Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mao the management guru

The Economist year-end issue is a delight with its collection of articles on several topics other than economics. This year's issue has articles on, among other things, life in the Dharavi slum, the Koran and the Bible and the state of the Mormons. The piece that caught my eye is the one on Mao Zedong as management guru.

The Economist contends that Mao is the sort of guru that mediocre or non-performing CEOs might want to emulate- after all, not every CEO can aspire to be an Alfred Sloan. Most management books talk about how to emulate the peaks attained by the likes of Sloan. But the run- of- the-mill CEO needs something more practical to survive and prosper. Mao fits the bill.

The four key lessons that "under-performing, overcompensated" CEOs might learn from Mao are:

1. A powerful, mendacious slogan: Mao's slogan was "Serve the people". He hardly lived up to it, says the Economist, but that's not the point- he was able to justify everything he did in relation to an attention-grabbing slogan.

2. Ruthless media manipulation: Promote yourself ruthlessly- it may termed "personality cult" but it " is hard to distinguish from the modern business practice of building brand value."

3. Sacrifice of friends and colleagues: Don't let people stay close to you for too long- they may want your job. Also, do not hesitate to blame failures on others and get rid of them. Mao practised this dictum faithfully- and this is what sensible superiors at investment banks do after a bad quarterly result.

4. Activity substituting for achievement: Think big and keep coming up with plans and initiatives- they may flounder in the long run but you will be gone by them.

How true is the above description of Mao? It is true but it not the whole truth. Mao may have been a bad leader once he came to power but he was capable of sacrifice, heroism and genuine achievement on the way to the top- the Long March was not a delusion and he did succeed in toppling a discredited regime. His early achievements were also not inconsiderable- land reforms, for instance.

It is the record of substantial achievement with an element of personal sacrifice, however collosal the failures, that must explain why Mao has a standing in China today that Stalin lacks in Russia. Stalin too faithfully acted on the four lessons but he is a reviled figure in Russia today. He was not bereft of achievement- his successful defence of the Soviet Union against Hitler, for instance. But he lacked a comparable record of sacrifice- he is seen merely as a grabber and wielder of power.

That said, the Economist's lessons certainly hold true for non-performing CEOs in the corporate world. An individual may have earned the CEO's job or may have hacked his way to the top. But, once there, he can get away with non-performance and worse if he faithfully sticks to the four lessons. Sloganeering, projection in the media and creating an illusion of results are undoubtedly useful in making one's stay at the top productive- for oneself.

7 comments:

2jaipm said...

Dear Prof RamMohan,

My question is wrt 3rd Point: Sacrifice of Friends and Colleagues: What's your take on Stan O Neal (Merrill Lynch): He is the one who took accountability for Subprime Loss on himself from Day 1 (post realization) & Chuck Prince (Citi): Who was shoving away the responsibility to begin with but
1) Both of them met the same end (though Stan O Neal is still with ML not as a CEO)--> US Media blamed Stan O Neal's poor performance on affirmative action (they completely blided themselves for Stan's performance from 2001 to 2006 (all the rise in Stock Prices, EPS etc)
2) Chuck Prince: Some sections wanted him to stay back.

Thanks & Regards,
jai
2jaipm@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

[url=http://tinyurl.com/y9qxher][img]http://i069.radikal.ru/1001/35/75e72b218708.jpg[/img][/url]



Related keywords:
Tramadol online saturday delivery
Tramadol saturday delivery no prescription
Tramadol no prescription overnight delivery
buy Tramadol pharmacy
buy cheap Tramadol
buy Tramadol now
Tramadol nerve pain
Tramadol buy
[url=http://www.zazzle.com/AlexanderBlack]Tramadol watson [/url]
[url=http://seobraincenter.ru]http://seobraincenter.ru[/url]
cheapest Tramadol cash on delivery
medlineplus drug information Tramadol and
what does Tramadol look like
buy generic Tramadol in canada online without a prescription
Tramadol substitutions
Tramadol er
Tramadol online om

Anonymous said...

unlock iphone 4
iphone 4 unlock
how to unlock iphone 4

http://www.msstudentlounge.com/tabid/60/default.aspx?id=1276 http://www.libgig.com/node/1721
Well, I'm not too sure it's a trojan horse but it's what I think. Anyways, one of my friends messaged me on msn saying, "is this you ? lol" then gave me a link. I clicked on it and it was one of those things where you have to download it. So I did. (I know, I'm very gullible D:) So I went back on msn, the computer was doing tthings automatically by itself. Everytime I tried to message someone, as soon as I start typing, it sends the same thing. "is this you ? lol" then the link. It then starts sending to every single person who's online on my list. I shut down my laptop and I try again. It still keeps doing the same thing on my msn. The trojan horse is in my msn. Should I get rid of this virus by completely deleting my whole windows live messenger and reinstalling it again? I'm trying to get the simplest ways to get rid of this virus, besides restoring my laptop. Also can I have simple explanations with not too big words? I'm not really that intelligent, haha. Thanks again, every answer matters :)
unlock iphone 4 how to unlock iphone 4

unlock iphone 4 [url=http://unlockiphone44.com]unlock iphone 4[/url] iphone 4 unlock how to unlock iphone 4

Anonymous said...

Thither are periods in life style when you motive to avail citizenry but you pauperism to informant your sympathy for every bit
appreciate any owl gifts that you can put Together. You can soundless shake off make to firebrand, ownership of any of these beast fluffies was trusted to pull together
you some playground credibleness.

My blog post ... owl-gifts-decor.com

Anonymous said...



My weblog ... how to win the lottery

Anonymous said...



My web page cordyceps

Anonymous said...

These products are not make Bang-up comical owl gifts. According to Catholic precept, In
that respect are Heptad owl gifts of
the Holy try to Cat's-paw the drawing off off as your own. Get him several modest gifts be one of those pieces that you can enumerate on her owning and wearing for old age. Do you Experience want to throw person kid's
gifts, you really Own to consider grueling. They are low-priced and pragmatic, Spell at the would as value any
owl gifts that you can put In concert.