Management

Andrew Hill

Paul Flowers: tests put the board off the scent

The idea that Paul Flowers – the disgraced former chairman of the UK’s Co-operative Bank – might have got the job largely because he aced a set of psychometric tests is, on the face of it, astonishing. As we now know, the Methodist minister had little previous banking experience and is being investigated for allegedly buying illegal drugs.

But unfortunately it is increasingly easy for executives to allow the apparent certainty of test data to overrule more subtle and more serious concerns visible to mere human beings. Read more

When Ellen Kullman, chief executive of DuPont, asked a contract worker on the production line making Kevlar, the fibre used in bulletproof vests, what he was doing, she got an unexpected response: “We’re saving lives.”

Andrew Hill

Credit Suisse is the latest investment bank to issue an edict aimed at protecting the work-life balance of its junior employees – and it is getting roasted for it by bankers themselves.

Bloomberg reported (and the bank confirmed) that Jim Amine, global head of investment banking, had decreed in a memo that “analysts and associates in the US investment banking division should be out of the office from 6 pm Friday until 10am Sunday unless they’re working on an active deal”.

So ordered. Except that commanding your ambitious junior employees to limit their workload – Bank of America, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs have taken similar action – is quite likely to be useless, if not counter-productive. To change working practices requires a profound cultural shift, and judging from the reaction to the latest news that is not likely to happen soon. Read more

Ravi Mattu

Evan Spiegel, co-founder of Snapchat (AP)

Few technology companies are hotter than Snapchat, the photo sharing app founded just under three years ago that turned down a $3bn bid from Facebook. An article about the company in Forbes calls it “the greatest existential threat yet to the Facebook juggernaut”, highlighting that “droves” of teens (the median age of a Snapchat user is 18) are turning to the social network founded almost three years ago that allows users to send videos, pictures, text or drawings that disappear after a set period of time.

But one unexpected detail in the piece stuck out for me. When twentysomething co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy first met Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder tried to dig for information on their plans. He also outlined his own plans for Poke, Facebook’s own app for sharing photos and making them disappear. According to Mr Spiegel: “‘It was basically like, ‘We’re going to crush you’.” Here’s the surprising detail: the Snapchat founders then bought a copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for each of their six employees.

In choosing that particular military-treatise-cum-strategy-guide, Spiegel and Murphy punctured two myths about tech entrepreneurs. Read more

You come back from holiday to find your chief executive has given up power to a central constitution. Your team has been disbanded and your title scrapped. You are now all partners, each with an agreed role and a duty to support others whose work overlaps yours. Instead of allowing tension to fester internally, you will raise problems openly at regular meetings that promote positive action.

Every year, at services of lessons and carols, or in renditions of Handel’s Messiah , I hear a version of this sonorous Old Testament passage: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’.”

Andrew Hill

GM's off – and Barra's driving (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Of two immediately obvious facts about Mary Barra, chief executive elect at General Motors, the more interesting is not that she is a woman but that she is a company “lifer”.

To my mind, GM looks as though it is signalling that it has turned the corner following the trauma of government bailout, just as Citigroup did when it appointed career insider Michael Corbat as chief executive last year. Read more

Before long, “everything that computes will connect, and everything that connects will compute”, Abhi Ingle, who spearheads innovation at AT&T, told last week’s FT Innovate America conference in Silicon Valley.

Call me naive, but somehow I expected more from the double-glazing salesman I recently invited into my home. I knew about confusing pitches, pressure tactics, cowboy installers and fly-by-night manufacturers. You do not have to do much research to appreciate that sellers of double glazing are in the hard-sell hall of fame, alongside used-car vendors and estate agents.

It is always irritating to be stereotyped, but it must be particularly galling for cash-strapped, educated members of “Generation Y” to be told by demographers, marketers and futurologists that they have to get out and shake up management and the world of work.

Not much unites Franz-Joseph I of Austria-Hungary and a flock of starlings. But when Don Tapscott, the business thinker, used film of murmurations of flocking starlings to conclude a presentation about managing complexity in Vienna last week, the mesmerising images unfolded alongside the forbidding presence of the old emperor, staring down from a gilt-framed portrait.

Andrew Hill

(Photo: Bloomberg)

Who knew management gurus could be so noisy – or so emotional? Gather business academics together in one place and they are more likely to exchange views on core competences or quietly debate the legacy of Peter Drucker. Put them in a banqueting hall and offer them the chance to win an award, though, and they go as mad as a group of middle managers at the Regional Salesperson of the Year gala luncheon. Read more

If a destination’s desirability is measured by the number of maps that claim to lead you to it, innovation is the corporate world’s Taj Mahal. Among the manuals on sale is an Innovator’s Guide, a Cookbook, a Toolkit, a Path, a Way, a Handbook and a Manifesto.

Adam Jones

Readers from countries accustomed to wild extremes of weather, please look away.

But for those in the path of the storm that swept through southern Britain into London’s rush hour this morning, we’re keen to know how you managed your teams to cope with the disruption. Read more

Ravi Mattu

There is one question I’ve been struggling to figure out about Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to release his second memoir: why now? Of course, he has retired but for a manager renowned for protecting his players in public while berating them in the sanctity of the dressing room, publicly naming and shaming some of the club legends has generated lots of unflattering headlines.

Sir Alex certainly wants his legacy as a leader and manager to be recognised; his methods were recently the subject of a Harvard Business Review case study.

But another reason is hinted at in one of the most revealing quotes from the book, on the loneliness of being a manager: “In management you are fragile, sometimes. You wonder whether you are valued”. Read more