Arriving in Shenzhen last week, I saw a poster for a local company called Stylution. Multinationals have concocted a similarly awkward “stylish solution” to the problem of how to staff expansion in China: hire hybrid managers with a perfect mix of global and local experience.
It’s 60 years since James Watson and Francis Crick published their model of the structure of DNA in the journal Nature. No better time, then, to eradicate the use of the expression by smug business leaders, as in “It’s in our DNA” or “It’s in the company’s DNA”.
The origins of its corporate use are a little obscure, but it may have started with Gareth Morgan’s 1986 book Images of Organization, which laid out eight metaphors through which people think about organisations, including as a machine, as a political system and as an organism – hence “organisational DNA”. Fair enough, but the use and abuse of the term has bloomed in recent years: I delved into the archive and found only about 100 instances of the two sentences above in the 10 years from 1995 (it does crop up in a 1996 Dilbert album – a sure advance warning that a phrase is becoming management-speak), but more than 550 in the past year alone.
Unless KPMG is now publicly ditched by a raft of big clients (which is unlikely), we may never know the damage inflicted on its reputation by the insider trading scandal involving the former head of its Los Angeles audit practice.
But for the firm’s chairman Michael Andrew to dismiss it already as “a one-day wonder” in “a slow news week” was silly and premature. There may come a time when Mr Andrew should come out fighting, but it is not yet.
Expect more Chinese heroes. That seems to be the clear message of the tie-up announced on Wednesday between China’s Seven Stars and Pinewood Shepperton Studios. Among other things, it should allow Chinese co-productions wider distribution in the fast-growing Chinese market, provided, my colleague Robert Cookson writes, they have “at least one Chinese actor, some scenes to be filmed in China, and somehow relate to China”.
Mick Davis’s departure from Glencore-Xstrata without serving a six-month transition period at the merged company is a classic dog-bites-man story. It looked inevitable even when my colleague Helen Thomas and I met him in January for an interview, but the Xstrata chief executive and cricket fan played a straight bat to questions about whether he would sit patiently in his office after what he plainly described as a takeover by Glencore.
One company may decide to buy another for its people, its clients, its products, its technology or a combination of all four. But how often does a company acquire another for its culture?
Companies that categorise older workers as costly redundancy fodder are ignoring a bigger prize.
Having now read Tim Cook’s letter of apology to Chinese consumers, I think the Apple chief executive has rather deftly achieved his objective – a public act of contrition – without admitting that his company did anything wrong.
According to the Wall Street Journal’s translation, he says:
We are aware that a lack of communication … has led to the perception that Apple is arrogant and doesn’t care or attach enough importance to consumer feedback. We express our sincere apologies for any concerns or misunderstandings this gave consumers.
This is at best an apology for creating a misperception, rather than for discriminating against Chinese consumers, one of China Central TV’s accusations.
Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s new chief executive, has just laid out a new strategy to “focus, accelerate and transform” the pharmaceutical company. Mark Thompson, newly arrived at the helm of The New York Times Company, has promised to “concentrate [the group’s] strategic focus” on the core business, putting The Boston Globe up for sale and rebranding the venerable International Herald Tribune.