Outsiders have been marvelling at the uncanny skills of robots for decades. In 1978, commentators on the FT’s “Technical Page” were wowed by a machine called Puma (“programmable universal manipulator for assembly”) that had the “dexterity and accuracy [to] insert lamps into automobile instrument panels”. These days, Puma would look about as nimble as a first world war tank. My colleague Tanya Powley writes in the last of the FT’s series on robots at work that a Danish company has developed a machine that “can pack millions of eggs without crushing them”, while lightweight collaborative robots work alongside humans.
Missing, though, from most accounts of how automation will transform the workplace is a similar sense of wonder at the dexterity of managers as they adapt their human skills to the demands of the sophisticated machinery around them. Read more
Welcome to the World Cup in Brazil, brought to you by Fifa, a corporate governance disaster that is also one of the most successful multinational enterprises on earth.
Spanish Crown Prince Felipe Photo: Reuters
A couple of royal handovers and a papal resignation and suddenly abdication – which used to have a near uniformly negative connotation – is all the rage. Read more
Stephen Immelt, brother of Jeff Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric, has become the second Immelt to lead a multinational organisation – in his case the law firm Hogan Lovells.
Jeff Immelt has given his brother some advice on how to do so. In an interview with The Lawyer magazine, Steve says Jeff has a rule of three-to-five for managing GE: Read more
Self-castration was such a popular path to a high-flying advisory career in China’s imperial court that the Ming dynasty ended up having to employ lots of eunuchs it could not afford.
Early in her career at Apollo Hospitals, Preetha Reddy, then aged 30, went to question a senior doctor. Affronted about being interrogated by a manager half his age, he quit the next day. It taught Ms Reddy, now managing director of the Indian healthcare group, to practise “the art of listening” before confronting a more experienced team member with new ideas.
Graves at the Père-Lachaise-cemetery in Paris
I’ve been wondering about the most suitable place to commemorate the death of the Omnicom-Publicis deal. How about Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, where Oscar Wilde and The Doors’ Jim Morrison are buried?
A photo of Maurice Lévy and John Wren, respectively the bosses of Publicis and Omnicom, thumbing their noses at each other against a backdrop of moss-covered tombs would be just as appropriate in its way as the infamous deal-announcement image of the two men toasting one another, with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. Read more
The recent history of Britain’s Co-operative Group is so peculiar it is tempting to paraphrase the opening lines of Anna Karenina – “Happy companies are all alike and every unhappy company is unhappy in its own way” – and dismiss it as a management aberration.
Managers are notorious for prioritising short-term demands when they clash with long-term goals. Research in the US has shown that most executives would shy away from a value-enhancing long-term project if it caused them to miss a quarterly earnings forecast.
How companies can manage such clashes was the subject of a “Strategy Live” debate organised by the Financial Times in London this morning. Chaired by management editor Andrew Hill, the session featured senior figures from finance and industry, who spoke on a non-attributable basis under the Chatham House rule.
Participants used the example of Barclays to launch a broader debate, examining its controversial decision to increase bonuses to its investment bankers even as it – seemingly paradoxically – tried to move to a less abrasive, more long-termist culture. Read more
Rajeev Suri, newly appointed head of Nokia, has plenty to tackle at the Finnish group, but one challenge relates to the part of the business he no longer oversees – the handset business that has finally transferred to Microsoft’s ownership.
As head of Nokia Solutions and Networks, Mr Suri developed the telecoms equipment business, which now makes up the largest part of “new Nokia”, more or less autonomously from the devices business. Its culture is likely to dominate the Finnish group as it now evolves. But what of the deep-rooted residual link with the handsets in our pockets?
Even if the Nokia brand is quickly stripped from smartphones, I wonder whether the Finnish group will experience the business equivalent of “phantom limb syndrome” – twitching and wincing as though the amputated devices arm is still attached to the rest of the body corporate. Read more
I am sitting in a packed conference room, somewhere in the heart of London’s financial centre, in an office I have sworn not to identify. It is quiet for a midweek lunchtime. In fact, it is silent. Along with the ex-chairman of a blue-chip company, a handful of executives and board members, a former senior central banker, a Buddhist software engineer, a Benedictine monk and 60 others, I am meditating. Or trying to.
Researching my latest column about the management benefits of mindfulness and meditation, I came across a priceless FT article from 1957. Headlined “Keeping Managers Healthy”, it warns about the “effects of stress and strain on top-level executives” and concludes, gravely, that a number of executives “break the most important rule of all – which is not to ‘keep in touch’ with the company while ostensibly on holiday”.
The article contains this cut-out-and-keep list of 10 “do’s and dont’s”, distilled in part from “what one oil company advises its men [sic]“: Read more
Lesson Two: ensure your predecessor is dead or distant (photo: Getty)
Good morning and welcome to the new Harvard MBA module on sports management. I’m assistant professor David Moyes. Read more
To the news that General Electric’s board of directors has been meeting in solemn conclave to debate whether its chief executives should serve a 20-year term, the natural response is: which egomaniac came up with that idea?
I use a Firefox browser. The opinions of the people who built the technology, or who run Mozilla, the organisation behind it, should make no difference to my experience as a user. Mozilla agrees. Its guidelines state that when people hold views contrary to its inclusion and diversity standards, other Mozillians – as they insist on calling themselves – “should treat this as a private matter” as long as those views are not brought to work, or aired via Firefox.
PwC/Booz's new 'amper-brand'…
Cesare Mainardi, chief executive of Booz & Company, has a ready explanation for the consultancy’s rebranding as “Strategy&”, now Booz’s takeover by PwC is complete:
It invites a discussion about what we’re about and what we’re thinking and how we can help our clients transform.
True enough. Unfortunately, the initial discussion of the new “amper-brand” – pronounced “strategy and” – is likely to start with “What were they thinking?”. People still remember PwC’s ill-fated attempt to rename its consulting arm as “Monday” in 2002, a misstep that had plenty of critics humming the Boomtown Rats’ hit “I don’t like Mondays”. (Luckily for the professional services firm, roughly by Tuesday, IBM had bought the consulting business and PwC never had to live with the consequences.) Read more
Free business school case study in every box (Dreamstime)
Altering prices is a delicate art. When Pixar was a hardware maker in the 1980s, for instance, it realised it was charging too much for its computers. Yet a price cut failed to dispel its reputation for hawking excessively pricey kit. “The first impression stuck,” recalls Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull in his informative new book, Creativity, Inc.
But this does not mean that it is impossible to raise or lower prices successfully. The decision by Amazon to increase the price of its Prime delivery service in the US last month could be a case in point.
Pricing strategy consultant Rafi Mohammed has praised the way Amazon went about increasing the annual Prime charge from $79 to $99. Read more
Leonardo Del Vecchio and Rupert Murdoch have plenty in common. The chairman of Luxottica, the eyewear group, and the chairman of News Corp and 21st Century Fox were born in the 1930s. Both are billionaire patriarchs of family businesses they largely built themselves but now share with outside investors. Both have six children from different relationships, and both have wrestled with the question of succession.
General Motors and Malaysia Airlines are both in trouble but one is giving a lesson in how to handle a fatal crisis while the other is offering a masterclass in how not to. There is a glaring contrast in the behaviour, and ability to cope with public criticism, of Mary Barra, GM’s chief executive, and Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, the chief executive of Malaysia Airlines – although Ms Barra has a simpler task.
My first reaction to the latest news of changes at the top of the Murdoch empire was: did the shrink get involved?
Succession planning at family businesses is often full of unlikely twists and shrieking. After the phone-hacking scandal broke over Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspapers in 2011, Vanity Fair claimed that the Murdoch siblings had discussed succession with a “family counsellor”, partly in an attempt to smooth the process. Read more