds its system around major hubs, reported a 2.1 percent decline.

Still, American and the other major airlines carry by far the most passengers and offer the largest number of routes and frequencies, with operations firmly based at hub airports that in some cases, like O’Hare International in Chicago, are often unable to accept new traffic. Many outlying airports have also been operating near capacity, and are often unable to expand operations because of strong opposition from residents who live nearby, analysts say.

Rail alternatives, like Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service, also operate near capacity. All of which is leading more drivers to another option: driving.

Mr. Allen, the consultant in Raleigh, saw the meltdown coming. Last spring, he began driving occasionally on trips that he used to fly.

My limit is about 400 to 450 miles, eight hours, which is how long you can spend getting to and from an airport and flying somewhere, he said. But not long ago, Mr. Allen drove 900 miles to a job. At least in the car you’re in charge of your own schedule, he said.

Doug Laubach, who owns an engineering business near Syracuse with eight employees, often uses the company Audi for trips. There is no reliability left in the air traffic system, he said. He often drives to avoid delays at the Syracuse airport and to get to a major hub like Chicago, where he then flies to jobs in places like Colorado. Mr. Laubach encourages employees who drive to add recreation to the trip, so the Audi may be loaded not only with laptops and luggage but also bicycles and other sports equipment. I want my people to feel they have a life, he said.

How did the airline schedules come to such a sorry state?

As airlines have reduced costs by cutting capacity, schedules and employees, planes have become fuller than ever. Some critics say that the airlines — now profitable after years of losses — have no motive to add passengers or improve service.

Airlines have also been criticized for clogging routes with more regional jets, which usually accommodate 50 passengers at most. But the airlines say that regional jets — which carry about one of every four passengers — are serving the smaller markets that large jets don’t. Instead, they point the finger at the corporate jets.

Pushed by consumer discontent with commercial airlines, business aviation has been growing rapidly. There are now more than 11,000 private jets in the United States, compared with about 7,000 in 2000, according to the National Business Aviation Association. The trade group argues that business jets mostly use smaller, noncommercial airports and are in the sky far less often than airliners.

Regardless, there will be more of them soon when the very-light jets take off. The short-range jets are relatively inexpensive, from about $1.4 million to more than $2.5 million. The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that more than 350 of them will be flying next year, and that their numbers will grow by 400 to 500 a year for a decade.

We’re going to be filling in gaps where air service is inadequate, said Ed Iacobucci, the chief executive of DayJet in Boca Raton, Fla., a company that is buying hundreds of Eclipse 500 very-light jets to start an air-taxi business, selling seats on demand. The company plans to begin flying among Florida cities that many business travelers now reach by driving or by spending hours in commercial airports.

Some potential customers of air taxis say that saving time outweighs the extra cost, roughly equivalent to a first-class commercial fare. We all have families at home, said Eric Romano, a lawyer in a West Palm Beach, Fla., firm who has signed up to be a DayJet client. Some industry observers, like Michael Boyd of the Boyd Group Consultancy in Evergreen, Colo., say blame for the problems lies not so much with the airlines — big or small — or the weather as with the air traffic control system itself. Responding to that criticism, the F.A.A., which forecasts 768 million domestic passengers flying this year, up from 666 million in 2000, has pointed to future improvements like a $25 billion upgrade using G.P.S. technology to allow planes to fly closer together near hubs.

But Mr. Boyd said that because F.A.A. improvements in the past have been too little and too late, airlines now routinely pad their schedules, adding flight time to hide the extent of delays.

The problem isn’t the weather, it’s the air traffic control system’s inability to deal with the weather, he said.

Still, air traffic keeps growing. We’re assuming the skies are going to get a lot more crowded, said Robert E. Brown, the chief executive of CAE Inc., a company with a worldwide network of 24 pilot-training centers.

Passenger discontent is also increasing over the problem of aircraft stuck on airport aprons. This year, passengers have been stranded at dozens of airports, sometimes for 10 hours or more, as pilots waited for takeoff slots in inclement weather. Kate Hanni, a Napa, Calif., real estate agent, was among the passengers stranded on several dozen flights diverted from Dallas last December. Her plane was sent to Austin, Tex., where the passengers sat for more than nine hours as food ran out and cabin conditions deteriorated.

Since then, she has been advocating federal legislation, a Passengers’ Bill of Rights, specifying when airlines need to allow passengers to get off parked planes and ensuring enough food and water and basic sanitation. Ms. Hanni has marshaled a network of volunteers who keep records, including e-mail messages and phone numbers, from thousands of stranded passengers. The Web site is

Ms. Hanni plans a publicity campaign for Wednesday. We’re going to have a strand-in in Washington, she said, with a tent simulating conditions on a stranded plane.

But frequent fliers like Mr. Allen have no illusions that conditions will improve soon. In years past, he said, fliers sharing tales of woe at airport lounges could always find a fellow traveler who chided them for exaggerating the troubles.

I never run into those people anymore, he said.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


Monday, September 17, 2007

Latest Success of Collaboration360

Recently an Asian wireless game company used our C360 consulting services and our Compass AE methodology to secure a monetary grant to launch their latest business endeavor. They used our Compass AE process to collaboratively determine the grand goal and the process to reach the goal.

After three weeks of waiting, they successfully received the grant.

The client is now using our Compass AE process to define the goal and the objectives of their marketing development and the product development activities. They asked us to guide them in the challenges of collaboratively building and connecting a separate Tangible Vision for each activity.

It is a good experiment for us to see how well our collaborative process works in the area of product development .

Before building the Tangible Vision, we made a point to know the business of the client and their marketplace.

Quoting what our client told us , "Collboration360 Consultants did a great job in helping our team to collaboratively focus on the importance of our project. We used Compass AE to clarify our strategic direction and the necessary strategic steps. ... We were quite happy with their process and services."

- More details to come -

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Current Trend of Distant Project Teams

As time goes on, distant team collaboration becomes tangible. With the current availability of web conferencing technology and information systems, project teams no longer need to meet at a central location.

Members would operate at home, client's office and coffee shops with web access. They connect and collaborate with each other with their Tangible Vision.


Magnets for money
Sep 13th 2007
From The Economist print edition

Financial centres are booming, despite predictions that new technology would spell their doom. But competition is getting keener, says Julie Sell

THE late Middle Ages were a golden age for city-states. Merchant guilds created a network of them that dominated trading along the Baltic and North seas for centuries. Cities such as Lübeck, Hamburg and Bergen flourished in this early form of globalisation.

In time, the early 21st century may come to be seen as a golden era for a different sort of globalised city-state. Its protagonists are found in London's Mayfair, lower Manhattan and Hong Kong's central business district. Rather than loading ships, they spend their days (and many nights) in front of computer screens, moving zillions of dollars, pounds, euros and yen around the globe at the flick of a key.

Technology, some predicted, would end this sort of clustering in city centres. Why would financiers want to live and work in pricey, jam-packed urban jungles? Armed with broadband, mobile phones and BlackBerries, they could work from almost anywhere. Yet as this summer's market turmoil showed, a BlackBerry operated from a beach is not always enough. Besides, those urban jungles have their compensations. So rather than dying out, financial centres are proliferating.

Today's financial centres—the cities where big financial transactions are done and a dizzying array of financial products are traded—include not only long-established places such as New York, London and Tokyo, but also a growing number of newer financial hubs in Asia, the Middle East and beyond. As Dubai has shown, following in Singapore's earlier footsteps, a determined government can build an international financial centre from scratch.

Unlike the walled medieval city-states, today's financial centres are increasingly dependent on their connections to one another. Technology, the mobility of capital and the spread of deregulation around the globe have created a vibrant and growing network. When one city is asleep, another is wide awake, so trading goes on round the clock. The number of transactions between financial centres has surged recently as investors have diversified across regions and asset types.

Yet interconnectedness has a cost. In an era of greater volatility, the latest market news spreads from one continent to another in an instant, as financiers have recently been reminded; and knock-on effects on things like bonuses and property prices soon follow.

New York and London have firmly established themselves at the top, but not even the biggest centres can afford to be complacent. New York, still number one in global financial terms by many measures (see chart 1), has recently acknowledged the competition it faces from other centres. London has surged on a wave of new money and talent, but needs to resolve problems of its own. Some cities that once aspired to global status have lost their edge, and new ones are starting up.

Michael Klein of Citigroup cites two big changes that have encouraged the proliferation of financial centres around the globe: the shift of economic activity and jobs towards China, India and other developing countries, and growing demand for natural resources from the Middle East, Russia and parts of Latin America. The resulting shift in liquidity is “one of the greatest transfers of economic activity and wealth in the past 100 years,” says Mr Klein. With barriers to trade falling in many developing countries, the cost of capital has also fallen dramatically.

These changes have made governments in emerging countries more conscious of the benefits of a strong financial sector. More capital and more jobs are good for social and economic stability, so countries that used to rely for capital on banks, the rich or the state are allowing new capital providers into their markets. Money that used to be routed through the world's biggest hubs now often goes through non-traditional capital markets, or directly between emerging markets.

Although financial hubs have proliferated, few of them can claim to be truly global. Many members of the financial community feel that only New York City and London deserve this title. Both are one-stop shops for a full range of financial services. Any big financial organisation has to be represented there. From investment banking to insurance, stocks to derivatives, everything can be found in the world's two pre-eminent financial hubs.

What do they have that others don't? They score well on a package of key criteria that global financial firms are looking for: plenty of skilled people, ready access to capital, good infrastructure, attractive regulatory and tax environments and low levels of corruption. Location and the use of English, the language of global finance, are also important. Based on those measures, a survey by Z/Yen, a consultancy, picks London, New York and Hong Kong as the world's top three financial centres.

Finding and retaining good people has become an ever more important factor. Steven Kaplan and Joshua Rauh, a pair of economists at the University of Chicago, reckon that capital deployed per employee (the amount of money firms have invested divided by the number of staff) at the top 50 American securities firms surged from an average of $136,000 in 1994 to $1.79m in 2004. For many skilled professionals who can pick and choose their place of work, quality of life matters a lot.

Although New York and London are pre-eminent, other big cities play important international roles of their own. Some have prospered as the financial capitals of big national markets (Tokyo and Sydney) or the gateways to emerging regions (Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai). Others have found success in niches. These include Geneva (private banking), Zurich and Bermuda (insurance and reinsurance), Chicago (futures and options), Qatar (infrastructure finance) and Bahrain (Islamic finance). Yet many of these, too, are trying to diversify.

Governments are paying more attention than ever to wooing and keeping financial firms because of the benefits they bring with them, such as highly paid jobs, large tax revenues and international connections. In New York and Hong Kong the financial sector accounts for more than one-third of total city tax revenues. In smaller centres it often makes up a large chunk of total employment.

Aside from the political and economic gains to the host countries, economists and investment bankers point to two wider benefits from having a range of financial centres around the world. One is the increase in overall liquidity as new countries and regions become integrated into the global financial system. The second is increased efficiency as competition between centres drives down the cost of trading and other financial transactions. New and developing financial centres are knocking down protectionist barriers and emulating the regulatory practices of the more established hubs.

The city-states that dominate today's financial world are connected not only by mobile capital and people, but increasingly by exchanges too. Exchanges have traditionally been at the heart of important financial cities. They grew up serving mainly national markets, but have changed fundamentally in recent years. A growing number are now publicly owned, which has forced them to shed their clubby ways and compete more openly.

Now they are teaming up across national borders. The first ever transatlantic merger between exchanges took place earlier this year when the New York Stock Exchange bought Euronext, a pan-European exchange group. The deal is being closely watched as a precursor to further cross-border consolidation. The London Stock Exchange is merging with Borsa Italiana, Italy's main market. Deutsche Börse is teaming up with the International Securities Exchange in New York. The big exchanges in Western countries are linking up with counterparts farther east as well, from the Dubai Mercantile Exchange to the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

This consolidation raises questions about the future relationship between exchanges and global financial centres. Exchange listing fees and affiliated services are a big source of income for host cities. Exchanges are also seen as important political prizes. But the rapid growth in cross-border trading has made life more difficult for national regulators.

This special report will examine the factors that create and sustain global financial centres and explain why physical financial hubs—teeming with banks and exchanges but also with legal, accountancy and public-relations firms and consultancies—continue to matter so much. It will also consider what their rise means for the global financial system, and how it is changing the cities that are home to these clusters.

Copyright © 2007 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Building a Tangible Vision for the New Economy

When building a Tangible Vision, it is important to identify the goal, the specific objectives, the value points, the risk points, intangibles, etc. If the Compass implementers are collaboratively willing to do that, then they will achieve their goal.


September 9, 2007
When Balance Sheets Collide With the New Economy

TODAY’S sophisticated knowledge economy is stuck with the equivalent of an abacus for measuring the actual financial value of corporate assets and liabilities.

At issue is a growing collection of crucial resources known as intangibles: assets or liabilities that have no obvious physical presence, but that represent real value or vulnerabilities.

Patents, trademarks, copyrights and brand recognition are most commonly recognized as intangibles. But as the nature of doing business has changed, the list has grown.

For example, the most valuable assets of an innovation-based company today its intellectual property, software investments, staff and managerial expertise, research and development, advertising and market research, and business processes have no natural home on the balance sheet.

They can be recorded as expenses or sometimes, in the case of intellectual property, as liabilities, says Nir Kossovsky, the chief executive of Steel City Re, which assesses and insures companies’ intangible assets. But often, they do not make their way onto the accounting ledger at all.

Reputation is one such intangible asset; ask Mattel about its value, after its third recall of toys this summer. Or JetBlue Airways, which built a stellar reputation for customer service but neglected to fortify its computer network. When that network failed in the winter and stranded thousands of customers, the company’s stock price and good name both took tremendous hits.

What’s more, the market is demanding that companies prove that their business conduct is environmentally and socially conscious not on the basis of ideology, but because to do otherwise exposes them to financial risk.

The vulnerability of a global economy to cataclysmic risk, from terrorism to pandemics and extreme weather, is also pushing companies to disclose processes and strategies they have to ensure continuity after a disaster.

But because accountants have found it impossible to determine the value or the risk of such assets with certainty or objectivity, official financial accounting rules give intangibles a wide berth.

Instead, each company makes its own valuation of intangibles, guided only by very general accounting standards. There is not the rigor and uniformity that governs the valuation of ‘tangibles.’ In all cases, there is little relationship to market value, said Mr. Kossovsky, who is also the executive secretary of the Intangible Assets Finance Society, an advocacy group that is working to develop new standards and practices for monetizing intangible assets.

Yet today’s markets are being transformed by intangibles, and a growing number of companies are scrambling to find the methods that will help them better use, develop and communicate about them. In the last three years, investors have been looking at how social and environmental issues translate directly to market value, said Jed Emerson, a senior fellow at the Generation Foundation (the philanthropic arm of Generation Investment) who is credited with developing an approach to assessing intangibles called the blended value proposition.

Mainstream business is less and less able to function without paying attention to these things, Mr. Emerson added. Ten years ago, at the World Economic Forum, the talk was all about opening new markets and currency exchanges. Today, it’s about AIDS and education systems in South Africa, and things that you wouldn’t have historically heard major C.E.O.’s voicing concern about. Stakeholders in emerging markets want to know how investment translates to jobs, environmental concerns, etc.

Over the past couple of decades, finance experts and strategists have developed many methods to better value various intangibles methods that corporations and governments are widely adopting.

For example, one of the earliest approaches, the triple bottom line (for people, planet and profit), was ratified early this year as the standard for urban and community accounting by the United Nations International Council for Local Environment Initiatives. According to the consulting firm Bain & Company, a more recent approach to valuing intangibles, called the balanced scorecard, was being used in about 57 percent of international companies by 2004.

As yet, none have been adopted as a standard by the official financial accounting bodies. But it is only a matter of time until they do, according to Sara Olsen, founding partner of the Social Venture Technology Group, a San Francisco firm that specializes in developing nonfinancial valuation methods.

Ms. Olsen noted that leading business schools are already training students in these new, inclusive valuation methods, and that many companies are also busy teaching others how to credibly analyze their own intangible assets.

Leading public companies recognized the value of the process some time ago. In April, Fast Company magazine teamed up with the S.V.T. Group and the social investment strategy firm HIP Investor to rate the human and social impact of 21 companies that say they have sustainability practices in place, including Wal-Mart Stores, United Technologies and McDonald’s.

I would put money on it, that within a generation this will be a commonly accepted management practice, Ms. Olsen says, with its own standards body like the Financial Accounting Standards Board that maintains, updates and oversees enforcement of best practices for valuing intangibles.

Many who have been working in this area agree. Not only is the change inevitable, they say, but it is well under way.

Some people think the logic of econometrics was handed down by God, but it’s actually the result of 40 or 50 years of economists and accountants arguing about corporate performance, said Mr. Emerson of the Generation Foundation. We’re now at the early stages of evolving that process. Today it’s a very different conversation, and all these efforts to capture value more wholly at the corporate level, across companies, and at the broader level of society are positive examples of innovation.

Denise Caruso is executive director of the Hybrid Vigor Institute, which studies collaborative problem-solving. E-mail:

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Questions to the Readers

# # #

Questions for the Strategy-Driven Professional

Does your team know how to define their planned outcome?

How do they define their planned outcome?

Do they adjust to situations without a glitch?

Does your team know what situation they should assemble for?:

Is your strategic process technology dependent?

Does your strategic process enable your team to collaborate regardless of the borders?

# # #

When a Compass team builds and connects with their Tangible Vision, they will think in terms of the total campaign.

Does your strategic process do that?

* More to Come *

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Build the Tangible Vision: Using the Fundamentals of Strategic Calculations from a Sun Zi Art of War viewpoint

Step 1 for building the Tangible Vision is performing the proper strategic assessments.
This can be achieved by studying the context in the mindmap.

Once the "strategic assessments" stage is completed, a project team of implementers can properly build a Tangible Vision. This enables them to view the big picture from the initial milestone to the grand goal.

Our Tangible Vision process also gives the team the capability to implement the following:
1. Complete the goal by determining the critical path;
2. Avoid the negatives and focus on positives;
3. Anticipate opportunities;
4. Perform proper pre-strategic positioning.
5. Shape the target; and
6. Lead by strategic collaboration.

When a collaborative group of implementers properly build a Tangible Vision, they will connect to it.

Does your strategic project process do that?

If you like to know us to demonstrate more about Compass AE, email us at service [aat] collaboration360 [dott] comm.

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

Monday, September 3, 2007

Collaborate Without Borders

September 2, 2007
A Tool to Organize Our Many Organizers


WHEN he started his software company, Faizan Buzdar and three friends worked from a spare bedroom in the home of another friend. Their view was inspiring: the lovely house of an entrepreneur who had made a mint from his own start-up. We would look at it and say we would buy it when we succeeded, Mr. Buzdar said last week.

He may get the chance. His start-up, the Scrybe Corporation (, which developed a personal information manager, recently said it had received an undisclosed amount of venture funding from Adobe Systems and L.M.K.R., an information technology services company based in Dubai.

Scrybe might have seemed a long shot to get even this far. Mr. Buzdar, 31, is based in Pakistan’s capital city, Islamabad, hardly known as a haven for software entrepreneurs. And Scrybe is trying to enter a well-established market dominated by Microsoft Outlook in the business world and by Google, Yahoo and a host of smaller companies on the Web. But Mr. Buzdar’s product, which is also called Scrybe and made its debut in a seven-minute YouTube video in October 2006, has drawn sustained interest. The reasons suggest he has figured out something fundamental about how we want access to schedules and related information.

/// At any point of time, your competition can originate from any point of the globe

Scrybe’s tools include a clever interface that features zooming calendar boxes that become bigger when scrolled over, the ability to print in multiple formats, including wallet- and pocket-friendly versions, and a novel notepad that accepts text and images from the Web as well as the usual typed-in notes. It also works offline, something that Outlook and other existing programs cannot do.

One user, David Gerboni, who works for a community bank in New York, said he had adopted Scrybe because of its interface and because it did a better job of pulling together data than any other calendar he has used, including Outlook.

All of this has made Scrybe, which remains in beta testing, the most anticipated software at the Museum of Modern Betas, a Web site that tracks emerging Web 2.0 projects. More than 300,000 people have watched the YouTube video. Given that the company had a public relations budget of zero dollars, Mr. Buzdar had told his co-founders (three friends he knew from the Pakistani outsourcing industry), that they might attract 10,000 users in six months. Instead, he said, we had about 100,000 users in a few weeks.

Of course, Scrybe is not the only new company trying to build a better way to organize personal information. Last week, the Open Source Applications Foundation released a much-delayed preview version of a product called Chandler. Another such tool that is planned to emerge this month is IWantSandy, which aims to handle calendar functions via e-mail.

While calendar sharing may sound mundane, the problem vexes people like David Weinberger, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and author of Everything Is Miscellaneous, a book that looks at how things should be organized — or not — in the online age. I go through contortions like everybody else to sync up my BlackBerry with my Google calendar, he said.

Mr. Weinberger said that the calendar issue symbolized a much bigger problem with information: It is atomized into various databases and hard to pull together.

What we need is the ability to associate the people and the times and the places of our lives with the broad messy context of our lives, he said. He added that the new tools are an early but important step toward giving people and companies a better way to manage their increasingly complicated existence.

A McKinsey & Company study of United States economic activity in 2005 said that 40 percent of labor activity, the biggest chunk, came not from making things or from traditional transactions but from what McKinsey called the interaction economy, the part in which people collaborate, solve problems and design products and such. One might also call it the meeting economy. It is the least commoditized part of the economy, and the hardest to measure and manage — and it involves the highest-priced labor.

/// *** With the Compass AE methodology, a project team uses the Tangible Vision to define the prioritization of meeting types. By understanding the grand goal and the specific objectives, the number of efficient meetings increase and the number of unnecessary meetings decrease.

The nature of work has changed, and so has the technology that matters to businesses, said James M. Manyika, a senior partner at McKinsey. Personal productivity applications like Scrybe matter more than big companywide applications like enterprise resource planning systems. You’re not trying to automate the task a human does; you’re trying to complement what the human is doing, he said.

MR. BUZDAR acknowledged that Scrybe might never solve the problems of large companies. Indeed, John Leckrone, director of venture development at Adobe, said he expected Scrybe to expand the market for organizing software rather than displace existing products. Scrybe’s initial version is basically a personal organizer. But Mr. Buzdar said that he plans to link the tool more closely with Outlook in the near future, and that a version for small and medium-size businesses was in the works.

For its part, Microsoft is certain to continue to adapt its products for the increasingly collaborative world of Web business, as is I.B.M., the other large provider of corporate calendar and information sharing tools.

Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster in Silicon Valley, says Scrybe is among a wave of companies that are forcing businesses to rethink what they do with information. Doing business increasingly means pulling together people across different time zones and companies. E-mail and phones aren’t efficient ways to organize these things, so there is pressure to create publicly viewable calendars.

Mr. Saffo said the big difference between these new personal information managers and those of the past is that these new things share.

He said the situation reminded him of the way personal computers broke down corporate information bureaucracies and gave all workers greater access to data. Companies are being forced to deal with such sweeping change again, and it will create confusion and consternation, but ultimately more effective communication.

///* A Compass project team that builds, connect and lead with their Tangible Vision process, can collaborate anywhere regardless of the the distance, the technology and the project culture.

Michael Fitzgerald is a Boston-area writer on business, technology and culture. E-mail:

# # #

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Another Day in the Global Economy (Playing the China Game

Some comments on playing China game.

Start by understanding the grand settings by reading Chapter 1 and Chapter 13 of Sun Zi's Art of War (Sawyer or Ames translation).

Then, read Sawyer's translation of 100 Unorthodox Strategies in understanding how to create strategic influence by playing the "pre-positioning to compete" game.

It is important to understand the culture, the history and the mindset behind the game before playing the game.


China's Market: Vital but Tricky

August 22, 2007; Page B3A

Baird Capital Partners got a lesson in China's cutthroat business culture a couple of years ago when a plastic-molding company it owned tried to set up a joint venture there.

While reading the fine print of an agreement between Xaloy Inc. and a local manufacturer, Baird Capital came across a passage indicating that the Chinese entity planned to set up a sister company with access to Xaloy's proprietary technology.

Baird, a unit of Robert W. Baird & Co., realized the joint venture was a ruse when it slipped a noncompetition clause into the agreement, and the other party pulled out of the deal. According to Baird, the local company essentially wanted to crib Xaloy's intellectual property and set up its own operation. Baird says it might not have picked up on the ploy if it hadn't had a team of investment professionals embedded in the country.

"You can't manage Asia from afar -- the laws are evolving, the culture is evolving," said Andrew Brickman, a partner with the Milwaukee firm. "The most viciously competitive market in the world is Asia."

/// *** To play the China game, it is important to establish a base camp. One objective of establishing A part of the base camp is quietly pre-positioning a team of high-qualified competitive intelligence professionals to understand the grand settings of your marketplace. The success of this particular step enables the team to establish the stage of advanced base camp.

It is also one of the most complicated markets, but Asia is increasingly an essential ingredient of doing business for many midmarket companies. That combination is prompting more U.S. midmarket buyout firms to open offices in China to help shepherd their portfolio companies through the tricky process of sourcing goods and establishing manufacturing sites in the region.

While megafund managers like Carlyle Group and Blackstone Group LP have had a presence in China for years, only recently have their midmarket colleagues followed suit. At least four have opened offices in China in the past year or so: American Securities Capital Partners LLC, Sun Capital Partners Inc., Anderson Group and Hammond Kennedy Whitney & Co. They join a small number of midmarket firms that have been there for longer, including Baird and Blue Point Capital.

There is no blueprint for setting up shop, with the new entrants varying in how they pay for their new branches and how many people they commit to the effort. Some firms, like Anderson Group, charge their portfolio companies fees to support the new offices. Others, like American Securities, rely on the general partners to absorb the costs.

/// *** Step 1: To play the China game, understand what is the big picture. Having a Tangible Vision will be helpful.

These firms say that expanding overseas is no easy task, as reliable talent is hard to find and office space in cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai is expensive. Becoming global also puts stress on a firm's culture, as lengthy overseas flights and 6 a.m. conference calls become a day-to-day reality.

"It's a lot of money, and it's even more time and effort," said Michael G. Fisch, president of American Securities Capital.

/// *** Compass AE methodology enables a distant team to collaborate efficiently by focusing on the goal and objectives

But they add that midmarket investors have no choice but to pay attention to China as U.S. manufacturing shifts overseas.

For instance, Blue Point portfolio company Engineered Material Solutions Inc., which makes metal strips for the automotive and telecommunications industries, recently opened a production facility in Eastern China under pressure from customers. Automobile brake and component maker Qualitor Inc., in which Baird has a stake, had to open a site in China or else lose a contract with a top customer that recently moved production to the region.

"The middle market's customer base is heading to Asia," Mr. Brickman said. "Asia is not going anywhere. You have to deal with the global economy because ignoring it will only threaten what you're trying to do."

A presence in Asia can also give a firm a competitive edge in making deals. Blue Point structured its bid for Dri-Eaz Products Inc. last year by taking into account cost savings the dehumidifier maker could generate by sourcing parts in China.

"We bid more sharply than we would have otherwise," said Blue Point Managing Partner Chip Chaikin. "It allowed us to be a little more aggressive."

His firm also makes it a point to sell its capabilities in Asia to U.S. investment banks, and took a handful of them on a weeklong tour of the country about a year and a half ago. The visit impressed Lincoln International, which now keeps Blue Point in mind when it is advising a business that has facilities in China or is looking to source products in the region.

Having an office in China "gives them a competitive advantage in actually winning deals in the U.S." said Jim Lawson, managing director and co-chairman of the Chicago bank. "Private-equity firms are trying to distinguish themselves in some way. This Asian play is a way to distinguish yourself."

Just how firms go about that varies. For instance, Hammond Kennedy has just one director in Shanghai -- a Chinese native who had worked for the firm in the U.S. since 2004 and relocated last year. Baird Capital, in contrast, has a 20-person team spread across offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.

Anderson Group, which buys U.S.-based manufacturers valued at less than $100 million, has staffed its Shanghai office with a partner, a chief financial officer and two sourcing specialists with connections in the plastics and metals industries.

The team essentially acts as a chaperone for Anderson Group portfolio companies looking to source goods in the region. It handles everything from making travel arrangements for visiting business executives to helping navigate the complex legal wrangling it takes to establish a manufacturing plant.

For Anderson Group, its China office represents a major change in strategy. For most of its 27 years in business, the firm took pains to avoid investing in companies vulnerable to competition from China, considering the region a threat. That changed in 2005, when it made a play for TexStyle LLC, a U.S.-based bedding and curtain maker with facilities in Shanghai. The investment opened the firm's eyes to the advantages of sourcing goods in the region, prompting it to establish the office.

"We shouldn't be looking at China as a strategic threat," said Corey Gaffney, a partner with the firm. "It really should be an opportunity."

/// "For every crisis, there is an opportunity. ..." --- A favorite saying of amateur strategists.
/// "The key to responding to an crisis is understanding its impact and what position of the cycle is the crisis at." --- A favorite saying of Ultra Class strategists.


Copyright 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

In Asia, It's a World of Extremes
China's Insular Markets
Defy Slump in Shares;
Other Trends Pose Worry
August 20, 2007; Page C1

SHANGHAI -- Can China's stock market remain hot amid a global chill?

The world-wide contagion of credit concerns that started with the U.S. mortgage market has driven down almost every significant global stock index this month, from São Paulo to Paris to Singapore -- except for China's Shanghai Composite Index. The Chinese benchmark slid slightly last week, mainly on domestic concerns, but remains up about 4% since the beginning of August -- and up 74% this year.

The Chinese market has been insulated from the global market chaos by strict capital controls that largely prevent international investors from buying domestic Chinese stocks -- and that tightly limit overseas investing by Chinese. So any reversal in China would have little direct impact on global capital flows. But the fall of one of the few pillars of global market strength could damage investor sentiment -- which remains shaky despite Friday's move by the Federal Reserve to cut its discount rate and encourage banks to borrow.

For now, analysts say, there is no reason the global credit crunch has to spread to China's stock market if trouble remains confined to global financial markets. China is still so swimming in cash that its central bank recently drained funds from its financial system while its global counterparts were pouring money into theirs. But the sustained rise in Chinese shares means many analysts believe it is due for a correction at some point -- even if no one can say when.

The U.S. credit problem "can't affect China directly," says Andy Xie, an independent economist in Shanghai. But, he adds, "I think the Chinese stock market is a bubble."

China's stock market is less than 20 years old, and investors, many of them new to the game, often trade on rumors or even superstition rather than fundamentals. Other unhealthy trends persist: Many companies have been buying stock and using the rise in prices to boost their earnings -- a trend that could add painfully to any downturn by hammering corporate profits, and thereby fueling more selling.

China's market still doesn't play the central role its counterparts do in more developed economies. But the market is starting to emerge as a closely watched indicator for the Chinese economy, which this year will become the world's third largest, after the U.S. and Japan. Already once this year, in February, a market swoon in China startled markets elsewhere. Mounting uncertainty about U.S. economic growth makes China's economy, and its market, more important in investor eyes.

For economists gauging the outlook for China's markets, one key question is whether weak global markets might translate to softer demand among consumers in the U.S. and elsewhere -- and thereby slow China's exports, which are a major contributor to the economy. About one-fifth of China's exports go to the U.S., leaving China's economy "potentially very vulnerable to any substantial future U.S. consumer pullback," Michael Kurtz, a Hong Kong-based strategist at Bear Stearns, said in a recent note.

Since China's bull market began in July 2005, it has risen by 3.6 times. That has brought total capitalization of its two exchanges, in Shanghai and Shenzhen, to about $2.8 trillion -- about the size of its annual gross domestic product. That isn't high compared with other countries, but it does suggest any major market setback could cause broader economic fallout than has happened in China in the past. By contrast, the country's last bear market, in the first half of this decade, had no apparent impact on broader economic growth.

Few consider Chinese stock prices cheap: Shanghai-listed shares trade at an average 55 times last year's earnings. Yet among China's retail investors, confidence remains high. In the first half of August, 1.78 million new trading accounts were opened. A week ago, as credit worries were pounding global markets, $7.8 billion was pledged in a day to the launch of a mutual fund offered by China Post & Capital Fund Management Co. Friday, three initial public offerings made their debuts in China, rising an average of more than 300%.

The Shanghai Composite Index did decline for three straight days late last week. It ended the week at 4656.57, about where it was 10 days earlier, holding a gain of 4.1% for the month. Moreover, the main cause for last week's slip came not from global credit worries, analysts and traders said, but from domestic concerns that underscore how starkly different China's current situation is from much of the rest of the world. One key factor: A surge in inflation fueled worries of another interest-rate increase.

The market also ran up against psychological resistance as it neared the 5000 level for the first time -- but few see that as insurmountable for an index that pulled above 2000 for the first time just last November.

China's market is a "rational bubble," says Walter Lin, chief representative in Beijing of Aviva PLC's Morley fund-management unit. "It is a largely closed market, and we have excess liquidity here," he says.

While Chinese investors believe they are acting sensibly by continuing to pile into the market, history is replete with examples of how traditional market fundamentals ultimately squash talk that a particular market is unique.

And while other markets have been hurt in part by big investors selling off holdings elsewhere to compensate for losses in the U.S., foreign investors have virtually no role in China. About 50 foreign institutions share a $10 billion quota to make investments in China's local-currency stock and bond markets -- meaning foreigners own a total of less than 0.5% of China's stock-market capitalization. Foreigners also can trade Class B shares, denominated in U.S. or Hong Kong dollars, but the total value of those shares is tiny, and they have almost no effect on the broader market.

Because the global credit problem "didn't change the trend of the China stock market," this small pool of foreign money managers hasn't noticeably altered strategy, according to a top official at a Shanghai brokerage who handles much of the trading.

To some degree, China's stock values have simply been catching up with broader advances by its economy: The Shanghai Composite fell 38% between the end of 1999 and 2005, while GDP more than doubled. Market capitalization plummeted to 18% of GDP. The current rally was triggered in mid-2005 by a government change to shareholding structures that gave minority investors a bigger voice.

--Zhou Yang in Beijing contributed to this article.

Write to James T. Areddy at