Today’s Business Leaders

Excerpt from Delancey Place

In today’s encore excerpt – writing in the late 1990s, Quinn Spitzer and Ron Evans contrast the business leaders of the immediate post-World War II period to more contemporary businesses leaders raised on a steady diet of business publications, management books, MBAs and consultants:

“During the 1990s virtually an entire generation of top executives left their businesses, retired, or passed away. Many of these executives had achieved legendary status – [David] Packard at Hewlett-Packard, [Akio] Morita at Sony, [Sir John Harvey-] Jones at ICI, [Sam] Walton at Wal-Mart, and [Jan] Carlzon at SAS, to name a few. These leaders shared some notable characteristics that differentiate them from their successors. They lived through the Great Depression, which crippled the world’s economy in the 1930s; they experienced the horrors of World War II; they served their business apprenticeships in the postwar rebuilding period of the late 1940s and early 1950s. But what may differentiate them most from their counterparts of today is the issue of management.This ‘old guard’ was the last of a breed of executives who developed their management skills almost entirely in the workplace. They were building businesses while management ‘science’ – if it can be called that – was still in its infancy.

“In 1948 … the Harvard Business Review had a robust circulation of fifteen thousand. That number had reached nearly two hundred fifty thousand by the mid 1990s. The Harvard Business School itself and the few other graduate business schools in existence in 1948 awarded 3,357 MBAs – a far cry from the 75,000 MBAs awarded forty-five years later. Even McKinsey, the best known of consulting companies, was a relatively small firm with annual revenues of under $2 million, compared with 1994 revenues of more than $1.2 billion. Management guru Peter Drucker was a youngster of thirty-nine. Seven-year-old Tom Peters was probably ‘in search of’ a new bike.

“The executives of [the immediate post-war] period were not uneducated – in fact, many were extremely well educated – but they did not learn their approach to business from a business school, a management expert, a celebrated management book, or an outside consultant. Options such as these were not generally available. These executives learned their business skills in the industrial jungle. …

“The forty-year-old executive of the 1990s, by contrast, probably holds one of the tens of thousands of MBAs awarded each year. His formal management education is supplemented by dozens of business periodicals and hundreds of management books. If, however, a situation seems resistant to even this mass of management wisdom, there are several hundred consulting firms and more than a hundred thousand consultants ready to provide additional management skill and knowledge. In 1993 businesses around the world spent $17 billion for consultants’ recommendations, and AT&T alone lavished $347.1 million on outside expertise.

“That does not necessarily mean that the business executives of the past were superior to those of the present. … Still, we suspect that if those [managers] of years gone by found themselves at the helm of any of today’s extraordinarily complex and competitive business enterprises, they would steer a straight and successful course.”

Quinn Spitzer and Ron Evans, Heads You Win!, Fireside, Simon and Schuster, Copyright 1997 by Kepner-Tregoe, Inc., pp. 15-17.

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Published in: on February 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Five Causes of Prohibition

From Delancey Place:

In today’s excerpt – after World War I, a national prohibition against alcoholic beverages was enacted in both the United States and Canada. This prohibition, however, led to a dramatic increase in alcohol consumption and the rise of large-scale criminal organizations to support it. Why was it that prohibition was enacted?:

“How [Prohibition] came about can be boiled down to about five causes:

1) The First World War.
2) The new authority of women.
3) A half-century of campaigning by church leaders, politicians, evangelists and women’s groups.
4) The existing moral climate of the time.
5) Rural paranoia about urban intrusion.

“Most blame the First World War, which had a tremendous influence upon the eventual passage of legislation that took away a person’s freedom to drink. During the war, both the U.S. and Canada, as already stated, enacted laws that set the groundwork for full bans on liquor and beer. It was believed that money should be diverted from liquor to ‘war fitness.’ … The moral climate in the U.S. brought on by the war permitted the easy passage of the Volstead Act (Prohibition). …

“Another wartime condition that aided Prohibitionists in both the U.S. and Canada was the new authority of women. Before and during the war, women found voice in numbers. They banded together in [temperance] groups. Women had also acquired far more responsibility during this time, as they were forced to fend for themselves during the war, to find work and feed their families while their husbands were fighting in the trenches overseas. … More importantly, during this period women won the right to vote in elections.

“The half-century of campaigning by groups like the Anti-Saloon League (U.S.) contributed perhaps more than any other factor in generating support for Prohibition. By the early 1900s in the U.S., the great temperance leaders ordered their forces to use any means necessary to shut down the saloons – even hatchets if necessary. The Bible and hatchet-carrying Carry Nation and her male counterpart, the iron-fisted Dr. Howard Russell, were the most popular of the U.S. temperance leaders. …

“This Prohibitionary craze may seem unfathomable out of context but, on closer examination, the period up until 1920 was dominated by prohibitions – on clothing, behavior and even food. In Ontario, especially, the straight-laced Protestant ethic dictated an exclusive code of conduct. It was strictly forbidden in 1919, for example, to purchase a cigar, an ice cream cone, a newspaper or anything vaguely frivolous on a Sunday. And playing sports of any kind was absolutely banned on the Lord’s Day. In Michigan, as an extreme example, it was considered a crime for women to wear high-heeled shoes. In such a world a ban on intoxicating beverages did not seem so out of place.

“In addition to all of these factors, the farmer was regarded as the silent partner of the Prohibition movement. The Prohibitionists relied upon the farmer to cast his ballot against the evils of drunkenness and sloth, which he viewed from the safety of his front veranda in he remote and serene countryside as something distinctly urban. The Farmer’s Sun told farmers what they already knew – that their rural sanctuary could only be ensured if they voted to bring cities and towns under the umbrella of Prohibition.”

Marty Gervais, The Rumrunners, Biblioasis, Copyright 1980, 2009 by Marty Gervais, pp. 14-18.

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Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 11:56 am  Comments (4)  
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Those that are already expert at their craft

Selected from

In today’s excerpt – for those who are already expert at their craft, there are perils to rushing or overrehearsing. Here Paul Shaffer frantically tries to reach Sammy Davis, Jr., to select a song and schedule rehearsal before his appearance on the David Letterman show:

“Every time I called [Sammy Davis, Jr., to try and select a song or discuss rehearsal], he was either working or sleeping. He never did return my calls.

The morning of the show I was feeling some panic. Sammy was flying in, and we still didn’t know what he wanted to sing. At 10 a.m., the floor manager said I had a backstage call. It was Sammy calling from the plane.

‘ ‘Once in My Life’ will be fine, Paul,’ he said. ‘Key of E going into F.’

‘Great!’ I was relieved.

I was also eager to work out an arrangement. We whipped up a chart, nursed it, rehearsed it, and put it on tape. That way when Sammy arrived, he could hear it.

Then another backstage call. Sammy’s plane had landed early, and he was on his way over. When I greeted him at the backstage door with a big ‘We’re thrilled you’re here,’ I was a little taken aback. He looked extremely tired and frail. He walked with a cane.

‘We have an arrangement, Sam. You can rehearse it with the band.’

‘No need, baby. Gotta conserve my energy. I’m just gonna go to my room and shower.’

‘I wanna make it easy for you. So I’ll just play you a tape of the arrangement on the boom box. That way you’ll hear what we’ve done and tell me if it’s okay.’

‘Man, I know the song.’

‘I know, Sam,’ I said, ‘but what if you don’t like the chart?’

‘I’ll like it, I’ll like it.’

‘But what if the key’s not right?’

‘Okay, if you insist.’

I slipped the cassette in the boom box and hit ‘play.’ To my ears, the chart sounded great. Sammy closed his eyes and, in Sammy style, nodded his head up and down to the groove. He smiled.

‘It’s swinging, man,’ he said, ‘but think of how much more fun we could have had if I hadn’t heard this tape.’

His words still resonate in my ears; the notion still haunts me. Sammy swung that night, but as he was performing, I couldn’t help thinking that his carefree feeling about time – as opposed to my lifelong notion of the pressure of the time – was coming from a higher spiritual plane. As a musician, I’ve always thought I rushed. I still think I rush. The great players never rush.

It reminds me of that moment when I watched Ray Charles turn to his guitarist, just as the young guy was about to solo, and say, ‘Take your time, son. Take your time.’ ”

Paul Shaffer, We’ll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives, Flying Dolphin Press, Copyright 2009 by Paul Shaffer Enterprises, Inc., pp. 234-235.

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Published in: on December 21, 2009 at 2:09 pm  Comments (1)  
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