Robert Heller

74 articles
14 Apr 2011

Transforming management theories

Management theories are all very well, but how many managers have been directly influenced by some 'big idea' in their day-to-day work? In reality, business is not driven by smart ideas, but by deeds – clever, foolish and neutral.
04 Mar 2011

Management styles in the new economy

New kinds of company require new kinds of management. Yet most old-economy managers make mediocre managers in the new economy because they have forgotten (if they ever knew) the entrepreneurial basics.
13 Jan 2011

Going for growth

It's taken for granted in organisations that growth is good and non-growth is bad. But why? Surely being growthless but not seriously declining, secure and seriously profitable, is highly agreeable?
09 Dec 2010

Planning for the future

Most managers live in the past. They are so concerned with what they already have, by their 'legacy' business and 'legacy' systems, that they resist even unavoidable change and obvious trends.

Robert Heller is Britain's most renowned and best-selling author on business management. Author of more than 50 books, he was the founding editor of Management Today and the Global Future Forum. About his latest title, The Fusion Manager, Sir John Harvey-Jones wrote: "The future lies with the thinking manager, and the thinking manager must read this book".

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Customer strategy and the art of listening

The mantra that 'the customer is King' is mouthed by senior managers in every industry. True in theory, it is an ignoble lie in most companies, because executives prefer their ivory towers to the store floor.

Leadership and accountability: the CEO's burden

CEOs are hardly ever given, or asked to provide, a list of criteria by which they can expect to be judged. But common objectives and criteria, while generally unspoken, do exist for all CEOs in all businesses.

Why managers must embrace entrepreneurship

Focus, flatness and decisiveness are the keys to entrepreneurial success. These same entrepreneurial basics are also the keys to survival in this era of spectacular uncertainty.

Recurring management failure

In the 1960s, my first book looked at managers who did the wrong thing for the right, the wrong, or no reason at all - yet still managed to keep their overpaid jobs. In the intervening decades, nothing has changed.

Strategy must not depend on denial

Avoiding painful facts is effective as far as it goes. It saves face, hides shame and sweeps crazy errors under the carpet. But that protection doesn't go very far. As Wall Street is finding out, reality is the cure for self-delusion.

How the web revolutionised business models

The Internet has radically altered the business models of the past. There was a time when critics viewed Amazon with scepticism, pointing to the firm's failure to make money. However, what they completely missed was the financial significance of Amazon's business model.

What can we learn from the Toyota debacle?

Toyota's problems are not just a Japanese incident, but rather a blow to good management, and a sign that management in general is failing to deliver.

How capitalism was tested beyond its limits

Capitalism has been tested beyond its limits by completely false and inherently risky assumptions. Globalisation transpired to be a trap and a delusion. What looked like a dead cert for the world economy became a sure nightmare.

Why was the wisdom of Peter Drucker ignored?

The late Peter Drucker was the greatest management thinker of our times. Yet as the recent and current chaos shows, his wisdom went either unheeded as the wrong goals were attacked by the wrong managers. And what a tragedy that has proved to be.

Management skills the Buffett way

Warren Buffett's once-obscure business, Berkshire Hathaway, is a strong candidate for the prize of World's Best Company. That means Buffett is a front-runner for World's Best Manager. So what is his secret - and why does Buffett have so few imitators?

Management consultants and the scientific approach

The Great Crunch has revealed the limitations of scientific management and the dangers of focussing too much on abstract strategy at the expense of what is going on now.

The Five Drivers model shows the way forward

The Great Crunch has shown that the cult of the CEO, hierarchical management structures and an obsession with short-term results are all inimical to efforts to achieve superior results. What we need are entirely new management drivers.

Government management and the one-way road to failure

Failures in government are usually precipitated by politicians themselves. They tend to be ignorant of management, which is excusable; but they act as if they are informed, which can't be excused.

Corporate culture and the new economics

Reward for decision-makers has always been determined by vested interest. It obviously suits the men and women themselves to be paid enormous sums, irrespective of any rationale. But what can we do about it?

Business management myths, truths and consequences

Many people in senior business positions are great believers. They hold to a whole raft of ideas about success, markets, what motivates people, the nature of innovation, and so on. And what almost all these have in common is that they are completely wrong.

Business strategy: the lessons of the 'big ideas'

The current decade's big idea in business strategy is 'open innovation'. Enlightened companies are actively seeking innovatory ideas wherever they can be found.

Management innovation: the next big breakthrough?

Almost every car on the planet will eventually be electrified. But new types of car will require new styles of manager, too. So are there any Americans out there who can rise to the challenge?

Surviving the downturn and forging ahead

The great economic disaster rumbles on, but the 21st century economy will continue to thrive and grow in the astonishing environment of the Digital Revolution.

Rewards and incentives - when self-interest isn't enough

Self-interest is a powerful engine of economic performance, but it is far from being the only one. Many other parts are necessary for the economic motor to run smoothly – like teamwork and delegation.

Bad management decisions and the recession

During this, the second-worst of all modern economic disasters, if a company announces lay-offs and closures, much of the blame is automatically attached to the downturn. However, a measure of blame has to be attached to management itself.

What the auto industry bailout says about US industry

The sight of America's Big Three car bosses going cap-in-hand to Congress for a bailout encapsulates some harsh truths about America's industrial decline. Colossally overpaid, professionally incompetent and hugely conceited, they aren't fit to run a company, still less the world's economy.

Corporate culture shock and the IT revolution

Now that we can all see the disastrous effects of The Cult of Shareholder Value and The Cult of the Chief Executive, let's hope that a new movement - the Cult of Collaboration – can come to our rescue.

What happened to technology in financial management strategy?

Since the very beginning of the IT Age, Wall Street boasted more technology and processing power than any other sector. So what happened to it? Why did it fail to stop the meltdown?

Strategy and the crash

Robert Heller explains why the Second Great Crash is different from the First but all too similar to lesser crashes in between – and why it was completely avoidable.

Contemporary management is obsolete

Management is out of date. Managers are failing to take advantage of a unique moment in history where the gathering pace of change opens the door to revolution and new types of organisation.

Management styles: why things go wrong

Robert Heller discusses how, faced with rising complexity, managers make the situation worse with overly complicated reactions

Business management and purpose

The context in which people work is of vital importance. That means articulating a concise and relevant purpose which defines the shared tasks of all staff.

Business strategy in the age of opportunity

Opportunity always knocks. And adversity is the mother of opportunity. When the economic picture looks grim, there exist an increasing number of chances for generating bright new success.

The lessons of total quality management

How could a project as high-profile and important as the opening of Heathrow airport's new Terminal Five have gone so disastrously awry at such a sensitive moment? Robert Heller dissects the fiasco.

The plutocrat's new clothes

The Millennial economy represents the era of the Naked Plutocrat. While their super-fortunes are alleged to be rewards for super-success, they are beginning to resemble a much earlier group of self-servers: the Robber Barons.

The folly of following figures

How many managers ever pause to consider whether the numbers are guiding them and their businesses in the right direction? Perhaps their priorities need to balanced more in favour of innovation.

The strategy expert who made it happen

Sir John Harvey-Jones, who died in January, represented a rare breed. What made him stand out wasn't just his management know-how – it was also the human dimension.

Learning by example

Most managers accept that a subject is teachable and that the lessons, once taught, will bring benefit to them and their companies. But that doesn't stop too mnay of them wasting their time and money by listening to advice they are never going to take.

Incentive strategy and managing mistakes

To what extend should incentives be used as a business strategy? Does motivation naturally follow incentives? Why are gross errors made and how can you protect against them? And how exactly can you use error as a foundation for excellence?

Leadership and management

Management has always been difficult to classify. Managers and management gurus often disagree as to whether the activity is art or science or craft or discipline, or whether it is inspirational or mathematical.

Echoes of the conglomerates

The rise and fall of the giant conglomerates of the 1970s was inevitable. But why? And how exactly do the causes relate to the boom of private equity we see today?

Chief Growth Officers

It is often said of the over-managed company that there are 'too many chiefs and not enough Indians'. Whatever the veracity of that statement, management certainly has more Chiefs than it used to - not all of them useful.

Companies – what are they for?

The most important question a company has to answer is: what is it for? How and why has it gained success? What isn't working at the moment? Could it be time to make a new start with new ideas?

Company management the Nucor way

Want to know how to run a successful business? Dan DiMicco, CEO of US steel giant, Nucor, has a simple answer. "Hire the right people, give them the resources and tools, and get the hell out of the way."

Leadership strategy

There's a natural lifespan for human beings which seems to be accompanied by a natural leadership span. That's why top managers are seldom as effective in their older years.

Paradoxes and fusion management

There are many paradoxes in a manager's world, which is why I advocate Fusion Management, a technique that recognises there are very few absolutes but a world of endless trade-offs.

Leading management

Managers need leadership and leaders need management in an indivisible, mutual partnership. And one thing that is fundamental to effective leadership is the ability to relate to others.

Shining Apple

One great decision can negate many slip-ups in strategy on the road to success - something that the chequered relationship between Steve Jobs and Apple highlights particularly clearly.

From affluence to opulence

The rules of capitalist competition are changing in basic and perhaps dangerous ways. From the the Age of Affluence, we are now in the Age of Opulence. But history suggests that somehow, somewhere, the Age of Opulence is sowing the seeds of its own decay.

Right and left-brain management styles

Different management styles can originate from the left or the right side of the brain. The left side has a devotion to numbers, analysis and logic, the right with more romantic ideas and imagination. The important thing is getting the right balance between the two.

Managers and power

Every now and then journalists get obsessed with identifying the most powerful women in business. But what does 'power' actually mean - and what about it's limitations?

Forty years later

More managers than ever before know what they should be doing and more actually do it. But there are still too many who know what to do and then do the exact opposite. Pinpointing such easy failure and eliminating it is the hard task managers should not avoid.

The sales-marketing balance

The battle between sales and marketing reflects a grave failure to manage effectively. Because if the two don't pull together for successful business development, the bottom line will be destroyed by the errors at the top.

The pirates of pay

Schemes for enriching top managers are scandals which - despite all the attacks on them - are actually getting worse. What's more, they don't deliver the goods - except to the greedy pirates.

Dropping the pilot

There is an importance and interest to the remarkable events taking shape at Microsoft that go far beyond the company's customers, employees, investors, competitors and suppliers.

Corporate culture

Corporate culture is far more than the general philosophy which animates the company. Yet properly defined and developed, it is the basis for achieving outstanding success.

Danger of the double cults

US corporations have become victims of a double disaster: the Cult of the Chief Executive and the Cult of Shareholder Value. They don't work now and they never did - because both are based on false premises.

Complex management

High-tech management tools don't just have to be used in situations that are new and technical. Indeed, innovative creativity is where fresh approaches to management are most needed.

Management measures

Scandalous management rewards work against top managers' performance because the more the misuse of corporate funds for the personal enrichment of executives becomes the norm, the more the long-term health of the business is endangered.

Founders' fortunes

How far can the the founder of a business take their success? Surprisingly, the percentage of founder-CEOs who go the distance is extremely low. But why?

Management psyche

Businesses and managers who rely on the supposed wisdom of pundits and forecasters are playing a dangerous game. Far better to do your own thinking and not rely on the emotional crutch of an 'expert'.

Drucker's way

Austrian-born lecturer, consultant and writer Peter Drucker died recently at the age of 95 but his ideas will continue to influence all managers, whether they are aware of it or not.

The entrepreneurial age

Entrepreneurs might not necessarily be more skilled than those less successful, but they have the knack of spotting opportunities and seizing their chances.

Act two of the boom

The latest instalment of the internet frenzy has highlighted that being at the cutting edge of technology does not guard against the rot setting in.

Change and challenges

Forget all the management-speak and buzz-words. The challenge of change in today's high-tech world demands a low-tech revolution in management – one based on commonsense.

Space for ideas

Ideas are the raw material of management, and also much of its product. You can't accomplish any task, large or small, without using old ideas and forming new ones.

Marvellous mavericks

Organisations need to grasp the value of mavericks because the best maverick managers make the world go round. Without them, many great companies and industries could not exist.

The truth about teamwork

Why is good teamwork so difficult to achieve? One explanation is that sometime demon - human nature - rearing its ugly head.

Soft versus hard

Management has always been thought of as a 'hard' discipline. The higher a manager rises, the greater his or her powers of command and the larger number of people who must obey the orders. Not any more . . .

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