_____ Avoid
_____ regressing

"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


spire to excellence.

Keep 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.

You only 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

Perfection: 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 economic change. It's an interval that's both tremendously exhilarating and wildly chaotic.

Decisions that you make today can mean the difference between ultimate success and eventual failure.

Global business

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.

Lingering difficulties

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.

Economics: 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 accelerate.

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%.

Creative solution

This international trend towards globalisation is, perhaps, today's most creative solution for companies the world over. To succeed, you must be able to sell in 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 intangible assets:

  1. Concepts - the best and latest in knowledge and ideas.
  2. Competence - the ability to operate at the highest of standards anywhere.
  3. 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

U.S.A. :
A land where everyone is rich because they charge each other so much,
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 ...

The future

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 maintenance.

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 quality offerings.

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.

Electronic control

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 trigger.

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 ...

Life cycle

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 ...

Management action

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 itself.

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 ...

Corporate vision

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 five years from now. You've been assigned by the editor to write a story about your company's success. 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 doomed."

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 about.'

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 possibilities.

"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 machines.

It's no longer a joke. It's harsh reality.

A survey conducted for London's Sunday Times  by the Mori organisation found 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.

Fewer jobs
A steady job is like a rocking chair. It keeps you busy, but you don't get anywhere.

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 century.

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 organisation.

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 hour."

What he chooses to do has catastrophic for everyone living in the that community.

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 economically 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 name 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.

Stay alive

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 you're 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 why.

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 key 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."

Motivating people

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 placeless.

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 almost powerless to stop the movement of money. Ownership of companies and resources will become increasingly internationalised.

Education  will become more important. People will fall into two camps: those 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 the type of education the new generation will need to survive and prosper.

National capitals  will experience and exodus of power in a two-way shift. Some power will move down to local administrations, while more will shift to supranational, or even global, authorities. A new spirit of global citizenship will replace today's 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 valuable assets."


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 truthful 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;
  • suspicion;
  • distrust, and
  • anxiety,

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 and 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 who 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.

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  Authors Note
1. Keep your customer base healthy
2. Introduce fresh makeover ideas for better business
3. Power drive motivation
4. Control your business workout regime
5. Meet the challenge of corporate change
6. Keep your focus
7. Update your circuit
8. Come out fighting
9. Cultivate sparring partners
10. Avoid Regressing
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