Archives: July 2006

Event: Bangkok

It's the first of August already in Bangkok, where Global Leaders are presenting Tom and Carly Fiorina at a full day's event on the topic of leadership. Tom gave us the flavor of Thailand with his photos earlier today. Now he gives us his PPTs, which you can download here:
XAlways, Bangkok, Final
XAlways, Bangkok, Long Version
Leadership50, Bangkok

Back-to-Back Redeyes

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Fly all night to Bangkok from D.C. Make that: fly two "all nights." West to East to get to Southeast Asia is tougher than East to West—some disagree. First redeye is D.C. to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Bangkok on Royal Thai—offering Royal Service. Arrive early and hit the streets ASAP. Above: Street food. No I shouldn't. Yes I did. Can't stick with hotel food—why else bring a trunkful of Immodium!

All Pro Jaywalking Required

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The cars (Bangkok traffic is notoriously dense and outta control—some combination) and motorcycles, and even the TukTuks, cut pedestrians no slack. Jaywalking is stupid. But necessary for me—makin' my bones.

Who Is That Guy With The Gun?!

Grey sky where the U.S. Embassy would be

I take a picture of the dense barbed wire atop the super-high U.S. Embassy wall; point of picture is to illustrate how Americans must dig in everywhere. Half-block past the Embassy I'm accosted by a running cop. He reaches for my Sony camera, which I hold on to. I open it up, show him the picture, and proceed to erase it; he's not satisfied until I run through, slowly, every one of the approximately 150 pictures in my camera memory. (Later, I was prevented by another cop from taking a picture of a shrine in front of the Thai SEC.)

Their Majesties: Microsoft and the King

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His Majesty the King is celebrating his 79th birthday soon—memorials to him are everywhere. Their Majesties at Microsoft evidence little that's kingly these days—once again they've discovered the Internet. And, frankly, CEO Ballmer and even new software guru Ray Ozzie look pretty shopworn in most pictures—no doubt Ozzie is a genius (Lotus Notes launched his trajectory of fame), but putting an old guy in charge of creative in 2006 seems a little off. (And at 63, you'd be hard-pressed to cite me for "ageism.")

NB: Speaking of arguably past-peak companies, Merck decided to make the Head Lawyer the next CEO; while I certainly acknowledge the continuing Vioxx problem, Merck's deeper hole is sluggish drug-discovery practices; perhaps it's just bias, but is a lawyer really the best guy for that?

Ancient Bangkok

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Shrines everywhere—among other things, blessing the occupants of buildings, small and large. Ended up logging a 1.5 hour walk, including a 45-minute powerwalking stint in Lumphini Park. By the way I have a new measure of successful exercise to be used during the summer in the U.S. and anytime in the likes of hot and humid Bangkok—84 at 6AM when I landed this morning. When the sweat has soaked into my baseball cap enough to cause a steady drip off the brim, I'm doin' okay—what do you think? NB, I'll return to biz stuff tomorrow. Got to prepare now for a long Presentation tomorrow—Carly Fiorina and I will be trying to captivate a pretty senior exec crowd.

Modern Bangkok

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Lots of traditional street food—and lots of sparkling new highrises as well.

Modern Thailand II

Cheery front page headline that greeted me upon arrival: "Bird Flu Outbreak Spreading."

Glad I've got my Tamiflu! (FYI, I told the prescribing doc that I thought I should not have it, given the scarcity. He said that I was exactly the sort of person who needs it because I travel to the likes of Thailand and thence precisely the type of guy who might inadvertently carry the bug home. And, hey, it's not clear it will be useful.)

Event: Mass Mutual

Yes, Tom's working on this beautiful summer weekend day, and so am I. But not for long. He's in Washington D.C. speaking to Mass Mutual Financial Group, and I'm going out in the sun as soon as I finish this post. There are three slides presentations for downloading:
Mass Mutual Final
Mass Mutual Long #1: 249 slides
Mass Mutual Long #2: 482 slides

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Everything That's Not Important

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Bob Waterman and I did a ton of research for In Search of Excellence. The first presentation was a two-day affair for the entire exec group at Siemens. For "the Germans" (I am one!) we used a monster presentation book, about 400- or 500-slides long. The result was "Okay." A few weeks later I got invited to give a one-hour version at the annual "offsite" that PepsiCo held in those days. One morning, and I actually remember it well, I came into my office in McKinsey's San Francisco office, as usual around 6 A.M., closed the door and tilted way back in a near trance for several minutes (5? 10? 20?). Then I tilted forward and wrote down a list of eight Items—total word count probably 35 or 40. Three years later, unchanged except for a preposition or two, they became the "Eight Basics" that were the guts of In Search of Excellence. In effect (in reality?!) I "dumped the data" and "saw" what the thing was, almost in full flower.

A couple of weeks ago I got a book, The Nuts & Bolts Guide to Rigging, a more or less technical book by Washington College (Eastern Shore, Maryland) crew coach Mike Davenport. He said he'd heard I was a rower, and that my books had been of some use to him. Since this is summer, and this is my VT rowing season, I sat down at this computer and wrote "Tom's Rowing Career: 1946-2006." It ended up two pages long. It was fun to do. It was my return present to Mike. I went for a row a couple of days later and it dawned on me, like a shotgun blast, that the 2-pager was ... All Wrong!! It was an accurate description of my rowing "career," but captured about 0 percent of why the love affair goes on. When I got home, I again went to the keyboard and, this time, wrote a succinct paean to Rowing. (You'll find it attached—FYI.)

The latter exercise caused me to look up a paragraph in In Search of Excellence—a quote that I think Bob had discovered 23 years ago. It's from John Steinbeck:

The Mexican Sierra has 17 plus 15 plus 9 spines in the dorsal fin. These can easily be counted. But if the sierra strikes on the line so that our hands are burned, if the fish sounds and nearly escapes and finally comes in over the rail, his colors pulsing and his tail beating the air, a whole new relational externality has come into being—an entity which is more than the sum of the fish plus the fisherman. The only way to count the spines of the sierra unaffected by this second relational reality is to sit in a laboratory, open an evil-smelling jar, remove a stiff colorless fish from the formalin solution, count the spines and write the truth. There you have recorded a reality which cannot be assailed—probably the least important reality concerning the fish or yourself. ... It is good to know what you are doing. The man with this pickled fish has set down one truth and recorded in his experience many lies. The fish is not that color, that texture, that dead, nor does he smell that way.

The point of this rather lengthy recitation is obvious. We often "miss the forest for the trees." Nice saying, but it too misses the boat, damn it. My point here is damned profound. We count spines and create a rowing chronology and miss ... The Whole Damn Point.

And we do so ... MOST OF THE TIME. And we do so when we design Logistics systems and Customer Service procedures and write HR manuals as much as we do when we get the rowing bit or the fish bit all wrong.

All I ask is: Think about it ... Every Damn Day. "Forests" and "Trees," sure—but the essence of life, professional and personal, is more like it.

(A farm picture that has nothing to do with boats, but maybe a lot to do with "parts and wholes," is above.)