Volume 9, Issue 7
2007 Hopkins and Company, LLC
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There’s been so much disclosure and openness in recent weeks that these lines from Aaron Sorkin’s play, A Few Good Men, (later a film directed by Rob Reiner) kept coming to mind:
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I'm entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You?
The big guns in organizations are executives, especially those who make decisions about what to disclose inside and outside the organization, and what to keep confidential. Sensitivity to others isn’t always a skill that executives master, but it is precisely sensitivity that’s required when it comes to decisions about disclosure in the interest of all stakeholders. As you think about the stories selected for this month’s issue, think about your sensitivity to what information should be accessible to all, and what truths are better kept away from those who can’t handle them.
Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. Three books received highly recommended four-star ratings; ten books are rated three-stars, and two books are mildly recommended with two-star ratings. Visit our current bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2007books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 425 books read or those being considered this year, including 50 that were added to the list in June. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out all the books we’ve ever listed at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/All Books.html.
Have you ever asked Schlesinger’s question of those who work for you? How do you know if anyone in your organization resents what they are being asked to do? What are you now keeping secret that one of your successors will reveal in the future? Will your actions have provided a solid and positive foundation for your organization’s health and success, or will your service as leader represent “the bad old days?”
How well do those who report to you understand the values and principles by which you expect them to act? How well do they understand that you want to know both good news and bad news about what’s happening within your organization? Would you be like the general who chose not to look at something that might lead him to act? Are there key values or principles that you have forgotten?
Many executives close the door to retirees and predecessors as a way of keeping interference at a minimum, and to separate the past from the future. We read in the June 25 issue of Fortune (http://money.cnn.com/2007/06/11/news/companies/homedepot_lessons.fortune/index.htm?postversion=2007061110) that one of the first things that Home Depot’s new CEO Frank Blake did after getting the job was to call company founders Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus for advice. ‘“They're two of the greatest retailers in the past 50 years,’ Blake says of his rationale. Experts suggest Blake is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to recognizing the value in retired brass. ‘They're an incredible resource,’ says Jeff Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean at the Yale School of Management. ‘They know where the bodies are buried.”’
What value can you derive from the advice you could get from retirees or predecessors? Are you open to receiving such advice? How interested are you in learning where the bodies are buried? What role does history play in what you lead your organization to do next?
Public records that would sit unnoticed in rarely visited county offices are becoming easier to examine now that more of them are being posted online. Jason Fry comments in his Real Time column in the June 25 issue of The Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118244819329943657.html) that “The Web may not change the status of public records, but it means the end of practical obscurity, enabling drive-by voyeurism for the bored or petty – or identity thieves in the cybercafés of, say, Nigeria or Romania. How did Social Security numbers and other sensitive information wind up online? Blame a collision between our enthusiasm for technology and our failure to appreciate its consequences. In the last decade, states and local governments rushed to put documents online, eager to appear progressive and make government more efficient. But the momentum of that effort got ahead of our ability to sort out what might happen. In particular, we underestimated the borderline-spooky power of search to find needles in technological haystacks. Now, the job is to clean up the mess.”
Is there a mess in the data that’s been disclosed about your organization? Are some documents better left unpublished? Who pays attention to disclosure in your organization?
One aspect of too much openness at work involves life in cubicles. There are a dozen pieces of practical advice about dealing with noisy co-workers in the Career Couch column in the June 17 issue of The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/17/business/yourmoney/17career.html). Among the suggestions: “rather than involving the boss … it is better to try to deal with the issue yourself. ‘Say something like: “Guys, I'm having trouble concentrating while you are talking. I'd be so grateful if you could take the conversation down the hall.’” If they listen to you, make sure to follow up and thank them. … Focus on the action that's bothering you, not the person, and don't make value judgments. … Another way to manage a dispute is to work together to set noise standards for a group of cubicles.”
How noisy is your workplace, and does the noise distract employees from getting their work done? How often do you spend time among the workers in cubicles? What do you learn when you are with them?
update on stories covered in prior issues of Executive
Ø The conflicting and missing facts about drug efficacy that we covered in the June 2007 issue of Executive Times has continued to be covered in the press in recent weeks. Here’s what James Surowiecki had to say in the June 25 issue of The New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2007/06/25/070625ta_talk_surowiecki): “Drug companies may like this haphazard system of surveillance, even if it leaves them exposed to the kind of publicity that Glaxo is currently enduring. For the rest of us, though, it’s a bizarrely inefficient and confusing process, one that almost all consumers (and many doctors) are ill-equipped to navigate. Small government has its virtues, but providing information about the risks and efficacy of drugs is a classic public good—precisely the kind of service that government can best provide. This doesn’t have to be cumbersome or expensive.”
last checked in on the brilliant Larry
Summers in the March 2006
issue of Executive Times when we
quoted from the speech he made when he resigned the presidency of Harvard. David Leonhardt profiles Summers in The Way
We Live Now column in the June 10 issue of The New York Times magazine at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/10/magazine/10wwln-summers-t.html.
Leonhardt concludes, “Summers now
occupies a funny place in the Democratic constellation. His various dust-ups
over the years have left him with a fair number of enemies. But he also has a
lot of influential fans, as well as the ability to inject an issue into the
public debate merely by discussing it. Under a Democratic president, he would
be an obvious candidate to run the Federal Reserve or the World Bank. But a
more likely path could be the one taken by Kissinger, who has spent the last
30 years as a force in Republican foreign policy despite having been out of
government. Summers may actually be better suited for this role than for some
of the jobs he has held recently. It's one in which the quality of an idea
matters more than its delivery.”
After the family’s
century-and-a-half banking business was facing ruin after World War II (in
which he was one of three out of twenty six officers in a mechanized cavalry
unit who survived), Guy de Rothschild
modernized operations, expanded and diversified, and built a strong and
profitable group of companies with global interests in multiple industries.
In the 1980s, ruin came again when
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