Articles Tagged Management

Mar 25, 2018
What’s the first impression your customer gets?

A prospective customer is considering a domestic family holiday. First, she calls a local airline. Customer: ‘I am interested in your flight-and-accommodation packages for my family.’ Employee: ‘They are all on our website.’ Customer: ‘OK, I had tried that, but I couldn’t find them. All I have on me now is my phone. Let me […]

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Mar 18, 2018
Are you succeeding, or just looking like you’re succeeding?

When Jeffrey Immelt, long-time boss of giant conglomerate GE, held his annual address to investors last May his corporation’s stock was trading at close to $30. He painted a rosy picture of his long tenure, and retired as CEO soon afterwards. Today the stock price is around $15. His successor decided to bare all and […]

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Mar 11, 2018
It’s time for conference venues to raise their game

The conference business is big business. Humans working in organizations have an unending need to meet in their numbers away from their workplaces: for seminars, workshops, roundtables, town halls, celebrations, parties, retreats, jamborees, junkets – or even just regular meetings. Demand is strong, buyers are willing. Sellers should be smiling. I must have commissioned or […]

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Mar 04, 2018
Make kindness a daily habit

Last week we looked at the underrated virtue: kindness. It is easy to be self-absorbed. Some of us are lost in our own egos. Others are trapped in their own miseries. Yet others have no time for anything but their own race to the pinnacles of success. The harder thing is to be aware of […]

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Dec 17, 2017
The new leader’s purge

As a leadership advisor, I am often left pondering a common phenomenon: when a new leader arrives in office, what inevitably follows is a purge of the followers of the old one. I have seen it many times over the years: a new leader is appointed; and all those associated with the old regime must […]

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Nov 19, 2017
Think hard before taking on established competitors

Google makes the world’s most popular mobile operating system, Android. Nearly two billion mobile devices are powered by this ubiquitous system. Not content with this, Google looked askew at rival Apple some years back and felt envious about the ability to make both software and hardware and to fuse the user experience. Google has the […]

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Oct 15, 2017
Does your brand understand customer experience?

I was looking for footwear in foreign climes recently. I walked into a promising-looking store, and noticed something interesting: the shop assistant attending to me was wearing a bluetooth earpiece. What that was for soon became evident. You have all had this experience when buying shoes, I am sure: you choose some possible pairs; and […]

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Sep 24, 2017
How old businesses must reinvent themselves

Every business in the world faces overwhelming uncertainty. The explosion of new technology shows no sign of abating. Indeed, we may only have seen the opening chapters of the book of technological disruption. The later chapters – containing plot twists, deaths, rebirths and the like – have not even been written yet. We only have […]

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Sep 03, 2017
Is counting on patriotism a winning business strategy?

Many years ago our local brewer, East African Breweries Limited (EABL), was facing a major new threat. Castle, a huge brand owned by South African Breweries, had announced its entry into our local market. It was coming in with big money, a big plant and big plans. One of the key strategic decisions made in […]

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Aug 27, 2017
What a flight not missed teaches us

We were flying in the rainy season. We set off on the first leg, needing to arrive at the hub airport on time and then catch a connecting flight to our final destination. We had allowed two hours transit time to catch the next plane – more than enough, said the airline staff at the […]

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Apr 16, 2017
United breaks guitars. Also, people

If you’re even vaguely connected to the internet (or a television set), you know what happened. United Airlines took a passenger off a plane. And now the whole world is angry about it, and United’s brand is in ICU. On Monday, videos taken by Dr David Dao’s fellow passengers went viral all over the world. […]

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Mar 26, 2017
Your one thing is not your only thing

I wrote here two weeks ago that every business has its one thing – the thing it must deliver above all others. For restaurants, the one thing is the taste of the food; for banks, it is trust; for hotels, hospitality. You can think about what yours is in your industry: the one thing that […]

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Mar 05, 2017
Is your organization cutting costs? Do it properly

As more and more companies declare profit warnings and significantly worse results, cost containment is all the rage again. You will hear a lot more in 2017 about ‘reorganizations’ and ‘rightsizing’; ‘efficiency’ and ‘leanness’ will become the prevailing buzzwords in boardrooms. I always wonder: if you want to become the ‘right’ size now, which size […]

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Feb 12, 2017
How to destroy an organization from within

There’s more than one way to defeat an enemy. As the best spies know, you don’t just mount external attacks; you also work to weaken your enemy’s organization from within. In 1944, the precursor of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), created something called the Simple Sabotage Field Manual. This […]

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Jan 15, 2017
What’s your ‘DQ’?

I’m pretty sure you’ve taken (or were forced to take) an IQ (intelligence quotient) test at some time in your life. You may even have have done some sort of EQ (emotional quotient) test. But have you ever taken a ‘DQ’ test? Try this quick quiz: 1. Can you accurately describe what Snapchat is? 2. […]

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Dec 04, 2016
You can’t force employees to be happy

An employee of Trader Joe’s recently filed an unfair labour practices charge against the company in the US. Thomas Nagle was reportedly fired by Trader Joe’s in September; his offences apparently included an “overly negative attitude” and not smiling warmly enough. In his performance reviews Nagle had been criticized for not greeting a manager with […]

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Nov 13, 2016
Here comes insurance disruption

I was asked to speak at a conference for insurers recently, and I decide to rattle their cage. Their old business model, I told them, is already over. It’s just that they may not know it yet, because the many changes that will upend their business are invisible right now. To understand why insurance must […]

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Sep 25, 2016
Banks, don’t waste a good crisis

A few weeks ago I warned on this page that Kenya’s banks faced a ‘new normal’ – an era in which they would have to respond to tighter regulation, as well as innovate furiously just to survive. Well, that was before rate-capping knee-capped the industry. The recent Banking Amendment Act has ensured that banks in […]

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Jul 31, 2016
Get ready to reinvent yourself for a new economy

Technology threatens to upend our assumptions about work, employment and income. Is this a real threat to society, or just hyperbole? First, the optimistic scenario. When I was a young man in an economics class many moons ago, I was introduced to the “lump of labour fallacy.” This is the idea that there is only […]

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Jul 10, 2016
Is your bank ready for the ‘new normal’?

A bank is a very special institution. When you become a custodian of other people’s money, you become bound by very particular regulatory rules to ensure you do not misuse the privilege. When you lend that money out to others, society must ensure you do not use that power to bring those others to ruin. […]

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Mar 06, 2016
Why do people start family businesses?

Why does anyone start a family business? As a long-standing business advisor, there are days when I feel compelled to ask that question. This is one of those days. I ask because I feel sickened by the myriad court battles, protracted inheritance disputes and ugly sibling rivalries that so often characterise family businesses here in […]

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Dec 20, 2015
Snip. We just disconnected you.

I was disconnected by three companies I deal with recently. All in the space of one week. All three are businesses I have been a loyal customer of for years (decades, in one case). All three know me well. I have an excellent payments history. There was no real reason to disconnect me. But they […]

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Dec 13, 2015
There’s a fraud going on in your organization right now

“Somewhere in your organization a fraud is taking place, right now.” The venerable accounting teacher, James Boyd McFie, would say those words at the beginning of every lecture he delivered on a programme for directors that I used to lead. The sentence created a suitable chill in the audience. It is true. No matter which […]

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Oct 04, 2015
CEO: how many “small” people does your company bully?

Kenyan CEOs are always busy giving away cheques to worthy causes, speaking noble words at gatherings of luminaries, and championing the agenda of good corporate citizenship. Here’s a question for them, though: why is your company so virtuous for the cameras, and often an outright bully when it comes to the “small” people it deals […]

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Sep 20, 2015
A tale of two businesses

Someone I’m close to recounted two very different customer experiences to me recently. The first concerns a well-known shop in a well-known mall in Nairobi. This shop is operated by its owners, and customer care does not appear to run in the bloodline. I myself have only been there once, and once was enough. Sub-standard, […]

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Sep 13, 2015
How to tell if a company is heading for trouble

Last week on this page we discussed the “dead-horse strategy.” There is only one sensible strategy to follow if your horse is dead: dismount. Many of us, nonetheless, don’t do sensible strategies: we try to fund, motivate, whip or imagine the dead horse back to life. The column raised many a laugh, but also a […]

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Aug 30, 2015
Leadership lessons from what the waitress told me

I was sitting in a restaurant looking at a sushi menu recently. There were many delectable-sounding options on offer, and I wondered what to choose. I decided to ask a waitress for advice. Here’s what she said. “Please try the chef’s signature sushi roll. He thought long and hard about it and experimented with various […]

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Aug 16, 2015
There may be much more corporate distress to come

For years now, I have been warning of many a corporate collapse to come, on this page and elsewhere. We have been seeing unprecedented speed of change in technology; the far-reaching impact of demographics; and gradual handover of power from producers to consumers. Globally, many a dominant company has been laid low. Japan’s giant Sony […]

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