Monthly Archives: October 2014

Too Thin

No, this isn’t a screed about weight loss.  Nor is it a rant about underfed models and bad body images.  It’s about Facebook and how it raises a great business point for all of us.

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might have read about Facebook’s recent Rooms app.  It’s an app that attempts to transfer the utility of message boards to the mobile world.  Everything old is new again, I guess. As Mashable reported:

The app allows people to create a “room” on any topic. The room can then be customized with colors, icons and photos — even the Like button can be changed. Text, photos and videos can be posted to a room’s feed, creating an ongoing multimedia conversation.

Not exactly an original concept.  In fact, FriendFeed did something similar several years ago with the same name.  What’s different is that the app permits anonymity, something heretofore verboten on Facebook.  Frankly, it’s not all that difficult to create a fake identity but that’s a different discussion.

Rooms come on the heels of Paper, Poke, and Slingshot.  The former is/was a newsreader; the latter two are Snapchat clones.  None of the three are successful, at least not in the context of a user base of over a billion.  Messenger, another app, is more so but only because the messaging functionality was deleted from the Facebook app proper so it’s sort of a forced use case.  That said, I’ve not installed it since it’s way too intrusive in terms of the data it captures (mostly without the user knowing it’s doing so).  The app has one star in the App Store – not exactly a home run.

The business point is this. Facebook seems to be attempting to be all things to all people.  Everything that becomes popular – in this latest case anonymous sharing apps such as Yik Yak and Whisper – prompt Facebook to attempt to release something that keeps users in the Facebook ecosystem.  Obviously the need to serve ads to the user bases of those apps drives some of this.  When they can’t manage to build it, they buy, as in the case of WhatsApp.

I’m not a fan of being all things to all people.  I think doing a limited number of things well is a better path.  Facebook might be better served to negotiate ad serving deals (and maybe they’ve tried) and partnerships than to flail about creating crappy apps.  A business can spread the product mix too thinly, diluting what made it successful and alienating the user base when that dilution affects the core products (Messenger, for example).


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Filed under Consulting, digital media

Managing You

Foodie Friday, and today it may be a bit of a gross-out fest.  There is a thread on Reddit in which fast food workers are asked what should we NOT order at your restaurant? Why not?  The responses aren’t pretty.  OK, that’s a lie.  They’re disgusting.  That said, they’re instructive in a few ways, the most obvious of which is that the worldwide megaphone is now amplifies all of the dirty little secrets that once were told from bar stool to bar stool after work.  It’s not about trade secrets.  Those generally have competitive value.  These secrets are things that are worst practices that no solid organization would follow.

English: This is actually Tom's Restaurant, NY...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What struck me was how often cutting corner resulted in unsafe conditions.  People not washing their hands, food held at unsafe temperatures, food recycled for days, often transformed from one dish into another, and worse.  I will never drink anything in a restaurant with ice in it again after many reports of filthy ice machines that are never cleaned.  But it’s not the unsanitary conditions that are instructive.

Many of the restaurants mentioned are part of a national chain.  Some are franchised, some are corporately owned.  IN every case the writer mentions standard set by the parent organization for cleanliness and food safety.  In every one of these cases, those standards were ignored.  There are a couple of weak links in the chain.

First, it’s clear that the managers make the difference.  Several of the threads discuss how managers ignored the problem even after an employee pointed it out. I think this quote from someone working at an Olive Garden sums it up nicely:

The whole kitchen is incredibly organized, and it’s incredible that we can serve the amount of food that we do with so few kitchen staff, so I think that OG’s corporate system(Darden) is pretty good at what they do. I just happen to work at a location with an insane and incompetent manager.

There are dozens of other examples of brand being sabotaged by an incompetent individual who won’t adhere to standards.  But there is another weak link.  What about the workers themselves? It maybe true that you have an incompetent manager, but this Reddit demonstrates clearly that the employees recognized how wrong and unsafe the situation was.  How about taking some responsibility for disaster they see?  I guarantee you that every company can be reached with safety concerns.  This, however, was typical:

I try very hard to stick to our safety standards and common sense safety standards. I am not in charge of any of the meat dishes, pastas or sauces, and while I’ve expressed my concerns to my coworkers who do work these stations, every single one speaks Spanish, and I speak English.  Also, to be honest, I’m more interested in maintaining pleasant relationships with my coworkers than reporting them to my manager. It’s not my responsibility to manage the kitchen.

In any business, success and failure needs to be a shared thing.  Every employee and any level needs to feel invested in that success, certainly enough so that they are unwilling to let safety issues slide or are able to risk interpersonal relationships to move the entire organization forward.  The more senior the employee the more critical (as is the weak managers) this becomes.  We need to get people to manage themselves well enough that they can take responsibility. Making it happen is something to ponder.

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Filed under food, Huh?, Reality checks

One Mistake You Can’t Make

There are many things that go wrong in any business and even more that possibly can.  Today I want to talk about the biggest mistake a manager can make and how to avoid it.  Those of you who are regular customers here on the screed might be thinking I’m heading into a rant on accountability.  You’re not far off.  People must be held accountable once they’re clear about what their responsibilities entail.  That, however isn’t the mistake.

Let’s agree up front that stuff is going to go wrong.  Even if it’s not totally wrong, things might be done in a more efficient manner or in a way that resonates more loudly with your customers.  When whatever it is goes wrong, the first instinct is often to burn (figuratively) the responsible parties at the stake.  I’ve worked for managers who would dress down an employee loudly and publicly for an error.  Part of the reprimand was often something about how mistakes are unacceptable.  Period.


You cannot have employees thinking that failure of any sort is bad.  Yes, those responsible should be held accountable.  They can’t, however, feel free to create, innovate, and push the envelope if they perceive the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads at all times.  That’s paralyzing and inefficient.  It’s also a sure route to stagnation and failure.

The demand we can make is that people learn from whatever the mistake is and not repeat it.  I’m very comfortable chastising someone for doing the same thing wrong.  I’m less so when they tried, failed, and learned.  Good ideas happen because people follow their instincts without second guessing.  They speak up loudly when they have a new idea.  That’s the kind of environment in which I want to work.  You?

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Filed under Helpful Hints