Today’s blog post is from Ennio Carboni, the Ipswitch Network Management Division president:
I must admit that I have been enamored with John Chambers for some time. While the rest of the world is pre-occupied with Steve Jobs, I argue that one of the greatest business leaders we can learn from remains John Chambers. Why? Chambers understands markets and the forces that can create and shape markets but more importantly he understands the value of corporate culture as a catalyst or diffuser of and for corporate strategy. Employee culture is a soft topic most feel lost in describing but I view it as the organizational glue that keeps the business intact during accelerated growth or sudden stoppages. Culture includes important attributes like business ethics, norms, values and the culture inside the small pods and groups that make up the organization.
Yet, as much as I believe in John Chambers he disappointed me this past week with the announcement he made regarding the mis-alignment and directional changes needed at Cisco. As a shareholder, the earnings reports don’t concern me much as I consider this and the next few quarters to be transitional ones that enable Cisco to align better. My disappointment was more rudimentary. I was disappointed in Chambers for the same reason I was disappointed in others making directional changes at the time when earnings disappointed. Why is the strategic direction and strategic effectiveness only re-evaluated at the time when the numbers miss Wall Street expectations? Is this a sign of management being out of touch with the ground troops in marketing, sales and customer support? How could you not see the traction HP and others were making in comparison to your own?
In full disclosure, I run a business much smaller than Cisco at under $100M and less challenging organizationally because of size of scope. Yet, it’s still a sizable organization that employs hundreds and supplies thousands upon thousands of customers worldwide. We have a prosperous business with strong top-line and bottom-line metrics in a marketplace with a strong outlook. It is here that I value lessons learned a while back – “stay close to your field people who are collecting market information daily”. The best practitioner of this style remains New York Mayor Bloomberg as the founder and CEO of the Bloomberg Media Empire. Bloomberg is well remembered for his persistence with sitting in an open area next to sales where he could listen, observe and reflect upon real time market data. The key is not to react to a single piece of data you hear.
John Chambers and Cisco will again thrive. They are the backbone for much of what we do as a business community. HP and others are making great strides as they should but Cisco is not going anywhere. If I were to offer a single piece of advice to John it would be that this is a perfect time to think about divisonalizing the company down to P&L’s and utilizing market forces, strategic execution and P&L responsibility to separate the best from the rest. You’d be amazed to see what ordinary people can do when given the opportunity to partake in extraordinary activities.