Volume 8, Issue 10
2006 Hopkins and Company, LLC
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This year’s harvest of heirloom apples available at the local Farmers’ Market provides a range of flavors from sweet to sour, from more than fifty varieties, in colors from green to dark red. The adage about one rotten apple spoiling the barrel came to mind when chomping on those fresh apples and reflecting about the stories in the business press in recent weeks. A director of Hewlett-Packard disclosed confidential corporate strategy information to journalists, and set in motion a series of events that distract the company. One spinach crop containing E. coli bacteria gets bagged by Dole and transported nationally causing all spinach producers to withdraw product, destroy crops, and face consumer confidence crises, following death and sickness by those who ate the spinach. Pope Benedict XVI quotes a 14th century Byzantine emperor in an academic speech about religious tolerance and the avoidance of violence, and when news of this quote travels around the world, violence erupts. How about them apples? Any executive who continues to suffer from the delusion that he or she can control the behavior of others will be hard pressed to defend that position. As you reflect on the stories selected for this issue, think about the sweet or sour apples you’re likely to taste in the coming months. Is there a rotten apple in your barrel that you need to deal with? Will the behavior of someone else lead to economic pain? When a crisis hits, how prepared are you to act?
Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. Two books are highly recommended with four-star ratings; eleven books are recommended with three-star ratings; and two books received two-star ratings. Visit our 2006 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2006books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 476 books read or those being considered this year, including 48 that were added to the list in September. 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. As an added benefit to Executive Times readers, we’ve put all the books we’ve ever listed on one web page at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/All Books.html.
According to All About Apples, the Smokehouse dates from 1837, and is, “large, flattish shape, yellow flushed and striped red.” (http://www.allaboutapples.com/varieties/var_s2.htm#smokehouse). The smoke in the boardroom at Hewlett-Packard goes back at least as far as the visible dissent at the time of the proposed merger with Compaq in 2002 when at least one director went public in a disagreement with the decision of the board to proceed with the merger. After that brouhaha settled down, some directors came and went, but divisions remained. According to a timeline in The Wall Street Journal, (http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-hptime0609.html), after an article appeared on its pages in January 2005, the Board concluded that one or more of its own members must have leaked information to the press. By May of that year, Board Chair Patricia Dunn directed an investigation into board leaks. That investigation used outside investigators who impersonated board directors to obtain phone records, and used surveillance tactics to track directors and reporters. One director resigned because these tactics were being used, and another director resigned when told he will not be re-nominated because of conversations that director had with the press, even though some of those conversations were at the request of H-P management. Every day the smoke about this issue increases, generating more disclosures about what happened and who did what. Dunn has resigned, saying, “The unauthorized disclosure of confidential information was a serious violation of our code of conduct. I followed the proper processes by seeking the assistance of HP security personnel. I did not select the people who conducted the investigation, which was undertaken after consultation with board members. I accepted the responsibility to identify the sources of those leaks, but I did not propose the specific methods of the investigation. I was a full subject of the investigation myself and my phone records were examined along with others. Unfortunately, the people HP relied upon to conduct this type of investigation let me and the company down.” (http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press/2006/060922a.html) Some H-P employees have been fired. A large cast of characters is scheduled to appear at a Congressional hearing. CEO Mark Hurd has apologized to directors and journalists for violating their privacy, saying, “I wish to apologize both personally and on behalf of HP to each of those who were affected. We believe these unacceptable measures were isolated instances that do not reflect the broader behavior and values of HP, its employees or its board. But they cannot occur here again.” (http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press/2006/060922b.html) As this story unfolds, it’s likely to become clearer that there were no good apples at H-P exercising wise business judgment over some important matters, and those who are perceived now as bad apples may not be so rotten after all when all sides of the story are heard. We’ll all stay tuned.
What activities are out of bounds for those who perform work for your organization? What controls do you have over the work of outside contractors? How do you go about ensuring compliance with your code of conduct? How confident are you that you won’t be let down by some rotten apples who do things for you that are unacceptable?
According to All About Apples, the Rome Beauty
dates from 1848, and is, “very round fruit, medium to very large, with
handsomely striped to almost solid red, thick skin.” (http://www.allaboutapples.com/varieties/var_r3.htm#romebeauty).
Pope Benedict XVI must have a very
thick skin, as well as superb crisis managers, given his swift multiple
apologies for how his comments were misunderstood. In a September 12 academic
at the University of Regensburg,
one of the key themes of the Pope was the relationship between religion and
violence and he concluded that theme with a clear rejection of the religious
motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come. As academics are
wont to do, the Pope quoted the opinion of somebody most of us have never
heard of, the 14th century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus. Here’s the controversial quote in context,
“Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded
to those who have the ‘Book’ and the ‘infidels’, he addresses his
interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us
astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion
and violence in general, saying: ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was
new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his
command to spread by the sword the faith he preached’. The emperor, after
having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the
reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable.
Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.
‘God’, he says, ‘is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is
born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the
ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats...
To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of
any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...’.” The
Muslim world exploded in reaction to what Manuel II Peleologus had to say
through the voice of the Pope, who did not agree with the late emperor.
Demands were made for an apology. The Pope quickly apologized, saying, in
part on September 17, “At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply
sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at
When your words or actions receive an unintended reaction, what do you do? Are you prepared to apologize, reconcile and move on? How quickly can you mobilize the right people and the right messages in a crisis?
According to All About Apples, the Fortune is
described as, “Very good ‘spicy’ fresh eating quality. Fruit large, with an
attractive color. Flesh yellow. Subject to bitter pit.” (http://www.allaboutapples.com/varieties/var_f1.htm#fortune).
Farmers all over the
Are you prepared to manage the consequences of actions by others over whom you have no control? Will someone in your business sector act in a way that spoils the market for all participants? How can you minimize the likelihood of that outcome?
update on stories covered in prior issues of Executive
Ø In the legacy column of the May 2005 issue of Executive Times, we called attention to former Ford Motor Company CEO Alex Trotman, and in the July 2003 issue of Executive Times, we noted the accomplishments of Ford Vice Chair Carl E. Reichardt. When Ford recently announced (http://media.ford.com/newsroom/release_display.cfm?release=24202) the selection of Boeing’s Alan Mulally as the company’s new CEO, we considered whether this month’s legacy column should try to assess the legacy of outgoing CEO William Clay Ford, Jr. Since Bill will “remain active” in the business, we decide to defer an assessment of his legacy. There’s also the challenge that we didn’t have much that was good to say about that legacy.
2005 issue of Executive Times,
we noted the opinion of one observer of BP
that the company’s Beyond Petroleum ad campaign brought goodwill that would
be helpful during difficult times. After the company that has presented
itself as responsible and environmentally friendly had to acknowledge oil
leaks from rusting pipes in
can spend a half a century in the same line of work, and continue to come up
new ideas and innovations. One master of this skill was Sydnor W. Thrift, Jr., who died in late September at age 77.
Everyone who met Syd knew that he was passionate about baseball. Some who
worked with him recognized his willingness to take risks and try anything.
When he arrived as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1985, the team had the worst record in
baseball. Five years later, thanks to his rebuilding efforts, the team won
three straight division championships. Syd wasn’t in
Latest Books Read and Reviewed:
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2006 Hopkins and Company, LLC. Executive
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