Become a 21st Century Executive

Serving as a guiding inspiration to help the next generation with making the right career choices, The 3 Minute Mentor team have created a new book, Become a 21st Century Executive: Breaking Away from the Pack. This easy-to-read and clear-cut manual for any worker, manager, and leader of any sort who finds themselves muddling through their job and career.

In each chapter, Become a 21st Century Executive provides practical advice on how to avoid being a stuck-in-the-middle manager, and how to start behaving and becoming a 21st century executive.

Avaialble at now.


My 5 Biggest Mistakes (in just my last job).

Last year I exited from the role as Chief Marketing Officer at AMD, a $6B a year semi-conductor company (something I did at my own choice, regardless of what you hear!)

They tell me that the average life expectancy of a CMO is around 28 months.  So, having been in that position for 47 months, I feel pretty good. While proud of what the team and I achieved over those four years, there are some clear lessons.  I am taking a few months off to contemplate the meaning of life and to decide what I want to do next - actually, I am working on a book derived from my blog The 3 Minute Mentor.  

If and when I reenter the CMO world, then I believe there are some things I would do somewhat differently. I think I made 5 mistakes and I share these with you so you can either smile at how foolish and innocent I was or perhaps so you do not make them yourself - your call.

1) Get to know the Board

All of us don’t necessarily have the opportunity to get to know the Board of Directors of our companies, but if you do, take it.  In fact, look for it.  Although this should be apparent, it’s easy to let others (sometimes your boss) manage this relationship for you. The problem this causes is obvious and I should have known better. The only relationships you can really trust in the end (at work), are the ones you manage.  As great as your boss is (assuming they are someone like the CEO and I had a great one), when it comes down to it, they are still a going to filter and funnel.  The only way around that is to work with the Board as much as you would any customer or partner.

2) Do the second re-organization quicker

After the right amount of time and effort (and a heavily used copy of Watkins’ “The First 90 Days”), I set about doing my first major reorganization.  I think I did it pretty well and got about 80% of it right – not bad for the new boy.  My problem was getting about 20% of it wrong.  

The issues weren’t with the first-line (or VP level), but with some of the directors and second-line managers. I’m not sure I could have got all that right the first time, but I took too long to fix the problems.  The second reorganization (done in year two and about nine months late) implemented more changes at that level – promoted the good, shook the team and accelerated the plan.

3) Don’t ignore your small ‘people problems’ as they will become your big ‘people problems’.

We all have a tendency to deal with ‘people problems’ in a serial way.  What is more, we cannot continually reorganize.  Although I could see some ‘people problems’ on the horizon that would be issues, I delayed dealing with them using the thought process, “well, they are not my big problems at this moment and I am busy working on my big problems.”  Though that might be sound logical for today, it is not helpful for tomorrow - and tomorrow comes much quicker than we all expect.

People problems are like reducing sauces on the stove top - the longer you leave them to simmer, the more pungent they get.  Leave them for too long and they become impossible to save and you have to start again. Next time, I am going to make some of my smaller ‘people problems’ a larger priority faster.

4) Rip the process Band-Aid off.

As seasoned executives, we all get that processes are not evil.  They are good things, mostly.  Also, having been there and done that, we are also sensitive to the fact that when our teams have lots of process change, productivity starts to decline.  I found myself in a role where there was little good process and both the sales and marketing teams resisted them - for all the typical and wrong reasons.

It’s like building a bypass around a town - everyone initially objects and nobody wants it.  You spend the first few months trying to tell everyone how good it’s going to be and they don’t care.  You know it’s the right thing to do so you build it anyway.  After a while people start to use it and before you know it, they’re saying how much better their commute is and they can’t imagine living without it.  Processes are like good bypasses - build them right and they will come.

5) Listen to customers, without the sales teams

We all know that we should listen to customers and partners at the beginning.  When I say listen, I mean really listen.  As good marketing people, we know both how to listen and how to ask those clever, third, fourth and fifth level questions.  For the first six months we are free to ask away and have no fear of looking stupid.  It’s much harder to do the same with partners and their observations into year two.  Harder still, is to get the sales team comfortable with you doing this without them in the room.

Truth is (and we all know this) it’s not that the sales teams don’t trust you (even though they might not).  What they really do not trust is what the customer might say without them there.  This, of course, is exactly what you want to hear.  In my next life, I am going to do more of that and earlier!

Next Life

While thinking of my next life, I should say I am still under legal contract with AMD so I am not going to say anything nasty.  Also, I don’t believe these mistakes are the reasons I am no longer at AMD – they are not. Sometimes it’s just interesting to look back and see what you might have and could have done differently. As someone once said to me, “it’s good to look back but rude to stare.”

Now back to enjoying life …


The End of Gaming (Consoles)

From Gaming Business Review

The End of Gaming (Consoles)

Which is the odd one out: The mainframe, the mini-computer or the game console?

My answer would be the mini-computer, the only one that really is not made anymore (although no doubt someone will correct me). While it may surprise some, the IBM mainframe is still very alive and well – not the control point it was, but still a multi-billion dollar business and I suspect, still a large part of IBM’s multi-billions of dollars profit.

Then again, we could say all the same things about the game consoles. They are large, multi-billion dollar businesses, which probably make multi-billions of dollars for Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. But there is a chance that they are doomed the same way the mini-computer was and the mainframe was not.

While the mainframe has lost its original prominence, smart people in Poughkeepsie, NY and the surrounding counties of NY, have been thinking and fussing about its future. Unable to stop the tide of change, despite some poor executive thinking, the fellows and distinguished engineers never stopped thinking and adapting the platform. When the usage seniors changed, they adapted and survived. I worked in Poughkeepsie for three years and despite some strangeness, I never felt there was a ‘priesthood’ that believed that the mainframe’s survival was an act of faith.

The same could not be said for the mini-computer. Better documented elsewhere, the history of the DEC, their VAX, Wang and other mini-computer providers is one of pride before a fall. They were so filled with conviction that they were the way forward; they did not adapt and did not survive. The irony is that they called the mainframes the dinosaurs yet they are the devices that are now extinct, replaced with networks of microprocessor based servers and PCs.

For some brevity, I will skip the next part of this story – which might include Unix vs. Linux and today, some might even say PCs and tablets. What each of these has in common is a ‘priesthood’ of people who proclaimed the end of one era, the birth of a new one and did not see the fall before it was too late. I bring this all up because I see the same thing happening again in the gaming industry.

Of all the segments I have ever worked in, the gaming one has the most ‘religious fervor’ – often mixed with a bizarre bigotry. Fanboys rage at each other and the suppliers try hard to play to this audience. Yes, many know there is a bigger audience out there, but it was not the big game makers that produced Farmville, or Angry Birds or even Draw Something. Is this because the big game makers are busy trying to be a film-studio (or even replace film studios)? Maybe.

Maybe it’s that the real money is still in the consoles and the PC games. The smart business people know that they have to ‘milk-that-cow’ harder to keep up with the costs. Moreover, they have fans (shorter version of fanatic after all) that are watching and analyzing each step. Debating over which processor goes in which console and what the effect of its design is compared to another. We do not even need to get started on the wacky debate over each Nvidia and AMD design. Now there is an ever increasingly smaller audience and market arguing about nothing with itself with very increasing stupidity.

So is gaming and are consoles doomed?

No, I suspect they are not. But it is interesting that there is a lesson to be learned from the mainframe. Be careful not to get stuck listening to the ‘priests of the faith’ – listen to the market, not your current customers, and then adapt.

Following adaptation is survival. Who would have guessed game companies would need to learn from the mainframe?

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