Starbucks Green Apron Book

Photo by rbieber

Did you know that you could just walk into your local Starbucks and request a "Green Apron Book", that outlines the principles of Starbucks? I heard about this little booklet from a recent book I had read about the company and went in to my local Starbucks and asked for a copy. I was a tad surprised when the employees were extremely happy to give one to me. There’s something to be said about a company that is not afraid to share their core principles with their customers. There’s much more to say when they do it so enthusiastically.

I was totally impressed with being able to walk into my local Starbucks and get a copy of their “Green Apron book” after reading The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.

I did find another review of the book and it was really cool to me that the reviewer offered the same observation that I did around the structure of the Starbucks principles:

After reading it that afternoon, what impressed me the most was the absence of rules. In their place were suggestions, goals, and the empowerment to make every customer’s experience a memorable one. It was at that moment that I realized the significance of Starbucks’ philosophy—not only for business, but for life in general.

This really parallels my thoughts on what I had read:

One thing that comes out fairly strong in most of the books I read about Starbucks (and Toyota as of late) is the acknowledgment of senior managements importance in setting the culture, ideals, and principles of the overall business while giving the “people doing the work” the ability to act within the framework of the principles.

Another cool thing I noticed. When you dig down into the detail of the Be Welcoming principle, you find the following:

Get to know your customer by drink or name.

This completely impressed me – because I experienced it. As a matter of fact, it impressed me so much that I wrote about the experience in the post “ Reaching “Norm” Status – The Ultimate in Customer Service” back in March of 2005.

Studying Up On Ruby

Photo by rbieber

I’ve been focusing on Ruby a lot over the past 3 days (Rails specifically). What a great environment to work in!

This was taken about a month ago. I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading and experimenting with Rails and I have to say, I love it. While I’m still at the stage of figuring out “how” to do things, once you do it you get why its done that way. That can’t be said for many environments.

The Art of Deception by Kevin Mitnick

Over the last few months I’ve started a lot of books. There is so much interesting reading out there that between the usual blogs that I read, the effort I’m spending learning Ruby on Rails, and the interesting books I run across in my usual ritual of trolling book stores, I’m finding it hard to focus on a book from start to finish. I think the only ones I’ve been able to read completely over the past few months have been Fight Club, Practical Subversion, Second Edition (reviewed early last week), and todays pick, The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security by Kevin D. Mitnick and William L. Simon.

It is rare that a book conjures up such paranoia in me. The book is described on the back cover like this:

The worlds most celebrated hacker delivers the lowdown on today’s most serious security weakness – Human Nature.

Boy does he ever.

When one thinks of computer security, one normally thinks about things like closing unnecessary services / ports on your systems, using strong passwords, and things like that. All things of a technical nature that are necessary, but aren’t truly secure because of the people that surround the technology.

Mitnick and Simon do an excellent job in walking you through extremely realistic social engineering scenarios and make you realize that the basic pieces of human nature, like sincerely wanting to help others, fear of crossing someone in an authority position, or just plain carelessness can open up your systems to security breaches no matter how well of a handle you have on the technology aspect of security in your company.

Each scenario is followed by a section called “Analyzing the Con”, where they explain, in detail, the factors that contribute to the scenario being played out and your systems being compromised. There is a lot of interesting information in these analyses that you may not have thought of before.

The last chapter of the book gives you approximately 70 pages relating recommended corporate information security policies. This chapter was excellent, explaining the different policies you can enact and, more importantly – and something you don’t get very often from corporate security – the reasons WHY they are important to implement.

For me, this book was a total eye opener. It is interesting to think about the amount of information that can be “leaked” that seems unimportant at the time one can be in a conversation that can be pieced together later on for the purposes of compromising a computer system or a business.

If nothing else, this book will definitely make you think about the next conversation you have with someone. It shows you the dark side of human nature, where people can seem completely sincere in their interactions with you but deep down have only one objective. To get information. It also illustrates the effort in which people can put forth to put together a con with so much detail, over such a length of time, that the individual interactions seem innocuous, but in the end compromise your systems security.

This book is a must read for everyone even peripherally related to IT. Let me rephrase that. This book is a must read for everyone who has even remote contact with people. Its extremely informative and engaging – so much so that I could hardly put it down.

I’ve already recommended this book to numerous people at work and will be putting it on the required reading list for this year for my teams. Its an area of computer security that is often overlooked and I’m glad to see it covered in such detail – and in a very non-technical way. Anyone can relate to the content in this book.

Do yourself a favor. Take the time pick this one up and read the whole thing. I can guarantee, no matter what your role, you will get something useful out of this book.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

I just finished reading Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.

I remember the first time I had watched the movie. I never actually wanted to see it. Jonna had run across it by chance and told me that I HAD to watch it – that it was a movie right up my alley and that I would love it.

I remember not really believing that it was something I wanted to see but I watched it anyway. The movie blew me away. I thought it was brilliantly written and brilliantly acted. I was completely impressed.

I bought the DVD soon after that and have watched it numerous times since then – always saying to myself “I definitely have to read this book sometime”.

Well, Jake wound up buying the book for some reason and after he read it handed to me and said I just HAD to read the book. So finally, I read it.

The book is absolutely brilliant. More than that, overall the movie stuck pretty close to it, something I was very glad to see. The one thing that I hate the most is when you read a book to find that the movie makers completely trashed it. This one made it through the movie making processes pretty well intact.

If you liked the movie, you will absolutely love the book. The writing style is extremely disjointed – just like the movie. You actually feel like you are on a ride through one mans complete mental breakdown.

While the movie did a fairly good job of exposing you to the main characters inner dialog, there is nothing that compares to actually reading it for yourself.

I will say, its pretty difficult to read the book and not hear Ed Nortons voice as the narrator. Then again, he had the perfect voice for it.

If you liked the movie, you will absolutely love the book. On a scale from one to five – I give t a ten. It’s that good.

Off The Rails – The Review

I just finished reading Off The Rails by Rudy Sarzo this last week. Overall, I would say I liked it.

I’ve been a fan of Randy Rhoads since first hearing the Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of Madman albums in 1983 or so. He was a unique player for his time and these two albums are of the sort that they sound just as fresh today as they did when they were released.

As a Rhoads fan, I’ve always picked up any and all information I could get on him. Every guitar magazine he’s been in, I probably have or have had it. Each article or magazine never really gave you enough, as a fan, as to what Randy was like.

Off The Rails was written using Sarzo’s daily diaries that he had kept during the Blizzard of Ozz and Diary tours between 1981 and 1982 (at the request of his accountant) and gives you an interesting glimpse of what was going on in the band at the time. While this book is probably the most detailed about Rhoads as a person, the book for me seemed to focus more on how screwed up Ozzy and Sharon were during this time, which is actually the stuff I wound up getting more interested in as the book went on.

After reading this book, you will be amazed that Osbourne has gotten to where he did, and that he actually produced the music he did over the years. Rumors have always abounded about his alcoholism and wild antics, but Sarzo gives you a very detailed glimpse into the amount of abuse Ozzy exposed himself and everyone around him to during the early days of his solo career.

Most interesting to me was the circumstances around the planned live album that became Speak of the Devil and Randy’s resistance to doing the album. Given where the band was at the time, with two albums of solo material, its easy to understand that Randy did not want to do a live album of Sabbath material, but the most telling is how Ozzy reacted and treated Randy when he refused to do the album initially.

Over the last twenty some years, we’ve heard a lot of positive things about the relationship between Ozzy and Randy. This book, if nothing else, gives you a glimpse of the “real life” circumstances on the tour and paints a much less rosy picture of the time that the band spent on the road.

That is not to say at all that Off The Rails is negative. Sarzo manages to detail all of the goings on during this time without giving the reader the feeling of reading a “tell-all” book meant to smear the participants for the sake of making money. Rudy does a great job of reporting what happened in a very balanced way that manages to get the reader to close the book and walk away thinking.

Bottom line, the book is excellent. Sarzo does a good job of reporting the daily goings on in the tour, giving you a glimpse into the life of guitar hero, and doing it in such a way that it does not feel exploitative in the least. I would definitely recommend this book to those who are Rhoads fans, or even those who just want a third party addition to the biographies already out there on Ozzy and his crew.

Off the Rails by Rudy Sarzo Now Available At Amazon.com

I received an email yesterday from someone letting me know that Rudy Sarzo’s long awaited book, Off The Rails is now available at Amazon.com. The book chronicles his time with Ozzy Osbournes Blizzard of Ozz band, featuring the late great Randy Rhoads.

From what I’ve heard, this book is a one of a kind. I actually headed over to Borders yesterday to pick it up, only to find it listed in their computers as out of print. I guess I will have to forego my need for ‘immediate satisfaction’ and wait for Amazon to deliver it.

Rhoads fans have been waiting a long time for this release. I’ll let you know what I think once I get it.

Current Reading Queue

Thought I’d throw out a list of the current reading queue. I have two books in process, another in waiting:

  1. Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash – Currently Reading
  2. Lean Thinking : Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, Revised and Updated – On Hold Until #1 completed.
  3. The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles From The World’s Greatest Manufacturer – In queue.
  4. Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas – In queue

Sensing a pattern here? I’m really intriqued by the lean way of thinking. The nice thing about it is as you read all of this stuff, you realize that they are pretty much the principles behind any agile method of development. The reading thus far has given me a good base of principles necessary to make sense out of the methodologies. There is something to be said about knowing the “why” behind what you are doing.

I’m sure there will be more to write about this later. One thing I will say: My brain hurts.

Books: Primal Branding

Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your FutureWalking through Borders last week I came across the book Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future by Patrick Hanlon. Since I had recently read The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do, the initial browse of this book intrigued me, so I picked it up.

There are certain brands that build very passionate communities around them. Think of companies such as Starbucks, Apple, or communities such as Linux. This book attempts to dissect the building of brands and communities centered around them into a “primal code” – a set of things that all of these brands have in common that foster the “zealot” type of behavior that these brands exhibit.

The author breaks the primal code of branding into the following seven components:

  1. The Creation Story – If you think about it, any of the brands listed have a creation story that is well known. Be it Jobs and Wozniak building boards in a garage, or Howard Schultz visiting coffee shops in Italy and getting his job at the original Starbucks. Each has a mythos connected with how the founders created the company.
  2. The Creed – This is what the company and / or brand stand for. Think of Apples “Building Computers for The Rest of Us”, or Starbucks “Third Place” (the first two being “Work” and “Home”). The creed is not a typical mission statement, but a short statement that sums up the values or mission of the company.
  3. The Icons – According to the author, icons are “quick concentrations of meaning that cause your brand identity and brand values to spontaneously resonate”. Some examples: The Nike Swoosh, the Linux penguin, the Starbucks white cups, the makeup of the band KISS (yes, this last one was really used as an example – and you can’t really argue with it. The KISS Army are some of the most passionate fans on the planet).
  4. The Rituals – The author describes the rituals as “the repeated interactions that people have with your enterprise”. The main concentration here is around finding the “rituals” that people go through when using your product and making them more pleasant. Some examples of this are things like the Progressive car insurance practice of settling insurance claims at the scene of the accident. Tom the Architect often blogs about “attention efficiencies”. I would put the creation of these efficiencies in the ritual category.
  5. The Pagans, or Nonbelievers – Every strong brand has its pagans, or the people or things which express what your brand is NOT. McDonalds has Burger King, Christians had the Romans, Linux users have Microsoft.
  6. The Sacred Words – Sacred words are described as “a set of specialized words that must be learned before people can belong”. Think “Big Mac”, “iPod”, “iMac”, “Venti or Grande”.
  7. The Leader – Finally, every strong brand has a person who is the visionary who “set out against all odds to re-create the world according to their own sense of self, community, and opportunity”. These are people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ray Kroc, Howard Schultz. Often these leaders have great mythologies connected to the creation story that help to inspire and create passion around the brand.

Companies may have one or more components of this code. The author asserts that the more pieces you have, the more attractive your brand and the more passionate your customers are about your company. I can’t really disagree with any of the arguments. When I first got a Mac, the first thing I did was start reading books about the creation of Apple. Its odd that as I read this book, and the different components that make up a strong brand, I found myself thinking about my own behavior around things I am passionate about and found little things that corroborated the arguments in the book. From the quick three week studies on the origins of Apple, to all of the time I spent on the history of Linux, to the “Tux Tattoo” I have on my upper back, all of these components make sense and map to real experiences I’ve had with strong brands in my life.

The author makes the point that these primal codes for branding or community building are not necessarily to be used only for business. You can use them for organizations (think the Jaycees), religions (Christianity), or even building strong beliefs within a team (a concept I’m extremely interested in as a manager).

In the very least, this book will get you thinking about how to make people passionate about a cause. The book is extremely well written and you move through the concepts very quickly. I found a lot of value out of this reading session and highly recommend that those interested in these concepts pick up the book.

The author is the Founder and CEO of Thinktopia, Inc a company focused on building “primal brands”. They also have a blog and a podcast available (to which I just found while writing this and am now subscribed).