The Way it was: 1982.

 
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The New Reality

Some management theorists identify the communications role of independent directors -- communicating inside-out and outside-in -- as the most underdeveloped in American industry. They say, in effect, that all too many companies fail significantly at both listening and speaking to their publics. It seems to me that the penalties for such failure increase almost geometrically with the pace at which a company is experiencing change. The theorists point out that the role of what has traditionally been the constituency -- the shareholders -- has changed. These people today act less as "owners," implying some deep-seated involvement with and attachment to a company, and more as "investors," interested only in the impact a company's activities may have on their assets.

It seems to me that top executives and directors must confront this new reality. These owners-cum-investors still call the tune, and managers must balance their pressures for short-range performance with considerations involving the longer-range health of the organization.

Roger Birk, chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch & Co., in "Beyond the 'Supermarket': A New Era in Financial Services" [Summer 1982].

New-Era Communications

Two years ago when we first videotaped our 1980 annual report and experimentally telecast it to shareholders in eight states via cable TV and a satellite hookup, we apparently startled the staid financial world. Adjectives flowed in unjustifiable streams. One financial journal even called it "the step that brought the financial and accounting community into the television communications era." Since then, I've often been asked, "How did a conservative, low-profile company come to achieve such high visibility in the highest visibility medium of all, television?" Frankly, I was surprised by the attention we stirred. No doubt it traces to the high state of interest that the explosion of cable TV technology has generated. At least 200 companies have asked our people about our video annual report. I think it is significant that almost all inquired about how we did it rather than asking us why, indeed, we produced a video version of the printed annual report in the first place.

T. Mitchell Ford, chairman and CEO of Emhart Corp., in "The Video Annual Report: A Chairman's View" [Summer 1982].

Recognition of Corporate Culture

In their recently published book, Corporate Culture: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, consultants Terrence Deal and Allan Kennedy blame the decline in American productivity on a weakened corporate culture. Citing such "culture-based" successes as General Electric, NCR, and Procter and Gamble, they call on corporate leaders...

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