"Worst CEOs" List Points to Basic Communications Failures
NPR this morning ran an interview with Sydney Finkelstein, of Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business and author of "Why Smart Executives Fail." He has compiled a list of some of the worst management decisions of 2011 and singles out, among others, the CEOs of RIM, HP, and Netflix for harsh criticism. Some of the cases he points to are simply bad corporate decision-making, such as releasing faulty products or failing to give strategies an adequate amount of time to work. What struck me, however, is how many of these 'blunders' were in fact not much more than poor communication. In the case of RIM's joint CEO's for example, Finkelstein argues that this unconventional structure leads to slow and conflicting communication and may be at the heart of the firm's inability to innovate as fast as its competitors. In the case of Netflix's botched product split, Finkelstein suggests that the idea of dividing the company in two was actually sound but that the communications around the split was handled so poorly that it confused and ultimately alienated Netflix's customer base.
Based even on this very simple analysis, it would appear then that CEOs looking to avoid costly mistakes could do worse than to ensure they have sound communications strategies in place before doing anything else.