The delight is in the detail 快乐在于细节
2020.10


An excellent guide to leadership by Honeywell’s ex-boss
霍尼韦尔的前老板给出的一份出色的领导力指南 

 

The delight is in the detail 快乐在于细节  - 经济学人


THE MEMOIRS of chief executives can be exercises in pompous self-justification or, just as bad, in grandiose philosophising about social and political trends. Occasionally, however, a corporate titan writes a book that is both readable and a practical guide for managers hoping to follow in their footsteps. David Cote, the former CEO of Honeywell, an industrial conglomerate, has produced an excellent effort with “Winning Now, Winning Later”.
首席执行官写出的回忆录可能会是言辞浮夸的自我辩白,或是关于社会和政治趋势宏大却空洞的高谈阔论,反正都一样糟糕。不过偶尔也会有那么一位企业巨子写下一本既有可读性、又能给后来者以实际指导的书。工业企业集团霍尼韦尔的前首席执行官高德威(David Cote)的《赢在当下,赢在未来》(Winning Now, Winning Later)就是这样一份卓越的成果。
It is true that Mr Cote occasionally comes across as a bit of a martinet. When a team failed to come up with suggestions to cut costs, he ordered them to cancel all other meetings and keep talking until they produced the results. And his juniors were clearly kept on their toes; he was also very much a hands-on manager. “The idea that as a leader you can focus on strategy and delegate its implementation to great people is a fallacy,” he writes. But his approach paid off and the book is a detailed guide to the tricky task of managing a big business.
的确,高德威偶尔会让人觉得太过一板一眼。当一个团队没能就削减成本给出建议时,他命令他们取消所有其他会议,继续讨论,直到得出结果。他的下级显然丝毫不能松懈,因为他同时也是一个亲身下场的管理者。“有人认为领导者可以专注于战略,把战略的实施交给能人,这是错误的。”他写道。但他的方法得到了回报,而这本书就是管理一家大企业这项棘手任务的一份详尽指南。
To give one small example, plenty of executives talk about encouraging greater diversity in the workforce, but little gets done. Mr Cote was fed up with junior managers declaring that they could not find suitable candidates in their area. So he had his team break down the population statistics in places where his factories were located to demonstrate that there should be many opportunities to hire workers from different backgrounds. Diversity duly improved.
举一个小例子,许多高管都大谈要促进员工队伍多元化,但鲜少做到。底层主管声称在自己所在的地区找不到合适的候选人,高德威受够了这样的托词,于是让团队列明工厂所在地的人口统计数据,以证明应该有很多机会雇用来自不同背景的人。多元化由此得到改善。
The author’s broader aim is illustrated by his subtitle: “How Companies Can Win in the Short Term, While Investing for the Long Term”. He thinks the idea that corporate leaders have no choice but to embrace short-termism in the face of pressure from investors is “one of the most pernicious beliefs circulating in business today”.
作者更广泛的目标展示在副标题中:“企业如何能在短期制胜,同时为长期投资”。他指出,认为企业领导人面对投资者的施压别无选择,而只能积极接受短期主义的看法是“现如今流传于商界的最有害的观念之一”。
When Mr Cote took over at Honeywell in February 2002, he says the company was “a train wreck and on the verge of failure”. Remarkably, the board and outgoing boss refused him any access to the company’s financials until July 2002, when he also became chairman. What he eventually found was that the group had pursued short-term profits through aggressive accounting practices. During the previous decade, for every dollar in earnings Honeywell generated only 69 cents in cash.
高德威2002年2月接管霍尼韦尔时说,这家公司“一团糟,濒临破产”。值得注意的是,董事会和即将离任的老板拒绝让他查看公司账目,直到当年7月他兼任了董事长。最终他发现,集团通过激进的会计操作追求短期利润。在之前的十年里,霍尼韦尔每赚一美元,只能产生69美分的现金。
He changed the accounting approach, put a greater focus on investment and aimed to expand the business while keeping fixed costs constant. Some of the biggest problems he faced were legacies of the previous regime. For example, former managers had sold a company for $60m but agreed to be liable for meeting asbestos claims in perpetuity. By the early 2000s, the asbestos liability was $1bn. He tried to deal with all such legal claims as quickly as possible. “It’s probably going to be cheaper for your organisation to resolve your legacy issues now than it will be a decade from now, when the harm will have mounted even more,” he writes.
他改变了会计方法,更加注重投资,并力求在扩大业务的同时保持固定成本不变。他面临的一些最大的难题是之前的管理层遗留下来的。例如,前主管们以6000万美元的价格卖掉了一家公司,但同意永久承担石棉损害索赔的责任。到本世纪初,这类索赔造成的财务负担已经达到了10亿美元。他试图尽快处理所有这些索赔诉讼。他写道:“对你的组织来说,现在解决遗留问题可能比留待十年后再解决的成本更低,因为到那时损害已经发展到了更严重的地步。”
When it came to improving the business, Mr Cote spent a lot of time focusing on Honeywell’s processes. Collectively, these changes were known as the Honeywell Operating System and they included such steps as reducing the use of toxic cleaning chemicals, which cut costs, shortened production time and improved worker safety. Reforming a business is a never-ending task. “Over time all organised systems evolve towards chaos,” he writes. “Unless you pursue change relentlessly, your efforts will eventually wither away.”
在改善业务方面,高德威花了大量时间梳理霍尼韦尔的流程。这些改变被统称为霍尼韦尔运营系统(Honeywell Operating System),涉及多种举措,包括减少有毒清洁用品的使用。它们降低了成本,缩短了生产时间,提高了员工安全度。改革一家企业是一项永无止境的任务。“久而久之,所有组织起来的系统都会朝着混乱的方向发展,”他写道,“除非你不懈地追求改变,否则终将白费心血。”
Over time, all this made a difference. The company increased investment in research and development from 3.3% of sales in 2003 to 5.5% in 2016, and its operating margins rose from 8% in 2003 to about 16% in 2018. Investors were impressed. Honeywell’s market value rose from $20bn when he took over to $120bn when he left in 2018, with returns easily beating the S&P 500 index.
随着时间的推移,这一切带来了变化。霍尼韦尔的研发投入占销售额的比例从2003年的3.3%增加到2016年的5.5%,营业利润率从2003年的8%上升到2018年的16%左右。这愈发打动了投资者。高德威刚接手时公司市值为200亿美元,到2018年他离任时已升至1200亿美元,回报率轻松超过标普500指数。
One suspects Mr Cote’s focus on detail was more important for the company’s success than some of the more standard corporate pronouncements he reveals. Honeywell developed five “initiatives” and 12 “behaviours”, which seems way too many for an employee to keep track.
笔者怀疑,相比高德威披露的某些更标准化的公司纲领,他对细节的注重对于这家公司的成功更加重要。霍尼韦尔制定了五项“行动方针”和12条“基本行为”,这看起来也太多了,员工应该很难悉数跟进。
And despite his best efforts, he does not quite solve the dilemma expressed in his subtitle. At one point, he admits that “Pursuing both short- and long-term performance requires a period of upfront investment during which performance might lag for a little while.” In other words, even an able manager like Mr Cote needs a bit of luck, and patience on the part of directors and shareholders, to turn a company around.
而尽管高德威尽了最大努力,他并没能完全解决他在副标题中描述的那个两难困境。在书中某处,他承认,“同时追求短期和长期业绩需要一段时间的前期投入,在此期间业绩可能会稍微滞后一段时间。”换句话说,要扭转一家公司的局面,就连高德威这样能干的管理者也需要一点运气,以及董事和股东的耐心。