Stuff …

Was sidetracked by a minor medical issue for a few days. With time to spare, I seem to have been cutting and clipping and scribbling at a record pace. Herewith, some “stuff” …

LOVE IT! Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica are about equally accurate when it comes to science articles, John Paczkowski says in an article in Good Morning Silicon Valley. “A study published in the journal Nature Wednesday [12.14] found that in a random sample of 42 science entries, the collaborative encyclopedia averaged four inaccuracies to Britannica‘s three. ‘Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each encyclopedia,’ reported Nature. ‘But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions or misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively.'”

BOYS #1! Boys handily/overwhelmingly beat out girls: Learning disorders. Dropout rates. Violence. Stuttering. Obesity. Gambling. School suspensions. Suicides. D’s and F’s. Etc. Etc. This starts early, and gets worse with the passage of time. Number of girls in college easily trumps men in college and is becoming more imbalanced by the day—add in the graduation rates and the gap becomes positively yawning. We older boys may currently hold a huge lead in CEO chairs filled in huge companies, but there is a growing and probably appropriate concern about the decline of boys. Solution? One increasingly offered is separate education—boys and girls simply learn in dramatically different ways.

THE BEST EVER! Best (!!) article I’ve ever read on giving speeches-presentations was in fact about singing. New York Times, Sunday December 11: “Take Off Your Emotional Clothes and Sing,” about a master class in singing by Barbara Cook. “Put your life into what you do.” “Your own humanity is your pathway to artistry.” Beware “stilted speech.” Students “hide inside technique.” Conclusion: “The lesson Ms Cook came to teach was that artists achieve their peak when they learn to stop proving themselves and simply, to borrow the Shakespearean phrase, let it be. It’s their humanity we respond to in the end, their ability to strip away the self-consciousness that locks us inside ourselves, and reveal the stuff that really boils in our souls.” TP conclusion: “Stilted speech” that hides our humanity is arguably leaders’ Sin #1. As Ms Cook’s seminars suggest, this is a learned attribute.

JUST TWO! One review of Jack and Suzy Welch’s Winning makes the apparently outrageous claim that there are but two key differentiators that set GE “culture” apart from the herd. First, the separation of financial forecasting and performance measurement. Performance measurement based, as it usually is, on budgeting leads to an epidemic of gaming the system. GE’s performance measurement is divorced from budgeting—and instead reflects how you do relative to your past performance and relative to competitors’ performance; i.e., it’s about how you actually do in the context of what happened in the real world, not as compared to a gamed-abstract plan developed last year. The second (TP: Huge!!) differentiator is putting HR on a par with finance and marketing—i.e., it’s the people, stupid! It ain’t quite that simple, but I must say I mostly agree with this “just two differentiators” assessment.

PPP. About 15 years ago 3M launched a program called Pollution Prevention Pays. (I did a TV show for PBS on the topic titled “Go Green, Get Rich.”) In the 12 December issue, BusinessWeek (“The Race Against Climate Change”) anointed the Best in Breed relative to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. These superstars hardly suffered from their good environmental citizenship. DuPont took first, with a 72% reduction in noxious greenhouse emissions (11 million tons) … and saved $2 BILLION in the process! BP down 16% (13 million tons), with an accompanying savings of $650 million. Bayer made a 63% cut which spurred productivity and allowed the company to avoid $851 million in investments. Etc. Message/s: Pollution Prevention Pays! Go Green, Get Rich!

THEY DON’T WORK. The odd couple: Carl Icahn and Steve Case. Both want to bust up Time Warner. I talked to a whoo-whoo “captain of industry” who intensely dislikes Icahn—but nonetheless thinks TW’s performance is pitiful, and that breakup is the best answer. Yes! Yes! I am an avowed enemy of monster mergers, such as TW and AOL. Why? THEY DON’T WORK. Here’s GE CEO Jeff Immelt on the same topic back in July: “Almost every personal friend I have in the world works on Wall Street. You can buy and sell the same company six times and everybody makes money, but I’m not sure we’re actually innovating. … Our challenge is to take nanotechnology into the future, to do personalized medicine …” Jeff is re-shaping Jack’s GE as the home to jaw-dropping innovation on a scale perhaps never seen before.

HERB SIMON GOT THERE FIRST. In a recent Fortune article Geoffrey Colvin says that if there had been a Nobel Prize in management, Peter Drucker would have “won it every year.” How silly. A “management guru” did in fact pocket the economics Nobel in 1978 … Herb Simon of Carnegie Mellon (defining book: Administrative Behavior); I had the privilege of interviewing him for In Search of Excellence. Other worthies besides Simon (and Drucker) would include rigorous academics such as Doug MacGregor (a shoo-in), Warren Bennis (also a shoo-in), Alfred Chandler (shoo-in), James March, Karl Weick, Henry Mintzberg (shoo-in—may get the economics prize someday), Graham Allison, Richard Neustadt, and Michael Porter (also an economics candidate). But, mostly, thank God there is no “Management Nobel.” Make no mistake: Management is an art … not a science. (Frankly, it’s not all that clear to many, even those in the field, that economics is a “science.”)

LOSE $769 BILLION, GET RICH! Is CEO pay too high? I addressed that issue recently. The topic is endlessly debatable. There are equity issues, market value issues, etc. But maybe the market will finally “just say no.” Consider this 15 December headline in USA Today: “Pension Funds Pin Target on CEO Pay.” Factoid: Sixty of the worst performing companies in the Russell 3000 (which captures 99% of stock market value) lost $769 BILLION in market value over the last five years … and paid their top five execs $12 billion over the same period.

GIVE ME THE DUMB ONES! Got a pre-pub copy of Napoleon on Project Management by Jerry Manas. Here are NB’s “six winning principles” per Manas: Exactitude (sweat the details). Speed. Flexibility. Simplicity. Character. Moral Force. Pretty good list, eh? FYI, two Napoleonic quotes I fancied. Simplicity: “The art of war does not require complicated maneuvers; the simplest are the best, and common sense is fundamental. From which one might wonder how it is generals make blunders; it is because they try to be clever.” (Jack Welch would agree. I’m not so sure about the Harvard Business School.) Character: “A military leader must possess as much character as intellect. Men who have a great deal of intelligence and little character are the least suited. … It is preferable to have much character and little intellect.” (Jeff Skilling at Enron?)

A START. I want to do a list on the “twenty dumbest business practices.” I’ll give you my 11 starting propositions, scribbled out so far: Men as CEOs of consumer goods companies! CFOs promoted to CEO. Mergers of Decrepit Monsters! Strategic plans in excess of three pages. Big offices for bosses. Focus groups. Hiring lots of MBAs. HR boss not a member of the Board of Directors. CIO not a member of the Board of Directors. Corporate staffs in excess of 50 people. Anything other than Unbridled Enthusiasm at the top of the hiring or promoting criteria list for any + every job. More later.

ALL THERE IS. Damn it! I keep forgetting this! Leaving it out of presentations! Namely, a PP slide that simply reads : You = Your Calendar. THIS IS MY #1 BELIEF ABOUT MANAGEMENT. Or: “You can’t bullshit your calendar.” Or: “Your calendar knows … do you?” All we have is our time. The way we distribute it is our “strategic plan,” our “vision,” our “values.” Period. So how’d you spend your precious time today? Tell me, and I’ll tell you what you actually care about—it’s simple and unerring.