The company’s corporate motto – “Do no evil” – has been used by some as an ethical stick with which to beat it as it moved into China and agreed to self-censor its searches. And its disastrous launch of Buzz, its social networking service, met with much resistance from its community of users and, more recently, privacy regulators.
It was all a bit surprising. In the past few decades, few companies have demonstrated (shaped?) a better understanding of the changing nature of consumer behaviour than Google. So, what happened?
Apparently, he quickly backtracked – not by renouncing what he said but by declaring in an open meeting with staff that he should have made the point directly to them instead of to an external company. He stood by his assertion that the company’s work was not up to snuff.
John Lewis is notable because its employees own the company, and partly because of that, the customer service is miles better than many of its competitors. These employees will share £151m bonus. More than that, as my colleague Michael Skapinker wrote earlier this year, it has made this ownership model work where others such as United Airlines have failed.
The video below, “The next big thing” is particularly interesting in revealing just how quickly technology has changed the way we think, communicate and, ultimately, do business. Just over half a minute in, check out the responses to the question: “How often do you Twitter?”
Some interesting insights on branding too. Maybe it’s not as powerful as we think it is?
So, the replacement CEO at General Motors, Fritz Henderson, has himself now been ousted. If we all purchased new vehicles as often as GM has replaced CEOs in recent months the auto industry would have a lot less to worry about.
Continuity and change: this is the trade-off which leaders have to manage. Clearly at the moment GM needs more of the latter than the former. But we risk over-emphasising the impact a single leader can have. Change has to be brought about by the leadership team and by senior management generally. It is not just down to one person. Knifing a CEO gives us a story to gossip about but does not change the fundamental challenge at the company.
After Mr Henderson’s decision to sell GM’s Opel subsidiary was reversed by his board he was probably doomed. But his fellow board members would be mistaken in believing that they will rapidly make things better by putting a new person in at the top. The challenge remains the same. Difficult decisions still have to be made. There are no quick personnel-related fixes available.
Paradoxically, bringing about successful change means understanding the value of continuity.
Is strategy dead? Chief strategy officers will deny it. Some strategy consultants may reject the idea, too. But, right now, markets are unpredictable. The economic outlook is uncertain. The world has changed. If old-style strategy formulation is not exactly dead, then it is hardly in the best of health.
For months, many leadership teams have had only one strategic goal in mind: survival. Grander visions have been filed away or forgotten. This hedgehog-style approach – roll up into a ball and wait until things are less scary – may keep a company alive temporarily, but does little to prepare it for the future.
Analysis by Boston Consulting Group suggests that corporate hibernation only works if recessions are short, if the outside world goes back to the way it was before, and if all your competitors are equally inactive, tucked up for the economic winter. In 2009, not one of these conditions applies.
England football manager Fabio Capello has had a remarkably successful career in Italy, Spain and now as manager of England (ok, he hasn’t won anything yet, but they have qualified for the World Cup). Sports analogies are used too often in the world of management speak (even for a sportsfan like me) but according to an article in the Guardian about his presentation at the Global Sports Summit in London, Capello reveals a couple of interesting truths.
First, he says that when he took over England the quality of the players was very high in training but not in matches.
“I understood everything when they played Switzerland in the first match, the same players who played well in training played with fear, with no confidence, and I said this is a big problem of the mind,” he said. “Step by step, game after game, we have improved a lot.”
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.
Commenting: We welcome your comments. You need to be registered with FT.com to comment; you can register for free here. Please also see our comments policy here. Contacting us: You can reach us using this email format: email@example.com Timing: UK time is shown on our posts. Follow us: Links to our Twitter and RSS feeds are at the top of the blog. You can also read us on your mobile device, by going to www.ft.com/managementblog FT blogs: See the full range of the FT's blogs here.