In Eric Ries’ new book, he tells companies to turn every unit into a cash-strapped ‘startup’

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All companies are startups until they aren’t. Many struggle to find their way back, too. It’s not the days of constrained resources or terrible pay or the heart-stopping uncertainty that they’re missing, of course. Instead, the problem is that it’s a lot harder to implement change at an “established” organization, particularly one that’s making money. Yet the smartest companies know change is crucial. As journalist Alan Deutschman wrote a dozen years ago, including in a book of the same title: “Change or die.”

Because that’s easier said than done, CEOs are always seeking out new ideas. Enter the brand-new book of engineer and entrepreneur Eric Ries, whose last tome, The Lean Startup, became an instant best-seller when it was first published in 2011.

In his latest effort, The Startup Way, Ries says the way to stay on top can be traced to two things: treating employees like customers, and treating business units like startups — replete with their own constrained budgets, and even their own boards. Ries offers fairly concrete suggestions regarding how to implement both, too. “A lot of people write manifestos and basically say, ‘Do what I say,’” says Ries. “I try to get away from that. The details matter a lot.”

We caught up with Ries earlier today to learn more about the book, which will be available to buy beginning Tuesday.

TC: You established a name for yourself with The Lean Startup, which basically told founders to get a minimally viable product into the market, then fix it. Can founders still do that in an age where big companies are getting bigger and moving faster to either copy products, or else acquire their teams?

ER:  People said that years ago about Microsoft, too, that it was going to dominate the internet with its monopoly power. Disruption still brings new power players to the fore. But today, because Facebook and Amazon and Google are so good at what they do, startups do need to up their game. There was a time when you had one innovation that you could ride for decades. That’s over. Continuous reinvention is crucial now. Otherwise, you’re toast.

TC: What about the giant financing rounds of today, even at the seed stage — do they signal the death of the so-called lean startup? 

ER: “Lean” never referred to the size of a round. It’s about lean manufacturing and using resources more effectively. Also, huge rounds are really for the privileged few. I’m in Columbus right now, and [local startups] aren’t experiencing the jumbo seed round.

I will say that one commonality that Silicon Valley has with corporate innovation is that we often overfund things, which can be just as lethal as underfunding them.

TC: How did you move from advocating for lean startups to writing this new book? 

ER: When a lot of small early founders heard about the lean startup, they were excited about minimal viable products and about pivoting and learning, but they didn’t pay close attention to more boring parts like management and the need to do continuous innovation. In some cases, as these companies passed 100 employees, or even 1,000, they’d ask me to come help teach lean startups to people who work for them. You go from the person who is making innovation decisions, to supporting entrepreneurs who work for you, and they might not be as good as you or you’d be working for them.

These were my friends and I was happy to help them. At the same time, big companies were asking how they could recapture their innovative DNA and I realized how similar these issues are and thought it was worth exploring.

TC: Obviously, the need to innovate continuously isn’t a new concept. How is your advice to companies different? Is this about pulling in opinions and ideas from a more diverse group of people, either internally or externally?

ER: I’m a big believer in that thesis — diversity. But in this book, I tend to focus on structural changes: who gets promoted, how we make product decisions, the general accountability layer of a company. [In other words] how do you figure out who is doing a good job and who isn’t? Because there’s a lot of B.S. at the higher levels otherwise that distorts the decisions that are made and consequently makes it hard to attract top talent.

TC: Give us some concrete examples. Who in Silicon Valley was doing this wrong and figured it out?

ER: I talk in the book about Twilio and Dropbox and Airbnb; they all had to go through a metamorphosis to empower their internal innovators.

Dropbox, for example, had some failures and was willing to admit that some products didn’t work. Some of its product development was happening internally and some externally, but it doesn’t matter if you plant in the wrong soil. But it has since developed a much better process that looks closer to entrepreneurship.

TC: By doing what differently?

ER: You first have to look at whether you’re treating the people who work for you like entrepreneurs or something different; if you’re expecting your product managers to achieve instantaneous success, that’s not [the standard] to which you were held in the early stages of your company.

Along the same lines, if you aren’t [giving teams] clear, metered funding, how are they going to have that scarcity? It’s that mindset, that hunger, that let’s you say “no,” [to delaying product launches]. [Companies have to fight] that entitlement funding because the more money you have, the less you want to expose yourself to risk.

TC: Interesting idea. How else do you recommend that companies treat their teams like startups?

ER: We also talk about creating a growth board.

Right now, most corporate employees exist in a matrix management structure, reporting to different people and having lots of different managers who have veto power over what they do. But each time a middle manager checks in, he or she exerts a gravitation influence, and most product mangers who I meet with say they spend 50 percent of their time defending their existing budget against middle manager inquiries. That’s a massive tax on most product teams.

So we treat [these units] like a startup and create a board of [say] five execs who they report to infrequently. That way, if any middle manager has a concern, [the head of that unit] can say, “Talk to the board.”  It’s like at [ venture firm] Andreessen Horowitz. It has something like 150 employees [yet] not every person who works there gets to call a portfolio company founder. Not every limited partner who has invested in Andreessen Horowitz gets to call its founders. There are well-defined processes in place so that founders [aren’t fielding calls all day.]

TC: Of course, the downside to that is that VCs often don’t know when things go off the rails at startups. How do you convince executives that they aren’t running that risk by giving these teams so much autonomy?

ER: It only works if you do limited liability experiments. Often asking, “What’s the worst that could happen?” is like a death sentence, but you have to think through the possible downsides to mitigate them. So you only let 100 people buy the product [at the outset] and add in extra provisions and securities to ensure they have a great experience and you’re smart about the liabilities.

TC: Say that works. What happens to the already oft-maligned middle managers of the world? 

ER: There haven’t been any layoffs at the companies I’ve worked with. Companies still have to run their core business; there’s plenty for [middle managers to do] Most are horrifically overworked. Others become reborn as entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial coaches. Intuit and GE have a whole program for coaching and mentoring, and that becomes part of [managers’] job description.

This all culminates in preparing a new org chart, one that treats entrepreneurship like a corporate function that’s owned and managed. Right now, if you ask [many executives], “Who is in charge of the next big innovation,” they’ll sometimes say that everyone is in charge of it. Can you imagine if they said that everyone is in charge of marketing or finance or HR? Entrepreneurship is no different. Someone should have operational responsibility for it.

TC: Do you run into much resistance when you talk with CEOs about empowering employees in this way? It’s easy to imagine that some feel threatened, even as they know their companies need to keep innovating.

ER: What distinguishes really good CEOs is that they care about their legacy, and they’re committed to the long-term health of their organization.

But you’re right. Most CEO are not serious about change because it requires senior managers to change their behavior. You know how corporate bosses can be. This is not always a very welcome method. I’ve been kicked out of plenty of boardrooms.

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RAF’s close combat unit opens to women for the first time

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A gunner of II Squadron (RAF Regiment) MERT ForceImage copyright
MOD

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Women will now be able to join the RAF Regiment – its ground-fighting force

The Royal Air Force has become the first branch of the British military to open up every role to men and women.

From Friday it will accept applications from women to join the RAF Regiment – its ground-fighting force.

The move follows a decision last year to lift the ban on women serving in close combat roles.

The main role of the 2,000-strong RAF Regiment, which sustained casualties in Afghanistan, is to patrol and protect RAF bases and airfields.

With women making up just 10% of the air force as a whole, there is unlikely to be a flood of applications, says BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale.

But, he adds, it is a significant moment because it means women can now apply for any RAF role, from fighter pilot to ground support.

The RAF’s women will not be the first allowed to serve in close combat roles, as some recently joined the Royal Armoured Corps.

Ahead of schedule

But it will be another year before women can apply to enter army infantry units and the Royal Marines, where the physical demands can be tougher.

The ban on women serving in close combat units was lifted by then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2016.

In July, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced that the RAF Regiment would be open to them from September – ahead of its original 2018 schedule.

He said at the time: “A diverse force is a more operationally effective force.

“Individuals who are capable of meeting the standards for the regiment will be given the opportunity to serve, regardless of their gender.

“This is a defining moment for the RAF.”

‘Strain on the body’

The former head of British forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, told BBC Breakfast he “vehemently disagrees” that women should be serving in close combat roles – because of their physical capability.

He said: “Once you have got through selection, you are subjecting yourself to a minimum of four years of intensive physical training, day in and day out, in barracks and out of barracks, which puts enough of a strain on a man’s body.”

Quoting statistics that women sustain around twice as many serious injuries as men do during training, Colonel Kemp added: “I think the reality is we will find many more women than men suffer injuries… and we will then undoubtedly see very significant compensation payments being made out of the defence budget.

“And the nature of woman’s bodies means that some of the injuries are going to be more significant in terms of being able to bear children and the like.

“I am not a doctor, but I have certainly read up on this and that is a problem.”

However, a former major in the British Army, Judith Webb, said it had been proven that women were “well capable” of the roles.

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Major Judith Webb has backed the decision for women to take on the roles

She told the programme: “My concern has always been to ensure that research is carried out so that women know exactly what they are in line for.

“Being aware of our physical differences is an important aspect, but that is where I feel research has now been carried out.”

Major Webb added: “We want to promote diversity and get the best people, and if we have got women who want to do it, who are capable of doing it – then of course they should be able to do it.”


Are you a woman employed in a close combat role in the military? Share your views and experiences by emailing .

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Guatemala top court sides with U.N. graft unit in fight with president

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GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemala’s top court on Tuesday ruled definitively against President Jimmy Morales’ internationally criticized push to expel the head of a U.N.-backed anti-corruption unit probing his campaign financing.

The decision by the Constitutional Court ratifies a provisional ruling that the government could not expel Ivan Velasquez, a veteran Colombian prosecutor who leads Guatemala’s International Commission against Impunity, known as CICIG.

Morales on Sunday ordered the expulsion of the prosecutor, who has been a thorn in the president’s side by investigating his son and brother, and then seeking to remove his own immunity from investigation over more than $800,000 in potentially unexplained campaign funds. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Within the United Nations, Velasquez has the rank of assistant secretary general. He is widely respected and the president’s moved unleashed a series of resignations from his cabinet and a storm of criticism from Western nations.

Earlier in the day, Morales, 48, said he would respect the court’s decision, stepping back from brinkmanship he displayed at the weekend when he said the court had overstepped its mandate by ruling on the case.

He has sought support from Guatemala’s mayors, possibly to try to counter the diplomatic pressure and street protests by activists calling him corrupt.

“I am not defending corrupt people, I am not against the anti-corruption fight, I am not even against the CICIG. Is a machete good or bad? It depends on who is wielding it,” said the former comedian at a meeting with mayors.

Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales (C) poses for a picture as he attends a meeting with mayors in Guatemala City, Guatemala, August 29, 2017.Jose Cabezas

Morales won office in 2015 running on a platform of honest governance after his predecessor Otto Perez Molina was forced to resign and imprisoned in a multi-million dollar graft case stemming from a CICIG investigation.

The United Nations on Tuesday said it was “disturbed” by Morales’ moves against Velasquez, while the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists said failure to comply with the Constitutional Court ruling could constitute “obstruction of justice”, a criminal offence.

“The president´s decision to declare Ivan Velasquez as ‘non grata’ and ordering his immediate removal from the country is in clear breach of international law,” the ICJ said in a statement.

Hundreds of Guatemalans took to the streets on Monday in support of Velasquez, some shouting “Take Jimmy Morales to court!” Some groups came out in support of the president and against foreign interference.

The U.S. ambassador to Guatemala, Todd Robinson, told Reuters the president’s moves could put at risk a U.S. development plan in Central America to reduce poverty and crime.

“There will probably be consequences from the president’s decision,” Robinson said, while emphasizing that any U.S. measures would have to be carefully thought through so as not to affect the economy or migration to the United States.

Many politicians in Guatemala consider the foreign-led body, which is unusual among U.N. bodies for its powers to bring cases to prosecutors, to be a violation of national sovereignty. Anti-corruption activists credit it with cleaning up government.

Additional reporting by Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva. Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Guatemalan court rules in favour of U.N. anti-corruption unit chief

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GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemala’s constitutional court definitively ruled on Wednesday in favour of the chief of a U.N. anti-corruption unit, who is engaged in a dispute with President Jimmy Morales.

On Sunday, Morales ordered the expulsion of Ivan Velasquez, a veteran Colombian prosecutor who leads Guatemala’s International Commission against Impunity, known as CICIG.

The decision by the country’s top court ratifies its provisional ruling on Sunday against the expulsion.

Reporting by Enrique Pretel

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Nielsen announces new division unit to measure e-sports sponsorships

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Another sign that e-sports are turning into a big business: Nielsen is launching a new division focused providing research and consulting to the industry.

The measurement firm already has a unit focused on gaming — in fact, Nicole Pike, Nielsen’s vice president of gaming, said Nielsen Esports was created in response to growing interest from the firm’s gaming clients. One of the biggest opportunities, Pike said, lies in measuring the value of e-sports sponsorships.

“It’s clear that there’s is a gap in the e-sports industry,” she said. “There’s a huge opportunity for there to be some solid metrics.”

To provide those metrics, Nielsen is drawing on its previous work evaluating sports sponsorships. This new team will sit at the intersection of the firm’s gaming and sports units, with Pike leading the research side and Stephen Master, managing director of Nielsen Sports North America, heading the commercial side.

The firm has already developed a sponsorship tracking service called Esport24. Apparently there’s a big range in e-sports sponsorships — the firm says that in the tournaments it’s tracked so far this year, it’s seen playoff sponsorships provide as little as $75,000 in value to the advertiser, and as much as $17 million.

Pike also said Nielsen can serve as “an impartial third party in the whole e-sports discussion.” It won’t be doing this on its own — it has also created an advisory board with representatives from ESL, ESPN, Facebook, FIFA, Major League Gaming/Activision Blizzard, NBA 2K League, The Next Level, Sony PlayStation, Turner, Twitch, Twitter, Unilever and Google/YouTube.

Featured Image: Chesnot/Getty Images

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Manchester firearms police: A unit in turmoil?

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Media captionGail Hadfield-Grainger explains how she first heard her partner had been shot

Greater Manchester Police is facing new investigations by the police watchdog over three separate fatal firearms incidents, the Victoria Derbyshire programme has learned.

It raises questions about the conduct of one of the UK’s second biggest firearms unit at a time when Manchester has recently been hit by a terror attack.

A public inquiry into one of the deaths has heard about flawed intelligence, a senior officer destroying notes and employment of an officer disciplined for assault.

Its former head of training, John Foxcroft, said he left the firearms unit due to its “aggressive” tactics.

Many of the officers in the cases are still serving.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said its firearms officers “volunteer for the role and do a very difficult job, quite rightly under the highest levels of scrutiny”.

Here is the story of the three fatal incidents, with new findings uncovered by the Victoria Derbyshire programme’s investigation.

Anthony Grainger

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Grainger family

“He was a beautiful person inside and out,” Anthony Grainger’s partner Gail says.

The couple lived together with their two young children.

“I remember thinking, ‘My life’s perfect.’ Then he nipped out – and he didn’t come home.”

Anthony Grainger was unarmed in a car when he was shot by police in Cheshire, in March 2012.

Police intelligence had suggested he was going to carry out an armed robbery with two associates, also in the car.

Mr Grainger had previously been found guilty of handling stolen cars, but had no convictions for violence.

The two other men did have convictions for violence. Police saw one as very dangerous.

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Anthony Grainger Inquiry handout

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Anthony Grainger was killed by a police marksman

Mr Grainger was killed in a car park on a busy Saturday evening in the village of Culcheth.

Armed officers said they saw him drop his hands in a move interpreted as him going to grab a gun – he was shot once, fatally.

But another man in the car, David Totton, told the inquiry no warning was given before the shot was fired.

All three men in the car were unarmed.

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Gail Hadfield-Grainger said her partner was “a beautiful person inside and out”

On the day of the operation, the firearms team had been on duty for 14 hours when it was told to move in.

There were 16 firearms officers. Several had failed training courses and it was argued during the public inquiry they should not have been on the operation, which Greater Manchester Police disputed.

One officer, known as X7 – who had directed the operation on the ground – had failed a firearms course with the Met Police, who removed him early as his performance was “adversely affecting other students.”

Another, known as Z15, had failed a safety course shortly before the operation after three extreme safety breaches in potentially life-threatening situations.

A firearms expert told the inquiry these were so “fundamental and inherently dangerous” that it should have led to Z15’s “immediate suspension”.

Martin Harding, a former superintendent and firearms officer with Greater Manchester Police, told the BBC: “A force such as Manchester has got resilience, so there shouldn’t be a reason why you would have someone on a job who wasn’t trained to carry out their role.”

It emerged during the public inquiry that the officer who fired the gun – referred to as Q9 – had seriously injured a suspect during a previous arrest.

He had also been disciplined for assaulting two people. He was cleared of 10 other separate assault allegations – and remained a firearms officer.

This was not the last serious case Q9 was involved in, we have discovered there was another incident where his conduct was called into question.

All the firearms officers in the Grainger case were granted anonymity so will not talk about this other incident in detail.

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Anthony Grainger Inquiry

Questions over Mr Grainger’s death go right to the top of Greater Manchester Police.

During the public inquiry, an assistant chief constable apologised for changing his record of the operation leading up to Anthony Grainger’s death, and it was discovered the head of the firearms unit had destroyed his notes when he retired – a year after the shooting.

The police watchdog has launched a new investigation into the case.

It is the second time the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has looked into the case – which is extremely rare. It told us it is examining evidence given at the public inquiry.

PC Ian Terry

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Ian Terry family

Ian Terry was a firearms officer with Greater Manchester Police.

In 2008, during a practice exercise at a disused factory, he volunteered to play the role of a criminal fleeing in a car.

Unusually, the decision – made just that morning – had been taken to use live rounds to make the exercise more realistic.

Mr Terry was shot by an officer using a shotgun loaded with a so-called Rip round cartridge – deadly at close range. He died within minutes.

The father-of-two was not wearing body armour.

His father, Roy Terry, said the family were told “he had been involved in an accident at work”.

“We were allowed to believe it was some horrendous accident initially, which in the end it transpired it wasn’t really.”

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Roy Terry said the exercise in which his son died had been made “too dangerous”

The IPCC was scathing, calling the case “a shocking wake-up call for Greater Manchester Police firearms unit”.

An inquest jury in 2010 ruled Ian Terry had been unlawfully killed and that he “would have been saved” if the training had been properly prepared.

His father Roy Terry said the exercise had been made “too dangerous”.

“We got the impression that the firearms officers were more or less allowed just to get on and do their own thing,” he added.

John Foxcroft, who ran the firearms training unit at Greater Manchester Police until 2006, before retiring in 2008, told the programme he left the position believing that the force was “getting a little bit too much into the aggressive tactics”.

“The more aggressive you get, the more likely you are to have people shot.”

The Crown Prosecution Service said there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges against any officers but Greater Manchester Police was fined for health and safety offences.

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John Foxcroft, ex-head of training at the firearms unit, claims tactics were becoming too “aggressive”

In 2014, one of the officers who organised the training was fired from the force.

The man who shot Ian Terry was disciplined but still works for the police.

Roy Terry said this was “not totally satisfactory, but all we were going to get”.

The BBC has now discovered there is a new investigation by the IPCC into the case, nine years after Ian Terry was killed.

The police watchdog said it has started an investigation looking at evidence given by a number of officers to the IPCC, to the inquest into PC Terry’s death, and to a subsequent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) crown court trial.

GMP’s Det Ch Supt Paul Rumney said the force “will consider any recommendations made” by the the public inquiry.

Jordan Begley

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Begley family

Jordan Begley was 23. He worked in an ice-cream factory near his home in Gorton in Manchester.

On the night of his death, in July 2013, he had been involved in a drunken argument with his neighbours, and was threatening to attack them with a knife. His mother called the police.

“I need the police here. You need to get the police here. Jordan stay here, you’re not going out,” she can be heard saying in the recorded 999 call.

A patrol officer calmed him down – then other officers arrived, 11 in total, including armed police.

Mr Begley was Tasered and restrained by armed officers. He was punched while he was on the ground and died from heart failure.

“It was a shock. They didn’t need that many officers for one person. He was harmless,” his cousin Conor Turner explained.

At a 2015 inquest the jury found police failings played a part in his death and said he had been unlawfully killed.

It said the force “inappropriately and unreasonably” used the Taser for longer than was necessary, once he was on the floor,+ the firearms officers did not try to establish whether he was conscious, and that during restraint Mr Begley “offered minimal resistance” with “no need” to punch him twice.

The police were initially cleared of any blame but after the inquest the police watchdog quashed its first report and started a new investigation – which had never been done before.

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

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Google’s life sciences unit is releasing 20 million bacteria-infected mosquitoes in Fresno

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Verily, the life science’s arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet, has hatched a plan to release about 20 million lab-made, bacteria-infected mosquitoes upon Fresno, California — and that’s a good thing!

You see, the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito is prevalent in the area. Earlier this year, a woman contracted the first confirmed case of Zika in Fresno through sexual contact with a partner who had been traveling. Now there’s the fear of most likely inevitable mosquito-meets-patient if we don’t do something about it. Verily’s plan, called the Debug Project, hopes to now wipe out this potential Zika-carrying mosquito population to prevent further infections.

Could messing with the mosquito population have some unforeseen disastrous consequences? Not likely. This particular mosquito species entered the area in 2013.

So what’s the plan to get rid of them? Verily’s male mosquitoes were infected with the Wolbachia bacteria, which is harmless to humans, but when they mate with and infect their female counterparts, it makes their eggs unable to produce offspring.

Bonus, male mosquitoes don’t bite, so Fresno residents won’t have to worry about itching more than they usually would.

No word from the company on how much something like this will cost, but Linus Upson, an engineer on the team releasing the mosquitoes, told MIT Technology Review the company planned to do something similar in Australia next.

“We want to show this can work in different kinds of environments,” he told the magazine.

Verily plans to release about 1 million mosquitoes a week over a 20-week period in two 300-acre neighborhoods in the Fresno area — the largest U.S. release to date of mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria.

Those in the Fancher Creek neighborhood may notice a Verily van releasing healthy swarms of the little bugs throughout its streets starting today.

Featured Image: Department of Foreign Affairs/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

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