Entrepreneurial Leadership and Management . . . and Other Stuff


Patriots Go 16-0

Simulcast on no less than four channels in New England, but all using the same crappy NFL Network feed . . . the New York Giants represented the entire NFL against the 15-0 New England Patriots last night.  Just in case you somehow missed it, New England prevailed.

Completing a perfect record for the season was no walk in the park for the Pats, but they made it happen. Welker, Welker, Faulk, Welker, MOSS!, oh yeah, and even some running by Maroney.  The Giants came to play, though, and made it a grind every step of the way.  Manning looked as good as I have ever seen him and Brady was under pressure all night.  The Giants took a 12-point lead at one point in the game, the biggest lead any team has had over the Patriots this year.

On the way to 16-0 last night, a few other records were set . . .

  • Tom Brady threw the most touchdown passes in a season (50)
  • Randy Moss caught the most passes for touchdowns in a season (23)
  • Patriots scored more points than any team in a season (582)

During the season, the Pats outscored their opponents by a total of 315 points, which is more than several teams in the NFL scored the entire year.

Bill Belichick says, of course, that the team still needs to improve.  Even if you’re not the sourpuss coach, you’d have to agree.  A perfect record does not mean they’re a perfect team.  During the first half of the season, the Pats completely dominated their opponents.  Not true for the second half.  There were some real nail-biters late in the season and the Pats defense would often be seen back-pedaling 60-70 yards before stopping the opposing offense.  It seems that the rest of the NFL has figured out how to manage the imposing New England offense – not that that’s particularly difficult when 90% of the plays are passes.

The Pats will have to get through the cream of the NFL crop over the next three weeks to make it to the big game.  While I like their odds, it certainly won’t be a cake-walk.  I’m not a huge fan of the “perfect” season talk.  16-0 is great, but winning the Super Bowl is what it’s all about.

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 December 30th, 2007  

The Impact of Subjective Quality

It seems that every journal these days, whether it be printed or online and regardless of the constituency it serves, does some quantitative analysis of quality.  Of course, there are also loads of third party quality reviewers (think J.D. Power) and several quality awards (think Malcolm Baldrige) all of which attempt to gather loads of data about actual quality to help consumers decide which is the “best” product they can buy.  Most of these analyses miss, however, the subjective recognition of quality.  That is, the quality in a product that our senses tell us exists or not.  This is, of course, not only difficult to measure, but it’s also relative to our expectations and to our life experiences.  In the end, though, it is often our subjective measures of quality that have a greater impact on our perceived view of overall quality than the actual defects and anomalies we experience when using a product.

It’s this reason why so many products with good user interfaces are often recognized as being of higher quality than those with poor user interfaces.  Maybe books shouldn’t be judged by their covers, but they frequently are.  For software products, a sexy GUI, which is so strongly visually oriented, is seen and interacted with constantly.  For many, it gives a much stronger indication of the quality of the product than the computational guts underneath it, which are only experienced through their interfaces.  In this light, hardware products are even more interesting since our interaction with them involves many more senses – sight, of course, but also touch and sometimes even smell and hearing.

[Note: I’m not referring to ease-of-use here, which I believe is a different, although related, dimension.]

As you might expect, cars are a perfect example of this.  Since most of us have had the experience of interacting with many cars through our lives, we all have some perspective on how a car should work, feel, sound and even smell (ahh, that new car smell).  As we approach a vehicle, we make a subjective judgement of the quality of the car.  Is it rusted?  Is it dented?  Is a tire flat?  Is it dirty?  The really interesting valuation, however, comes as we enter the car and start to interact with it.  Does the door open easily?  Doesn’t it close with a reassuring, solid “thunk?”  Is the seat comfortable?  There are so many sensory inputs, it’s difficult to even list them.  Yet, our brain is taking them all in and using them to calculate that important, subjective analysis of the quality of the car – whether we realize it or not.

Particularly interesting (to me, anyway) is the immediate feedback I recognize from the materials used inside a car and the look and feel of the switchgear.  The switchgear consists of the various knobs, dials, buttons, sliders, levers and switches that let us physically interact with the car and/or give us tactile feedback of the car’s various settings.  While the functions of most cars are relatively standard, almost every vehicle manufacturer makes different choices when it comes to a car’s switchgear.

First, materials.  The materials chosen for a vehicle are often determined by its target market or price range.  Even with virtually limitless advances in plastics and manufacturing, cheaper materials still tend to give most people a quick sense of the subjective overall quality of the finished product with less expensive vehicles often sporting harder, shinier plastic surfaces and perceived of having lower quality.  Again, these are not indicative of the functional quality of the vehicle, but its subjective quality.  Even people who have never been in a Rolls Royce (most of us) will recognize the difference when sliding into a hand-sewn leather seat made from 42 manually-selected hides harvested from cows raised for the specific purpose of donating their overcoats to the drivers butt versus the vinyl, sweat-inducing material in cheaper vehicles and relate that difference to a difference in quality.

Interestingly, the look and feel of switchgear may have even a greater impact on the perception of quality that a driver gets from his/her vehicle.  When the turn signal stalk takes Arnold Schwarzenegger size biceps to move and engages with a deafening “snap” sound, leaving the driver to suspect that he/she may have broken the stalk in half, the driver will not likely perceive this as a sign of quality.  On the other hand, when a knob is rotated on the dashboard with detents that are subtle, yet precise, the switchgear can exude a sense of quality that is profound, but almost too difficult to describe.

As you would expect, the greater the perception of quality will frequently translate into a decision to by your product over your competitor’s.   Does it cost more to increase subjective quality?  Probably, but not always inordinately (as in the case with the Rolls Royce, above).  The lesson here is to not to focus all of your quality efforts on the underlying function or performance of your product.  For many products, the customer may be buying the product for those factors, but it’s not the ones they will interact with on a regular basis.  The user interface and feedback that your customer receives from the product will drive much of their overall view of the product and even more of their subjective analysis of its overall quality.  A positive view will lead to happy customers who buy more and help market your product to others.

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 December 4th, 2007  
 General Business, Stuff with a Motor  

God is a Patriots Fan

Well, if there was any doubt of this before last night’s narrow 27-24 victory, there shouldn’t be any more.  After converting only a few of their third down attempts all game, the Pats were forced to try and convert a couple of fourth downs during the waning seconds of the game against the Baltimore Ravens to eek out come-from-behind victory . . . and they did.  One of them, when the Lord Almighty clearly had enough of the Pats struggle and had Baltimore’s head coach, Brian Billick, call a time out a split second before the Ravens’ defense tackled Tom Brady for a fourth down loss of yardage and a change of possession.  In the ensuing seconds, the Pats got a first down, made another fourth down conversion (the second one), scored a touchdown and got the benefit of Baltimore racking up a total of 35 penalty yards.  Somebody’s been going to church.

The Ravens came to play and play they did.  Their defensive backs seemed to be able to double-team each of the Pats receivers and the tight end.  This would be impressive in itself since the Pats have almost as many receivers as they have players.  What made it more impressive, is that they were also able to pressure Brady at the line.  Baltimore’s offense looked good too with Willis McGahee running all over the Pats defense and executing many excellent third down passing conversions.

So the Lord’s team is now 12-0 having squeaked by two teams that they should have beaten by bigger margins (the other one was the Eagles last week).  I’m not sure why the Pats last two games look so different from their previous 10.  Did someone post the secret sauce recipe on the Internet?

I learned last night that Rosevelt Colvin was put on the IR and is out for the rest of the season.  This could be a big problem for the Pats moving forward since at 30 years old, he is the youngest linebacker they have.  Anyone know what happened to him?  Information seems hard to come by.

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 December 4th, 2007