Millennials – plus ca change, la meme chose

It is very interesting to read recent posts from Frank Clayton and Charlie Walker-Wise about millennials’ attitudes and values.  Their remarks make valuable contributions to the rolling discussion about this demographic, which seems to me to be often unfairly slighted for being work-shy, recalcitrant and pessimistic.

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Astroturfing

I intend to keep this blog short; I hope that is a pleasing first sentence.  I want to toss you a tough piece of meat to chew on or, rather, give you a piece of astroturf to lay…

Last Week Tonight

 

 

Are you fans of UK satirist, John Oliver, and his HBO show “Last Week Tonight”? It is broadcast in the UK on Sky Atlantic.

For me, it is required viewing on a Monday night.

 

This week, after his usual verbal fusillade at President Trump, Oliver does a lengthy piece about something called “Astroturfing”.  You can watch it here, https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6rxztfThere is an ad for a web-site building business fronting the piece. 

As ever with Oliver, his soliloquies contain some strong profanity.  His frustration at the legal advice constraining him from saying what he wants to remark is palpable and a joy to watch. 

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The curse of the accidental manager

On July 12th, the FT published an article headlined “The UK’s productivity problem: the curse of the ‘accidental manager”, you can find it here – https://www.ft.com/content/b96ce8f2-5dd9-11e8-ad91-e01af256df68.

Are pork pies good for you?

It is somewhat disquieting to read that the “Peter principle”, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle, continues to thrive in UK business.  Our poor productivity performance arises because too many people gain promotion into managerial roles beyond their level of natural competence.  However, in the firm featured in the FT article performance is improving.

It strikes me, however, that simply hanging up figures of Superman (is this unconscious bias by the firm’s leaders?), and doling out pork pies are rather superficial practices.  The only likely outcome of this epicurean approach is hardened arteries.

The firm’s performance growth is due to its managers doing something much more profound, i.e. the way they “serve” their employees, see Robert Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Power-Servant-Leadership-Robert-K-Greenleaf/dp/1576750353/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1531821205&sr=8-3&keywords=robert+greenleaf.

At the simplest level, they should be talking to their employees as equal partners striving for success.  When this is achieved, I hope they’re rewarded with more than cholesterol laden pies!

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Strategy and structure: squaring a necessary circle

Strategic decision making – is it history?

In 1977, the historian Alfred Chandler of Harvard Business School published a seminal book on the history of strategic decision making at the highest levels of American firms, including General Motors, DuPont, Standard Oil and Sears Roebuck.  Of these, GM and DuPont remain strong businesses.  Standard was broken up as in illegal monopoly in early 20th century although its progeny,  Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, continue to thrive.   Sears struggles as do so many retailers in the face of the storm called Amazon.  The book is called “The Visible Hand:  The Managerial Revolution in American Business”.  From the book comes a maxim that I believe still rings true.  It is attributed to Alfred Sloane, one of GM’s founders.  The maxim is, “Structure follows strategy”.

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Carillion: just an isolated symptom or the first case of corporate Ebola?

Carillion – the politicians’ view

“Carillion had a ‘rotten corporate culture’” screamed the headline above the article in the business section of BBC’s news website on Wednesday, May 16th, see  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44129678.

The article remarks, “In a damning 100-page report, the Work and Pensions and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committees said:

The Big Four accountancy firms were a “cosy club incapable of providing the degree of independent challenge needed”

Carillion’s collapse had exposed “systemic flaws” in corporate Britain and showed regulators were “toothless”

And warned “Carillion could happen again, and soon”

Furthermore, the two committees called Carillion’s rise and fall “a story of recklessness, hubris and greed“.

Undoubtedly, these are strong words.  Despite emanating from two bodies representing a larger group of people, MPs, in whom the public have lost trust and respect, they should not be disregarded as an example of the pot calling the kettle black, of people throwing stones in glass houses.  They beg a broader question being posed.

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