Tom Peters is writing a new book

I note this because Tom Peters is one of my favorite “business guru” authors. As the previous posting relates (just down below), I think Peters is almost always right on the mark with his predictions of the way business is going to go. And I note this too, because it was his book The Tom Peters Seminar in 1995 and 1996 that provided both the inspiration and the blueprint for my own excursion into the freelance world (“Bugay Communications”). And I note this because, right now, as I face the job search, and as I am making the effort to think through what I can do and want to do for the next 10 years or more, his “Reinventing Work” trilogy” (The Brand You 50, the Project 50, and the Professional Service Firm 50) are at the top of my pile of books, again, providing inspiration and a blueprint.

(You may ask, “isn’t it a bit self-defeating to use a business book that’s 10 years old as your “inspiration and blueprint”? But in my opinion, his more recent work, “Re-Imagine,” is not much more than a repackaging and an expansion of the themes in the “50” books.)

At any rate, his new book is entitled The Little Big Things: 179 Ways to Be Excellent and is due out in about January 2010.

It seems to me that as he gets older, he keeps re-circling the same themes — this time it’s “Excellence” — and that in using the number 179, that possibly the packaging, or re-packaging, of the excellence theme, will take on the form of a “to-do” list, similar to that found in the “50” books. So this new work will be re-set in the context of today’s current economic woes. But the “how to” and the “what to do” portions of this work will again, largely, be similar in nature to what I’m reading now.

90% of Jobs Disappearing?

Almost 10 years ago, Tom Peters predicted that “ninety percent of White-Collar Jobs — as we know them today — will disappear or be changed beyond recognition in the next 10+ years.” I think the reasons he gave were sound. But at any rate, it’s a huge restructuring in the workplace. Could this restructuring be what’s happening right now?

Think about this in terms of the way technology and machinery affected “blue collar jobs”. It’s a continuation of how technology caused the destruction of “farming jobs” if it’s fair to think about it in these terms. With machines causing huge increases in productivity in the factories (and on the farms), it freed up huge numbers of people to take on other issues.

In historical terms, this phenomenon has been called “unemployment” — well, maybe not in the case of the “lost farm jobs”. But there was a time when advances in technology enabled huge numbers of people to give up farming and move to the cities to work in factories. Later technology enabled the factories to do more with less manufacturing labor.

The Wall Street Journal’s lead story today notes that “in recent days, [policy leaders] have all talked publicly about the unusual disconnect between growth and employment.”

“Growth” has resumed. The uptick in employment that normally accompanies “growth” has not. So one of two things could be happening. First, the uptick will occur, but it just has not occurred. Or second, it could be that no corresponding uptick is going to happen.

What’s the right way to deal with this? In eiter case, I think that the solution is going to have to be an entrepreneurial one. I’ll have more to say about this in future posts.

Is the recession over?

I’ve been reading a lot of snippets that suggest that the answer to that question may be “yes”.

The OECD, which measures “leading indicators,” suggests improvement is on the way:

Some of the world’s leading economies showed tangible improvement in May … They suggested many major economies — including the U.S., the euro zone and China — could end their declines later this year. Overall, the OECD lead indicator rose by 0.8 point to 94, the sharpest rise this year, but it was still down 7.3 points from May 2008. The indicators are designed to indicate turning points in economic activity about six months in advance, and the calcuations are based on a wide variety of data.

This article suggests that “an increase in exports bodes well for growth”:

Tentative signs of life in global trade are emerging, buoying growth forecasts in the U.S. and China, two of the world’s most important economies. U.S. exports grew in May, while imports fell, helping to narrow the trade deficit to its lowest level in nearly nine years. The report prompted economists to revise up their estimates of second-quarter gross domestic product. Some even suggested the economy might have grown slightly in the second quarter. “It’s a very good sign for GDP,” says Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics in Toronto. “The economy didn’t shrink by much in the second quarter, and there’s an outside chance it recorded a gain.” Forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers increased its second-quarter GDP forecast from minus 1.6% to plus 0.2% on the news. New figures from China offered more support for the prospect that the massive drop in global trade is abating. Exports in June fell 21.4% from a year earlier, a smaller drop than May’s 26% decline, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Friday, citing official data.

That’s not huge, but it’s more in the right direction.

Still, I think everyone acknowledges that there are drags on the economy. The WSJ’s David Wessel suggests the recovery will be a painful (i.e., “jobless” one):

All signs point to a recovery so painful that many Americans may not realize when it finally arrives. There are signs the recession may end in coming months, but the U.S. economy’s recovery is likely to be so painfully slow that many won’t feel the difference. First, the good news. Auto sales and housing starts have fallen so low that they are unlikely to fall further, hence the talk of “stabilization” in those big, beleaguered industries. The mountain of unsold goods in factories, warehouses and stores, though still large, is shrinking. That eventually will lead manufacturers to stop reducing production and laying off workers. U.S. exports perked up in May. Credit markets are beginning to heal. Big companies are selling bonds. Even banks are selling new shares of stock. “Right now, we’re like a patient whose condition has stabilized and whose fever is just starting to come down,” Janet Yellen, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said recently.

But the job market remains awful. In December 2008, forecasters surveyed by The Wall Street Journal predicted the jobless rate would hit what then seemed a very high 8.1% at the end of 2009. Surveyed again this past week, forecasters now anticipate year-end unemployment of 10%. That suggests 775,000 more Americans will join the ranks of the jobless in the next six months.

On balance, though, I think that the signs are very hopeful that my own job search is going to be a good one.

Did executives “do the right thing”?

As the economy improves, they may need to prove themselves.

Mike Neiss of TomPeters.com has observed that he’s hearing “a much more positive message” from client companies, in that “we’ve turned the corner” or “the worst is behind us.” That’s the good news.

But then he asks, “did the strategies put in place to deal with the economic downturn make [your company] more capable of producing excellence in the future?

That’s probably not such good news for companies that have let go a tremendous amount of talent.

One result that he foresees:

[E]xecutives may have to prove their competence to the workforce—who paid some prices in the downturn. Many executives have been using the “economy” as the reason for poor performance, but my coffee chats with their employees lead me to believe that the rank and file aren’t totally buying that. It is important that the road forward is seen as doable by the employees in an organization, and that these workers believe that the current executive team can lead them to success.

On the other hand, it creates new opportunities for some of us who are now “out there.”

Breaking the bubbles

G-8 Finance Ministers Plan for Reducing Economic Stimulus

LECCE, Italy — World financial leaders are starting to examine how they’ll unwind their emergency spending packages and bank rescues amid signs the economic crisis may have hit bottom.

Finance ministers from the Group of Eight major industrial powers on Saturday asked the International Monetary Fund to research strategies to slim budget deficits and reduce government presence in the financial sector, but in a way that wouldn’t reignite the crisis.

Economic and financial recovery “will be stronger and more sustainable if we make clear today how we get back to fiscal sustainability when the storm has fully passed,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told reporters at the close of two days of meetings in the Italian city of Lecce.

The U.S., now 18 months into its recession, has seen new jobless claims stabilize, while consumer spending has stopped falling on a monthly basis. Economic growth has picked up in China and some other emerging nations.

“I think it’s appropriate that we do look a little bit down the road and plan to get the private sector back into the markets and the public sector withdrawing from the markets,” Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters as the meetings began.

Bubbles

The Stock Market reached its highest levels this year, according to the WSJ, although that may not necessarily be a good thing:

… one of the main reasons is disarmingly simple: Financial markets once again are awash in government cash … governments around the world are pumping money into the economy at a frenetic pace. Because businesses can’t put trillions of new dollars to work in such a short time, the money is finding its way into financial markets. Some investors have begun speaking of a “bailout bubble” being created in certain markets, and about a “melt-up” in demand fueled by the growing supply of money.

“All that money that was printed had to go somewhere,” says Joachim Fels, co-head of global economics at Morgan Stanley. “It has been pushing up commodity prices and stock prices, starting in emerging markets and then pushing over into developed markets.”

Day One

Really, Monday was “day three,” since the layoff, but it was my first day out of the office. I had a fairly productive day:

* Set up the blog.
* Rounded out my “Linked-In” profile; made about 30 additional connections; solicited and wrote some recommendations.
* Actually fielded a job opening from a connection
* Set up my Google calendar, and also an appointment with some old HyperActive colleagues to do some marketing work for them.
* Contacted my credit card companies, car finance company, mortgage company, and got some deferrments on payments.
* Wrote significant portions of a proposal to do additional work for HyperActive.

One of the most important things that I did was to talk with the kids, and get them to understand how genuinely serious it is to be unemployed. I’m not calling it that; and I’m actively soliciting contract work from my former employer. But until something like that materializes, we can’t buy some of the snack foods we always used to buy at the store; we have to see “not spending money” as a key virtue at the moment.

And they understand. These steps will help us get through the next few months and remain financially secure. For sure, the economy is going to pick up, and life will get back to some kind of normal. “

“The Invisible Hand”

Every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it…He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for society that it was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.

– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

More evidence of economic improvement

The Wall Street Journal this morning reported on an unmistakable sign that the global economy is showing signs of life:

NEW DELHI — Car sales in India rose for the fourth straight month in May as gains from Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. helped nullify a decline in sales at automakers such as Hyundai Motor Co. and Tata Motors Ltd.

…a series of federal government measures such as tax cuts have helped increase sales in recent months.

How long that will take to ripple around the would could be another matter.