50. Grid Kills
You've heard it before: we need more out-of-the-box thinking. But if you
look deeply, most everything you see and hear is always in boxes. Photographers see
most of their best images ruined by very static grid designers. In an intriguing
interview of Peter Greenaway, "Against the Tyranny of Cinema," by Hugh
Aldersey-Williams, Graphis, number 326, March/April 2000, pp. 96-103, the
all-powerful box is shown to control our modern visual experience. "We always
look at live action drama through the wretched triangle.... Cinema, of course, in
early days, copied that notion, and television has then copied that." If we are
going to get out of the box, we need to stare at the heavens or get out on the ocean.
Then we can clear our heads enough to think expansively.
49. Space Capsule
For 30 years, we have been looking at how one's office affects creativity,
productivity, health, happiness, and business effectiveness. We are astounded that
even now in the whole high-technology community in our part of the country, we have found
exactly one company that has housed itself in an imaginative way. Is it any wonder
that talent does not flood here: neither the workspaces nor the landscaping look
As we visit corporate campuses in Plano, or lower
Connecticut, out in New Jersey, beyond O'Hare, we find that they have enclosed their
employees in tight capsules that are one color and have one sound. They are hard to
navigate despite the modular expensive furniture in black and gray that comes in from four
or five scientific mid-western furniture makers.
We think interesting business people do pay attention to
their environments. In this vein, we refer you to "Beyond Vanities: Making the Office
Less Officious," and "The
Bottom Line: A Checklist for the CEO and His Office," both of which appeared in
our publication First and Last in Spring 1988.
48. Principled Capitalism
Leon Sullivan has restated his Sullivan Principles in global form. (See http://www.chevron.com/newsvs/pressrel/1999/sullivanprinciples.html.)
If, indeed, our foreign policy can assume that trade and foreign investment will
assist the spread of democracy, then it is important for multinationals to proclaim their
belief in fairness. Trade alone probably will not spread anything. Projecting
a sense of values is also very helpful in achieving growth in an international setting.
47. Alliances Abound
See "What's That Noise on the Internet? The Sound of Alliances Being
Forged," New York Times, June 7, 2000, E-Commerce, Part 2, p. 25. In
our Annual Report 2000 on Annual
Reports, we said that the hallmark of corporate strategy for 2000 and succeeding years
will be the capacity to forge and manage alliances. Performance measures will have
to be created to gauge how you succeed at creating value through entities that are not
part of your company. We have yet to see anything in the accounting world to measure
how value is really created now.
46. Higgins Had It
Just so you don't think agility is an invention of management gurus and lean
manufacturing exports, we refer you to Andrew Higgins. See "'The Man Who Won
World War II' Is Remembered, at Long Last," International Herald Tribune,
Wednesday, June 7, 2000, p. 2. This Nebraska native (why did all the sailors come
from land-locked states?), over the objections of the U.S. Navy, conceived, designed, and
built a LCM (Landing Craft-Mechanized) in 61 hours. (Eat your heart out, Toyota).
In 1943, he had built 12, 964 of the Navy's 14,072 vessels, 8,865 of which were
constructed in New Orleans. By the end of World War II, he had built more than
20,000 boats for the U.S.
45. Honesty is Agility
3M has pulled Scotchgard off the market, because its perfluorooctane sulfonate
(PFOs) ingredient is showing up in everything and everybody and may be a health
hazard. 3M acted on its own, without a push from the E.P.A. While troubling
data has been coming in for 30 years, harder data has now been coming in for 3 years, and
3M has acted with commendable dispatch. It did not stonewall the problem but came to
terms in a hurry with a tough decision. Indeed, a tendency to do the right thing can
lead a company to act fast and flexibly in its own best interests. See "3M's
Big Cleanup," Business Week, June 5, 2000, pp. 96-98.
44. Alliance for Alliances
The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (A.S.A.P.) started up in May
1999. Full of heavies who are striving to be light of foot, it numbers Lucent,
Siemens, Hewlett-Packard, 3M amongst its members. In the year of the Internet,
naturally its may conference in San Francisco is an "E-Business Alliance
Summit." See more at www.strategic-alliances.org.
43. Frankfurt, the Financial Capital
Today, maybe the most innovative financial exchange in Europe -- perhaps in the
world -- is located in Frankfurt. This should not surprise us, because its history
as a financial center dates back to the Middle Ages. Today it is the home of the
European Central Bank. If you read German, learn more about Frankfurt as a rising
star in Carl-Ludwig Holtfrerich's Frankfurt as a Financial Centre (Munich: C.H.
Beck Verlag, 1999). Also see The Economist, March 18, 2000, p. 9.
42. Omnicom and Innovation
Obviously advertising agencies should sponsor creativity and innovation, but
rarely do. Omnicom has lots of parts and has let them pretty much go their own way,
with hefty returns for shareholders. (See "An Empire of Happy Fiefdoms," Business
Week, April 3, 2000, pp. 68-70.) Yes, innovation does happen in small
units. Yes, professional service businesses still do not gain profitability from
scale, functioning better as small tribes.
41. Real Options
In a previous entry, we pointed out that Level 3 Communications had come up with
honest options. They peg rewards to real performance, and they are included in the
company's accounting statements, as should be the case with all options. Learn yet
more about this in The Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2000, p. R8. James Q.
Crowe talks turkey here with Joann S. Lublin about the whole option question.
40. How Big Ideas Seize the Stage
My friend Howard Austin put me onto Bruno Latour's The Pasteurization
of France. With Malcolm Gladwell (see our item in Big Ideas) we
explored how fads become faddish -- turning into this season's hit on Broadway or 7th
Avenue. Latour deals with a wider landscape -- how the big ideas become the stuff of
everyman's life. In this book we see how Pasteur's talent and ideas joined with the
social mosaic of his century to infiltrate lives throughout the Western World. Since
we need more titanic innovations in business, church, and especially government, it is to
Latour and company to whom we must look for a perspective on how to get big things done.
Other Latour books are:
39. Mark Mr. O'Connor
Most of us think we need agile companies because we have entered a new economy
(digital possibilities plus the Internet) and a global world where everybody is eating
everybody's lunch with low-cost labor (China), miniaturization (Japan), cartelization
(Saudi Arabia et al.), and hot money (sometimes called the global financial system).
We would contend that these are only symptoms of a larger tectonic shift in world
economics where our political arrangements are vastly out of accord with the forces that
make for general prosperity.
While we talk of agile practices, we rarely talk of the
agile kind of people who operate well in this ambiguous economic context. Look to Mark O'Connor. While not part of the business
world, he is certainly an analogue of the agile man. (See The New York Times,
"Fiddling While the Old Barriers Burn," AR 37 & 48, April 2, 2000.)
From Seattle, his father was an alcoholic, his mother an invalid. Taking up the fiddle at
13, he won an Idaho fiddling contest at 17 -- the country's most significant fiddling
event. Successively, he worked his way to the top of the heap of jazz rockers, then
onto Nashville to become Country Musician of the Year for 1990 through 1995. Next
to classical. And now a composer, combining classical with fiddling in "The
The agile practitioner in this new economy comes from
nowhere, travels through everywhere, and is rapidly on his or her way to somewhere -- but
no one knows where. He is a learner -- but unlike all that stuff we talk of in
knowledge management, his learning becomes progressively more cosmic, and it gets to
places yet unexplored by anybody.
Agility, we must be clear, is just not a matter of
organizational forms or business practices. It requires agile people who are often a
bit at odds with the way things are. This presents a terribly interesting quandary
for human resources practitioners who largely train people to adapt to what is, not to
create what is not.
38. Pay-As-You-Go Management Training
Siemens management education tackles real company problems, saving the company
more than $11 million in 1999, putting together teams from different parts of the company
to cut telephone bills or bid more effectively on possible projects. By forcing
managers from different divisions to work together, the program also helps conquer the
stovepipe mentality that afflicts the $65 billion company (see Business Week,
November 15, 1999, pp. 281-82).
37. On the Level
Jim Crowe of Level 3 believes
in linking options to a company's market performance and, importantly, in currently
accounting for the options awarded as compensation (see Forbes, March 20, 2000,
p. 74). Almost every American corporation fails to account for the cost of
options as they are awarded, which effectively means you cannot rely on their financial
statements. Recording real costs as they occur and rewarding executives for street
performance based on real results lies at the heart of long-term corporate
36. Anatomy of a Culture
Rarely have we seen an annual report that works as hard as Charter One Financial
1999 in Cleveland to demonstrate that a company is agile. It even has a two-page
spread called "Jack Be Nimble," detailing how it has moved fast on new products
as well on acquisition. Click here for Charter
35. Brand Power Does Count
Corporate Branding of
Stamford, Connecticut, reports a significant drop in "brand power" scores for
the first time in the 10-year history of its survey (see The Wall Street Journal,
March 21, 2000, p. B8). The companies with the highest ratings dropped about 8%; the
second tier -- the next hundred or so -- plummeted 11%. There are some commentators
who say brands no longer count in the New Economy, but e-commerce companies don't believe
it. They are spending massive amounts of dollars in rather traditional ways to gain
brand recognition. We think that brand deterioration is actualy much worse than this
survey shows, and we will be commenting further about massive brand deterioration among
major companies. By and large, one can say that loss of brand power truly indicates loss
34. The New Global Manager
In our newsletter First and Last (Spring 1990), we adapted a speech of
Robert D. Horton's, given at the Darden School in Virginia. Horton, once British
Petroleum's chief executive, is gone, but he was unusually prescient. We like one
core idea of his: "So the international manager must be comfortable with a high
degree of uncertainty." Click here for an excerpt from "The New Global Manager."
33. Some Tips for World Beaters
In First and Last (Spring 1990), we gave some global business
suggestions that still bear up pretty well. They will still let you pull ahead of
your competition. Click for Some
Down-to-Earth Tips for the International Bound.
32. Getting Through Brick Walls
In a recent interview, the pollster John Zogby (see
his site) says he only gets through on 30% of his phone calls, versus 60% fifteen
years ago. This is just symbolic of the broader pattern in marketing and
communications. Invitations to large business mettings, even when confirmed on the
day of the meeting, only net 30 to 50% of those who have accepted. Either people are
too busy (Zogby's thesis) or they are turned off by the relentless communication from
pollsters and marketers. This insularity has turned corporate communication and
marketing upside-down for fast-moving companies. We would suggest that it means
putting all sorts of emphasis on creating palatable messages, less on the means and
frequency of distribution. Don't use network TV; don't use cable TV. Do use
Dilbert, Colin Powell, and C-SPAN to reach America.
31. Bose Corporation
Amar Bose is the king of speakers, his company soaring to nearly $1 billion in
sales over a couple of decades (see the company website).
Its R&D engineering force (now 600) and its very unconventional marketing
(directly to consumers) has given it 20% of the home speaker market. Its Wave radio,
with terrific sound and mildly ugly design, provided the liftoff for this brand. See
The Economist, January 15, 2000, p. 71).
30. PE Corporation
Obviously the "PE" really stands for "price-earnings" ratio.
Tony White, late of Baxter and now chairman of PE, dumped the Perkin-Elmer
name and, essentially, all its old businesses to become a genome research and genome
equipment company. This is what it takes to be an Internet-generation company when
you are a relic: the "new" company swallows or sheds old businesses.
Other companies -- Corning, Adaptive Broadband, etc. -- have done it, but relatively
slowly. One sign of the agile company is how fast it gets rid of old cocoons,
mindsets, old-fashioned assets, etc. See "Gene Machine," Forbes,
February 21, 2000, pp. 99-104.
After New Hampshire, the Bush campaign was in bad trouble. In 24 hours, the
campaign moved from "I feel for you" (compassionate conservative) to "I get
things done" (the real reformer). The ability to retool strategy and tactics on
the run proves Bush a fast study, even compared with the malleable Clinton
entourage. Bush has told people not to under-estimate him, but, of course, they
do. He does have the ability to mobilize and refocus resources. The test, of
course, is whether he can reinvent himself once more as the campaign finally moves to
28. Recharged Batteries
For years Rayovac (NYSE:ROV) has been the also-ran of the battery business.
No longer. With Boston's LBO king Thomas H. Lee as a big owner, CEO David A. Jones
has raised gross margins from 43% to 48% in three years, redesigning core processes and
achieving major systems integration. And using Michael Jordan as a spokesman to
bolster sales, it has spiked revenues at the mega-retailers such as Wal-Mart, KMart, and
Target. This is a sparkling performance in what currently amounts to a commodity market
(see "A Talk With the Man Who Got Rayovac All Charged Up," Business Week,
February 21, 2000, pp. 32F-32H).
This is a nickname, meaning "anywhere," for Japan's NTT Mobile
Communication Network, Inc. Headed by Kouji Ohboshi, first trained as a lawyer,
DoCoMo has rocked the Japanese mobile-phone industry, creating explosive growth and
rampant innovation. He put $5 billion plus into a digital network in 1993-94, cut
product development times from years to six months, sliced subscriber fees, and added
full-powered multimedia services to the phones. A tired unit of Japan's phone
monopoly NTT, DoCoMo was spun off and immediately came to life under Ohboshi. See The
Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2000, pp. B1 and B4.
26. Picture Power
You know you have always said that a picture is worth a thousand words. A
speech maker who can tell stories we can all see in our minds' eye will totally grab our
attention. TV and other multimedia drive our children away from the written word.
In Michael Schrage's "How Prototypes Can Change Your Business," Across
the Board, January 2000, p. 43-47, we learn that model-building can drive
innovation. Schrage claims that "virtually every significant marketplace
innovation in this century is a direct result of extensive prototyping and simulation . .
. ." "In the 21st century, modelshare will be recognized as a
precursor to mindshare and marketshare."
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