Tag Archives: News International

Chipping Norton Net

David Cameron must be feeling a bit uncomfortable with the thought of his friend Rebekah with friend and former employee Andy Coulson facing the prospect of prison.

Needless to say, both of their initial reactions are of the “I’m totally innocent or I’ve been fitted-up” variety.

Otherwise, there’ll be yet another soap-on-a-rope in the post.

All Coppers (and Rebekah) are NOT Bastards!

Delegation is very topical at the moment because it looks as if we’re in for a few weeks of  various News of the World-related individuals indulging in that most British of blood sports of “throwing oneself on one’s sword”.  As you can see from its name, it is an ancient ritual which the traditionally-minded British have not yet been able to shake off.

The misguided premis is that the “honourable” thing to do is to commit symbolic Seppuku as a gesture to appease.  It is neither honourable, practical nor does it appease. It is an “empty” gesture. From a practical point of view, it also means that when a high-level manager or director commits professional suicide through the medium of  “the resignation”, he has to be replaced – usually by a second or third-choice inferior being.

One of the more important components of the ritual is The Letter – which bizzarely (but traditionally)  expresses  “thanks and support” and usually alludes to a “rewarding experience”.

It is, of course all ritualistic nonsense and what we are SUPPOSED to do when these letters are put into the public domain (which they ALWAYS are) is to “nudge-nudge…wink-wink” and “read between the lines” and wonder “was he pushed or did he jump?”

So what causes this organisational equivalent of self-immolation?  There are only THREE   reasons for professional suicide or corporate sacrifice. The first is an indiscretion, the second is being caught with one’s fingers in the till (stealing, taking backhanders etc) and the final one is bad delegation and a lack of management skills.

The News of the World fiasco clearly demonstrated all of the above.

Rebekah Brooks was thrown on the pyre because she had been promoted to above her level of incompetence and she did not understand that when she delegated, she should have managed. Although she had delegated responsibility, the accountability remained her property. That meant that as soon as one of her underlings screwed-up, her head would be alongside theirs on the block. What is known as a “laissez-faire” style of management carries great risks.

Instead of delegating, Rebekkah had abdicated her responsibility. That means that she simply gave it away and allowed the system or process of news-gathering to be managed by others or, worst of all, she allowed processes to continue without management.

She, in common with others, claimed that she had no idea of what had been going on.  She was either lying or (more likely), she was an incompetent non-leader.

It is most likely that Rebekah Brooks’ sin was not naughtiness – just incompetence. She was too busy schmoozing to notice what was going on. When she did find out – it was too late.

The corporate position in which she found herself was not an unusual one. Many people are promoted because they are perceived as being good at a totally unrelated job to the one into which they are promoted. A great reporter may NOT be a good Editor and a great Editor may be a lousy corporate executive. All three jobs require different sets of skills.

If that was the case, then the fault rests entirely with Murdoch for giving her a rank which she was not ready for.

The other type of manager or director who tends not to know what is going on is the tyrant – the one who rules by fear. That type of manager creates such a culture of suspicion and mistrust that he or she is only ever given the good news. Consequently they are often completely oblivious to anything even vaguely irregular.

That highlights yet another issue which is extremely common. Companies hand out senior positions as a “rank” and not as a job function. Once again, if Murdoch had perceived Rebekah as having done a good job as Editor, he may have viewed her promotion  to CEO as a reward –  the corporate equivalent of a Damehood. That was his mistake.

The Poisoned Chalice of Metropolitan Commissioner is also about to change hands after the “resignation ” of the present incumbent.

Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation statement last night suggested that he was pushed onto his sword. His sin was the comparatively innocent one of someone under him hiring an ex-News of the World assistant editor plus not paying for a  stay at a health farm.

Sir Paul was NOT an incompetent manager. As an undoubted asset to the Metropolitan Police, he should have been assured that no matter what, his position was safe and that he had not only the support of the Prime Minister but that of the increasingly arrogant and out-of-control Mayor of London. But as they say, you cannot satisfy all the Buller boys all of the time.

His resignation has highlighted the management incompetence of the Mayor of London and to a lesser extent, that of the Prime Minister. The Mayor of London has appeared to be in need of a puppet Metropolitan Commissioner for some time now and finally, he will have his wish. That will dilute police management even further.

We need an independent police force and not one which is in the pocket of a “here-today-gone-tomorrow” tinpot dictator.

What of the Prime Minister’s sins in hiring Andy Coulson? A lack of diligence and an over-keenness to please News International when it decided  to call-in the favour of having become a Conservative Party supporter .

From the MPs’ expenses fiasco to the current News International shenanigans – the root cause of the lack of continuity in public (and media) life has a very straightforward root cause  – an alarming shortage of people with appropriate management and organisational skills.

Finally, if we carry on trashing the careers of our best  senior people, we are in severe danger of gradually dissuading “the best”  from even considering high office.

That is already becoming evident in the standard of the last three parliamentary intakes.

Murdoch, Fox and 9/11

Up to now, we, the British public have had our share of fun and entertainment at News International’s expense. However, the whole circus is about to move into a new and darker phase. The only brief piece of theatre (or should I say “farce”) will be the performance of the  Parliamentary Culture, Media and Sport Committee as it attempts to bamboozle the Murdochs into incriminating themselves. Or even better-still, to self-flagellate in front of the British population. I have news for them – it ain’t going to happen.

Not one of the Committee has any “big company” experience. Therefore there is a definite danger that they will not understand that in spite of the fact Rupert Murdoch   ostensibly runs the whole corporation, he probably was NOT aware of the fact that certain rodent reporters were behaving illegally. In the same way that a Prime Minister would not be expected to know that certain MPs were submitting expenses claims for duck houses and batteries for their wind-up torches.

Murdoch sits at the very pinnacle of a very large corporate pyramid which employs tens of thousands of people. Consequently, his only contact with the “shop-floor” is via several layers of management. That means that the information which he is fed is extremely selective. Plus, if any part of an organisation is performing “to-plan” or even exceeding targets, the questions asked by management tend to be of the gentler variety. Possible naughtiness is rarely on the agenda.

Directors and very often CEOs do NOT micro-manage; their focus is NOT on the day-to-day running of a department . They look towards the horizon. The weekly focus is provided by the supervisors, the monthly focus by the managers, the quarterly view by  senior managers and so on, up the pyramid. The Directors tend to devote themselves to the long-term strategic stuff.

Just like Army Generals, they have no idea that Private X screwed Private Y or that Private Z ran out of bullets.

A few years ago, I chaired a Citibank meeting and took to the stage with the UK board. I was the question-master and referee. Prior to this momentous and unique staff meeting, I had asked employees to let me have written questions well before the event  because I have always believed in a “no-surprises”  management culture.

The meeting progressed very well as I  invited ready-primed, chosen  members of staff to ask their pre-submitted questions. That enabled board members to demonstrate their “I can think on my feet” abilities, without the staff necessarily suspecting that it had all been well-rehearsed.

The meeting went so smoothly that we finished ten minutes early. The Chairman , who was sitting next to me turned to me and whispered,  “As we have some time, why don’t we take a few random questions from the floor?” I whispered back, “Mr Chairman – I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’m sure that they’ll all appreciate leaving the meeting a few minutes early.”

“Nonsense!” bellowed the Chairman. He stood up, grabbed the microphone and announced to the assembled staff “We have a few minutes…so…. are there any further  questions on maybe a few things which we have NOT covered? … Anything at all?” I could see a hand shoot up at the back of the hall.

“Fuck!” I thought.

Harry was a 65 year-old post boy who thought that management was “the enemy”. His moment had come. His 15 minutes! The Chairman had no idea who this person was. He pointed towards a smiling Harry.

I could see Harry pull out what appeared to be a ream of folded A4 from his inside jacket pocket.

“Mr Chairman. Are you aware that there are no bandages in the 5th floor First Aid box and that is contrary to……..” Harry went on an on…and on…., clearly demonstrating that this oversight by “the management” was yet another clear manifestation of the management’s and indeed the directors’ total lack of care or respect towards the staff. Harry was an ex-union man and made a very impressive speech which all but destroyed all of the goodwill which we had created in the previous 90 minutes.

When Harry had finally exhausted himself and had sat down to tumultuous applause, the Chairman turned to be and said: “Why the bloody hell was I not briefed on this?”

Chairmen have NO IDEA of what goes on within a business. They are interested in RoI, RoE, 5 year forecasts, cash-flows, share price etc. They don’t know or even give a shit about day-to-day operations.

That makes me suspect that Murdoch will be asked questions that he genuinely will not have the answers to. That is because his interrogators have neither the background nor the “feel” to understand exactly what goes on within a huge organisation such as NewsCorp.

Here in the UK, after more corporate obfuscation, a tsunami or PR, several newly-created lawyer millionaires and an inquiry, Murdoch will be rehabilitated, some of his ex-management team will be banged-up and by 2020, life will return to normal. THAT is how we do things.

The United States – that’s another matter. They have a darker tinge to the way that they operate.

Over here, the politicians have rolled out the Dowler family, Gordon Brown has made his assault on recent history and a few celebs have been upset. Nothing that a few quid, a bit of political sincero-talk and a good old-fashioned grovel from Murdoch won’t sort-out. Even Max Clifford should score a few grand.

In the States, it looks as if certain NewsCorp  journalists tapped and hacked the phones belonging to family members of 9/11 victims. That was a VERY bad sin! “Distraught” relatives of the dead are making public statements with accusing fingers already pointed at Fox News.

Anyone in America who lost a relative on 9/11 has a special exalted status – that of a latter-day martyr-saint-by-association. You cannot and should not mess with those people.

If Fox News – that video-comic of the American Right is shown to have abused this precious sainted group, it will lose its broadcast licences. THAT’s how serious life may become for the Murdoch Dynasty.

So at worst, next week’s questioning by Tom Watson MP and the Gang will be a mild entertainment – not just for us but for the Murdochs too!

Compared to what could be awaiting them in the States, this will be a walk in the park.

p.s. Rebekah Brooks has gone. In spite of the Murdochs wishing to retain her services and possibly persuade her to “take the bullet”, we have to remember that although Murdoch claimed that she was “one 0f the family”, she never was and never could have been. She was the hired help and as such, she was and remains expendable.