Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Essence of a Manager

February 11, 2011

My book now has a publication date in March 2011 and advance copies can be ordered from Springer.

It can also be obtained through Amazon (UK) and Bokus.

Springer Science+Business Media

Essence of a Manager

Pillai, Krishna, 1st Edition., 2011, XIV., Hardcover

ISBN: 978-3-642-17580-0

Due: March 2011

What makes a “good” manager? This is a book by a manager about managers but it is not just for managers. It is for anyone and for everyone who is interested in the way people – and not just managers – behave and function around the world. Based on actual experience the title “Essence of a Manager” is a succinct distillation of what this book is about. It is not a management manual and yet it is a map for navigation and a guide for behaviour which can be valuable for practicing managers at all levels. It formulates a sound thesis to describe the qualities needed in a “good” manager and builds up from elemental qualities to develop a holistic view of a good manager. Nine fundamental attributes are proposed as being necessary and sufficient to describe a “good” manager. It is applied management philosophy for a thinking manager and deals with the fundamental drivers which lie deeper than language or culture and which control human behaviour.

Amazon (UK)

Some reviews can be found here: Reviews EOAM – Around the world and back to Finspång

Lars-Otto Gullman, retired, former Director Metallurgy, Gränges, Finspång

I wish I had read Essence of a Manager some 40 years ago, prior to my own industrial career!  A similar presentation of the demands on a manager and how a manager can develop his abilities I have not seen till now. In Essence of a Manager the author analyses the nature of the personal qualities a good manager must possess to be able to perform his tasks in a satisfactory way. A method, based upon interview technique, is presented as an effective means of identifying potentially good managers. Many examples are given from the author´s long and worldwide experience of managements styles in different countries and cultures.

Eco-friendly superyacht – a contradiction in terms!

December 26, 2010

Motor Yacht

Super Yacht "Exuma": image

From CNN:

Every few years, a radically designed superyacht splashes into the water, grabbing the world’s attention. Right now it’s “Exuma,” a motor yacht intended to consume less fuel and produce less carbon emissions than other motor yachts of a similar size. The yacht, which won the Green Yacht of the Year award at this year’s Monaco Yacht Show, pays close attention to three key principles: that it should be sustainable, efficient and robust.

Featuring an elongated, slender hull designed for maximum hydrodynamic efficiency to reduce water resistance, it scythes effortlessly through the water like a shark stalking its prey. Designed with exploration in mind, it has a range of over 6,000 miles at a speed of 12 knots — which is impressive given it has a fuel tank with a 75,000-litre capacity.

I admire the yacht and the use of technology but I find the “eco-friendly” label somewhat presumptious and not just a little vulgar.


  • Built by: Picchiotti – Perini Navi Group
  • Length: 50 mtr (164 ft)
  • Beam: 9.5 mtr (31.2 ft)
  • Draft: 2.3 mtr (8.37 ft)
  • Year Built: 2010
  • Engines model: 2 x C32 Acert
  • Max speed: 17 Knots
  • Cruising speed: 14 Knots
  • Classification: ABS
  • Hull construction: Aluminium
  • Superstructure material: Aluminium
  • Guests cruising: 12 persons
  • Guests sleeping: 9 persons
  • Crew: 9 persons
  • Flag: Malta
“Eco-Friendly” rates are:
Summer charter rate: from EUR 175 000 per week
Winter charter rate: from EUR 175 000 per week

Spaceport America gets ready for first commercial passengers to space

November 18, 2010
Simplistic map of Sierra County, New Mexico, i...

Location of Spaceport America: image via Wikipedia

Reuters reports:

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority, which plans to start launching citizen astronauts on suborbital flights within 18 months, has begun soliciting contract bids from local businesses for day-to-day operations of the facility.

Construction of the world’s first commercial passenger space terminal, dubbed Spaceport America, is slated to be finished next year near the town of Truth or Consequences in southern New Mexico. The 2-mile-long main runway was completed in October.

Spaceport America Wednesday, 10 November 2010 04:09 :image

Two other major structures nearing completion at the nearly $200 million facility are the air-fire rescue facility and a 110,000-square-foot hangar, authority spokesman David Wilson said.

To date, 380 wannabe space cowboys have each plunked down $200,000 each to reserve a seat aboard a Virgin Galactic six-passenger spacecraft for a 2-1/2-hour suborbital flight some 70 miles above the Earth, Wilson said.

Under a 20-year lease with the state, Richard Branson’s firm is Spaceport America’s anchor tenant and principal spaceliner, paying lease charges of up to $200 million, plus user fees to operate their own aircraft and to contract with other aerospace companies.

The site has been providing commercial launch services for the aerospace industry since 2006 and is expected to be fully operational by mid-2011. But Virgin Galactic expects to take another year to begin its private passenger service, once its test-flight program is complete.

The authority’s executive director, Rick Homans, this week issued a call for businesses to submit proposals for three major areas of operation of the spaceport.

They include general services, such as maintenance; protective services for site security, safety and environment health management; and technical services, including airfield and launch support, airspace management and flight safety engineering.

Artists impression of Virgin Galactic: image

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise made its solo flight in October.

“KPMG are stupid” – How valuations are made

November 11, 2010

Sydney Morning Herald.

KPMG and regulators are too stupid to notice if an asset is overvalued and investment bankers are leeches, say the characters in an online video lampooning the working culture inside international investment banks.

I have seen how the Big 4 accounting firms behave over the last 30 years and this video thought to be made by employees of an investment bank is not so far away from reality.

SMH continues:

BusinessDay is not implying these events took place, but our source claims the videos were made as an in joke by current staff of a large multinational investment bank for former employees. Another video pokes fun at job descriptions in the corporate world after one of the characters meets a “business accelerator”, who was “somewhat vague in his description of his services, but he was very compelling”.

“Investment bankers are generally perceived to be sharks,” the man then says.

“We are also leeches, but we are leeches with a lot of smaller leeches clinging to our backs,” the lady responds.

The videos end with investment bankers heading out for a typical after-work activity – drinking beer and playing ping pong.

Stuttgart’s white elephant

September 23, 2010

Hamada Marine "Bridge to Nowhere"

Japan is famous for its bridges to nowhere and highways without traffic but Germany is not immune from this extravagant form of supporting the construction industry and their powerful lobbies.

Der Spiegel runs a scathing attack on the white elephant that is “Stuttgart 21” and Deutsche Bahn‘s CEO Rüdiger Grube:

A multibillion railway development project is going ahead in Stuttgart, despite the fact that it offers hardly any benefits for the rail network and the money would be better spent elsewhere. Experts have been warning against the plans for years, but they were ignored.

Current estimates put the costs of building the subterranean railway station in Stuttgart, the capital of the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg, at €4.1 billion ($5.38 billion). An associated high-speed rail line to Ulm, a city lying about 90 kilometers (56 miles) southeast of Stuttgart, is slated to cost another €3 billion.

But what, you might ask, is the payoff for Deutsche Bahn, the federal government or the EU of implementing Stuttgart 21 and building the new line to Ulm? Deutsche Bahn CEO Rüdiger Grube offers one answer: The building project, he explains, will “eliminate the biggest bottleneck on the high-speed route from Paris to Bratislava.”

It would seem that Grube still doesn’t have his facts straight. It might help if he actually took the train from Paris to Bratislava. The roughly 13-hour trip would probably be enough to convince him that this so-called express corridor actually isn’t so express and that boring tunnels through the karst formations of the Swabian Alps mountain range for the Stuttgart-Ulm line is not about to make the connection significantly more attractive.

See map Paris to Bratislava

As Düsseldorf-based engineer Sven Andersen puts it, “Stuttgart 21 does nothing for long-distance travel.” Unlike Grube, Andersen has spent his entire career working in the railway industry, most recently as an expert on operational issues, and is considered one of the top experts on Germany’s railway system.

New Stuttgart station

As Andersen sees it, Stuttgart 21 and the related plan to built the Stuttgart-Ulm high-speed railway line are “a transportation-policy disaster.” Likewise, he adds, the project seems to be based on a complete misunderstanding of Stuttgart’s role in the German and European railway network. “Stuttgart is a destination,” he says. “It’s not a place people travel through to get someplace else. Converting the station into a through station won’t be an improvement on any significant route.” Indeed, all you have to do is look at a map to realize that Stuttgart is not a central location. All fast connections between key economic zones pass through other cities. For example, the Frankfurt-Zurich route runs far west of Stuttgart through Karlsruhe and Basel, while the Frankfurt-Munich route makes a wide arch through Würzburg and Nuremberg, far north and east of Stuttgart.

Full article:,1518,717575,00.html

Gold fever

September 15, 2010
Mojave Nugget, a gold nugget weighing 156 ounc...

Image via Wikipedia

The price of gold hit a record high on Tuesday, with analysts giving a number of reasons for its rise.

Gold generates no income. It costs to store and secure and insure. Yet the flight to gold continues. Gold only beats inflation. It fares poorly when compared to real estate or shares when compared on the basis of real inflation adjusted returns. Gold scores the highest in terms of liquidity, compared to all other investments. Gold can be converted to cash at any time. All gold investments have the same tax concern. Gold, being a commodity, is taxed as ordinary income even if  profit comes from buying a gold ETF. Between the costs of storage, premiums paid and taxes, returns from an investment in physical gold can be eroded quickly unless compensated by the gold price.

Gold price can be very volatile. Over the past three years, gold has seen an increase of 84% in value but has seen gains and losses of over 12% within the same quarter.

Indian households are estimated to hold over 16,000 tons of gold primarily as jewellery.

The BBC reports:

The price of gold hit a record high on Tuesday, with analysts giving a number of reasons for its rise. Both the price of the actual metal and the price for buying it at a future date rose more than 2% to $1,274.75 an ounce. It was the biggest one-day gain for the commodity in four months.

One of the factors spurring investors is gold’s traditional role as a so-called “safe-haven” investment at times of economic uncertainty. On the physical market, demand for both bullion and jewellery has risen ahead of the seasonal Indian wedding period and the Hindu religious festivals that begin in September.

Another driver is more technical – gold is priced in dollars, and any fall in the dollar makes it cheaper to buyers using other currencies. The dollar has fallen across a range of currencies, driven down by a range of factors. Its most remarked upon slide has been against the Japanese yen. It is trading at a 15-year low against that currency. The price of gold has risen 16% so far this year. The World Gold Council’s last report on the gold market predicted that continuing strong demand from jewellery buyers in the two fast-developing markets of India and China, would help keep the price high.

10 year gold price per ounce

Indian Minister: Indian IT companies have created 250,000 jobs in US

September 15, 2010
DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 27JAN10 - Anand Sharma, Min...

Image via Wikipedia

While it is clearly political positioning just before bilateral trade talks between the US and India to be held next week in India, the “global outsourcing” alarmism is not as one-sided as it is made out by opportunistic politicians.

In my own experience transfer of technology across countries within the same company is more likely to lead to an increase in jobs – but not the same jobs – in the country exporting technology.

The Times of India reports that:

Indian IT companies created 7,000 jobs in the US last month and 2.5 lakh (250,000) jobs over the last three years, commerce minister Anand Sharma has said, indicating that recent protectionist measures taken by the US such as hiking professional visa fees and clamping down on outsourcing could hamper such economic activities.

“In times of crisis, countries tend to look inwards but protection can be counter productive. This is the time to encourage global trade flows,” the minister said on Tuesday. The bilateral trade policy forum meeting scheduled next week to be chaired by Mr Sharma and US trade representative Ron Kirk will focus on both issues.

The minister is optimistic that the issues could be sorted out through discussions. “We remain optimistic about the whole scenario but responses need to be calibrated,” he said.

Read more: Indian IT cos created 7,000 jobs in US in Aug – The Times of India

Of course it was not so very long ago when US and EU trade officials were berating India, China and other developing countries about the sins of protectionism and closed markets. With the growth in India and China now leading the way out of recession it would be wiser to keep global trade flows open rather than to wave the protectionist flag.

Behaviour, law and ethics: A practical view

September 3, 2010
Le Penseur, Musée Rodin, Paris

Image via Wikipedia

Whether in scientific endeavour, the business world or in politics we see daily scandals where behaviour is considered lacking in integrity or in ethics. In recent days we have had the Hausergate scandal, the Commonwealth Games corruption scandals, the money-down-the-drain in Iraq scandals and the HP procurement scandal.

For clarity in my own mind I reason as follows:

My values lead to my behaviour.

Values are comparative standards or norms and they calibrate and motivate my behaviour but in themselves they have no inherent goodness or badness. My values are my behavioural standards. They allow me to make comparisons (faster, better, pleasing, irritating, bearable, acceptable, good, just, right ….).

Behaviour may be lawful or unlawful or ethical or unethical.

Laws are what the society I operate in, or wish to operate in, uses to define what is unacceptable behaviour. But lawful behaviour does not address whether it is ethical or unethical (though that may be implied). Where law is silent, behaviour is, by default, lawful but may still be either ethical or unethical.

My ethics tell me what behaviour is correct and desirable behaviour. This may or may not be consistent with the ethics of the society surrounding me which specifies what that society considers the right and proper and desirable behaviour. Ethical values and ethical behaviour thus represents a sub-set of all the values I may have and all the consequent behaviour they might lead to. Ethical behaviour is not necessarily lawful. Unlike the limits set by law, behaviour does not become ethical by default if ethics are silent. Behaviour which is not unethical is not therefore necessarily ethical.

Ethical values and moral values are almost synonymous. The only difference I can find is that what I consider ethical codes or values rely more on logic or a rationale and less on faith. And I take faith or belief to be that which exists in the space of the “unknown unknowns” where ” I don’t know what I don’t know”. Faith or belief then allows formulating the answer (and even the question) in the absence of evidence. But both ethical codes and moral codes specify  right and proper and desirable behaviour. Behaviour that is not unethical or immoral does not by default become ethical or moral.

In practice therefore;

  1. My values lead to my behaviour,
  2. Laws tell me what I ought not to do,
  3. Ethics tell me what I ought to do.

Many corporations and organisations and enterprises take the easy way out and adopt so-called ethical codes which are merely  a set of rules (codes of law). But this is merely relying on what not to do and is an abdication of the responsibility to come to a view on what is the right and proper thing to do. The right and proper behaviour must – I think – include a conscious choice from the various options available of what can be done and cannot be merely an exclusion of unacceptable or undesirable behaviour.

A child first accepts its parents view of what is right or wrong. As it grows it brings in and integrates what others consider right or wrong. Eventually a mature thinking individual develops his own views of what is right or wrong and integrates that with the views of the surrounding society. In this sense, most corporations and other organisations are still in their infancy and are content to rely only on what law excludes as being unacceptable. This in turn leads to a minimalist ethical code where anything which is not explicitly unlawful is perfectly OK.

Hence Enron and Satyam and Siemens and British Aerospace and …………

It is the having of an ethical code that matters.

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