Monthly Archives: November 2009

Lucy Kellaway

Last Sunday at the American Music Awards, the singer J-Lo slipped and fell on to her bottom. Spookily, three days earlier, I had also fallen over while performing.

There were, however, a couple of differences between the tumbles. J-Lo had been climbing a human staircase of nearly nude male dancers and was wearing hot pants and singing lustily. I, on the other hand, was decently clad and quietly getting out of my chair to give a speech at a formal dinner for investors in Japanese equities. I tripped over my handbag and landed spread-eagled on the floor, my chin hitting the carpet. Crash, bang, wallop. The microphone I was wearing ensured that anyone who did not see the fall heard it.

Like most people, I find public speaking more frightening than spiders or the prospect of being mugged in a dark alley. What is terrifying is the risk of humiliation, of metaphorically falling flat on one’s face. It never occurred to me that I needed to fear it literally, too.

The remainder of this article can be read here. Please post comments below.

Stefan Stern

Invariably, the answer to a question in a headline is “no”, and this time is no exception. But I couldn’t suppress a tiny pang of guilt when I saw the startling news emerging in the Gulf, and the even more startling market reaction to it.

Two years ago I chaired an FT Gulf property investment conference at the handsome Park Hyatt hotel in Dubai. It was an enjoyable and well-attended event. The mood was bullish. Most presentations were positive and several rather dramatically so.

The chairman did not demur. How could I? It was my first visit to the city, and you could not fail to be impressed by the rapid growth of the place. In November 2007 prospects for Dubai still looked good.

Now comes the shock of a “standstill” on debt repayments, with unknown consequences. Yet another example of a market getting over-extended and ultimately out of control? Perhaps. But also, possibly, another case of the herd mentality preventing more sceptical voices from being taken seriously.

All of us – investors, borrowers, financiers, analysts, journalists – really must take this lesson of 2008/9 on board. Bubbles always arise, we should seek to burst them before they grow too big, and if something looks too good to be true then it probably is. Things that cannot go on for ever have to end sometime.

Ravi Mattu

We’ve launched a new section today called 20 questions, in which we talk to leading businesspeople in rapid-fire form. First up: Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter who answers, of course, in 140 characters or less. Definitely worth a read. And keep an eye out for next week’s executive: Guy Hands.

Ravi Mattu

The McCann Worldgroup agency created controversy last week by giving a lukewarm response to the London 2012 Olympics logo, designed by Wolff Olins, even though McCann is marketing the games worldwide.

In our “Judgment Call” section, we asked three experts for their take on how do you keep multiple teams working on the same project ‘on message’? And what are the key mistakes to be avoided?

I couldn’t help but think something had gone wrong in the management of this massively complicated, multiteam project. Surely someone at the London Organising Committee should have told McCann to just stick to a line – the logo is great and innovative in a way that the public don’t yet realise – to avoid reopening a controversy.

Earlier this year, for example, I met with one of the key Olympic sponsors who were proudly displaying the logo in their London office. Their take was a bit more nuanced: when it was first released, they said, they were a bit anxious but when Wolff Olins when through the various ways in which the logo was going to be used they began to think it was brilliant.

That, surely, was a better way of communicating the message. And one that didn’t suggest the reopening of a controversy that the Olympic organisers don’t need.

Luke Johnson

Partnerships are the oldest form of business structure – they probably pre-date joint stock companies by hundreds of years. But that does not mean they are simple or even genteel places to run. There are myriad ways of organising a partnership, and plenty of ways they can go wrong. I have been aware of more ferocious fights among professional partners than in any company boardroom. But because of the private nature of such arrangements, these disputes rarely break cover.

Historically, partnerships were an income vehicle for the participants. In the good times earnings could be lucrative, but there was no opportunity to accumulate significant capital. The goodwill in the organisation was handed over to the next generation of partners, which ensured the business attracted the finest talent.

Typically, in accountancy or legal firms, the senior figures benefit from the sweat of their junior colleagues; but the implicit contract is that for those who work hard enough for long enough, eventually a partnership will beckon, and then the good times will roll.

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

Ravi Mattu

Renault’s latest car, the Zoé, has caused a bit of controversy. Not everyone likes the name apparently – it’s been a popular name for girls in France recently and a few young parents are none too pleased that it’s now the name of a car.

It is always curious how consumers react to decisions taken by companies. I bet a lot of people at Renault thought long and hard about the name for the car. Maybe the person who made the final judgment has a daughter called Zoé and chose to name it precisely for that reason. Who knows.

Stefan Stern

In 1974, the New York Times reported that sales of Peter Drucker’s latest book, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, had overtaken those of Alex Comfort’s illustrated primer The Joy of Sex. For one brief moment, management was the hottest topic of all.

Only Drucker could have achieved this. “No other person has had the impact on the practice of management that he did,” according to one of today’s leading authorities, CK Prahalad. This November marks the centenary of Drucker’s birth – he died in 2005 just short of his 96th birthday – and the anniversary has been celebrated in a series of events round the world.

Last week in Vienna, the city where Drucker was born and spent the first 18 years of his life, an international conference debated his significance and continued relevance. But the idea was to look forwards and not back, as Richard Straub, the conference organiser, explained. “We are not opening a museum here,” he said. “We have plenty in this city already.”

The remainder of this article can be read here. Please post comments below.

Lucy Kellaway

Traditional management is over. The internet has killed command and control. Now that everyone can analyse and ridicule their chief executive’s every move almost before they’ve made it, it has become impossible to order people about.

This view is put forward by Carol Bartz, the new head of Yahoo, in The Economist’s “The World in 2010”. It sounds pacey and plausible and for a second I was lulled into thinking that perhaps the “Niagara of information” really has changed management for ever. But then I looked around me. I saw lots of people at desks calmly doing what they were paid to do: working.

Command and control is not over and won’t ever be. Bosses are still bosses. If mine tells me to do something, I’m inclined to get up off my bottom and do it. If Bartz’s employees don’t get off their bottoms when she tells them to, there is a problem – and it has nothing to do with the internet.

The remainder of this article can be read here. Please post comments below.

Stefan Stern


A full day of debate, analysis, homage and, just occasionally, longueurs here at the inaugural Peter Drucker forum.

Delegates heard about Drucker’s “integrity, humility and generosity” from Rick Warren, the priest chosen by Barack Obama to speak at his inauguration as President. It turns out that Dr Warren’s all-time best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life was heavily inspired by Drucker.

We heard both CK Prahalad and Charles Handy share their perspectives. CK said that, in his opinion, no other person has had the impact on the practice of management that Drucker has. Charles Handy observed that, even when he felt he had provided some new insight into the challenge of management, he would invariably discover that Drucker had already written at some length along similar lines, often dozens of years earlier.

Stefan Stern


A wonderful gathering of the management clan is taking place here in the Austrian capital this week. CK Prahalad is in town, as is Charles Handy, Yves Doz and Philip Kotler, among many others. What is everyone doing here? They have come to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the birth, in this city, of Peter Drucker, the world’s greatest management writer, who died in 2005 just short of his 96th birthday. Why, even his widow Doris, aged 98, has come over from the States to see it all for herself.

On Thursday and Friday delegates will be taking part in the first global Peter Drucker forum, led by Richard Straub, president of the Peter Drucker society of Austria and himself a senior IBM executive based in Paris. On Wednesday there was a pre-summit series of talks and debates, which whetted appetites nicely.

I shall be writing in greater detail about what emerges during this event in my column next Tuesday. But it is already apparent after one half day that the management world is eager to use this anniversary, and the ongoing global economic crisis, as an opportunity: not only to reacquaint itself with Drucker’s writings, but to stake out new ground and reinvigorate thinking on the art of management itself.

What is the big goal for management as we approach 2010? Put simply, it is “to reinvent the social compact of business,” as CK Prahalad declared earlier today. Not what you might call a trivial ambition. And the full conference hasn’t even started yet.

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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Elsewhere on Lucy Kellaway

Lucy Kellaway writes a column on Mondays on work , poking fun at management fads and jargon and celebrating the ups and downs of office life. She is also the FT's Agony Aunt.

Elsewhere on Luke Johnson

Luke Johnson writes an FT column on Wednesdays on entrepreneurship. He runs Risk Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and is chairman of the Royal Society of Arts.

Elsewhere on Dear Lucy

Lucy Kellaway, FT columnist and associate editor, offers her solution to your workplace problems in a column in the Financial Times. In the online edition of her Dear Lucy 'agony aunt' column, readers are invited to have a say too.

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