Management

Ravi Mattu

Just a quick post to say that this is the last on the management blog. As Stefan predicted a few months ago, a new mantra of the modern world of work is to do “more with less”. Well, that may have proved true in our cases.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the FT isn’t covering management, so please do keep an eye on Stefan’s column, our management page and for the latest news from the world’s business schools, go to our Business Education section or check out our very interesting MBA Blog, where students relay the joy – and the occasional trauma – of pursuing an MBA.

Thanks for reading and keep your eyes open – the Management Blog may reappear in the future.

Stefan Stern

I always look forward to Michael Maccoby’s visits to London. He is a wise and insightful observer of the world. I reviewed his most recent book The Leaders We Need for the FT a couple of years ago.

Last week he was in town, and he told me about the senior corporate executive who had once said to him: “Don’t ask business to save the world.” What the executive meant was that all the talk of do-gooding, of CSR, of ethical business, was all very well. But in the end private sector businesses have to make a proft to survive, and nothing can get in the way of that.

The kicker to the comment was the acceptance that better regulation – government intervention – very well may be necessary to save the world, and business would have to realise this too. “Give us a better game to play,” this executive had said.

Michael Maccoby explained it like this: if the game of soccer (football) was getting too dangerous, if people were regularly breaking their legs, you might want to change the rules. But you would still want the game to remain essentially the same. Maybe some of the rules of business will have to change if we want to save the world – on carbon, on water, on waste. But it will still be business. Governments and business will just have to work together on this.

Stefan Stern

I wonder what those business leaders, who lent their names to various political campaigns in the run-up to the British election, feel about the negotiations that have gone on these past few days in London? Did they strike them as being businesslike, orderly, professional? Is this how they would like to hand over power to their successors?

Business and politics rarely mix well, as I have noted here before. The last five days have only served to confirm me in that view. I wonder if businesspeople will be so quick to come forward to support any of the parties before the next election, whenever it is.

Ravi Mattu

My very smart and funny colleague Lucy Kellaway has just released a novel about love in the office, called In Office Hours, published by Penguin. If you like reading Lucy’s columns (on work, on office problems and as ‘Martin Lukes’) – and I haven’t met a single reader who has anything but enthusiastic things to say about her – then you really should buy this book. It’s a roaring read.

It will not be published in the US until next year but you can buy it at Amazon’s UK site.

Stefan Stern

Well done Harvard. That is my immediate reaction to yesterday’s news that Nitin Nohria, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, will be taking over as the schools’s new dean on July 1. He is not the “safety first” candidate. He is on the record as having declared – in the Harvard Business Review, no less – that managers have “lost legitimacy” in the wake of corporate scandals, and that business has a lot of work to do to win back the public’s trust.

Together with his colleague Rakesh Khurana, Prof Nohria has challenged the orthodoxy that claimed there was little wrong with the conventional MBA syllabus or with the approach taken by the élite business schools. Both of these things played a part in contributing to the over-confident mentality which dominated business and finance, and which led to the great financial crisis. By appointing Prof Nohria, Harvard University has signalled that it is not frightened of debate, or reform – indeed, it wants to play a leading role in both these activities.

Stefan Stern

Just about to take part in a conference call with Harvard President Drew Faust and Professor Nitin Nohria, who has today been named as the new Dean of Harvard Business School. He will take over on July 1.

This is an exciting appointment. Prof Nohria, with his colleague Rakesh Khurana, has led a vigorous debate on business ethics and the need to reform the MBA.

There will be a short news item on www.ft.com later today and more in the paper from my colleague Della Bradshaw in due course.

Ravi Mattu

Ok, I like lists and Time’s 100 most influential people is a great one. But for all its strengths (Steve Jobs, Dominique Strauss-Kahn) and weaknesses (Glenn Beck as a leader? Simon Cowell as an artist?), I especially found a comment at the bottom of Bob Geldof’s paean to Tidjane Thiam, chief executive of Prudential, revealing about the power of business (and possibly the cynicism with which the west views African politicians):

Tidjane was once a minister in his home nation, Côte d’Ivoire, and he told me that when he was a high-ranking African politician, those with power and influence in the West didn’t want to hear what he had to say — but that once he joined the private sector, his opinion became sought out. Now bigwigs can’t get enough of him, and rightly so.

I wrote about the remarkable rise of Thiam last year.

Ravi Mattu

Alan Yentob, the BBC’s creative director, has today defended his right to fly business class by claiming that he can’t really do his job without it.

According to a report in The Guardian, here’s how he described a recent trip:

“When I went to New York I immediately when I arrived I went to give a talk to an organisation,” he told a Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference in central London today. “I was filming in the afternoon [for his BBC1 arts show Imagine] and I then returned within about 24 hours back to London back to work straight away. Do you think I should have travelled economy? I wouldn’t have been capable of doing the job.

“I try to limit the number of times that I go. I am not capable of doing all those things at once. That’s all I can say.”

Much is written about executive perks and how top management is supposedly shameless when it comes to claiming them. Much of it is quite right – especially in this climate – but I sometimes wonder if the discussion hasn’t gone too far in the opposite extreme.

Stefan Stern

News broke over the weekend that the chief executive of the UK restaurant chain Little Chef has left the company. A few months ago I wrote about my less than joyful experience of eating at a recently revamped Little Chef outlet. There’s no need to rehearse the whole story again here. In summary: the company had hired the Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal to advise them on updating and improving their menu. A TV camera crew had recorded this work and produced a rather upbeat and feel-good programme about a miraculous turnround at the company.

I was sceptical, especially after a somewhat disappointing meal at the flagship restaurant. I concluded my column by saying that the company would not be able to hide the truth from customers for long.

A couple of weeks ago I had another frankly horrendous meal at a Little Chef (do I ever learn? No I do not.) This branch was only another 40 miles or so up the road from the flagship one. They served me possibly the worst scrambled egg I have ever paid money for.

Now we learn that the CEO is out. Is the company’s heart really in this Hestonisation process? Does it have the competence to pull it off?

Stefan Stern

We are now roughly half-way through the British general election campaign. The country will vote on Thursday May 6. What was expected only a few weeks ago to be a fairly tame and predictable event has become much more exciting, on account of an innovation in British politics – televised debates between the three main party leaders.

The second of three debates took place last night. A commonplace in other mature democracies, the blockbuster election confrontation has finally arrived in the UK. It has upset the party planners and strategists, and overturned expectations.

So far so healthy. This is supposed to be a democracy, after all. But something is not quite right.



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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