All entries for November 2008

November 28, 2008

Organizations culture

Working on CBE`s PMA. Reading about something I`ve always thought of that is how fascinating is a companies culture. So many different ways or working. Impressive how companies in the same country, city, industry, pretty similar staff have such different ways to decide and organize, such different values.

It`s obvious to say country, sector, seniority of staff, etc etc etc are strong influences on a company culture. But connecting CBE with LE, it`s amazing the effect leadership styles have on a company. It is amaze to think that, for example, a global industry, with hundreds of thousands of employees spread in the whole world can be influenced by the style of a CEO, one person that`s is as close to this people as Britney Spears or the Dalai Lama. The example that strikes me the most is Jack Welch. But there`s one that I find very interesting. There`s a Brazilian company that is the biggest heavy construction company in latin america. They also have huge positions in petrochemical and services industries, but they`re heart is civil engineering, big stuff (airports, bridges, dams, etc etc). They have sites in all continents. They have some 50.000 employees. Some of them are members of my family, including my brother (and a uncle who is  responsible for keeping the company culture going). The company follows a Management Manual kind of thing, a business model that was created by their founder (that is over 90 years old but still alive and working!) that is called Odebrecht Empresarial Technology (Odebrecht is the company`s name).   It is amazing how all employees knowing or not somehow act in that way. They all receive the book when they join the company, but I`m pretty sure very few read it. 2 examples:

- They are against showing off richness, wealth. The founder and his family have always been very simple, accessible, humble. Even though they are billionaires, but they lead a very simple life. I`ve been colleague with one of they`re grandchildren in university (public one, not-paid!) and her car was VERY VERY simple. They reproduce that into the company. Be simple, don`t show off,  no unnecessary luxury, not private jets or anything like that for anyone!

-Independence. The managers have a great deal of independence. They manage each one of the sites in a very free way, they have a lot of power to make decisions (but of course they respond for it as well).

Now imagine how to implement an excellence management model and having to deal with all the implications of companies specific cultural issues?

November 27, 2008

Leadership and situation

I really liked the definition we achieved for leadership in the last few days. I believer each one of us would make smaller changes to it, but since it was done by a group we reached quite a good definition.

However, in one of the other definitions the word "situation" came up. The same happened last Monday, when the situation was also considered.

I do think the situation plays a very important part in HOW to lead in a specific moment. But I don`t think it should be IN the definition and I will say why.

We all agree that like dancing or writing leadership is a skill. Some people find it easier to lead then other, the same way some people find dancing much easier them others. Both can be learned and improved. Of course even with a lot of training I`ll never dance like Fred Astaire or Nureyev, but it can be improved. The same with leadership. You might not became a Gandhy or a Alexander the Great but you can improve it. And if that`s a skill it means that it can used or adapted for use in lot`s of situations.  Some one who is a good dancer might be fantastic at Jazz or Waltz, but not so good Samba or Salsa. But this person is probably going to do much better them someone who simply can not dance anything (like myself, for instance). Of course you would be able to find someone who was good at dancing and was especially good in Samba and Salsa and that would be the most recommended person for that specific situation, but skill wise (dancing) it does not make this person better them the other dancer who is better in Waltz and Jazz. But if you had to define the skill of dancing, you should make both of them fit.

The example Paul presented on Monday to justify the situation part of the definition was Winston Churchill.Churchill has a very funny life story. A very aristocratic person, from a very traditional English family had a good education. He also had a very interesting and unusual life. When in the navy he planned what was to became one of the greatest defeats ever for the British navy, the Galipoli Battle. Late, as the chancellor of the exchequer (English version of ministry of finance), he conducted the transition of the pound back to the gold standard and did it in a awful away despite several warnings from very important people (notably Keynes, by them already one of the most important economists in history). He later admitted that he conducted it awfully. But in WW2 he played such an amazing part, he was the true leader of the British and one of the major leaders (alongside Roosevelt-US and Stalin-USSR) for the part of the world that did not support Germany-Italy-Japan. Even though separated by the channel, with almost all of continental Europe taken, he was able to keep the morale up and to find support for UK. A true leader in a very needed moment. Until nowadays he is probably the most famous English leader of the world, more then Queen Elizabeth I, or Queen Victoria. But as soon as the war was over, he failed to remain and prime-minister again. He was later to come back, but did not shine like he did during the war.

So I ask the question, considering that he failed many times but had a MAJOR success in a much needed time would we qualify him as a real leader only in a specific situation? Not sure I agree with that. I agre that some people, some styles do fit better in some situations, but when defining a leader I think that if someone is able to lead in a situation, he is a leader even if he has trouble in other kinds of situations. Like Churchill, or like a dancer who is good in Waltz and Jazz but not im Samba and Salsa is also a dancer.


November 14, 2008

More learning from the PMA, Credit crunch, Financial Services and Globalization

Continuing from the previous post. Some thoughts that came to me while writing the PMA. I wrote about financial services. The connection between globalisation (and I`m not crazy about that word, because the world has always been globalised, I think we should use something like Hyper-Globalisation to make explicit that we are talking about the increase, the strengthening of something that has always been there) and financial services is clear. And by understanding it it gives us a different vision of the current crisis.

The moment now is very similar to the burst of the bubble that happened on 1929 (even though its being treated in a very different way and hopefully it will also end in a very different way, but only time will tell). After a moment of irrational exuberance (fantastic expression created by the former president of the American Central Bank, the FED, Alan Greenspan to describe the dot ".com"  bubble of the 1990's/early 2000's) the markets went burst and so it was decided that they should be much more regulated. Exactly the same as know. Well, we all know economical growth does not follows a clear pattern. It is made (pretty much as life itself) of moments of quick growth, that generates bubbles, that burst, theres some learning, some pain, that will be followed by growth in new ways, resulting in new bubbles, new burst, pain, and so forth. That`s the way it goes, and that`s the way it will go again know. When we are under pain, it looks eternal, but usually the growing years, the pleasure ones are longer and more significative over time. But we just realise it from an outside look.

That brings me to another point. We are now complaining, throwing stones, shouting, crying and screaming over credit decisions, greed, high salaries, etc etc. Of course no one likes the idea of going through the stress, the worries of a crisis like that because a few VERY WELL paid guys committed mistakes. But looking back, this crisis was built along many, many years of very cheap credit, of innovative financial products that allowed lot`s of people buying houses, cars, trips, ipods, laptops, etc etc. By doing so they also generated lot`s of jobs. What I`m trying to say is that for many many years, all the world gained from the schemes, the ideas of that same people. I don`t think anyone complained when we had the lowest  long term interest rates for for many years, or when we found very easy credit to buy a car that we always wanted, or when a company got a nice loan, built a factory and got us a job. It`s a bit about complaining that the car broke in the middle of the road after we`ve been using it for 100.000 Km! Well, happiness is not forever, every system, every process, every cycle needs to be constantly changed and improved and in such a complex system as the global economy it`s very hard not to have some problems once ina while.

What I`m trying to say is not that we should do nothing and accept it the way it came, but that we should try to look at it from the outside and understand that this is how things work. That same system that brought as the problem was the one who gave us plenty of solutions, that we were also benefited in the good years (and we had quite a lot of good years , the global economy has been through one of its best moments in the last decades). And the guys who created, as bad or greedy as hey can be, were also responsible to it. Is a certain sense, is a bit like creating a revolutionary car. If one creates a car that runs on water, and that by taking one litre of water will go for 100 Km and it looks wonderful on theory everyone will want one. If after a few years we find this car just stops working in the middle of nowhere after a while we are going to be pissed, but we should remember how good this car was. every new product is a bit avant-garde and has inherent problems in it that will be fixed along the way. And when you are talking about financial products is even worse, because there are no labs, traditional scientific methods that would allow experimentations, you can not experiment on social sciences...

Of course a better regulatory system, perhaps and more concious managenemtn, a system that payd more attention to variations and the long term (Ok, thaks Deming!) would have been usefull, but it is important to look all that came with that experience, and not only a few people and a especific moment of it.

November 13, 2008

Global Business Environment – PMA – Part one

Long time no writing. Shame on me.

Well, just like everyone else busy with my PMA`s. I`ve finished the GBE one and did a bit of work on the CBE one. But I`d like to talk about two things that came out of the GBE PMA writing experience.

1st thing is processual. I think I did a nice job and even though I care about the marks that I`ll get for it I can porudly say that I did work hard for it as it was a enriching experience. However it was not an easy one. I know we were supposed to spend only 40 hours on it but I`m pretty sure that all of us spent much more then only 40 hours on it. For myself I`d say I spent almost 80 hours on it I take two conclusions out of this fact:

- We went too deep, we did much more them it was expected from us. If that`s true we should have a indication of it in the marks.

- We were too uneficient. We wasted too much time researching, writing or reviewing in a non-eficient way.

I think both reasons are right. All along the work Lila`s post "how much research is enough" kept banging in my head. Lila got the very exact point of our problems in here.  We all wanted to do a very nice job, and since the opened possibilities were too big was hard too say " now I have enough!". So I think we overworked, we committed that mistake. But in the other hand we also probably wasted a lot of time in things we could have done much quicker, in learning how to use the library, how to work, what are our best productive moments, etc etc. So, from my learning experience some things I learned that might be helpful to others:

- Read as many times as you can the question, be sure you understood it, discuss it with a colleague, and STICK TO IT!. Don`t go further.   

- Know yourself. I, for instance, work better in the end of the afternoon and late at night. So I tried to keep these moments free and work on them. The rest of the time was used to sleep, exercise, socialise...

- Look for papers, and when you find a good reference look the references in it. Sometimes you find great material in a referece referece`s (was that confusing?)

- Keep an eye on magazines and newspapers. Some of the information was very updated on my PMA because I found news that related to it on newspapers and magazines.

- Use endnote to manage your references. It`s woth it.

-It it helps you use a mind map. I like drawing, messy drawings with scattered ideas, it looks confusing to others but it helps me a lot. I go reading and making this maps...that`s hoe I organise it.

I hope that hints might help someone (because they sure helped me!)

November 04, 2008


Folks...missing you all. Hope you are doing fine and going well on your PMA`s!

Two comments that might help you (I`ll post them on ounr Facebook community as well):

-You received a email with a link to a survey. Please take 2 minutes to answer it, is related to how we want our lectures to be handled
-I`ll copy bellow a message I received from Margaret Low, that`s part of the staff on WMG and helps in the connection between students and WMG. Please special attention to the mess related bit. When we had free coffee during GBE there was a hell lot of mess left in there. Let`s help keep WMG nice and tidy.

Thank you!


Just to let you know that there is now a hole punch available to students in the the amenity area in the IMC. Its on the table next to the vending machines. Could you let the students on your MSc courses know about it. Please also ask them to ensure that no mess is created beside it - as this was the reason the last one was withdrawn several years ago.


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