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Index of Agile Companies Entries:
1-25 · 26-50 · 51-75 · 76-100 · 101-125 · 126-150 · Current Entries


25.  Business Philosophers
The late Paul Tillich carefully distinguished between psychological and existential problems.  After years of dealing with dysfunction, businessmen are using philosophers to deal with purposeful functionality.  The capitalist Socratics have had an association since April called The American Philosophical Practitioners Association, now 175 strong.  It includes Lou Marinoff, author of Plato Not Prozac: Applying Philosophy to Everyday Problems (Harper Collins, 1999).  Working along the same lines but more focused on businesses exclusively is Tom Morris, author of If Aristotle Ran General Motors: The New Soul of Business (Henry Holt & Company, 1997).   Naturally, Dr. Morris has an institute, the Morris Institute for Human Values.  See "If Plato Ran His In-laws Insurance Company," The New York Times, January 5, 2000, p. C6.  All in all, this philosophical bent can get business and businesspeople to clarify their goals, half the battle in achieving more nimbleness. 

24.  It's All in the Details
To everyone's shock, the conservative Joaquin Lavin, formerly mayor of a plush neighborhood in Santiago, threatens to win Chile's presidency.  Because he sweats small stuff, like graffiti, health clinics, housing, and education.  Like Bismark in the 19th century and Republican U. S. governors in the 20th, he's solving liberal problems with a conservative managerial style.  See "Chilean's Homespun Record Could Make Him President," The New York Times, Sunday, January 9, 2000, p. 3.

23.  Loblaw Gets Fit
Loblaw Supermarkets in Canada has now put fitness clubs in its supermarkets.  This is just one innovation of one of the world's most limber retailers.  It offers a wider spectrum of products and services than most grocers.   Note, too, that it was early-to-battle with value concepts -- capturing individual retail data in order to grow sales to key customers at accelerated rates.  See "Loblaw Supermarkets Add Fitness Clubs to Offerings," The Wall Street Journal, p. B4, December 27, 1999.

22.  Quick Thinking
Nobel-prize winner Herbert Simon believes human intuition is really "pattern recognition."  For sure, this can be learned--and maybe even taught--but it's still hard work.  To be a world-class pattern-recognizer, you must put in "at least ten years of hard work--say, 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year."  (See "Flash of Genius," by Phillip E. Ross, Forbes, November 16, 1998, pp. 98-104).  Or better yet, see Simon's books, wich include:

21.  Nimble Goliath
We used to say that the worst-managed companies were banks and utilities.  But life changes.   Look at goliath AES--early to market peddling its kilowatts to other utilities, fast to buy up privatized power plants overseas, and now selling power to small businesses and households, with the juice supplied by local utilities not owned by AES.  Its flat structure and unusual decision process has led to nimble moves and huge returns.  (See Business Week, "Not Acting At All Like a Utility," December 13, 1999, pp. 94-98).

20.  Recipe Book
Tom Malone of MIT believes that the work of the future will get done by small, specialist companies plugged into world knowledge through the Internet.  (see The New York Times, December 2, 1999, p. C1).  With his Phios Corporation, he's doing his part to help small teams do huge things.  Its software permits companies to store business processes and practices in ways that let  you and me find the needles-in-a-haystack we need to get our jobs done very easily.  With Phios, we presume the Help buttons on our computers would give us something useful, rather than the drivel that's stored there today.  See

19.  Samurai CEOs
The name--EIM or Executive Interim Management--does not describe the business.   What it does is supply swat-team executives who can parachute into turnaround companies and put things right while you're recruiting a permanent chief executive.   This began as an offshoot of a Dutch management consulting firm and headhunter Egon Zehnder.  Independent now, it is a major success throughout Europe.  Now two ex-McKinsey chaps, who have been occasional CEOs themselves, are leading the U. S. beachhead, based in New York City.  Their twist is that you are buying them as well as a CEO--in the form of a guarantee to get the job done.  Contact Dennis Powers ( or Roger Sweeney (, or call 212-519-6192.   

18.   Divide to Conquer
Once Leo Burnett, Chicago's big ad agency, consisted of 77 full-service advertising agencies spread across 70 geographic markets.  "Today, it is ogranized as some 280-plus operating units."  (See Financial Times, December 6, 1999, p. 8).  Roger Haupt, an Englishman, becomes chief executive on January 1--yet more evidence that U. S. advertising will never be the same.  In the mold of Martin Sorrell, he's a number-cruncher turned CEO.  Only very international, very specialized service team can respond to the ultra-segmentation of media and client markets today.

17.   NCR's Invention Machine
"We maintain four Inventions Departments....  We take out ten times as many new patents in a year as wehave old ones expire."  (John H. Patterson, June 1906, in his "National Cash Register Company Annual Report.")  Even then, this was how small technology companies became big technology companies.

16. Rigidity and Mis-Allocation of Capital
The Economist, November 27, 1999, p. 5, "Survey of Business in Japan," speaks of how a rigid political economy produces company rigidity.  "The system has seized up.  Resources fail to flow to the most promising, fastest-growing, most productive bits of the economy.  The Japanese call the disease Kochoku, or rigidity." But has anyone looked at the costs imposed by investment bankers and lawyers in the U. S. lately?

15.   Capital One's Version of One-on-One Marketing
Capital One Financial has become so acute at data mining that it correctly pitches more than 7,000 Mastercard and Visa variations to prospective cardholders with major account growth, steady profit outlook, and good stock appreciation.  Its bad-debt charge-offs amount to 3.88% vs. the 6.2% industry norm.  Using tests to find the right employees, its attrition rate has dropped almost to 10%.  (Business Week, November 22, 1999, p. 173). See

14.   New York's Finest Teach CIA
CIA managers just took a look at New York City's Compstat crime prevention system which used detailed, very current crime statistics from precincts to instantly retool its tactics and deployment, quickly getting resources and forces behind the right problems.   See (The New York Times, November 6, 1999, p. A12).

13.  Strategic Alliances Number One
In The Conference Board's 1999 Annual Report, consultant Peter Drucker essays on "The Real Meaning of the Merger Boom." The "heydey of mergers," he says, was a century ago.  Today, he finds, we are in a "merger and de-merger boom," both conglomeration and de-conglomeration being equal in volume and importance.

The story of our age, he suggests, is strategic alliances.   "The real boom has been in alliances of all kinds...."   "These changes make the economy more flexible and more adaptable.  But they also make it more volatile.  They surely require that executives acquire new skills, if not a different mindset."  See Annual Report 1999, The Conference Board, p. 1-6.

Update: A Powerful BrewOften the best alliances are those, which on the face of things, are illogical.  The best partners may be separated by vast cultural and geographic space, and  both can come from  far different industries.  “In 1984, shortly after an Amgen scientist cloned the gene to make Epogen, Rathmann got a call from Kirin Brewery Co, (then) Japan’s largest beermaker.  Kirin offered to lend its fermentation expertise to Amgen’s manufacturing process in return for joint commercialization rights.  Despite the unlikely pairing of beer and biotech, Rathmann struck a deal that secured $12 million in much-needed financing….  The Kirin partnership is ‘key to our history.’”  Strategic partners from quite different spheres often have the power to be true collaborators, rather than nitpicking, over-cautious competitors.  And they are different enough in nature to bring exponentially different knowledge to bear on their common enterprise.  Small biotech companies that have picked major drugmakers as partners have often had their feathers plucked by their heavy-handed partners.  See Forbes, September 19, 2005, p. 22.  (10/19/05)

12.  Primedia Now Multimedia
On September 27, 1999, Primedia (NYSE: PRM), the Kohlberg Kravis vehicle with a magazine media collection ranging from New York Magazine to Drag Racing USA, brought in Tom Rogers from NBC as chief executive.  He put NBC into CNBC, MSNBC, cable, the internet, etc.  By forcibly putting Primedia on several tracks, he is expected to unleash the shareholder value inherent in the media brand power Primedia has across a range of niches.  Traditional media empires, whether print or broadcast, have had a hard time reconceiving themselves, which means repackaging content for continuous redistribution to a variety of outlets, while religiously containing talent and product costs.  For more info, click here.

11.  Neutron Jack Becomes Platonic Jack
In the Platonic Dialogues, Socrates listened to youths, even as he led them to wisdom. Thus, Jack Welch. "A London manager in GE Capital recently told Mr. Welch how his unit was using young people to teach their bosses about the internet. Within days, the order went out that every senior manager of GE, from Mr. Welch down, should spend a couple of hours a week being bossed around by an 'internet mentor,' usually a generation younger." (See The Economist, September 18-24, 1999, p. 24).  Well, how do good ideas spread and multiply?

10. German Productivity
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Germany's output per hour grew 4.3% in 1998, closely followed by the U. S. at 4.1%. Nobody else was close. With all of Germany's political problems, we still have to remind ourselves what a productive nation it is, fueled by its midsized manufacturing gazelles. See

9. Strategic Alliances and Growth
Understanding that alliances are vital to revenue growth, Business Week (October 25, 1999, pp. 106) just did a long report on alliances, which is worthwhile because of the references. Basically, alliances are madly multiplying, but, simultaneously, failing faster than ever. But the logic of the internet and agility is based on collaboration, and so we will be forced to make formal and informal alliances work, which implies a vastly different type of corporate leader. Economic theory, incidentally, suggests that all business units would be small and collaborative in an ideal economic world where we get rid of transaction costs imposed by lawyers, accountants, and other middlemen.

8.   Behind the Curve--"The CEO Challenge: Top Marketplace and Management Issues," 1244-99-RR
This important study from The Conference Board shows how terribly immobile the world's major corporations are.  In general, top issues were "downward pressure on prices," "changes in competition," "industry consolidation," and "customer loyalty and retention."  Things like the internet, innovation, and talent accumulation ranked relatively low.  Growth and revenue development do not appear in the tabulation.  It is a fair assumption that major chief executives, except surprisingly in Japan, are reacting to yesterday's challenges, not to today's opportunities.  Cost-cutting--the quest of the 1980s--still absorbs the CEOs surveyed.

 7.  King of the Knowledge-Makers
In 1997, Ikujiro Nonaka returned to University  of California at Berkeley as the Business School's first ever professor of knowledge.  Co-author of The Knowledge Creating Company, Oxford University Press, 1995, and dean of a knowledge science department at Japan's Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, he's a bit different from the knowledge captains who coach large corporations.  He puts less emphasis on databases and the MIS paraphernalia these people over-espouse.  And he puts emphasis on creativity and learning atmosphere as the means by which companies can foster big ideas.  See The Economist, May 31, 1997, p. 63.

 6.  Agile Scandinavians
"The Swedes are Coming," Across the Board, June 1999, pp 31-35.   This article cites several companies--Ikea, Scandia, Absolut, Volvo, SAS, and ABB--that exhibit unusual dexterity internationally, also noting some gurus who sponsor leading edge business thinking. Prophetically, it says "Scandinavian countries have to embrace the world because the world is unlikely to rush toward the North Pole to embrace them. Small home markets offer strong incentives to internationalize." Time and again, it has been clear that the huge internal market of the U. S. has actually hampered business agility and globalization. The article focuses too much on the Swedes, not enough on Finland or Denmark. Nokia of Finland has been fleeter of foot than several of the Swedish housenames. It's often said that the Finns invent it and the Swedes market it.  For more info on Across the Board, see

5. Warner-Lambert 98 Annual Report
Warner-Lambert -- possessor of a well-tuned marketing machine, a manufacturing operation which responds rapidly even to mass merchandisers, and a pharmaceutical pipeline that has produced two blockbusters in recent years -- attributes its success, in the face of much larger global competitors, to its globalized agile managers.  See

4. Agility Forum
Once upon a time, this was the Agile Manufacturing Enterprise Forum, but it's taken on a more agile name. CEO's, government, academia all have a hand in its direction. Its activities include conferences, cooperative projects, and strategic alliances. It provides a good network into companies focused on manufacturing agility. See

3. The Janus Centre
This Toronto management consultancy is focused on agility. It cites some companies it feels are agile. More interesting are the many questionnaires Janus provides through which you can test your own capacity to act with agility. Janus also offers software to manage one's strategic process. See

2.  Fortune Articles on Globalization
What is a Global Company? This is at the heart of Agility. Surely every agile company is a global company and vice versa. In Fortune, Tom Stewart has recently addressed in two short essays the question of how companies get global in a global age. Obviously, as several European and Asian nations point out to us, globalizing is an especially hard chore for Americans, since we are so absorbed with our own internal market. For us, there are 2 interesting questions here. First, which companies feel more global at the end of the day? The answer, those who've long had a global presence in many places long enough to keep the whole ship afloat even when domestic operations are faltering. By this criteria, Colgate is more global than Proctor & Gamble. Heinz is more global than Campbell.

The second interesting strategic question is one of convergence. Despite all the talk, the world has still not entered the information age. Just now, the Internet and open systems are changing all that. Information and globalization are building on each other. For 15 years, in America, we have been in a pan>

ss age to which all our governments in the U.S. have not adjusted. With the Internet, and with the growth of service revenues among all multinations, we are about to see an acceleration in globalization. To read Stewart, see Fortune, March 15, 1999, "A Way to Measure Worldwide Success," page 196 and Fortune, February 15, 1999, "Getting Real About Going Global," page 170. 
(For "Getting Real," see

1. Agility Management Partners, Inc.
Agility is a Cambridge start-up founded to help companies do their strategies, their transformations, and their IT projects on real-time. The traditional problems of strategy development and strategy implementation are magnified in this era where the business environment is so terribly volatile. Yesterday's strategy does not work today, and today's won't work tomorrow. Plans and projects go awry or don't get completed, because they are disconnected from the realities of the marketplace. Agility has a process built around its proprietary Agility software which keeps strategy, plans, big ideas, and projects moving and changing as the world turns. Key managers about the globe acting in entirely different timeframes constantly work over the strategy and plans -- perpetual interaction that's unceasing. All the managers who should interact participate in a non-stop virtual conference where everybody thinks through and works through the strategy. Agility Management Partners, 15 Mt. Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138-6030, Telephone: 617-497-7733 or e-mail to Mr. Douglas Beaven at
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