"The One Best Way"

"To assess his efficiency, the store's computer takes into account everything from the kinds of merchandise he's bagging to how his customers are paying. Each week, he gets scored. If he falls below 95% of the baseline score too many times, the 185-store megastore chain, based in Walker, Mich., is likely to bounce him to a lower-paying job, or fire him."
...
"The brains behind Meijer's system is a consulting and software company known for decades as H.B. Maynard & Co., which last year became the Operations Workforce Optimization unit of Accenture Ltd. Borrowing from time-motion concepts first developed for U.S. steel mills and factory floors, it breaks down tasks such as working a cash register into quantifiable units and devises standard times to complete them, called "engineered labor standards. Then it writes software to help clients keep watch over their work forces."
The title of this post was nicked from Robert Kanigels tome about Frederick Winslow Taylor  which I read when it was originally published. If I remember correctly, the stress and monotony of the "Engineered Labor Standards" was offset by higher pay.  Taylor was quoted in the book as asking a worker, "are you a high priced man?",  meaning he would be well paid for the work if he met the standards. Didn't pickup that point in the article.

From the Perception is Reality Dept.

Interesting perspective on the current economic events and the media from a friend and fellow 90's Internet boom/bust refugee (Viant Corp), Andrew Frank of Gartner Group.

The Economy and the Media

"Whether you believe America is on the brink of another ‘30s-style Great Depression, or you quietly suspect a wave of manic exuberance could turn back the slide as quickly as it came (or, more likely, you’ll take the bell curve in the middle), you must recognize how the media’s growing use of filtered feedback from the audience has formed a trend amplifier that’s taken on a life of its own. Stories from people for whom the economy remains an ominous cloud on the horizon but have yet to miss a mortgage payment don’t make for good listening. They may provide some contrast to put the story in relief, but the story is clear, as told and retold by the audience to itself."
...
"So what, you say? This means that, even if you are carefully monitoring and analyzing social media, you may well be focusing your efforts on the wrong things. You may be focused too much on understanding the content of conversations (especially the subject and sentiment of messages), and not enough on understanding their velocity and resonance. We search for keywords that define the baseline of relevance – our brand, our competitors, our category – but how many are actively looking for fast-spreading stories in the places where they are germinating? And then, how many are defining their own roles in these stories, both through action and communication?"

Jazz Buff & Financial Modeler!

Behind AIG's Fall, Risk Models Failed to Pass Real-World Test - WSJ.com

"Gary Gorton, a 57-year-old finance professor and jazz buff, is emerging as an unlikely central figure in the near-collapse of American International Group Inc.

Mr. Gorton, who teaches at Yale School of Management, is best known for his influential academic papers, which have been cited in speeches by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. But he also has a lucrative part-time gig: devising computer models used by the giant insurer to gauge risk in more than $400 billion of devilishly complicated deals called credit-default swaps."

AIG relied on those models to help figure out which swap deals were safe. But AIG didn't anticipate how market forces and contract terms not weighed by the models would turn the swaps, over the short term, into huge financial liabilities. AIG didn't assign Mr. Gorton to assess those threats, and knew that his models didn't consider them. Those risks have cost AIG tens of billions of dollars and pushed the federal government to rescue the company in September.
...
The turmoil at AIG is likely to fan skepticism about the complicated, computer-driven modeling systems that many financial giants rely on to minimize risk. As chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which owns insurance companies, Warren Buffett has been sounding the alarm about the issue for years. Recently, he told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose: "All I can say is, beware of geeks...bearing formulas."

From the "Who'd a Thunk It" Department

Jonathan Schwartz's Blog: Understanding Sun's Business - Q1 Results:

"Wait, you make money off Java?

Yes, it's among the most profitable technology products at Sun - and improving. Java's one of the most popularly distributed pieces of Software on the internet, we distribute over a million Java runtimes a day to users across every OS and geography on PC's. That helps us reach a very broad community of users and, more importantly, developers. We have some exciting news coming up around these distribution volumes - and their value to us, and others."

Didn't See This Comming...

Some Shed Their Gadgets by Turning to One: iPhone - WSJ.com

"Lower-income households are turning in force to Apple Inc.'s iPhone and may be doing so to save the cost of a separate broadband connection and music devices, according to the media measurement firm comScore Inc.

A comScore study, set to be released Thursday, shows that the fastest growth in iPhone sales over the summer months came from households that earn less than the median income. ComScore noted sales to lower-income consumers accelerated since the July appearance of the iPhone 3G, which offers high-speed Internet access."

True, But I Am Old

I am an alumni of the first Internet Boom/Bust cycle, more specifically of Viant Corp which was originally founded with the name "Silicon Valley Internet Partners" or SVIP.    I joined SVIP from Merrill Lynch, and the shift was dramatic...   SVIP and eventually Viant was an organization of extremely bright, energetic, optimistic, creative and interesting people.  People who, to this day,  remain in touch.   There is a Viant Yahoo group where a few of us communicate and many of us lurk.   Recently there was a thread around the current events in the market and the general feeling that...

Things will get worse before they get better... The "spend more than you earn" party is over. It's going to be a massive hang-over.

A fellow former CXO responded in his characteristically upbeat , poetic and humorous style.  I enjoyed it so much that I've included it below....

True, but I am old.
In junior high school, Comet Kohoutek was predicted by some to wipe out the entire Earth. True, this was mostly predicted by people in California and,true again, most Americans were stoned out of their gourd during that time period...so that prediction doesn't really count.
But when I was in high school we all learned the metric system because "the rest of the world uses it and by 1980 America will too!". Well, that didn't happen.
A little later, Time magazine ran a cover story on "The Second Ice Age" which was fast approaching upon us and would have Americans moving to Mexico in droves so they wouldn't freeze to death! (Seriously, look it up, it was the late 70's.) Now we are warming globally, it seems, and Ohio will soon have beachfront property.
Let's see, what else? Communism was on the doorstep of taking over the world and we would all be calling each other comrade by the turn of the century. A wall came down instead.
Here's my favorite: Y2K. Remember that one, folks? People were preparing for the end of the world (again) and I think the only thing that happened was that one toaster in Australia malfunctioned or something.
I'm not saying that this isn't a real crisis or that there won't be real pain and suffering as a result of this. There probably will be.
I'm just skeptical.
Optimists vastly outperform pessimists.
I know that's true because a consulting company proved it to me with a 3X3 matrix and a very thick presentation binder that made a loud "thud" when they dropped it on my desk next to their Y2K report.
-Bill 

Thank for sharing Bill!

After Microsoft Stacks Vote - IBM Wants to Take its Ball and go Home

IBM May Quit Technology Standards Bodies - WSJ.com

"IBM and open-source groups that support collaborative software development said Microsoft had stacked the national committees that make up the ISO with employees and sympathetic voters. They also said Open XML is so complicated and obscure that only Microsoft could fully exploit it, cementing the software company's already-considerable lead in office-document software. IBM backed a rival format called Open Document that was already certified as an ISO standard."

Twitter Entering the Mainstream or "Jumping the Shark"

Ping - Technology Doesn’t Dumb Us Down. It Frees Our Minds. - NYTimes.com:

"...why when people who aren’t familiar with Twitter are told about it, they are “uncomprehending or angry.” His response (The co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey) was brief and unsatisfying: “People have to discover value for themselves. Especially w/ something as simple & subtle as Twitter. It’s what you make of it.”"

Adding Simplicity - An Engineering Mantra: Are Data Warehouses Dinosaurs?

Adding Simplicity - An Engineering Mantra: Are Data Warehouses Dinosaurs?:

"As anybody that follows my blog knows, I am not a fan of vertical scaling. I don't like solutions that can only be implemented in a single address and storage space. Unfortunately, there are analytical problems that need a holistic view of data. This is very typical of data warehousing applications. As a result, data warehouses are expensive, often out of the reach of smaller organizations. But there may be an alternative that is less expensive and horizontally scalable. What is this great revelation? Processing streams of events using an Event Stream Processor (ESP) solution."