Monthly Archives: November 2008

Adam Jones

Adam Jones

A new web-based service called Rypple is offering workers private, anonymous feedback from colleagues and bosses.

Members use the site to ask their peers how they performed in a specific task, or how they are doing in general. The peers write down what they think and these opinions are returned to the feedback-seeker without their names attached.

This nameless character assassination dispassionate evaluation enables members to work on their weaknesses on a rolling basis, instead of having to wait for their annual career appraisal, the company says.

Adam Jones

BBC Radio 4 broadcast an ostensibly light-hearted programme that made me grimace yesterday. It was about punctuality and time management and featured a factory that docked the pay of workers going to the toilet outside scheduled breaks.

Punctuality may be important but too much oversight eliminates those informal interactions that make work more productive as well as more bearable. Who hasn’t picked up a useful snippet of work information from a colleague during a moment of impromptu down time?

I’d almost forgotten about the programme when a couple of hours later I came across an illuminating profile of Ikujiro Nonaka, the Japanese management guru, in the new edition of Strategy + Business, the house magazine of Booz & Company.

Stefan Stern

Here are a few headlines that I read on the same day in this newspaper last week:

“Deutsche Bank job cuts focus on New York and London”

“BASF to cut output by 25 per cent and reduce hours”

“Fidelity set to axe hundreds of UK staff”

“Babcock & Brown unveils radical sell-off plan as it slashes 850 jobs”

“Collins Stewart cuts staff amid mid-cap refocus”

You get the picture. There is not much good news out there at the moment. Revenues are falling, and jobs are going. Management has to act responsibly and think about the long-term health, and survival, of the business.

The talk is all of hard-headed realism. So when I received some news about a corporate programme called “Employees First”, I presumed that it must refer to some sort of harsh but honest cost-cutting measure.

The remainder of the article can be read here. Please post c0mments below.

Stefan Stern

This piece was published in Saturday’s FT. It was a huge pleasure to meet the great man.

Do note Tom’s assertion that “management is not getting harder”.

What do you think?

Stefan Stern

I had the great pleasure (and privilege) of meeting Narayana Murthy, founder and now chairman of the board of Infosys, the Indian IT giant, in London this week.

Now 62 years old, he is officially retired from any executive role. But he has become “chief mentor” at the business, and is available to offer advice, experience and guidance to anyone at the company who seeks him out.

It is a rather Indian concept – not unlike the extended family in which Mr Murthy grew up. His parents and in-laws helped him and his wife bring up their own children. Now Mr Murthy is there like a parent (or grandparent!), looking over his old business.

I asked him: what explains the success of great Indian businesses such as Infosys, Wipro and the Tata group? Mr Murthy believes there are some culturally specific qualities, but also some universal ones, that lie behind the achievements.

Adam Jones

Glib politicians and CEOs rejoice: research suggests that sidestepping questions can be a good policy if you do it artfully enough. 

Todd Rogers, executive director of the Analyst Institute, and Michael Norton, a Harvard Business School professor, looked at public speakers who, when faced with a difficult question, provide a slick answer to a different question that they would rather have been asked.

Their conclusion? Listeners mind this less than a straight answer delivered badly.


Adam Jones

At first glance, the news that Procter & Gamble and Google have been temporarily swapping staff sounds like the premise for a sitcom. P&G’s workers are stereotyped as robotic Proctoids. Googlers are supposed to be geeky-but-funky.

But as the Wall Street Journal account reveals, both companies share an underlying obsession with detail that runs deeper than any superficial differences in jargon or style. Any sitcom based on this odd couple would be running out of culture clash gags after the second episode.

The P&G/Google tie-up sounds clever and worthy of emulation by other companies. It offers a chance for P&G to learn from Google’s disruptive online innovation while giving Google a lesson in what it takes to thrive over the long term.

But while it is hardly material for TV comedy, Pooglers and Groctoids would be a great title for a children’s book.

Stefan Stern

There’s the truth, and then there’s what appears in the media. The two are not always the same.

Perhaps you knew that already. But I had a revelatory experience the other morning, while chairing the first day of the FT’s innovation conference, which brought the point home to me.

We were lucky enough to have Deborah Meaden, from the BBC’s popular Dragons’ Den programme, as one of our speakers. (If you don’t know the show, it involves entrepreneurs presenting business ideas to a gang of investors – the dragons. It is must-watch and occasionally hide-behind-the-sofa telly.) We had an entirely natural, spontaneous and intimate little chat on stage: just her, me, and an audience of delegates looking on.

I had been a bit apprehensive about this. On the TV show Ms Meaden is brisk to the point of brusque, terse, and challenging. The comedian Harry Enfield has created a grotesque new parody of her in his latest TV series. The caricature is known as The Grumpy Woman.

But, although her train had been delayed by over an hour, Ms Meaden was the opposite of grumpy. She was charming, intelligent, warm and generous. And – unlike Mr Enfield’s impersonation – slim.

It’s all in the editing, you see. Filming Dragons Den takes all day. Some entrepreneurs are grilled for a couple of hours, or more. The questioning is mainly measured, and calm.

Then comes the magic of television. Longueurs are removed. The aggro is accentuated. And the polite, reasonable Ms Meaden becomes A Dragon.

I should have known. I’m not above the odd bit of selective quoting myself. But still – the contrast between image and reality was remarkable. Worth thinking about.

P.S.  On her website,, the text refers to her “sharp suits and sharp tongue”. I think Ms Meaden is pretty relaxed about her public image.

Stefan Stern

Don’t you just love it when you come through the arrivals gate at the airport and you see a driver there waiting for you, holding up a board with your name on it? Personally, I like it if they are also wearing a tie. And a cap. I am not saying that they have to wear a cap. I’m just saying that I like it.

How much is that service worth to you? Maybe you don’t always bother with such luxuries when you are going on holiday. But, if it is a business trip and your company is paying, do you know what price you will be charged?

Didn’t think so. You wouldn’t expect the individual customer to know. Your travel people can handle it. But what if the travel company that they are buying from is unable to price that service accurately? Good news for your procurement guys: they can hammer out a better all-in deal. But the travel company, through its undisciplined approach to selling, is throwing away a large amount of money.

The remainder of the article can be read here. Please post c0mments below.

About the authors

Stefan Stern writes a column on Tuesdays on management. He is winner of the 2010 Towers Watson award for excellence in HR journalism, and has previously won awards from the Work Foundation and the Management Consultancies Association.

Ravi Mattu is the editor of Business Life, the FT's management features section, and a former editor of the Mastering Management series. He joined the FT in 2000 from Prospect magazine

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