Friday, August 29, 2008


Two years back, when I heard this name being whispered in management circles, it sounded more like that of a garment trader’s [think about it, Jagdish Sheth & Sons...] than like that of the leading management thinker of modern times. At that time, Fortune had mentioned this media-avoiding former MIT & Columbia professor’s name in a futuristic article, with reference to his unique Rule of Three [a rule that competitive industries, in general, will finally only be left with three significant players]. An year later, this 67 year old imp of a powerhouse called Sheth combined his years of exhaustive global research on the world’s leading corporations and wrote the rule book on why CEOs of the world’s leading and most successful corporations will destroy themselves and their companies [The Self-Destructive Habits of Good Companies] because of a simple reason, “Complacency!” (The book was picked up by the famed Wharton Publishing).

“I used to think that competition destroys good companies. Strangely, I found that’s not true: companies destroy themselves… Success breeds complacency. The average life span of corporations is declining, even as that of humans is rising.” Out of the seven self-destructive habits of corporations, Sheth lists “The No-One-Can-Beat Me Syndrome: Arrogance & Complacency” as number one! From Prof. Carl Robinson of University of Maryland, [Why Great Companies Fail] to the famed Courtman & Wild of Turnaround Management Association [Avoiding Common Traps That Lead to Distress], leading management scientists now accept that complacency of CEOs is the Number 1 reason why companies get destroyed! In fact, now the most famous Prof. Clayton M. Christensen of HBS notes, “Leading companies decline and sometimes die not because of competitor’s advances, but because of new players with lower-quality solutions!” However out of this world this might, this is exactly what Sheth warns about. The first one to forecast that GE is self destructing itself in turf wars, all Sheth got from the world were chuckles. Today, Immelt has proved to be the worst performing CEO of all times for GE. During Immelt’s 7 year reign, GE stocks have plummeted by 30.2% [Jack Welch’s first 7 years had seen a 140.2% rise: Bloomberg].

CEOs have completely forgotten the concept of visioning. Forget visioning, unbelievably so, CEOs have even stopped “thinking.” Ask a CEO a modern management paradigm, and all you’ll see is a blank face. Ask yourself, when was the last time you sat down to ‘think’. Sheth is the first to statistically prove that where earlier “a [Fortune] company would be in existence for 50 to 60 years, now its life cycle is down to just 10.5 years!” Shocked? Sheth’s corporate clients roster now includes Cox Communications, Delta, Ernst and Young, Ford, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, Nortel, Sprint, 3M, Whirlpool, and even General Electric itself, the same company he doesn’t lose an opportunity to criticise. BusinessWeek now notes, “Dr. Sheth is one of the most globally acclaimed academicians, authors, and Board Advisors,” connected to 186 board members across the world [he’s now even a Director at Wipro]! Cut to June 2008, Sheth wins the Guizeta Global Innovation Award; it is presented to him by John Quelch, Senior Associate Dean at HBS in a small ceremony... It’s seriously a strange existence for this man I know of as Jagdish Sheth. And imagine, you hadn’t even heard of him! That’s complacency! This is a special double issue of 4ps B&M and as we have burnt a lot of midnight oil, I guess it is time for us to take time off and be a little complacent. we will be back after a break issue. Cheers!!!


Friday, August 1, 2008


Ahuja! That was his name! He was my first boss and the teacher of my most important leadership lessons. He taught me exactly what never to do as a boss; because everything he did was, well, horribly wrong! I called him the Love Guru much before Mike Myers even made his first movie, because Ahuja showed me how much a ‘leader’ could be hated! He evoked that emotion – and much more – in almost everybody in office. I personally considered him the worst leader history had ever seen. And I realised all that one had to do to be a fantastic leader was to never do the things he did! Mr. Love Guru’s biggest claim to fame was that he never used to mix ‘work’ with ‘fun’! And he used to preach how the world’s top corporations reached ‘there’ because of this rule only. Ugghh!

If only Ahuja had even smelt of an imp of a company called Google! The 2008 Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For list ranks Google at the brilliant position of #1 amongst all the companies in the world. In their in-depth analysis, Fortune writes, “Why is Google so great?... [Apart from other reasons] Google’s employees like to have a lot of fun during the work day – to relieve stress, build camaraderie and fuel creative thinking.” In fact, the “opportunities to learn, grow, travel and have wildly zany fun during the workday” are what sets the Google culture thoroughly apart. Google’s official “Top 10 Reasons to Work at Google” document clarifies amusingly, and in reality, “Work and play are not mutually exclusive.” Interestingly, Fortune writes that Quicken Loans, the 2nd Best Company to Work For, is also up there because of “its fun, family friendly workplace.” And that’s the common thread through the list. Digest this – Fortune’s year 2008 Best Paying Companies list gives the same Google the unbelievable last rank; clearly proving that being the best company to work for has nothing to do with pay!

Katherine Karl (Marshall University) and Joy Peluchette (University of Southern Indiana) perhaps wrote the rule book on this issue, How does workplace fun impact employee perceptions.... Their finding was succinctly put; and they wrote, “Our results showed that employees who experienced fun in the workplace had greater satisfaction with their job!” Renowned international behavioural scientist Robert Nelson comments, “There’s a big difference between getting people to come to work and getting them to do their best work. Making work fun brings out the best in people.” The notoriously likable Herb Kelleher, CEO, Southwest Airlines, quotes about the employees he hires, “What we are looking for, first and foremost, is a sense of humour!” The last century’s most admired CEO, Jack Welch, writes in this issue of 4Ps B&M how you, as a CEO, have to be “dead serious” about managing employee emotions and being passionate about it at every moment! Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple (Yes! With Steve Jobs!!) gave the following title to his 2006 autobiography – How I invented the PC, co-founded Apple and had fun doing it. Of course, work is worship. But fun mixed judiciously with work is what the world’s excellent CEOs recommend if you want the very best out of your people.

And that, unfortunately, is what my first Hitlerian boss never understood... In fact, I still get nightmares of Ahuja. He’s my Vietnam post-war trauma experience. My wife now calls my symptoms the Ahuja Syndrome. I call it the Love Guru’s kiss. Yeah, baby, yeah...