Saturday, 27 November 2010

Shoddy Journalism on Party Pieces in The Times

I was going to blog on corporate governance and may still get back to that today, but first I need to rant about cheap and shoddy journalism.

Cashing in on the royal family and Will & Kate wedding fever The Times, once a paper of record, chose to publish a nasty article insinuating criticism of the bride's parents probity. What was the ostensible casus belli? Well they wonder how the Middleton's (her parents) earn a very comfortable living from what appears to be a small, party goods mail order business. None of anyone's damn business I would have thought, but there you are. What did they find fault with? Well...breathless shock...they object to the company renting out its mailing list of customers. Now this is perfectly legal and most transactional websites do it. Indeed Google will do it whilst making it very hard to opt out. If you search for partyware on Google you are liable to find you receive targeted ads about...partyware. So then Dominic Kennedy, The Times 'investigations editor' (or sifter of sleaze, muck and non-stories, as the role might be renamed) moves on to complain that it is recommended best practice to allow customers to 'opt in' to receive ads, rather than 'opt out'. Be that as it may, I don't know of many websites that do that. Who is going to tick a box to say they actively want to receive advertisements and promotional emails? Not many saddo's around with nothing better to do than read ads.

But then, hang on a minute, in the very middle of the article they tell us that Party Pieces was achieving around 1,000 sales a week just 13 years after the business was founded. Well, I think there's your answer, staring you in the face. Having had a really good idea, the Middleton's built a really successful business - probably through hard work and intelligence. That sort of sales level probably gave them very substantial profits - and good luck to them. But the journalist is not finished. How did they buy a property in London and a paddock in the country? Well, that's nobody's business but theirs either but here is a thought; maybe they don't live extravagantly but put money aside from a business making healthy profits. It probably speaks well of the sort of people they are but that matters little to the snide insinuators at The Times who desperately seek a story where there really isn't one.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Talent Management

A new book “The Value of Talent”, by Janice Caplan is about Talent Management but, it seems to me, has clear overlap with corporate governance. I have tried to summarise some of the main ideas of the book, though omitting the detail of how to achieve the goals described.

Talent Management is far more than an approach to recruiting and retaining business leaders but is a new way of managing and leading people and organizations that suits our times.

The rise of new economies as significant markets and competitors, increasing globalisation of trade and the breathtaking speed of new technology changing how we think and how we do things are just three of the factors that are leading to a new global business environment. This ‘new world’ demands new business models, new leadership models and new HR models.

The old order

had businesses;
·         developing ad hoc, unconnected solutions to short-term problems,
·         burdened with a legacy of command and control

As a result, management systems developed for control result in unintended consequences that block flexibility and slow change. Nonetheless new systems such as competency frameworks and performance appraisals are now widely accepted and most business leaders do believe that people are their greatest asset.

What does the new world need?
In the new world, significant change or inspiration, although shaped by leaders’ strategic vision may emerge from anyone: in a team or an individual at any level.

It needs ‘joined up’ management processes to be integrated to support the business strategy. It demands flexibility to react quickly and to innovate; new ideas to emerge at all levels within organisations, for teams to form, rearrange themselves and disband when projects are complete; sensitivity to what is happening in markets: to new competitors, new technologies, new ideas and new opportunities; because change happens faster than it used to. It demands collaborative working within organisations and with external consultants, suppliers and partners, all working within virtual teams, to achieve common goals. It also demands constant attention to engineering out costs.

What must be done?
These challenges demand new ways of leadership. Talent Management focuses on bringing out everyone’s talents because everyone is essential to the future of the organization. A clear Talent Management strategy identifies current organization and individual capabilities, where they need to be, and focuses on actions to get from here to there. This goes beyond learning and adapting. It engages people with the business strategy: not keeping up with change but keeping ahead of it.

This is a holistic approach. It includes provision for exceptional performers and future leaders and also deals with underperformance and with refreshing existing skills. It is likely to cover also those, such as suppliers and consultants, who are not directly employed but are still part of your team.

The approach uses job experiences as well as conventional means to develop people and emphasises providing stretching work. It challenges those at the top to think through the capabilities needed to deliver their strategies.

Talent Management is not just about systems or people but about integrating them to achieve the organization strategy so that line managers must manage talent just as they are expected to manage other resources.

The overlap with the governance agenda arises from this integrated approach that has to start from the boardroom. It also calls for the sort of communication and leadership that is a critical part of good governance beyond the boardroom.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

'Boob Job': manufacturers, Rodial threaten to sue

I cannot do better than quote sense-about-science on this,

One of Britain's leading consultant plastic surgeons has been threatened with libel action by the manufacturer of a £125 'Boob Job' cream for speaking out about her doubts of its effectiveness. Dr Dalia Nield of The London Clinic was quoted in an article in the Daily Mail on 1st October 2010 saying that it was 'highly unlikely' the 'Boob Job' cream would increase a woman's breast size. The manufacturer, Rodial Limited had claimed that the cream, reported to be a favourite of Scarlett Johansson, can increase breast size by 2.5 cm. Dr Nield said the company had not provided a full analysis of tests on the cream and that if its claims that fat cells moved around the body were true it could be potentially dangerous. Rodial Limited has threatened Dr Nield with libel action. Dr Nield stands by her comments.

Two really important points emerge. Firstly, how can a manufacturer advertise such extraordinary claims for a product without providing evidence? Where is the Advertising Standards Authority in all this and why is there not an equivalent of the EU Food Supplements Directive applying to skin products that appear to claim a medicinal effect? And secondly, why pick on Boob Job? What about 'Bum Lift' or 'Tummy Tuck' for £100 a tube of cream: no really, they do exist, go look at the Rodial's a real hoot. No sign, though of peer reviewed, scientific papers to support a host of revolutionary claims. How come also that a reputable doctor can be threatened with legal process merely for expressing mild doubts and asking for proof?