Monday, July 7, 2008

The "besetting sin" of management

So: what is it?

Yesterday, pursuant to a discussion of "channel stuffing," I mentioned my opinion that short-sightedness is not high on the list of the gravest sins of corporate managements in the US.

IIRC, I even used the adjective "besetting." [Allow me to indulge my etymological fascination. Besetting means "constantly assailing." It likely originated in siege warfare, where the means of assailing a city is to "set" your own troops on all sides of it.] By psychological metaphor or extension, one's virtues are threatened, even beset, by one's vices.

My own view is that managers of US corporations are in fact rather far-sighted. The problem is: far-sighted toward what ends?

If they were trying to puff up the prices of their shares in a bubble-like fashion bound to burst down the road, that would be shortsighted. But frankly I don't think the management of many of our corporations are concerned with stock price particularly, on ANY time horizon. So the problem isn't short-sightedness. It's laziness.

The poison pill is a better example of what ails corporate America than the reports, perhaps mostly rumors, of channel stuffing. The poison pill is perfectly legal: more's the pity.

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