“Render unto Thatcher the balls that are Thatcher’s,” I thought

September 30, 2013

George Osborne makes his much-trailed speech to the Conservative annual conference. Outside, the journalists were playing the game “which Prime Minister has the most balls?”

The Chancellor starts with goodish joke about entrepreneur and TV personality Karen Brady, who had introduced him. After the warm-up there is golden moment for a powerful follow-up. He missed it with a badly delivered pitch on the Government’s economic record, which was a bald set of statistics.

A grown-up party and HWPs

The First mention of debt was not the debt we own to the central banks, but indebtedness to efforts of hard-working people [HWPs]. A second mention to HWPs followed a little later, and a with a curious emphasis: “We are a grown-up party for grown-up people.”

Then a joke about Vince Cable which seemed to puzzle the audience. He also turned Miliband’s slogan [Britain can do better than that] against him. Then another joke about brother David Miliband [Cain and the less able]. He was certainly not making any effort to soften his image. The audience remained cool.

Fixing the roof

More on last government’s policy of not fixing the roof. Promised not to be fooled into believing in abolishing boom and bust, [an attack on last Labour Premier Gordon Brown who said he did when he was Chancellor, and has been reminded of it ever since.] The Chancellor promised to have stable surpluses to use to fix the economic roof when the storm breaks. Does this mean accepting a Laissez-faire fiscal policy?

Hard working people again, six minutes later. Building up to something bad about to happen to the nasty, lazy not hard-working people.

“I want to freeze fuel duty.” [Me? I want to visit Confused.com. Miliband’s energy price freeze bad, George’s fuel duty, good?]

Oh this is even trickier. He needs to diss his coalition partners if only in a tit-for-tat way. Audience remains a bit Confused.Com.

“We will not abandon the long-term unemployed.” That was the much trailed item. “We will have ways to help them”. Seemed pretty tough help. Actually he hurried on with less elaboration than i expected, to making a case for High Speed Trains and for Frackimg. He ended with a paean on to Margaret Thatcher’s life and death. We are heirs to her optimism, a Government with a plan for a grown-up country.

My first thoughts are that this was a surprisingly unconvincing effort from a man noted for his political astuteness, and met by a less than enthusiastic reception by tan audience usually not difficult to please. Outside the hall, the not-so-grown-up journalists were asking people to chose where to put their blue balls. The container showed Thatcher as having far more balls that Cameron.

Play the Game, Mr Cameron

On leaving the hall, Mr Cameron was asked to play the game of which Prime Minister has the most balls, but he moved past in a very grown-up way.

Render unto Thatcher

“Render unto Thatcher the balls that are Thatcher’s” I thought


Breaking Bad: Not a Plot Spoiler

September 28, 2013

I can’t spoil the plot of Breaking Bad, as until Sunday I won’t know what happens to Walter White. But I have been working on a detective story about a chemistry teacher who takes up a new profession after he is diagnosed with cancer and who faces moral dilemmas in a plot involving the illegal manufacture of drugs

So in my detective story, the scientist, John Keane, becomes a professor of business who teaches leadership after his illness. When his former boss is blown up, Keane is dragged into the case by the Vice Chancellor Wendy Lockinge, a former senior police detective. Both face dilemmas of trust and betrayal as they unearth a drugs plot which had enormous global consequences if it succeeds.

My ideas of what might happen in Breaking Bad are shaped by the adventures of John Keane.

Will There be a resolution of the moral dilemmas in Breaking Bad?

Who cares? Critics, perhaps. In John Keane’s world, moral dilemmas are not ‘solved’ they are dealt with. There will, however, be closure. Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes. That was closure not resolution.

I would expect some plot closure, but an artistic versus commercial dilemma confronts the writers of Breaking Bad. Can they [should they] keep traction going to meet public demand for more?

Medical considerations

There is only one resolution of the medical condition facing both Keane and Walter White. Creative leaps are permitted but the “get out of jail” ideas are easier to dream up than to write into a final episode: Walt has to be confronted with the dramatic constraints imposed by his medical condition, as well as with the consequences of his decisions and actions.

The surprise

In the great tragedies by definition there is a tragic end to a heroic but flawed figure. The audience is purified by the experience. At the same time there has to be a surprise. “In the end, Walt dies”. OK, so do we all, but we don’t know how or why. The greatest stories retain a mix of the inevitable and the unexpected.

Writers as subtle and dynamic as those involved in Breaking Bad have their own ultimate creative challenge. I haven’t the faintest idea how I will be surprised in the final episode. But I expect the unexpected.

What happened to John Keane?

Well, the answer to that would be a plot spoiler, wouldn’t it? But there is a surprise.


The America’s Cup 2013 and the Ainslie effect

September 27, 2013

America's Cup 2013The victory this week by the American team Oracle, in the prestigious America’s cup yachting competition was hailed as one of the all-time great sporting recoveries. It coincided with a leadership intervention. It is tempting to see a simple cause and effect relationship.

Background:

The BBC account [September 26 2013] recorded the astonishing comeback:

Sir Ben Ainslie’s Oracle Team USA sealed one of sport’s greatest comebacks when they overhauled an 8-1 deficit to beat Team New Zealand [The Emirates, Nexpresso] in the America’s Cup decider in San Francisco. The holders won eight straight races to triumph 9-8 after being docked two points for cheating in the build-up. Oracle surged to victory by 44 seconds to retain the Cup they won in 2010.

The Kiwis won four of the first five races, making Oracle modify their boat and call Ainslie from the warm-up crew. The British sailing legend, 36, a four-time Olympic champion, was drafted in as tactician in place of American veteran John Kostecki and was instrumental in the US outfit’s resurgence.

“It’s been one of the most amazing comebacks ever, I think, almost in any sport but certainly in sailing and to be a part of that is a huge privilege,” said Ainslie, who combined superbly with Oracle’s Australian skipper James Spithill and strategist Tom Slingsby, another Australian who won Laser gold at London 2012, to drag the syndicate back from the brink in the most remarkable turnaround in the event’s 162-year history.

The New Zealanders, with impressive early pace upwind and slicker boat handling, opened up a seven-point lead (six to minus one) as Oracle’s crew and equipment changes took effect. But the US outfit, bankrolled by software billionaire Larry Ellison, were soon up to speed and won 10 of the next 12 races to lift the oldest trophy in international sport.

The Kiwis, led by skipper Dean Barker, came within two minutes of glory in race 13 in uncharacteristic light winds before organisers abandoned the race because the 40-minute time limit had elapsed. In the decider on San Francisco Bay, Team New Zealand edged a tight start and beat Oracle to the first mark. The Kiwis stayed clear around the second mark but lost the lead to the Americans early on the upwind leg. After briefly retaking the advantage, the Kiwis then watched as Oracle stormed ahead with remarkable upwind pace and remained clear for a comfortable win.

The ‘Ainslie and momentum’ story

One story is that faced with a deficit of 8-1 in a first to 9 match, the Americans called for Ainslie, and Oracle won eight straight races. Ainslie described how ‘momentum’ had swung in favour of the Oracle team during the fight back.

An alternative analysis

After four straight losses, the Oracle team introduced a whole series of changes, including serious technical modifications and personnel adjustments. Increased competitive performances followed, but another four races were lost. Then a win, almost certainly seen as a consolation before eventual capitulation. Even with an edge in performance, Oracle would have to survive all literal and metaphorical ill-winds for all eight remaining races. The team was close to losing the match in race 13, which was abandoned, boats becalmed, with their opponents well ahead. That would have ended the beautiful story of a glorious fight back.

In this alternative analysis, a series of changes both of technical and behavioural kind resulted in a significant improvement in performance. There was no identifiable tipping point, although one seems likely to be created in hindsight as the appointment of Ainslie.

Implications

Beware of simple causal explanations of change processes. Test theoretical explanations based on terms such a a tipping point or a momentum swing against the evidence of what happened in practice. In the UK the team has been regularly described as Ainslie’s team. The notion of distributed leadership has a long way to go.


Angela Merkel ‘s leadership success falls outside conventional leadership cases

September 23, 2013

Angela MerkelA documentary by the BBC on the eve of the German Presidential elections sensibly stuck to biographic facts without too many attempts to compare Angela Merkel to Margaret Thatcher.

Angela Merkel is increasingly described as the most powerful woman in the world. Information about her in the popular media in the UK has been restricted to scraps about her humble life style, her student days studying science in the then Democratic Republic of [East] Germany, her rise to political power in the period of reunification. From time to time she has been presented as a latter-day Margaret Thatcher, a description she easily avoids accepting or rejecting.

As the BBC’s Andrew Marr put it

Quite a lot about her biography seems to echo that of Margaret Thatcher. Merkel comes from the edges – East Germany, rather than Lincolnshire – and was brought up by an abnormally self-certain and pious father. Something of a loner, she became quite a serious scientist before choosing politics.

Inside her party, she was picked up as a useful female talent by a somewhat patronising mentor – Kohl, rather than Edward Heath – and surprised everybody by her ruthlessness in ousting him, and eventually taking power herself. Like Thatcher, Merkel is a ferociously hard worker, excellent on the detail and a wily political operator.

Yet the differences matter much more than the similarities. Coming from her East German background she believes in social solidarity and working with trade unions; in a coalition-based political system, she is a mistress of consensus and, when it suits her, delay.

Our ignorance of this, the most important female politician in the world, is little short of shocking. Angela Merkel has mattered much more to us and the full European story than perhaps we’ve realised.

In December 2011 David Cameron travelled to a The Brussels summit to fight (‘like a British Bulldog’ he assured his anti-European MPs) for British interests. The British press understandably focused on the significance of Cameron’s intervention.

The New York Times evaluated the outcome as follows:

Cameron was perceived as having made a poor gamble in opposing the push by Mrs. Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, embittering relations and possibly damaging his standing at home. Though some other countries, including Denmark and Hungary, initially shared Britain’s skepticism of the German-led agreement, only Britain ultimately rejected it.

As Cameron continued to struggle with the Anti-European wing of his party he sought to improve personal relations with Merkel. She responded by inviting him and his family into her home. According to Marr, a warm friendship has ensued.

Merkel favours winning support over defeating opponents. It is a style which has served her well.

Angela Merkel ‘s leadership mystery

There really should be no mystery. The puzzlement is mainly to those who subscribe to popular stereotypes of what a leader should appear to be. Merkel is utterly non-charismatic. She has also been criticized for the time it takes her move policy forward as she seeks to build consensus. Maybe Germany from bitter experience realizes the significance of the concept that a society ends up with the leaders it deserves. In other cultures the political question seems often to be “does he (or she) look like a leader?”


Toyota dynasty will survive the death of Eiji Toyoda

September 19, 2013

Eiji Toyoda a former president and later chairman of Toyota died on the 17th of September 2013, a few days after his hundredth birthday

An informative interview was conducted for Milwaulkee Public Radio by Robert Siegel with Micheline Mayard who had written an obituary for Forbes “How Eiji Toyoda created the modern version of Toyota.” She talked of an incident when Eiji Toyoda visited the Ford plant in Michigan in the 1950s. Maynard picked up her story:

Back at the moment in time, the rouge operations were enormous. Henry Ford had this idea that you could actually start from Northern Michigan, from the mines up there, and move raw materials down the Great Lakes. And they would arrive at docks, and then Ford would be able to go, literally, from ground up to an automobile on its own. So what Eiji Toyoda saw when he got to Ford was this great process of raw materials to finished automobiles. But he also saw a lot of waste. He saw quality issues, and he saw workers that weren’t being listened to. And he took a lot of notes and took them back to Japan.

The quality movement

It was to be the start of the quality movement which changed production thinking and practice for the next half a century.

A recent production crisis made an excellent case study of the dilemmas of success and fast growth contributing to decline in quality standards.

The Toyoda dynasty

In 2010, LWD looked at the history of the company and its dynastic nature seen as a modern institutional form, retaining dynastic power internally. The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937 as a spinoff from his father’s company Toyota Industries.

A year earlier we analyzed the fight for the company to preserve its global brand.

Toyotaoism

Earlier, [2007] we had published from the work of the Japanese scholar Fangqi Xu and introduced the term Toyotaoism to capture the production system which had become hailed as the greatest process innovation in automobile manufacture since Henry Ford’s first production line gave rise to ‘Fordism’

Sometime in 2007, Toyota seems likely to become the World’s biggest auto manufacturer. In contrast, Ford workers face substantial job cuts. Toyota represents one of the outstanding illustrations of developments which have been gradually refining and replacing the production line processes and mentality of the 20th Century. The company has pioneered a fusion of Fordist methods with a more Eastern philosophy of respect towards the environment, customers, and employees. The fostering of empowered teamwork in Toyota is a central element of the philosophy, production system, and leadership style of the corporation.

Toyota reminds us that modern business methods can survive and be substantially improved within an ancient dynastic culture. A nice example of the dilemmas of leadership successfully resolved.


The Syrian crisis: Study leadership decisions not leadership styles

September 16, 2013

The complexities of leadership make assessments of a leader’s style less effective than assessments of a leader’s most critical decisions and dilemmas

The story of Syria’s internal conflicts and external attempts at intervention remains complex and obscure. I want to advocate its analysis through a study of leadership dilemmas and decision-making.

My executive students are familiar with the principle through applying it to current leadership cases. Here is how the approach may be effective in understanding some of the complexities of the Syrian crisis [as of September 2013].

Media treatments

Media treatments are arriving at a narrative or interpretive story of events in Syria. In the narrative, the Syrian leader Bashar al Assad faces increasing attempts to overthrow his regime by a complex set of internal interests. The American President Barack Obama would like to intervene, preferably with support from the international community. The Russian President Vladimir Putin argues that the forces opposing Assad are waging war against a legally constituted leader.

The nature of narrative

Narrative by its nature is interpretative. It implies a belief in a story. I like to think of the story as a map or interpretation of a real-world reality. The Russian, American and Syrian maps differ. The real-world events involve thousands of people being killed, millions being displaced. If the narratives are maps, the conflict is the territory represented in the maps.

Dilemmas

News stories provide us with the maps. One way to examine them is to consider evidence of the most important dilemmas facing leaders. That way we glimpse the leadership processes better. For example, an excellent analysis in the Wall Street journal [updated and uploaded 15 Sept 2013] gives a Western map of current events. It also suggests the dilemmas facing President Obama.

Through mixed messages, miscalculations and an 11th-hour break, the U.S. stumbled into an international crisis and then stumbled out of it. A president who made a goal of reducing the U.S.’s role as global cop lurched from the brink of launching strikes to seeking congressional approval to embracing a deal with his biggest international adversary on Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Obama saw the unintended outcome as better than the alternative: limited strikes that risked pulling the U.S. into a new conflict. It forestalled what could have been a crippling congressional defeat and put the onus on Russia to take responsibility for seeing the deal through. U.S. officials say the deal could diminish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical stockpile more effectively than a strike, though it leaves Mr. Assad and his conventional arsenal in place…

[D]uring a news conference in London on Sept. 9. Secretary of State Kerry, in response to a question, ad libbed that Syria could avert a U.S. attack if it gave up its chemical weapons.

Minutes later, his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, called him. “I’d like to talk to you about your initiative,” Mr. Lavrov said from Moscow, where he was hosting a delegation of Syrian diplomats.

Map-reading

Before I can assess or ‘map-test’ the ‘rightness’ of decisions, I need to ‘map-read’ thoroughly. The story suggests a critical dilemma. Mr Obama [it says] wants to reduce the U.S.’s role as global cop, but finds himself ‘lurching into launching a strike against Syria’. The dilemma, and the Presidential decision-making start to resolve with ‘the unintended outcome’ of the public remark by Secretary of State John Kerry and the reaction by his Russian counterpart.

Map-testing

This interpretation of events can be tested. Kerry’s statement is the most public. That it was ad-libbed and not offical policy is a piece of map-making or interpretation by the WSJ. Mr Lavrov’s reply is reported but not public. Subsequent events give it, and the narrative or map some plausibility.

Map-making

The events may have helped President Obama re-make his map to increase the chances of a non-military approach to Syria. The debate continues whether this is ‘true’; whether it was influenced by the decision of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to withhold support for military action; whether The Russian position and that of President Bashar al-Assad are to be trusted. But these become speculations. By sticking with dilemmas and decisions we avoid the morass we find ourselves in when dealing with such speculation.

I have chosen to examine the dilemmas facing President Obama. A richer picture (or map) emerges only after examination of other maps, other decisions, other leaders.


Twitter goes public: a few tweets

September 13, 2013

When Twitter announced it was going public, Leaders we Deserve Editor in Tweet provided his own tweets to mark the news

Friday 13th September 2013

1. Tudor Rickards ‏@Tudortweet now
@smh Thanks.Your article on twitter has encouraged me to review my earlier blogs from the time I wondered what Twitter’s business model is
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2. Tudor Rickards ‏@Tudortweet now
Further thoughts on Twitter. What I like: unexpectedness of tweets from people with primary focus to communicate not capitalize
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3. Tudor Rickards ‏@Tudortweet now
Further thoughts of twitter: What I dislike, Use as crude and sometimes covert advertising [lessons to be learned from TV commercials]
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4. Tudor Rickards ‏@Tudortweet now
I tweet therefore I am. I don’t tweet because I am something else
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5. Tudor Rickards ‏@Tudortweet now
Last twitter tweet for now. Twitter will split into several services whose form and function will be shaped by us the tweeters.
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A more formal analysis on how Twitter makes money came from The Sydney Morning Herald. This triggered the Tweets above.

Other early tweeters

1. Reuters India ‏@ReutersIndia 2h
Twitter takes first step toward going public
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2. James Hirsen ‏@thejimjams 3h
Things to know before you load up on Twitter stock
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3. Los Angeles Times

Twitter files for an IPO; five things you should know
As you may have heard, Twitter has filed for a confidential initial public offering of stock, so in case you aren’t too familiar with the company, here are five quick things you should know.
[Also shows original Twitter announcement]