Archive for 2009

Recessionary Holiday Office Memo [Humor]

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009


The recent announcement that Donner and Blitzen have elected to take the early reindeer retirement package has triggered a good deal of concern about whether they will be replaced, and about other restructuring decisions at the North Pole.

Streamlining was appropriate in view of the reality that the North Pole no longer dominates the season’s gift distribution business. Home shopping channels and mail order catalogues have diminished Santa’s market share and he could not sit idly by and permit further erosion of the profit picture.

The reindeer downsizing was made possible through the purchase of a late model Japanese sled for the CEO’s annual trip. Improved productivity from Dasher and Dancer, who summered at the Fuqua School of Business, is anticipated and should take up the slack with no discernible loss of service. Reduction in reindeer will also lessen airborne environmental emissions for which the North Pole has been cited and received unfavorable press.

I am pleased to inform you and yours that Rudolph’s role will not be disturbed. Tradition still counts for something at the North Pole. Management denies, in the strongest possible language, the earlier leak that Rudolph’s nose got that way not from the cold, but from substance abuse. Calling Rudolph “a lush who was into the sauce and never did pull his share of the load” was an unfortunate comment, made by one of Santa’s helpers and taken out of context at a time of year when he is known to be under executive stress.

As a further restructuring, today’s global challenges require the North Pole to continue to look for better, more competitive steps. Effective immediately, the following economy measures are to take place in the “Twelve Days of Christmas” subsidiary:

  • The partridge will be retained, but the pear tree never turned out to be the cash crop forecasted. It will be replaced by a plastic hanging plant, providing considerable savings in maintenance.
  • The two turtle doves represent a redundancy that is simply not cost effective. In addition, their romance during working hours could not be condoned. The positions are therefore eliminated.
  • The three French hens will remain intact. After all, everyone loves the French.
  • The four calling birds were replaced by an automated voice mail system, with a call waiting option. An analysis is underway to determine who the birds have been calling, how often and how long they talked.
  • The five golden rings have been put on hold by the Board of Directors. Maintaining a portfolio based on one commodity could have negative implications for institutional investors. Diversification into other precious metals as well as a mix of T-Bills and high technology stocks appear to be in order.
  • The six geese-a-laying constitutes a luxury which can no longer be afforded. It has long been felt that the production rate of one egg per goose per day is an example of the decline in productivity. Three geese will be let go, and an upgrading in the selection procedure by personnel will assure management that from now on every goose it gets will be a good one.
  • The seven swans-a-swimming is obviously a number chosen in better times. The function is primarily decorative. Mechanical swans are on order. The current swans will be retrained to learn some new strokes and therefore enhance their outplacement.
  • As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the EEOC. A male/female balance in the workforce is being sought. The more militant maids consider this a dead-end job with no upward mobility. Automation of the process may permit the maids to try a-mending, a-mentoring or a-mulching.
  • Nine ladies dancing has always been an odd number. This function will be phased out as these individuals grow older and can no longer do the steps.
  • Ten Lords-a-leaping is overkill. The high cost of Lords plus the expense of international air travel prompted the Compensation Committee to suggest replacing this group with ten out-of-work congressmen. While leaping ability may be somewhat sacrificed, the savings are significant because we expect an oversupply of unemployed congressmen this year.
  • Eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming is a simple case of the band getting too big. A substitution with a string quartet, a cutback on new music and no uniforms will produce savings which will drop right down to the bottom line.
  • We can expect a substantial reduction in assorted people, fowl, animals and other expenses. Though incomplete, studies indicate that stretching deliveries over twelve days is inefficient. If we can drop ship in one day, service levels will be improved.
  • Regarding the lawsuit filed by the attorney’s association seeking expansion to include the legal profession (“thirteen lawyers-a-suing”): action is pending.
  • Lastly, it is not beyond consideration that deeper cuts may be necessary in the future to stay competitive. Should that happen, the Board will request management to scrutinize the Snow White Division to see if seven dwarfs is the right number.

Regardless of whether your holiday is “downsized” or “just the right size,” we wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

[Author of above “memo” is unknown.  Earliest loacated version was referring to an earlier recession and was dated December 4, 1996.]

Developing a social media plan

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

In a recent Foley Hoag event, CXO Advisory Group‘s Stephen Davis shared his “10 steps to develop a social media plan” (which I have enhanced with some additional information):

#1 – Monitor the conversations which occur in the social-media-sphere regarding your brand.

#2 – Identify who your audience is and where they are.

  • Identify influencers and key contacts and follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs.
  • Learn the language which they use.

#3 – Define what your brand is.

  • Note that your personal brand may be more important than your organizational brand.
  • Often, in the social media sphere, you are the focus, not the company.
  • Identify what attributes set your brand apart.

#4 – Define what you are trying to accomplish

  • This may include: building brand awareness, generating leads, creating customer loyalty, selling a product/service, providing customer support.
  • Be sure that you identify metrics which will track your progress toward your goals.  Measure everything!

#5 – Identify what “success” is for you.

  • Yogi Berra infamously pointed out, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

#6 – Select the appropriate tool to reach your audience.

  • Focus and start small.  Identify the number one main site that you need to be on initially.  And then expand from there.
  • is a tool which can assess traffic at various social media sites.
  • Think internationally. For example see in Europe, in Canada

#7 – Build your profile

In this order:

  • Create a presence
  • Build your online identity
  • Build your credibility and reputation
  • Become an expert source

[Tony’s note: Chris Brogan‘s “Trust Agents” book appears to provide a good tutorial on the topic of building trust. Disclaimer: I have not read the book, yet, but have a good sense of its contents from following Cris’ frequent blog postings.]

The most important component of your brand is your name.  Create account names that promote your brand.  Claim your brand in the universe of relevant social media sites. can check the availability of names across a wide array of social media sites.

#8 – Get involved, stay engaged

  • Join the conversations
  • Control your brand
  • React quickly and with transparency

Key principles:

  • Start small, be focused
  • Be human, natural
  • Be defined
  • Be honest (disclose affiliations)
  • Be consistent
  • Be interesting
  • Do not overtly sell
    [Tony’s note: Some say that you should have a 10:1 ratio of “informational posts” to “promotional posts.”]

#9 – Craft employee guidelines

  • Employees make mistakes. They need to know what to do.
  • Make your employees brand ambassadors.
  • Do not stifle them too much. (They usually want the firm to do well since they have a vested interest.)
  • Blogging policies should address: advice guidelines, attribution, copyright issues, content ownership, confidentiality, disclaimers, etc.)
  • General social media guidelines should address: boundaries, transparency, confidentiality, handling of financial information, consequences of inappropriate behavior, work use, handling of customer complaints, handling of competitive misinformation, handling of uncomplimentary reviews and articles)

#10 – Automate and optimize

Tools include:

In addition to the above 10 tips from Steve, here are some other useful resources and market data:

Additional contact info:
Webwww.TKGweb.comTwitter: @tonyparham

Clean Energy; Sustainability; The Smart Grid

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Clean energy continues to be hot, and Massachusetts hosted numerous clean energy events in November, a few of which are mentioned here…

UMass Amherst hosted its Clean Energy Connections” conference in Springfield.  One of the more interesting presentations was given by Truman Semans from Green Order (a management consulting firm which focuses on sustainability).  Truman’s presentation described corporate trends in sustainability and  gave case studies from  several Green Order clients.  Other presentations from the Clean Energy Connections conference can be found here.


IEEE Boston convened a forum at MIT on the topic of Moving Toward a Smarter Electric Grid.” Topics covered by the panelists included: the necessity of standards/interoperability, evaluation of the impacts which PHEV battery charging periods may have in system operation, and comparisons of smart grid deployments around the globe.

Several soundbites from the panelists:

  • NIST has currently identified 22 categories of stakeholders who must work together for Smart Grid interoperability.
  • The idle capacity of today’s grid could power 70% of the energy needs of today’s cars and trucks.
  • Some cleverly call the Smart Grid the “Enernet” (Energy Internet)
  • A true Smart Grid creates “ProSumers” (People become both producers and consumers.)
  • Utilities ranked “advanced control” (data management systems that provide automated decision-making) rather than Demand Response (DR) as the top smart grid application in a recent Pacific Crest Mosaic Smart Grid survey.


MIT hosted an FCC “Field Hearing on Energy ,the Environment and Smart Grid Communications.” Among the takeaways from the panel:

  • The government should find ways to incent broadband networks and utilities to work together in new ways.
  • Ubiquitous deployment of broadband  is a prerequisite to making the national smart grid a reality. (There are still areas in the US where broadband is accessible to less than 35% of the population!)
  • The Smart Grid will save energy ($20B  to $40B over the next decade) due  to remote monitoring, energy management and telecommuting.

Other quotables and factoids from the FCC hearing:

  • “Smart Grid and broadband are first cousins.”
    – (Julius Genachowski, FCC chairman, son of an MIT alumnus)
  • “Smart Grid is the Electricity Internet;” “We need to move from iPhones to iFridges;”  “Governor Deval Patrick is rebranding Massachusetts, from ‘The Bay State’ to ‘The Brain State’… and we need to re-brand ourselves as ‘The Brain Country.'”
    – Rep. Ed Markey, D, MA; former chair of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee and current chair of a special committee on energy and global warming
  • It is important to enable consumer price signals.
  • 15% of grid capacity is required for dealing with the 88 annual hours of 1% peak usage. This is where Demand Response (DR) has added value.
  • CleanTech is the biggest wedge in the VC “pie,” but Smart Grid does not yet account for as much of that CleanTech wedge as it should .
  • Open standards and “plug and play” interoperability are key.
  • Consumers need real-time visibility into their own energy consumption (which will incent energy conservation).
  • Tendril‘s fastest growing market provides smart-grid-like services by leveraging “chirps” from existing meters married to broadband (without AMI / smart meters).
  • Consumer pull will be the ultimate driver of change.
  • Innovation (and  risk!) must be allowed (which means large incumbents must be allowed to fail).
  • Zigbee protocols (or similar) should be natively integrated into broadband modems (to allow cheaper/easier grid interfaces).
  • Smart Grid related  companies at the Technology Showcase tables included Verisae, iControl, EnergyHub and others.

Additional coverage of the “FCC Field Hearing on Energy, the Environment and Smart Grid Communications” and related info is below:

Additional contact info:, Twitter: @tonyparham

Learning from Corporate Flops

Monday, October 26th, 2009

In an interesting article in today’s Wall Street Journal, an associate professor at Columbia Business School described some of her research in regards to how corporations struggle with new ventures.

Interestingly, she indicated that many of the new ventures which she studied “were all, by and large, beautifully planned.  And yet, the way they were planned caused the decision makers to make erroneous choices” which resulted in their demise.

Some lessons:

  • Don’t treat untested assumptions as facts.
  • Create an assumption checklist which captures: the source of the data for the assumption, why you thought the assumption was sensible and the date when you last checked the assumption.
  • Tie testing of the assumptions to the unfolding of the business.  At each checkpoint, stop and evaluate assumptions.
  • Test assumptions early and cheaply (before you make significant investments, such as in a plant and/or equipment).

In addition to the above points mentioned in her article, it is also wise to:

  • Identify in advance the critical metrics and milestones which would indicate success or failure for your endeavor.
  • Track your metrics on an ongoing basis.
  • Identify in advance actions which will be taken if the venture is not favorably performing in regards to its metrics.
  • Identify worst-case scenarios, and make realistic plans which will be executed to minimize negative ramifications if a worst-case scenario occurs.  (Note: It is a mistake to assume that the worst-case scenario will never occur.)
  • Take action, fail fast.  Don’t procrastinate when the situation calls for change .

Since no one can completely predict the future, your goal is to minimize the cost of your venture-learning as you adapt to the real-life scenarios which unfold before you.

The complete WSJ article can be found here.

Additional contact info:
Webwww.TKGweb.comTwitter: @tonyparham

Clean Energy Trends

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Bad News: Last week, The Boston Globe / Associated Press reported new symptoms of global warming, as two German merchant ships traveled through the fabled “Northeast Passage.”  This route is normally avoided by ships because of its heavy ice flows.  However, global warming and melting ice have opened a route from South Korea along Russia’s Arctic coast to Siberia.  This prompted one official to comment,”The Arctic is becoming a blue ocean.

Good News: Last week, TKG colleague and NECEC Clean Energy Fellow, Imran Qidwai, gave an excellent overview presentation regarding current Clean Energy Trends.


Clean Tech includes a broad array of knowledge-based products/services that lower costs and decrease negative ecological impact.  These technologies span broad areas, including: energy, transportation, water, air & environment, advanced materials, manufacturing, agriculture, recycling and waste.  Clean Energy focuses its efforts on the energy sector.

99.2 quadrillion BTU’s of energy were consumed in the US in 2008, flowing from five major supply sources (petroleum, natural gas, coal, renewable energy, nuclear electric power) to four major demand sectors (transportation, industrial, residential/commercial, electric power). Unfortunately, over 50% of the supplied energy was lost or wasted, consumed in extraction, distribution, conversion and behavior losses.

A variety of solutions can be engaged to improve the efficiency of our energy usage, including:

  • Demand Response Management
  • Energy storage (including Pumped Hydro, Compressed Air, Composite Flywheels, new battery technologies)
  • Smart grid / Smart Home solutions
  • Renewable energy resources (solar, wind, biomass, geothermal)
  • Other innovations

Each of the above areas is in various stages of development, and can be leveraged to make a dent in the overall problem.  However, each presents its own challenges.  (For example, recent activities to leverage geothermal energies may have set off an earthquake in Germany last week.)

Clean Tech initiatives can help us reverse some of the negative trends affecting our planet, while providing many entrepreneurial and economic opportunities.  This is clearly an opportunity to do well by doing good.

[Full presentation here.]

Additional contact info:
Webwww.TKGweb.comTwitter: @tonyparham

Get a Job! (Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na)

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

In October of 1957 (before I was born), The Silouhettes famously had a hit doo-wop song called “Get a Job

The song’s lyrics would start with “Get a Job,” followed by the catchy (but nonsensical) doo-wop hook, “Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na”.  Today however, that hook might be: “Social-media, using-social-media,”  because effectively leveraging social media is a key part of any job search today.

Accordingly, here are some tips which you may find useful in leveraging social media to find a job.  (I have also included a few links useful for employers who may be leveraging social media to hire employees.)

Get a Job!

Hire Good People!

Additional contact info:
Webwww.TKGweb.comTwitter: @tonyparham

Fail Like You Mean It !

Monday, August 31st, 2009

All great effort involves striving — and sometimes falling short.

A few luminaries share their thoughts on this topic:

  • Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway PT and many other innovations) discusses how creative people fail frequently, rarely work linearly and never give up:
  • A Honda Motors video shares some of their insights regarding success (and failure) re: their racing cars:
  • A video profiles famous failures:
  • A book author reminds us that even successful celebrities had to endure some rain before they saw their rainbows:
  • Thomas Alva Edison famously said, “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” and “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
    – Edison is considered the most famous American inventor, and has, singly or jointly, held a world record 1,093 patents.  In addition, he created the world’s first industrial research laboratory.
  • “You can’t let your failures define you. You must let your failures teach you. … The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, tried harder, who loved their country … too much to do anything less than their best. … So, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems will you solve? What will others say about you years from now?”
    – Excerpt from President Barack Obama’s address to America’s students
  • “You’ve lost your job but you have not lost your skills, talents, or expertise. Skills, talents, and expertise are transferable. … Knowledge is portable. … What you do does not define who you are. You have to separate your net worth from your self-worth. Your net worth is going to fluctuate… but your self-worth should only appreciate.”
    – Chris Gardner, former homeless person, now a millionaire, profiled in the book/movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” and this Black Enterprise article.
  • “One of the things that I think is most valuable about sports is that you can play a great game and still not win.”
    – President Barack Obama, comments after losing bid to host the summer Olympics for 2016 in Chicago.  Not since 1976 had a US candidate been eliminated so early in the voting process.  — October 2009
  • “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again (because there is no effort without error or shortcoming), but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
    Excerpt from the “Citizenship in a Republic” speech which Theodore Roosevelt gave at the Sorbonne in Paris, April 23, 1910.
  • “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
    – Ralph Waldo Emerson

US Energy Secretary Chu speaks re: Clean Energy at Harvard’s JFK School of Government

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a forum at Harvard’s JFK School of Government in Cambridge to hear The Honorable Dr. Steven Chu, United States Secretary of Energy, speak on the topic of “Laying the Foundation for the Next Generation of Clean Energy Jobs.”

The event was moderated by Harvard’s Dean David Ellwood.   A special introduction was provided by Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-MA), co-author of the American Clean Energy & Security act  (sometimes referred to as ACES, or the “Waxman-Markey bill”).  This bill passed in the House on June 26, 2009. The bill now goes on to be voted on in the Senate.

Markey also was the (co-)author in the past (1982, 1993, 1996) of several key telecom bills.    Markey indicated that the recent set of energy bills — the 2007 Energy Act, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka  ARRA aka The Stimulus Bill) and now Waxman-Markey — will be just as pivotal in the energy sector (in regards to unleashing innovation to solve societal challenges) as the telecom bills were in unleashing innovation to create unheralded advances and investment ($850 billion) in the telecom space.  However, Markey pointed out that the telecom sector is four times the size of the telecom space.  As a result, he expects that $1 trillion to $2 trillion of investment will be unleashed.

Chu (who is also a Nobel Prize recipient in physics) gave a very engaging presentation.  He chronicled the changes which our environment has shown in recent decades/centuries.  He also described the perils of reaching a (non-linear) tipping point in regards to greenhouse gasses:    Although much of the excess greenhouse gasses have been man-generated, we need to be aware that there is a tremendous quantity of frozen organic material in our ice caps and tundras.  Just a few degrees increase around the tipping point could cause that organic material to thaw out.  Once it does, the amount of carbon dioxide and methane generated by that (previously inert) organic material would be so substantial that even a massive reduction of the human-generated greenhouse gasses would not be sufficient to halt the overall escalation of greenhouse gasses.

Chu also made reference to the McKinsey report which stated that the ACES goals are easily achievable, even if we only focus on investments which have a positive financial ROI.   He also referenced “easy” adjustments, such as using white-colored roofing and road materials (rather than dark-colored materials) to decrease absorbed solar-thermal energy.  In addition, various computer tools are available today which help architects understand construction and maintenance design considerations in regards to making their designs more “green.”

Chu championed the creation of Energy Innovation Labs (aka Energy Frontier Research Centers) to help us become the leaders in a new economic revolution.  This will lead us to an era of economic prosperity in addition to helping to save the planet.

He closed with a quote from Martin Luther King regarding the “fierce urgency of now,”  encouraging us to act now (even with imperfect solutions) so that we do not fall into the trap of waiting (too long) to arrive at perfect solutions.

[View video of event.]

[Additional coverage of the event was provided in articles from WBUR and Reuters.]

Additional contact info:
Webwww.TKGweb.comTwitter: @tonyparham

The Secrets of Social Media

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

I find certain links very informative in regards to use of social media and other web tools.  Below are a few of the links which I have found most informative.

[Caveat: I have not tested all items; No warranties expressed or implied. 🙂 ] Feel free to add your blog comments (at the bottom of this post) with additional thoughts, recommendations and constructive opinions.

Additional contact info:
Webwww.TKGweb.comTwitter: @tonyparham

General Info From @Mashable

General Info & Guides

Social Media Market Data

Business, Customer Service, Marketing

Business Models


  • Social media job search tips: here

Managing your personal brand(s)

Privacy / Etiquette

A few URL Shorteners


Various tools

Additional contact info:
Webwww.TKGweb.comTwitter: @tonyparham

Clean Energy Resources

Friday, July 31st, 2009

This week, a colleague asked me for resources gleaned from some of the clean energy events/information which I have reviewed recently.   Accordingly, I thought it might be useful to post a few of them here:

Events / Presentations

  • Babson Entrepreneurial Energy Expo 2009:
  • BU Photonics Center 2009 event: “Disrupting the Status Quo in Electric Energy Management: A Systems Approach to a Sustainable Energy Future”:
  • IDC Energy Events Roundup Blog

Reports / Articles / Research



  • Green marketing best practices: (via New England Women in Energy & the Environment)

Associations / Networks

Additional contact info:
Webwww.TKGweb.comTwitter: @tonyparham