Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger and Bill Gates sit down with CNBC’s Becky Quick to discuss the state of the markets as well as the overall economy and the Fed.
.. “The Rebel Allocator” is the opposite of most business novels. Here, the rich capitalist isn’t an evil genius using genetic engineering to hijack the brains of newborn babies. Instead, he is a hero: an investing mastermind who regards allocating capital as a noble calling that improves other people’s lives.
Blunt and bristly, with zero tolerance for stupidity, Mr. Xavier spouts proverbs and zingers. A mash-up of Mr. Munger and Mr. Buffett, he often invokes their ideas.
.. Taking a shine to Nick, Mr. Xavier asks him to write his biography. Like many young people today, Nick wonders if becoming a billionaire is inherently immoral when poverty is still widespread.
Mr. Xavier teaches Nick what separates great businesses from good and bad ones. He uses three drinking straws, labeled “cost,” “price” and “value,” to demonstrate: When a business can charge a higher price than its goods or services cost, the difference is profit. When the value its customers feel they get is greater than price, that difference is brand or pricing power—the ability to raise prices without losing customers.
As Mr. Xavier moves the straws around, Nick learns that investing decisions can make the world a better place: “Good capital allocation means doing more with less to create happier customers,” says Mr. Xavier. “Profit should be celebrated as a signal that an entrepreneur provided value while consuming the least amount of resources to do so.”
.. “I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time—none, zero,” Mr. Munger once said. “You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads—and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”
.. The money managers among them are “like a bunch of cod fishermen after all the cod’s been overfished,” Mr. Munger tells me. “They don’t catch a lot of cod, but they keep on fishing in the same waters. That’s what’s happened to all these value investors. Maybe they should move to where the fish are.”
By that, he presumably means not the bargain companies that have become almost an endangered species, but rather the great companies at fair prices that Mr. Buffett has been favoring for the past couple decades under Mr. Munger’s influence.
Mr. Moynihan, 58 years old, got the top role after CEO Kenneth Lewis unexpectedly announced his retirement in fall 2009. During that period, Bank of America faced major financial problems following acquisitions of Countrywide Financial Corp. and Merrill Lynch & Co. To stay afloat, the bank had to take $45 billion from the government.
.. After Donald Trump’s surprise 2016 election, bank stocks broadly jumped. Bank of America shares surged 74% between then and the end of 2017.
.. For the full year of 2017, the bank posted a $21.1 billion profit, excluding an adjustment from the tax cut, roughly matching the bank’s all-time profit record from 2006.
.. The bank issued millions of new shares during the crisis, however, so its per-share earnings remain far below where they were precrisis. Likewise its shares, unlike those of competitors such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co., remain below precrisis levels.
.. “Bank of America has done a sensational job under Brian Moynihan,” Mr. Buffett said
Back then, when we were in the engine room, we all knew that one of the by-products of misguided Agile software development was an increase in technical debt. That to deliver working software at speed, we traded off reuse and generated some level of fragmentation. This sort of waste was acceptable as we worked to prioritise responsiveness over efficiency.
We knew that we had to stop and clean up on an ongoing basis. The technical term for this technique is called refactoring
.. As we matured, we started differentiating between efficiency and effectiveness. We realised that our focus on velocity was killing agility, that technical discipline is necessary to enable and maintain responsiveness.
..There are attempts to aggregate initiatives into roadmaps, evolve the strategy based on insights, and enable better innovation accounting, but if you go through the literature available, the focus is on the process, not the customer.
Andrew Ng warns us that as we move from the Internet Era to the Artificial Intelligence Era, we will likely need to shift our approach radically. In the internet Era, we focused on AB testing, on short cycle times, and on pushing decision making to engineers and product managers. Sounds familiar? It should, these are all linchpins of Agile.
.. When it comes to codifying and envisioning what enterprise/business agility looks like, the Agile movement is falling short of expectations. In parallel, the digital agencies and consulting firms that are stepping into this white space, lack the independence to pull it off successfully no matter how many articles are published in the Harvard Business Review.
.. The companies that were once known for exceptional product design innovation, fail to recognise until it is too late that they are losing their most loyal customers because they neglect to design the experience ecosystem thoughtfully. I decided to use a hardware example to represent best the fragmented experiences customers endure when interacting with the Enterprise. Yes, I’m looking at you Apple, the dongle company.
.. The enterprise found itself owning a multitude of disconnected platforms, solutions, and products. Quality, security, and privacy suffered as the years of decentralised velocity at the edges generated a bloated, complicated, disconnected, and unmanageable digital ecosystem.
.. there was a well-intentioned and healthy tension between effectiveness and responsiveness. A tension we should not shy away from because, as Jim Highsmith framed it many years ago, adaptive leaders understand they must ride the paradox between these two forces.
.. This time, code refactoring wouldn’t save us, what we needed, spoiler alert, was customer-centred, organisational refactoring at scale. And refactoring did occur, in the form of backlash against fragmentation, waste and the following flavour of “agility”, “Why do I need to write a story and wait for a programmer to add some content on the website?”. Why indeed!
THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE ERA
.. The darlings of the Gartner Quadrants and Forrester Waves announced that we were now in the Age of Customer Experience
.. they witness velocity killing both agility and their work-life balance.
.. The CIO and the Agile and Lean communities shifted their attention from products to platforms. They refactored architectures to become evolutionary. The epicentre of this mammoth effort was still centred around APIs, technology and operations in service of the business strategy. The focus wasn’t on the customer’s experience.
THE CUSTOMER-CENTRED INTELLIGENCE ERA?
.. The commoditisation of technology and the digitisation of the world helped us to get closer to the customer; in some cases, with analytics and programmatic, we managed to get too close without ever considering their experience and trust. We managed to get close to the customer without being customer-oriented.
Frankly, it was not that astonishing when the news broke of the 87 million Facebook users affected by Cambridge analytica’s election meddling. Or was it election advertising? For some of us, it was an expected and inevitable outcome.
.. Perhaps, the current crisis in customer trust will finally propel us into a true experience age — Intelligent, personal, relentlessly relevant, connected, dynamic, and consensual experiences. What Prophet describes as living and breathing brand systems with the ability to learn and evolve at scale. The goal has always been to continuously respond to customer needs, right?
.. In Agile management, there is no such thing as an “internal customer.” The only purpose of work is the ultimate customer or end-user. Under the Law of the Customer, the original producers not only meet the needs the internal customers: they are given a clear line of sight as to what value is being provided for the ultimate customer. Satisfying so-called internal customers is merely feeding the bureaucratic beast. It is a pretend-version of Agile.
Act 15. How Do We Get There?
- Ask the right (human-centred) questions.
- Design Led. Agile Enabled.
- Transformational, Visionary Leadership.When companies get where they’re sort of living by so-called making the numbers, they do a lot of things that are really counter to the long-term interest of the business.
.. Business Agility is the ability to achieve sustained business growth by responding to customer needs. If you are not focused on gaining a deep understanding of your customer and on delivering exceptional experiences, you can’t be responsive, neither can you assure their privacy, security and safety. If you have all that but lack operating model agility you are not a responsive business.
.. Technology must no longer serve the business; the business must no longer serve the business. If we are shifting the focus of the Enterprise from looking inwards to the needs of their customers and hopefully also to the benefit of their ecosystem and society — if we accept that this is the formula for long-lasting Business growth and sustainability — then it’s time to look beyond Agile.