Executive Times

Volume 6, Issue 2

February, 2004

 

ă 2004 Hopkins and Company, LLC

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Jobberwacky

Between political primaries and the State of the Union message, the rhetoric has been piled as high and as deep as the snow in some places during recent weeks. So, with apologies to Lewis Carroll, or with thanks to his Through the Looking Glass, we found a lead for this month’s issue: can we make any sense out of what’s going on with jobs? Are we more or less likely to see job growth or job loss, and what does that mean for your organization? In this issue, we call attention to some of the perspectives about job growth and loss, the emergence of new job roles within organizations and how some organizations are treating current and potential workers.

 

Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. One book is rated with one star, five with two stars, eight with three stars, and one with four stars. You can also visit our 2004 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2004books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 2004 book reviews. You can also check this same bookshelf to see what other books we’re reading or considering. If there’s something missing from the bookshelf that you think we should be considering, let us know at books@hopkinsandcompany.com.

Gumby Workers
You may recall that the definition of a recession is when your neighbor loses his or her job, and a depression is when you lose yours. Finding the facts about job losses and gains on a broader scale can be more confusing than this simple analysis. It should come as no surprise that the AFL-CIO’s John Sweeney had this perspective following President Bush’s State of the Union speech: “In his State of the Union address last night, he offered no solutions to the urgent, immediate job crisis that his economic policies have worsened. He did not address the hammering of the middle class as a result of the loss of good, stable jobs with benefits and the trend toward low-paying jobs that do not provide health care or pensions.” (http://www.aflcio.org/mediacenter/prsptm/pr01212004.cfm). In a recent speech (http://www.federalreserve.gov/BoardDocs/speeches/2004/20040126/default.htm) in London, Alan Greenspan called attention to the reality that the ability of companies to fire workers more easily also leads to hiring workers more readily in a flexible response to changing economic conditions. Layoffs are good. In clear “Greenspeak” he said, “…structural unemployment decreased because the broadened freedom to discharge workers rendered hiring them less of a potentially costly long-term commitment. The increased flexibility of our labor market is now judged an important contributor to economic resilience and growth. American workers, to a large extent, see this connection and, despite the evident tradeoff between flexibility and job security, have not opposed innovation.” Where Sweeney sees crisis, Greenspan sees strength. Who should arbitrate? We choose Peter Drucker, who had this to say in an interview with Fortune (http://www.fortune.com/fortune/subs/print/0,15935,565912,00.html) in recent weeks: “Nobody seems to realize that we import twice or three times as many jobs as we export. I'm talking about the jobs created by foreign companies coming into the U.S. The most obvious are the foreign automobile companies. Siemens alone has 60,000 employees in the U.S. We are exporting low-skill, low-paying jobs but are importing high-skill, high-paying jobs. … American workers are more flexible. I don't just mean you can move people out of accounting and into engineering here; I mean physically moving people from Chicago to Los Angeles. Don't you dare try that in Germany. They won't go. That's one of the absurd byproducts of their huge and restrictive employee benefits: It's cheaper to allow someone to remain unemployed in the Ruhr than to move him to Stuttgart for a real job. The same thing is true in Japan. … For educated American young people there is no recession. But the immigrants have a mismatch of skills: They are qualified for yesterday's jobs, which are the kinds of jobs that are going away. This also is especially hard on uneducated urban American blacks. Their great ladder of opportunity since World War II is going away.” Perspectives about job gains or losses vary, and executives are faced with key challenges in attracting, motivating and retaining a talented workforce, capable of flexibility in meeting emerging organizational needs. Perhaps it’s Gumby who’s the right role model for successful employees whose jobs are becoming transformed.

What are the job or labor challenges facing your organization? How important is worker flexibility to the success of your organization? How much job security do you and your employees feel within your organization? Are employees in your organization concerned about a job crisis? Will your future workers have the skills that your organization will need? What are you doing to help prepare people for tomorrow’s jobs?

Call Me Ishmael
It may have been Tom Peters who helped perpetuate creative job titles during the 1990’s. If it wasn’t, we can blame him anyway. Titles like “Galactic Sales Leader,” “Customer Champion,” and “Corporate Energizer,” became laughable. Empowering employees to pick a job name created only confusion, especially when managers still decided what the jobs entailed. Today’s trend seems to involve corporate roles that may have been missing in some organizations in the past, but are becoming necessary as the work of organizations evolves. A Barrons cover story (Jan 5) titled “Tomorrow’s Jobs,” (http://online.wsj.com/barrons/article/0,,SB107308631737881300,00.html) contains some fascinating new roles. At amazon.com, there’s been a Chief Algorithm Officer since 1992. According to Barrons, “ ‘The future could bring such new job titles as “artificial-brain designer,”’ suggests Leonard Nakamura, staff economist at the Philadelphia Federal Reserve. ‘Artificial brains,’ such as hearing aides wired to the gray matter, have already cured deafness. Since blindness, dementia and poor sexual response have yet to be adequately taken care of, ABDs should be in great demand.” We read in The New York Times (Jan 4) (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/04/jobs/04jmar.html) that “Corporate chaplains have long been employed by a smattering of companies, mostly in the South and West, representing a range of mostly Protestant denominations. But now the phenomenon is spreading as companies add chaplains and companies that employ chaplains make acquisitions. According to Rev. Robert Vickers, the former director for chaplaincy evangelism at the Southern Baptist Convention, anecdotal evidence suggests that use of chaplains in business and industry is growing more than 10 percent a year in the United States.” Finally, in the January issue of Fast Company (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/78/helpwanted.html), Lester Thurow recommends that all companies should employ a Chief Knowledge Officer who provides an honest assessment of how the organization measures up against the rest of the world. According to Thurow, “In our increasingly knowledge-based economy, every company will eventually have such an officer, and those that get there first will have a competitive edge. Just what this person will do is still being invented and will differ from industry to industry. The CKO's duties may be as varied as recommending whether a company should buy, sell, or make its technologies, or determining where technology is going and where new competitors may arise. But there is no better example of the need for a chief knowledge officer than the necessity for some companies to manage decline skillfully.” We have this image of the CKO dressed as Diogenes trying to find the truth and explain it to other executives.

 

Are there new job roles needed for your organization? Are there information roles being performed that now merit formal recognition? Do other organizations have employees performing specific roles that might be used successfully in your organization? Who serves as chief knowledge officer for your organization? Do all appropriate parties hear that person’s voice? If you lead knowledge workers, how to you convey to others what they know?

Crevices
There’s an increase in the use of word-of-mouth marketing by major companies, according to the cover story in the February 2 issue of Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2004/0202/084.html) titled “Meet Your New Sales Force.” Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola and SONY are all using teens to promote their products among friends. According to Forbes, 1% of American teens are part of P&G’s marketing arm, called Tremor that was created in 2001. “Their mission is to help companies plant information about their brands in living rooms, schools and other crevices that are difficult for corporate America to infiltrate. These kids deliver endorsements in school cafeterias, at sleepovers, by cell phone and by e-mail. They are being tapped to talk up just about everything, from movies to milk and motor oil--and they do it for free.”  Forbes also describes the reaction of critics: “George Silverman, author of The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing and an Orangeburg, N.Y. consultant, offers a caution: ‘It's like playing with fire: It can be a positive force when harnessed for the good, but fires are very destructive when they are out of control. If word-of-mouth goes against you, you're sunk.’ Says David Godes, a business professor at Harvard: ‘If it gets too pervasive, there could be a consumer backlash. It needs to stay on the periphery.’” Next, we’ll be reading about crevice warfare by marketers.

How can you improve the ways your organization presents itself to your potential customers? Would you be willing to take the risk of using unpaid volunteers to spread the word about your organization? 

Compassionate Capitalism
We read about shifts in corporate social responsibility from reactions to protests to philanthropy in The Economist (Jan 22) (http://www.economist.com/business/displayStory.cfm?story_id=2369912). Mark Benioff, CEO of salesforce.com, “advocates ‘the 1% solution’: 1% of salesforce.com's equity, 1% of its profits and 1% of its employees' paid hours are devoted to philanthropy, with workers volunteering their time either to company-run schemes or to charitable activities at their own initiative … ‘Employees seeking greater levels of fulfillment in their own lives will have to look no further than their workplace.’ As well as doing the right thing, the firm will attract and retain better people, and they will work more productively. He makes it seem plausible.” Other executives are watching governments return to their proper duties and letting companies get back to business.

What does corporate social responsibility mean for your organization? What do your various stakeholders expect you to do as a corporate citizen? Do your employees want to link their charitable activities to your workplace? Do you want that link to occur? Is the expectation of corporate social responsibility another form of jobberwacky?
 

Follow-up

Here are selected updates on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:

 

Ř      If you didn’t read enough about Dick Strong in the January 2004 issue of Executive Times, be sure to read the cover story in the Barrons January 26 issue (http://online.wsj.com/barrons/article/0,,SB107490185422110442,00.html), titled “Mercurial Man: Dick Strong's story is the stuff of legend; some of its chapters don't look pretty.”

Ř      We last called attention to Bank One CEO Jamie Dimon in the August 2002 issue of Executive Times when we noted that one strategy that usually succeeds is to bet on the jockey, not the race. Followers of that advice were rewarded recently when J. P. Morgan Chase and Bank One announced plans to merge. Now some business pundits are framing the return of Dimon to New York as a planned revenge battle with Sandy Weill who fired protégé Dimon from Citigroup. While we accept Dimon’s view that he has nothing to prove and didn’t need to return to New York, it will be fascinating to watch this jockey’s next ride, and maybe even bet on him.

Ř      Readers of Executive Times know how much we value the benefits of vacation. Just browse back to July 2003, July 2002, or June 2003 for some of our views, which usually hit us in the Summer. Imagine the pleasure when we read in The Wall Street Journal on January 6 (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB107335198016257200,00.html) some ways to help jumpstart brains following vacations. If you need some extra boost to your re-entry, read that article.

 

Legacy

Bright Light
Admirers of Jack Welch and what he accomplished as CEO of General Electric Company may not recall that he would have done nothing had it not been for his predecessor, Reginald Harold Jones. Revenues and earnings more than doubled from 1973 to 1981 while Jones led GE. His attention to world trade increased the company’s penetration of global markets. During his tenure, planning became an art form at the company. Named “most influential man in business” by U.S. News and World Report in 1980, when he turned the GE reins over to Welch in 1981, he never looked back. Confident in his selection and recommendation of Welch, Jones knew that the disadvantage of a former CEO hanging around outweighed any advantages. Jones knew that Welch had the skills that GE needed at the time in a CEO, and that the greatest freedom in performing the role would come if Jones was out of the picture. So Jones left GE for the first time since 1939, when he joined the company with his fresh degree from the Wharton School, which he attended on scholarship. Following his retirement, he served on the board of overseers at Wharton, endowed scholarships, and GE financed the Reginald H. Jones Center for Management Policy, Strategy and Organization which opened at Wharton in 1983.

 

Jones died at home in Connecticut in early January, at age 86. Thousands of GE stakeholders as well as those of other corporate boards on which he served, continue to benefit from his legacy.


Latest Books Read and Reviewed:

 (Note: readers of the web version of Executive Times can click on the book covers to order copies directly from amazon.com.  When you order through these links, Hopkins & Company receives a small payment from amazon.com.  Click on the title to read the review or visit our 2004 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2004books.html).

 

Title (Link to Review)

Author

Rating

Review Summary

Purchase

Trojan Odyssey

Cussler, Clive

Predictable. Heroes are good and win, villains are bad and lose. Familiar characters, formula and dialogue provide entertainment for Cussler fans.

Rumsfeld: The Making of An Artful Warrior

Decter, Midge

Lovesong. Flattering portrait of current Secretary of Defense, long on his public service, and short on his business career. Look elsewhere for more critical or balanced portrayal, but come away from this book convinced that Rummy is a great guy.

The Wrong Stuff

Fiffer, Sharon

Wheeling. Third mystery in the Jane Wheel series. Good writing, holes in plot, protagonist whose lack of focus can become infuriating to some readers.

The Great Fire

Hazzard, Shirley

Losses. Lyrical novel set after World War II when characters struggle to reinvent their lives and recover from suffering and the lack of love. The fire cleanses some and immolates others.

A Look Over My Shoulder: A Life in the Central Intelligence Agency

Helms, Richard

Epitaph. Comprehensive memoir by late Director of Central Intelligence. Strong opinions, recognizing that perspectives can vary. Inside view of historic events over three decades.

The Complete Far Side

Larson, Gary

Whimsy. It took longer to read both volumes of this cartoon collection than to read some books this month. Could be pausing to laugh too much. If you can handle the 2-volume heft, we guarantee you’ll laugh on many pages.

The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family

Laskas, Jeanne Marie

Shines. Brilliant writing of creative non-fiction that presents insights into relationships and community life. Lifts your spirits and calls attention to the opportunities of each day.

What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response

Lewis, Bernard

Generations. Concise review of six hundred years of transformation in the role and place of the Middle East in the global community.

The End of Detroit: How the Big Three Lost Their Grip on the American Car Market

Maynard, Micheline

Stalls. American car lovers will hate this book, and fans of Japanese and German imports will smile and nod. Often dull, somewhat interesting stories of what Detroit did wrong and what the others did right in recent decades.

William McKinley

Phillips, Kevin

Progressive. Much of the reform attributed often to Teddy Roosevelt was begun by McKinley, and thanks to this new biography, readers can learn how this often overlooked leader accomplished remarkable results without drawing much attention to himself.

Winfield: Living in the Shadow of the Woolworths

Randall, Monica

Haunting. The rare reader with a love of historic preservation, an interest in reading personal stories of individuals obsessed with the past, and a tolerance for weird ghost stories will love this book. All others: do not trespass here.

In An Uncertain World: Tough Choices From Wall Street to Washington

Rubin, Robert E.

Reality. According to Rubin, “…reality is always more complex than models.” That perspective and others fill this thoughtful book about public policy. The bonus is finding out more about Rubin. Seekers of cabinet-level kiss and tell need to look elsewhere.

Everyone Else Must Fail: The Unvarnished Truth About Oracle and Larry Ellison

Southwick, Karen

Rough. Same stories as Softwar, without as many perspectives. More anti-Ellison throughout, so greater appeal to Oracle-haters Often repetitive and full of unnecessary phrases.

Softwar : An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle

Symonds, Matthew

Intense. Triple treat: good writing; unprecedented access without whitewashing; revealing footnote reactions from Ellison to what Symonds says about him and Oracle.

The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels

Watkins, Michael

Turbo. Great approach for making transitions faster and more effective by moving beyond sink or swim toward well-structured steps based on what’s worked for others. Get copies for both manager and new hire.

 

ă 2004 Hopkins and Company, LLC.  Executive Times is published monthly by Hopkins and Company, LLC at the company’s office at 723 North Kenilworth Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois 60302. Subscription rate for first class mail delivery of the print version is $60.00 per year (12 issues). Web version subscriptions are $30.00 per year. Single issues: $10.00 print; $5.00 web. To subscribe, sign up at www.hopkinsandcompany.com/subscribe.html, send an e-mail to executivetimes@hopkinsandcompany.com, call (708) 466-4650, or fax to (708) 386-8687. For permission to photocopy or e-mail Executive Times, call (708) 466-4650 or e-mail to reprints@hopkinsandcompany.com. We will send sample copies if requested. The company’s website at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/archives.html contains the archives of back issues beginning in the month after the issue date. 

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