Sunday, April 24, 2005

We Don't Need Another Hero; We Just Need Another Marla: Marla Ruzicka, 1976-2005

Harvard Business Review, September 2001
We Don't Need Another Hero

"Everybody loves the stories of great leaders, especially great moral leaders. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and Gandhi. We exalt these individuals as role models and celebrate their achievements. They represent, we proclaim, the gold standard of ethical behavior ... Or do they? I don't ask because I question the value of ethical behavior--far from it. I ask because over the course of my career as a specialist in business ethics, I have observed that the most effective moral leaders in the corporate world often sever the connection between morality and public heroism.": Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr., Professor, HBS

Before a road car-bomb killed her in Iraq, Marla Ruzicka wasn't a hero. "Now I wish I'd pushed harder so that more people might have known about her when she was doing her work," writes Christopher Allbritton, an Iraq-based journalist. But Marla was busier in the streets of Afghanistan and Iraq than she was looking for a best way to get into a prime-time spot. Marla learned that the most effective way to right moral wrongs was not through loud protests aired by CNN. Instead,--according to The Washington Post--through her quiet diplomacy, she earned the ears of journalists, generals, and politicians--most notably Sen. Patrich Leahy, D-Vermont, who helped her cause in obtaining $17.5 million appropriation fund for Afghanistan and Iraq war victims.

"No one can heal the wounds that have been inflicted; you just have to recognize that people had been harmed.": Marla Ruzicka, Founder and Director, CIVIC Worldwide

For more info: Wikipedia entry on Marla Ruzicka

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Long-Term Vision, Short-Term Focus

The Wall Street Journal, April 5th, 2005
Chiefs With the Skills of a COO Gain Favor as Celebrity CEOs Fade

"I'm only as popular as the company's last quarterly results": Mark Hurd, CEO, H-P

It's the eternal debate over long-term vs. short-term interests. We have often accused our managers and CEOs of sacrificing long-term goals for short-term gains. But the generally accepted fact is that the best-run companies are those who maintain short-term focus: GE, Siemens, Dell, ... In the meanwhile, all the "invent" companies out there sooner or later will realize or have realized that they have/had been using their long-term dreams as excuses for underperformances.

Harvard Business Review, January-February 1989
Companyism and Do More Better

"Rowing harder doesn't help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction.": Kenichi Ohmae

Dreamers and visionaries make great leaders, we hear. But the problem with dreaming without executing is that it gets you nowhere. The problem with long-term vision is that you can only guess what is there beyond all those obstructions along the way. So the short-term gains may not be so evil, after all. Taking a note from Finance 101: "a dollar now worths more than a future dollar; a dollar in hand worths more than a promised dollar". It is important to establish checkpoints to earn the short-term gains as well as to ensure you're headed in the right directions.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Execution without Excuses

I have always wondered if our company is the HP of the personal computer world. We do not do rocket science, but fortunately we do sit inside some huge walls of economies of scale and know-hows created by high capital and technological intensity required in our industries. Still, the following quotes from Michael Dell might hold true even for our industries:

Harvard Business Review, March 2005
Execution without Excuses

"I founded the company over 20 years ago with $1,000 in starting capital. By contrast, Compaq had been launched two years earlier in Texas with some $100 million in capital. That's an unbelievable difference. Dell bubbled up through a kind of Darwinian evolution, finding holes in the way the industry was working. We didn't become asset-light just because it was a brilliant strategy. We didn't have a choice.": Michael Dell

(In the "Lean Enterprise" training, we learned how the "sea of inventory" covers all the rocks of process imperfections and wastes. Big companies sit on huge levels of inventories so they will never have to bump these rocks. But because they don't see these rocks, big companies generally do not have as much incentives to continue moving forward towards perfection.)