Christine Lagarde is IMF’s new minder

June 29, 2011

In Europe, Christine Lagarde was recognised as a leading figure to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as leader of the International monetary Fund.

She overcome opposition to a view that the post needed a non-European, and certainly not another French politician

Positive bias?

It is possible that my view of Christine Lagarde has been positively biased by a few interviews on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, in which she expressed her views on international finance. I couldn’t help thinking that the performances would have placed her as a serious candidate for political leadership in England, and how much I would have liked to witness a debate between herself, George Osborne and Gordon Brown.

Christine, George and Gordon

On second thoughts, not. Some thought experiments are best left to the imagination. My view is based in part on her capability to communicate financial information clearly and convincingly. Only later did I learn of a formidable track record of business leadership in the United States, and political achievements in France.

The challenge

The following is abstracted from various sources particularly drawing on Expatica.

According to French news sources

Lagarde faces turning status into real power at the IMF:

Christine Lagarde comes to the top job at the International Monetary Fund with international stature, a eurozone debt crisis before her and unfinished reforms from the financial crisis at her back.

In fighting the fires of the eurozone-Greece crisis and the dangers it poses to the global financial system, she comes well-armed, not least because she is fully fluent in English and at ease in front of the media. She now must dissipate concerns that she is a lawyer by training, not an economist.

For the past 18 months, latterly as a pivotal figure during France’s G20 presidency, she has been a high-profile and, by all accounts, highly effective architect of financial-political solutions. Now she must follow Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned last month to fight charges of sexual assault, in guiding the world towards a new and more robust financial system.

Charm offensive

Lagarde won the job on the back of her successful record as French finance minister and also because of her deep inside understanding of the eurozone crisis, which initially will be the new IMF chief’s principal challenge. She played on her international stature and also sought to broaden it during a whirlwind, marathon charm offensive in recent weeks. Sarkozy first named Lagarde as agriculture minister in 2007 but, in a quick cabinet reshuffle, promoted her, in part for her symbolic weight as a French woman who had made it in corporate America.

Baker & McKenzie

Lagarde was previously chief executive at Baker & McKenzie, a US law firm, a rare high-profile success for a French citizen in the US which made an impact in French political circles.

As finance minister

As finance minister, she quickly showed herself at ease in international settings such as the Davos Forum. Lagarde was described by Time Magazine, in 2009, as one of the most influential women in the world.

Two months later, in part to fend off criticisms that Lagarde’s handling of the crisis privileged international finance, France launched a 26-billion-dollar domestic spending scheme. But the programmes were largely planned at the presidential palace and not in the hallways of Bercy, France’s finance ministry. Lagarde’s role was to promote the programmes, in France and internationally. This year she became France’s longest running finance minister for decades. Before her, there were seven ministers in seven years.


Deconstructing Wen Jiabao and The Daily Mail

June 28, 2011

The visit of China’s premier Wen Jiabao to England provides an opportunity to explore a clash of cultures. A Daily Mail article is chosen to represent the style and content of reporting in a popular British newspaper

Thanks to the freedom of the press in England we have numerous opportunities to explore the cultural beliefs they purvey. These reveal themselves particularly when a story can be written about a different culture.

The Daily Mail

The Daily Mail is, perhaps, as alien to Chinese culture as Mr Wen’s Culture is to most of the two million Mail readers. A study of The Mail’s history reveals a consistent pattern of robust and independent reporting which should not be mistaken as coming from a state-controlled institution. Left-wing commentators see it as the voice of Little Britain, popularist, and provocatively opposed to social reform. Yet it has never been an obliging supporter of Conservative policies when it considers them to be weak on issues such as immigration, ‘Europe’, or crime.

Its founders in the 1890s, were innovators whose energy and ideas helped create the so-called tabloid press style in England which has echoes in today’s NewsCorp of Rupert Murdoch. (Tabloid: smaller format newspapers with more higher entertainment to news ratios than the ‘serious’ papers such as The Times, Guardian, and Daily Telegraph).

Nostalgia

The style is part nostalgia for a lost glory of Empire, part anger at frustration with post-imperial Britannia. It writes a lot about the BBC (which it sees as irredeemably biased to the political and social left), immigrants as a social evil, homosexuality, welfare scoundrels, and the restrictions to free speech imposed by what readers have come to call political correctness and the Nanny State. Foreigners tend to be written about as strange and often funny. The style is always lively, full of energy, and creativity, with a cheerful mix of opinion, invention, mischief and sometimes factual evidence.

Its journalists survive by being able to capture outrage and frustration for a proportion of the population of the United Kingdom which prefers news served up in this format. Part of the offering is its predictability of beliefs together with originality of the writing

Quentin Watts

The visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jaibao was described by the paper’s political sketch writer Quentin Watts. Mr Watts has written extensively about the decline of standards in England. Extracts from his recent book were recycled as Mail articles. One claimed, for example, that

You see them clack-clacking along the pavement, fat-faced British girls with goose-pimpled thighs en route to the disco. In the third blast from his new book on the dumbing down of Britain, Quentin Letts holds Germaine Greer [celebrity feminist scholar] responsible for at least some of this destruction of feminine modesty and decency and the rise of (his terms) ‘an entire generation of loose knickered lady louts’

Quentin sizes up Wen Jiabao

Watts begins his sketch with the visual impression of the scene:

Tidy little chap, Wen, size of a retired jockey. He spoke at rare length but gave away little. It was a bit like watching Geoffrey Boycott [boring Cricketer turned celebrity commentator] bat. He stood on the podium largely hidden by his lectern. All we could see was a neat, inky hairdo, metal-rimmed spectacles and an immobile upper lip.

The article continues:

Mr Cameron, standing at an identical lectern a few feet away, towered over Mr Wen physically – and yet it was plainly the Peking premier who was the senior partner. Mr Cameron, looking a little careworn, did his usual range of facial expressions. He gave us variations of timbre, smiles, frowns, glances to the horizon, etc. Mr Wen, by contrast, just stood there like an off-duty washing machine awaiting its next load of smalls.

You Funny Little Chaps

Mr Watts is paid to write amusingly about politicians. The humour here is laced with nostalgia. Mr Cameron towers over Mr Wen (Our people are tall and powerful; you funny little chaps are small and weak). And yet, “it was plainly the Peking premier who was the senior partner”.

It is a kind of humour that was once applied to another funny little chap known as Adolph Hitler. This came to mind not because the article intended to liken the Chinese Premier with Hitler. It was because humour reveals a lot. It reminded me (thanks to Wikipedia) that The Mail’s founder Lord Rothermere was a supporter of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler and for a time sympathetic to the ideas of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists, during the 1930s.

Funny thing, culture

It’s a funny thing culture, too. I suspect it to be one of The Mail’s less favoured words, suggesting pointless initiatives peddled as University courses. But maybe there is much to be learned from reactions when cultures clash.


Habitat, Conran and Creative Destruction

June 27, 2011

As Sir Terance Conran’s iconic ‘love child’ goes into administration, we reflect on the process of creative destruction

Habitat is a much-loved British institution. In the 1960s it pioneered a life-style revolution for a generation of home-makers, bringing a splash of coordinated colour into the design plans of a generation of young home-makers.

Design and Creativity

It serves as an example of the ideas of design theorist Margaret Bruce. Writing in the Routledge Companion to Creativity, she argues [p 40] that “design is the purposive application of creativity throughout the process of innovation.”

Professor Margaret Bruce

Margaret is Professor of Design Management and Marketing at Manchester Business School. Commenting on Habitat for LWD she noted

“I would put Habitat’s problems as being partly in the squeezed middle market not consuming high ticket items such as furniture. Low cost competitors like Ikea came in offering the same style. There are fewer first time buyers needing items for appartments. So Habitat failed to differentiate tself with an attractive proposition. In addition it may not be strong online which has high growth in the UK and its service needed to compete better than it has”

The decline of Habitat

The BBC reported the decline of Habitat

All but three UK Habitat stores are being put into administration in a deal to sell the indebted furniture chain. Home Retail Group, owner of Argos and Homebase, will buy the Habitat brand and three central London stores for £24.5m in cash. Habitat, which was set up in 1964 by designer Sir Terence Conran, has been owned by the private equity firm Hilco since it bought the heavily-indebted retailer from Ikea-affiliate Ikano in 2009.

“Of course I’m sad that my love child, Habitat, appears to be dying, but I am more interested in the future of my own business and design projects – that is my focus,” said Sir Terence.

You can see a video of the story here

Terence Conran

Sir Terence Conran has been one of the most influential British designers since the 1960s. His restless creativity has been implemented in life-style ideas. But unlike some entrepreneurs, Conran moved on. His remark about Habitat as his “love child” seems also to capture the capacity of the creative individual to be both involved and detached. The proud father and the rational economic entrepreneur. It is captured in the famous quote from Graham Green that “there is a splinter of ice in the heart of a writer.”

Creative Destruction

The demise of Habitat also demonstrated how creative change brings about destruction of the old and at the same time carries with it the seeds of its own destruction. Habitat was such a powerful idea that its niche position was eventually invaded by slicker and more modern alternatives such as Ikea.

Acknowledgement

Image is of the Habitat store in Cheltenham from skip to the end.com


Life of Riley

June 23, 2011

Pat Riley now of Miami Heat is a basketball coaching legend. His leadership style bears some comparison with Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United Football Club. What might their careers tell us about business success?

Tudor Rickards

A young man brought up in tough early circumstances goes on to become one of the all time legends of his sport as a coach of the highest quality and a great motivator. He became known as a master of press relations, and a coiner of memorable phrases. His playing career was successful enough, but he was never regarded as in the same class as the world beaters he went on to coach and motivate.

Abrasive but sensitive

He is often described as charismatic. He was to become rich and famous beyond the expectations of his early years. His management style is regarded as abrasive although showing unexpected sensitivity to a player’s emotional needs from time to time. He enjoys the good life outside his professional work.

Sir Alex or Pat?

Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United or Pat Riley of Miami Heat? The facts fit the public picture of both men equally well. They were actually written about Pat Riley.

Now President of The Miami HEAT, Pat Riley posted 50-plus winning seasons in 13 consecutive years, which is unprecedented in the NBA. Riley’s 137 playoff victories rank first in league post-season annuals as the only coach to secure 100 or more playoff victories. He surpassed the legendary Red Auerbach’s 99-playoff wins in 1990. Pat has won six world championships as a player and coach. His speeches before hundreds of corporations have earned him the title of “America’s Greatest Motivational Speaker.” His philosophy is based upon winning, leadership, mastery, change, and personal growth as well as understanding and controlling the shifting dynamics of a team any team, whether it is a small company, a giant corporation, a city, or a group of athletes. He worked with one of the greatest stars of his sport but the relationship went wrong. The club wasn’t big enough for both of them.

Art follows life

In one of those coincidences, executives in Miami will be studying a hypothetical case of a sports motivator who has written a book called “Leadership is for winners not for whingers”. [Probably a Brit. A whinger is someone who constantly blames others for their problems]. The executives will learn how to weigh the evidence and assess the merits of such claims, as part of a leadership programme. I am getting ready for questions about basketball …

Study note

This post was written for study by executive students at Manchester Business School’s Miami-based MBA course as part of the introductory module Global Events and Leadership.


Why switching Murray to No 1 court was a leadership dilemma

June 22, 2011

This year, Wimbledon has a rain cover for its famous Centre Court. Andy Murray expected to play his second round match there, protected from the forecast rain showers. To general surprise, the tournament organizers announced that the match would be played on the unprotected No 1 court. This seems like a leadership dilemma agonizingly being played out

All that follows is speculation. The story was picked up in a few papers but not, at first by the BBC, who normally have an obsessive interest in all things to do with the Wimbledon championships. It’s not even a particularly newsworthy story unless you have some patriotic money on the last Brit in the so-called Gentlemen’s singles tournament.

Why it puzzled me

The story puzzled me because it seemed to place the home favourite at a disadvantage. The BBC commentary is likely to be disrupted. The centre court ticket holders might feel a bit puzzled – outraged even, but they are not very practiced in such an emotion since the days on the once foul-mouthed John McInroe.

The dilemma

The draw for LTA tournaments is one of the most cherished examples of actions carried out strictly to rules. The order of play is more open to some personal discretion. At first it did not make any sense that a decision had been made that would produce immediate news attention about bungled leadership.
In such case, I tell my students, look for the dilemma facing the decision-making. Test the assumptions which might influence the decision.

The Blind Spot at Henman’s Hill

On the first day of the tournament, the weather was at its most mischievous. But thanks to the new cover, play went on uninterrupted on Centre Court. Andy Murray was among those players who benefitted. But the plaudits for the organizers were short-lived. The thousands of spectators who braved the conditions to watch on the giant TV screens on Henman’s Hill did not see anything. Something to do with health and safety.

So there’s your dilemma. Presumably the arrangements for ensuring the transmission of matches from Centre Court to a soggy but faithful crowd outside had not been thought about. Keeping Murray on Centre Court risked a repeat of Monday’s anger. Placing his match on No 1 court risked criticisms of failing to give the home favourite a permitted advantage wherever possible. And of course, that decision could always be defended as acting according to the spirit of fair play.

Sheer speculation

All of which is no more than speculation. But it does show how looking for the possible dilemma facing decision-makers may help make some sense of behaviours, even of Tennis administrators.

One or two frustrations

As an All England Tennis Club (AETC) spokesperson told the BBC “With the rain we have had, it was inevitable that there will be one or two frustrations along the way. The referee has had to alter a lot of games in the overall programme.”

Bit of a shambles
Another young british payer Laura Robson had to wait until after 2000 BST before being informed she would not be playing on Tuesday. AS she put it on Twitter “Bit of a shambles this evening”.

A helpful suggestion from LWD

Dear AETC. How about this? Speak to your friends at the BBC. Do one of those famous ‘behind the scenes’ programmes. Show the war room where these decisions get made. Show how chaotic and complex it all is. It may show that you are not as incompetent as you sometimes appear.


“Masterminds who give genius a guiding hand” Analysis of top tennis coaches

June 18, 2011

A thoughful examination of coaches of the top four male tennis players suggests their skills involve trust-building and seeking to make marginal changes

Hugh MacDonald writing in the Herald provides an impressive piece of sporting journalism. He stuck to supplying readers with evidence above opinion, in analysing the coaches and their impacts on the big four of Men’s tennis.

They are the best in the world, perhaps the best quartet in world tennis ever. So how can anyone make them better? This is the task facing those who choose to coach Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. They are four different personalities with distinct playing styles, but with the same driving force that demands improvement in their game.

Long-term relationships

Djokovic and Nadal have persisted with a long-term relationship with one coach. ‘Uncle Toni’ has been with Nadal for ever. Djokovic has stuck with Marian Vajda for much of his career. A brief period with the distinguished player coach Todd Martin did not work out. Federer has also stuck with Severin Luethi for some while. He was quoted in the New York Times as saying “We don’t particularly set up and say, ‘let’s do a brainstorming session’, like in business school or something. It’s somewhat more casual. We are in track suits and lounging around and all of a sudden it happens,”

Not so long term

Which brings us to Andy Murray. The snarly Scot seems to need a coach as target for his on-court frustations. Relationships appear to be intense and ephemeral in contrast to the other three players. MacDonald is tactful when he writes:

The most intriguing set-up, however, is situated at the heart of Team Murray. “I have a coach,” was Murray’s brisk answer to enquiries at the French Open about when he intended to appoint a full-time mentor. Murray now has access to Darren Cahill and has Sven Groeneveld in his box. Cahill coached Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi and Groeneveld worked with Federer. The 24-year-old Scot thus has a mine of experience to seam. The approach of player and coach, though, show the relationship is built on trust and then faith. Murray talks of the “stability” the Australian has [recently] brought to his game. He said: “He did not just steam in and say, ‘you need to do this, you need to do that’, and start telling everyone what to do. He spent a few days not really saying very much, but he was figuring everyone out.” Murray added: “He’s someone who has been around big events and who has played at a high level as well so he knows how to deal with things emotionally. He knows how a player feels.”

Do coaches make a difference?

The accounts suggest that they do. Perhaps Murray has been the toughest challenge of the four. Perhaps it is one factor which keeps him behind the others in his ranking and tournament successes.


The Irish Grannies strategy at play but Wales gets to keep Tongan Toby

June 17, 2011

Toby Faletau

The question of nationality has always been a part of Rugby Union. The All Blacks of New Zealand played it to effect with various Tongans and Samoans. The Irish have developed ancestry claims as tenuous as that of American Presidents to prop up their national team. Now it becomes part of a battle for the services of two players who have defected from the Welsh camp having played for the Welsh Under 20s team.

My second favourite team

Ireland happens to be my second favourite Rugby Union team, after that of Wales. It gave me no pleasure to read a fascinating story about a row brewing up between the rugby authorities, as reported in Wales on line.

Background

Toby Faletau is unwittingly at the centre of an eligibility row between Wales and Ireland. The Wales No 8, who made his debut against the Barbarians a fortnight ago, finds himself embroiled in an eligibility dispute which the International Rugby Board has been asked to rule on. Two of Faletau’s Wales Under-20s team-mates, Matthew Jarvis and James Loxton are dual-qualified for Wales and Ireland.Former Ospreys back Jarvis and [Cardiff] Blues rookie Loxton agreed contracts with Irish province, Connacht, earlier this year only on the understanding they were eligible to play for Ireland

Turns out that Tongan Toby was brought up in Wales (so he’s Welsh, see?). But Matthew has an Irish mum and James has an Irish grandmother. These claims have been accepted as part of Ireland’s Grannies strategy. But as happens in things Celtic, it all got a bit more complicated.

The Under-20s is not the A team

Acute readers (and which LWD subscriber is not acute?) will have noticed mention of the three playing for the Welsh Under-20s team. So Wales get to keep Matthew and James? No, because The Under-20s is not the A team.

Irish club Connaught snap up the two on the understanding that Under-20s play is not automatic recognition of a claim on nationality.

The WRU claim that the Wales Under-20 side is now their second-string side, with the A-team being disbanded, and that any player who plays at that level commits themselves to Wales. But it is claimed that Faletau, who was born in Tonga but has resided in Wales since the age of seven, was the only player told his appearance for Wales Under-20s committed his Test future to Wales. While Loxton, who qualified for Ireland through his mother, and Jarvis, who qualifies via an Irish grandmother, claim they were never told playing for Wales Under-20s committed them to Wales.

Creative strategy needed

Anyone with suggestions or a creative strategy for resolving this issue get in touch with the Irish or Welsh rugby union boards according to your nationality.

Update [Nov 2011]
Toby Faletau was one of the stars of the successful Welsh team in the World Cup in New Zealand. His international future looks rosy (but definitely not Irish green).

Update [Jan 2012]

A similar case bubbles up over the nationality and international status of Steve Shingler, hotly persued by Scotland and Wales.