BUSINESS: CEO and Chairman of the Board

A lot of discussion this year and last year about the mix of both functions: CEO and Chairman of the Board. Knowledge@Wharton published an interesting article in its last release (19 Mai – 1 June).

Interesting in the way that some people by Wharton think that there is no evidence the separation between the CEO’s and the Chairman of the Board’s position improves corporate performance. Actually, 377 companies of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index are still managed by only one person as CEO and chairperson.

Michael Useem
Many people would believe that, if nothing else, you diffuse power to some extent and decrease the probability of a scandal by separating the chairperson and CEO positions. But that doesn’t mean you will have great business results.

On average, it’s neither here nor there in terms of financial performance if a company separates those roles. But when companies are distressed, the market looks for a separation of those two roles as a sign of good governance or certainly a commitment to restore lost luster and the earnings that go with that.

Whenever you have a company where the founder is still in the company, like Siebel, he may have given up the CEO title, but don’t kid yourself, he’s still running the place. That’s a split in name only because his personality is such that he is unlikely to stay out of it. It’s similar to Microsoft. Gates and Ballmer split roles, but they had been a team for a long time and they’re still a team. The split changed responsibilities, but Gates still plays a day-to-day role, especially in product development.

WEEK-END: in the country

I was today with my family in the country. As usual, a very restful and “fresh-your-mind” moment :-) Nice “meetings” with some cows (they always give the impression not to be very clever), a donkey (they are definitely smart) and two trees lost in the middle of a field.

Week-end

Week-end

Week-end

BLOG: site migration almost finished

So, after having invested some hours in my hosting migration, I am almost finished :-)

I must say, I was completely unprepared for this move, let me sumarize the steps. Could be useful for some of you ;-)

Choice of a new web-hosting provider

My site and weblog were hosted before by free.fr, which is, as indicated in the name, a free hosting provider, linked, logically, with limited possibilities. I decided to move to OVH, a quite well-known web-site hosting provider in France. The solution I choose is the 240GP PLAN. This package costs 65& euro; (incl. VAT) per year for the following characteristics:

  • shared hosting
  • operating system: Linux
  • guaranteed availibility: 24×7, 99.9%
  • OVH’s bandwidth: 1 GB
  • disk space: 240 MB
  • unlimited traffic (data volume)
  • maximum number of daily hits: 45 000
  • Perl, C, Python and PHP (v4.3.6) supported
  • private FTP access
  • statistics: access to the raw web logs, Urchin
  • POP/IMAP accounts (25 MB per account and 10 MB per email limit): 8 Emails
  • webmail access
  • SMTP server
  • MySQL database: 1
  • maximum number of simultaneous connections: 3
  • unlimited disk space for SQL data
  • disk space occupied by the MySQL bases, POP/IMAP accounts and logs files is not counted in the quota of disk space allocated
  • domain names not included

The transfert process

I decided to move the entire web site “as-it-is”, with exactly the same structure. So, with a FTP transfert and the new definition in the DNS (duration of the propagation: about 24 hours in my case), I was mainly done (with few changes in some URLs).

I had then to change quite a lot of options in blogger. The FTP directory changes were specially annoying….

Google & Page Ranking, search engines

After having searched information for such kind of transfer case (no domain change, hosting/DNS move, same web-site structure), I opted for redirections commands in the .htaccess file by free.fr. Free.fr allows very limited possibilities (no URL rewriting) in this field. The .htaccess file looks like:

redirect 301 /home.htm http://www.didierbeck.com/home.htm

redirect 301 /index.html http://www.didierbeck.com/index.html

redirect 301 /about_me.htm http://www.didierbeck.com/about_me.htm

…..

The “301” code tells the search engine (as the browsers ;-) that the requested resource has been permanently moved.

“The requested resource has been assigned a new permanent URI and any future references to this resource SHOULD use one of the returned URIs.”

Generally speaking, URL-rewriting is ok, as redirection in the .htaccess file or in a PHP header. As usual, javascript and META tag should be avoided!

Let’s see in a few weeks if this method actually worked efficiently :-)

BUSINESS: Corporate Entrepreneurship (14) – Jim Collins’ thoughts part VI a

After the “Level 5 Leader“, “First who, then what“, “The Hedgehog concept” and the “Confront the brutal facts” concepts, let’s have a look at the way how to build a company’s vision.

Do you know what is core and what not?

The fundamental distingushing dynamic of enduring great companies is that they preserve a cherished core ideology while simultaneously stimulating progress and change in everything that is not part of the core ideology.

The most enduring and successful corporations distinguish their timeless core values and enduring core purpose (which should never change) from their operating practices and business strategies (which should be changing constantly in response to a changing world).



What is your vision?

A well conceived vision consists of two major components – core ideology and an envisioned future. Notice the direct parallel to the fundamental “preserve the core/stimulate progress” dynamic. A good vision builds on the interplay between these two complementary Yin-and-Yang forces; it defines:

“what we stand for and why we exist”

that does not change (the core ideology) and sets forth

“what we aspire to become, to achieve, to create”

that will require significant change and progress to attain (the envisioned future).

BUSINESS: Corporate Entrepreneurship (13) – Jim Collins’ thoughts part V

So, we already talked about the three Jim Collins’ concepts:

  • Level 5 Leader
  • First who, then what
  • The Hedgehog concept

It is now time to have a look at confronting the brutal facts of reality…

In confronting the brutal facts, the good-to-great companies left themselves stronger and more resilient, not weaker and more dispirited. There is a sense of exhilaration that comes in facing head-on the hard truths and saying. “ We will never give up. We will never capitulate. It might take a long time, but we will find a way to prevail”. On the one hand, they stoically accepted the brutal facts of reality. On the other hand, they maintained an unwavering faith in the endgame, and a commitment to prevail as a great company despite the brutal facts. We came to call this duality the Stockdale Paradox.

Who is Mr. Jim Stockdale?

[This] name refers to Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was the highest ranking United States military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner-of-war camp during the height of the Vietnam War. Tortured over 20 times during his eight-year imprisonment from 1965 to 1973, Stockdale lived out the war without any prisoner’s rights, no set release date, and no certainty as to whether he would even survive to see his family again. He shouldered the burden of command, doing everything he could to create conditions that would increase the number of prisoners who would survive unbroken, while fighting an internal war against his captors and their attempts to use the prisoners for propaganda.

An extract of an interview from Jim Collins of Jim Stockdale:

Mr. Stockdale

“I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Mr. Collins

“Who didn’t make it out?”

Mr. Stockdale

“Oh, that’s easy, the optimists.

This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

The moment a leader allows himself to become the primary reality people worry about, rather than reality being the primary reality, you have a recipe for mediocrity, or worse. A short story about Winston Churchill could help to illustrate this point:

Winston Churchill understood the liabilities of his strong personality, and he compensated for them beautifully during the Second World War. Churchill, as you know, maintained a bold and unwavering vision that Britain would not just survive, but prevail as a great nation. […] Armed with this bold vision, Churchill never failed, however, to confront the most brutal facts. He feared that his towering, charismatic personality might deter bad news from reaching him in its starkest form. So, early in the war, he created an entirely separate department outside the normal chain of command, called the Statistical Office, with the principal function of feeding him—continuously updated and completely unfiltered—the most brutal facts of reality. He relied heavily on this special unit throughout the war, repeatedly asking for facts, just the facts. As the Nazi panzers swept across Europe, Churchill went to bed and slept soundly: “I…had no need for cheering dreams,” he wrote.

“Facts are better than dreams.”

NEWS: Extension Google Deskbar planned

Since a couple of weeks, I posted a short article about the Google deskbar, which I am using quite intensively. This Windows tool allows to search the Internet without opening a Web browser. It integrates a small search bar within the Windows toolbar (it can be also used as a line calculator). The results are showed in a small window near the toolbar.

A recent article in New York Times said that Google could launch a new version of the Deskbar which will allow to search files locally on the HD’s (as a kind of Windows “search”). The ability to search local files would be a logical addition to this existing Google Deskbar. Microsoft plans to integrate this type of functionality in Longhorn (launch in 2006).

NEWS: Fahrenheit 9/11 has won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Festival

Incredible…Michael Moore’s controversial anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 has won the prestigious Palme d’Or best film award at the Cannes festival!

Tarantino said when he was on stage with Moore on Saturday night to present the award, he told the director politics had nothing to do with the choice. “I just whispered in his ear and said, ‘I just want you to know it was not because of the politics that you won this award, you won it because we thought it was the best film that we saw.'”

Umh….ok ok :-)