The seven deadly sins of corporate dysfunctionality

This blog's supposed to be about corporate dysfunctionality, but somehow we've gotten sidetracked. We've never really looked at the big picture. The big picture is this: a reasonably significant percentage of executives and their boards are dysfunctional.

What do I mean by that? I mean they shouldn't be doing some of the things they're doing, and those things can get them in big trouble with a variety of law enforcement agencies. Why do they do it? Who knows.

As for you good folks--investors and employees--well, I don't want to be an alarmist, but if … Read more

Why mergers fail

Mergers and acquisitions, M&A, business development, strategic development, corporate development, there are lots of names for the business of acquiring companies. They all sound important, even exciting. But whoever said, "may you live in exciting times," didn't necessarily mean that to be a prophecy of good things to come.

On the contrary, if you're like most investors, employees or executives, it's more of a curse. You see, in the corporate world, exciting usually means risky. And there's probably nothing riskier or more prone to failure than merging with another company.

I can … Read more

Who will be the 800-pound gorilla of digital convergence?

Way back in the dark ages--before cell phones, reality TV, or social networks--there was big iron. In those archaic times, computers were actually used for computing, as opposed to watching porn or idiotic video clips. The computing giants of the day included IBM, Digital Equipment, Unisys (the marriage of Sperry and Burroughs), Data General, and Wang Laboratories.

The transition to personal computing and networking changed all that. IBM and Unisys survived by refocusing on services. The others didn't fair so well. Markets change. Companies that change with them survive. Those that anticipate change do better still. Those that resist … Read more

More unsolicited advice for CEOs

I realize that the advice I give CEOs may fall on deaf ears. Still, that's a lot of ears; they can't all be deaf. And if a board director, a staff member, a good friend or a gutsy employee was to forward this link, isn't a good CEO obligated to at least take a look? I know, I won't hold my breath.

Still, the CEOs of the future need to know this stuff. Now that's a thought.

Assuming somebody's getting something out of all this, today's unsolicited advice is about the business. Many technology CEOs are surprisingly short on what it really takes to build a profitable, growing company in today's competitive marketplace. This is the biggest challenge for any CEO of any company. It's not the kind of thing you learn in executive MBA school.

In many cases, and this is especially true in small- to mid-size technology companies, CEOs play to their strengths and ignore weak areas. It's human behavior. Unfortunately, they're not getting the guidance they need from their boards or others.

And that brings us to what is, without a doubt, the shortest version you'll ever see of what every CEO of every technology company needs to know about running the business, along with a few links for more info.… Read more

CEO exit packages are out of control

When most of us quit a job, we give two weeks notice, collect our final check and we're out the door. Maybe we have some stock options to exercise within 30 days, but that's about it. When we get fired it's even simpler - same thing except no notice.

In a prior post, we discussed strategies for negotiating an exit package - a sort of self-inflicted layoff. If you're lucky and a great negotiator, that might get you a few months of salary, stock option vesting, and extension of benefits, depending on your management level and longevity with the company.

So, when we exit a company through whichever door, we're talking a few thousand bucks if you're a regular Joe, maybe up to six figures if you're a VP who's been with the company a while.

CEO exit packages are similar in concept to those mere mortals might hope to negotiate, but that's where the similarity ends. The end result is more like hitting the lottery.… Read more

Is Intel a one-hit wonder?

Two and a half years ago, I wrote an article entitled Intel: The one-hit wonder. My conclusion, at the time, was that Intel's business and operating model--built around its dominance in PC processors--is a trap that has kept the chip giant from competing effectively in hot markets like communications and consumer electronics.

With Intel Developer Forum in full swing in the city by the bay, I found myself wondering, has anything changed since I wrote that story and is the conclusion still valid? In my opinion, the answers are no and yes, respectively.

Don't get me wrong. Intel is still the world's 800-pound chip gorilla. It's actually made quite a comeback from a tough bout of market share loss to perennial rival AMD. The Centrino brand is killing in the mobile Wi-Fi space and it's working feverishly to duplicate that success with WiMAX.… Read more

Should CNET be supporting Windows? I say 'No'

CNET Channel has announced that it is partnering with Microsoft to help consumers purchase Windows-supported products with ease and little hesitation. Just what I wanted from my unbiased, neutral news broker.

CNET Channel's high-quality, accurate and consistent product content helps over 2,100 high-technology manufacturers and channel businesses in 35 national markets drive their online businesses and increase sales effectiveness. As an aggregator of best-of-breed content and e-commerce services, CNET Channel will now deliver 'Certified for Windows Vista' and 'Works with Windows Vista' logo information… Read more

Work can kill you

Back in the early '80s, when I was a young engineer at Texas Instruments headquarters in Dallas, my thoughts were mostly preoccupied with women and partying ... except at work, where I occasionally designed chips, too.

I worked with a bunch of college grads from all over the country. We were all single and at the same stage in our lives. There were road trips to New Orleans, New Braunfels (for Wurstfest--where Texans came every year to drink their weight in beer), the Guadalupe River, South Padre Island, and Colorado (where we attempted to ski). The rest of the time, you … Read more

Ten qualities executives seek in up-and-comers

In a prior post I whined about the shortcomings of climbing the corporate ladder. What I neglected to mention is that, after years of horrific behavior modification that some call management training, I eventually became pretty good at it. In fact, I was a manager and an executive for more than 20 years.

During that time I developed a pretty good sense, from both sides of the equation, of the qualities that executives look for in up-and-comers. So, if you're one of those gluttons for punishment (and compensation) who seek a place in the esteemed ranks of corporate management, here's some free advice on how best to get there.

One caveat, though. Depending on how you interpret them, these qualities can have different meanings. They can even be watered down into almost meaningless, generic dribble. I've seen that done in dozens of corporate "core value" statements. So I tried to provide meaningful descriptions to for clarity's sake.

Ten qualities executives seek in up-and-comers:

Passion. Driven to get the job done and do it right; passion for one's function, the marketplace, the company's product, work in general; high energy level

Intelligence. There's no substitute for intelligence, with emphasis on insight, analysis of complex problems, deductive reasoning, out of the box thinking

Fearless. Willing to take risks, embrace new challenges, make mistakes, and say what's on one's mind without fear of consequences; opposite of CYA mentality

Leadership. Innate ability to motivate people to willingly do one's bidding, especially when there's no direct benefit for them to do so… Read more

Climbing the corporate ladder sucks

When Michael Kanellos--CNET News editor-at-large--asked me to do this blog, he said, among other things, "people spend their whole lives bitching about work and yet we never read about it."

"Well, yeah, that's true, but I want to write about dysfunctional executives and companies," I complained. "You know, I want to write about train wrecks."

"Sure, you can do that too," he said, the way an adult appeases a whining child. "But I'm telling you, focusing on career and management will be cool. You know the topic, you can be funny about it, and people care about it, yet mainstream media pays almost no attention to it."

As I sat there, pondering the apparent wisdom of his idea, Michael delivered his coup de grace: "Climbing the ladder sucks and everyone is obsessed with it, yet few speak out on it."

Wow, I thought, ain't that the truth. Perceptive guy, that Kanellos.

I had certainly spent a good part of my life obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder, almost lost my marriage over it. And for what? For the money? For the pats on the back? For the knowledge that I'd done something with my life that makes a difference?

I don't know about you, and I never wanted to admit this, but I don't think I did it for any of those reasons. I think I did it because I was programmed to do it. My dad grew up in the Depression and thought he was doing the right thing--drilling into me that nothing was more important than a successful career.… Read more