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CEO Daily Brief – Feb. 21, 2011

Questions Raised by the Firing of Jack Griffin at Time Jack Griffin was abruptly fired as CEO of Time’s magazine …

Questions Raised by the Firing of Jack Griffin at Time

Jack Griffin was abruptly fired as CEO of Time’s magazine division last week. He spent less than six months in the position when Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes sent a memo to employees that Griffin was out. In his terse memo, Bewkes suggested that Griffin’s approach clashed with the culture of other company executives. "Although Jack is an extremely accomplished executive, I concluded that his leadership style and approach did not mesh with Time Inc. and Time Warner," reports Crain’s New York.

Before coming to work at Time, he was a top executive at Meredith Corp., another magazine publishing company. Griffin claims he was praised for the job he did at Time before he was fired. He was named Time’s chairman in January.

"My exit was clearly not about management style or results," Griffin said in his own memo, which was quoted in media reports. "I leave behind a first-rate team and wish them all the best of success."

There are many questions about Griffin’s firing. Griffin had a clear track record at Meredith. He is a leader in an industry that is in a period of transition and change. The industry has been in slump because of lower advertising revenue. Time, Sports Illustrated and People saw slight increases in revenue during 2010, Crain’s New York said.

Griffin “wasn't known as particularly alienating in his prior post running Meredith Corp.'s magazines, according to people who have known and worked with him for years,” reports Ad Age.

The site also reports there appears to have been at Time “conflicting expectations of what he was brought in to do and the way in which he went about doing it in a place with a deeply entrenched culture and powerful veterans.”

Ad Age concludes it was an example of someone being brought in and changing things when a company is not prepared for the changes or decides it did not want the changes.

Another issue is that, unlike at Meredith, Griffin did not have the chance to get to know the top players before making the changes in Time’s culture.

Ad Age quoted a Time employee who said Griffin, "brought in all these consultants who were telling us how everything we were doing was stupid, and actually some things we were doing were pretty smart.”

Even though Griffin has reshuffled some top employees and reorganized the corporate structure, it appears there was little reason for such a quick departure at Time. There seems to be poor communication and poor expression of expectations given to Griffin. Time also has to realize the industry is changing and it needs to change along with it.

For more about Jack Griffin’s firing from Time, as reported by Ad Age, please click here.


Automotive CEOs Appear Confident about Revenue Growth in 2011: Survey

Automotive CEOs appear confident there will be increased revenue growth during 2011. Some 90 percent of automotive CEOs questioned during the fourth quarter of 2010 said they were “somewhat confident or very confident in achieving revenue growth in the next 12 months,” according to PwC's 14th Annual Global CEO Survey.

Automotive CEOs also said that the Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) markets are important for future growth, says the report on the survey. Some 64 percent of the CEOs saw China as a top future market.

PwC Autofacts predicts that approximately 80 percent of global growth from 2010 to 2017 will come from emerging markets. And some 34 percent of that growth will come from just China.

According to PwC, China is the largest automotive market. Its sales surpassed those in the United States in 2009. There are more auto assembly plants in China than anywhere else in the world.

"Automotive companies that have made strategic decisions to invest in China and forge joint ventures with Chinese partners are seeing strong revenue growth because of the actions taken over the last decade," said Rick Hanna, global automotive leader, PwC. "Automotive companies recognize the importance of the domestic China market share. However, long-term sustainable profits will still be dependent on producing vehicles that consumers want to buy at the right price. This is as true in China as it is everywhere else in the world."

In addition, the survey also shows that 76 percent of the CEOs plan to change their corporate strategies to encourage innovation across the auto supply chain.

"Today, the supply chain is more diverse than the industry has seen in the past," explained Hanna. "The supply base and partnerships have expanded to include battery makers, technology companies and energy companies to advance the development of electric vehicles and the infrastructures to support future demand and the technology platforms inside today's vehicles."

For more about the survey as presented by PwC, please click here.


Suggestions on How to Tell CEOs about IT Needs

Chief Information Officers may find they have to tell CEOs that older IT applications will fail and need to be replaced. It comes as no surprise that CEOs don't want to hear that. If systems are working, why change them, figure the CEOs.

But Robert Plant, who teaches computer information systems at the University of Miami business school, said the CEOs need to recall the experience of Comair, “whose legacy crew-scheduling software failed on Christmas Eve 2004, costing the company $20 million and stranding 200,000 passengers when 3,900 flights were delayed or canceled,” Plants writes in the Harvard Business Review blog.

Here are some tips on how CIOs can explain things to CEOs about legacy IT systems:

* Figure out how much the CEO grasps about legacy systems. Review earlier presentations to the board and the CEO about the IT systems. Was there a risk assessment presented?

* Make sure there is sufficient time for the meeting, have a single agenda item, and there should be no diversions or interruptions.

* Bring in a senior member of the business side whose work would be threatened by an IT outage or system down time. This shows that the issue impacts the business side of things.

* Focus on the risks associated with the legacy IT system. The kind of topics to address include: “Failure rates, costs associated with down time, the number of companies using this version of the system, the time since the system was supported by a vendor, the number of staff people who understand the whole system, and the status of the original vendor,” according to Plant.

* Do not use scenarios with what-if examples.

* Present a sense of urgency.

* Present the required “next step” and a “specific plan for getting to the goal.”

Truth is important when it comes to legacy IT systems. CEOs need a clear presentation with pertinent facts to understand the importance of the issue.

For more about legacy IT systems, as reported by The Harvard Business Review, please click here.

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