Podcast HR

Mal was neues und mal was auf deutsch. Mit HR-Experten Stefan Berndt hab ich mich unterhalten über jede Menge HR-Themen. Podcast Link hier.

Generosity counts

Big insight of the day:

Be generous with everybody around you.

Somebody doesn’t do their homework on time, doesn’t show up to a scheduled meeting, has trouble prioritizing, maybe freaks out a little — let them off the hook gently.

This is not the time for six-sigma precision and micro-management.

And, this is important, that applies to you too. Feeling the blahs, need some sunshine, wondering if it’s too early to open that bottle of wine? Step away from your desk and take a moment.

Or two or three.

Communication Roadmap for Companies in Lockdown

“May you live in interesting times” – well we do now.

Some recommendations for company leaders as they manage the transition of their teams to full home-office set up as we all go into lockdown mode. Assume this will take at the very least four weeks, so plan ahead for at least that long.

This is definitely not business as usual so here’s how one might stage the communication into the overall organization:

Week 0: Settle in. This will take a while. First and foremost: Stay safe and take care of your family. 

Week 1: Where do we stand as a company. How’s our financing and our runway. What do we hear from our customers, if anything.

Week 2: Have the teams settled in? Is everybody working OK? Share best practice and relevant anecdotes. Make no mistake: We are at work. 

Week 3: This is not business as usual. We’ve been there before, maybe even twice – 2000 and 2008. What worked for us then? What does that mean now?

Week 4: Now that we’ve all settled in and all the systems are functioning, let’s think about the bigger picture and the next three months. Business will be slowing down, for us and for our customers and partners. How do we deal with that. By taking the time to “sharpen the saw”.

What does that mean for:

  • the company: things we wanted to do but never had the time (processes, tools, reorgs)
  • the teams: stuff we wanted to learn and master
  • individuals: things you wanted to learn and/or teach.
  • product: pull some more difficult roadmap items and start cracking some hard nuts 
  • partners and customers: training, training, training – let’s reach out and learn together.

“The First 100” Framework

This month I stumbled across a really valuable resource: The First 100 framework “for capturing your first 100 customers”. 

It’s a really comprehensive collection of methods, tools, and important background information. Most everything will be familiar, but here it is in one place and in the right sequence.

Highly recommended.

“Asset-Light” to “Asset Agnostic”

Great insights in Benedit Evans presentation here on global trends and untapped markets. Required reading.

I was especially interested in his description of an “asset light” Amazon, who initially assumed they would have no stock and no warehouse and no logistics, moving towards an “asset agnostic” mindset, where they have no problem with stocks and warehouses and own products and own logistics services and own stores and even paper catalogs.  

So what we might have previously thought of as information-only, zero gravity business models become full-stack businesses, what he calls “information businesses”. 

Management Training – Day 2

Second session. We covered the basics, nothing new, but mandatory tools that you shouldn’t go without. Sound quality pretty miserable, sorry about that.

The Chasm

Business Model Canvas

Lean Startup

Customer Discovery

The “Difficult” Reference

Really interesting conversation yesterday with one of my oldest friends. He was asked to provide a reference that he really didn’t want to give. Here’s what we discussed:

if you ask me for a reference then in 99% of all cases I will be happy to. And I will do my very best to be constructive and helpful and focus on the positive.

 In my many decades of experience, I’ve hired a couple hundred people and I’ve parted ways with only a couple handfuls. Again, in almost all cases, we parted ways because it wasn’t the right fit at the right time and it was obvious that one of us was going to be much much better off if something changed.

Only a couple of times did I make a big mistake and hire somebody fundamentally flawed. Oh boy.

Now if somehow I am asked to provide a reference for one of those then the rules are different.

If you call me to find out about this person and I don’t know you then I will politely decline. That should give you pause and hopefully consider things carefully.

If I do know you then I’ll want to make sure you understand that there is a concern. I may not tell you what and I may not tell you why but I will tell you to be very very careful.

When I made my big mistakes people tried to warn me in subtle and polite ways that were too easy for me to overhear. Next time I sure hope they speak up and grab me and make sure I listen. Thank you!

Applications vs. Platforms. Rules for the Many. Exceptions for the Few.

Working with a number of enterprise software companies that are creating new categories of business applications running on top of exciting and innovative SaaS platforms. And they are all trying to navigate the tradeoffs between creating customer value via continued investment in their applications vs. opening up the platform in order to discover additional application opportunities that might also have very good fit with their underlying engine. Plus trying to figure out when and where opportunities for developing partner ecosystems would help scale the business.

Rules for the many:

Traditionally the picture has been very clear: It is infinitely easier build and monetize business applications that create immediate value for a specific use case than to build and monetize generic platforms. Look at SAP spending decades in the applications business before productizing the Netweaver platform. Or Salesforce having delivered tremendous customer value for a long time with their applications portfolio of SFA and CRM and service desk automation products before subsequently externalizing the Force.com platform for generic application development by customers and ISVs.

So the normal progression is sequential and takes a long time. The business application(s) need to be compelling and unique, show a high degree of sustained innovation, and be an order of magnitude better than the incumbent competition. Such an effort requires a company and leadership with strong customer access, deep domain expertise, and a long-term commitment to creating more and more powerful business logic in their application portfolio.

Which means that the conservative advice is to refrain from dreaming about platform productization and monetization for a long time. That’s a different product and a different business and a different entrepreneur. Meaning 4-6 years in the applications business before, maybe, you can spend another 2-3 years on your platform before that is anywhere close to business relevance. Sound advice that you should take. Seriously.

Exceptions for the few: 

All the more interesting when you see a company compress this progression drastically and race through these phases in record time. In this specific case we’re looking at a perfect storm of the right things falling into place at the right time:

The business application that serves as the initial “get-in-and-then-spread-out” entry vector into the enterprise customer replaces an industry-standard legacy solution that ran out of steam and virtually the whole market decided in unison to move to our application at the same time.

The underlying platform has been developed in a previous environment specifically as a generic platform, so breadth, depth, and maturity of the platform are strong and visible from the get go.

Customers immediately latch on to the capabilities of the platform and start to develop custom solutions on their own without much nudging or support from the software provider.

Also the platform has unusually strong support for “no code” developers (sometimes also called citizen developers) who do not need extensive programming skills to deliver instant value to users. So the get-in-and-spread-out dynamic can happen in the line of business without having to involve central IT for access to pro-code programming resources.

Next step is to publish a wide variety of “apps” that help customers

  • understand what the platform is capable of
  • receive instant value if their needs are basic and a “good enough” offering is perfectly acceptable,
  • or help jumpstart the development process for building a custom application with proprietary business logic.

Management Training – Day 1

“If we don’t want to hire any managers then we had better start learning a bit about management.”

I’m running an informal and improvised and slapdash and fragmented and your-mileage-may-vary management training program for some interested people.

Day 1 is about Tools & Techniques. Some simple, some complex. Four sections.

Decision Making

This section is about decision making, the importance of execution, distinguishing between reversible and irreversible decisions, and the advice process.


Some random issues related to working with other people and, more importantly, for working with yourself.


Discussing some favorite mantras that can be useful as the days go by and you keep coming back to the same topics again and again.

Ninja Tools

Tools that are powerful and scary. Not for the faint of heart. But if used well they can be transformative. The Amazon memo. The GV design sprint. V2MOM. OKRs.

Podcast Cloud Computing Report

Last month I spoke with Werner Grohmann’s Cloud Computing Report about everything SaaS and startup. In German only, I’m afraid. Take a listen here. (And, yes, that is a very old picture).