"The toughest thing about being a success is that you have
to keep on being a success."
- Irving Berlin
"There's no point at which you can say:
'Well, I'm successful now.
I might as well take a nap."
- Carrie Fisher
striving to better your performance. It's all you
can do to ensure the survival of your business. But don't reach out for
perfection. You'll never get there.
"I don't think it makes sense to strive for perfection. Perfection is not
attainable. I believe totally in striving for excellence, and I think there is a
great deal of difference
between the two. And although we're striving for excellence, we're sensible
about our goals as well as ambitions because one of the most frustrating things
in the world is to set your goals so high that you have no chance of reaching
them." So says businessman Bart Starr.
achieve perfection following the advice you give to others.
Excellence is important because we're now all face the full force of
globalisation.. They're affecting giant organisations as well as small and
medium-size business everywhere. While Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, of the
Harvard Business School, reckons that there's no need to shake in your boots,
you had better remain on your toes.
In your backyard
According to the ad, it applies to every product -- except yours.
No one can escape the force of globalisation - not even those business that
are now comfortably ensconced in profitable regional markets. World-wide
competitors are in your backyard. If they're not, they soon will be. And be
warned: they have deep pockets as well as high standards. Even your best
customers will be happy to do business with them if you provide a quality of
service that is less than world class.
Like the Greeks, the Chinese have a saying to cover almost every situation.
When they wish misfortune on someone, they say: "May you live in interesting
times." As the 20th century winds down, the times we all live in could not be
more interesting. We
going through a turbulent period ... a period of almost unparalleled social and
change. It's an interval that's both tremendously exhilarating and wildly
Decisions that you make today can mean the difference between ultimate success
and eventual failure.
This is especially true of global business. Payrolls are getting meaner or, to
use the current ugly buzzword, they're downsizing. At the same time,
information is beginning to play an increasingly more vital role in our
activities. Suddenly we find that our former rivals are now our partners.
Everything seems to be moving with bewildering speed. Making sense of it all
seems to be impossible. Yet business leaders all over the world are doing just
that. Progressive companies are responding to today's interesting times with
innovative strategies and exciting new products. They're emphasising customer
satisfaction as never before. And they're coming up with ingenious ways of
staying ahead of the competition.
The times we live in demand nothing less.
While the economy in the United States appears relatively healthy and
inflation-free, the 27-nation Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development projects a growth rate of a mere 1,6% in Europe for 1997. It
attributes the sluggish growth pattern to lingering difficulties in France and
Germany. This is in sharp contrast with the forecast growth rate of about 8% in
much of Asia. The problem in this exploding
economic region is getting a handle on runaway development and ensuring that
everyone shares in the prosperity.
Stating the obvious in terms of the incomprehensible.
It seems as if the Japanese economy, emerging from a period of chronic
recession, is once again poised for expansion. The OECD anticipates a growth
rate of 2,2% following several years of virtually flat performance.
According to a Kyodo News survey, 1 200 major companies listed on the Tokyo
Stock Exchange saw profits rise an average 17,7% in the fiscal year ended March
31, 1996. Combined sales grew a mere 2% over the same period. Economists
predicted a 9,2% rise in pre-tax profits for 1997 along with a nearly 3% growth
in combined sales.
Moving at top speed
Fuelling much of the recovery, as elsewhere in the world, are advances in
information technology. While Japan may have been slow in taking the on-ramp to
the Infobahn, the country's electronics and communications companies are
moving at top speed to catch up and overtake the front runners.
A telling indicator: domestic shipments of personal computers soared by 70% in
fiscal 1995 as millions of Japanese signed up for a growing array of on-line
services. With new multi-media services debuting practically every day, the
number of Japanese cyber-surfers is expected to keep on multiplying. Meanwhile,
Japanese manufacturers are moving to stay competitive by streamlining operations
and opening new production
facilities around the world. Much of this business goes to China and other Asian
countries. About 10% of Japan's total manufactured output was produced abroad
in the 1995 fiscal year - a process that seems set to continue and even
On the local front, Barlows, the South African industrial conglomerate, saw
earnings for the year to September 30, 1996, exceed forecasts by a healthy 27%.
Strong performances by international subsidiaries added buoyancy to the
relatively good performance by fixed domestic investment.
Chairman Warren Clewlow said the group had performed well despite a slowdown in
the South African economy. Turnover lifted by 15% to R17,8-billion, while
operating profit also increased by 15% to R969,4-million. He attributed the
achievement to, part, the increasing contribution from Barlows' international
operations. These provided a hedge against the ailing value of the rand. And
foreign currency earnings accounted for 25% of attributable profit, up by 5%
over the figure for the previous year.
Clewlow disclosed that offshore subsidiaries increased their contributions to
attributable profit by 59% to R163,8%.
This international trend towards globalisation is, perhaps, today's most
creative solution for companies the world over. To succeed, you must be able to
Klerksdorp, Maine, Sydney, Auckland and Bangor. It fact, you should be able to
find a ready market for your products everywhere.
So, if your aspire to world-class, your should be able to feel at home in a
highly competitive environment anywhere. I define a world-class company by its
ability to command
resources and operate beyond geographic borders. As a world-class company, you
and your managers will be cosmopolitan. In addition, you'll be rich in three
Concepts - the best and latest in knowledge and ideas.
Competence - the ability to operate at the highest of standards
Connections - the best relationships that provide access to other
peoples' and organisations' resources around the world. And here
exactly does that get you?
Rapid changes and the fast spread of space-age technology of the type punted
only in cheap science-fiction novels a few years ago has led to ...
A mid-life crisis for the United States
A land where everyone is rich because they charge each other so
The result of an error in navigation by Christopher Columbus.
Americans enjoyed a rare period of cultural and economic dominance after World
War II. But that country's place in the world has changed.
The United States remains the world's most productive economy with the most
attractive market. Well, sort of. Contradictions abound.
While American pop music, for example, dominates the world market, five of the
top six record companies are foreign owned.
And just where is the Third World these days?
Jakarta has gleaming office towers, while East Los Angeles looks like a war
zone punctuated by sleazy second-hand car lots.
Number one slot
Although America continues fill the number one slot in many areas, American
business finds it increasingly difficult to monopolise power. Silicon Valley may
still be the world's pre-eminent high-tech-centre. But Ireland's "Silicon
Bog" and the "Silicon Jungle" in India and Singapore are catching up.
If you step back to get the broader picture, you'll find that we're passing
from one stage of life to another. As America's century of dominance draws to
a close, the world century begins.
When I gaze into my reliable, old-fashioned crystal ball, I see ...
You could have your own computerised butler. Just imagine an electronic servant
who stays alert around-the-clock and knows your preferences in food and drink.
He even knows that you're "not in" when undesirables like the Receiver of
Revenue and discarded mistresses or toy boy rejects call. He's programmed to
know everything he needs to know to make your life easy. And he responds to your
voice immediately without waiting for a keyboard command. Furthermore, he never
complains, never argues and requires only the minimum of inexpensive
Such service is just a tantalising taste of the complete change we face in how
we live and make our livings.
What other lifestyle and work front changes can we expect?
For a start, television will be different. Radically different. For example,
the evening news will be uploaded to your computer in a stream of bytes that you
can see and hear at your convenience. The ubiquitous video rental stores,
currently on the corner of every suburb, will disappear. Instead, you'll call
up the movies you want to see from the thousands available to you at the tap of
a key. And the TV industry will shift from its present position of making minor
technological changes to taking quantum leaps in pursuit of providing higher
Virtual reality will become a reality.
Newspaper production, from gathering news to "squeezing ink on to a dead
tree", is now digital.
But not for long.
Publishers will deliver bits not newspapers to your house. Your computer will
convert the bits to "news you can use" in any category you choose for
reading on reusable paper or a light, easy-to-hold screen.
CD-ROMS, those tiny disks that hold so much, will fade away. Multi-media
presentations will become a predominantly on-line phenomenon. At the same time,
faxes - "a serious blemish on the information landscape" - will lose
their popularity. The reason: their delivery is graphic, which requires serious
manipulation before it can be used by a computer. Instead, in the next
millennium, e-mail will become the dominant interpersonal telecommunications
medium, approaching if not overshadowing voice by 2015.
New breakthroughs in electronics technology will also become mobile. Your car
will be fitted with a map showing you where your are, or a voice may guide you
to the right route. Getting yourself lost will be difficult if not impossible.
And if a thief swipes your car, it will call you and tell you where it is -
suspicious spouses may also find a use for this technology.
Firearms, too, will be subject to electronic control. An American company has
already developed a devices that allows only the weapon's owner to pull the
Best of all, education will change for the better. Shown how to use computers
correctly, children will learn much faster. And they'll enjoy what one little
girl so accurately described as "hard fun".
To survive in business today in the face of stiffening competition from local
and foreign companies, you have to be aggressive. You have to ...
Turn your herders into hunters
Nimble bushmen of the Kalahari Desert were once nomadic hunters. They had no
personal possessions or hierarchical leadership. The made decisions communally,
based on completely open communication.
Then came progress. The nomadic hunters became sedentary herders. They acquired
possessions. They got involved in disputes with neighbours that required leaders
to referee. The openness in communication gave way to a demand for privacy.
Once a flexible and open society, bushmen became a hierarchical, rigid and
closed community. It's the beginning of a ...
Organisations evolve in the same way. They start off flexible and
non-hierarchical, stressing open communication and innovation. As they grow and
taste the fruits of success, they acquire hierarchies, rules and regulations,
entrenched habits and barriers to communication.
But this life cycle of birth, growth and success - the tradition model of
successful organisation evolvement - presents only half the story.
If nothing lasts forever, an organisation doesn't remain successful
indefinitely. Sooner or later your business - no matter how successful -
will face a life-threatening crisis. If it has the rigid structure, the strict
controls and the unquestioned habits that flow from success, it won't be able
to respond to crisis. As a result, the commercial or industrial empire -
whatever its size - is thrown into confusion.
That's where the second half of the story begins.
In a frantic bid to survive, the panic-stricken organisation questions all
previous assumptions, activities and structures. Under charismatic leadership,
it returns to the entrepreneurial, flexible and open culture of its beginnings.
Looping back to where it started, it is - in a sense - reborn.
Another growth cycle
It then begins another growth cycle that leads to another crisis and another
renewal cycle. The treadmill keeps turning ...
There is something, no matter how bad the crisis, that can keep the bottom line
healthy. The correct ...
How can you lead your company to renew itself without life-threatening crises?
Create a crises instead of waiting for them
The line above isn't a misprint.
Create crises instead of waiting for them.
Then create the conditions that allow your business to respond and renew
How do you do that?
By following 3M's lead.
3M keeps itself in a constant state of crisis by insisting that 30% of its
sales come from products introduced with in the last four years. The company
also creates the right conditions by encouraging risk-taking and
experimentation. This allows the organisation to successfully respond to
self-imposed, ongoing crises.
That's how 3M's management keeps its employees hunting, not herding.
Lewis Platt, who heads Hewlett-Packard in the United States, believes that
remaining flexible is a key factor in long-term corporate survival.
"Today, more than ever," he says, "you have to expect the unexpected."
He notes that the arrival of the unexpected doesn't always spell doom.
Platt quotes the advice of an old sage: "Watch out for emergencies, they're
your biggest chance."
Then he adds: "Certainly I've found some of the best opportunities are
those that you don't plan for."
To take advantage and be in a position to fully exploit unexpected
opportunities when they crop up, your company must have a ...
Reduced to its basics, this is a statement of what you intend your company to
become. It's the only way to make all employees work towards achieving the
same overall goals.
Putting pretty words or high-sounding ideals in an impressive frame isn't
enough. You have to keep these words of corporate wisdom alive. That means
having disciples who will enthusiastically spread the message so it continuously
percolates through all levels of the company.
But don't carve your corporate vision in stone and cement into the keystone
over the corporate entrance.
You're going to change. Probably often. Visions must change as conditions
change, both in your company and the marketplace.
What people think you have when you guess right.
If the business that you're in doesn't have such a statement, create one.
To get something pragmatic that works, try going about drafting it this way:
Picture yourself as a journalist working for Business Day. It would be
years from now. You've been assigned by the editor to write a story about your
Write the lead paragraph, or outline four or five key points that you believe
should appear in your story. Then think about the headline. How would you like
it to read. What do you want the article to say. Don't become bogged down in
vague generalities. Stick to specifics.
Do this and you will have established what you want your statement to say. The
rest will be easy.
Or is it?
The creator of middle management cartoon character Dilbert, Scott Adams says: "
A mission statement is another good way to tell your company is doomed. I you
think that a real good way to spend your time is to take executives, put 'em in
bad brown pants and send them up to a ski resort to sit around for two days and
figure out some huge tortured sentence that describes what you'll be doing and
tries to incorporate every department in the company so that nobody feels left
out...if that's what you think is a good use of your executives' time, you're
Take a look at the mission statements published in swirling letters on first
pages of annual reports or splendidly framed in corporate reception areas.
Kate Kane, a business journalist who writes for Fast Company, says almost every
mission reads the
same. They're peppered with words and phrases like "world-class service and
quality", "customer delight", "people are our most valuable assets",
"we treat all people with dignity", "create value for our customers,
shareholders and the community in which we operate".
Full of blah
In short, most mission statements are full of blah.
However, Kane reports that Merix Corporation, a successful electronic
interconnect supplier in Oregon, has produced a "visual mission statement"
- a graphic representation of the written statement. She describes the images
that emerge as "more dynamic, personal and meaningful than mere words".
Company chief executive officer Debi Coleman, a former Apple executive,
believes the visual statement forces employees to thing in a new, metaphoric way
about the work they do.
Merix called in graphic designer David Sibbet. "The onrush of new
technology," he says, "has made it more important than ever that companies
articulate their strategic visions. Graphics have emerged as a powerful tool. I
think of it as a 'graphic café' where people can come to share their ideas.
Visuals facilitate dialogue. You can literally see what you're talking
Coleman notes that employees have stuck the mission statement picture on walls
throughout the company's premises. It's also on work benches and even on
T-shirts where it has become "a vision for all to see".
Speaking of technology, it has becoming increasingly apparent that the onrush
that Sibbet referred to is beginning to have an impact on the local economy.
Are we fiddling while South Africa burns?
Technology has the potential to put people out of work. Lots of people. You see
it when a bank closes a branch but leaves an ATM operational. You see it in
pictures of "greenfield" manufacturing plants that employ just a few people
in space-age control rooms.
Where is this trend leading?
Dick Schaaf, author of Keeping the Edge, paints a bleak picture of the
"If you take away people's ability to be customers," he observes, "the
ripple effect of that in the economy is going to be felt. You can see it in
inner cities in most parts (of the United States). The manufacturing jobs have
been boxed up and sent to South East Asia, or wherever. Those jobs are gone, and
the people who used to do them are unemployed."
British business Charles Handy, who penned The Empty Raincoat, warns that rapid
advances in technology has liberated workers from performing boring, routine
tasks to such an extent it has put them out of work. He sums up the workplace
revolution with these words: "Half the workforce and work them twice as hard
and output will treble."
Replaced by machines
When computers first made their presence felt in the business world, we were
jokingly warned that if we didn't pull our weight, we could be replaced by
It's no longer a joke. It's harsh reality.
A survey conducted for London's Sunday Times by the Mori organisation
that more than a third of all middle managers who responded feared they would
lose their jobs within 12 months. And 75% of the respondents said that
university degrees would no longer be springboards to good careers.
|A steady job
is like a rocking chair. It keeps you busy, but you don't get
The concept of a job for life is dead. It has taken firm hold in the more
industrialised states and will become a global phenomenon by the turn of the
Downsizing, rightsizing, restructuring, re-engineering - call it what you will
- means fewer jobs for more people.
How will the revolution in employment practice effect your business?
Along with vanishing jobs goes the service infrastructure. Many banks and
grocery stores are likely to bite the dust. This will have a huge impact on the
people involved and society has a whole.
Many of your present customers will be unemployed and unable to support you.
Behavioural science writer Windsor Chorlton reports in Focus that even those who
hang on to their jobs will live in fear of the chop. Consequently, they'll be
reluctant to commit themselves to medium and long-term financial agreements.
Providers of high-ticket and non-essential items will be the first to feel the
crunch as those with money to spend draw in their purse strings to prepare for
rainy days. In a nutshell: there will be fewer customers around to buy the
services and products churned out by your super-efficient, wafer-thin
And the more people retrenched, the more anti-social behaviour we'll encounter
in our communities.
Picture the scenario. A kid stands on the street corner selling drugs. He has
made a sound economic decision that has horrible social consequences. But you
can't fault his mathematics. I can stand here and sell these pills for a
couple of hundred bucks and buy the sneakers, CDs and stuff that I want," he
tells you. "Or I can work at the hamburger stand and make five bucks an
What he chooses to do has catastrophic for everyone living in the that
But Schaaf and many others agree that business can't keep people employed just
to keep them off the streets.
So what do we do? More specifically, what do you do?
Will you, for example, have to slash the number of people you employ by half,
double the salaries of the remaining half and demand three times the output?
If people - particularly those in middle management - want remain
productive, they must be prepared to upgrade their skills and develop a network
of connections so that they can function as independent operators outside the
organisations that currently employ them.
It isn't happening much in South Africa, where complacency continues to be the
of the game.
To keep these assets sharply honed requires a entrepreneurial mindset that
actively encourages ongoing learning attributes that aren't highly prized by
the captains of South African industry and commerce.
You can keep ahead of the pack and stay alive by learning to positively
identify trends in your sector of the market that threaten the continued
well-being of your business. This requires the ability to look beyond what
doing today to what you're going to have to do tomorrow to stave off the
threat. And then you have to summon up the guts to make the necessary changes.
If you don't, you're sunk..
A couple of American businessmen found a few answers when they took ...
A canoe trip to partnering
The founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton, and Lou Pritchett stepped into a canoe and
paddled down the South Fork of Spring River in Arkansas. Their destination: a
working partnership between Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble (P&G).
When Pritchett was appointed vice-president for sales at P&G, he was surprised
to discover an us against them" relationship with its best customer. After
monitoring the situation, he became convinced that both companies would benefit
from a close partnering relationship that included the exchange of thoughts,
programmes, plans and information.
His first step was to persuade Walton into taking a canoe trip so they could
discuss the idea without interference.
Walton listened to Pritchett's plan with growing enthusiasm. By the end of the
trip the men had worked out all the details. Within weeks P&G had stationed
employees in Wal-Mart's headquarters. A shared computer system recorded every
sale of a P&G product in every Wal-Mart store so that it could be quickly
replaced on the shelf.
Partnering worked so well for the two companies that Pritchett constantly
advises anyone who will listen to become partners with every person and every
company that you do a substantial amount of business with".
A people person
Many observers of the international business scene know Pritchett better as a
people person than partnership builder. Listen to him talk and you'll understand
When asked about management pyramidal structures, he replies: "Bottlenecks are
always at the top of bottles." He suggests that you rid yourself of these
business strangulation traps by flattening your company's structure so that
fewer order are handed down from the disembodied dizzy heights.
"My whole management philosophy," he says, "always has been to surround
myself with competent people and let them all do their jobs. That kind of group,
over time, is always going to whip any command-and-control group."
Great minds tend to think alike.
As Sir Arvi Parbo, chairman of Western Mining in Australia, points out: "The
to management is to assemble a group of talented and able people who all know
clearly what their objectives on behalf of the company are, and whose personal
aspirations and ambitions coincide with their corporate objectives. They must be
given the freedom within the corporate framework to do what is necessary to
achieve these objectives."
Parbo adds that the essence of good management is the ability to get things
done by motivating other people.
So people are still important in business. But their roles are changing and
business needs fewer of them. New technology, like Internet and video
conferencing, has made the world a global village. And globalisation heralds a
new world order a new Age of Everything Everywhere. Prepare yourself for it. If
you don't, you'll pay the harsh penalties of a laggard.
Let me define this Everything Everywhere Age. It's a time when vastly
improved communications and transportation make the idea of place" obsolete
and irrelevant. Think of Alexander Graham Bell's invention - the ubiquitous
telephone - as the tiny start. It let's people talk without them physically
being in the same place. Multiply the development of the phone by billions of
improvements and inventions - supersonic jet
aircraft, satellites, fibre-optic communications and other devices still to see
the light of day and you begin to sense what this new age will be like.
An irrelevant concept
Money, people, goods and knowledge even now flow so effortlessly from point to
point that place becomes an irrelevant concept. In fact, the world has become
Have you ever paused to consider what this brave new placeless world will be
like 20 years down the line? Prophets of economic development believe it will be
a mixed bag.
Global migration will explode. Thanks to televisions, the have-nots in
destitute areas will know what benefits the haves enjoy. And getting to the
places of plenty takes only hours. Nothing any government can do will halt the
hordes of treasure seekers.
Capital, too, will flow over national borders. Governments will be
to stop the movement of money. Ownership of companies and resources will become
Education will become more important. People will fall into two camps:
with the knowledge necessary to soar into the new age, and those who are left
behind. The latter, be they in Port Elizabeth, Cradock, Birmingham, Chicago,
Houston, Perth, Auckland or Bangladesh, will share the same sorry state.
School curricula must be drastically revised and restructure to offer
of education the new generation will need to survive and prosper.
National capitals will experience and exodus of power in a two-way
power will move down to local administrations, while more will shift to
even global, authorities. A new spirit of global citizenship will replace
allegiance to nations.
National borders will be ignored by business. The best of them will thrive by
adapting to a multi-cultural and multi-national environment.
But what about the people who make businesses tick? After being shovelled out
of comfortable jobs for life" by repeated cycles of downsizing, retrenching,
re-engineering and restructuring ...
You can regain the loyalty of distrustful employees
Press release after endless press release generated with almost gay abandon by
South African companies proudly proclaim ad nauseam: Our employees are our most
Thousands of employees have learned the lesson well through bitter experience.
They reckon that the offending sentence should be replaced with one that is more
and characteristic of the changing times: "You have your job as long as we need
you. And not one day more."
Many companies have found that the lesson learned by their employees to be
costly in terms of:
lack of commitment;
All leave their imprints on both employees and the fiscal bottom line.
Can you do anything that valuable asset, employee loyalty.
You can go out of your way to understand the people who work for you. Learn how
the feel and what makes them feel the way that they do.
Companies differ. In some, the workload per employee is heavier and the fear of
being fired is the stimulation `to get the work done. In other companies, old
hands who have grown accustomed to annual salary increases, 13th cheques,
automatic promotions and perks no longer get them.
Both groups feel victimised.
Take the first step to getting your workers back on the loyalty track. Learn
how they feel. Then ignite a new type of loyalty that translates into greater
commitment to the company and greater job satisfaction for the employee. You
achieve this by offering opportunities for learning and advancement, a voice in
decision-making, good feedback that includes recognition for good work and a
collaborative work environment. You can achieve impressive results measured in
terms of better performance by:
putting fun back into daily work by, for example, organising staff braais
renting sporting and leisure equipment to employees at cut rates;
improving communications by taking different groups of employees out to
lunch once a week for informal discussions at which you can ask them how
they would do your job;
creating partnerships by opening the company books to employees, who
should be paid for performance, not titles, and by eliminating status
barriers such as
reserved on-site parking and executive lunch rooms, and
emphasising learning to guarantee employability, not employment, and
by promoting people into positions that force them to learn and grow.
Despite the meteoric advance of technology, people remain vital cogs in the
business machine. Says former world champion racing driver Jackie Stewart: There
is no one, in my opinion, who is successful today that has done the whole thing
on their own. There is no one who doesn't have a back-up operation. If they
don't have good delegation with a good machine behind them a people machine
- they will fail. The market will find them out; they will go into a slump and
have no reserves, and will need other people's energies to bring them back.
"Really successful people have always seen who are most valuable to them and
they must trust. They must make sure that other people recognise the degree of
confidence that has been put upon them."
But you do need effective communication. Not the traditional South African
top-down "your master's voice". You need channels of communication that
encourage dialogue between the top and the shop floors... a free two-way flow of
information that allows workers to contribute towards management decisions.
This is particularly important in the South African context. With a ratio of one
manager to 50 employees, there just aren't enough managers to go around for
effective, old-style corporate governance. There is only one answer - to
bulldoze corporate pyramidal structures, scrap red tape, bust employees out of
career-stifling boxes, delegate responsibility to those who interface with the
people who support your business and empower them with everything they need to
delight your customers.
To Survive and thrive into the next millennium, you need to make it happen. Now.