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MUST reads on GREAT Management

A couple of great articles hit my pavement over the past few days.

The first, from the WSJ looks at Craig Barrett’s reign at Intel. Some terrific tips on management effectiveness. Two stood out for me:

  • Follow the business, not Wall Street . “The job of the CEO is not to reward the short-term speculator of your stock,” Mr. Barrett says, “but to do a good job long-term for your shareholders, employees and customers. You don’t invest for ‘let’s have a 20% lay-off tomorrow to prop up our stock’ or ‘let’s cut R&D to get a positive response from Wall Street.’ Thank God for Moore’s Law, because it won’t let us think like that; because if we do we get hammered.”
  • When something works, don’t re-invent it, reproduce it . Perhaps Mr. Barrett’s greatest contribution to the semiconductor industry was the concept of “Copy Exactly,” the absolutely exact reproduction of successful existing practices and facilities in other locations.

The other is the Fortune cover story on Mulally at Ford. Some key takeaways…

  • Brands matter: “I arrive here, and the first day I say, ‘Let’s go look at the product lineup.’ And they lay it out, and I said, ‘Where’s the Taurus?’ They said, ‘Well, we killed it.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, you killed it?’ ‘Well, we made a couple that looked like a football. They didn’t sell very well, so we stopped it.’ ‘You stopped the Taurus?’ I said. ‘How many billions of dollars does it cost to build brand loyalty around a name?’ ‘Well, we thought it was so damaged that we named it the Five Hundred.’ I said, ‘Well, you’ve got until tomorrow to find a vehicle to put the Taurus name on because that’s why I’m here. Then you have two years to make the coolest vehicle that you can possibly make.’?” The 2010 Taurus is arriving on the market this spring, and while it is not as startling as the original 1986 Taurus, it is still pretty cool.
  • Communications matters: “Communicate, communicate, communicate,” Mulally explained in one of his notes to me. “Everyone has to know the plan, its status, and areas that need special attention.”
  • Emphasis on data and transparency: To monitor operations during the week, Mulally can visit two adjacent rooms whose walls are lined with 280 performance charts, arranged by area of responsibility, with a big picture of the executive in charge in case there are any doubts. Everyone at the Thursday meeting gets wall space. Mulally spends 30 minutes explaining the charts to me, making sure I stand 20 feet away so that I can’t see any of the data. The message, though, comes through clearly: Mulally has his finger on every piece of this large and complex company. So does his board of directors; they see a subset of the same data. There are no secrets at Ford anymore. “This is a huge enterprise, and the magic is, everybody knows the plan,” says Mulally.

Finally, NYTimes speaks to Steve Ballmer… his point on meetings is right-on:

….The mode of Microsoft meetings used to be: You come with something we haven’t seen in a slide deck or presentation. You deliver the presentation. You probably take what I will call “the long and winding road.” You take the listener through your path of discovery and exploration, and you arrive at a conclusion.

That’s kind of the way I used to like to do it, and the wayBill [Gates] used to kind of like to do it. And it seemed like the best way to do it, because if you went to the conclusion first, you’d get: “What about this? Have you thought about this?” So people naturally tried to tell you all the things that supported the decision, and then tell you the decision.

I decided that’s not what I want to do anymore. I don’t think it’s productive. I don’t think it’s efficient. I get impatient. So most meetings nowadays, you send me the materials and I read them in advance. And I can come in and say: “I’ve got the following four questions. Please don’t present the deck.” That lets us go, whether they’ve organized it that way or not, to the recommendation. And if I have questions about the long and winding road and the data and the supporting evidence, I can ask them. But it gives us greater focus.

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