And then NBC said “watch out, here comes the boss!”

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We wrote a while back about the Winter Oly… Olympic Winter Games and what it could teach us about corporate abnormality. While the sport may be done, the learning continues.

  1. Hurtling down a bob-sleigh run at 90 mph has gotta hurt
  2. Canada really cares about hockey and curling
  3. NBC US really does choose to focus predominantly on US athletes

We know about number 3 because we made use of the NBC online video site

[hideous navigation]

which in turn uses Microsoft Silverlight video player to provide fabulous high-def streaming video – on our iMac the pictures are gorgeous.

So it was that we got to watch all the late night fin de siècle finals that were on just too late for this BadConsultant, Mrs BadConsultant and our two little BadConsultant interns. Digging beyond the front page of videos posted

[often about US athletes who had often come in 19th place rather than the athletes from other countries who had won]

it was possible to see much of the Olympic Winter Games.


BadConsultant was having one of his moments, triggered by the Microsoft Silverlight player. Or more accurately, the NBC installation of Silverlight on its site.

Down in the bottom right hand corner, there’s a small button marked ‘Boss Button’

[not a new innovation, by the way – we first saw it on the Cisco job-site in the late 90’s]

which immediately hides the video player with a screenshot of Microsoft Vista sporting an empty Excel spreadsheet. Nothing else, no icons, no temporarily stored files.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way.

  1. As soon as you click the screen (anywhere) the video starts up again
  2. There are NO icons on the desktop
  3. There are no applications indicated on the taskbar, not even Excel, which is open on the desktop

Bottom line – even the dumbest boss is going to know you’re not working

[just sitting staring at an empty spreadsheet]

remember, the Vista/Office combo is the modern manager’s wet-dream.

But that wasn’t what gave us pause.

[we’re used to ranting about Microsoft products, and felt slightly dirty installing Silverlight on our macs]

Encapsulated in that Boss Button is everything that is just deeply weird about corporate abnormality.

Firstly, it goes without saying that it’s reinforces the deeply-held Theory X view of work that permeates the modern corporation – that employees are feckless, lazy and will shirk responsibility whenever possible.

Secondly, it reinforces the old-school ‘them’ and ‘us’ of manager-employee relationship, and presumes that a manager is a) micro-managing; and b) punitive.

We’ve written about both subjects enough to not bring them in here.

What’s most striking about the Boss Button deployment is that, while Microsoft functionality might have made it easy, NBC chose to put it there.

NBC, the national network that runs newsitorials

[made up words like newsitorials are cool]

about how American industry is failing with no hope of improvement. NBC, the national network that daily laments behaviors that contributed mightily to the downfall of modern capitalism as we knew it. NBC, the national network that is clawing for every pair of eyeballs it can get.

NBC, the national network that just threw away a huge opportunity

[once every four years]

to use its unique access to educate and influence its users for the better. In essence the value proposition from NBC for this Olympic Winter Games could have been written as:

We know you hate your job and are scared by your boss, we can help you dodge your responsibilities by watching our videos, and we’ll even keep it our dirty little secret, OK?

Is that what we want from a national network? Is it how NBC will survive and succeed in the integrated world? BadConsultant doesn’t think so.

How about this:

At this very special time, which only comes about every four years, your employees are going to be distracted by the Winter Olympics, many of them are going to be watching our video feeds while on duty. This is going to happen regardless of anything you do, so we thought we’d help you gain some benefit – at our online site, you will find a team chat-room, so that your employees can build stronger relationships with their colleagues rather than watching in isolation and, as you’ll be naturally worried about productivity, we’ve included a widget to post performance progress so that your employees will know if they’re pushing the video-watching too far. In the team area, you’ll also find resources to help assess performance, coaching and management practices from the olympics so that you can gain maximum learning for the time your employees spend on our site. You’ll also find the ‘Who Are Our Olympians?’ recognition widget so your own team can celebrate its star players.

Granted, it’s not so pithy, but it offers at least some sense of value-add.

[and we’d be happy to provide a statement of work for NBC or anyone else wanting to introduce any of the functionality above]

The point being, in a time where every eyeball counts, wouldn’t it be nice to have a national network that understood that the only way it will survive and succeed is to go beyond ‘we are presenting images’ to ‘we are growing others’?

Ah well, as we said, it was just one of those moments…

A bientôt mes amis!


ps: congratulations to athletes of ALL countries for a fabulous Olympic Winter Games, and to Vancouver for a fantastic job well done

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