Tips for Survival in the Next Millennium

Dec. 21, 2004

During the 12 years I served as my company's president and chief operating officer and the 13 years I served as its chairman and chief executive officer, I met and interviewed a host of self-appointed gurus whose purpose, it seemed to me, was to complicate executive management theories and reduce them to clever buzzwords. Some worked: MBWA--management by walking around; Matrix Management--which advocated two bosses, one for the day-to-day work, and a second for the functional aspects of the business; Japanese Management--which promoted ideas such as quality circles, just-in-time delivery, and statistical quality control. Others, such as lifetime employment, did not. There were countless other exotic ideas like "Theory X vs Theory Y" Management; Present Value Management, Management by Objective, Bottom-line Management, and "You Name It" Management. It appeared to me that executive managers are fearful of being considered unsophisticated if they don't talk the popular jargon or preach the Gospel according to the chief guru of the moment. Now comes The Virtual Corporation, in which William Davidow and Michael Malone provide an integrated picture of the "customer-driven company." They talk about lean production technology, stripped-down management, worker empowerment, flexible customized manufacturing, and other modern strategies And, for the first time, they describe how those ideas fit together to create the "virtual corporation" for the new millennium. I, too, am a self-appointed management guru. I call my theory: "Flip the Coin Management: 20 ideas that may (or may not) work in the 21st century." Some of my suggestions are meant to bring a chuckle; others are based on the oldest managment theory around: common sense. 1. Spare no expense to be economical.
2. When you make a fifty-fifty deal, make sure your 50% is bigger than the other guy's 50%.
3. When building your management team, remember that smart idiots are more risky than dumb geniuses. Genius has limitations, stupidity does not.
4. Always tell the truth--unless you happen to be an exceptionally good liar. Good liars as chief executives (in business and in government) are in vogue these days.
5. Don't make verbal contracts. Samuel Goldwyn, my favorite consultant, advises that verbal contracts are not worth the paper they are written on.
6. If your chief financial officer has red stains on his fingers, pray it's blood---preferably his.
7. If the problem is sticky or smells bad, let the other guy step in it.
8. Don't commit any crimes. There are plenty of legal ways to be dishonest.
9. Don't open things by mistake--especially your mouth when speaking to the media.
10. When your Board of Directors tells you "Anything goes!" don't be the "anything."
11. Don't try to take your company where the hand of man has never set foot.
12. Never make a business deal with someone whose nickname is a city, a state, or a gem.
13. Let your competitors control the light bulbs. You control the electric meter.
14. Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is.
15. Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburgers.
16. Giving unsolicited advice can have grave consequences--including, but not limited to, the death of your career.
17. If two people with similar responsibilities and authority agree all the time, one of them is useless. If they disagree all of the time, both are useless. Try not to be the "useless" one.
18. When a person with experience meets a person with money, the person with the experience will get some of the money--and the person with the money will get some experience.
19. Something that isn't worth doing, isn't worth doing well.
20. A mule has neither pride of ancestry, nor hope of posterity. If you embrace all of my suggestions, you deserve anything that happens to you. On the other hand, you won't be any worse off than if you embraced a concept as ridiculous as One Minute Management.

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