Corporate Chutzpah

To rescue us all from a depression in 2008, the government threw hundreds of billions in taxpayer funded life preservers to drowning financial firms that had steered hard into the mortgage securities iceberg.  Now the rescued are claiming they were robbed. Chutzpah!  That’s a Yiddish word translated most appropriately here as arrogant gall, such as Lizzie Borden might have displayed by begging for leniency and compensation on the grounds that the murder of her parents had left her a traumatized orphan.

Disney: Succession Done Right

Companies and non-profits can founder when CEO successions go badly–very often because a long-tenured CEO becomes an immovable object who ultimately only gives way to an irresistible force (such as death–J. Edgar Hoover; a board in revolt–ex-Disney head Michael Eisner; or a bureaucratic coup de grace–Admiral Hyman Rickover).  Disney seems to be getting it right this time, though the story refers to other companies that may be approaching an immovable object vs. irresistible force crossroads.

Not All Rosy in Pasadena

Pasadena, home of the Rose Parade nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains overlooking LA.  Home also of alleged embezzlement of $6.4 million missing dollars.  The suspected formula for embezzlement is to find an obscure budget fund that has been  financing little activity, position city employees in on the scheme as signatories on the fund’s purchases and payments,set up an outside firm to bill for bogus services and then direct the proceeds to conspirators.  A tried and true formula with a long history of ripping off  businesses, non-profits and government jurisdictions, all of whom learned the need for basic accounting controls the hard way.

Why College Takes So Long

The road to a degree is anything but smooth, this story says. The structural problem with public college systems is the extreme fragmentation, compounded by the autonomy so central to the faculty culture that dominates in academe’.  The fragmentation arises mainly from all but inevitable public policy choices over the years — politicians of all stripes benefited from the creation and expansion of local campuses.  Faculty autonomy, which rests upon individual professors “academic freedom” to pursue truth, has morphed into a collective privilege, where the faculty of Department X deems itself the final word on X education, which includes deeming as unworthy courses in the discipline from other colleges.  So students have to go around the bush again.

Elevator Checks on Hold

Over the next month, this blog will cover certain building-related issues in order to facilitate a research project by MPA students at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  The ER focus of the blog remains, only the flavor will change a bit.  And so–Chicago has some mighty tall buildings, and NASCAR-speed elevators taking folks to the top. Many have been awaiting their annual inspections for years.  Elevate carefully, my friends.

Supreme Embarrassment

Not long ago I told readers about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice convicted for misusing staff for political activities.  So last year!  This newest Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice in the negative news spotlight is one Seamus McCaffrey, embroiled in a scandal involving sexually explicit materials sent around from official government email addresses.  The judge, whose trajectory towards the Supreme Court–an elected position in Pennsylvania–was boosted by a high profile stint as the on-site judge dealing summarily with rowdyism at Philadelphia Eagles football games, now rides off into the sunset.

Rational Management–Dream On!

Way more often than we know, because organizations cover it up if they can, destructive behavior lays an organization low.  A frequent cause is executive struggle, which sometimes are family feuds.  Less frequently, a destructive contagion afflicts the workforce, which takes actions that threaten the very existence of their employer.  The Market Basket story has all of the above.  The metaphor I’m fond of is executives grimly battling to their mutually assured destruction, wrecking all around them in the process, while the rest of the organization is forced to take sides and/or is so transfixed by the spectacle that nothing gets done till its over, with the enterprise a casualty.  That’s the case here. None of this makes sense unless you understand that, once unleashed, primal emotion trumps the economic rationality championed by business texts and analyzed endlessly in management journals.