Wednesday, July 12, 2006

New Rules in a Flat World

I guess if you're a business magazine reader you probably saw the cover story in Fortune that was blasting out the news that Jack Welch's rules for running a successful business have gone out, as they used to say, with "high button shoes" and the poor guy has only been out of the corner office for five (5) years. How time flies.

If you didn't see the piece, the list was kind of interesting:

Old Rule: Big dogs own the street. New Rule: Agile is best.
Old Rule: Be #1 or #2 in your market. New Rule: Find a niche.
Old Rule: Shareholders rule. New Rule: The customer is king.
Old Rule: Be lean & mean. New Rule:Look out, not in.
Old Rule: Rank your players. New Rule: Hire passionate people.
Old Rule:
Hire a charismatic CEO. New Rule: Hire a courageous CEO.
Old Rule: Admire my might. New Rule: Admire my soul

I guess it is one of the "benefits" or some might say "curses" of having been running around the planet for a while and the business part of that world for more than forty (40) years that one gets either "wiser" or some might say cynical. I guess it depends on one's point of view.

Anyway, when I first saw the Fortune story, the image that flashed across my mind was the segment on Bill Maher's show on HBO called "new rules." No matter which side of the political spectrum you're on, some the stuff he does is really very funny.

As much as I, along with the rest of the universe, admire the results of what GE accomplished during Jack's tenure, it does not necessarily follow that his leadership "rules" are the be all and end all. Becasue of Jack's personality and style he is often looked at as a benchmark when it comes to leadership. Understandable, but as we all know, there are lots of other companies that have done extremely well with leadership styles that were very different from Jack's. There are also plenty of examples of ones that have failed with leaders whose styles and rules were like Jack's. I guess that is why they call it "situational management."

So I don't know if it's the fact that the "rules" of leadership have really changed so the old ones don't work anymore or if it is simply that we have "new rules" driven by the epiphany of the 90's when U.S. industry discovered the realities of globalization. A discovery which on an individual level translated to the knowledge that the Puritan work ethic in return for job security was a myth from the get go. Whatever it was, things changed, and companies and those who work for them have been trying to adapt and adjust ever since.

In our case, ExecuNet as an organization was born out of the aforementioned 90s epiphany, and the "new" rule that we started to apply was "nobody cares about you more than you" and if you were not going to become proactive in terms of managaing your professional worklife, you were playing career roulette with a fully loaded gun.

It took a while for the notion to catch on, but as we look at our membership now, some 70% is made up of senior level executives and professionals who are currently employed. They are not necessarily looking for their next senior executive jobs, nor are they necessarily interested in anyone's rules other than the one they have now internalized: The company I work for is "Me, Inc." and we outsource our services.

Very 21st century.


Eric Standlee (CrusaderX) said...

What for baby boomers I am sure has been an epiphany, for Xers like me is a universe-sized necessity. I didn't even expect solid employment out of college, and to be honest didn't want to chase it. Like many Xers who haven't been brainwashed by aeon-old ideals, I have several businesses, my holding company is Me, Inc., and we outsource to other and are building to sell.

Dave Opton said...

Well said Eric. My kids feel exactly the same way.