Slower but sure

11 January 2012
No new year’s resolutions for me again this year. How can you improve the unimprovable? I’m joking of course, but there is a more serious point here. As we all know, those seemingly earnest commitments we make in the first week of January do tend to unravel by... well, by the third week of January. The truth about making major changes, whether personally or at the corporate level, is that they cannot just be wished for in a moment. They take time and sustained effort. It is also often counter-productive to aim for what are sometimes called ‘big hairy audacious goals’ (or BHAGS). The goal may be worthy, even inspiring, but also so vast as to be daunting. Smaller, quicker wins might be a more reliable target if you want to change things. It is very hard to come in on a Monday morning and declare that from now on I am going to be a model of efficiency, better organised, and so on. This is where the idea of continuous improvement comes in. Just trying to be a little bit better all the time is a far more practical and human way of proceeding. It’s how Japanese business grew from its humble post-war state to a position of world dominance. Sure, new competitors have arrived to challenge Japan and improvements in their industries may have slowed or gone off course a little. But the major transformation in that country, between 1945 and 1990, say, was achieved one step at a time, and 
not overnight. And so, in that sense, it is still a 
good role model this new year. Rupert Murdoch embraces Twitter Bosses are always being urged to become better communicators, but we all got a shock this new year when the name @rupertmurdoch started appearing in Twitter timelines. In Mr Murdoch’s case, you can understand why he might want to win a bit of easy publicity by launching himself into a fashionable medium. As a media player under severe pressure, showing that he can handle the hottest format of the moment makes him look like a business leader with his finger on the technological pulse. But once you start this sort of conversation with the outside world it can be hard to stop. Suddenly colleagues and others will look to you to keep up a steady flow of news, comment and revelation. One doubts, somehow, that this is really Mr Murdoch’s preferred way of operating. New, ‘social’ media formats are certainly changing the way we live and work. It is natural that bosses should try to master some of them. But beware the boss who pretends, if only briefly, to have a human side. On the whole, 
if you are working for a tough nut you’d probably rather hear as little as possible from him or her. ☛ Stefan Stern is director of strategy at PR firm Edelman and visiting professor of practice at Cass Business School
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