Articles Tagged Management

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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Apr 20, 2014
Nothing really changes until the culture changes

A year ago, India seemed to be looking upon itself in horror. A horrific gang-rape had occurred on a Delhi that seemed to shock the nation. Moral outrage filled the airwaves; punitive sentences were promised. This could never be allowed to happen again… And then…what? Nothing much. In fact, the reverse seems to have occurred: […]

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Mar 30, 2014
Which customer would you give a refund to?

If you run a business, or are employed in one, allow me to put three scenarios to you this Sunday. Think about your answers carefully. Scenario One: an unhappy customer comes to you. She is dissatisfied with the product she bought, because it doesn’t work. You study the situation, and conclude she is right. Should […]

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Feb 09, 2014
Watch all these jobs disappear

This column often highlights the various technological disruptions that will change all our lives – for better and for worse. As I have written before, this is a time of phenomenal economic and technological change, and the ramifications will be felt far and wide. One of the issues we will have to deal with in […]

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Feb 02, 2014
Your apathetic employees can bring your business to its knees

During the recent holiday season, I took a taxi from the hotel where I was staying, to go and visit a nearby shopping mall. The driver was courteous and polite. He maintained a very clean and pleasing vehicle. He was solicitous and considerate, and did everything possible for his customer’s convenience, such as driving carefully, […]

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Sep 22, 2013
We need a better approach to employment

Last week we agreed: most employment is mostly awful. It requires you to park your humanity at the door and walk in as a human ‘resource,’ and exchange unwilling labour in return for monetary compensation. Why is it like this? Because our attitudes towards management and work are rooted in a long-dead past: a past […]

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Sep 15, 2013
Here’s your REAL employment contract

Here’s the deal. We offer you employment in our organization. You will provide your labour, and we’ll pay you in return. But please note some basic points very carefully. The organization belongs to us, not you. It exists to fulfil our purpose and push our agenda, not yours. You are a hired hand, a cog […]

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Sep 02, 2013
My final ‘Thought Leadership’ column: the business of doing business

This will be my final column in the Thought Leadership series in this newspaper. The column began life in August 2007 and tried to bring you the best business insights from leading books and publications – and elaborate on those insights in a Kenyan and African context. In this valedictory piece, I would like to […]

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Aug 05, 2013
How to have better meetings: no slides, no chairs

“How Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and other business chiefs hold ruthlessly effective meetings” QUARTZ (19 June, 2013) Meetings: we all hate them. They blight our working lives. They take up all the available time in our calendars, leaving next to no time to do what we should really be doing: thinking up new ideas; reflecting […]

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