Portrait in contrast: Corporate Redeemer / Charity Savior

I recently finished a book about Ford Motors and the “epic”  comeback from the brink of ruin.  The book:  American Icon, Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman.  Here’s the description from Amazon:

Ford, Alan Mulally

Ford, Alan Mulally

“At the end of 2008, Ford Motor Company was just months away from running out of cash. With the auto industry careening toward ruin, Congress offered all three Detroit automakers a bailout. General Motors and Chrysler grabbed the taxpayer lifeline, but Ford decided to save itself. Under the leadership of charismatic CEO Alan Mulally, Ford had already put together a bold plan to unify its divided global operations, transform its lackluster product lineup, and overcome a dys­functional culture of infighting, backstabbing, and excuses. It was an extraordinary risk, but it was the only way the Ford family—America’s last great industrial dynasty—could hold on to their company.

Mulally and his team pulled off one of the great­est comebacks in business history. As the rest of Detroit collapsed, Ford went from the brink of bankruptcy to being the most profitable automaker in the world.

American Icon is the compelling, behind-the-scenes account of that epic turnaround. On the verge of collapse, Ford went outside the auto industry and recruited Mulally—the man who had already saved Boeing from the deathblow of 9/11—to lead a sweeping restructuring of a company that had been unable to overcome decades of mismanage­ment and denial. Mulally applied the principles he developed at Boeing to streamline Ford’s inefficient operations, force its fractious executives to work together as a team, and spark a product renaissance in Dearborn. He also convinced the United Auto Workers to join his fight for the soul of American manufacturing.”

I was recommended this book by someone I had met from Trek bicycles.  The book sucked me in immediately.  I highly recommend it as well.  Interestingly, I recall from the 80’s much acclaim devoted to Lee Iacocca who also served as president for Ford but it credited most for his leadership at Chrysler.  Very interesting reading as well.  I recall business minded folk idolizing Iacocca. It’s fortunate he is not remembered for the Ford Pinto (shudder) which was one of Ford’s greatest embarrassments, in my opinion.  While Iacocca is touted as one of the greatest business leaders of all time, Mulally is aggrandized in much the same way it seems.  However, his leadership saved a dying giant and made some amazing changes to the toxic corporate culture that was suffocating the blue oval.  If the book is a genuine account of what he did then I would be honored to have served under his leadership.  Perhaps more interesting than Alan though, is the peek inside the Auto industry in Detroit. The amont of money to run such an operation…mind blown.  A deeper insight into the government bailouts…still mad about it but Ford was a shining star that I only wish Wall Street had the integrity to pull off what Ford did.  The story is riveting and well worth your time.  Go read it!  (An equally interesting read you’ll find here:  Mulally Keeps Truckin, but I recommend you read the book as it gives valuable insight as to why this article is really that interesting)

In contrast, I also recently came across an interesting TED talk about charity.

 The contrast between the Ford / Auto industry story and the way we think about charity is quite drastic.  Dan Pallotta is spot-on about the broken relationship we (not just Americans, the whole world) have with charities. What I found particularly interesting is the vilification of charities for spending to make big things happen.  One case was demonstrated when investments were made in Recruitment and Customer Service.  This was labelled as excessive overhead and almost overnight shut down a successful charity.  Having had a long career in customer service, it’s disheartening to hear of such things.  Lip service is given to those in customer service how important they are yet compensation for these fine people are traditionally low.  I hear all too often that people will repeat business with those whom they’ve had a great customer experience, even if it costs more.  The paradigm of the service representative at the bottom of the food chain needs an overhaul.   Things need to change.

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The Apptasitic Voyage.

I was born a poor salamander to a wolf and a used car salesman.  Living off the land in the swamps of the Okefenokee wildlife refuge, my family foraged for pineapple nuts, hub caps, old car parts, and  catfish.  We loved Noodling as much as we loved breathing.   …..Do I have your attention?  Are you still with me?  That might be a more interesting story than my chosen topic, but it has nothing to do with it.  So, let’s go ahead and jump right in to the Mac apps.(The author wishes to apologize for the above paragraph.  It was random.  I blame my tragic childhood tainted with unhealthy doses of Monty Python.  Besides, it gets me in the writing mood)

Disclaimer:  I am NOT an Apple/Microsoft/Linux/Android – Fanboy.  None of the above.  Nope.  However, this post is about those specific things.  Not all of them, just Apple, or rather Mac OS apps to be specific with a dash of Microsoft thrown in (Sorry Apple.  There are some things they still do better in my opinion.  More inside.  Keep reading young one.)

The Chosen ones

The Chosen ones

I have used a Mac for years.  I am trained in the classical style of MS but for the past 2.5 years my primary computing device has been a Mac.  I drive a MacBook Pro 2.4 Ghz Intel Core 2 duo running Mac OSX 10.8.2  It’s been very dependable.  I have grown quite attached to it.  I call it…George.  No, I do not!  It does not have a name, but it has some stickers from cool cycling companies plastered on the lid.  Macs are cool because they have style.  If you are the creative type, you know what I’m talking about and it’s all about style.  Right?  Even the apps are smooth, sleek, hot mamas.  Was that too much?  Perhaps.  There are a few apps which I find indispensable on my dear Mac so here I present to you my hot list.  The apps that I mostly cannot function without.  The winners are not necessarily in order of greatness.

Evernote: My favorite app of all time!  If this app was a person and I could only choose one person to be with on a deserted island with, Evernote would be that person.  Evernote is the ultimate note taking tool of everything.  The latest iteration is fantastic.  Superb organization of topics into virtual notebooks, superb searching, browser integration with Web Clipper, device synchronization (Have Evernote installed on all devices, sign in, make notes anywhere, sync to all devices. Your notes available anywhere you go).  Trust me.  Go get this.  Fall in love.

MS Office: Face it.  It’s everywhere.  It is The King of office and school tools. It’s foothold it solid.  I use it on the Mac and my current version is 2011.  It has made vast improvements however, the windows version is a bit more feature rich and easier to navigate.  Sometimes I find myself switching to a PC to use the Office suite of products.  I warned you I would talk about MS.  There, enough said.

Chrome: How can I not mention a browser?  It is my browser of choice.  It’s lightweight, has a great Find function, a great app store, and generally more dependable than the other mainstream browsers.  I’m not saying it doesn’t have problems.  It does.  However, while I still tend to gravitate there, it will be my browser of choice.  (Honorable mention goes to Firefox and namely a nifty research add-on called Zotero)

Jing: From the fine folks at TechSmith, comes a screen capture tool that has saved many a day where explaining something over the phone or text just would not do.

Browser Apps: A few favorites I enjoy but are not necessarily “must haves”.  Punchfork – Recently eaten up by Pinterest, it is without question my goto for recipe.  I gain weight just looking at it.  Go there now and hate me later.  A recent find for photography is PicMonkey.  It’s quite feature rich for online editing of photos.  However, to get the full set you must to subscribe.  It is such a tease.  An evil temptress it is.  The jury is still out whether I will take the plunge to fork out the case to do so.  It is worth checking out though.

TextWrangler:  You need to have a good text editor.  Sometimes…well, much of the time if you work in Tech, you need a text editor powerful enough to handle anything thrown at you without all the clutter a word processor might dump in your lap.  The clutter.  You know?  All that special hidden formatting stuff?

Komodo Edit: Free, open source code editor, syntax coloring.  Nothing more to say here.

There’s my short list.  I’d love to hear about your favorite apps.  I am always on the look-out for new, exciting, creative ways to make our lives easier, productive, and fun.  Bring it on.

About that woman Lynda.

Champion of justice, wielder of bullet reflecting bracelets, looping lassoer of truth (ugh, that’s terrible – yet truthful), and pilot of invisible airplanes.   The world knows her as the iconic Wonder Woman but those who really knew her, remember who played her best – Lynda Carter.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman

…..hold it!  Hold the press!  Why am I writing about Wonder Women?  I know nothing about Wonder Woman other than the above and that she was played by Lynda Carter who played a staring role in many fantasies during the 80’s.  No, this isn’t about Lynda Carter (and with all due respect she maintained a beautiful presence  after all these years and apparently championed the cause of feminism – you go girl!)

This isn’t about a woman named Lynda.  Well, it isn’t about Lynda directly but it is about what she (Lynda Weinman – a Wonder Woman in her own right)

Founder Lynda Weinman

Founder Lynda Weinman

…started and what now bears her namesake.  This is about Lynda.com

I’ve always had a thirst of curiosity and, one could argue, a thirst for education.  This is especially true later in my life when learning really meant something more than “All I have to do is survive K12” syndrome.  I did well in college and even put myself back in college 20 years later to earn a degree in business.  My most current degree has meant more to me than any previous formal education I’ve had.  It came at a time in my life when I did it to earnestly learn from it rather than just going through the motions to earn a document saying I DID IT!  Well, I did do it and I did it during the most turbulent time of my life (perhaps another article, another time).  After completing my degree I still had a thirst for knowledge.  I don’t ever want to stop learning.  There is so much to learn and so little time to learn it all.  In fact, it seems the more you know, the less you realize you know.  I.E.  There is MUCH to learn. I also have a fear of no longer being relevant (Is this a known phobia?  Does it have a name? Surely it must).  So off to the videos (and books) I go.

I discovered Lynda.com through a friend, then my son showed an interest in it, I purchased a subscription, he learned what he wanted and then my relationship with Lynda(.com) blossomed into a consuming pastime. Even since the first time I laid eyes on Lynda and now, their course offerings have grown beyond what I would have imagined.  As of this writing the number of courses are 1599 (update: just flipped to 1601) and my queue is growing.  Lynda.com is changing the face of traditional education and I love it!

The staff of Lynda.com are driven with passion and a mission of making complex things simple.  I know this because I watched the Lynda.com story on their web site and I’m sure this isn’t biased at all.  OK, I’m being a little facetious but I really do believe they are for the most part genuine.  If you want to know more about what they do, check out their Press page.  They provide a really fantastic product and it shows.  What I love about Lynda is:

  • The vast library of courses available anytime, almost anywhere. (It is a SaaS product if you don’t purchase the DVDs so provided you have a decent high speed connection you are good to go)
  • Access to repeating instruction when you need it.  Watch that video as many times as you want.
  • Professionally produced videos.
  • Progress indicators.  Know where you left off.  What % of the course have you completed and which videos have been viewed.
  • Certificates of completion
  • Transcripts!

So, just a handfull of many great things about Lynda.com.  Co-founders Bruce Heavin and Lynda Weinman – to you I am grateful for taking a leap of faith and starting something grand and of such value.  To the staff and authors of Lynda.com – you rock!  Seriously.  Thank you for your passion, insight, and willingness to share.

Now, get out there and learn!

LOLJKOMGRUSERIOUS?

TED talks are great sources of inspiration. Insightful, funny, mind-blowing, innovative, creative, are just a few adjectives that come to mind describing these masterful vignettes of Technology Education and Design. I’ve been pouring over TED talks when I can find the time (or if I feel the need to balance out my binges of wasteful time from watching Fringe, The Walking Dead, or Burn Notice which can be argued isn’t a waste of time…but I digress). I recently watched a TED talk that I felt was particularly spot-on. I did not grow up with all the cool toys (tools) my children have never known life without (Wireless, smart phones, social media, awesome video games, and a host of other distractions). I also grew up when personal communication was either face-to-face, through snail mail, or on a landline. Face-to-face communication was a necessary skill and I was taught to look people in the eye. It’s a show of respect and attentiveness. Even as I have adapted to the tools we have today I have caught myself deviating from the old ways. It is for this reason I find this talk particularly poignant. It is one of the longer talks I’ve viewed on TED so if you can keep your ADD in check it will be worth it. Enjoy.