APress Deal of the day

I recently stumbled upon a nice deal on the APress website. They offer a different title as electronic book for $ 10 each day (called ebook deal of the day).

After a couple of days I started to be annoyed by looking on the website every day and wondered how I can make sure that I do not miss something interesting.

I went on and wrote a little ruby script with the cool hpricot library by why the lucky stiff. It runs as a cron job every day and sends an email with the title and description.

In case you are interested, here it is (just edit the smtp_server, sender and receiver variables):

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

require 'rubygems'
require 'hpricot'
require 'open-uri'
require 'net/smtp'

smtp_server = 'your_mail_server'
sender = "your@email_address.here"
receiver = ['receiver1@test.xx', 'receiver2@test.xx']

doc = Hpricot(open("http://www.apress.com/info/dailydeal"))

description = doc.search("//div[@class='bookdetails']")

title = description.search("a").first.inner_html

msg = "Subject: [APress Deal of the Day] #{title}\n\nDeal of the day at APress: #{title}\n\n"

(description/"p").each do |p|
        msg = msg + p.inner_html.gsub(/<\/?[^>]*>/, "") + "\n\n"

msg = msg + (description/"div[@class='footer']").inner_html + "\n\n"

msg = msg + "Order at http://www.apress.com/info/dailydeal\n"

Net::SMTP.start(smtp_server) do |smtp|
        smtp.send_message(msg, sender, receiver)

Banks in crisis ask for public help

Disclaimer: This will be my first politically biased post, but here I can not stay silent in this case.

In a recent edition of Financial Times Deutschland I read an article reporting that Josef Ackermann CEO of Deutsch Bank calls for public help to support banks that had been hit by the Subprime crisis.

I do understand that he talks about stability of the economy and jobs in the end of the day, however this is the guy that always argued that in banking and business is to much intervention by administrations.� Further he is one of the guys – amongst most of his colleagues for sure – filled his (private) pockets doing risky business and asking the public to stay out of his way.

Now, loosing the money (due to risky business) the public should pay the bill? Will these guys get a bonus for collecting public money to fill there companies losses after all? Unbelievable thinking if you ask me. I find this a rather cynical move – even if he tried to correct his statements later

Remark: Links (Articles) are in German (my apologies), however you should be able to find similar discusses in basically every business press these days.

Management Wisdom

The recent issue (2.08) of the German magazine “Business Technology” has an interview with management consulting luminary Reinhard K. Sprenger (quite famous for his book “Mythos Motivation”).

I am not sure if I buy all his theories about management mentioned in the interview (though it would be interesting to see some evidence for them, I should look in his books for this I guess), however a couple of his statements actually made me think and quite intuitively they make sense (again, some evidence would be good to support this).

Teamwork and cooperation need a problem

The first refreshing thing I read was that he actually said problem instead of challenge. The point here is that teamwork and cooperation these days is often pushed per se without having a common problem to work on. This often fails when there is no clearly defined problem to work on or to state it otherwise a common goal to work towards.

So as a prerequisite to initiate teamwork we would need a common understanding of the problem as well as the goal for the combined effort. This should be explicitly defined by and for all participants or (to stress another buzzword) stakeholders.

In addition to that I see the need to clearly understanding the interests of all people involved. I see it actually quite often that objectives (including and in particular those that are bound to a bonus or commission (say money)) are quite contradictory to effective teamwork. Many times these drivers (or agendas) needs to be adjusted by management to facilitate (or enable) team work.

Decisions are only interesting if the situation is undecidable

Decisions are only needed if there is a situation at hand where there is no obvious answer – meaning there are as many good reasons to turn left as there are good reasons to turn right (otherwise if there would be a bias for either one, no decision would be needed).

This actually happens quite often and managers need to decide based on improper or insufficient information.

Sprenger says that a good manager should feel at home within this situation and should be able to come to a good decision due to his ability of creating a good contextual model to support the decision – particularly without all the details. Sprenger says that ability stems from a good (humanistic) education – I often call it “common sense” (“gesunder Menschenverstand” in German).

I – by the way – think that this ability does not only make a good manager but also a good employee, a good consultant etc.

Risk averseness kills innovation

If an organisation gets risk averse, if nobody is willing (or able) to make mistakes and take risks, innovation is dead. And so in creativity and speed. If people just start to do something if they are 100% sure they will not make a mistake, barely anybody is moving at all or just doing the true and tried standard work.

It is up to the management to create an infrastructure and environment were mistakes and failures are accepted (as long as we learn from them).