The theme of knowledge versus instinct in to build a fire a short story by jack london

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The theme of knowledge versus instinct in to build a fire a short story by jack london

It was breaking up in full view over the past few years, except that it was not in the way that analysts think about banks. The worst is yet to come, but I thought I should write these thoughts down so that events can either confirm or deny my worst assessment.

The weakening of the Standard Chartered franchise offers the most instructive lesson on managing a global financial services business today. The lessons were actually already forthcoming from much that was happening to the other British banks — Barclays, RBS and Lloyds TSB — between the years andexcept that it struck no one to document them for subsequent CEOs to learn from.

So, now in walking right into the same puddle, Standard Chartered Bank offers us a refresher course to home in the key points. I had made assertions such as investment bankers do not have a good track record as leaders of commercial banks, because they are led by a very different set of priorities and commercial banks require leaders who are more prosaic in their approach — hands-on, being close to the people and the organic processes and so on.

The theme of knowledge versus instinct in to build a fire a short story by jack london

A commercial bank is a franchise in the real sense of the word, because it depends on resonance from both from employees as well as from the customers. Unlike an FMCG fast moving consumer goods or a manufacturing company, it depends so much more on human interaction within the organization rather than top-line marketing or automated distribution processes.

Over the years, many a smart person have found out to their detriment that no amount of strategy, technology or massive capital can replace the years of patient franchise building and the repeated drilling with ordinary staff that enables a bank to reach its full potential.

When all is said and done, the failure of Standard Chartered Bank will be a rehash of the mistakes of other banks and other leaders in the past ten years. Fred Goodwin of RBS. But it appears that Peter Sands was determined to offer his own experience as the one-stop final statement for the industry to learn from the mistakes of the past decade.

I think there were about six areas where Peter Sands failed his own people, and in doing so, failed the franchise: Peter Sands, from the beginning of his leadership at StanChart, had vocalized to the analyst community and internally to his own staff, his management objectives of growing the business by a certain percentage every year, meeting a specific dividend commitment every year and so on.

There was nothing unusual or clever here. HSBC did that more recently. So do entrepreneurs like Emilio Botin and other entrepreneurs, except that they have such a strong feel of their franchise that they can feel to what extent it can stretch and thin before snapping.

The most important lesson to be learnt from Sands targets-based management style is that even when targets are met, they tell you nothing about how the franchise is coping.

What Sands did not pay attention to was how much his people were going to kill themselves internally to satisfy those commitments.

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The difference was that Sands does not have that inherent instinct in reading people that a Jack Welch or a Warren Buffet had in knowing that they have indeed hired the best persons in the first place.

If anything, the people he now surrounds himself with shows that he has been a poor judge of people with a poor feel of the ground, and was therefore not able to keep that kind of light touch that Welch and Buffet kept on their key people and were still able to achieve their goals.

The Standard Chartered he inherited had an army of plodders, very ordinary but impressionable workers who had been moulded to believe from past crises that they made a difference to the organization. They may not have been what he wanted given his management consulting brain, but they were the only raw material that God would give to him to work with.

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The bank gave them respectable jobs in an age when the best jobs were with much larger multinationals. The bank gave them a sense of community, both within and with the society they served."To Build a Fire" is the quintessential naturalist short story.

Naturalism was a movement in literature developed largely by Emile Zola, Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, Stephen Crane, and Jack London in the late 19th-century.

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