Abolish Performance Reviews

I recieved in my inbox an article on Adobe’s experience on abolishing their annual appraisal process. One reason was cost, they calculated it took the equivalent of 40 FTEs to run the process which illustrates the distraction of management time. The article quotes quality guru W. Edwards Deming who says,

It nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork, nourishes rivalry and politics.”

They replaced their previous stack ranking system with a more flexible and empowered system, divorcing formal performance from salary/bonus decisions.

It proved to be more popular with managers and staff, with one employee reporting

… that a feeling of relief has spread throughout the company because the old annual review system was “a soul-less and soul crushing exercise.”

One side effect was that involuntary terminations increased but voluntary terminations reduced, It ought to be a happier place to work.

Search Neutrality goes to Parliament

Earlier this week I attended the @pictfor meeting advertised as about “Search Neutrality”. It had entered my radar when Alec Muffett who had been invited to speak, announced his attendance on twitter and his Computer World blog, “The Google Dialogues : Search Neutrality”. The speakers were Alec, and Shivaun Raff, the CEO of Foundem and Mark Margaretten, Professor at U. of Bedford. Foundem is one of the complaintants to the EU provoking an EU monopoly investigation into Google. This is covered in the Guardian, on the 20th November, in an article called “Google search investigation sparked by complaint from British site”.

Shivaun argued that Google manipulates its sort order to benefit its own alternative properties, particularly the price comparison sites. (Foundem is a vertical price comparison site.) They argue that over 90% of European search is fulfilled by Google, and that when Google chose to discriminate against them, their traffic fell off to a business breaking trickle.

Alec and Mark took a similar line to each other, Google is one click away from failure, relevance including sort order is subject to competitive pressure & no-one has a right to a place in a search engine’s sort order. Alec in his blog post points at James Grimelmann’s article,“Some Skepticism about Search Neutrality” who makes similar points, although Grimmelmann argues that vertical search sites are rarely useful or usable. Margaretten dealt with this less judgmentally by pointing out that Google also prefers sites with original content, which is why aggregator sites do less well. He reinforced the point that there are good reasons to devalue vertical search sites, although Foundem can prove that they were specifically penalised. Grimmelman distinguishes between regulating for “Search Neutrality” which he opposes and anti-trust law which he argues is different and has its own theory and practice. The meeting missed this dichotomy between monopoly regulation and search neutrality.

Shivaun Raff was backed up by a spokesperson from Streetmap, who provided some evidence that Google had manipulated their sort order when they launched Google maps in order to better compete with the established players. I hope that they have made a submission to the Commission. The talk in the bar after was that streetmap lost out due to Google Maps technical superiority particularly features such as navigation, user generated content, personal customisation and world wide coverage; however even if this is true it doesn’t necessarily mean that the allegation of malicious action is unjustified.

I’ll be interested to see if the Commission come to consider Google to be a monopoly. It dominates in search, and its maps and mail are wildly popular but it’s definitely second choice for microblogging (g+) where it’s outgunned by twitter and facebook, identity assurance where Google Profile trails behind twitter and facebook, picture blogging (Yahoo), bookmarks (delicious and reddit) and blogging (wordpress). It’s interesting to consider this in the light of some changes made by google to their user experience over the last couple of months where they are staring to build walls around their services to make it harder to share one’s data with other companies services. For instance, they have wrecked Google Reader for me since I can now only share news via Google+, there is now no open XML feed for these. I’ll explore this in another post soon.

The chilling effect of global copyright enforcement

And on to the EU’s attempt to implement strong copyright enforcement. I’ll return to the UK in the next week or so, but the European Commission signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) a couple of days ago. This proposed trade treaty has been negotiated in secret amongst a group of governments from the developed world. The US agenda was to strengthen international enforcement of intellectual property laws, and the original European agenda was similar, but orientated more around the protection of a number of geographic brands, such as champagne or cheddar. The Open Rights Group talks, on their blog, about the secrecy and how we have came to this point.

Turd Polishing, the Coalition and executive pay and accountability

While Labour turning it’s back on Keynes is a bigger story, the coalition’s attempt to act as ‘responsible capitalists’ is easier to write about.

A coalition government appointed commission reports that executive pay is out of control (really?) and that there should be trade union and/or workers representatives  on board pay committees, and that shareholder votes on pay should be binding. (You mean they’re not!) However the government decides that allowing workers to vote on the bosses pay would be ‘tokenism’. Hardly! Shareholders can sell up, Trade Unionists might actually fuck things up! Since Labour introduced the shareholder advisory vote in 2003, only 18 companies have rejected board pay agreements. Assuming that, its FTSE 250, over 9 years, that’s under 1% of company AGM’s have rejected a pay committee recommendation. Shareholders that think a company is badly run, sell up,  they do not hang on for the AGM and vote against the pay board recommendation, they don’t even hang on and replace the board. They sell up; that’s what Equity Liquidity means.

This’ll make a huge difference. Not!

In case you hadn’t noticed, there was a banking crisis four years ago, and in the UK two failing banks were nationalised and a third was merged with a successful bank to prove the old adage, “What happens when you hit a duck with a failing bank?”, “You get two dead ducks!”. Despite, that anyone saving with Nat. West., Halifax, Northern Rock and the Royal Bank of Scotland, or whose savings banks and pension funds had been lent to them should be bloody grateful to Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and the Labour Government; they saved the UK banking system and everyone’s savings! Despite the catastrophe, no one has been prosecuted, no-one’s in gaol and all the current government is talking about is taking Fred “the Shred” Goodwin’s knighthood away from him. I bet he’s worried about that. Ed Balls took Sharon Shoesmith’s pension from her; not that I approve of that really, but allowing the government to focus on the Fred’s gong is taking the piss. Who’s going to gaol?

The coalition’s campaign for responsible capitalism is all camouflage.

And while I don’t really believe there can be a responsible capitalism, the right are running scared of Ed Miliband who first reminded us of the idea that the corporate private sector was ripping us off; it’s just a surprise that people needed reminding.

No government with the Tories in it are going to help.

My first Blackberry, bit late I know

It seems that my announcement that I have adopted a Blackberry and in doing so abandoned my Android based HTC aroused some interest. On the one hand you have an open source based operating system, java based apps, produced by an agile company that does no evil, on the other hand you have the epitome of the corporate suit’s pocket billiard cue rest. (Although I am informed that it’s IM app is the chat carrier of choice for today’s yoof!).

Why did Facebook eclipse Yahoo?

Yahoo had a web site, e-mail and photo sharing. It didn’t have micro-blogging, nor was it able to leverage the market- and mind-share of Facebook’s initial applications publishers.

It was self-obssessed and under takeover threat, but it had great brand value, and most people would accept that it is run be people that will take customer privacy more seriously; their business model treats their users as customers, not commodity (eyeballs).

Yahoo is not a secret garden either, which should make it more attractive, you can use it to share with non-yahooers. Is it just that the deal, “Your privacy in exchange for e-mail and micro-blogging”, is worth it? Admittedly, it’s initial growth was driven by teenager adoption, but why take up with Facebook and not Yahoo?

Yahoo was almost there. Interesting how close you can be and miss!

NESSI AGM (2007)

I have visited Brussels twice on NESSI business and on holiday with Mrs. L. These trips were originally blogged on my sun/oracle blog as series of article, I have brought the articles across here, and presented them as two articles, This article chronicles the NESSI AGM. I wrote about NESSI last time I visited Brussels in November, but it is having its AGM over the next two days.

McKinsey on strategy, services and product

On my sun/oracle blog I wrote a note/précis of an issue of the McKinsey Quarterly. The keynote article, “Distortions & deceptions in strategic decisions” looks at the flawed human values often inserted into major business decisions. They quote a major acquisition decision taken by a dominant player and suggest that the major advocate of the merger wanted it for personal political gain. They look at ways in which these human factors can be brought into the open and evaluated in the decision making process. Despite identifying over-optimism as a frequent occurrence once a proposal has been made, the decision not to proceed is often taken in private and so collaborative decision making cannot neutralise these human shortcomings. One suggestion is to ask the proposer, what their next best proposal is.