Category: News

Detroit

Sculpture of Joe Lewis Fist, Detroit

Did you see the recent article, "The Post-Post-Apocolyptic Detroit"? Before I met Tom Peters, I lived in Detroit. My husband had an idyllic, cookie-cutter suburban '60s upbringing there with a family full of auto workers. All his grandparents were immigrants, happy to see their children thrive in post-WWII Detroit. He spent the '80s in downtown Detroit, in college and working at the Stroh Brewery. Detroit was already in decline when I arrived in the '90s.

What I found was a population baffled by their misfortune. Why was manufacturing more cars not the solution to their economic woes? Assembling cars had created a healthy middle class and glamorous city. But the industry changed. This community of builders, in love with the cars they built, were no longer able to prosper. Ruin, on a massive scale, ensued.

For an overview of the desolation, take author James Howard Kunstler's Google Street Views tour of the Detroit cityscape.

Detroit's decline has lasted for so long that its reputation is rough, scarred, brutal. As a young, white woman in the '90s I was advised by many not to go downtown alone. Kunstler states while visiting Detroit he had to stay in another country for safety (Windsor, Ontario, across the river). That was not my experience. I found boundless creativity. In some of the most dangerous areas, there were community art fairs, neighborhood art projects (most notably the Heidelberg Project, shown below), and a vibrant music scene. That is not to say that Detroit is a safe place. It's not. But those who have stayed either don't have the ability to leave or have been brave enough to believe that things will improve. Knowing Detroiters as I do, I'd say they will not go down without a fight.

Detroit's Heidelberg Project

The "Post-Post-Apocolyptic Detroit" article features the stories of some of those who are brave enough to not only stay, but invest heavily in the future of this once-great city. Dan Gilbert, billionaire owner of Quicken Loans, seems to be investing the most.

Detroit is his mission; he has gone all-in. He has brought 12,500 employees with him to downtown, ... is funding the construction of a light-rail system ... formed a start-up incubator called Bizdom and a venture-capital firm ... He told me: "Here, man, oh, man, it's a dream. Anything can be created in Detroit."

Gilbert, a Detroiter by birth and an entrepreneur by nature, happened upon some very good advice early in his career:

After starting his first company, Rock Financial, he fell under the sway of the Thomas J. Peters business tome In Search of Excellence and became fixated on the idea of creating a positive corporate culture.*

Longtime readers of Tom's work recognize that profit isn't always the result of greed, his favorite equation being, "Kindness=Repeat Business=Profit." Dan Gilbert is trying to "enrich a city and himself at the same time," believing that you can "do well by doing good."

I, for one, hope that Dan and Tom are right. As the article points out,

If the scale of Detroit's failure is unprecedented, then so (the local reasoning goes) is the scale of its opportunity.

Whether the locals are right or not about the size of the opportunity and its likelihood of success, the more who act on Tom's equation, the better off Detroit will be.

*[Postscript: Upon reading Dan Gilbert's comment, Tom wrote, "I am flattered beyond measure and never cease to be amazed by commentary like this. Makes a dent in the cumulative weariness from millions of air miles."]

Shelley Dolley posted this on July 18, 2014, in News.
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Disruption! Disruption!
Dis-Rup-Tion!
New! New! New!
Phew! Phew! Phew!
Hold Onto Your Hat!
Katy Bar the Door!

I admire—and have learned from—Clay Christensen. He brought us news of a constant state of "disruption." We now live in a state of perpetual breathlessness. Every day brings news of a new disruption. Wow!

But something was nagging at the back of my mind, And I finally figured out what it is. Namely, constant disruption—at a fast clip—may not be new. What "big data analytics" did I use to figure this out? My Mom, Evelyn Snow Peters, was born in 1909 and died in the summer of 2005. Here, in a single paragraph, is a partial précis of the yawn-worthy, uneventful times she lived through:

The advent of mass market cars, commercial radio, routine long-distance phone calls, portable phones, cell phones, satellites, satellite phone call transmission, movies with sound, color movies, TV, TV dinners, microwave ovens, commercial use of aircraft, jets, extensive electrification, the Great Depression, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, the West Coast Offense, the Civil Rights Movement, an African-American POTUS, Gay Pride, women win the right to vote, Gandhi, Churchill, WWI, WWII, the birth of the U.S. Navy Seabees, relativity, the A-bomb, the EEC, the EU, the Euro, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, 9/11, the 43-year Cold War, the disintegration of the USSR, the resurgence of China, the death and resurrection of Germany and Japan, Oklahoma & New Mexico & Arizona & Hawaii & Alaska become states, William Howard Taft* [*just missed Teddy Roosevelt], FDR, Ronald Reagan, Father Coughlin, Jim and Tammy Bakker, mainframe computers, PCs, hyperlinks, the iPod, DARPA-net, the Internet, air conditioning, weed whackers, Mickey Mouse, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, Madonna, the Model T, the Cadillac Escalade, Nancy Drew, the first four Harry Potter books, antibiotics, MRIs, polio vaccine, genetic mapping, WWII rockets, space flight, man-to-the-moon, more or less permanent space station.** [**But, to be sure, not long enough to see the Cubs win another World Series or to take a selfie.]

See, not much went down for her.

Whoops, gotta go, gotta deal with my DDD ... daily dose of disruption.

Order Should Not Be Taken For Granted …

This, from David Brooks in yesterday's New York Times, is, to my mind, brilliant beyond measure—especially the 1st of the two paragraphs I reproduce here:

"Yet it might be useful to consider one more filter. Consider it the World Order filter. The fact that we live our lives among order and not chaos is the great achievement of civilization. This order should not be taken for granted.

"This order is tenuously maintained by brave soldiers but also by talkative leaders and diplomats. Every second of every day, leaders and diplomats are engaged in a never-ending conversation. ... The quality of the conversation is damaged by exposure, just as our relationships with our neighbors would be damaged if every private assessment were brought to the light of day. We've seen what happens when such conversations deteriorate (look at the U.S. Congress), and it's ugly. The Wikileaks dump will probably damage the global conversation . ..."

Tom Peters posted this on December 1, 2010, in News.
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More Blame!
(This Time, I’m Really Pissed Off.)

Friday a week ago, I had the honor of giving the Olin lecture on alumni weekend at Cornell. It'd been a long time since I'd been back, and I was taken aback by the beauty, mostly unmarred by new construction, of the Ithaca NY campus.

But in a way that was the least of it. The powers that be (president David Skorton) arranged for me a lengthy tour of the engineering school by the Dean of Engineering and the Dean of Civil Engineering. (I am a Cornell civil engineering grad.) Not only was I taken aback by the extraordinary work going on, which was mostly beyond my comprehension, but by the discipline and tradition of engineering of which I am the smallest part. The experience bordered on the mystical; though I went on to get business degrees and make my name, such as it is, around management, I realized some odd genetic-like tug to my engineering roots—it in fact felt very good, a coming home of sorts.

But it also got me thinking about the Gulf oil spill. (It's hard to go more than a few minutes without that disaster intruding on one's thoughts.) There is more than enough blame to go around from BP and hapless Tony Hayward to Deepwater Horizon to Halliburton to the pathetic dis-incentivized federal regulators.

And I want to pile on.

In my recent book, The Little BIG Things, one item, #56, in the section on leadership was titled "Sacred Trust," and it began like this:

"As I see it, anyone who takes on any leadership job, minor or major, assumes no less than a ... Sacred Trust. I know that's extreme language. But I stand by it. This sacred trust is all about what organizations are all about: the professional (and, to some extent, personal) development of people. Sure, the boss's job is to 'get the job done,' and done effectively. But 'boss-hood' primarily entails an abiding responsibility for the people under your charge. ..."

Leadership is a sacred trust. As is the practice of law. And medicine. And any of the other recognized professions.

Including engineering.

Certified engineers, like certified docs and lawyers, mostly take oaths to live up to the responsibilities of their disciplines. Rights and responsibilities: These pros have the right to declaim with some degree of certitude about their discipline, and/but the responsibility to ensure that the boundaries of said certitude are not violated.

Well, in my newfound/renewed ardor for engineering, I also find myself beset with newfound anger-outrage at numerous engineers employed by BP, et al. (Many an "al." it would appear.)

Outrage not at "BP engineers," but outrage at Arthur N. Smith [fictitious name], certified and licensed engineer. And doubtless dozens and dozens, probably hundreds, of his cohorts.

BP seems to have gotten it wrong on a dozen dozen dozen engineering dimensions. In the name of cost control or whatever. I don't give a shit about the cost control issues, real as I know they are. I give a hundred shits about the fact that Arthur Engineer and Ralph Engineer and Mary Engineer, cross-pressures notwithstanding (that's life), abrogated their professional responsibilities as ... individuals. Arthur and Ralph and Mary are probably good parents—but professionally they screwed their fellow citizens to a fare-thee-well.

And I'm pisssed off.

Very pissed off.

Arthur and Ralph and Mary have bills to pay. And the economy is tough. And their bosses, responding to their bosses, doubtless did put merciless pressure on them.

Hence my empathy is high.

But in the end I am appalled. They have cost us lives and economic and environmental damage of epic proportion. Because they lacked the will and integrity to blow their professional whistles and stand up for the discipline to which they have sworn allegiance.

They are (individually) a disgrace to the great tradition of engineering of which I am the smallest part. So I'm taking this personally.

This disaster, regardless of certain companies' headquarters addresses, occurred in the United States. Among nations, we try to live to a higher standard of individual accountability than most. We are (properly, for the most part) known as an individualistic nation—it has been our strength among strengths. Back to: rights and responsibilities. Our individualism gives moral and other supports (effectively, "rights") to our peerless entrepreneurial behavior, for example. But along with those peerless rights of individualism come an equally profound set of responsibilities. If you are encouraging me to "do my thing," you are also making it clear that the practice thereof is, unequivocally, a form of "sacred responsibility."

Well, my beloved engineers-of-the-Gulf, it was not only HTH, Hapless Tony Hayward, who let us down. It was you engineers as well one at a time, name by name. In fact my fury at you is stronger than my fury at Hayward. After all, he was merely a corporate shill—you are professionals, the latest in a magnificent tradition that you have now sullied.

For shame.

NB: Am I exceedingly harsh in my judgment here? Perhaps. But, upon substantial reflection, I think not.

No Surprise!

We are speechless at the ability of China to use/exploit its bottomless labor pool. Well, guess what. Just like the U.S.A., the UK, Japan and the rest of the developed world, as Chinese workers prosper, they want what all who have come before them want. This quote from a worker in an FT (0601) article, "Chinese Workers Swap Angst for Anger":
"We're different from our parents' generation. Their wishes were simple—earn some money and return to their hometown. We want to stay in the cities and enjoy our lives here. But we demand respect."

Chapter & verse & punctuation marks, that's what our (USA) workers said in, perhaps, the 1930s, eh?

Half (Quarter) Baked

Rare clematis

What follows is not meant to be inclusive. It is meant to be what it is, reflections from a 40 mile round trip from Tinmouth to Manchester Center and back. Thoughts on Federal/Local policy flowing, as it were, from the BP fiasco:

D-Day2010 for Energy Independence/Conservation: A Few Ideas*

  • Return to '73. 55mph speed limit implemented within 60 days or less, save thousands of lives, huge amount of gas. EVERYBODY participates/sacrifices, easy-ish to do.
  • Return to '73. Winter double daylight savings.
  • Summer Jobs Service Corps, to be implemented immediately. 10K kids to Gulf of Mexico to fend off the spill. Pay for with temporary 25-cent gas tax or cigarette tax. (Kids Krusade is Kool.)
  • Campaign 60/75. Winter thermostats never higher than 60 degrees, summer A/C never lower than 75. Public ads/blog/tweet/support groups/local campaigns.
  • Extend Bush tax cuts, but balance half of lost tax $$ by raising gas tax $1.00 or some such per gallon.
  • States: Immediately double registration fees for gas guzzlers, quintuple within 5 years. (Remove when fleet MPG standards reach a specified point.)
  • 150-day 80% government-funded home energy efficiency payment (for specified activities); at end of 1 year begin penalties for those who have not taken certain steps.
  • Graduated penalties for building energy efficiency deficits, material/painful by year 3 or 4.
  • Water conservation rules/penalties/bill reductions. Effect on water but also energy use associated therewith.

(*Must have several implementable ASAP. Must induce shared pain-contribution by ALL.)

(ABOVE: Rare Clematis. BELOW: Serious work gloves.)

Serious work gloves

Carly!

Rupert Murdoch is taking dead aim at the New York Times with his new Saturday Wall Street Journal magazine, WSJ. Yesterday's inaugural issue had a feature on Carly Fiorina's run for the Republican nomination to oppose Senator Barbara Boxer. The article was reasonably positive, and homed in as usual on Fiorina's tenure at HP.

I am a lifelong Democrat, and if I were still a California voter, I would probably not vote for Ms. Fiorina. Nonetheless I am a staunch defender of her HP record. (I called her "CEO of the Year" at one point in this space.) After reading the WSJ piece, I sent her an email offering a public statement from me on her HP tour of duty.

To wit:

"HP, circa 2010, is the 600-lb gorilla astride the computer industry. Why? The Compaq acquisition. PERIOD. Carly Fiorina, without a lot of help at times, fought the Hewlett and Packard families in a bitter, protracted battle to do the deal. And won. In doing so she both saved and transformed one of America's greatest companies. And if that's not enough, she also took one of earth's least consumer-oriented companies and converted it into a consumer dynamo, almost single-handedly (again). The greatest criticism of Fiorina was that Dell, then the #1 PC manufacturer, outstripped HP in profitability. Or at least Dell did until, after Fiorina left, they were forced to 'restate' (erase) a huge share of those profits. Ms. Fiorina doubtless made missteps, but anyone who disses or discounts or dismisses the profound positive impact of her tenure at HP is blind or an idiot or both."—Tom Peters, co-author of In Search of Excellence (Peters lived in Silicon Valley for 30+ years, but did not consult to or work with or even meet Fiorina until after she had left HP.)

Scary!

Scariest start of an article award 2010, from yesterday's New York Times:

"China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world's largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year. China has also leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels. And the country is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants. These efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China."

Tom Peters posted this on February 1, 2010, in News.
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The Fortune Guy Is the One With the Problem

There's a Fortune article on a Goldman guy who quit. ("The Man Who Walked Away from Goldman Sachs," William Cohan, 0208.10.) The Goldman guy was worried about Goldman doing a header like Lehman. The Fortune guy wrote: ""If Goldman's stock went to zero as Lehman Brothers' had ... then Winkelried's decades of hard work would be vaporized in the blip of a Bloomberg screen."

What a horror. Namely, the fact that the Fortune guy could produce that sentence, presumably with no sense of irony.

Suppose my net worth was 100.000% wiped out this morning. I would be unhappy. Very unhappy.

But ...

But if my net worth went to zero, the value of my last several decades of work would be precisely the same, for good or for ill, as it had been before the net worth tanked.

That is, my net worth and the usefulness (if any) of my work are not related except indirectly.

I think finance is absolutely a centerpiece of our economic well-being. Hence I trust that Mr. Winkelried has done work of value to my country and the world in his decades at Goldman Sachs. I assume, in fact, that there should be a multiplier—that is, the economic usefulness of Mr. Winkelried's work is a multiple of his compensation; he's hopefully been a "net contributor" to our collective well-being.

So it's sad that the Fortune guy would only imagine valuing Mr. Winkelried in terms of his net worth—and thence assigning no societal economic value to Mr. Winkelried's decades of 20-hour days.

I know nothing about Mr. Winkelried. But I think the Fortune guy has a whopper of a problem.

(This Post is from the Auckland airport, as I await a flight to Nelson.)

Tom Peters posted this on January 28, 2010, in News.
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Personal Responsibility

In today's Washington Post, David Ignacious concludes his article titled "Two attacks highlight counterterrorism's bureaucratic bog" with these lines:

The late CIA Director William Casey insisted that employees read the management classic In Search of Excellence to encourage every officer to take personal responsibility for solving problems, rather than kicking them on to the next guy in line. CIA Director Leon Panetta should use these searing events to foster a culture of initiative and accountability at a CIA that wants to do the job—but that needs leadership and reform.

Needless to say, Tom is extremely flattered to be mentioned.

Cathy Mosca posted this on January 6, 2010, in News.
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