How the mighty men fall…

Maybe he IS the Last Tycoon?

I guess that I should feel sorry for Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp group executives as he wades through the News of the World muck, but I just don’t.  There is a saying that I know so well and it is – “that everything comes to those who wait”.  I love that saying and over the years I have seen it to come true again and again and again, and here we are again.

The world is changing.  We are starting to see many of the old empires and business practices crumble before our very eyes, and it is sure is time!  Here in Australia it was FAI and then OneTel and more recently the Storm Financial Group, that crumbled and fell taking many an executive with along in the mire.  Some of these businesses were built on the old business formula for success.  They rewarded greed in the name of improving the “bottom line profit” and “increasing shareholder value” and for a small number of people this formula worked like the Executive’s who “couldn’t remember” saying this or that, or doing this deal or that deal.  How the mighty men fall – and yes, I say men because it usually is men.  At least in the case of News of the World we see a women going down along side the men of power.  These companies that are built out of greed come and go but leave a legacy behind them of many distressed employee’s, shareholders and customers in their wake.

Murdoch can’t distance himself from this current mess.   To say that he was not ultimately responsible is just laughable.  Sure he has a huge empire and yes it would be hard to manage something that big and keep you finger on the pulse.  Sure it would be difficult to always be aware of what everyone in your organisation is up to, knowing how they are behaving, and understanding how your mandates for the business are being implemented, but the rot always starts at the top.  The recently exposed behaviour of News of the World journalists does not suprise me at all.  When you have that much global media power, the buzz of power must rub off on employee’s, and for some there is no limit to the lengths that they will go to in order to get that story or to achieve a level of power, money and position that is seen as being “the best of the best” – if that is what you want.  Sadly this is still the business behaviour that is rewarded.  Even in smaller organisations you often see agorant sales people being rewarded because they bring the “business” and of course “the business” and the “big deals” are needed to keep the wheels turning and to keep everyone in the organisation in a job.  But we often don’t see the supporters rewarded – yet they also keep the wheels turning.  This imbalance naturally causes behaviours that can lead to the kind of mess that News Corp is in, because supporter is boring but the out there, all singing all dancing, glamourous money makers are king.  Ruthlessness is rewarded and in the case of Rupert Murdoch – it is admired, respected and something to be aspired to.

I have come across many an aggorant employee of a large (usually American) organisation here in little old Australia, where they use the might of their companies global presence to cojole, intimidate or impede the natural progression of business.  At times, even threatening their own customers if they don’t do it their way.  Sure, they may not call them threats, but ultimatiums are serious when it can effect your business and must be taken seriously, especially if you are on the wrong end of the threat.  Price wars are one thing, but aggorance and intimidation are another.  Having owned my own consulting company where I regulary came up against Tier 1 consulting companies,  I know the games that are played.  The power struggles, the joistling for prime position.  It is the main reason that I wrote the Integrity Management Methodology all those years ago in 1997, (copyright Susanne Moore 1997) highlighting some of this behaviour and to craft methods to combat them in the workplace, specifically around outsourcing in an ICT environment.

If Rupert Murdoch truely doesn’t condone the behaviour of people like Rebekah Brooks as his representative at the helm of News International then he could have put in place methods to combat such behaviour.  Sorry, saying that he was let down by the people he trusted is interesting, but just doesn’t work for me.   Brooks, Murdoch Senior and his son, James Murdoch all looked pretty chummy and happy with themselves on our television sets only a week or so ago – but since Brooks’ arrest are probably not so smug and happy now….

Sadly, the aggorance of an organisation like Brooks and News of the World must come from the top.  I have never met Rupert Murdoch so I can’t comment from any real experience, but just seeing him on the television over the years has not enarmoured me to his style.  Over the years I have worked with some of his ex employee’s and it has been enough to have given me some taste of what the culture must be like.  Many of the News Corp executives that I have met have been smug, agorant and at times chidish, some boarding on emotionless.  The mere fact that Murdoch continued to forge ahead relentlessly increasing his media footprint globally in order to dominate what we see and when and if we see it, is enough for me to know that this is not a person interested in the rest of us.  I understand that shareholders are important, sure I do – but what is the cost of his empire building?  We already knew that a serious outcome was the potential filtering of the real news, but there must be more examples of News using their global power to influence outcomes that they shouldn’t have influence over.  It is only a matter of time before these examples come out as more and more people will speak out as the prospect of retribution is removed.

Interesting that Murdoch senior is said to have been “humbled” to have to explain his companies conduct to MP’s at the British parliamentary committee in London on July 19, 2011.  I have no doubt that there would be many an employee of Murdoch’s who has been humbled or worse in front of Murdoch in the past.  If the worst thing that he felt was humility, then that is a good thing – better than feeling humiliated like many of the phone hacking victims and their families must have been feeling.  I can accept the Murdoch’s apologies, but I would like to see what action they are going to take to really stop this rot that has grown rampant in News Corp.  A few sackings and a rehash of positions won’t satisfy me – nor will the closure of News Corp News of the World business.  It could be a closure that saves them money, so maybe not so bad for them at all, not good for the employee’s though.  What real action will be taken?  Even a new CEO won’t fix the systemic problems that there must be unless a whole new value system is introduced into the organisation with those who don’t subscribe moved on.

In Integrity Management – real integrity in business is more than just words and glamours speak.  More than flash men walking around in expensive suits playing the old business game.  Interesting that the Time Magazine cover pictured, says of Murdoch “The last Tycoon” – maybe this is the time for a change.  A change to the old style of business to make way for the new business paradims.  In order to introduce real change and real integrity into an organisation like News Corp, you need to back up the words with real action, and then back up the action by implementing real ways of actioning those actions in your organisation.  What do I mean?  Well simply I mean that you a company makes a statement like “we care about our clients” – then a simple Integrity Management measure would be to implement methods in your business that actually listens to your clients.  I don’t mean customer surveys, I mean implementing systems that allow clients to be listened to, like having systems that respect the client and not just treat them like a commodity or a nusiance.

For Murdoch and all the press media things have changed.  There are now thousands of people like me writing their little blogs and speaking their mind on all sorts of subjects.  We are not afraid of losing our job as a journalist for not toeing the company line, because we are not controlled by anyone – we are out here in web world and we are harder to stop.

The most fascinating change is that if you build your organisation on the same old models of business that News Corp has done, then you have really built a house of cards and once the first scandel has been uncovered there are generally more and then more and more and more as people come out of the wood work to uncover the mess that was once just bubbling under the surface.  Once the fear has been removed real change occurs and this is what I think we are seeing happen.  It is also happening with governments around the world where whole countries are on the verge of collapse.  It is because we are still using the old business models and models of success to advance, but they no longer work because the world has changed.  More people have a voice, more people are equal than ever before and people can’t be silenced by the old business paradigm anymore.

The mightly men will continue to fall until they realise that the game is up and they start change the way that they are doing business.  So in a way, I think that Rupert Murdoch has actually done the rest of us a great service by creating something that when uncovered, creates such havoc that change will have to happen!


4 thoughts on “How the mighty men fall…

  1. I think that hubris and arrogance are among the most negative traits a business leader can have. I am not sure they are limited to “men” but suspect that statistically we dominate. Jim Collins book “How the mighty fall” is a great book which analyses the different phases of a success-driven hubris/arrogance/complacency the likely (but not inevitable) decline. It appears that getting to the top is easier than staying at the top.

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