Archive for December, 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