Fall on the sword or cover your A$$?


Is this yet another sign of how America has lost its way?  Once a land of honor and integrity, there is much truth to the cynics who declare that America’s “me first” culture is the root of our many societal woes and diminished competitiveness on the world stage.

Case in point, as a follow up to yesterday’s post regarding the steep price cut of the Nintendo 3DS, it was reported today that the company’s president, Satoru Iwata, is taking the blame for this costly blunder and that executives will be taking pay cuts as a result, even issuing himself a 50% salary reduction.  This is like the modern day equivalent of the ancient Japanese custom of removing a digit from the hand in the face of dishonor.

Now contrast this with what happens here domestically.  In the US, when a CEO bungles the strategy and greatly harms shareholder value, they don’t stick around to fix their errors like Iwata and forego compensation, instead they resign and take multi-million dollar contract buyouts and easily find another company to destroy.

Source: Kotaku

Epic Fail: Nintendo 3DS – Could this happen to Apple?


Today the world’s most successful video game company took some rare, drastic steps to jumpstart sales of their newest product with a giant price cut.  Nintendo has long been considered similar to Apple, due to its ability to offer innovative gaming consoles (not to mention the white plastic industrial design) that are rarely discounted and can maintain premium pricing even during recessions, while competitors must slash continuously to maintain sales.  Hopefully this is not the latest sign of the lingering nature of global economic malaise.

Some of the lessons from the struggles of the 3DS:

To quote MIT’s Charlie Fine, “All advantage is temporary,” and recent results are not an indicator for future success.  While the two predecessors of the 3DS (the DS and the Gameboy Advance) were supremely profitable market leaders, the newest innovation is not maintaining that legacy.  You are truly only as good as your last product.  Nintendo has another major new console launch (the WiiU, successor to the mega successful Wii) coming up in the next year, and this recent development will surely affect their entire business model for that product.  Could this ever happen to Apple? Continue reading

Management of X Management Processes


For the past day or so, I have been sitting in on Management Roundtable’s workshop on Program Management, and I think it is safe to say that the complexity of most modern organizations is mind boggling.

A big part of discussion on the first morning was working through the distinction of the roles of project management, portfolio management, product management and program management. From a theoretical perspective the distinctions can be pretty clear, but in practice the overlaps and interdependencies between these specialties can be pretty fuzzy. Perhaps, if you were only dealing with these four forms of “p”-word management (feel free to add other forms (via the comment feature) of other types of management that begin with the letter p) that could be manageable, but the reality is that you have to deal with multiple job functions within your organization as well as resources that are outside your organization. Continue reading

Patentable Offenses


Is the current state of patent litigation threatening to kill US innovation?   NPR’s This American Life dives into the seedy world of patent trolling, and how the legal side of technology licensing is threatening the source of new ideas for every industry.

Critics of open innovation often like to say that the only ones making money from it are the lawyers.

Companies actively engaged in open innovation and technology scouting can be highly vulnerable to companies who were formed not for providing any goods or services but entirely for the purpose of filing IP litigation.  These groups have major funding sources behind them and use business obfuscation techniques like employee-less shell companies and NPEs (non-practicing entities) in very “grifter-like” ways.

Some have even likened these organizations to a type of “Patent Mafia,” who employ “protection” schemes to profit either through lawsuits, settlements or strong-armed licensing agreements.

Listen to the hour-long radio feature: When Patents Attack!

Or download a .pdf transcript by clicking here.

Lean on Me


Lean and I go way back and I consider us more like friends than acquaintances. How well do we know each other? In the early 1990s, Management Roundtable conducted a series of events called the “Manufacturing Leadership Summit.” We would gather top executives from numerous industries, mostly automotive and aerospace, who would come together as delegates in a congress of sorts to network and learn about how to make more money “making stuff” with tools such as target costing, MRPII, and yes, the Toyota Production System. The summits were limited to about 150 executives and were held in the amphitheater lecture hall at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Continue reading

Christmas for Geeks in July


My godson wants to be a hardware engineer, loves Dr. Who and is a major force at his high school’s stage crew.  For several birthdays now, I have given him a gift certificate to ThinkGeek, the absolute best online store for geek-oriented novelty items.

If you need a gift for an engineer, a sci-fi or fantasy fan, video game addict, or cube dweller, this place demands a visit.  Continue reading