Barack Obama’s (44th President of USA) management style

Barack Obama

Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)

We didn’t come from wealthy families. When we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt. When we married, we got poor together

(Telling students at the University of North Carolina that he and first lady Michelle Obama had “been in your shoes” and didn’t pay off their student loans until eight years ago).

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, 44th and current President of USA

Today’s article is the twelfth in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison, 6th Eric Schmidt, 7th CIOs and the ideal management style, 8th Louis V Gerstner, 9th late Steve Jobs and Tim Cook’s, 10th  Richard Branson and Sergio Marchionne), analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how senior management including  Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

I must admit this is the first time that I decided to delve into the management style of a national country leader. During the last American election I was quite impressed by the way that Obama fought the election on several fronts, including his great oratory skills, defeating Hillary Clinton, using social media and the Internet to raise funds for his campaign, his views on America’s role in the world and Health care to name a few. Now that we are approx. half way through his Presidency, I wanted to find out whether there was a consensus on his Presidency, i.e was he perceived to be good, bad or indeed great. I personally thought that he could go down in the annals of history as not only the first Black President of America but as one of the greatest.

As always, my personal view is that he needs to communicate to the American public his strategy in more detail, coupled with his intentions for the future, along with his successes. For a President who successfully helped solve the American car crisis and introduced America’s first ever Health legislation, he certainly doesn’t seem to be communicating that to the public effectively enough (Maybe he needs to blow his trumpet on his small and large successes to date). He seems to forget that his stakeholders’ are the public and that he needs to communicate with them the reasons why he is the best candidate to secure America’s future prospects.

My writing style had to change as I was not just analysing a sitting President but was also writing about the management style of a manager who is managing an economy and not just an organisation. In comparison terms, that is akin to comparing, well, therein lies the problem, one cannot compare any organisation to a huge country such as USA. This is a country and it is managed by a bond between both the public and private sector.

Frank Burke, American Thinker said, “The President’s inner circle has, for the most part, consisted of Chicago machine politicians. The appointment of numerous Czars, whose functions are neither well-articulated nor understood, has led to confusion on all levels and among the public”.

This seems to be a view shared by David Brooks, NY Times, “Obama has been a delegator and a convener. He sets the agenda, sketches broad policy outlines and then summons some Congressional chairmen to dominate the substance. This has been the approach with the stimulus package, the health care law, the Waxman-Markey energy bill, the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and, so far, the Biden commission on the budget.

As president, Obama has proved to be a very good Senate majority leader — convening committees to do the work and intervening at the end.

All his life, Obama has worked in non-hierarchical institutions — community groups, universities, legislatures — so maybe it is natural that he has a non-hierarchical style. He tends to see issues from several vantage points at once, so maybe it is natural that he favours a process that involves negotiating and fudging between different points of view.

Still, I would never have predicted he would be this sort of leader. I thought he would get into trouble via excessive self-confidence. Obama’s actual governing style emphasizes delegation and occasional passivity. Being led by Barack Obama is like being trumpeted into battle by Miles Davis. He makes you want to sit down and discern.

But this is who Obama is, and he’s not going to change, no matter how many liberals plead for him to start acting like Howard Dean”.

This comment from Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary and former adviser to President Obama provides a unique insight into his management style (Courtesy of Dave Schuler, The Glittering Eye),”If you wrote Barack Obama a memo before the meeting, it is a virtual certainty that he will have read it. If you seek to explain the memo you wrote to him during the meeting, he will cut you off, and he will be irritated. If he, as the leader of the meeting, will ask one or two questions to kick the tires, but will basically focus on how whatever subject you’re talking about fits with the broad vision and approaches of his presidency.

He will basically take the attitude if you’re his financial advisor, that if you can’t — it’s up to you to figure out whether preferred stock or subordinated debt is the appropriate financial instrument for your bailout, and that if he doesn’t trust you to figure it out, he’ll get a new financial adviser, but that is not the question on which he is going to spend time”.

Obviously, every President has faced their fair share of exceptional challenges, highlighted again, the need for direct communication as Lurita Doan, Townhall said, “Obama exhibited colossal managerial negligence in refusing to communicate directly with BP leadership for almost two months. Then, when this negligence was publicized, Obama opened communications and extorted the arbitrary sum of $20 billion dollars to cover liabilities. Twenty billion dollars, without full knowledge of all the facts, without the benefit of a full investigation of the causes and without a final solution for the problem, under the control of one of Obama’s Czars just looks like a slush fund”.

NEIL KING JR. and JONATHAN WEISMAN, Wall Street Journal explains further in great detail how Obama, conducts his office and provides further details into his unique management style, “In a White House ritual new with this administration, the president gathers with his advisers every weekday morning for an Oval Office update and debate on the economy. The breadth of topics is wide, from the underemployed to childhood obesity, and Mr. Obama often dives into the minutiae.

In the sessions, according to those who attend, the president sometimes chafes at his advisers’ limitations, quizzing them on points raised by critics or asking them to do justice to a view other than their own. At times he quotes from letters sent to the White House to counter a stance taken by his team.

A president’s management style can set the tone for an administration. Jimmy Carter was a famed micromanager, often at odds with his own advisers, and he caught a lot of Beltway criticism for his focus on policy details. “If the two risks are operating at too generalized a level or micromanaging, you need to find a balance between the two,” says Peter Orszag, the White House budget director.

In early July, the president ordered a briefing on derivatives — financial contracts that track the return on stocks, bonds, currencies or other benchmarks. Critics had been raising questions about administration proposals to regulate certain derivatives, such as credit-default swaps, which many blame in part for the financial crisis. With advisers gathered round on the Oval Office’s twin sofas, Mr. Obama said he was concerned that the administration hadn’t struck the right balance.

Its proposal called for standard derivatives to be traded on an exchange, bringing them into the open. Critics were calling the proposal too timid because it also would allow “customized” derivatives to continue trading privately. “What is to assure that this won’t drive all derivatives off the exchange?” the president asked, according to Mr. Emanuel.

He says Mr. Obama was frustrated his team wasn’t offering up a full range of views on how to approach derivatives regulation. “Get me some other people’s opinions on this,” Mr. Emanuel recalls the president as saying. “I want more than what’s in this room.”

On July 1, advisers gave Mr. Obama a briefing on “House Prices, Consumer Debt and Consumption.” Among their charts was one showing how homeowners during the boom used the rising value of their houses to borrow more against them. At the end, the president pushed the presentation aside. “Guys, this is great research,” he said, according to Mr. Emanuel. “But you’re telling me that people have been using their houses as ATMs. I could have told you that.”

Letters from constituents appear to play a role in shaping the president’s thinking. Each day, the White House staff combs through mounds of letters and picks 10 for Mr. Obama to read. In May, one from a woman in Georgia caught his eye. She said she had asked a bank to refinance her house, under the administration’s plan to help struggling homeowners, but had been turned down. She mentioned that her “loan-to-value” ratio wasn’t excessive — her mortgage was for no more than 80% of the house’s value.

Mr. Obama scrawled in the margin “Is this how the ratio is supposed to be calculated?” and sent the letter to one of his economists, Mr. Goolsbee, according to a White House adviser”.

The stark contrast between managing organisation’s is made clearer by Steven Cohen, Huffington Post, “Obama relies on a combination of his own intellect, a small circle of trusted advisers and a larger group of outside experts.

Ronald Reagan began the process of deconstructing the federal government’s capacity. This effort to “starve the beast” and destroy federal capacity was reversed during the Clinton era as Vice President Gore led a well-intentioned effort to reinvent government, but the forces of disintegration picked up renewed momentum during the Bush years of 2001-2009. During the Presidency of Bush the latter, federal agencies that needed to build capacity for a new task were required to demonstrate that the capacity could not be found and purchased in the private sector. The underlying assumption of federal management during the Bush Presidency was that government was the enemy and the private sector was the great repository of management competence in America.

The “make or buy decision” requires that every well managed organization constantly ask itself: “Should we do this in-house or should we outsource?” That is a question that should be addressed pragmatically: “what would work best?” Management in the U.S. federal government has the answer provided for them: buying from the private sector is better than making it in the government. In an article I wrote in Public Administration Review in 2001, I argued for what I called “functional matching.” I wrote that some tasks are best performed by government (especially policing), some by non-profits (for example mission-driven health and social welfare programs) and some by private firms (customer driven services and manufacturing).

At the local level, government services are visible and have an immediate impact. While ideology plays a role locally, it doesn’t usually dominate. In New York, the debate over charter schools has an ideological component, but the visibility of education performance measures provides evidence that moves the argument beyond ideology. Local officials are instantly accountable if water is not delivered, waste is not removed, fires are not put out and criminals are not apprehended. In New York City, most social services are now delivered by non-profit organizations under contract to the city’s government. No one thinks about this practice as an ideological privatization strategy. It’s simply the best way to help people in need. As a result of constant pressure to do more with less over the past three decades, New York City government has improved its performance and capacity.

In Washington D.C., symbolism and ideology drive agency management and performance takes a back seat. The story at the federal level is characterized by management incompetence. We have seen it in the Department of Interior during the Gulf oil spill, during the horror show of FEMA during Katrina, and when we analyze the overuse of contractors by an overly-small military presence during the War in Iraq. The lack of concern for capacity and management excellence has driven superb civil servants out of public service, destroyed organizational capability and made it impossible for the government to keep up with a more complicated and technologically based economy. The result has been the type of government performance we have seen in the Gulf of Mexico”.

His desire to formulate effective teams and to achieve the best for his country is highlighted by the article, Inside the Presidents club by NANCY GIBBS; MICHAEL DUFFY (Some excerpts), “There is no conversation so sweet as that of former political enemies,” Harry Truman once observed, and the modern Presidents are living proof. By the time Clinton made peace with Obama, he was also so close to the entire Bush family–vacationing with the father, raising money with the son, even escorting Barbara at Betty Ford’s funeral–that the Texas clan had bestowed a nickname: Brother from Another Mother.

Now in an age of global celebrity, when Presidents live longer and larger than ever, they retain unmatched influence long after they leave office. Plus they’re the only ones who know what the job does to a person.

They called him after he won. “They were all incredibly gracious,” Obama said. “But I think all of them recognized that there’s a certain loneliness to the job … Ultimately, you’re the person who’s going to be making decisions … You can already feel that fact.” He wanted his club initiation to include the entire membership, so he asked Bush to host a luncheon for all four living Presidents in early January. This request caused the Bush White House to gulp hard: Even Carter? aides asked. He has criticized everything we have done for nearly eight years. Yes, Obama said, Carter too”.

I have been reading the Time magazine since a very early age and wanted to conclude with observations from one of the greatest writers for Time (in my opinion), Fareed Zakaria and his article, The Strategist, “In the central battle in the war on terrorism, Obama adopted many of the Bush Administration’s aggressive tactics, used them more aggressively and achieved greater success. Republicans find it difficult to attack Obama credibly on the core issue of fighting America’s enemies because he outflanked them on the right.

When asked to describe the Obama Doctrine, the President has chosen not to respond directly, but he explained that he believes the U.S. must act with other countries. “[Mine is] an American leadership that recognizes the rise of countries like China, India and Brazil. It’s a U.S. leadership that recognizes our limits in terms of resources and capacity,” he told TIME.

A great deal of foreign policy is crisis management. “Stuff happens,” the President said, “and you have to respond.”

The strategy of “rebalancing” might well be the centrepiece of Obama’s foreign policy and what historians will point to when searching for an Obama Doctrine. It is premised on a simple, powerful recognition. The center of global economic power is shifting east. In 10 years, three of the world’s five largest economies will be in Asia: China, Japan and India. The greatest political tensions and struggles might also be in Asia as these countries seek political, cultural and military power as well. If the U.S. is going to be the central global power, it will need to be a Pacific power.

In a speech to the Australian parliament, Obama signaled America’s intent. “The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” he said.

Good foreign policy Presidents (like Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush) managed a complex set of challenges expertly, making few costly errors. Bad ones (like George W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson) made mistakes that cost America in lives, treasure and prestige. But great foreign policy Presidents (like Harry Truman) created enduring structures and relationships that produced lasting peace and prosperity. Obama has been a good foreign policy President; he has the opportunity to become a great one”.

More Info and Reading:

Barack Obama: A Management Appraisal – American Thinker

Convener in Chief – NY Times

The Obama Management Style – The glittering eye

Obama’s Management Style: Bowing and Posturing – Townhall

A President as Micromanager: How Much Detail Is Enough? – WSJ

Changing Obama’s Management Style Alone Will Not Prevent the Next Environmental Catastrophe – Huffington post

Inside the Presidents club by NANCY GIBBS; MICHAEL DUFFY, Time Magazine

The Strategist by Fareed Zakaria, Time Magazine

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Excelling at Customer Service

Customer services

Customer services (Photo credit: gordon2208)

“Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.”

Ralph Marston (1907 –  ) Professional Football Player in 1929

“If you want to give a great customer experience you have to align your culture and the way you reward staff. None of our customer facing staff has sales targets or sales bonuses — their rewards and bonuses are based purely on their customer satisfaction scores.”

Anthony Thomson, Chairman, Metro Bank

Quote courtesy of Institute of customer service

Life has a way of taking everything in its stride and I am often compelled to go through the related emotions. Sometimes, I marvel at the way life turns corners and obviously as human beings, we all have this uncanny ability to learn from mistakes and move on by not repeating those same mistakes. We learn, change and adapt.

Organisations are very similar to us (in theory) and are supposed to learn from their mistakes, change processes to reflect that and become ‘the ideal organisation.’ So, I have to ask myself then, ‘Why in today’s day and age, are we still dealing with organisations’ that are failing its customers, in terms of customer service?’

Obviously, during my life, I have had many good experiences of customer services and some pretty dire ones. The reason for writing this blog is that recently, I dealt with three organisations that should have excelled at customer service but in reality, they failed in their promise to provide even the basic levels of customer service. I have debated whether to play the ‘name and shame’ game but that just wouldn’t be me. So, instead, I have decided to write about how to provide excellent customer service.

According to a survey conducted in the U.S. and eleven other countries in 2010, by American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, Americans Will Spend 9% More with Companies That Provide Excellent Service

Although only a little more than a third of Americans (37%) believe that companies have increased their focus on providing quality service:

  • 27% feel businesses have not changed their attitude toward customer service.
  • 28% say that companies are now paying less attention to good service.

So, where do I start?

Let’s start with:

  1. Culture

According to Catherine Lovering, “Make the goal of providing excellent customer service a company-wide commitment. Put a customer-service policy in writing, and post it in a prominent place. Translate customer-service objectives into specific actions for employees to follow, such as: deliver prompt service, offer a polite demeanour, and make product information readily available.”

Inc.com says, “Start by hanging on the wall a set of core values, 10 or fewer principles that include customer service ideals, suggests Susan McCartney, Maggiotto’s colleague at the Buffalo SBDC. “Share them during the training, have employees sign them, and evaluate employees based on the values,” she says. “But don’t call them rules.”

Employee training on customer service precepts should be intensive: written materials, verbal instruction, mentors, and on-the-job demonstrations all ought to be part of the coursework, says McCartney.”

This theme continues in 10 Examples of Shockingly-Excellent Customer Service and  12 ways to dazzle your customers.

  1. Staff morale and motivation

Catherine Lovering says, “Treat your employees well, so they in turn will treat customers well. Employees will bring enthusiasm and a positive attitude to their job when they know they’re appreciated and respected. Recognize employees who continually provide good customer service and praise the entire staff for their efforts. Customer-service work can be emotionally draining unless the company involved is supportive and gains the loyalty of its employees.”

Inc.com says, “Companies renowned for their customer service — the online shoe retailer Zappos, for example — treat employees as they would have their employees treat their customers. “Employees take on more responsibility because they know they are appreciated and an important part of the team,” says the University of Missouri’s Proffer. “People who don’t feel like they’re part of the bigger picture, who feel like a small cog in a big machine, are not willing to go the extra mile.”

Not every business can afford to shower staff with generous pay and benefits, but not every business has to. Small companies, says McCartney, can show “intense interest” in employees, in their welfare, their families, and their future — what McCartney calls the family model. It’s also important to recognize an employee — publicly — for a job well done. Some companies also offer incentives for exceptional customer service, but if you can’t spare the cash, you might throw an office party or offer another token of appreciation. When he was a manager at cable provider Tele-Communications Inc., for instance, Proffer personally washed the cars of notable employees.”

  1. Knowledgeable staff

Staff need to know their products and services and that can only be achieved by a comprehensive induction and training programme for staff that not only includes products and services but also includes an initiation with an organisation’s processes and knowledge of the internal and external network of people who can help resolve issues and problems. A ‘can do attitude’ needs to be instilled in staff right at the outset while empowering customer service staff to engage in activities that resolve the problem while highlighting to management any processes that hinder resolution. That way employees are highlighting processes that hinder the delivery of excellent customer service while improving customer service delivery at the same time.

Inc.com says, “The best salespeople spend 80 percent of their time listening, not talking,” says Marc Willson, a retail and restaurant consultant for the Virginia SBDC network. Ask open-ended questions to elicit a customer’s needs and wants. ”

Further in the article, Proffer offers the The Five A’s. method, “It’s helpful to think of resolving a dispute as a five-step process called the Five A’s: Acknowledge the problem. Apologize, even if you think you’re right. Accept responsibility. Adjust the situation with a negotiation to fix the problem. Assure the customer that you will follow through.”

  1. Well trained staff

Training is paramount and well trained staff needs to help customers resolve their problems regardless of how much time they have spent resolving it (within reason). Many organisations tend to operate their measuring metrics for customer services advisors’ on calls closed rather than calls resolved. Well trained staff will have the ability to resolve calls and close them better than ill trained staff. Staff training should be reviewed periodically and refresher courses offered based around lessons learnt, processes improved and latest innovations in delivering better customer service.

Catherine Lovering in her article on customer service said, “Teach the staff stress-reduction methods and techniques in conflict resolution. Train staff to use language that promotes good customer service. Phrases such as “How can I help,” “I don’t know, but I will find out,” and “I will keep you updated” let customers know that their needs will be met. It also will demonstrate a willingness to find a solution to any problem and a commitment to communicate with the customer. This dedication will go a long way toward defusing dissatisfaction among clientele.”

She further adds, “Train staff to accept responsibility for errors and to apologize to upset customers. Good customer-service representatives must refrain from arguing with an upset customer and instead ask the customer what they can do to solve the problem. Advise employees to speak calmly to customers and to assure them that they’ll do what they can to help. Follow up with a clear resolution to the complaint.”

  1. Empowered staff

Catherine Lovering says, “Empower these staff members to not only deal well with upset customers on an emotional level but also to provide tangible benefits. For example, “Entrepreneur” magazine recommends giving employees the authority to give any dissatisfied customer a 10-percent discount.”

The emphasis should be on, “What can we do that will make the situation better for you? Add the wow factorFor example, one winner of The WOW! Awards is a restaurant in Leeds called Gueller’s. They keep a range of prescription spectacles, just in case customers forget their own and are having difficulty reading the menu.”

Give them something that will make them feel valuable. That could be a freebie, the ability to resolve their problem, following up the matter on their behalf and make them feel that their concerns have been heard and addressed (or will be addressed)

  1. Customer service, IT systems and process review – Capture, monitor and report

IT systems need to be setup according to effective measurement metrics. For example, it is not good enough to measure “How many calls did an agent take/close today?” An effective metric would be, “How many calls did an agent close today that was satisfactorily resolved for the customer?” Each call should also be followed up by the completion of customer satisfaction surveys and that opportunity utilised for creating other effective metrics and for highlighting process improvements.

Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is used extensively within the IT industry and it can be modified to deliver excellent customer service. Karen Francis of Macanta consulting says, “My opinion is that we shouldn’t be too precious about what we use as long as it works for us. If an organisation is already using ITIL for the IT department and finds that it can be adapted for the non-IT departments, then why not do it.

ITIL may not cover things such as sales and marketing and HR, but if you already have effective and efficient processes for managing faults, problems, changes, inventory, capacity, business continuity, service levels and so on, why not use them for non-IT if they translate well?”

As a fan of Deming, I would like to add Danielle J Baker’s thoughts, “ITIL’s iterative approach and focus on continuous improvement is the basis of IT Service Management as defined by the ITIL set of best practices.

The following needs to be done prior to the installation of any IT system for customer service.

  1. Do we know what processes we have captured in existing systems?
  2. How do we go about capturing processes that are not captured by our existing systems?
  3. What processes can we improve, prior to using IT?

Use new innovative tools for interacting with customers, such as Desk.com (Or similar tool). According to Desk.com website, “Connect to your customers on Facebook and Twitter as easily as on traditional support channels like email, phone and web. Desk.com organizes all of your support in one place so you can respond efficiently wherever your customers reach out.”

One of their client’s, Bonobos said, “I was excited by the look and feel of Desk.com when I saw it. By lunchtime the next day we had switched over entirely.”

  1. Benchmark

As a big fan of benchmarking, I highly recommend benchmarking and covered this in my blog post, IT benchmarking

Catherine Lovering said, “Create customer service benchmarks for employees to meet, and reward the workers who meet and exceed them.”

  1. Customer service and relationship management

Catherine Lovering said, “Communicate with customers so you know what they want. Distribute surveys, request feedback, and make it easy for customers to let you know how they feel about their shopping experience. Add a personal touch to customer communication by answering comment letters with a note of thanks. Keep an eye on the competition to see how they implement customer-service policies, especially if it appears that those services are well-received by customers.”

Inc.com says, “The cost of acquiring a new customer is five times that of retaining an existing one.”

Contact with the organisation should be easy and should include an element of ‘self service’ via social media and an organisation’s own website. That could include, for example, a knowledge base or frequently asked questions (FAQ). This could be done by keeping track of the most common type of service desk requests and enabling access to them via these methods.

In her excellent article, 4 Steps to Overcome Being a Pain in the Ass Call Center that I would recommend reading (All 3 parts), Dr. Jodie Monger says, “According to W. Edwards Deming, the father of the quality evolution, “workforces are only responsible for 15% of mistakes, where the system desired by management is responsible for 85% of the unintended consequences. [1]”  In other words, 85% of a worker’s effectiveness is entirely out of his or her control!   It’s rather unfortunate that it is the 15% that is under workers’ control that call centers tend to focus on through quality monitoring efforts, Voice of the Customer programs, mystery shopping and the like.

A well-designed, well-executed quality program will provide a holistic view of your organization’s strengths and opportunities by answering ALL four of the vital questions:

  1. How are we—as an organization—doing at representing our company to its customers?
  2. What can we—as an organization—do to improve?
  3. How are you—as an individual agent—doing at representing our company to its customers?
  4. What can we—as a management team—do to help you improve?

Note that in accordance with Deming’s philosophy of systems and process management, only one of the four vital questions focuses on the activities of the worker.

What would your answers be?”

On that thought provoking question by Dr Judie Monger, I would like to end this blog and hope that this blog post contributes to even better customer service!

References and further Information:

10 Examples of Shockingly-Excellent Customer Service

12 ways to dazzle your customers

Why is Customer Service Still So Lousy?

Customer service frustration leads to lawsuit

Americans Will Spend 9% More With Companies That Provide Excellent Service

The high price of bad customer service

American Express – A story of customer service gone bad

Create a culture of excellent customer service

Institute of customer service

7 Secrets to Providing Excellent Customer Service

Providing Excellent Customer Service

Tips for excellent customer service

How to provide excellent customer service

How to deliver great customer service

How to provide excellent customer service

Salesforce.com Revolutionizes Customer Service for a Social and Mobile World with Desk.com

desk.com

Using ITIL for Non-IT Purposes

How ITIL Help Desk can help SMBs?

ITIL and Deming

Are you a Pain in the Ass Call Centre?

The Deming Centre for Quality, Productivity, and Competitiveness at Columbia Business School

Sergio Marchionne (CEO Fiat and Chrysler ) management style and CIOs

SERGIO MARCHIONNE

Image by SOCIALisBETTER via Flickr

“Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”

Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011) co-founder and CEO of Apple

Sergio Marchionne (1952 -) CEO Fiat and Chrysler

Today’s article is the eleventh in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison, 6th Eric Schmidt, 7th CIOs and the ideal management style, 8th Louis V Gerstner, 9th late Steve Jobs and Tim Cook’s, and Richard Branson), analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how senior management including  Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

Sergio Marchionne (mar-key-OWN-ee) also won the 2011 Deming Cup (and other accolades) and regular readers will know that I am a big Deming fan and as such, I really wanted to find out more….

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

Sergio Marchionne is a chartered accountant and barrister and holds a Bachelor of law (LLB) and MBA. Although he was born in Italy, he emigrated to Canada at 14 and his first job was with Deloitte and Touche. He has a pretty unconventional management style (According to European CEO, “His management style is to manage his companies. Not to control them.”) that he has used with great effect at various companies, in particular to turn around the fortunes at Fiat and Chrysler. According to Money CNN, “The principles of his management style are simple: He values merit over rank, excellence over mediocrity, competition over insularity, and accountability over promises. Marchionne presents himself like a ’60s intellectual from a Fellini movie, with his baggy sweaters, longish hair, and cigarettes. He rations his public appearances and gets movie star treatment wherever he shows up. Marchionne says his job as CEO is not to make business decisions — it is to push managers to be leaders. What other CEO can you think of who likes to characterize himself as a “simple, homeless, ever-wandering metal basher?”

Let’s see what CIOs and general management can learn from this ‘turnaround’ specialist. (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1.When the going gets tough, investment in people always pays:

“We flattened the organization out. We reached out and brought people on the management team who had been buried underneath the classical hierarchy of corporate America,” says Marchionne. “They were given an opportunity to play. These are people who had been two or three layers down from the senior leadership.”-SM- Time Mag –America24

In another article by Money CNN, Sergio said, “The hardest job is getting personalities to mesh. Some people become dysfunctional — their egos become blown out. It is like having an evil spirit in the house.”

According to Money CNN, “Marchionne runs Chrysler with 26 direct reports, an unusually large number, because he believes it flattens the organization and leads to faster decision making. He demands complete openness, fast communication, and accountability. Marchionne arrived at Fiat from outside the auto industry, and doesn’t try to pass himself off as an expert. Instead, as he told the Harvard Business Review in 2008, “A lot of what I do is challenge assumptions — which often looks like you are asking stupid questions.”

In another article by Money CNN, “Marchionne hopes his round-the-clock zeal will become contagious inside the company. For the launch of the first new vehicle of his tenure, the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee, Marchionne got deeply involved. Instead of laying off workers when the plant was revamped last fall, he kept them working, and they scrubbed the Jefferson North assembly plant in Detroit from top to bottom — it’s most thorough cleaning since it opened in 1991. When Marchionne showed up one Saturday to review their progress, the workers beamed, even more so when President Obama toured the plant a few weeks later and called it “this magnificent factory.”

The sign of a true leader is that he not only inspires and motivates but ensures that he is surrounded by the best talent, especially in the areas where he doesn’t excel. Sergio does this brilliantly by promoting the best talent and allowing them make their own decisions, coupled with clear, achievable targets. As an accountant he knows his figures and utilises that aspect to his advantage. Senior managers need to understand the importance of retaining and investing in people as displayed by Sergio.

2. Constant analysis:

“Once it’s execution, then you’ve got to look into your shorts and you’ve got to say to yourself, Do you actually have–do you–I mean I, as a person, do you have the wherewithal to get this done?”–SM- Time Mag –America24

One of the reasons for Sergio’s success is that he is constantly analysing his businesses to find out how further improvements can be made. He expects his managers to have their finger on the pulse of the business and failure is NOT an option.

3. Spotting opportunities:

According to European CEO, “We spit blood to clean up and restart Fiat. When I took over, there was a smell of death here,” Marchionne has said of the experience.

Marchionne refused to get bogged down in the engineering technicalities of running a car manufacturer. He took a more philosophical approach and modelled sales of the Fiat 500 on the iPod – when it broke into the UK’s top 10 selling vehicles in 2009, it became the car people didn’t think twice about buying. It became the iPod on wheels – practical, stylish and affordable.

Sergio was a big fan of Steve Jobs and used his philosophy with great effect in selling the Fiat 500. The Fiat 500 has not done so well in USA and it remains to be seen whether he can launch more cars akin to the iPod!

Certainly, like Steve Jobs, he needs to create an environment and culture that thrives on spotting opportunities.

4. Improve productivity: –

According to Forbes and Vecchio (Mediobanca analyst) “When Marchionne took over the company, he was literally firing one manager a day but there was a leadership problem and nobody wanted to take hard decisions. The communication from bottom to top in management was slow and wrong. He also changed that,” the analyst added. “He reduced the layers of management and gave his role a more direct view of what the business was doing. And of course his ego is very big and sometimes people who had clashes with him were basically fired. Looking at his style from outside it seems awful but he delivered.”

When profits are dwindling and an organisation is on the brink of producing losses, serious questions have to be asked of its management. Sergio, was quite right to question his management team and change the structure based to a performance related one (Based on meritocracy, as Deming envisaged). Something has to change, as in that situation if nothing changes, the organisation will cease to exist!

5. Success in general may be built on failure:

“I don’t think that people really understand what the implications would have been of a lack of decisiveness at that point in time,” says Marchionne. “It would have been a mess.”(Referring to the purchase of Chrysler) – SM- Time Mag –America24-.

Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy and decisions had to be made. Sergio did not shy away from such decisions and followed his instinct, just as Steve Jobs did (Sergio is a fan). The secret is to learn from your mistakes, put them behind you and move on.

6. Competitive advantage:

According to Money CNN, “Marchionne believes his competitive advantage is speed. By wiping out layers of management and making decisions more quickly, he’ll get closer to the market and bring out new models faster than his slower-moving rivals.

“They have access to me 24/7,” he says, and when they call or e-mail, he makes decisions in minutes — or seconds. While traveling, he stays in contact with one of his six BlackBerrys. “BlackBerrys are divine instruments,” he purrs.

Marchionne-style management is not for compromising types. He works all the time, subordinates say, and his wife has left Italy to live separately at their home in Switzerland (they have two boys). “The lifestyle I have today is the most abusive way to achieve a lasting impact,” he concedes.”

Sergio, clearly knows his own competitive advantage and he uses that with great effect for the benefit of his company. While other CEOs may reply to such emails a day or two later, he almost communicates with them in ‘real time.’ This allows the business to be very agile in terms of making crucial decisions. I covered this in my post, Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality?

7. Succession planning and his reputation:

According to Money CNN, “Marchionne is trying to provide some clarity about his retirement plans. He’s announced that he plans to stay until 2015 or 2016, and that his successor will likely come from inside the company.”

Succession planning is paramount for businesses as without ‘nurturing’ successors businesses will run into difficulties and sometimes that can result in situations where the successor ‘fails’ to do his/her job effectively. So, while succession is paramount, so is the need to appoint the ‘most suitable’ candidate.’

8. Focus:

According to Money CNN, “ Marchionne takes an all-but-gleeful delight in reminding audiences about the deficiencies of the Western auto industry. He calls it a business of hand-me-downs and seldom let’s an opportunity go by to remind his audience that the autos have been “rigorously and methodically” destroying billions of dollars in shareholder value. He’s particularly critical of what he calls “M&A sprees” that have made automakers “into rambling ranch houses onto which one room after another was added — with no rational architecture uniting the whole.”

Senior management need to focus on the core activities of a business and shy away from getting involved in M&A’s that do not contribute or add value to that core perspective. In the car industry, failures have occurred when businesses have not produced cars that the public want to buy with features/quality that the public want to buy. Shy away from the projects that do not add value to the business but may just be a ‘nice have’ or appear to add value. Learn to say, ‘No’.

9. Successful innovation and success in general may be built on failure:

“What I look for in people is the ability to use that space intelligently, not to abuse the freedom,” he says. “It’s to remain absolutely focused on the objective but not to define the method of execution.”-SM – Time Mag –America24-.

Sergio did not have to buy Chrysler but he had the conviction that he could turn it around as he could innovate and launch cars that the public really wanted to buy. Some will inevitably fail but many will be huge successes. Many businesses lack of innovation is due to their fear of failures.

10. Earn respect:

“I told them, I said, ‘You’ve got more than money on the table,'” Marchionne recalls. “‘You’ve got me … You’ve got Fiat.'”–SM- Time Mag –America24

Prior to negotiating with the US administration, Sergio had already turned Fiat around and as such held the respect of Obama and his team and their belief that he could turn the ailing giant around. Unfortunately, such ‘respect’ can only be earned.

11. Quality management:

“Leadership is not a quantitative thing. People either smell it in you or they don’t,” says Marchionne. “People need to trust you that you’re going to pull them out and that they will follow you when you pull them out. If they don’t get that comfort, they’re going to drop you. This is true of organizations. It’s true of countries.”-SM- Time Mag –America24

12. Use numbers to season the points you serve — they’re not the main dish:

According to Money CNN, Sergio said, “I’ve always hit my numbers and will with Chrysler’s five-year profitability plan,” he told a group of dealers in June. “We told people we’d break even in 2010. We made an [operating] profit in the first quarter. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it’s black, and it is from selling cars. From what I can tell, we’ll do significantly better than zero this year.”

Sergio will drop references to his numbers but will not get carried away with them and only uses them ‘sparingly’ so that he can make convincing arguments while avoiding the detail.

13. Create and nurture ‘the correct culture.’ –

In a move that signalled where his heart is, earlier this year Marchionne became CEO of Chrysler Group. His office is on the fourth floor in the engineering department, not the executive penthouse, now sitting empty, where a chairman and three vice chairmen used to rule. “I don’t have an office of the chairman. Which is what used to run this joint,” he says, quickly adding, “with all due respect.”-SM- Time Mag –America24

Sergio wanted to break down the barriers between senior Management and employees and the ideal way to do this was to be closer to the action, i.e. the engineering department where cars were ‘visualised’ and eventually made.

14. Develop a Clear Vision–and Stick to It. –

“There were things that Fiat had, that I had, that if applied here could have pulled this out,” Marchionne explains. “I knew I could help technically. And I had a guy who was willing to fund it.”-SM-

A guy named Obama. (Time Mag –America24)

15. Be ‘shrewd’ and keep the team on its ‘toes.’ –

“It’s pretty intense, because he questions–and again, rightfully so–and there are times when you think you’re so prepared and ready and he’ll bring something completely that you weren’t thinking of,” says Laura Soave Time Mag –America24

This is a trait in common with other leaders, such as Bill Gates. Sergio, surrounds himself with smart people and ensures that when they present their information, they have investigated it thoroughly. Questioning the assumptions that they may have made, ensures that such information is ‘de-risked’ and provides a sound foundation for them to make progress.

More Info:

Fiat’s extreme makeover

Sergio Marchionne’s bad bet at Fiat

Columbia business school address by Sergio Marchionne – Recepient of Deming cup 2011

Columbia Business School’s Deming Centre

W. Edwards Deming Institute®

Richard Branson’s (CEO Virgin) management style and CIOs

Industrialist Richard Branson at the Time 100 ...

Image via Wikipedia

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.

Richard Branson, Entrepreneur and businessman (1950-)

Today’s article is the tenth in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison, 6th Eric Schmidt, 7th CIOs and the ideal management style, 8th Louis V Gerstner and the late Steve Jobs and Tim Cook’s, analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how senior management including  Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

Richard Branson started his working life in the 60’s by starting a magazine called, ‘Student’ and has never looked back. He is an entrepreneur that defies the usual rules of business. He sold his record label and company and started Virgin Atlantic defying convention and established business practices as he not only had no experience of the airline industry but was also stepping into a hugely competitive marketplace. He also took on the might of British airways when he claimed that his business had been the victim of a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign. In both cases, he proved that he could ‘win’ and has since gone from strength to strength.

Let’s see what CIOs and general management can learn from this icon of modern business. (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. Succession planning and his reputation: RB – “The company must be set up so it can continue without me.”

Richard Branson has created autonomous companies under the Virgin umbrella, precisely so that these companies can operate without him. Succession planning has been ‘built in’ to the very core of Virgin. As such, it is important for CIOs to have succession planning in order that the business has continuity in the unfortunate event of a CIO not being able to provide management.

2. Spotting opportunities: RB – “If something is a good idea, consider it, then work out how to make it happen.”

As someone who has created 200 plus companies, the lesson that can be learnt is that within IT we need to spot opportunities for improvement. It is not enough, however, just to spot them, the onus is to spot them and then to create an environment to leverage that opportunity and to make it happen.

3. Focus: RB – “Whatever you sell, first identify your market.”

Richard Branson has always identified markets where he can add value. That has often happened in an already crowded marketplace, with existing competitors. The secret to his success is that he enters these markets and creates and delivers products, better than his rivals, usually through value for money and a better customer experience.

CIOs needs to focus on the most important issues that are relevant to the business and to shy away from the issues/projects that do not add value to the business but may just be a ‘nice have’ or appear to add value. Learn to say, ‘No’.

4. Talent acquisition: RB Employees think for themselves. They have good ideas to listen to. What is the point of hiring bright people if you don’t apply their talent?

Richard Branson believes in empowering his employees to make the decisions and to make it happen.

A CIO needs to trust their gut instinct and allow his/her staff to get the job done and to believe in their capabilities. I think, the strategic fit, is a very good measure. How will a new hire fit into the culture of the company? Will they enjoy it here? Have they worked in a similar culture before? The danger is that the culture could be so alien to the new hire, that they find it difficult to adjust.

5. Handling barriers and roadblocks: RB – “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable, challenges and trying to rise above them”

It is hard to stop someone who knows how to tackle barriers and roadblocks. CIOs need to know when to intervene. For example, in many cases that could mean stopping projects altogether to take stock of current situations or to change the direction. Create challenges for your employees and set them targets that ‘stretch’ their capabilities.

6. Successful innovation: RB -. Pioneer, don’t follow the leader, Drive for change  

CIOs need to think how they can do their jobs differently to provide competitive advantage for their companies. As IT becomes standardised across many industries, it will become harder to differentiate the IT offering. Look harder, competitive advantage is still achievable through innovative uses of IT. The question is whether you as the leader can locate and exploit it?

Virgin has proved that such success is achievable. Many businesses lack of innovation is due to their fear of failures.

7. Earn respect: RB – “Having a personality of caring about people is important. You can’t be a good leader unless you generally like people. That is how you bring out the best in them.”

CIOs need to care more about their staff and have to understand and overcome any difficulties that they face in their everyday jobs. Caring managers will always be able to deliver better results.

8. Family commitment: RB – “Divide your private life from your work life. The break down in family live has played a big role in lack of social cohesion and skills.”

This is an aspect of life that I firmly believe in as well. Time cannot be turned around or replaced. It is very important that we spend time with spouses and spend time with our children. As they grow up we have to ensure that they become responsible and active citizens. A work/life balance is crucial and ensures that we work optimally.

9. Learning: RB – “People don’t leave their jobs through lack of pay – they leave because they aren’t valued. Many companies leave people in boxes; encourage them to be adaptable and innovative.”

All great leaders have made it a habit to constantly learn. RB constantly interacts with his employees and is always open to suggestions on how to improve the business or to welcome ideas about new business.

10. Business reputation: RB Detached from values, money may indeed be the root of all evil, but linked effectively to social purpose; it can be the root of opportunity.

Richard Branson believes in the power of money to achieve a better world and he constantly strives for that through his Virgin unite charity. As he became involved with the airline industry, he started to look into ways of offsetting the carbon footprint of Virgin through the usage of eco-friendly fuels etc. Companies’ need to support the eco system that they operate in.

CIOs need to understand that IT systems can enhance and assist companies to become better corporate citizens and need to look for these opportunities

11. Follow your instinct: RB – ‘Never let facts get in the way of a good idea. If something is what you really want to do, just do it. Whatever your goal is you will never succeed unless you let go of your fears. It’s easy to give up when things are hard but we have to keep chasing dreams and our goals; once we decide to do something, we should never look back, never regret it. I rely on my gut instinct more than thick reports.”

CIOs need to listen to their inner voice and recommend changes accordingly.

12. Create and nurture ‘the correct culture.’RB-“Staff first, then customers and shareholders, Shape the business around the people. Having a personality of caring about people is important. You can’t be a good leader unless you generally like people. That is how you bring out the best in them. For the people who work for you or with you, you must lavish praise on them at all times,” Branson says. “If a flower is watered, it flourishes. If not, it shrivels up and dies. People don’t need to be told where they’ve slipped up or made a mess of something.”

13. Develop a Clear Vision–and Stick to It. – RB – Around the world we’re looking at taking the brand into a number of different industries. Our criterion is, will it fulfil the Virgin yardstick of being good value for the money? Will it enhance the brand by bringing great quality? Will we have fun doing it and can we make it profitable? If those criteria work, then we’ll seriously look at a new industry.”

Above all, you want to create something you are proud of…. That has always been my philosophy of business. I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive, then I believe you are better off doing nothing

14. Relax and feel at home RB –“Work should not be a chore and should be fun. You want to have fun at home; why shouldn’t you have fun at work?”

CIOs often forget to create a culture of fun within their department. This results in a high turnover of staff. Create strategies such as allowing staff to spend a percentage of their time on projects that they want to do. The more staff enjoy work, the more productive they will become.

15. ‘Image’ is everything. – RB – “Outstanding brands are built around great people who deliver consistently great customer service every day.”

CIOs need to change their images from just being technology leaders to leaders who understand business and can apply their strategic IT and business skills to the wider business.

16. Employees’ performance: RB – “As much as you need a strong personality to build a business from scratch, you also must understand the art of delegation. I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back.”

Branson hires the best and brightest people that he can and then allows them to have a stake in the ownership of that business. CIOs need to become better at delegating tasks, trusting employees to get the job done.

17. Earn respect by ‘listening’: RB – “You learn more by listening to other people.”

18. How do you run this company? RB – “I’ve had to create companies that I believe in 100%. These are companies I feel will make a genuine difference. Then I have to be willing to find the time myself to talk about them, promote them and market them. I don’t want to spend my life doing something that I’m not proud of.”

19. Time Management: Richard Branson spends an equal third of his time on trouble shooting his businesses, new projects (business/charity) and on promoting and marketing his businesses while creating time for family and vacations.

More:

Lesson #1: Be A Good Leader

Richard Branson and the Virgin group of companies in 2004

Leadership by IBEC.IE

Management style of Richard Branson

The importance of being Richard Branson

Michael Walenius blog – The leadership style of Richard Branson

Time – Many times a virgin

Time Video – 10 questions for Sir Richard Branson

Time – How to raise a billionaire

Time – Q&A – Virgin founder, Richard Branson

15 small business lessons from Richard Branson

Five secrets to business success by Richard Branson

Richard Branson as a leader

Business book notes – Richard Branson – Screw it let’s do it

Richard Branson’s, Screw it, let’s do it (Review)

Steve Jobs (Chairman Apple) and Tim Cook’s (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs

Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

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UPDATED: 08/10/11 – This post is dedicated to one of my heroes and role models, Steve Jobs, 1955-2011, Thanks for the inspiration. May God bless you.

In February 2010, I posted the blogpost – Steve Jobs (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs that is currently my most successful blogpost. This post attracts so many people that the search, ‘apple management style’ will return this article as the number one post. That’s without any adwords!

With the arrival of Tim Cook as Apple’s new CEO, a lot has been written comparing the two. I actually debated about writing an article on Tim Cook’s management style as well and spent the last two week’s debating the direction to take. In the end, I decided that it would be best for me to re post the original blogpost in its entirety. That decision was made because so much has been written about Tim Cook (both in the past and currently) that it would be better to leave all my readers with some appropriate links to get an idea of Tim Cook’s management style.

The most interesting part from my point of view was that I found older articles, in many cases, better than the current articles as they were quite speculative and gave solid reasons for why Tim Cook should be chosen as Apple’s next CEO. In contrast, the current articles do not have to speculate anymore and as such just wrote about Apple’s new CEO supported by content mostly from a few years ago. Anyway, below is the full text of my previous blogpost (Just after the links), Steve Jobs (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs:

Tim Cook: my first-person impression of Apple’s new CEO by TUAW
Described as “relentless”, the New York Times profiles Tim Cook
The genius behind Steve – Could operations whiz Tim Cook run the company someday? by CNN
Tim Cook’s Challenge: Sorting Out Apple’s Chinese Supply Chain by Forbes
‘Operations Guy’ Tim Cook Gets Chance to Shine At Apple by CIO.com

This article is an article in a series of articles where I will analyse current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders. I have broken down Steve Job’s style into two distinct pieces. The management style and the presentation style.

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

In an interview with Fortune, Steve Job’s (SJ) opened up about his management Style (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. SWOT analysis: As soon as you join/start a company as a CIO, make a list of strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your company on a piece of paper. Don’t hesitate in throwing bad apples out of the company.

2. Spotting opportunities: SJ – “We all had cellphones. We just hated them, they were so awful to use.”

The lesson that can be learnt is that within IT we need to spot opportunities for improvement. It is not enough, however, just to spot them, the onus is to spot them and then to create an environment to leverage that opportunity and to make it happen.

3. Improve productivity: – SJ – “We figure out what we want. So you can’t go out and ask people, you know, what the next big [thing.] There’s a great quote by Henry Ford, right? He said, ‘If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me “A faster horse.”

As a CIO, we need to ask ourselves, what can we do that will improve our customers or our own productivity? That could entail listening to your customers, horizon scanning or simply taking action on something that you feel would help you, your team/and/or customers.

4. Business/IT Strategy: SJ – “We do no market research. We don’t hire consultants.”

Sometimes it’s best to follow your instincts and to believe in yourself to do the right thing. Paralysis by analysis is often the cause that many organisations cannot do well. It’s as Nike says, Just do it!

5. Competitive advantage: SJ – “It is the intimate interaction between the operating system and the hardware that allows us to do that. That allows us to innovate at a much faster rate than if we had to wait for Microsoft, like Dell and HP and everybody else does.”

CIOs need to ask themselves how they can help the business through leveraging IT to create competitive advantage? I covered this a few weeks ago, in my post, Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality?. Sometimes, it makes sense not to embrace open platforms, as Apple has created a significant competitive advantage, by keeping it’s hardware/software systems closed. CIOs need to make such decisions cautiously.

6. Succession planning and his reputation: SJ – “My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do. My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects.”

CIOs need to be facilitators and to bring people together working towards a common goal. It is also important to have succession planning in order that the business has continuity in the unfortunate event of a CIO not being able to provide management.

7. Focus: SJ – “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”

A CIO needs to focus on the most important issues that are relevant to the business and to shy away from the issues/projects that do not add value to the business but may just be a ‘nice have’ or appear to add value. Learn to say, ‘No’.

8. Talent acquisition:They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple?”

A CIO needs to trust their gut instinct, as one can only learn a certain amount in an interview. I think, the strategic fit, is a very good measure. How will a new hire fit into the culture of the company? Will they enjoy it here? Have they worked in a similar culture before? The danger is that the culture could be so alien to the new hire, that they find it difficult to adjust.

9. Know your business and innovate: SJ – “I put out an agenda — 80% is the same as it was the last week, and we just walk down it every single week.”

The CIO and the entire IT department need to know how the business operates, preferably, as intricately as possible. It is that complete overview that will allow innovative opportunities to present themselves.

10. Handling barriers and roadblocks: SJ – “And we pushed the reset button. We went through all of the zillions of models we’d made and ideas we’d had. And we ended up creating what you see here as the iPhone, which is dramatically better.”

CIOs need to know when to intervene. For example, in many cases that could mean stopping projects altogether to take stock of current situations or to change the direction. There is no shame in that as the project has to deliver the project’s core objective.

11. Customer conversion: SJ – “But if we put our store in a mall or on a street that they’re walking by, and we reduce that risk from a 20-minute drive to 20 footsteps, then they’re more likely to go in because there’s really no risk.”

CIOs need to help the businesses by utilising IT to create opportunities in attracting additional customers. They need to ask themselves, “How can we assist in taking the business to the consumer”?

12. When the going gets tough, investment in people always pays: SJ- “What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people, that we’d taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place — the last thing we were going to do is lay them off.”

I covered this, under mobility of management when I covered; can IT Management failure be caused by a deadly disease? Part II. CIOs need to understand the importance of retaining and investing in people as one of the business’s most important assets is yet again confirmed by another business leader. This means that they need to stand by that conviction and avoid losing people in economic downturns.

13. Successful innovation and success in general may be built on failure: SJ -. “Will this resonate and be something that you just can’t live without and love? We’ll see. I think it’s got a shot.”

Apple has proved that failure can lead to success and continues to innovate by investing in many technologies. Some will inevitably fail while others such as the iPod and iPhone will be huge successes. Many businesses lack of innovation is due to their fear of failures.

14. Earn respect: Steve Jobs can be a hard boss to work with but Jobs’ employees remain devoted. That’s because his autocracy is balanced by his famous charisma — he can make the task of designing a power supply feel like a mission from God. CIOs need to command respect from their employees and that is something that has to be earned!

I want to conclude this part by finishing off with a quote that shows us that even with his god like innovative powers, Steve Jobs remains human. “Steve proves that it’s OK to be an asshole,” says Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s former chief evangelist. “I can’t relate to the way he does things, but it’s not his problem. It’s mine. He just has a different OS.”

As Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm said. “He’s at the absolute epicentre digitisation of life. He’s totally in the zone.”

The Presentation Style

For the second part, I am reproducing an article written by Carmine Gallo in BusinessWeek for his new book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. For this book he watched hours of Jobs’ keynotes. Here he identifies the five elements of every presentation by the Apple CEO. CIOs can improve their presentations by using these five elements.

1. A headline. Steve Jobs positions every product with a headline that fits well within a 140-character Twitter post. For example, Jobs described the MacBook Air as “the world’s thinnest notebook.” That phrase appeared on his presentation slides, the Apple Web site, and Apple’s press releases at the same time. What is the one thing you want people to know about your product? This headline must be consistent in all of your marketing and presentation material.

2. A villain. In every classic story, the hero fights the villain. In 1984, the villain, according to Apple, was IBM (IBM). Before Jobs introduced the famous 1984 television ad to the Apple sales team for the first time, he told a story of how IBM was bent on dominating the computer industry. “IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple.” Today, the “villain” in Apple’s narrative is played by Microsoft (MSFT). One can argue that the popular “I’m a Mac” television ads are hero/villain vignettes. This idea of conquering a shared enemy is a powerful motivator and turns customers into evangelists.

3. A simple slide. Apple products are easy to use because of the elimination of clutter. The same approach applies to the slides in a Steve Jobs presentation. They are strikingly simple, visual, and yes, devoid of bullet points. Pictures are dominant. When Jobs introduced the MacBook Air, no words could replace a photo of a hand pulling the notebook computer out of an interoffice manila envelope. Think about it this way—the average PowerPoint slide has 40 words. In some presentations, Steve Jobs has a total of seven words in 10 slides. And why are you cluttering up your slides with too many words?

4. A demo. Neuroscientists have discovered that the brain gets bored easily. Steve Jobs doesn’t give you time to lose interest. Ten minutes into a presentation he’s often demonstrating a new product or feature and having fun doing it. When he introduced the iPhone at Macworld 2007, Jobs demonstrated how Google Maps (GOOG) worked on the device. He pulled up a list of Starbucks (SBUX) stores in the local area and said, “Let’s call one.” When someone answered, Jobs said: “I’d like to order 4,000 lattes to go, please. No, just kidding.”

5. A holy smokes moment. Every Steve Jobs presentation has one moment that neuroscientists call an “emotionally charged event.” The emotionally charged event is the equivalent of a mental post-it note that tells the brain, Remember this! For example, at Macworld 2007, Jobs could have opened the presentation by telling the audience that Apple was unveiling a new mobile phone that also played music, games, and video. Instead he built up the drama. “Today, we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device…an iPod, a phone, an Internet communicator…an iPod, a phone, are you getting it? These are not three devices. This is one device!” The audience erupted in cheers because it was so unexpected, and very entertaining. By the way, the holy smokes moment on Sept. 9 had nothing to do with a product. It was Steve Jobs himself appearing onstage for the first time after undergoing a liver transplant.

One more thing…sell dreams. Charismatic speakers like Steve Jobs are driven by a nearly messianic zeal to create new experiences. When he launched the iPod in 2001, Jobs said, “In our own small way we’re going to make the world a better place.” Where most people saw the iPod as a music player, Jobs recognized its potential as a tool to enrich people’s lives. Cultivate a sense of mission. Passion, emotion, and enthusiasm are grossly underestimated ingredients in professional business communications, and yet, passion and emotion will motivate others. Steve Jobs once said that his goal was not to die the richest man in the cemetery. It was to go to bed at night thinking that he and his team had done something wonderful. Do something wonderful. Make your brand stand for something meaningful.

For more of Job’s techniques, flip through this slide show. Then catch a video interview with Carmine Gallo about how he researched his book.

The 6 Box Model – An Eco System for sustainable performance

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”

Henry Ford, industrialist, inventor (1863-1947)

There are so many new management techniques and tools published every year that it is often hard to select one that will actually work within an organisation. I recently came across the 6 box model (Created by Vlatka Hlupic, University of Westminister) and thought that it was a model that could easily be used by organisations that wanted to improve and sustain performance. Today’s business eco system is very different to the one that was prevalent, even quite recently as the early 80’s and 90’s. Professor Vlatka highlights that quite well, in the following slide:

Hlupic Slide

The 6 Box model identifies the main six key performance drivers required by organisations and how they are interlinked and rely on each other to deliver sustainable performance. Usually, when I come across business tools and techniques, the accompanying websites fail to deliver content that supports them. I was therefore quite pleasantly surprised by the 6 box model website that is a mine of information and contains a rich resource of content ranging from an article by professor Vlatka featured in Harvard Business Review that includes marked productivity improvement at both CSC and ANADIGICS. Please also view video on by Marcus Buckingham on ‘strengths’.

6BoxModel

Increasingly, Social Media has been used quite successfully by organisations to tap this resource already found within organisations and I covered this in my blog post, revised recently, ‘Organisations “Don’t get” social media’  . ‘Hlupic points to the example of HCL Technology, a software consultancy in India which developed its own Facebook-style application and used it to create a new business strategy. “Originally, 300 managers would put their strategy ideas to the CEO but with the social media application, they could put their ideas for new strategies to everyone in the global business, so 8,000 people could potentially comment. Everyone could contribute to the planning and everyone could really align themselves with the strategy and live and breath it,” she says. This all happened mid-recession and in the four years since, 70 per cent of all major deals closed by HCL were won against the big four global IT players, the number of customers has grown five-fold and employee attrition is down to 50 per cent. Revenues have also tripled over a four-year period and operating income has also tripled.’

6BoxModelCategories

I would like to conclude this article by requesting readers to read the article that I wrote in 2009 titled, ‘Can IT Management failure be caused by a deadly disease? Part II’  that discussed ‘Dr. Deming – The 5 Deadly Diseases 1984’ as that also discussed and emphasised the importance of employees and as the great man said,

“Unemployment is not inevitable but of bad management”- Dr Edward W Deming.

Our challenge – Eradicate child poverty

English: British school children in London, En...

Image via Wikipedia

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Nelson Mandela, (1918 – ) First South African President and Inspirational Leader

There are times when you watch something on television so profound that it just pulls at your inner being. On 7th June, something very similar happened. I usually record my television programmes and watch them as I get time but on this particular occasion, I was browsing and came across BBC’s programme, Poor Kids.

For readers outside the UK, who cannot view the programme on BBC iplayer, please visit Jezza Neuman’s blog, titled Poor Kids: A child’s view of growing up in poverty

Journalists often get slated for all sorts of reasons but here was proof of true journalism and its power to present facts in an innovative way through poor children’s eyes and the effects of poverty on children, as they view them. The programme’s innovative approach of presenting key facts all through the programme and the children’s viewpoint was not only moving but heart wrenching. How could we as a society, let this happen?

I usually blog on a variety of topics within business/IT management and technology, while occasionally covering topics that I feel I should cover, such as Nurturing future IT Professionals and leaders and a ComputerWeekly reader’s response, Boring’ label shows industry is ignorant about GCSE ICT.

This time it was different, compared to the ones above. Having witnessed the power of individual’s in the Middle East, I want to do something about it and play my part, in eradicating child poverty, from the UK and indeed globally. Over many years, since I was a kid, I have heard from successive governments and organisations such as Unicef that they have these wonderful five, ten, twenty year plans to eradicate child poverty, yet having grown up listening to these promises, the fact is that child poverty still exists. I cannot eradicate child poverty on my own but if enough people raise their voice against it, even as individuals, it will happen. It is unacceptable to me as a Brit to have child poverty within the UK, in 2011. What should we do to eradicate child poverty? I present my answer below followed by facts that support my hypothesis. My hope is that other bloggers, social media groups and charities can join me in ‘Action’ rather than compiling mere documents, strategies and Acts that have no effect on child poverty. The floor is yours, as they say….

The simple plan to eradicate child poverty (within the UK):

  1. International aid: One of my readers, found it quite ironic that, “We spend millions of public money on the olympic games when we cannot pay for families wo are on the bread line (or below) to live in decent housing stock”. Anyway, we have to reduce International aid, to countries such as Pakistan (£600 million in 2010/11). This cannot be justified when 3.5 million UK children suffer from child poverty. I recognise and accept the UK’s role to support other nations that need our support (My parents were from Pakistan). I cannot justify that aid when I am not shown any accountability as a UK citizen on where and how that money is spent (the UK government is knowledgeable about the rampant corruption among government officials). Especially, when their PM orders a custom built Range Rover and Rolls Royce Phantom (£800k) & pays no tax on any income for that year and one of their richest citizens (who is also an ex PM and current minister), pays only Rs 5000 (£50) in taxes annually (Source ARY News Channel report, Off the record programme on YouTube, titled – Kashif Abbasi, Off the Record, No Tax from Pakistan leaders – IN URDU UNFORTUNATELY). This is while child poverty within Pakistan is probably in figures that would eclipse UK figures!
  2. School Uniform: As highlighted by the programme, the child was wearing his sister’s shirt as his family could not afford the school uniform. This opened the floodgates for ridicule by fellow pupils. School uniform in schools is quite expensive and ranges from approx £15 – £70). Poor families cannot afford these costs and are sometimes reluctant to admit that they cannot afford them. Let’s help these families to keep their ‘self-respect’ by abolishing individual School uniforms across the UK, replaced by a national standardised school uniform available at a standard cost across the country.
  3. Child Vouchers: In addition to the school uniform suggestion above, redistribute a proportionate amount of the International aid (or all of it) in child care vouchers for school uniforms (if the suggestion above is not acceptable) and/or clothes. These vouchers can only be used for clothes.
  4. School curriculum: The national school curriculum, although standardised is taught with a great deal of variety and subject availability, across the UK. Some schools are better than others and are graded every 5 years approximately. Leadership, inspirational  and aspirational aspects are alluded to by some schools, while in others there is a severe lack of these aspects. In order for these schools to produce the future of our country, these three elements need to be incorporated within the curriculum. Curriculum and subject availability standards need to be taught and raised to those expected from private schools. Teachers salaries need to be raised as currently the best pupils end up in the private and public sector and the teaching profession is only chosen by either very special individuals who have aspired to become teachers or who cannot get many other jobs.
  5. After school classes: These should be available on a ‘needs’ basis, regardless of whether one student requires assistance or whether many do. Poorer students are usually the ones that need additional support but additional support for these children, is currently unavailable.
  6. University fees: Many students from poorer or middle class backgrounds will not go to university if they have to pay fees. We need to support our country by producing the people required to manage our country in the future. We will experience extensive brain drain, as we lose our students to foreign universities, after all, if university fees have to be paid, students may choose to go abroad and never return! According to the BBC, “History professor Robert Gildea (Oxford university) said the changes to university funding were “reckless, incoherent and incompetent”.Professor Gildea warned the changes would turn the university system into a “red carpet for the rich” which would take Oxford “back to Brideshead”.
  7. Employment opportunities: Poorer children’s parents need to be supported by the wider community and that cannot be done by government alone. A quota system should be created for every organisation (over a certain size), where priority MUST be given to ‘poorer families/unemployed’ including the chance to cross train.

APPENDIX OF FACTS

FACT ONE:

We, as a society, have become experts at compiling documents on child poverty, that run into hundreds of pages that are either discussed until no more discussion can happen and then both the document and the will of the people and organisations to orchestrate and meet the objective of eradicating child poverty, just dies. When I was researching this article, I have come across child poverty acts and strategies (View links at the end of the post) written by the public sector (UK Govt) and charities, yet I remain convinced that none of these will make an aorta of difference. The reason, I am convinced is backed by facts and the fact that once government is involved, they are experts at writing reports and lack the will for action, due to their bureaucracy.

Tom Peters, sums up very well the problem of inertia. “The magnitude of potential simplification is ….staggering.

Jim Champy, co-author along with Michael Hammer of the bible on reengineering (titled Reengineering the corporation), keeps executive audiences enthralled as he recounts tale after tale after horrid tale of critical business processes gone to flab. Consider a process for verifying an insurance claim. It takes 23 working days. Yet when Champy looks inside with an electron microscope, he discovers that, literally, 17 minutes of actual work are performed. The rest is all about scraps of paper flying (crawling is more like it) from here to there. Sitting on Desks. Unnecessary complications to forms to be filled out. And initialled. And initialled again. And so on.

Yes, it is that bad.

23 days.

17 minutes”. Excerpt from Re-Imagine, Tom Peters, page 156

FACT 2:

Facts courtesy of BBC programme, Poor Kids

  • 3.5 million children live in poverty within the UK.
  • Out of 12 Rich countries studied, kids in the UK have the lowest chance of escaping poverty.
  • In November 2010, the UK came 18th out of 22 European countries ranked by Unicef for Child Poverty. Only Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Italy were lower.
  • Child poverty under current policies is set to rise 11% in the next 3 years.
  • Poor children are 2½ times more likely to suffer chronic illness.
  • 85% of children living in damp flats suffer breathing problems.
  • 47% of children with asthma are from the poorest 10% of families.
  • Poor kids are 5 times less likely to have access to a safe outdoor play space than rich kids.
  • Credit Interest and higher fuel charges cost poor families an extra £1,280 per year.
  • Poor Kids director Jezza Neumann on the lack of hope for the children he spoke to: “I believe so many of the children we met while making the film could go on to great things in life, if given the right chances.”
  • Save the Children, who worked with the makers of Poor Kids, warns the number of children living in poverty is expected to rise over the next couple of years.
  • Recent research by the OECD revealed that children growing up in poverty in the UK are the least likely to be able to escape deprivation compared to children in other rich countries.

FACT 3:

Facts, courtesy of Time Magazine, 16/5/11 and how they relate to child poverty and Education:

  • By the age of 3, a poorer child tends to lag his wealthier equivalent in terms of personal development by 12 months.
  • At 18, the rich kid, who, like a mere 7% of Briton’s, has enjoyed the benefits of a private education, is 6 times as likely to go to university and 55 times as likely to get into Oxford or Cambridge.
  • More than 60% of the 29 Ministers around the Cabinet table were privately educated, and as many as 7 in 10 Ministers are alumni of Oxford or Cambridge.

FACT 4:

I have included below, a comment that highlights the reality of child poverty by covering a real situation where government guidelines fail children. Similar situations can happen for many reasons including the fact that parents maybe on the threshold of poverty but may not actually declare that to the authorities, as they may for example, be in denial as a result of for example, a recent redundancy or job loss.

A comment from Jezza Neumann’s blog: At 18:47 7th Jun 2011, Boilerbill wrote:

“When I was a teacher in a large school in South Bristol, there was one 11 year old girl in my tutor group who was always late. One day, on her return to school after one of her rare weeks off (on reflection I should have noticed that she was off for a week, never for the odd day, but there was always a letter), she said to me, “My Dad loves me really.” By chance a social worker was talking to the Head of Year. I told her about this rather strange comment. She said that she would see what she could find out.

The result. As I knew already, this girl walk across a mile of derelict ground to get to school. But every morning she took her 3 younger siblings to their Primary School – they were always on time in clean clothing. But it turned out that at home the girl would be given money every day to cook for and feed the family. If the meal wasn’t ready when her parents wanted feeding she got beaten (explains the absences). The children all ended up in care.

But my point is that this problem had remained hidden. The primary school (which had a good record at identifying children at risk) didn’t notice any particular problem. When the girl was in my school she was hard working in lessons, showing none of the indicators we had been asked to look out for. She was skilled at covering up what was happening in her life.
How do you find these children? They are all around us”.

I would like to end this post with a poem by Khalil Gibran, titled – Your Children are not your children:

Your Children are not Your Children

They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

Further Info

UK Department for Work and Pensions – Child poverty policy

UK Department for Education – Child Poverty Strategy

UK Department for Education – A new approach to child poverty – Tackling the causes of disadvantage and transforming families lives

UK Legislation.gov.uk – Child poverty Act 2010

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Education and poverty in the spending review

BBC News – Main site for Education and family

BBC News – Education and family – Q&A University funding

BBC News – Education and family – Oxford dons vote against Willets

BBC News – Education and family – Oxford dons declare ‘No confidence’ in Willets

BBC News – Education and family – MPs warn over tuition fees funding gap

National Children’s Bureau (NCB) – Ending child poverty – Making it happen

End Child Poverty.org – Poverty in a land of plenty – Five years on

Action for Children – Child poverty

Barnardos – Child Poverty

The Guardian – Severe poverty affects 1.6 million children, charity claims

Gazzette Live – Charity calls for action on child poverty within the UK

Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Can current policy end child poverty in Britain by 2020?

Child Poverty Action Group – Ending Child Poverty – A manifesto for success


‘You’ The Brand and ‘Social Media.’

Social Media Iceberg

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

James D. Miles (1830 – 1914) Steamboat Captain in the Northwest

Some of you may remember, the television shows of the 80’s where TV series/serials, used to start with, ‘Previously on xyx.’I felt a bit nostalgic today, so I will start the same way. Previously on my blog, I have written about Social Media (SM) in various contexts. I wrote about the effect of SM on a friend’s daughter – The ugly side of social media, the conundrum facing CIOs – The Social Networking dilemma and the CIO, a quick primer on SM – Social Media Primer – Succeed by using LinkedIn and blogs, Toyota and its failure to use SM – How Toyota became the werewolf and the three step process to embrace SM: Organisations “Don’t get” social media (UPDATED, RECOMMENDED READING FOR THIS POST, with ALL NEW SM monitoring tools for both personal and business use). It is becoming evident though that some organisations have become adept at SM, as witnessed by Ford’s recent Ford Explorer, campaign. “We couldn’t think of launching a vehicle today without launching it early using social media,”Jim Farley, Ford’s Vice President for Global Marketing – Courtesy of Social Media Explorer.

Senior management need to understand the business and how IT can be utilised to provide competitive advantage – Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality? The problem these days is that many CEOs start working at new employer’s without taking the time and effort to understand and appreciate the business and its culture. Without understanding fully, their business, there is no way for them to realise the potential within their existing or future procured IT systems. In addition, many businesses still have their IT chief’s reporting to CFOs. Without board level representation, IT cannot deliver any benefits to the bottom line. Within that context, Terry Leahy fully understood the impact of IT and allowed his CIO, Philip Clarke to analyse and innovate. In effect, Philip Clarke, successfully created, ‘Philip Clarke, the brand.’ Can anyone create a successful brand, using the Internet and Social Media? The answer has to be a resounding ‘Yes’. I will now outline the steps. The secret to leveraging the success of SM is to integrate, disseminate and monitor SM (automate as much of this as possible, especially if you are building your personal brand – due to time constraints).

Integration: If you are thinking of setting up a new business or personal brand, Google Apps could be the ideal platform for you. I covered this previously, Google Apps – The myth, hype and reality. Google Apps Premiere edition was recently named as  Google Apps for Business and now incorporates all the FREE apps that used to be available to personal Google/GMAIL account holders, such as my favourites, Google URL shortener and Alerts. Regardless, of whether you are a small business or corporate, the website needs to provide analytics to ascertain demographic analysis, page views, referrals (Which sites are referring your site) and statistics and words used for searches conducted, using tools such as Google Analytics. The website also needs a blog feature (Or if you are building your personal brand, enable a personal blog using WordPress/Blogger (Free)). The blog needs to auto connect with SM to deliver posts (Such as, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, MSN and YouTube) automatically.

Dissemination: A decision has to be made on which SM will be most effective in disseminating information (News/blogposts/articles) to your target audience. For example, with the launch of the Ford Explorer, Ford decided to use Facebook.  Appropriate profiles for various SM (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace etc) need to be created. There is plenty of information available on the Internet, to help in creating these profiles but the rule of thumb is that all of your SM profiles, need to be as similar to each other as possible, across all SM. Again, automate as much of this as possible, (especially if you are building your personal brand – due to time constraints)

Monitor: Once SM has been integrated and dissemination profiles/channels are completed start monitor ing‘key people and blogs and setup appropriate RSS feeds’ for content/people that your business needs ‘to follow’ in order to keep abreast of trends in your field. Monitoring also needs to be setup for adverse comments, as the case with Toyota (See above) highlights. As SmartPhones are prevalent now, appropriate phone apps need to be setup to provide the ability to monitor, regardless of location.

Finally, I wanted to leave you with some Twitter cheat sheets that also include other SM tools etc as well (Courtesy of the following):

Geneabloggers.com-Twitter-Cheat-Sheet

@gminks of Adventures in Corporate Education’s Cheat sheet

The Social Media guide.com’s Cheat sheet

The public you.com and Rich Sauser’s Cheat sheet

Louis V Gerstner (CEO IBM 1993-2002) management style and CIOs

IBM Electronic Data Processing Machine (1952)

Image by Chemical Heritage Foundation via Flickr

“Watch the turtle. He only moves forward by sticking his neck out.”

Louis V Gerstner, Jr (1942 – ) IBM CEO 1993-2002

Sign in Louis Gerstner’s office:

THERE ARE FOUR KINDS OF PEOPLE:

THOSE WHO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN

THOSE TO WHOM THINGS HAPPEN

THOSE WHO WATCH THINGS HAPPEN

THOSE WHO DON’T EVEN KNOW THINGS ARE HAPPENING

Today’s article is the eighth in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison, 6th Eric Schmidt, 7th CIOs and the ideal management style), analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

I don’t usually read a book and write about it but I really liked Louis Gerstner’s (LG) very own style of writing and the way that he turned around IBM. In 1993, IBM was losing market share and perhaps on the verge of bankruptcy. Louis Gerstner accepted the job and walked into this situation without really knowing whether he could revive IBM to its glory days.

This series is about leadership and this is the first time I am moving away from offering my thoughts on how CIOs (and others) can apply these leadership practices within their own businesses. The main reasoning is that, I will from now on leave it to my readers to apply what they have learnt from my blog posts. I am increasingly conscious that my readership now envelops many disparate disciplines and I am grateful for that. It has always been my intention that I disseminate my knowledge to others who may benefit as well. After all, knowledge taken to the grave is knowledge lost!

For the full version, please read the book, Who says Elephants can’t dance – Inside IBM’s historic turnaround by Louis V Gerstner. I am also grateful to Harper Collins as I have used excerpts from the book itself.

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

Louis Gerstner started his working in life with McKinsey & Company in 1965, joined American Express as their Head of Travel related Services Group in 1977 and accepted the CEO’s position of RJR Nabisco in 1989. Let’s see what CIOs and general management can learn from this icon of modern business and technology. (In no particular order):

1. Success in general may be built on failure:

As LG started his new job at IBM, he met with the Corporate Management Board (Top 50 executives of IBM) and told them that he had not looked for the job and took it reluctantly as he thought that the responsibility was important to the country’s competitiveness and health. He then went on to outline his expectations:

i.            Eliminate bureaucracy by decentralising wherever possible while ensuring the right balance with central strategy and common customer focus.

ii.            Benchmarking costs against those of competitors and then achieving best in class status.

iii.            Layoffs maybe necessary (Let’s not kid ourselves)

iv.            IBM management wanted to breakup IBM into smaller autonomous businesses. LG said, “Maybe that is the right thing to do, but maybe not. We certainly want decentralised, market-driven decision making. But is there not so offer comprehensive solutions, a continuum of support? Can’t we do that and also sell individual products?”

v.            About morale, he said, “I want can-do people looking for short term victories and long term excitement.” He also told the audience that it would be his priority to utilise internal talent rather than bringing in outsiders.

2. How did he want to run IBM? LG -.

  • “I manage by principle, not procedure.
  • The marketplace dictates everything we should do.
  • I’m a big believer in quality, strong competitive strategies and plans, teamwork, payoff for performance and ethical responsibility.
  • I look for people who look to solve problems and help colleagues.
  • I sack politicians’.
  • I am heavily involved in strategy; the rest is yours to implement. Just keep me informed in an informal way. Don’t hide bad information – I hate surprises. Don’t try to blow things by me. Solve problems laterally; don’t keep bringing them up the line.
  • Move fast. If we make mistakes, let them be because we are too fast rather than too slow.
  • Hierarchy means very little to me. Let’s put together in meetings the people who can help solve the problem, regardless of position. Reduce committees and meetings to a minimum. No committee decision making. Let’s have lots of candid, straightforward communications.
  • I don’t completely understand the technology. I’ll need to learn it, but don’t expect me to master it. The unit leaders must be the translators into business terms for me.“I would say a few things. First, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s how you learn, so I believe a lot in trio al and error and course corrections. Often companies are unwilling to admit when they’ve made a mistake. We tend to question things more in our business.

                                              

3.        SWOT analysis: LG pointed out five ninety day priorities on joining IBM and they were:

I.            Stop the bleeding of cash as IBM is running out of money.

II.            Ensure that IBM is profitable by 1994 (LG joined IBM in April 1993).

III.            Develop and implement a customer strategy for the next two years (93,94) that indicated to the customers that IBM had returned and was there to serve them.

IV.            Complete the ‘right sizing’ of IBM.

V.            Create ‘an intermediate-term business strategy.

4.        Constant analysis: With regards to mainframe pricing, LG was convinced that the reason IBM was losing out to competitors was that IBM had the pricing strategy all wrong, so he reversed it with ‘an aggressive price reduction. In addition at a conference attended by approx 175 CIOs and after listening to them during the conference, LG laid out his expectations:

I.            IBM priorities would be redefined, starting with the customer.

II.            IBM laboratories would be allowed to do what they wanted to do and would deliver open, distributed, user based solutions.

III.            IBM would be easier to work with, would recommit to quality and re-establish its leadership position.

IV.            IBM would work for the customer and deliver the performance the customer wanted.

5.        Improve productivity: As LG moved forward with re-inventing IBM, he took the following measures to improve productivity:

  • All of IBM would stay together as one company and not converted into autonomous units.
  • IBM economic model would be altered, such as expenses as IBM were spending 42 cents to produce $1 of revenue while its competitors were spending only 32 cents..
  • Business re-engineering would be undertaken. For example processes and systems would be reviewed as internally IBM had 128 CIOs!
  • Underproductive assets would be sold to generate much needed cash.

6.        Business reputation and brand: IBM had never had a true Head of marketing and just like the processes and the 128 CIO scenario, marketing was controlled by countries and business units etc. That resulted in a totally disjointed marketing campaign. The new Head of marketing decided to consolidate all of IBM’s advertising relationships into a single ad agency. This spawned the “Solutions for a Small planet” and was followed by the coining of the term, “e-business.”

7.        Rating of employees’ performance: – In the past, I have reviewed many CEO’s management style but Eric Schmidt’s and Louis Gerstner’s style is the closest fit to Deming’s ‘Annual rate of performance’ that I have yet come across.

“This was all about pay for performance, not loyalty or tenure. It was all about differentiation: Differentiate our overall pay based on the marketplace; differentiate our increases based on individual performance and pay in the marketplace; differentiate our bonuses based on business performance and individual contributions; and differentiate our stock-option awards based on the critical skills of the individual and our risk of loss to competition.”

8.       Spotting opportunities: While looking for opportunities, LG met the Head of ISSC (IBM Subsidiary), Dennie Welsh. The opportunity that Dennie had spotted would change IBM forever. “He told me that his vision of a services company was not one that did just IBM product maintenance and strung together computer codes for customers, he envisioned a company that would literally take over and act on behalf of the customers in all aspects of information technology-from building systems to defining architectures to actually managing the computers and running them for the customers. My mind was afire. To be truly successful, we would have to do things that would shake the place to its roots. For example, the services unit would need to be able to recommend the products of Microsoft, HP, Sun and all other major IBM competitors if that, in fact, was the best solution for the customer. Of course, we would have to maintain and service these products as well.”

9.        Create and nurture ‘the correct culture.’ – Watson, Sr had created the original culture of IBM but over the years, IBM personnel had moved away from the original ethos of that culture and had started to interpret it quite differently to how it was originally intended. LG made it an imperative to change the IBM culture that was a better reflection and fit for the changing times. The original culture hinged around:

  • Excellence in everything we do. – This became an obsession with perfection. The culture that developed threatened to halt IBM due to checks, approvals and validation meant that decision making just ground to a halt.
  • Superior customer service.- This translated into “servicing IBM machines on customers’ premises”, and as a result the customer’s real needs were usually not entertained.
  • Respect for the individual. – This meant that employees expected their entitlements regardless of performance. This meant that in many instances the best people were not getting what they deserved.

10.     Develop a Clear Vision–and Stick to It. – LG “I was always amazed at how many executives thought that “vision” was the same as “strategy.” Vision statements are for the most part aspirational, and they play a role in creating commitment and excitement among an institution’s employees. Good strategies start with massive amounts of quantitative analysis –hard, difficult analysis that is blended with wisdom, insight, and risk taking.”

11.      Business/IT Strategy/principles: LG- “I am struck by how much of the culture change of the following ten years they describe”

LG outlined eight principles that were to envelop the business strategy and underpinned the new IBM culture.

1)        The marketplace is the driving force behind everything that we do.

2)       At our core, we are a technology company with an overriding commitment to quality.

3)       Our primary measures of success are customer satisfaction and shareholder value.

4)       We operate as an entrepreneurial organisation with a  minimum of bureaucracy and a never-ending focus on productivity.

5)       We never lose sight of our strategic vision.

6)       We think and act with a sense of urgency.

7)       Outstanding, dedicated people make it all happen, particularly when they work together as a team.

8)       We are sensitive to the needs of all employees and to the communities in which we operate.

12.     Be ‘shrewd’ and keep the team on its ‘toes.’ – LG – “We’re getting our butts kicked in the marketplace. People are taking our business away. So I want us to start kicking some butts-namely, of our competitors. This is not a game we’re playing. We have got to start getting out in the marketplace and hitting back hard. I can assure you, our competitors are focused maniacally on these charts, and they talk us down constantly. For example, this from Larry Ellison (CEO Oracle): “IBM? We don’t even think about those guys anymore. They’re not dead, but they’re irrelevant.”

13.     Hire ‘Action’ oriented employees. – LG was once asked, “What do you really want people to do?” He answered, “Win, execute and team.”

  • “WIN:    It was vital that all the IBMers understand that business is a competitive activity. In the new IBM there would be no place for anyone who lacked zeal for the contest.”
  • “EXECUTE:         No more studying things to death. In the new IBM, successful people would commit to getting things done – fast and effectively.”
  • “TEAM: This was a commitment to acting as one IBM, plain and simple.”

14.     Focus: LG – “History shows that truly great and successful companies go through constant and sometimes difficult self-renewal of the base business. They don’t jump into new pools where they have no sense of the depth or temperature of the water.”

15.     Quality management: LG ”But alas, too often the executive does not understand that people do what you inspect, not what you expect.”

16.     Succession planning and his reputation: LG – “When IBM’s Board of Director’s considered who would succeed me, passion was high on their list of necessary attributes. Sam Palmisano (Current IBM CEO), my successor, is an extraordinary executive – a man of many talents. However, he would never have had my recommendation, despite these many talents, if he didn’t have a deep passion for IBM, for what it stands for, for what it can be, for what it can do.”

CIOs and the ideal management style

Chief Information Officer United States Army logo

Image via Wikipedia

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) Dutch painter

Today’s article is the seventh in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison, 6th Eric Schmidt), analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

These blogposts have been informational for me and my readers and I have certainly learnt a lot from all the different management styles of these ‘new age’ leaders. It was fascinating to read that while they all had common aspects, they were also very different indeed.

As a result of these blogposts, books that I read, academic and vocational qualifications and my own experience, I decided to outline my thoughts on the qualities that are needed to become a successful CIO.

1. The start of a CIO’s career within a new organisation:

There is a general assumption within IT that a CIO’s career starts once the interview process is over. This is one of the worst assumptions to be made by a prospective CIO. The aspiring CIO needs to understand the prospective organisation that he/she wants to work with and ensure that it is a good fit for his/hers skills and that the ‘culture’ of the organisation supports change and is quite open to ‘challenging the status quo.’ I would suggest that the CIO has done his/her research on the organisation prior to the interview to establish that it is an organisation that they want to work with and assist to achieve the business benefits that the organisation perceives will be achieved once the CIO joins. The CIO MUST ask the right questions at the interview and ensure that there is indeed a ‘strategic fit’ for both the CIO and the employing organisation.

Read the job specification well and look for indicators that may lead to problems or that highlight that ‘strategic fit.’ Try and define (fine tune) the role to establish, for example, How will IT success be defined and measured?

2. The job begins:

As soon as you join/start an organisation as a CIO, make a list of strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your organisation on a piece of paper as that will enable you to plan effectively and to ‘hit’ the problem areas first. Go into the job well prepared, as by that stage, you had ample opportunity to look at the job specification, research the organisation and the interview gave you ‘key’ information to utilise. Start building your credibility by establishing some areas for ‘quick wins’ and be careful to strike a fine balance between ‘moving too fast or slow.’ For example, trying to impress your boss by moving too quickly to make something happen that results in an awkward explanation to him/her has to be avoided at all cost. Take decisive action, as moving slow can also adversely affect your credibility.

3. Communication and establishing relationships:

Listen, learn and communicate. As soon as you are comfortable, conduct a business/IT review. I am not going to give this consideration as a separate bullet point because I believe that it has to be done by establishing relationships. These relationships will be ‘key in analysing the business and IT and will provide the information that the CIO seeks. This communication and relationship building cycle has to take precedent as the CIO casts a wide ‘networking’ net across the organisation. Talk to senior executives’, gatekeepers, junior staff and all the people who use IT to do their everyday jobs. These are the people who will inform you where IT is delivering value, where business fails and how to strike the right balance.

Conduct ‘one to one’ interviews, inform people within your organisation your goals and communicate to your team your leadership style. Be honest and transparent with people as everyone hates the ‘new smart ass guy/gal.’

4. Lead and innovate:

Always follow your instincts and look for ideas to nurture. Encourage innovation and ask your team to set aside at least 10-20% of their time for projects that they want to do (during business hours). Google and 3M have done this very successfully and if they can do it, so can you. Look for opportunities while constantly analysing every aspect of IT and your team, looking for improvements.

Be visionary and ensure that you present a vision to your team that is representative of where the business wants to be or is heading towards. Create a culture of change and nurture the ‘right’ talent within your team and if hiring externally ensure that ‘action oriented employees’ are selected.

Finally, ensure appropriate metrics and scorecards are used to chart your progress (key success factors and key performance indicators) from just ‘keeping the lights on’ to actually ‘driving business transformation.’

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Related Information:

Who is a CIO?

A CIO is a leader who has an excellent overview of IT, business and how people interact with each other. He can then apply that knowledge to understand where a business is going (Business Vision) and ensure that IT systems and procedures are developed to realise that vision and along the way, if he/she can realise financial savings/contribute to the bottom line (actually utilise IT to earn revenue), he/she become indispensable and should head for stardom. For example, Tesco’s Ex IT Director became their CEO – http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=505864&in_page_id=2

Why hire a CIO?

To ensure that the above actually happens and that the IT systems are actually working towards creating value for the business and are delivering the business vision with assistance from the IT systems.

Why a CIO is important in an organisation?

A CIO is important as without a board level director (CIO), IT manager’s cannot represent IT effectively to the business. Read my blogpost: Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality? – http://wp.me/pw27T-4S

Roles and Responsibilities of a CIO

Deliver the business vision
Create the ‘buy in’ from internal and external relationships to deliver that vision
Develop effective and reliable IT systems to deliver that vision
Empower IT teams to make good decisions
Effective and brilliant leadership

Criteria for Becoming a CIO

Leadership skills, inspirational capability, tenacity, ability to make good educated calculations of where both business and IT are heading towards (especially the IT capability, for example, In House systems vs. Cloud), Excellent networker and people person, team player and good communication skills, especially the ability ‘to listen.’

For More Info:

Master of Information Leadership (MIL) for aspiring CIOs delivered by City University, London

First 100 Days as CIO

Top 10 guidance tips for new CIOs and IT leaders

London School of Business puts whole MBA course on Facebook