Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Someone wrote a comment asking what kind of dog that was in my wife's lap in the photo that so frightened me. That dog is a Pekingese named Sammy or, as I like to call him, eight pounds of bark. Before I started dating Wendy she told me she was looking at getting a dog. I brought her a book that discussed dog breeds and their intelligence. The next Monday she told me she had bought a dog. I asked her what kind and she said a Pekingese. I remembered that my grandmother and aunts had Pekingese dogs and that they were quite neurotic, at least around me.

I suggested to Wendy that we look up Pekingese in the book I had lent her to see where it ranked. The Pekingese ranked 70 out of 72 on the intelligence scale, that is, out of 72 dogs ranked, 69 were smarter than the Pekingese. I can attest to the fact that this ranking was either very kind to the Pekingese or dogs 71 and 72 must be sharing a brain between them. My wife's only response to the dog's inability to comprehend anything other than the magical, bouncing ball is that he's sweet.

This is the issue. The dog is disarmingly cute and everyone, especially women, instantly fall in love with him. Sammy understands this and loves women more than men and is constantly wondering how Wendy could have ever let me in the house. I've often wondered the same as it took me some time to discover that all of Wendy's pets (1 dog and 3 cats) were neutered males.

It's a good thing I'm comfortable with who I am or I'd be the neurotic one sleeping with one eye open. Anyway, that's Sammy.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Second Generations

In my last blog on rogue coalitions I wrote about second generation leadership within companies. I’ve seen this at many of the companies for which I’ve worked and it’s always been sad to witness.

Generally, most successful companies are formed on doing something different and often revolutionary. It’s a very difficult and arduous task to form a new company. It’s even more difficult to found a successful company. The most successful companies out there, especially in the IT industry, were founded on revolutionary thoughts. The leadership within these companies was singular in their purpose of doing something different, something provocative and something revolutionary. These leaders wanted to change the world.

In order to be successful these leaders had to have the passion and drive to convince everyone around them that they were on the right track. They had to fight the status-quo and articulate a vision that others were willing to follow. The successful ones had to fight tooth-and-nail to make sure everything worked appropriately. It was never enough to have a good product, that good product had to be combined with business savvy, insight and fearlessness.

Once successful, the enterprise becomes too large for any one individual to drive and control. The leaders need to bring in others. Here’s where the trouble begins. Does the leadership that has created a successful franchise instill the same sense of purpose and mission in the new employees or do they, instead, bring in functional personnel.

At some point, though, there is a critical mass that is reached where it is no longer possible to instill the same sense of purpose and mission. They no longer have a choice and they can only bring in purely functional personnel.

For the new employee their mission is no longer to change the world with a new software product or model, their mission is to collect license fees. Someone else’s mission is license enforcement and someone else’s is to explain why licenses are important. It is likely that no one remembers the reason the licenses were initially created or the reason the business came into existence or the revolution the original leader was fomenting.

Ultimately, the leader steps aside and the second generation takes over. At this point the enterprise is truly in trouble. There is no institutional passion driving sound business objectives because the business objectives are divorced from the original mission. The business objectives are disembodied activities headed by individuals with ridiculous titles such as Chief of Licensing or Director of Pricing.

These rogue coalitions are doomed to failure. Without the passion, drive and direction the individuals become nameless, faceless drones enforcing licenses for which the individual has no context in which to understand their own, broader purpose.

How can such a company survive? A company that enforces licensing terms because they’ve always enforced such terms, not because they make any sense, is a company doomed.

When the sum of the parts doesn’t equal the original mission the company can either fail or decide to no longer be revolutionary and to just execute the individual missions such as license enforcement. There are companies at this juncture today, the problem is most don’t yet know it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Things That Scare Me

My parents visited us recently and my mother couldn't resist taking a photo of my father with my wife, our dog and me in our backyard. I didn't think much of the photo at the time and had completely forgotten it. Then the package arrived in the mail with a note about the nice pictures.

My wife, Wendy, saw my face and asked what was wrong and I told her the transformation was complete. Without trying, my father and I had struck the same pose and I realized that what I saw in the mirror every morning was no mirage. Each and every morning, when I look in the mirror, I see my father. I've asked my wife to warn me if I start acting like him and her only response is, "That would be sweet."

Belated happy father's day, dad.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rogue Coalitions

Throughout history, across virtually all disciplines, rogue coalitions have come into power and attempted to retain that power. Fortunately, these rogue coalitions have failed and allowed civilization and progress to proceed on their natural paths. Often, the source of failure for these rogue coalitions is found deep within their own structures.

A rogue coalition is one that has come to power and has the ability to redefine proper behavior, morés and expectations. Of these characteristics, expectations is probably the most important. If one only expects gruel for dinner then gruel with sugar on top may be seen as a particularly yummy concoction.

Another defining characteristic of a rogue coalition is its ability to appear to be normal and part of the natural order. Many times, rogue coalitions come about as part of some other revolution, righting something that has gone desperately wrong and needs to be fixed.

Rogue coalitions come into power and attempt, at all cost, to retain that power. What starts as a revolution becomes a strategy to protect the revolutionists.

Are Microsoft and the other closed-source vendors nothing more than rogue coalitions? Are these institutions that are unable to see the furor they create that pre-sages the revolutions that will overthrow their business models? Can they be that blind to history?

Or is it more Machiavellian than that? Do the Microsofts of the world recognize that their business models are ultimately doomed and they’re simply attempting to extract the most they can before being forced to change?

I think it’s the former. I believe that as companies like Microsoft start to be managed by their second generation leaders they lose sight of the revolution they themselves fomented in the previous generation. They lose sight of the fact that ongoing change is critical to success and get lost in preserving business models that are no longer appropriate.

I believe that Microsoft and other closed-source vendors are nothing more than rogue coalitions that are destined to either change their business models or fall by the wayside.

It doesn’t matter to me whether Microsoft fails or evolves because all rogue coalitions are short-lived. This one just can’t be short enough for me.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Back In The World

I'm back, well almost. I've been in Arizona the past few weeks and in Utah the past week or so at Lake Powell. Lake Powell is a fantastic place and one of the best things about it is the complete lack of phone, radio, internet and any other form of communication. We, meaning 12 family members, spent the week on a houseboat in close quarters enjoying a lot of nothing-time. The scenic, peaceful setting is nothing short of amazing.

This was my second time on Lake Powell and I'm still awed by the scenery

I've come back to also deliver some news. I'm moving. Actually, my blog is moving. I'll be writing over at InfoWorld under OpenSources - here's the announcement.

I wrote a few blogs while I was gone and need to upload them, mostly about transparency, intellectual property/puffery and honesty in business models.

I'll be getting back to California tomorrow and will have a chance to start catching up, re-relaxing and getting my land-legs back.