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A View of Globalization from the Top

How do global makers and shapers cope with the new economy?

May 10, 2001

How do global makers and shapers cope with the new economy?

In discussions on the global economy, CEOs are often protrayed simply as the ones raking in the money — while firing the people who make it for them. Yet, what is often ignored is that they too need to cope with the changes that come along with globalization. Like everyone else, CEOs are occasionally baffled by new economic trends and developments. Our new Read My Lips shows how they try to manage these challenges on a daily basis.

What is different about the global economic environment today?

“First, it was money that was sent abroad. Then it was people. Now it’s companies.”
(Serge Rosinoer, vice chairman of the French cosmetics group Clarins, 1998)

And what have these changes meant for companies and their workers?

“We must start with the reality that corporations cannot guarantee anyone a lifetime job any more than corporations have a guarantee of immortality.”
(John Snow, chairman of the U.S. transportation company CSX, 1996)

Does that mean that CEOs fire at will?

“If you fire people, you fire customers.”
(Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech, June 1999)

How did globalization impact the world’s largest company?

“Globalization has changed u s into a company that searches the world, not just to sell or to source, but to find intellectual capital — the world’s best talents and greatest ideas.”

(General Electric CEO Jack Welch, February 2001)

With such an unpredictable global economy, do CEOs still plan ahead?

“You shouldn’t have a long-term strategy anymore, because you won’t be able to move fast enough.”
(Orit Gadish, chairman of the management consulting firm Bain & Company, 2001)

How quickly do things change?

“The UK government has said it may join the euro in five years — but we won’t be around five years from now.”
(Tadaaki Jagawa, Toyota executive vice-president, on UK-made Toyotas not selling in continental Europe because of the difference between the pound and the euro, 2000)

And how ruthless is the competition?

“There will be hunters and hunted, winners and losers. What counts in global competition is the right strategy and success.”
(Heinrich von Pierer, Siemens CEO, 2000)

At times, doesn’t this all get to be too much?

“Doesn’t anyone here think this sounds like a vision of hell? While we are all competing or dying, when will there be time for sex or music or books? Stop the world, I want to get off.”
(Howard Stringer, chairman of Sony America, 2001)

How should one deal with the phenomena?

“We are moving toward a global economy. One way of approaching that is to pull the covers over your head. Another is to say: It may be more complicated — but that’s the world I am going to live in, I might as well be good at it.”
(Phil Condit, CEO of Boeing, November 1999)

Are there no guiding principles for how globalization should work?

“There are no road signs to help navigate. And, in fact, no one has yet determined which side of the road we’re supposed to be on.”
(Steve Case, AOL Time Warner chairman, 2000)

But don’t some aspects of globalization make it easier to do business?

“Through the Net, you don’t see how old the CEO is, or whether you have a gorgeous headquarters. You just put your business model on the web.”
(Matsumoto Oki, founder of Japan’s Internet brokerage MONEX)

Finally, can global titans like GE’s Jack Welch or Microsoft’s Bill Gates ever be replaced?

“The cemeteries are full of indispensable men.”
(Felix Rohatyn and David Weill, Lazard Freres & Co.’s managing director and chairman, respectively, in 1995)