Executive Times

Volume 9, Issue 7

July 2007


 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 books@hopkinsandcompany.com. You can also check out all the books we’ve ever listed at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/All Books.html.


When General Michael V. Hayden, the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency spoke on June 21 before the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations conference (https://www.cia.gov/news-information/speeches-testimony/general-hayden-remarks-at-shafr-conference.html), he announced, “we have completed our declassification review and are preparing to release most of the so-called “Family Jewels,” a very famous set of documents written over three decades ago, when Director (James) Schlesinger asked employees to report activities they thought might be inconsistent with the Agency’s charter. Much of it has been in the press before, and most of it is unflattering, but it is CIA’s history. The documents provide a glimpse of a very different time and a very different Agency. When we release these declassified documents, we will put them on our public Web site … ensuring easy access.” The documents are now available at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB222/family_jewels_full.pdf. Hayden noted that the CIA officers who do the declassification work, “wrestle constantly with the twin imperatives of essential openness and essential secrecy. They carry a huge responsibility. Simply put, they must decide when a secret is no longer a secret. You can imagine the tension involved in making that determination. We must balance our responsibility to the public, and to history, to explain our actions and their impact, with our obligation to protect sources, methods, and ongoing intelligence relationships. These are not simple, cut-and-dried issues. They spark vigorous internal debates that ultimately require informed, yet subjective, judgments.” We’ve just started to browse the 702 pages, but one line in a memo stood out, in the context of the question former director Schlesinger asked about activities inconsistent with the CIA’s charter. Inspector General William Broe ended a May 1973 cover memo with sensitive information to then-director William Colby with this comment about one of the agency’s efforts called CHAOS which involved spying on Americans from 1967 to 1973: “We are particularly concerned about CHAOS because of the high degree of resentment we found among many Agency employees at their being expected to participate in it.” Hayden said in his speech that, “What we do today inevitably has its roots in the past.”


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?”


If 700 pages from decades ago don’t catch your interest, there’s an insightful article by Seymour Hersh (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/06/25/070625fa_fact_hersh) in the June 25 issue of The New Yorker  that discloses aspects of the Abu Ghraib scandal that will get you thinking. Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba led the investigation into what happened at Abu Ghraib. Hersh said that after Taguba’s forced retirement this year, he “finally agreed to talk to me about his investigation of Abu Ghraib and what he believed were the serious misrepresentations by officials that followed. ‘From what I knew, troops just don’t take it upon themselves to initiate what they did without any form of knowledge of the higher-ups,’ Taguba told me. His orders were clear, however: he was to investigate only the military police at Abu Ghraib, and not those above them in the chain of command. ‘These M.P. troops were not that creative,’ he said. ‘Somebody was giving them guidance, but I was legally prevented from further investigation into higher authority. I was limited to a box.’ … When Taguba urged one lieutenant general to look at the photographs, he rebuffed him, saying, ‘I don’t want to get involved by looking, because what do you do with that information, once you know what they show?’ … Taguba decided to keep the photographs from most of the interrogators and researchers on his staff of twenty-three officers. ‘I didn’t want them to prejudge the soldiers they were investigating, so I put the photos in a safe,’ he told me. ‘Anyone who wanted to see them had to have a need-to-know and go through me.’ … ‘I kept on asking these questions of the officers I interviewed: “You knew what was going on. Why didn’t you do something to stop it?”’ … ‘From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,’ Taguba said. ‘And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.’”


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?



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

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.”

Ø      We 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 France’s socialist government nationalized the banks, paying a fraction of their value. Rothschild survived the battle at Dunkirk, twelve hours in the Atlantic Ocean after the cargo ship he was on was torpedoed in 1943, and the socialists. He wrote in a letter to Le Monde, “A Jew under Pétain, a pariah under Mitterrand. For me, it's enough. To rebuild on ruins twice in a lifetime is too much.” Rothschild moved to New York, and supported the family regaining control of their bank through his son, David, which took place a few years later. Guy de Rothschild appeared on the cover of the December 20, 1963 issue of Time, and the cover story (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,938990-1,00.html) commented about him, “He personifies much of what the family name stands for: a flair for business, a love of sport, a taste for wine, art and conversation.” He served his family well by facing huge obstacles, and taking bold steps to survive and thrive. He died in June at age 98, leaving behind a foundation that made his strong family more secure.


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


Presidential Courage

Beschloss, Michael R.


Selections. Historian selects nine U.S. Presidents and specific challenges each faced that displayed courage. Light summer reading lacks insight.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Hamid, Mohsin


Janissary. Finely written novel presented as a monologue from a young Pakistani, educated at Princeton, and working in New York at 9/11, caught between two worlds, but loyal to only one, like the janissaries.

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Hitchens, Christopher


Enlightenment. New spokesperson for atheists packs this book with hyperbole and boring dogmatism, with the occasional clever phrase. Few beliefs will change.

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

Iacocca, Lee


Blunt. Emotional, blunt and inspiring critique of the absence of leadership on key issues, and an optimistic view of the road ahead.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Kingsolver, Barbara, Camille Kingsolver and Steven Hopp


Sustainable. Story of how a family grew, raised or acquired almost all of its food from local farmers for a year, and the lessons for all about sustainable agriculture, eating foods in season and the energy costs of food production and distribution.

Grace (Eventually)

Lamott, Anne


Mellow. Good writing about how the author has dealt with life issues brings calm and comfort to readers facing the challenges that life throws our way.

The Mission Song

Le Carre, John


Translator. Best parts of this novel explore the dark sides of human nature, but relationships are poorly developed, and parts of plot felt implausible.

Up in Honey’s Room

Leonard, Elmore


Reliable. Crisp dialogue and great character exposition as author reprises character from earlier novel and puts him in a new setting with more opportunity for dialogue that reveals human nature.

You Don’t Love Me Yet

Lethem, Jonathan


Meanderings. Four key characters and a few other playful foils, meander around the Los Angeles art scene as the talented author has fun and lets readers think about art in a light way.

After Dark

Murakami, Haruki


Mood. Night is for dreaming, and lots more. Loneliness and alienation interspersed with caring characters, as an omniscient narrator unveils all.

Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America

Murphy, Cullen


Improvements. Provocative and elegant writing leads readers to reflect on the parallels between America and ancient Rome, and consider the improvements we can make to avoid decline.

Troublesome Young Men

Olson, Lynne


Courage. Finely written history about thirty young members of Parliament who rebelled against their party over appeasement with Germany, and how they brought Churchill to power. Also tells what happened to them afterwards.


Phillips, Arthur


Perspectives. Four narrators describe the same plot in this novel set in the Victorian period. Psychological insights available to thoughtful readers.

Ten Days in the Hills

Smiley, Jane


Flight. Fine and witty writing about a group in Hollywood who flee from the start of the Iraq war in March 2003 after the Academy Awards, and share ten days with each other’s self-importance, in two mansions.

The Children of Hurin

Tolkien, J.R.R.


Dark. The first age of middle-earth is presented through the sorrow-packed and tragic story of the children of a great warrior. Fantasy provides a backdrop for insights into our human condition.


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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