Andy Grove, chief executive of semiconductor giant Intel, is a god-like figure within technology circles. The fact that he has managed to keep Intel on an almost uninterrupted growth path, quarter after quarter, combined with his majestic feat of turning a computer component into a household brand name, has made him an idol. Little surprise, […]
Andy Grove, chief executive of semiconductor giant Intel, is a god-like figure within technology circles. The fact that he has managed to keep Intel on an almost uninterrupted growth path, quarter after quarter, combined with his majestic feat of turning a computer component into a household brand name, has made him an idol. Little surprise, then, that technology-oriented managers, and a few more besides, flocked to buy Grove’s book, Only The Paranoid Survive last year, pushing it to number seven in the Business Week best seller list for 1996. Grove, who teaches a class on strategic management at Stanford Universitys business school, is an avid management theorist and, in his book, he described how Intel has established a number of early warning mechanisms to help the company pick up on life-changing industry trends, what Grove calls ’10X forces’. While such tales are interesting, there is much debate over how useful they are. People who have been there are theoretically not great but they tell good war stories, says management expert Geoffrey Moore. Andy isn’t a strategist – he is a minor modification on [management strategist] Michael Porter – but he is an incredible management machine. One disappointment, however, is that many of the so called front line books are not actually very revealing. Bill Gate’s book [The Road Ahead] was a flaky bit of PR, says business guru James Martin. David Packard’s book, The HP Way, was similarly vague about the true sources of success at Hewlett-Packard, although it did provide a clear account of HPs widely respected people management doctrine.
Manager from hell
There is another issue. Some practices, while successful for one company, do not travel well. And some management theories are less of a science and more an extension of principles and personality. The latter is the case with TJ Rodgers, the founder and chief executive of Cypress Semiconductor, a man described both as ‘the manager from hell’ and ‘Silicon Valley bad boy.’ In his book, No Excuses Rodgers expounds on his stalwart, if not downright brutal, management practices. For example, when several of his managers failed to comply with repeated requests to carry out a routine pay review, he cut them off the payroll. Whether this represents best practice is debatable. One book that is unlikely to clock up many more sales is Profit From Experience the story of Gil Amelio’s tenure at National Semiconductor. Following his very public failure at the helm of Apple Computer, Amelio’s reputation as a transformation guy is in tatters. First you have to survive, then you have to become viable, they you have to become great, he wrote. At Apple, he fell at the first hurdle.