Executive Times

Volume 9, Issue 6

June 2007


 2007 Hopkins and Company, LLC

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“Attention must be paid.” Arthur Miller chose Willy Loman’s wife, Linda, to speak that line in Death of a Salesman. She saw what was happening to Willy, and wanted her sons and others to acknowledge reality as she saw it. The demand for attention occupies vast amounts of executive time; separating the important from the urgent can be challenging. Executives also demand that attention be paid to their company’s products and services, and look for ways to accomplish that effectively. Familiarity and homogeneity can lead to an organization’s insularity, and some major changes can be overlooked unless attention is paid to what might be different. Breaks in behavior patterns can lead to greater attention to what’s been overlooked. The stories in this issue all create an opportunity for readers to pay attention to the topic of attention, and reflect on how attention can be improved. So, pay attention!


Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. Three books received highly recommended four-star ratings; eleven books are rated three-stars, and one book is mildly recommended with a two-star rating. Visit our 2007 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2007books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 375 books read or those being considered this year, including 21 that were added to the list in May. If there’s something missing from the bookshelf that you think we should be considering or if there’s a book lingering on the Shelf of Possibility that you think we should read and review sooner rather than later, let us know by sending a message to books@hopkinsandcompany.com. You can also check out all the books we’ve ever listed at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/All Books.html.


Experienced executives understand that what is presented to them as fact is often a matter of bias packaged with data that supports one point of view. In looking to find out the real dope, an executive needs to gather information from multiple sources, and make an independent judgment in the best interest of the organization and its stakeholders. The complexity of this process hit home in recent days when memories of the risk alarms about the drug Vioxx returned after a May 21 online article in The New England Journal of Medicine (http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/NEJMoa072761) about GlaxoSmithKline’s popular diabetes drug Avandia. The article warned about cardiovascular risk, and an accompanying editorial (http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/NEJMe078099) opined that because of the risk, a Food and Drug Administration regulatory action was needed. The FDA issued a warning on 5/21 (http://www.gsk.com/media/press-kits/avandia-fda-statement-alert-23may2007.pdf). Glaxo issued a statement that disagreed with the NEJM article (http://www.gsk.com/media/press-kits/avandia-21may2007.pdf), saying, in part, “The totality of the data show that Avandia has a comparable cardiovascular profile to other oral antidiabetic medicines.” The business and popular press picked up on the story and more than a few of the six million users of the drug since 1999 probably made a call to their doctor. It took a few days for The New York Times to publish on May 24 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/24/business/24drug.html) the results of a reporter’s search of the FDA and GlaxoSmithKline databases. From that article, you can read about Dr. John B. Buse, chief of endocrinology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, who wrote a warning letter in 2000 (http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/00/apr00/040500/c01.pdf) to the FDA about this problem. According to the Times, “Dr. Buse said yesterday that he wrote the letter in 2000 in response to an FDA petition filed by Dr. Sidney Wolfe, a consumer activist, who had asked the agency to place warning labels on Rezulin, Avandia and Actos. Dr. Wolfe’s Health Research Group, a part of Public Citizen, has long warned patients not to use any of those drugs. At the time, the FDA was considering removing Rezulin from the market, and Dr. Buse objected. Rezulin was made by Parke-Davis, a division of the Warner Lambert Company.”  Marketing practices attempt to differentiate one company’s product from another, and present a version of the facts that favor the company’s product. You can read the FDA’s warning letter to Glaxo’s CEO about marketing practices of Avandia in 2001 (http://www.fda.gov/cder/warn/2001/10215.pdf). There’s a huge clinical database that Glaxo maintains and that researchers can use, and from which analysts, regulators and corporate executives can draw differing conclusions. Buse and others want head-to-head studies of all the antidibetic drugs. Consumers in such trials are now dropping out because of health concerns. Read any or all of these documents and think about how you might have paid attention, and acted in ways similar to or different from others. If you were at the FDA, how would you have reconciled all the different views? If at Glaxo, would the marketing practices have been different as a result of your involvement? Would your response to the new study have been the same?


Are you receiving multiple points of view about the facts that are critical to your organization’s success? Do those who present your products to the market make claims and representations that are supported by facts? Is there another set of facts that would lead to other claims that show risks to your product? Are those risks disclosed? 


Organizations look to chief marketing officers (CMOs) to brand, position, and present products to the marketplace. An article (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/116/next-most-dangerous-job-in-business.html) in the June issue of Fast Company called the CMO the most dangerous job in American business, especially at consumer products companies. “For the past three years, an annual survey conducted by executive-search firm SpencerStuart has shown that the tenure for CMOs at the top-100 consumer-branded companies has averaged a scant 23 months. (By contrast, CEOs hang on to their jobs for 54 months.) Some sector averages are particularly grim: If you're in telecommunications, you're looking at 15 months; in the food industry, you've got about a year.” What are fired marketing executives doing to attract attention? In the ongoing litigation between Wal-Mart and its fired marketing executive Julie Roehm, she filed a motion in court (http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/walmart-roehm20070525.pdf) that got a lot of attention because it said, in part, “However, regardless of Wal-Mart’s Statement of Ethics (“Statement”), many Wal-Mart executives do not abide by Wal-Mart’s allegedly ‘firm’ policy forbidding conflicts of interest.” The motion used examples of behavior by CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr. allegedly in violation of the policy. The company denies her allegations. What are CMOs doing to attract the attention of consumers? The Heath brothers’ Made to Stick column in the same issue of Fast Company (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/116/column-made-to-stick.html) talked about word of mouth marketing, and how to turn it into a discipline. They recommend, “Fostering the conversation you want customers to have about your products should be an explicit part of product development.” YouTube is one place where those conversations can take place. We read in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/26/business/26content.ready.html) that some companies that are inviting consumers to make free commercials for their products are getting interesting results. Heinz has gotten over a hundred ketchup videos in a competition for a $57,000 prize for the best television commercial. What dialogue is taking place? Contestant # 138, Dan Burke, set this strategy: “I just thought to myself, ‘What is the single strangest thing I can do with ketchup?’” He chose to brush his teeth and shave with ketchup, then added it to his coffee. Yummy. You can watch his video at the Times article link above. We read “Gouging for Eyeballs” in Slate on 5/24 about the huge investments in online advertising (http://www.slate.com/id/2166979/fr/flyout), “So, the question for people who invest in the stocks of online-advertising companies—as Google, WPP, and Microsoft have just done—isn't just whether online ads are the way to reach consumers today. No, the question is whether online ads will be among the best ways to reach consumers in five and 10 years, when today's twentysomethings will be buying cars and houses and kitchen appliances and pharmaceuticals. More important, in 2012 it's possible to imagine that the brand managers and executives responsible for making advertising-spending decisions will be people who grew up with the medium, who didn't need a consultant to tell them how it works. It's a reasonable expectation that online advertising will continue to gain market share and that more and more capital will slosh into this sector. The big companies paying top dollar for online ad firms have just bought some expensive buckets.”


How successful is marketing for your organization? What conversations do the users of your products and services have about your company and its offerings? What do you do to foster those conversations? Are fired employees creating distractions for your company? How do you deal with that attention? Are you alert to the ways in which all of your executive behavior is noticed by others? Are there firm policies at your company that are selectively enforced? Could your behavior be interpreted in ways that don’t match your intentions? 



Unless your workplace is stagnant, chances are you’ve noticed something different about the workers in their 20s who are about to dominate the workforce. The May 28 issue of Fortune (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/05/28/100033934/) contains a field guide to these young workers that merits your attention. “They're ambitious, they're demanding and they question everything, so if there isn't a good reason for that long commute or late night, don't expect them to do it. When it comes to loyalty, the companies they work for are last on their list - behind their families, their friends, their communities, their co-workers and, of course, themselves. … ‘This is the most high-maintenance workforce in the history of the world,’ says Bruce Tulgan, the founder of leading generational-research firm RainmakerThinking. ‘The good news is they're also going to be the most high-performing workforce in the history of the world. They walk in with more information in their heads, more information at their fingertips - and, sure, they have high expectations, but they have the highest expectations first and foremost for themselves.’ … they were not promised a healthy, happy tomorrow. So they're determined to live their best lives now.”


How well do these twentysomethings fit into your workplace? Are your expectations and theirs aligned?  



The 17-year cicadas are starting to arrive in the Midwest. These harmless insects emerge from the ground, mate, lay eggs and create a lot of noise. Step outside, and you can’t help but pay attention.


How loud does something need to be to get your attention? Do you step outside enough?



Here’s an update on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:

Ø      We passed along in the November 1999 issue of Executive Times the joke from a reader about how they pronounce “Daimler-Chrysler” at the German headquarters: the Chrysler is silent. In the March 2007 issue of Executive Times, we noted that a “for sale” sign was put on Chrysler. We read everywhere in recent weeks that the private equity firm Cerebus Capital Management is acquiring 80.1% of Chrysler under terms that show Daimler received nothing but losses from the merger. Who’s silent now?

Ø      In many issues of Executive Times we’ve presented perspectives about talent management and defining organizational roles. We’ve noted that many senior executives don’t pay much attention to organizational design and its impact on results. In the 2007 Number 2 issue of McKinsey Quarterly, there’s a fine article (http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/article_abstract.aspx?ar=1991&L2=21) by Lowell Bryan and Claudia Joyce titled “Better Strategy Through Organizational Design,” that presents a fine case for spending more time in this area. The article is adapted from their new book Mobilizing Minds that we added to our Shelf of Possibility a few months ago.



Some executives gain attention whenever they speak. One individual gave voice to the unspoken concerns of millions, and encountered controversy almost every time he spoke. At the time of his recent death at age 73, Reverend Jerry Falwell was remembered for both voice and controversy. The Lynchburg, Virginia Baptist preacher spread his voice with a daily radio show, “The Old-Time Gospel Hour,” that later moved to television. He founded Liberty University in 1971 to become a national school for fundamentalist Christians. He founded the lobbying organization Moral Majority in 1979, by drawing a line in the sand on social issues (claiming virtue on his side, vice on the other), and attracted individuals from many religious traditions to join with him on a broad agenda of pro-life, pro-American, pro-moral values, as Falwell defined them. The Reagan election in 1980 and the conservatives elected to other offices that year have been credited in large part to the work of Falwell and the religious right in getting conservative Christians to register and then vote for the candidates who concur with their moral values. Moral Majority fizzled away after a decade, perhaps because it never represented a majority. Falwell was a lightening rod for critics, and his comments often invited controversy. In 1999, he told an evangelical conference that the Antichrist was a male Jew who was probably already alive. He warned parents that a character on Teletubbies was a gay role model and morally damaging to children. A few days after September 11, 2001, Falwell blamed gays, feminists and liberals for bringing on the attack by their immoral behavior. He later apologized. In short news cycles, the missteps can become more important than the institutions founded and the changes initiated. Falwell’s legacy has been in giving voice to evangelicals, and showing them a way to engage in public arenas. His missteps have also shown others how they need to avoid certain controversies in order for their voices to be heard. Attention can bring both help and harm. Voices with positions different from Falwell’s and who consider their views moral are also speaking and voting. There’s a lesson there for all.


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 2007 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2007books.html).


Title (Link to Review)



Review Summary


A Perfect Mess

Abrahamson, Eric and David H. Freedman


Tidy. Authors meander through a premise that things may be done better through disorder rather than via neatness and order. Readers fixated on one way of acting will learn that alternatives can work better.

The Alexandria Link

Berry, Steve


Sham. Mind-disengaging summer reading with fast moving plot, if readers can overlook inaccurate history, preposterous premises and poor character development.

Mysteries of the Middle Ages

Cahill, Thomas


Guide. Like a wise history teacher, Cahill presents in this primer patterns and trends to show the foundation in medieval Europe of treating women with dignity, the scientific method and realism in art.


Cohn, Jonathan


Personal. New Republic editor chronicles the stories of citizens for whom the health care system hasn’t worked, and illustrates why changes must be made.

The Watchman: A Joe Pike Novel

Crais, Robert


Protector. In this fast-paced crime thriller, the sidekick from earlier novels takes center stage as he agrees to pay off an old debt by protecting an heiress from harm.


Danford, Natalie


Unraveling. Fine debut novel full of descriptive language and engaging characters alternates between past and present as a daughter unravels her father’s secrets after his death, and decides what they mean for her.

Napoleon’s Pyramids

Dietrich, William


Adventure. Packed with historical accuracy of Napoleon’s campaign to Egypt, this is a fine historical novel packed with action and entertaining adventure, not meant to be taken so seriously as to be boring.

Bento Box in the Heartland

Furiya, Linda


Nourishing. Memories and recipes of the foods from childhood that lead to the recollection of stories of the child of immigrant Japanese parents growing up in Indiana in the 1960s.

Fragile Things

Gaiman, Neil


Prolific. Collection of 32 stories and poems that display the author’s originality, imagination, and ability to write in the style of others.

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance

Gawande, Atul


Practices. Essay collection provides insight and depth into the practices that can lead to improved medical performance in a variety of areas.

Practical Negotiating 

Gosselin, Thomas B.


Systematic. A workshop on negotiation in print form, field tested by the author through decades of experience. Change your thinking and actions on negotiating after reading this useful book.

The Carrot Principle

Gostick, Adrian and Chester Elton


Recognition. Packed with loads of ideas, based on research results about what works, on how to make workplace recognition effective.

The Senator and the Priest

Greeley, Andrew M.


Siblings. Prolific and life-affirming novelist presents the rivalry between a freshman liberal senator and his older brother, a conservative priest, as an opportunity for healing in a family.

Heart-Shaped Box

Hill, Joe


Justice. Skilled and restrained debut novel provides suspense, horror, developed characters, and creativity. Characters are motivated to achieve justice, one way or another.

Deep Economy

McKibben, Bill


Changes. Our economy built on “more” is leading to environment crises, so author proposes ways to promote sustainability, an economy built on “better.”


2007 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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