Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Don't. Throw. Books. Away.

It was standing still and quite in the corner of a small WSJE kitchen. I don't know why or how but when I passed the dumpster with a cup of capucino I noticed what I thought were books under the cardboard boxes. I removed the cardboard and yes, somebody must have taken the decision to unload part of his or her library.

This one book "I'd like the world to buy a coke" was staring me in the face. I wouldn't dare to criticize journalists or editors (the books must have come from the newsdepartment) but my hart bleeds when I see books being thrown away, even when I know they are bad or completely outdated. I couldn't help myself and saved at least 20 books after I read the backcover of the Coca Cola book. It said:

"... Although Goizueta -former CEO of Coca Cola- was described as formal, courtly and gentlemanly, his management practices have been nicknamed the 'Spanish Inquisition' for his interrogations of international managers. Whatever his quirks, his leadership saw Coke mushroom into an enormously profitable $18 billion enterprise. ..."

It made me wonder what the 'Spanish Inquisition' leadership style was all about. It made me save the book aswell as 19 others.

If readers of this blog would also like to trim down their library because they think 'print is dead', please send me a note so I can rescue at least all your managementbooks.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mothers are topmanagers, but ...

It is obvious from the title of this blog I believe in the management capacities of mothers. A lot is to be learned from the way mothers handle children, organize their home or structure their day.

In Europe a reverse political correct climate towards women is surfacing. Political parties are obliged to fill their ranks with a fixed percentage of women (Belgium, Germany, ...). Local governments force themselves to include a fixed percentage of women (Austria, ...).

In Germany on the highway from Koln to Brussels at a usually very busy 'Rasthof' (gasoline station with restaurant alongside the highway) the following sign was erected, see picture.

The signs says:
"Parkingspot for Women.
Please keep 3 spots open."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The 525-Rule

The '525' rule says that 25 per cent of a company's sales revenue should accrue from products launched during the last 5 years.

This rule was invented by Sumantra Ghoshal, a Strategic and International Management Professor at the London Business School. Ghoshal was also the founding Dean of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. He held doctoral degrees in management from MIT and Harvard. The Economist described him once as the 'Euroguru'. (He died March 2004.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sun Tzu - The Art of War - Is Business War ?

Troops in desperate straits
Know no fear.
Where there is no escape,
They stand firm;
When they have entered deep,
They persist;
When they see no hope,

They fight.

They are alert
Without needing

They act
Without needing

They are devoted
Without needing
A compact;

They are loyal
Without needing

Sun Tzu, ca 6th century BC was the author of The Art of War, an ancient Chinese book on military strategy. Research however suggested at some point that Sun Tzu's work was actually authored by unknown Chinese philosophers and that Sun Tzu did not actually exist as a historical figure. Many of the ideas from The Art of War were translated to typical business environments in more modern times.
(On the war of business, see blog to come, when tackling the television show 'The Topmanager'.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Nightmare for operations managers - information gaps are worse than fire.

Fire! It happened last week to The Wall Street Journal Europe. A warehouse of Sabena Technics at the Brussels airport caught fire during the night. Nothing to do with us. Only one problem, the fire blocked the road towards one of our destinations, the DHL hub at the airport.

Whatever emergency procedure you have, you need time to deploy it. In this case there was no time to save the situation. Our products were in the trucks, the trucks were blocked a few 100 meters from their destination. What do you do ? What can you do ? Do you know uberhaupt there is a problem ? We didn't. Unfortunately. It was only in the morning we found out our products hadn't left the country. Somewhere along the line there had been an information gap. We lost sales for 1 day in 6 countries, Cyprus, Denmark, (part of) France, Morocco, (part of) Sweden and Scotland.

Question: Suppose we had known about the problem in the middle of the night, what could we have done ? Nothing! At least not on the operational level. Everything! Especially at the information level. We should have been able to inform our uppermanagement, eventhough it was already after midnight. All (upper) managers have Blackberries. Suppose your COO has troubles falling asleep that particular night. He hears on the 3 AM news there is a major problem at the airport endangering the supply chain of all airport customers. Wouldn't you like him to find already a message about the problem on his Blackberry? Just to show you are on top of things ? I would. The COO knows nothing can be done, that it indeed will hurt sales, yes, but in the meantime he is reassured he has the right people on the job, just because they know, or show they know, or pretend they know it is important to share critical info, so at least immediate action can be taken first thing in the morning. It is this feeling of reassurance that ultimately will stay behind in the mind of the COO. Not the fire.

(picture: the destroyed technical warehouse at Brussels airport disrupting the supply chain of The Wall Street Journal Europe)

Look for disasters.
They are the unfortunate but ultimate way
to strengthen your position in the company.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Management of ideas: Libero + The Wall Street Journal Europe

For 4 days the superselling Italian political newspaper Libero will be sold together with the business newspaper The Wall Street Journal Europe (WSJE) in the Milan region. Contrary to the declining European newspaper industry Libero managed to grow constantly the last couple of years reaching a circulation of 250.000 copies in Italy. And that for a pure political newspaper!!! I don't know what their secret recipe is but their growth is extra-ordinary. Libero came up with the idea and request to sell two quality newspapers together in 1 plastic bag for just 1 Euro in Milan as a test. They were willing to print WSJE after their own printrun at their printplant near Monza, Italy. A specialized company will then pollywrap both newspapers together. Three other companies will combine forces to distribute the combination package to 750 newsstands in the Milan region. It is a unique project in Europe. It is an intricate game of diving deep into consumerminds: Libero is in the Italian language, WSJE in English. Libero is about politics, WSJE about business, Libero says it is mildly conservative, WSJE is... a bit more than just 'mildly' conservative. On the field, especially during the night, it requires the involvement of several teams speaking 4 different languages (Italian, English, French and Dutch) from at least 7 independent companies (Libero, their printplant Litosud, WSJE, a packing company, three distributors).

(advertisement in the May 10 issue of the Italian newspaper Libero informing readers about the fact that Libero will come together with the WSJE in the Milan region, for only 1 Euro for both newspapers.)

Friday, May 05, 2006

"People must examine what they're doing to earn a living and ask themselves 3 questions"

"To survive in the Conceptual Age -the society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers- people must examine what they're doing to earn a living and ask themselves 3 questions:

1. Can someome overseas do it cheaper ?
2. Can a computer do it faster ?
3. Is what I'm offering in demand in an age of abundance ?

Mere survival today depends on being able to do something that overseas knowledge workers can't do cheaper, that powerful computers can't do faster, and that satisfies one of the non-material, transcendent desires of an abundant age."
(Pink, 2005, 51)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

London City Airport Business Books - "Persuasion" book wins

I can't pass a bookstore without checking the business books department. I was in and out London a few times the past couple of days and I took the time to have a good look at the small business books department of the bookstore in the lobby of City Airport in London. In a matter of days at least 25 business or management books were sold. "Persuasion" managed to sell out in 5 days (see number 4 on the picture).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The 3 marketing D’s: Design – Deliver - Develop

Standard marketing tools were the result of processes and practices developed in traditional consumer goods companies in the 50’s and 60’s. Their marketing departments invested in research looking for demographic, sociographic even psychographic profiles of their customers followed by bombarding the potential clients through traditional advertising media. The involvement of the traditional marketing department stopped once the product was sold. This is no longer valid. Consumers are not looking for “products” anymore, they are looking for a “customer experience”. They don’t hook their soul anymore to one “product category”, they have become extremely “cross-category”. For example: On Sunday the customer will go to his exclusive traditional bakery for bread and pastry. On Wednesday he goes to Aldi for sandwiches and hotdogs for a birthday party of the children. Or business people in Hugo Boss during the week are wearing C&A bargains in the weekend.

Consumers have gone the other way than their traditional suppliers. When Bain & Company surveyed 362 firms it found that 80 % believed they delivered a “superior consumer experience”. However when the customers were asked to rate the same suppliers only 8% of the suppliers seemed to deliver a superior experience. To close this gap suppliers should concentrate on developing the following three marketing D’s.

- Design an entire customer experience instead of just developing a product and pushing it into a market.
- Deliver the propositions of a customer experience at the lowest cost possible involving a cross departmental action plan.
- Develop a relationship with the client so you can follow up on the ever increasing shifts in customer attitude, to be able to deliver again, again and again.

Monday, May 01, 2006

John Kenneth Galbraight just died

Economist of importance. Became famous with his bestsellers "The Great Crash" (1929) and especially "The Affluent Society" (1958). One of the arguments in The Affluent Story was that the United States had become rich in consumer goods but poor in social services. Galbraight had the gift to explain complex economical theories in a simple language understandable for 'the men in the street'. He became professor at Harvard University. He often described himself as an "evangelical Keynesian" (Keynes advocated government spending to reduce unemployment) . Galbraight supported a much shorter work week, the women's liberation movement and the creation of an international council to help the victims of man-made disasters.
Some quotes:
(commenting on the Dow Jones Industrial Average's breaking the 6,500 mark he said:) "There is too much money chasing too little intelligence to manage it. It can't last."
(In an interview with the BBC:)
"There are some advantages of being right. You don't have to change your mind."

He died last Saturday 20-04-2006 at a hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was 97.