Xbox Revisited: Develop Your Successful Game Plan

Microsoft XBOX Game

Develop Your Successful Game Plan

Robbie Bach’s book, Xbox Revisited: A Game Plan for Corporate and Civic Renewal, uniquely shares the stories behind the creation of the Xbox, the business strategy blueprints for others to follow, and Robbie’s personal philosophy of civic renewal.

For twenty-two years, Robbie Bach worked at Microsoft in various marketing, management and leadership roles. As Chief Xbox Officer, Robbie led the launch of Xbox. He retired from Microsoft in 2010 and now serves on charitable boards while writing articles on various civic issues.

I recently asked Robbie to reflect back on his many years at Microsoft. What he learned provides lessons for us all.

 

“Without principles, a team has no central rudder to keep it on course.” -Robbie Bach

 

Hitting Rock Bottom

Robbie, the book is a wonderful read as both the inside story of the Xbox creation and then also about your personal goals in what you call your Act 2. As I reflect back on the entire book, though, one email you included in it sticks with me. It was your “rock bottom” email when you tried to resign from Xbox. Tell us more about that.

The period leading up to the Xbox launch was very challenging on many fronts. I certainly was struggling to provide the right type of leadership; the team was like the United Nations with many differing points of view on important topics, and the mountain in front of us was a difficult climb under any circumstances. Ultimately, however, none of that led to me submitting my resignation. The real issue was the impact work was having on my personal life and my inability to manage that situation. It was just another instance of me being unprepared for the challenges presented by the Xbox project, but this one was very personal and cut to the core of my beliefs. I’m a “family first” guy, and when I realized I wasn’t living up to that, I knew something needed to change.

 

The Importance of Accountability and Transparency

What strikes me about this email was this: no excuses, no blaming, just pure personal accountability. You outline what you think is needed and then what you don’t feel you can do. Would other executives be served by being this transparent or did it work uniquely within the Microsoft culture?

E3 XBox Press Briefing Robbie Bach 17 MS_05_2004I am a believer in transparency – it is very difficult to solve problems when you obfuscate the situation with a fog filled with excuses. So I think this is an important skill for all leaders – in business, non-profits, or government. With that said, how you approach transparency and full disclosure absolutely will (and should) vary depending on the situation, the organizational culture, and the personalities involved. I clearly trusted my boss, Rick Belluzzo, to manage this situation appropriately, and he was remarkably helpful during a difficult time. In other circumstances, I might have used a different approach to declare the issues, and I might have pursued the discussion through other channels. Bottom line: being honest with yourself and open to your manager and your team is an important skill to master. Done well, it can fundamentally change the dynamics and attitude of a team in a very positive way.

 

“If you don’t define your purpose, you don’t know what you’re doing or why.” -Robbie Bach

 

Developing a Strategic Framework

5 C’s to Help You Plan for Your Next “Big thing.”

What Catalog Cards Communicate

The end of an era

Earlier today, OCLC said “goodbye” to a service that it had been performing since the early 1970’s: the printing of library catalog cards. Most of you are familiar, I’m sure, with those 3×5 cards and the drawers that housed them. There is a lot of nostalgia for those drawers among librarians—they’re beautiful pieces of furniture that can be put to many uses: as wine racks, jewelry and collectible cases, storage for tools, crafts and sewing supplies, etc.

 

Fact: At peak, @OCLC shipped 8 tons of cards weekly.

 

However, there is not as much nostalgia for the cards themselves.

You have to remember that, before the Internet, a catalog card was the closest thing to a hyperlink that most of us ever experienced. Like hyperlinks, catalog cards took us from a quick description of information to the full resource. They were, for more than a hundred years, the absolute height of information seeking technology. Those cards may seem quaint now. But the ability for patrons, on their own, to quickly identify and find one book in a building containing tens or hundreds of thousands is a remarkable testament to the genius and hard work of librarians.

But that work was tedious. Each book required, in many cases, multiple cards: one for subject, one for author, one for title. They had to be hand typed. Any small error required a complete redo.

OCLC's first catalog card; Used by Permission OCLC’s first catalog card; Used by Permission

“Your focus should be on the future not the features.”

 

An early example of crowdsourcing

Computerization helped, of course. That was OCLC’s original business: a centralized collection of records from which cards could be reproduced more efficiently. Rather than create the same card over-and-over at each library, members of the cooperative contributed to the shared database, which was then used to print cards for everyone. By some estimates, this process saved librarians about 90% of the time required to manually create new cards, a task that I’ve heard took around an hour.  OCLC has printed around 1.9 billion cards during the past 45 years, meaning cooperative cataloging has saved our industry about 195,000 years of administrative effort. Which is great! That’s time librarians were able to spend helping people reach their learning goals and get the information they need…

Instead of typing up billions of little cards by hand.

Which is why those cards hold so little nostalgia for many librarians. They were a necessary technology at the time. And a profoundly useful one. But the tool itself was never the point. In retrospect, that’s so much easier to see than when we’re looking at today’s newest technology.

Don’t get me wrong! I love the new stuff! It’s fun and it’s fast and it’s cool. And it’s important. But nowhere near as important as understanding the needs of the people our technology serves.

Skip Prichard with the last OCLC printed catalog card Skip Prichard with the last OCLC printed catalog card

What are your “5 C’s”?

5 Tips to Increase Your Efficiency and Impact

Increase Your Efficiency

Power Tips to Increase Your Impact

All of us want to be more productive. David Horsager is a productivity expert. His work has been featured in numerous publications from The Wall Street Journal to The Washington Post. His research is focused on the impact of trust, and his client list ranges from the New York Yankees to John Deere.

His latest book is The Daily Edge: Simple Strategies to Increase Efficiency and Make an Impact Every Day. I recently asked him about five of the thirty-five tips included in his new book.

 

“Lost time is never found again.” -Ben Franklin

 

Manage Your Energy 

Tip 7Tip 7. Managing your energy is something few think about. We are often on autopilot. How do we become more conscious of our energy? What’s the best way to use our energy through the day?

Before you make any changes, you have to become aware of how you are spending your time. Take two weeks and log it. Keep track of both your time usage and the level of energy you feel at that time. Then, take time to study it and make a few adjustments with how you spend your time. Log for another week if you need to in order to gather useful information.

Try scheduling an early morning meeting and then not another until after lunch. See how creating this pocket of time affects your daily productivity and energy levels. Maybe you need to schedule as many meetings as possible on one day so that other days are left more open. I have learned that morning is my most effective time, so that is when I tackle writing, research, and other more difficult projects. I try to protect a morning power hour so I can have at least one uninterrupted hour on my most difficult tasks first thing in the morning. My team knows to try to schedule meetings with me right after lunch. Since I am an extrovert, the people I meet with during that low-energy time of day end up energizing me for the remainder of the afternoon!

You can’t dictate everything about your schedule, but you can influence it to meet your needs. A lot of people squander their most valuable time doing their easiest activities and tackle their toughest tasks when their energy is at a low point. Don’t let that happen to you! Leverage your time and schedule so that it works for you. Awareness and intentionality come first. If you can do this, it will build momentum and your work life will be easier.

 

“Clutter is a result of delayed decisions.” -Audrey Thomas

 

Efficient Email 

unnamed-4Tip 13. Email. Some people really struggle with it. What tips have you seen make a difference for those who find it a challenge?

If you feel you have an e-mail problem, it isn’t going to go away any time soon. Ignoring your lack of a system will compound the problem and affect the rest of your work life. Some people have hundreds if not thousands of e-mails in their inbox. This is a very common area to struggle with because of the sheer number of e-mails we receive every day. Managing it is simpler than you might think once you have a process in place. It’s going to require getting disciplined about it. I know an executive who went from 57,000 emails to 9 in his inbox! He called and said, “I’ve never felt better!” Before you get too overwhelmed thinking about it, consider the following ideas.

  • Get rid of the chime or prompt. Ask yourself: Are the e-mails coming into your inbox worthy of dropping everything to read and respond? If the answer is no, then turn off the notification function.
  • Let them bundle. You think things are urgent, but the cost of interruptions is enormous. See if you can only check e-mail at the top of every hour. So much time is spent managing e-mail. Don’t fall victim to this.
  • Get in the habit of going through these four steps. The minute you open an e-mail, archive or delete if at all possible. Deal with it right away. Don’t read it now and also read it later.
  • File it or archive it. Get it out of your inbox once you’ve replied. It takes your mindshare if it’s always there as a distraction. It’s overwhelming. Feelings of being overwhelmed are the killers of productivity. Try setting up filters for certain e-mails you don’t want to see until you are ready. For example, I auto-filter newsletters for when I have extra time to read on the plane or in a taxi.
  • Flag it for later or attach it to the calendar. If you know you will need to reference it prior to a meeting, flag it for a later date or attach it to your calendar. Again, our mindshare is limited, so avoid constant exposure to something you don’t need to look at for a while. The information will be there for you when you need it.

By the way, e-mail with an emotional context can absorb an enormous amount of time. Leave the emotional conversations for a phone call or an in-person meeting. You will be less likely to be misunderstood and e-mail will be preserved as a means for information sharing – the way it was intended. 

 

“With each sunrise, we start anew.” -Anonymous

 

 

Maximize Meetings

Lessons from My Brother, Jack

Brothers

Lessons from Jack

A year ago today, I lost my only brother, Jack.

 

“For life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one.” -Khalil Gibran

 

I found myself in shock. Unexpected deaths don’t come with a handbook. You think you’re good at compartmentalizing until an event like this upends your normal routine.

One evening, I went to bed thinking I would be in meetings all the next day. Instead, I was helping with funeral arrangements, making flight reservations, and trying to make sense of it all. My mom asked me to give a eulogy. Since I give speeches all over the world, you would think I could string some sentences together. I couldn’t seem to get it together. Finally, I was inspired and able to honor him in the way I wanted to.

JackDays later, I found myself reading an autopsy report. We’ve all watched the crime shows. I’m a lawyer and had my share of exposure to evidence and how it all works. It’s so different when it is about someone you love. Reading the cold facts about his body felt like getting pushed underwater in a freezing cold lake—which I thought of, instantly transporting me back to our neighborhood lake where Jack would do that very thing every summer. Dunked, again. Memories flood in like pictures or the sound of his voice so real that I look up.

Jack had a colorful, interesting, crazy and somewhat difficult life. Not until we were adults did we learn Jack had been abused as a kid. Though he never faced the perpetrator in court, others did, and he was locked up. That had a profound effect on him. He struggled with addictions; though he was clear of all of that when he died. Cause of death was perhaps rooted in that past, weakening his heart. I may have read the report, but life and death remains a mystery beyond our current scientific explanation. God still has power beyond man’s ability to understand.

We shared a room together for all of childhood. We shared that room with many others who would stop or stay in our family home. As kids, we shared bunk beds. Jack would lay there at night, asking deep philosophical questions about life. I still hear those questions echo in my mind some nights, as I lie awake.

 

“A brother shares childhood memories and grown up dreams.” -Anonymous

 

Power of OppositesJack

Jack and I were known as opposites in the family. Others defined us that way, too. It seemed to work for us. My mom always said I was born 50. Jack alternated between 5 and 15 his whole life. I wanted to fit in. Jack wanted to stand out. I looked for answers. Jack asked questions. In those days, Jack would buy 45’s. We were sort of like those albums. I would say Jack was the first and main song, and I was on the back, but that wouldn’t be right because Jack would find the coolest songs no one heard of on the back, flipping it around and sharing it with everyone. He was definitely way cooler.

Though we were very different, we were brothers. Here are just a few of the many lessons I learned from my brother:

 

Don’t be so quick to judge.

Jack had deep pain. He could irritate you to your limit and then push past that. But, then he would switch to be the kindest person you ever met.

“When we judge, we lose the opportunity to learn from a life different than ours.” -Skip Prichard

 

Don’t waste time.

Life is short. Don’t waste it on what doesn’t matter, on people who don’t care, and on things you will forget.

“A man who dares to waste an hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” -Charles Darwin