UPFRONT On target

Less can be more. That’s the message from Michael Pitfield, director of international business at Henley Management College. In New Zealand recently as part of his regular liaison with colleagues and alumni throughout the organisation, Pitfield told Management that mergers and takeovers can provide unexpected bonuses for the weaker party.
Forced to assess their systems, processes, people and products, these companies often discover they have become drawn into activities that are not aligned with core company goals and strategies. Part of corporate heritage that has outlasted its usefulness, these activities suck up vital company resources at time of increasing pressure on management.
“A lot of companies don’t give enough thought to what their objectives and strategies are,” says Pitfield. “They get bogged down in the day-to-day operation of the business and aren’t thinking about the bigger picture.
“Companies need to have the courage to stop non-essential activities and focus on what’s important.”
Pitfield says the need to take stock is more pressing now than before. “Threats from outside, international competition and new technologies are all challenging companies and they need to change and adapt accordingly.”
He is critical of “management fads” that, he says, suggest there is just one way to achieve this. “Ideas come and go. There is no one-size-fits-all panacea.”
Both here and overseas, Pitfield notes the increasing need for companies and managers to become more international in their focus as mergers, acquisitions, affiliations and joint ventures kick in. “The idea of managers operating in just one country is becoming increasingly unusual. Even quite small companies are increasingly likely to have some sort of international perspective – whether it’s just case of working with overseas suppliers, salespeople or contacts.”
Hand in hand with the need to manage the internationalisation of business, in Pitfield’s mind, is the growing talent shortage. “Everywhere I go I hear about this great hunger for talented and experienced people but HR and similar activities in business can’t exist in vacuum. Companies must be very clear about what their business strategy is. For those organisations with clear business strategy it’s quite straightforward to follow through and develop clear people strategy to fulfil those objectives. Attracting, retaining, training and developing then becomes lot easier.
“It’s surprising,” says Pitfield, “but many companies aren’t clear on this point.”

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