Saturday, December 09, 2006

Steve Balmer at the Harvard business school

Microsoft CEO,Steve Balmer spoke at HBS recently.He is an HBS undergrad and a Stanford
MBA dropout. The following are the highlights of his highly energetic and engaging presentation.

1.Microsoft's multi core strategy , the four cores being
A.Personal productivity software
B.Enterprise productivity software
C.Online world
D.Entertainment world

2.To be a successful leader in the hi tec world you need
A.Broad curiosity
B.Knowledge of technology and business

3.Target costing for developing countries based on Mukesh Ambani's principle.
Mukesh happens to be his classmate at Stanford and also a dropout.
A.Figure out the selling price based on the market's willingness to pay.
B.Subtract from A the profit margins.
C.Arrive at target cost.
D.Ask your team to come up with products and services honoring the target cost.

4.Market segmentation for developing countries.
A.Top echelons of the society - Serve them the products that you would sell to all rich people in the world.The needs of the rich are the same globally.
B.Middle class - Localize the products.Give teams in developing countries the autonomy to
define and develop such products and features.
C.Lower class - Pay for use model. Similar to Unilever's pay for a drop model for shampoos. The idea here is to pay for each drop of information.

6.Microsoft's strategy is to not let anybody ride free. He admits zoon is not making money but is competing nevertheless with ipod.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hofstede's cultural dimensions

I came across Prof.Geert Hofstede's cultural dimensions while reading a book on international management . He studied IBM employees from more than 70 countries between 1967 and 1973 . His web site provides insights into various cultures across the world .

He used dimensions such as power distance , masculinity vs feminity , collectivism vs individualism , short term vs long term and finally uncertainty avoidance to measure various cultures . India and China are alike in their high power distance (defined as the distance between the highest and the lowest ranked individual in any institution) . The managerial implication of high power distance is that most employees want to become managers (also called manager mania) and that the technical ladders are not considered as lucrative .

Critics of Prof.Hofstede's work cite the following weaknesses though .

1.The survey was done long ago . Cultures have changed a lot since then due to rapid globalization.

2.A more accurate was of describing behaviours is through probabilistic distribution , mean and
standard deviation of the mean instead of an absolute number .

Despite the criticism , the web site should be quite useful to those who have the responsibility of managing individuals from various different cultural backgrounds .

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Technology strategy

Lively class by Prof.Mary Tripsas , I would say . A lot of participation from the students .
Here is the summary of tools learnt in this class . The best part I believe is using these tools one can get a very good understanding of technolgies that one has no prior experience or knowledge about .
One often finds oneself confronted by new technologies , thrown at you with the expectation that you would master them quickly . These tools , I believe would help managers and architects deal with such situations .

Tech strategy – Summary of tools

1.Cash inflow analysis
2.Decision trees
3.Appropriability vs complementary assets
4.S curve- technology and diffusion .
5.Business models
6.Value chain
7.Network effects
8.Focus/broad vs low/plain
9. Role of IP
10.Modular vs vertically integrated product/enterprise .
11.Pie concept - Expanding the pie , expanding your share of the pie .
12.Porter’s 5 force analysis coupled with TEE’s analysis .
13.Price elasticity of demand .
14.Fixed vs variable cost and its impact to the business model .
15.Switching cost .
16.Economic vs industrial vs firm average

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Organizing for innovative product development - Prof.Tom Allen

Very interesting class .
The approach is very different from what the run of the mill management consultants in the market take.
The professors approach stands out because of his highly scientific and analytical treatment of
an intrinsically subjective topic .
Some of the principles learnt are summarized below.
1.Communication takes place for 3 reasons -coordination,information and inspiration .
2.Innovation brings together the market and thetechnology .
3.Time and coordination can be interchanged. Shorter the time (needed to complete a project) greater the coordination.
4.Remove specialists from their departments and assign to project teams for better innovation .
5.department vs. projects - departments are closer to technology , projects are closer to the customers. Power and glory may tend to shift to the departments since they are closer to the customers.
6.Rate of innovation vs. interdependencies in product structure determine how R&D should be organized. A third factor is project duration.
7.physical layout of the building should facilitate concentration and communication BOTH.
8.sources of ideas - internal - low quantity,high quality ideas. external - high quantity , low quality ideas. Still people consult external sources more often . Negative impedence at the boundary of the external source. High internal impedence.
9. Most information comes through personal contact.
10.Gatekeepers-Both high technical performers and high communicators.Beware -Visiting foreign engineers and scientists may not have local rapport and hence may not be goodgatekeepers in spite of their good foreign contacts . Instead a better method is to take a personal who has good local contactsand send him/her abroad for a while to develop foreign contacts.Other characteristics of gatekeepers are visibility andapproachability.
11.Dual ladder system - Do not make the technical ladder a dumping ground for failed managers.
12.Performance of project teams drops after 3 years .Keep the team young by rotating people.When managing an old team , be hard nosed .Give stiff targets to senior persons in the team.
13.Probability of email/phone communication is high if probability of face to face communication is high.We only email/phone those whom we talk to .
14.Beware of bandwidth limitations of emails and phones . This restricts the ability to convey complex information.
15.Vertical separation is disastrous for communication .
16.Visual contact between floors.
17.Science , technology and the customer linkage.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Product design and development - Prof Dan Whitney and Prof.Pat Hale

-We had the grande finale of the PDD class today . I thought all the teams did very well both in terms of content and presentation . Product design and development is about technique and temperament , BOTH.
Although I have been doing this for over a decade now , there is always something new to learn.
The best part I like about the class is a spirit of cooperation among competing teams creating a beautiful harmony all around . The concept of 'coopetition' , as taught by a management expert who conducted a workshop in the iap session this year , is a mix of 'cooperation' and 'competition' . The equivalent concept in Indian classical music is 'Jugalbandhi' . The way 'Jugalbandhi' works is as follows.
There are (at least) two artists on the stage . Each artist plays a note spontaneously and the other one is expected to repeat it using her own instruments or vocally . The notes get progressively difficult as the show progresses . There is thus competition among them but all of them are contributing to the harmony of the system and enjoying their own part .
Hear for example the maestros Balamurali Krishnan and Kishori Amonkar at

The day ended on a positive note for our team because our product happened to generate
a lot of interest among the audience. Of course rave reviews do not necessarily imply revenues,
I thought it was certainly a morale booster for the team .

Let's see how far the product goes.

Some of the lessons learnt are summarized below .

1.Pugh's concept selection technique taught by Prof.Pat Hale is very useful in software .
We , software guys just don't seem to do it enough . It can be applied to user interface design,
data model design , backend design . Also as part of the concept selection we need to consider
out of the box alternatives like , can this be done manually or using an spreadsheet ? Can this be done mechanically , electrically , biologically or electronically instead of doing via software ?

2.Prof.Whitney was brilliant in his treatment of design for manufacturing and his outsourcing model . I actually applied DFM to the HP's case study by Prof.Mary Tripsas and was among the
three guys in the class who got the org structure right .
DFM is an 80's concept but continues to pervade the world of manufacturing and supply chain.

Also Prof.Whitney's knack of hitting the nail on its head instantly is amazing .
Some examples from the class are -

1.He asked us why we did not use a linear program in our software . Exactly the approach that
the big vendors take.
2.He remarked that if one of the teams had used finite element analysis in the weight of the product would have reduced by at least a third .

3.Another lesson is , to get your product to be successful you need to ensure that the following
elements are successful .
3.A Politics (internal - Buy in of colleagues and superiors and external - customer and government)
3.B Company's financials
3.C Company's marketing strategy
3.D Engineering -