Articles Tagged Management

Nov 13, 2016
Here comes insurance disruption

I was asked to speak at a conference for insurers recently, and I decide to rattle their cage. Their old business model, I told them, is already over. It’s just that they may not know it yet, because the many changes that will upend their business are invisible right now. To understand why insurance must […]

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Sep 25, 2016
Banks, don’t waste a good crisis

A few weeks ago I warned on this page that Kenya’s banks faced a ‘new normal’ – an era in which they would have to respond to tighter regulation, as well as innovate furiously just to survive. Well, that was before rate-capping knee-capped the industry. The recent Banking Amendment Act has ensured that banks in […]

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Jul 31, 2016
Get ready to reinvent yourself for a new economy

Technology threatens to upend our assumptions about work, employment and income. Is this a real threat to society, or just hyperbole? First, the optimistic scenario. When I was a young man in an economics class many moons ago, I was introduced to the “lump of labour fallacy.” This is the idea that there is only […]

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Jul 10, 2016
Is your bank ready for the ‘new normal’?

A bank is a very special institution. When you become a custodian of other people’s money, you become bound by very particular regulatory rules to ensure you do not misuse the privilege. When you lend that money out to others, society must ensure you do not use that power to bring those others to ruin. […]

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Mar 06, 2016
Why do people start family businesses?

Why does anyone start a family business? As a long-standing business advisor, there are days when I feel compelled to ask that question. This is one of those days. I ask because I feel sickened by the myriad court battles, protracted inheritance disputes and ugly sibling rivalries that so often characterise family businesses here in […]

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Dec 20, 2015
Snip. We just disconnected you.

I was disconnected by three companies I deal with recently. All in the space of one week. All three are businesses I have been a loyal customer of for years (decades, in one case). All three know me well. I have an excellent payments history. There was no real reason to disconnect me. But they […]

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Dec 13, 2015
There’s a fraud going on in your organization right now

“Somewhere in your organization a fraud is taking place, right now.” The venerable accounting teacher, James Boyd McFie, would say those words at the beginning of every lecture he delivered on a programme for directors that I used to lead. The sentence created a suitable chill in the audience. It is true. No matter which […]

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Oct 04, 2015
CEO: how many “small” people does your company bully?

Kenyan CEOs are always busy giving away cheques to worthy causes, speaking noble words at gatherings of luminaries, and championing the agenda of good corporate citizenship. Here’s a question for them, though: why is your company so virtuous for the cameras, and often an outright bully when it comes to the “small” people it deals […]

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Sep 20, 2015
A tale of two businesses

Someone I’m close to recounted two very different customer experiences to me recently. The first concerns a well-known shop in a well-known mall in Nairobi. This shop is operated by its owners, and customer care does not appear to run in the bloodline. I myself have only been there once, and once was enough. Sub-standard, […]

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Sep 13, 2015
How to tell if a company is heading for trouble

Last week on this page we discussed the “dead-horse strategy.” There is only one sensible strategy to follow if your horse is dead: dismount. Many of us, nonetheless, don’t do sensible strategies: we try to fund, motivate, whip or imagine the dead horse back to life. The column raised many a laugh, but also a […]

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Aug 30, 2015
Leadership lessons from what the waitress told me

I was sitting in a restaurant looking at a sushi menu recently. There were many delectable-sounding options on offer, and I wondered what to choose. I decided to ask a waitress for advice. Here’s what she said. “Please try the chef’s signature sushi roll. He thought long and hard about it and experimented with various […]

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Aug 16, 2015
There may be much more corporate distress to come

For years now, I have been warning of many a corporate collapse to come, on this page and elsewhere. We have been seeing unprecedented speed of change in technology; the far-reaching impact of demographics; and gradual handover of power from producers to consumers. Globally, many a dominant company has been laid low. Japan’s giant Sony […]

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Jul 05, 2015
Where do you find good people?

I am often asked: “Where do I find good people for my organization?” Good employees are scarce, and employers seem to struggle to find them. They imagine there is a secret to this process, and they want to uncover it. You can’t blame them, for an organization is a collective endeavour: without excellent team members, […]

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Jun 28, 2015
You want to charge a high price? Justify it

Walmart, with a strategy predicated on low prices, is the company with the highest revenue in the world. But Apple, with a strategy predicated on high prices, is the world’s most valuable company. Volkswagen fights for volume leadership in vehicles with Toyota globally. But recently, an interesting thing happened: Porsche, a part of the VW […]

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May 24, 2015
Innovation is all about connections

The year was 1970. A man was with his family at a busy airport, lugging two very heavy suitcases. An airport employee walked past, pushing a heavy piece of machinery fairly easily on a large wheeled trolley. An “aha” moment occured. The man, Bernard D. Sadow, looked at the trolley, looked at his suitcases, and […]

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Oct 26, 2014
Employ human beings, not human resources

Here’s a thing. It was reported recently that an elderly lady fell down on an escalator at Leeds Railway Station in the UK. Staff of Northern Rail who saw her fall failed to come to her aid. Why? Because they had not been trained in “people handling.” Northern Rail later confirmed that the staff had […]

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Oct 12, 2014
The new world of work requires great personal discipline

What are we going to do in a world where people play where they used to work, and work where they used to play? For the past two weeks I have explored this phenomenon here on this page: an era in which mobile computing and connectivity allow people to carry everything they need – the […]

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Oct 05, 2014
Working while playing, and playing while working

Last week I pointed out that what looks like work often isn’t, and what looks like play may be someone hard at work. Consider the lady sitting in your office, hard at work on her computer. She seems to be very busy trying to get something urgent done. Take a closer look. She’s on Facebook, […]

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Sep 28, 2014
The line between work and play blurs

I sent someone an email late on a Saturday night, recently. His jokey reply asked why I was working so late on weekends. Which made me stop and think. I wasn’t working, exactly; but nor was I not working. I was doing my regular scan of my Twitter feed, and came across a link that […]

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Sep 14, 2014
When companies are built on being the best in a rat race, only rats will win

John Lanchester writes very useful books demystifying the world of finance, explaining its arcane intricacies to those who weren’t schooled in it. Sitting on a plane recently, I came across a piece by him in the New Yorker. It contained this gem: ““My father once told me about the first colleague he ever knew to […]

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Aug 24, 2014
Use this golden rule to make people matter again

Can we run this world as though people matter? Of course we can. Henry Hazlitt showed us how, way back in 1946: “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely […]

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Aug 17, 2014
We are running our world as though people don’t matter

What’s the most common thing you hear political and business leaders say about Kenya’s insecurity problem? That it’s having a bad effect on the economy. That as tourism implodes, economic purchasing power heads south. That as fear pervades the nation, the investment climate suffers. What’s wrong with this picture? All of the above is true, […]

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Jul 27, 2014
It’s time for shareholders to change their perspective

There’s a problem in business, and it’s a serious one. No, it’s not about the difficult customers, or the disillusioned employees. It’s about the shareholders. Shareholders, we know, are the supreme entity in business. They put their money at risk, and stand to lose it all if things go wrong. They are therefore entitled to […]

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Jul 20, 2014
Why Germany won, Brazil lost, and Africa under-performed again

Football’s World Cup comes and goes every four years, and in its wake it alway leaves some valuable lessons. This column tries to chronicle them, so here is the 2014 edition. In 2010 I wrote here that to win in football (or any collective endeavour) four ingredients are necessary: first, a great ethos and common […]

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Jun 15, 2014
Two crucial questions for your business

Last week I laid into the never-ending culture of businesses playing only for the cameras, rather than playing for the real prize. So what is that prize, and how can you tell if you’re on the way to achieving it? The prize of business is no different from the prize of life itself. It is […]

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Jun 08, 2014
Why must so many businesses look good just for the cameras?

Tomorrow morning in Kenyan newspapers, you will see photos of the following: People holding a dummy cheque together, and smiling at the camera. People pretending to read their company’s annual report together, for the camera. People wearing ill-fitting helmets while touring a construction site, and pointing upwards for the camera. People sitting in a donated […]

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May 11, 2014
If you want nothing done – form a committee

I had a problem with my jaw recently. I was following Nigeria’s problems with the Boko Haram terror group, and the recent truly horrific abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls. The girls have been missing for weeks, and fears abound that they have been sold into slavery in neighbouring countries. Few of us can truly appreciate […]

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Apr 27, 2014
What the Manchester United débâcle reveals about succession planning

I knew I would have to write this article; the only question was how soon. In August last year I tweeted: “Pep Guardiola will be just fine; David Moyes will not.” I was responding to the appointment of Guardiola and Moyes as managers of two of the top teams in world football: Bayern Munich and […]

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