Monday, February 25, 2008

Naked Air Flight 402

OK, before I head off to get some other work done, I just had to post this. Actually, I didn't have to...

A German travel agency has begin offering nude flights (note: not swinger's flights) from Germany to Travel agency. has already start taking bookings for a "trial nudist day trip from the eastern German town of Erfurt to the popular Baltic Sea resort of Usedom, planned for July 5 and costing $735."

And I thought offering in-flight cellphone use was going way out there!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The first app for crowdsourcing....

What is this new fangled business term you ask...well you will be hearing a whole lot more about it in the coming months.

kluster is a place to harness the power of community collaboration to get things done. everyone has ideas, we provide a platform to get them out of heads and into the world… where they belong.

kluster |

Friday, February 22, 2008

Starbucks Hopes to Restore the Buzz

Howard Schultz has returned as Barista in Chief six weeks ago. First thing on the menu? Staff reductions. This from Howard (emphasis added):

Dear Partners,

Since I returned as ceo six weeks ago, we have experienced a lot of change in a very short period…with our renewed focus on the customer experience and the return to our core—all things coffee--as evidenced by our decision to discontinue warmed breakfast sandwiches in U.S. stores by the end of Fiscal ’08; unprecedented Art of Espresso three-hour training for U.S. store partners on February 26; free Wi-Fi for partners and customers beginning in the Spring, and more to come. I hope you view these changes as positively as I do. Together, we have created a blueprint to transform the company, and I sincerely appreciate all that you have done and will continue to do every day on behalf of Starbucks.

I pledged to communicate with you about our efforts to improve the current state of our U.S. Business, reignite the emotional attachment with our customers and make foundational changes to our business; and I have done so in six previous emails. However, this is my most difficult communication to date.

As I have mentioned in previous communications, in order to reinvigorate our company we must continually analyze and review every part of our company operations. This rigorous look at our business will ensure that we are managing and optimizing our resources as effectively as we can in order to improve the Starbucks Experience.

We realize that we are operating in an intensely challenging environment, one in which our customers and partners have extremely high expectations of Starbucks. And we have to step up to the challenge of being strategic as well as nimble as our business evolves. Unfortunately, we have not been organized in a manner that allows us to have a laser focus on the customer.

Over the last several weeks, we conducted a thorough organizational analysis, which was, at times, very emotional and extremely stressful. But as I sit at my desk and think about my responsibility to over 170,000 partners and their families who rely on me and others to preserve and enhance our company, I know that I am responsible for ensuring the success of the company for the long term, which means that difficult decisions must be made. Personally, I continue to struggle with the outcome, because I realize how painful it will be for some partners.

As the result of our review, which was done with great thoughtfulness and respect for everyone concerned, organizational changes have been made. These changes will restructure the company, but they will also result in a decrease of both the number of positions and partners by approximately 600. This total includes the elimination of existing positions and open headcount, as well as the reduction of our current workforce. Within this context, approximately 220 partners have separated from the company. Nearly all were U.S. partners serving in non-retail support roles. We are thankful and proud of the contributions our departing partners have made, and we are committed to treating them with respect and dignity.

Today, we are announcing the following modifications to our organizational structure that are designed to strengthen our focus on the customer in our U.S. field operations, and centralize and/or consolidate many of our support functions to drive functional excellence and reduce redundancies:

U.S. Field Operations
Effective Monday, February 25, the U.S. field organization will begin transitioning from two divisions to four, with full implementation completed by March 24. The new divisions are: Western/Pacific, Northwest/Mountain, Southeast/Plains and Northeast/Atlantic.

Not only will this organizational structure create more capacity for our field teams, it will enable the company to align our leaders closer to our customers and partners. This will ensure a stronger level of support in partner development, coaching and accountability in the field. Establishing a customer-centric field support structure in the U.S. Business enables our field teams to focus on our partners, customers and our coffee.

Each division will be led by a senior vice president, reporting directly to the U.S. president. Within each division, partners supporting Store Development, Marketing, Partner Resources and Finance will report directly to their respective functions while still being accountable for results at the divisional level. These teams are being centralized to create an infrastructure with global span, capability and effectiveness. Senior leaders in the U.S. Business will provide specifics in their individual team Town Hall meetings that will be held later today.

Support Functions
The reorganizations of Starbucks support functions are designed to consolidate functional activities into teams that have a shared vision and goals to support the business.

The following support functions are being reorganized and/or consolidated:

• U.S. Store Development
• U.S. Licensed Stores
• U.S. Finance
• Partner Resources
• Marketing
• In-Store Experience
• Global Supply Chain
• Global Communications
• Partner & Asset Protection

As a result of these organizational changes, some partners may have new roles or new managers. Senior leaders in these areas will provide specifics to partners in their individual team Town Hall meetings that will be held later today.

Partner Care and Support
As I said earlier in this communication, while these decisions were necessary to move our business forward, I fully recognize the personal and professional impacts these actions have on individual partners, and we are committed to making the transitions as smooth as possible.

Once again, I would like to thank all of our dedicated and passionate partners for their numerous contributions to the company.



Bad news for Starbucks partners who served the company well during it's mindless growth phase. Good news for Schultz:

Scientists Create Coffee-Making Robot - Scientists in Italy this week unveiled a robot barista named Justine. She's part of a European project to develop robots that can use two arms together.

Maybe he can get rid of those pesky barista's altogether.

Now, I'm not sure how this impacts Starbucks' immediate issue--Consumer Reports found that a cup of brew at McDonald's is preferred to a cuppa joe at the Bucks.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

BYO Chopsticks to China

This for those of us who are heading off to Beijing for the Olympics:

All Things Considered, February 20, 2008 · Environmentalists in China have a message to Olympic-goers in Beijing: Bring your own chopsticks.

Some environmentalists say that disposable wooden chopsticks are contributing to deforestation. China's government has recently slapped a tax on disposable chopsticks and urged restaurants not to use them.

Late last year, young volunteers wearing surgical masks staged a protest outside a noodle shop in Beijing.

The protest was organized by the China arm of the environmental group Greenpeace. It targeted a nationwide noodle shop chain, which Greenpeace says used 160,000 pairs of disposable chopsticks a day.

Greenpeace China's spokesman Wang Xiaojun says that's a waste of China's shrinking forests.

"To make disposable chopsticks," Wang says, "China cuts down enough forests each day to cover an area the size of Beijing's Tiananmen Square."

That's about 100 acres of forest.

The Effort to Counter Disposable Chopsticks

Wang says the campaign has so far persuaded 400 restaurants in Beijing, including the noodle chain, not to provide disposable chopsticks unless customers specifically ask for them.

The campaign includes enlisting the help of Chinese pop musicians to get its message across to young consumers.

One of them is Lung Kuan. She describes herself as a vegetarian and former punk rocker.

"I'd like very much to use my position as a public figure, as a singer, to really affect more people and let more people know about the environment," Lung says.

For restaurateurs, switching to sterilized, reusable chopsticks signals that their establishment has gone upscale. Lisa Li, a marketing manager for the Japanese noodle chain Ajisen Ramen says they switched over last summer.

"Our company puts health and quality first, so of course we're going to start with our eating utensils. You can see our chopstick sterilizer over there," she says.

But for cheaper eateries, using disposable chopsticks makes economic sense.

Less Than a Penny a Pair

Nearby, the Xie family runs a fast-food restaurant with lunches for the equivalent of a dollar or two. Xie Xiaoying says that disposable chopsticks cost them less than a penny a pair.

"Restaurants who use sterilized chopsticks often charge one to five yuan for them. But fast-food places like ours can't ask customers to pay for them," Xie says.

Industry advocates argue that disposable chopsticks are made of wood from trees that regenerate quickly, such as birch and bamboo. They point out that the industry creates around 100,000 jobs in China.

Environmental consciousness in China is still in its early stages. For now, environmental activists are urging customers to bring their own chopsticks to restaurants.

While that may seem hip and green to some, to others, it's just an inconvenience. Listen Now

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Do you keep talking?

I've noticed that people don't seem to want to take the hint when the call they're on with you is getting so old it's starting to grow hair. Subtlety doesn't seem to do it. In fact, I've spoken with bizexecs who think that the effectiveness of a call is directly proportional to how long it lasted. They seem tone deaf to the uncomfortable attempts to exploit an opening to end the call.

People seem to have trouble finding the end of conversations or sensing that the other person was ready to run. "If I can just keep her talking...."

So, how to you get off the phone before you consider stabbing yourself in the neck with that letter opener your kids made you for Father's Day?

I start my conversations by setting the context for the call: "Janet, I'd like about 5 minutes of your time to discuss XXX" or "Hi Jim. You want to talk about YYY? I have about 5 minutes for that conversation right now and then I'll have to run." Creating the context at the beginning of each call makes it easier at the end to jump off: "Janet, that's my 5 minutes. Gotta dash." If it's a very short call, I don't make room for smalltalk "Janet, remember, I only have that 5 minutes and I'd like to really focus on how I can help you."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Is the Law Strangling Creativity in the Digital Realm?

Stanford professor and lawyer, Larry Lessig gets TEDsters to connect John Philip Sousa, celestial copyrights, and the "ASCAP cartel" to build a case for creative freedom. He pins down the key shortcomings of our pre-digital intellectual property laws, revealing "how bad laws beget bad code." He includes some of the best remixes you'll ever see.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is the Barack Obama campaign sparking meaningful conversation about leadership?

I just heard from a friend (fellow LinkedInnie, Ray Miller) who recently attended a Barack Obama event in Ohio. He found himself blown away by what he experienced: a group of people of every strip, galvanized under a shared vision, masterfully delivered.

His telling of the events got me thinking--not about the politics of it, but about what seems to be a deeper conversation in the marketplace of ideas...and ideals.

The Democratic campaign has essentially, if nothing else, set skilled, competent management against vision and ideals. Now, I know this is a gross simplification, but follow me a bit further.

People seem far less interested in Senator Obama's particulars than they are in his ability to inspire them about themselves, their country and their future. He strikes me like a Sir Rickie Branson (who, like Obama, doesn't stand on the particulars: he can't even read a balance sheet). People will follow him anywhere, leaving his cadre of skilled minions to fulfill on that vision and ensure that they all get there.

Here's what I'm interested in finding out: Has Barack Obama's campaign shifted the conversation about leadership? Are you noticing an increase in conversations about vision in your work?

Are people talking more about what's possible than about what's probable or likely?

Thanks for looking with me.

Chime in here or at

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Coffee and Conversation on Blogging for IABC

If you're in the area later today, be sure to stop by new haunt, Tea's Me (at 140 E 22nd St. in Indy) for a Coffee and Conversation event on podcasting and blogging. An informal gathering sponsored by the Indianapolis Chapter of IABC the International Association of Business Communicators, we'll cover what the hairy heck (technical term) podcasting is, how it differs from blogging and the technical basics and how it impacts business strategy.

Should be a lively chat.
If you attended the event, be sure to post questions here and we'll discuss them. If you'd rather, you can email me directly.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What Can We Learn from Britney's Meltdown?

Stop scratching your noggin. I'll make this question make sense here in a minute.

(Lalita praying: “Please, oh, please let me make this relevant to the business world.”)

Britney Spears transformed right before our eyes from clean-cut Mouseketeer to hard-working solo performer to one of Paris Hilton's "road dogs" whose undie plundies were MIA. Thing is, her decline was no great secret to anyone, except, perhaps her. As long as she was producing--something...anything--people were willing to tsk-tsk to themselves, turn a blind eye and cash those checks.

That's it for the social commentary part.

What has me thinking about Britney, besides the obvious, are the people I knew in the workplace who have had similar slides (and the clients who call me today for help with the heretofore unhelpable). They went from stellar producers, to expendable flotsam with little coaching or opportunities to change along the way--some in clear violation of other worker's rights.

Like the manager those years ago who, after taking a lesbian client and her life partner out to dinner and treating them to a trip to the sex shop to pick up wind-up penises…peni…(they weren't amused), decided that a lesbian worker at his home division, could be "converted" and began showing up at her home in the middle of the night. He lived an hour away from her. It was only when this woman began having serious emotional problems as a result that the company took action. She ended up drinking heavily all the way up to her early death from liver cancer.

What I'm thinking is that our litigious society challenges some people to do the right thing--to yell "Fire" when someone's career is starting to smolder. Moreover, I think that our general unwillingness to do things that might make us look bad can contribute to the blaze. We wait to call us HR types in when it's gotten messy, but not before.

Chime in here or at

Blackberry Goes Black

You could see them roving about aimlessly yesterday: the crackberry addicts whose supply chain went, unceremoniously, dark.

This from eWeek:

RIM has no comment as a "critical severity" outage sweeps through the United States. BlackBerry users were without service Feb. 11 as a widespread outage hit the users of Research in Motion's popular smart phone. The cause of the outage is still unknown, as is how long it will continue.

According to the Associated Press, AT&T claims the outage has hit all U.S. wireless carriers and that the problem originates at RIM (Research in Motion). AT&T said the first outage begin at approximately 3:30 p.m.

RIM did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did its Web site have any mention of the outage as of 6 p.m., EDT.

Reuters reported that Bryan Simpson, RIM support account manager, sent an e-mail to BlackBerry users late in the afternoon about the "critical severity outage." Simpson said in the e-mail the outage was affecting all enterprise customers and "users of the Americas network.

Wait! Their email system went down, so Simpson rather than posting the information on their website? Clever.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Writer's Stike is Over. Do We Care?

NPR heralded the news that the Writers Were Set to Vote on a Strike Deal that would garner them some reimbursement for works that appeared on the Web.

I'm not sure if I still care.

The last writers' strike gave us reality TV. Um, yay! This one has allowed the greenlighting of television programs that should never see the light of the morning sun. Here's how we descend to hell: The Surreal Life plowed the field with its tawdry mix of has-beens and almost-beens who live together (kind of like "Big Brother" where no one gets voted out).

Then, because that was so good (and we just couldn't turn away from the Flavor Flav / Brigitte Nielsen...I'm not even sure what to call it...we got Strange Love (2005). As this romance fizzled, we saw the brain trust at VH1 set us up for Flavor or Love (2006, now in its third season). That gave us I Love New York (for Tiffany whazzername, the two-time loser with a mother who other contestants swore has an Adam's apple) and Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School (the recycling program for the rest of the...ladies...Flav didn't cotton to). The Surreal Life also gave us The Surreal Life: Fame Games (oh, God. Make it stop) and My Fair Brady in which Adrianne Curry and Chris Knight (who played Greg Brady on the Brady Bunch), a new couple with a theraplist on speed dial.

Now, MTV, not wanting to be left out of the spin-off war, have cloned their A Shot at Love with MySpace star Tila Tequila (born Thien Thanh Thi Nguyen) and her spin off. The critics loved it . Now, given the wild success of that program (it topped out at over 6 million viewers for the finale, an MTV record), they've spread the love with spin-off, That's Amore with...who cares.

Those writers. They owe us and they'd better start paying up--quick.

Oops! Gotta run: Flav's on.

(Cross-posted at the American Values Alliance)

The Grammys--God Love 'Em

I didn't watch the Grammys this year. I found myself tad bit burned out from the Super Duper Tsunami Tuesday CNN Marathon I participated in. OK, I got a little carried away. Still, I was very heartened to learn that two music greats, Herbie Hancock and Angelique Kidjo won.

Grammys Shine on Winehouse, West, Hancock - British singer Amy Winehouse, of "Rehab" fame, wins five Grammy Awards. Rapper Kanye West wins four. But Herbie Hancock's Joni Mitchell tribute -- River -- is the surprise winner for album of the year.

If you don't know Herbie Hancock's work, you'll remember his jazz-hiphop tune, Rockit, which, coupled with its stunning video, has become one of the best known jazz pieces in popular culture. It's the tune that backs up the Visa Check Card commercial where the presence of a check (gasp!) winds down all the hip hopping shoppers.

The video, made when Herbie was entering his 40's, set the video music industry on its left ear.

Covers are hard, particularly if the cover artist just creates a verbatim send-up of the original. Angelique, a singer from Benin, did something great with her cover years ago of Jimi Hendrix' classic, Voodoo Chile with her Afrobeat rendition. I was flipping channels on my way to the kitchen during a commercial break when I found her on a PBS special. I stook there with the remote in my hand and my mouth hanging open.

Jimi, I think, would smile and say "Now, that's f-ing something."

What I find so very very nice about these artists and the videos presented here is the quality of staying power they represent: Herbie's Rockit is just as hip today as it was in 1983 and Jimi's Voodoo Chile stands the test of time and culture. Leaves me wondering how enduring some of the brands we see today are.

As a side note: Amy Winehouse, whose ditty Rehab was just too prescient, got a pass from rehab to attend the festivities remotedly.

(Cross posted at American Values Alliance)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What are some of the worst things you can say in a work setting?

OK, you've mastered what not to say in your personal relationship (or at least you can sleep at night believing you do): "Yes, you actually do look fat in that"..."That receeding hairline does make you look older"..."You didn't mind me having drinks with my old boyfriend/girlfriend/hubster/wife"....

Nope. These kinds of comments don't garner much love and happiness and though the couch really does fold out into a bed as promised, a cardboard box on a steam grate would be much, much better.

Now, turning to work, I know that I've heard some stunning things in work and professional settings. Some are just silly and some are career killers. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • That's not my job (from someone who kept telling me that he was promotion-ready)

  • I got so smashed at that conference (from a woman who later said that the men in the firm didn't take her seriously)

  • Can I touch your hair (this from a man I'd just, just met who was considering hiring me as his business coach. Use your imagination on what I might have said to him when he just stuck his hands into my a Starbucks...over a cuppa joe and a chai latte)
Now, dish. What are yours? Karma credits if you tell us how you found a helpful way to bring the poor schmuck back from the cliff's edge. Karma demerits if you tell us, with great gusto, how you pushed the silly fool over!

All the Very Best,


Chime in here or at

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I Love Coffee. I Love Tea....

So, you all know I'm not supposed to be drinking coffee. Garland says I already talk fast enough and he's personally warned the local coffee haunts "Don't give her any, no matter how she begs--ans she'll beg." That was mean (only because they took him to heart and serve me chamomile). But, he couldn't get them all, so in homage to the fine cuppa joe I had earlier (and the insomnia I'll have later)...