Incompetent Management?

Dropping the ball

I was struck by a couple pieces I read recently, both of which make strong accusations about the incompetence and resistance to change in top management of two different industries, music and autos. I have to say I think they’re right.

First, David Byrne, from his current playlist:

There was another piece in the Times today about yet another 20 percent drop in CD sales. (Are they running the same news piece every 4 months?) Jeez guys, the writing’s on the wall. How long do the record execs think they’ll have those offices and nice parking spaces? (Well, more than half of all record A&R and other execs are gone already, so there should be plenty of parking space). They, the big 4 or 5, should give the catalogues back to the artists or their heirs as a gesture before they close the office doors, as they sure don’t know how to sell music anymore. (I have Talking Heads stuff on the shelf that I can’t get Warner to release.) The “industry” had a nice 50-year ride, but it’s time to move on. Luckily, music remains more or less unaffected — there is a lot of great music out there.

Second, Richard Florida on the Big 3 auto firms:

The Big Three are not failing because of labor costs. They are failing because their product is crap. The problem is the worst management since the US steel industry – whiners, cry-babies and incompetents. They keep churning out stuff no one wants. The SUVs which were carrying them have now collapsed and they are being crushed with the move to more fuel efficient cars and hybrids. This is one of the greatest stories in gross mismanagement in world industrial history. It is hard to imagine how anyone could squander the kind of lead and assets they had, but they did. It boggles the mind, actually. When Martin Kenney and I studied Japanese investment in the auto industry during the 1980s and 1990s we were shocked and appalled by what we saw. Factories in total disrepair. Crap everywhere. Workers treated like sub-humans.

Let’s face it, it’s very hard to adjust when the model of your business shifts radically. And it seems like the more money and infrastructure there is, the more impossible change becomes. We’ll see how long the new generation of companies, like Microsoft, Oracle, Google, etc. can avoid similar problems.

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