Thomas Cook: Harriet Green takes on a historic culture

November 27, 2014

I reblogged this post on the news today [November 27th 2014] that Harriet Green is to leave the company after a period of considerable success in her restructuring policy

According to The Guardian

Harriet Green has been pushed out as chief executive of Thomas Cook in a shock departure that wiped £400m off the value of the tour operator.

Green had garnered investor plaudits, and an award for businesswoman of the year, for turning around a business that was recovering from the brink of bankruptcy when she joined two years ago. But her board was less enamoured.  As Green departed with shares worth more than £9m, Thomas Cook’s chairman said the group needed a leader with more knowledge of the leisure industry.

My original post indicated concerns over the difficulties she was likely to face in changing a powerful corporate culture. It makes an excellent business case .

Leaders We Deserve

Harriet GreenThomas Cook is an iconic name among British travel agencies. Its new CEO Harriet Green faces tough times for the travel sector as well as having to deal with a resilient corporate culture.

Some years ago I researched the company after reading a historical biography. I was struck by the corporate culture, which reminded me of the provincial ‘assurance companies’ at the time, loyal staff, solid and traditional in its values. Harriet Green faces interesting challenges.

A recent interview in The Independent sketches the leader and her possible dilemmas.

The shelves are wedged with books, as you would expect for a history graduate, and another nod to the past is mounted on the wall overlooking Ms Green’s shoulder: a sepia-tinted portrait of Thomas Cook himself.
She hopes to take a leaf out of the founder’s book. In 1841, the Baptist preacher arranged to take a group of temperance campaigners to…

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In Pawn Sacrifice, Bobby Fischer takes on the world again

November 24, 2014

Pawn Sacrifice is a dramatized version produced by Edward Zwick of Bobby Fischer’s iconic chess match with Boris Spassky in 1972

Pawn Sacrifice was previewed at the recent Toronto film festival

It is a more fictionalized version than the earlier film Bobby Fischer takes on the world, and confirms the relative normality of protagonists Carlsen and Anand who are currently slugging it out for the World Chess Championship in Sochi.

Mostly positive reviews

Reviews on Pawn Sacrifice have been mostly positive. The most negative one I found was from The Guardian, and even that whetted my appetite for watching the film.

Must see?

Probably a must see for chess players of a certain age, although a possible unsound sacrifice of two hours viewing time for the wider public.


UKIP win sets scene for recognition of political realities beyond the English borders in the omnishambles by-election

November 21, 2014

The voters of Rochester and Strood returned Conservative defector Mark Reckless to parliament as their new UKIP MP

The result is seen as a defining moment in UK politics.. Perhaps, but it certainly was no surprise. Polls had anticipated the result well in advance.

An omnishambles vote?

For the traditional political parties, the episode has seemed another example of an omnishambles. This was the term capturing the political mood of the nation, according to the right-leaning Daily Telegraph.

It captured enough of the mood after its first recorded use in the political satire The thick of things to be voted word of the year in 2012 by the Oxford University Press.

The Conservative omnishambles

The Prime Minister vowed ‘to keep his [Mark Reckess’s ] fat arse out of Westminster’. His instructions to love-bomb the election were apparently treated by his cabinent and MPs to the political practice of obeying the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of it.

The labour omnishambles

The labour omnishambles included an attempt to change leader in mid-shambles. It ended with the resignation of an MP whose tweet seemed to be a sneering reference to people who vote UKIP, drive white vans, and display Union flags on the front of their modest homes

“Longer term, its labour will suffer” a subscriber to LWD and a student of the political scene told me. “Social media and technology will make it hard for them to keep the old loyalty of voters”

The Liberal omnishambles?

The Liberal Democrat coalition partners in Government won a humiliating 1% of the vote. One rather sympathetic headline among the majority of withering comments suggested they had conserved financial and political capital for the upcoming general election

Beyond the borders

My suspicion is that the voters recognized the failure of those in power to deliver. The single issue dominating was that of immigrants as the primary source of disaffection. If so, the outcome mirrors a mood against the much-reviled EC system within many of its member states. I’m inclined to extend the dissatisfaction to the omnishambles in the American political scene as well.

To be continued

This first-reaction posting replaced the planned post on F1, which will follow shortly.


Relationship management: Mercedes chief Toto Wolff sets an example in F1

November 21, 2014

Formula One racing has compounded its problems this year by adding to competition between drivers racing within the same team. Toto Wolff of Mercedes has tried to address the dilemma for drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

The broader issue is that of competitive individuals who are expected to put aside personal ambitions for the greater good of the organization to which they are committed.

A universal social dilemma

This is a universal social dilemma. In various forms it has attracted considerable attention.

Just recently, the distinguished Ethnologist Edward Wilson revealed the intensity over the debate with dismissive remarks over the ideas of Richard Dawkins, particularly over altruism and the selfish gene hypothesis.

It may be relevant that Wilson has specialized in understanding the social life of the ant, a species in which individual interests of the many are utterly subordinate to the well-being of the whole colony. His work adds to understanding of Eusociality.

335px-Fire_ants_01

From Formicidae to Formula One

Meanwhile, back from ants to Formula One racing, a system has been deliberately designed to sustain interest in the competition between two drivers in each team through points earned in each race towards the driver’s championship. This captures the attention of the global audience. There is also competition among the teams, the constructors championship, which is based on the total points scored by both drivers. This is the measure which encourages financial support for the constructors.

The Dilemma compounded

The Dilemma for F1 has been compounded by several factors this year. The most obvious is the decision to award double points to the drivers of last race in Dubai. This rather crude decision was made inevitably with the approval of Bernie Eccleston whose grasp of unintended consequences of actions seems limited. He has recently accepted a stay out of jail settlement in the German courts.

These issues took place as more unintended consequences of the funding mechanisms forced two teams out of the competition facing financial meltdown.

For Mercedes, whose team had by far the most successful car this year, the dilemma was exacerbated the competition between the drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg who will battle it out for first place in Abu Dabhi shortly. Mercedes has already won the constructors championship

A matter of relationship management

It was refreshing to read the mature approach shown by Toto Wolff.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ head of motorsport, has told both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg that losing the world championship in Abu Dhabi next week will not be the end of the world for either of them.
The observation is likely to fall on deaf ears but Wolff has felt compelled to move into full man-management mode ahead of the final race of the season, the double-points decider at the Yas Marina circuit, and told everyone in the team to “buckle up” for a rough ride next week

“The aftermath is relationship management, which is important for the future,” he said. “But [in] the run-up [it] is important to maintain the balance, to maintain the respect between the two and to let it stay a respectful relationship.”

Points for the leadership championship

If there were a leadership championship with points awarded by Leaders we deserve, Toto Wolff would be this month’s winner. Bernie Eccleston would not get past the first qualifying session.

Attribution

Image of fire ants By Stephen Ausmus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Dilma Rousseff: Guardian of the people outside the gates

November 16, 2014

Sao Paulo (2)

In a tight electoral contest, Dilma Rousseff is re-elected as President of Brazil. She is the candidate of ‘the people outside the gates’

Dilma Rousseff presides over a gated nation. She has been re-elected by a narrow margin as the candidate of those living ‘outside the gates’. Her people’s party , PT, is committed to reducing the inequality gap.

A personal recollection

A personal image. In a side street in the financial centre of São Paulo, a little girl in a smart dark-blue uniform stands behind the security gates of a large house. As we walk past on our way to the University, a limousine pulls up in front of the house. The gates open, and the little girl gets into the back of the limo. As it drives off, the security gates close again. The image has stayed with me. The bustling streets seemed safe, in the early morning rush-hour. Yet Chris, our host, had insisted on meeting his two visitors from England, and escorting us from our hotel to the nearby lecture rooms. We just saw how the people within the gates protect themselves.

Dilma seen as anti-capitalist

The Economist has predictably seen Rousseff’s re-appointment as a rejection of the modernizing and pro-business policies of the defeated candidate Aecio Neves. The campaign was full of sleazy accusations, but arguably was no different to the balanced-free rants that come from America’s television coverage of the last two presidential campaigns.

Prognosis

The Western Press suggests that Rousseff is unable to introduce needed change to deliver economic and social stability. Her broad policy is considered to be shackled by a sympathetic stance to Latin American solidarity against the United States and supporting the strengthening of trade relationships with China.

To be continued

The story is developing rapidly, and will be continued with the Petrobras scandal this week and the mass demonstrations in São Paulo.

Nov 15th 2014

Bloomberg reports 10,000 demonstrate in streets of São Paulo.

Nov 18th 2014

Grace Foster, head of Petrobras commits to major change in the CSR of the state-owned oil company.


Rethinking Paths on Creativity and Sustainability: ARTEM Conference, Nancy, March 26-27th, 2015

November 13, 2014

ARTEM LWD contributor Professor Kamel Mnisri reports on a conference (English language streams) to be held in France next Spring

The first  ARTEM Organizational Creativity International onference (ARTEM OCC 2015)  will be held on March 26-27, 2015 in Nancy in FRANCE

The conference theme is  “Rethinking Paths on Creativity and Sustainability” The objective of this conference is to bring together academics, managers, professionals and doctoral students in areas such as engineering, arts and management to tackle the topic of organizational creativity and sustainability in its different dimensions. Cross-field approaches that merge management techniques with aesthetics sensibility, engineering solutions with management perspectives, or management analysis with artistic tools could contribute to the provision of solutions that cater for the simultaneous need of financial soundness, organizational stability and sustainability.

We encourage cross-disciplinary perspectives, theoretical, empirical research work, state of the art reviews, cases studies, field studies and doctoral research in progress submissions will be considered. Aesthetic practices and artistic inquiries by artists, into organizational sustainability challenges are also welcome.

ARTEM “ALLIANCE ARTEM (Art – Technology – Management) RECHERCHE” ARTEM OCC 2015 Details of the conference here


‘Getting in the room’

November 10, 2014

A new report puts pressure on football authorities and clubs to address discrimination in leadership appointments

The report is to be presented to MPs and Sports Minister Helen Grant today [10th November, 2014]. It gives clear evidence of institutional discrimination in the appointment to senior level positions in the 92 clubs of the football league.

According to the study, Of 532 top coaching positions, 19 were help by members of the black and ethnic minority [BME] communities. This 3.4% is from a representation of 25% of players of BME backgrounds.

The report was prepared by Dr Stephen Bradbury of Loughborough University, and funded by Football against Racism in Europe [FARE].


The language of institutionalized discrimination

The language of instructiionalized  discrimination is for some people contentious. It is better than the blunter term racism, and permits examination in terms of conscious and unconscious factors and consequences

Pressure on the Football authorities

The report adds pressure to the Football League and its chairman Greg Clarke. The FA is ‘looking into’ issues of diversity in appointments. It has also been criticized for delays in examining measures such as the Rooney Rule .

The Rooney Rule

The Rooney Rule has nothing to do with Wayne Rooney, England’s football team captain. It was introduced into America’s NFA by Dan Rooney, anti-discrimination campaigner and owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers

‘Getting in the room’

The remark was not the title of report, but it might have been. One qualified coach who has not reached interview short-lists was reported as saying he was not looking for favours, just an opportunity of getting in the room.

To be continued


One report on immigration, six different news stories

November 7, 2014

This week saw the publication of research on the economic impact of immigration to the UK. The breaking media reports made me think of six authors in search of a headline

The research was conducted by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London (UCL) and published by the Royal Economic Society in the Economic Journal.

In its own summary of the work, UCL headlined it as

Positive economic impact of UK immigration from the European Union: new evidence , adding that the report showed that European immigrants to the UK have paid more in taxes than they received in benefits, helping to relieve the fiscal burden on UK-born workers and contributing to the financing of public services.

A political football match starts

The report signaled the kick off at a political football match as national and international media joined the game. The headlines show how a complex report can be reported selectively.

Sky News

The Sky headline selects the main point indicated in the UCL article, that EU migrants pay in more than they take out of the economy

The Guardian

The Guardian touches on the political point that the UK ‘gains £20 billion’ from EU migrants

The BBC

The BBC suggests that New EU migrants add £5bn to UK

Business Week

Business Week notes that EU migrants ‘ add billions to UK public finances

The Telegraph and Daily Mail

The Telegraph and Daily Mail have taken a different approach.

The Telegraph notes that ‘Immigration from outside Europe cost £120 billion’; The Mail that Non-EU migrants are costing £120 billion.

Making sense of the headlines

You have to look at the report to decide which headlines summarize what the authors believe to be the key finding of their report, and which headlines are, shall we say, more selective.


Tim Cook makes the case for an inclusive workplace

November 4, 2014

Paul Hinks

So Tim Cook is gay. The announcement wasn’t so much about the ‘outing’ of Tim Cook, as a message that openly supports diversity and equality in the workplace. The fact that Tim Cook is CEO of Apple, America’s largest firm, adds gravitas to the story.

Race, gender, age, disability, sexual preference are all topics with which organizations have to grapple. Firms are keen to demonstrate they are operating a diverse and ethical workplace where everyone has their fair chance regardless of their personal circumstance or outlook. Perhaps too many firms ‘talk the talk’ with the aim of ticking a box in a corporate brochure?

Tim Cook’s announcement provides an authentic message that Apple is an organization that understands the importance of providing support to ‘their most important asset’. Harnessing different perspectives from a diverse workforce provides a win:win – people with different values and background see things differently from those who are turned into generic corporate clones – walking and talking a certain way – it can all become a bit a dull, boring and predictable. Tim Cook’s announcement is not about him per se; it’s about promoting equality and diversity – and perhaps re-enforcing a culture that can provoke creativity and innovation.

Tim Cook has never denied being gay, but he is acknowledged and recognized as being a private individual. So to publicly make a statement about a private and personal matter, and then place the context of the statement around support for others deserves credit and recognition.

The New York Times provided insight and a deeper perspective:

As Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, put it, “He’s chief executive of the Fortune One. This is Tim Cook and Apple. This will resonate powerfully.”

Mr. Cook was plainly reluctant, and, as he put it in his essay in Bloomberg Businessweek, “I don’t seek to draw attention to myself.” But, he wrote, he came to the realization that “If hearing that the C.E.O. of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”

Mr. Cook’s essay also seemed carefully drafted to be inclusive, to embrace anyone who feels different or excluded, which could broaden its impact far beyond the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Mr. Cook was “wonderfully candid about why it was difficult for him to come out,” said Kenji Yoshino, a constitutional law professor at New York University and co-author of “Uncovering Talent: a New Model for Inclusion.”

“When I give presentations on diversity and inclusion in organizations, I often start by noting that of the Fortune 500 C.E.O.s, 5 percent are women, 1 percent are black and zero percent are openly gay,” Professor Yoshino said.

In his essay, Mr. Cook wrote that he was many things besides being gay: “an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic.” Professor Yoshino noted: “When Drew Faust became the first female president of Harvard, she made a similar point. ‘I am not the woman president of Harvard,’ she said. ‘I’m the president of Harvard.’ ”

Apple’s future success

Since taking over the leadership of Apple from Steve Jobs in 2011, Tim Cook has demonstrated that he can successfully pilot the largest corporation in America. Tim Cook is not Apple’s ‘gay’ CEO, he’s Apple’s current and successful CEO.

In terms of competitiveness, Apple is currently riding the crest of a wave. The recent product launch of the iPhone 6 broke all records – so there’s no obvious need for a cheap publicity stunt. Tim Cook’s announcement shouldn’t be seen much as statement about himself, rather his statement symbolises the importance of providing an inclusive, diverse and stimulating workplace, one which supports new ideas, aims to look at the same situation from different perspectives – a culture true to Apple’s values – one which fosters creativity and innovation.

In the future, perhaps Tim Cook’s announcement will be reflected upon as the time when Apple took a leadership position in supporting diversity and equality in a positive and effective way. It will be interesting to see how many other industry leaders follow Mr Cook’s lead.


Put not your trust in leadership books: but don’t ignore them either

November 2, 2014

Here’s how to deal with a dilemma of trust and authority

You are about to take a flight on a business assignment. You are enticed in to the book store in the Departure Lounge where you are confronted with a multitude of brightly-coloured books on leadership.

Some are shiny new reprints of classics still selling by the zillion, such as Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or the granddaddy of self-improvement books How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Others are the hot hits of the year, placed for maximum impact. Among them are those books positioned as impulse buys, alongside the other last-minute hi-calorie temptations as you approach the check-out.

How do you decide which book to buy?

It is a question I have put to several thousand business executives over the last few years. The Airport Departure Lounge provides a highly specific situation. It is one which encourages intuitive judgement over careful analysis. The decision is arguably a trivial one from a strictly economic perspective. What’s important is that the purchase puts the author in a powerful position of owning your undivided attention for several hours. It may take you half a chapter to decide you are better off with the in-flight magazine or video choice, but by then it’s too late.

A suggestion

One approach is to examine the books for the claims made. The more the author asserts without a lot of evidence, the more the book needs approaching in a spirit of testing the assertions. With practice it becomes easier to avoid buying a real dog.

New ideas as retreads

It is difficult to come across a really new and useful business idea. In general, the ‘new idea’ tends to be a re-tread of older ideas. That does not of itself make the book useless. But the more you can see the connections with other authors you have read, the easier it is to assess its contribution. I prefer books which indicate which earlier writers influenced the authors, and how.

Don’t start from here

Another suggestion comes from the old Irish saying that “if you want to get there, I wouldn’t be starting from here.”

You pre-planned a lot of other aspects of your business journey. It only takes a few moments to pre-plan your reading. You will find ‘business books of the month’ and ‘business books of the year’ published on a regular basis in various print and on-line journals. The criterion of ‘best-sellers of the month’ may appear a rather rough guide to quality, but the additional information easily obtainable at least provides you with a few to put on your short-list before you reach the departure lounge.

The Financial Times shortlist

So, for example the six books on The Financial Times shortlist for Business Book of the Year in 2014 were:

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration  by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught up with Rupert Murdoch by Nick Davies

House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It From Happening Again by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance by Julia Angwin

The list shows the wealth of interesting and well-researched business books published every year. Unsurprisingly, the six are the sort of books most available to purchase in that airport departure lounge.