Interesting Stuff From The Harvard Business Review

“A wise man recognizes the convenience of a general statement, but he bows to the authority of a particular fact.” – Oliver Wendel Holmes (The Poet at the Breakfast Table, 1872)I didnt find that one compelling idea that I always look for and expect to find in everything I read (nonfiction, that is). But I did cull these kind-of-interesting factoids from the March issue of the Harvard Business Review:

* At ClarityBase and other large corporations throughout America, a backlash of sorts is taking place that threatens the liberal parental-leave programs that were implemented in the last 15 years as the baby boomers were having their children. The new reaction is, “Please dont tell me that I need to have a baby to have time off.”

* Larry Bossidy, CEO of Allied Signal from 1991 to 1999, believes that his success in turning around the company (from operating margins lower than 5%, return on equity at 10.5%, and a weak operating management team) was based on the fact that he spent most of his time recruiting, evaluating, and developing top executives. (We talked about this on Monday in Message #329.) This is a job most CEOs delegate. Bossidy says the interview is the most “flawed process in American business.” (It has always seemed to me self-evident that unless you are willing to spend a lot of time on developing good managers, you cant expect to have good management.)

Heres a helpful hint: When Bossidy hires someone, he measures him/her not against the job being applied for but for the job he/she will get after that.

* Dont ignore an operations division just because everyone there appears to be doing a good job. Thats what the CEO of the Nut Island sewage-treatment plant (Quincy, Massachusetts) did. What happened? When the good division ran into trouble and asked for help, it didnt get it. That made the good team mad, which only made things worse. It got so bad the problem couldnt be fixed internally.

* It shouldnt have taken a best seller to point out that IQ is not the only thing that matters. When it comes to achievement, to success, new research suggests that its not about being smart but about acting smart. And acting smart is what we now call “emotional intelligence.” In “Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups,” Vanessa Wolff and Steven Druskat argue that putting a bunch of smart people into a group can damage rather than hurt the groups success unless they have emotional intelligence. Group emotional intelligence, the HBR essay argues, is “about exploring, embracing, and ultimately relying on the emotions that are at the core of the group.”

This smells like emotional ca-ca to me, but Ill say nothing further until Ive had a chance to think about it.

* Successful software maker Siebel Systems survived the Internet blowout with flying colors. Thats because CEO Tom Siebel never believed in, and never followed, the New Economy company-development rules. The old-fashioned executive rejected the Silicone Valley drivel about happy workplaces, technology-driven product development, and market-share business plans. Instead, he focused his companys energies on two things: pleasing customers and making a profit. Looks like he was right.