When Your Organization’s Decisions are in the Hands of Devils

20. December 2010
Mittwoch, 15. Dezember 2010, 13:02:36 | Larry Prusak

by Laurence Prusak

(Larry Prusak, Brook Manville, and Tom Davenport are at work on a book on judgment and how to cultivate it as an organizational, not just individual, strength. As their research progresses, each is authoring posts in this blog to test-drive ideas and invite input.)

A week ago a friend passed along the new book by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, All the Devils are Here. I had felt that I’d had enough reading about our fiscal crisis, and that there wasn’t too much more to know. At the same time, I recognized the two authors to be fine business reporters, and Nocera also business columnist for The New York Times, so I knew they would have had exceptional access to the players.

Well, I read it, of course. And if any of you out there still feel that the subject of organizational judgment is too abstract or ethereal, I would advise looking into it. The book is non partisan and non ideological — government actions vie with business activities for being short sighted, rapacious, and just plain full of it. Choose any chapter of this sad narrative and you’ll find illustrations of how organizations can defy the intelligence of their own people to pursue truly benighted courses of action. Read the rest of this entry »


Business and WikiLeaks: Be afraid

14. December 2010

 Date: 14-12-2010
 Source: The Economist
Companies must adapt to a world where no secret is safe 

THE digital archive of a big bank contains many secrets. So when WikiLeaks, a whistle-blowing website, promised to publish five gigabytes of files from an unnamed financial institution early next year, bankers everywhere started quaking in their hand-made shoes. And businesses were struck by an alarming thought: even if this threat proves empty, commercial secrets are no longer safe.

Smaller leaks are nothing new in the corporate world. WikiLeaks itself has already been the conduit for a few. In September 2009, for instance, it posted a leaked internal report from Trafigura, a commodities giant, discussing a hazardous waste spill in Côte d’Ivoire. In January 2008 the site released stolen documents from Julius Baer, a Swiss bank, including bank records of about 1,600 clients with accounts at a subsidiary in the Cayman Islands. The bank sued to stop WikiLeaks publishing the documents, but then dropped the suit. Read the rest of this entry »


Getting Ahead of the Curve in a World of Cascading Crises

4. December 2010

  Date: 03-12-2010
 Source: Technology Review

 How scenario planning and forecasting tools can help organizations prepare for the worst—or seize entirely new opportunities.

 Four years ago, the threat of an avian-flu pandemic catapulted up the agenda of governments, global health agencies, and companies. The outbreak of an earlier virus, which caused a disease called SARS, had illuminated what a fast-spreading global virus could do to travel, commerce, and public well-being. As a shipping company, UPS took the flu warnings seriously. The head of strategy assembled 20 managers from different areas of the company for several workshops that explored how the disease might affect UPS’s ability to serve its customers. The objective was to examine and rehearse responses to various scenarios. Participants came up with five of them, each of which described the possible origins of a pandemic, the consequences, and the contingency plans that UPS might implement.

Luckily, the avian-flu pandemic did not materialize. But in April of 2010, an unknown (and unpronounceable) little volcano in Iceland began spewing tons of ash into the air, disrupting travel across Europe and forcing the UPS air hub in Cologne, Germany, to shut down. UPS recognized that just as in some of the pandemic scenarios, air travel would be impossible in certain regions. And because it understood the consequences, it was able to work backwards, adapting its flu contingency plans to the volcanic eruption. The company rerouted flights from affected European hubs to Istanbul, Turkey, and directed its network of trucks to deliver packages over long distances on the ground. Service was not interrupted. Read the rest of this entry »