Signs of Intelligent Life in the Corner Office

The New York Times ‘Corner Office’ interview on January 16 was with Cristóbal Conde, the CEO of the Fortune 500 IT services company SunGard. I found it fascinating for two reasons. First, Conde spends the first portion of the article talking about Enterprise 2.0, and about how and why he’s tried to increase the amount of freeform and emergent collaboration at his company. Below are a few of his quotes on the topic, followed by links to related posts from this blog.

Second, I liked hearing what he had to say on other topics as well. The final three quotes below aren’t directly related to E2.0; I just wanted to include them because I think they’re really sharp.

  • Organizational Structure. “I think top-down organizations got started because the bosses either knew more or they had access to more information. None of that applies now. Everybody has access to identical amounts of information.” -I wrote about this in “The Great Decoupling
  • Fostering Collaboration. “a C.E.O. needs to focus more on the platform that enables collaboration… You have to work on the structure of collaboration. How do people get recognized? How do you establish a meritocracy in a highly dispersed environment?” – see this 3-post sequence on Enterprise 2.0 ratings for knowledge workers.
  • Peer Effects. “The answer is to allow employees to develop a name for themselves that is irrespective of their organizational ranking or where they sit in the org chart… recognition from their peers is, I think, an extremely strong motivating factor… By creating an atmosphere of collaboration, the people who are consistently right get a huge following, and their work product is talked about by people they’ve never met. It’s fascinating.” – “Three Mantras
  • The Utility of Microblogging. “One thing we use is a Twitter-like system on our intranet called Yammer… because of my title I get to see more senior people. And so then they’ll tell me things — you know, what are their biggest problems, what are their biggest issues, what are their biggest bets. All this information is incredibly valuable. Now, what could I do with that? I’m not going to send that out in a broadcast voice mail to every employee. I’m not even going to write a long e-mail about it to every employee, because even that is almost too formal. But I can write five lines on Yammer, which is about all it takes.” – I wrote about microblogging’s attributes and many uses in  “17 Things We Used to Do.”
  • How Command-and-Control Breaks Down. “Early on, I was very command-and-control, very top-down. I felt I was smart, and that my decisions would be better. I was young, and I was willing to work 20 hours a day… The last year I did that, I was away from home 302 nights, not including day trips. I had to fly around all over the place making all the decisions. And I would walk in, make an uninformed decision, get on the next plane, go somewhere else and repeat the process. I look back at that year; I don’t think I got anything done.” – I particularly like Conde’s insight that he was making uninformed decisions when he was working in this mode.
  • Micromanagement. “If you start micromanaging people, then the very best ones leave. If the very best people leave, then the people you’ve got left actually require more micromanagement… Pretty soon, you’re running a police state. So micromanagement doesn’t scale because it spirals down. [T]he trick is to get truly world-class people working directly for you so you don’t have to spend a lot of time managing them. I think there’s very little value I can add to my direct reports. So I try to spend time with people two and three levels below because I think I can add value to them.” – Lovely. His job is to develop people, not meddle or second-guess. And he concentrates his efforts a bit lower down in the organization.
  • The Importance of Writing Ability.”English is my second language, and I write reasonably well. I don’t see very much excuse for people not to be able to write well. I just don’t.” – I can’t tell you how happy I was to read this

What else did you like about the Conde Interview? Was there anything he said you didn’t like? And what other excellent executive interviews have you come across recently?  Leave a comment, please, and let us know.