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Company management: the Steppe way

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Tobodai View Drop Down
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  Quote Tobodai Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Company management: the Steppe way
    Posted: 25-Apr-2005 at 15:27
Guide to management, the Genghis Khan way
By Jennifer Quinn
BBC News Magazine

Genghis Khan and co-workers
Meet the board
He killed and pillaged and is widely seen as the epitome of the tyrannical ruler, but was Genghis Khan all bad?

As the BBC prepares to broadcast a revisionist history of the 13th-Century Mongol leader, one historian speculates that Khan possessed "many of the qualities of a good chief executive."

Disregarding what this might say about the management style of some businesses today, would you want him as a boss?

"On one level, he is a megalomaniac," military historian Dan Snow says. "But on another level, given that you have to judge him by the standards of his time, he was a very good manager."

Mike Petrook, of the CMI, a professional body that represents managers and helps them develop their skills, says a good boss must have both solid technical skills and the ability to deal with people. It seems Khan possessed those requirements, including the capacity to lead and inspire, a knack for managing change and information, and the desire to succeed.

Here are five reasons you might wish your manager was a megalomaniacal dictator with a taste for world domination.

1. PROFIT SHARING

The profits in the 13th Century were, technically, the spoils of victory and quite frequently included living people who were then subjected to a life of misery. But for Khan's armies, the booty pillaged from the vanquished was a big part of their annual income and their leader was careful to make sure his soldiers got their fair share.

"Genghis realised that and he felt that employees should be recognised for working hard," says Dan Snow, the co-presenter of BBC2's Battlefield Britain series. Snow calls Khan one of his "top five guys" - at least in terms of military savvy and leadership. "It made them love him and they would follow him to the ends of the earth."

Khan understood that to keep his armies happy, they needed to be shown appreciation. And that sharing of the spoils of war engendered loyalty among his troops, says John Man, author of Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection.

"He knew that, certainly in the early days, that what held all this together was the pay system," Mr Man says. "Everything was his, but it was his to give away, which he proceeded to do. All his officers were paid extremely well."

2. HATED OFFICE POLITICS

Now, Khan didn't mind a little bit of gossip - he was a prodigious gatherer of intelligence - and he certainly liked to know what was going on. But he couldn't tolerate dishonesty, says Mr Man.

He is especially admiring of Khan's ability to manage - while recognising that some extraordinary atrocities were committed in his name. One of the areas in which Khan was unique was in his appreciation for allegiance.

And it wasn't only loyalty to Khan of which the general was especially approving, Mr Man says. Khan couldn't tolerate those who went behind their boss's back to rat out potential coups or plots, either.

"He punished those who were disloyal, even if they were disloyal to his enemies," the author says. "He would say: who can trust a man such as these?"

3. RAN A MERITOCRACY

Alan Sugar
Barrow boy to chief executive - Sir Alan Sugar is a meritocrat
If you were working for Khan, and you did well, you would be rewarded.

The son of peasants himself, Khan had a very harsh childhood, Man says. And perhaps because of his humble beginnings, he recognised there was talent to be found in all classes of society.

"He was pretty remarkable in that he was able to employ people smarter than himself in order to install good government," Mr Man says, "which was pretty innovative."

Because he wanted to establish an empire that would last, he understood that he had to create institutions of government, like a postal system and a taxation system. To do this, Khan needed records. But he was illiterate.

So he imported some whiz kids - think Silicon Valley meets the Gobi Desert - to invent a new form of writing. It's still in use in parts of Mongolia. Once you were a member of Khan's firm, the boss rewarded hard work with promotions - and didn't give his kids, or his golf partner's nephews, the plum posts.

"Most companies do this now," agrees Mr Snow. "Gone are the days of old school ties.

"His officers were promoted on merit. He demonstrated absolute loyalty, rewarded courage and said if you are good, you'll move up the ranks. He didn't say, 'I'm going to get 20 years service out of you and then promote a 17-year-old aristocrat'."

Snow says that if Khan was heading a company today, he'd know the names of all his employees, from his top men to the guys in the mailroom.

"He'd know their names, be able to chat about the football on Saturday," Mr Snow says. "He knew what motivated his men."

4. EMBRACED CHANGE

If Khan were running your office today, you wouldn't be tapping out invoices on a dodgy laptop or sitting in a broken-down pool car on the M25 during rush hour. He was a firm believer in trying new things.

Mr Snow says when the Mongols saw the Chinese armies using new weapons effectively, he captured their men and put them to work for him.

"He embraced new technology," Mr Snow says. "He forced Chinese engineers to join his army and quickly adapted to their technological innovations."

5. THOUGHT AHEAD

Though Khan wasn't a big fan of office gossip, he was very big on knowing what his enemies were up to. But more importantly, when he decided on a new course of action - a battle, an invasion - he researched it thoroughly before charging ahead.

"It's all about knowing what your competition is doing," Mr Snow says, "and Genghis Khan was absolutely scrupulous about sorting out all the intelligence he could. Although 200,000 men and horses would go stampeding across a border, it was months after it had first been proposed."

Aiding Khan in all he did was the absolute belief that he was anointed by God to lead and to conquer, which made him a uniquely determined general.

"There was one huge advantage he had, and that's that he thought he was divinely chosen," Mr Man says. "The only drawback to that is that you have to get others to believe it too."

Genghis Khan will be broadcast on Monday 25 April on BBC One, at 2100GMT.

"the people are nothing but a great beast...
I have learned to hold popular opinion of no value."
-Alexander Hamilton
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poirot View Drop Down
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  Quote poirot Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-May-2005 at 01:45

I think that the article is a very interesting dissection of Genghis Khan and his methods, as well as a valid comparison of the Steppe chief and modern day executives.  Very useful material for business school students.

I would like to make a few comments.

Genghis Khan started a vast Euroasian empire from virtually nothing, with tribes like the Tartars and Merikids chasing after his heels.  He had to rely on talent, merit, and loyalty to succeed in defeating enemies such as Jamuka and unite the Mongol steppes.  For example, he awarded the titles of "Chief of Ten Thousand Men" not to his own sons, but to two of his bravest and most able generals, Borrchu and Muquali. 

Yet, the Great Khan of Mongolia was an exception, not the norm, in the long line of Mongol rulers.  From a modern perspective, Genghis is similar to an upstart entreprenuer or the founder of a great enterprise, like Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates, and Walt Disney.  A great founder, Genghis awarded talent, praised loyalty, embraced change, thought ahead, and united his subjects under his command. 

The same, however, cannot be said about the Mongol Empire as a whole.   Unlike Genghis Khan, most Mongol rulers were know for their inability to co-exist with their subjects and fervent tendency to feud with other Mongol rulers.

Let's take another look at the entreprenuership and modern business analogy.  If Genghis Khan lived in a Western capitalist world, he would have founded a vast commercial empire: Mongol Corp.   Due to his ability to think ahead, embrace change, and implement a merit system, Genghis was able to damage, devour, and take over other competing corporations such as  Tartar Corp, Merkid Corp, Jin Corp, Black Keitan Corp, Kwarazm Corp, and Hsia Corp.  He would have established a monopoly in the Silk Road business.

Now, our great businessman and entrepreuner, Genghis Khan, decided to retire, leaving his vast commercial empire to his son (not a deserving manager/general), the heavy drinking Ogetai.  Although Mongol Corp would still be expanding, problems that would eventually lead to its demise would already have surfaced.  Jochi and Chagatai found over the first of many matches over the title lead of Mongol Corp, with Ogetai becoming the CEO and President as an uneasy compromise.

After Ogetai decided to retire due to alcoholism, the borad of directors would be again split upon the decision for the next CEO and President of Mongol Corp.  Genghis Khan's sons, grandsons, and generals would already be squabbling over profits and immersed in clandestine office politics.  Guiyuk was already displeased that most of the profits from mergers with East European Corp went to Batu.  Then, when Guiyuk became the new CEO, Batu, from the Jochi faction,  would conspire with the Toulei faction to fire Guiyuk and install Mongke as the new CEO.

When Mongke suddenly left his post due to increasing stress in the hostile takeover of China Corp, the Mongol empire would experience a decisive split.  Its daughter companies, Golden Horde Corp, Ogetai Corp, Chagatai Corp, and Il Persia Corp would separate and become autonomous businesses.   Il Persia Corp would sign a partnership deal with Byzantine Corp over the marketing battles with Golden Horde Corp.  Meanwhile, Mongol Corp, the mother company, would change its name to Yuan Dynasty Corp after merging with China Corp and Korea Corp.

Now, let's look at the demise of the daughter companies of Mongol Corp.   Persia corp's unfair treatment and discrimination against Muslim workers resulted in multiple strikes that eventually forced the company to file for bankruptcy.   Meanwhile, Yuan Dynasty Corp failed to establish a complete merit system after its merger with China Corp.  Instead, it gave preferential treatment and bonuses to Mongol, Persian, and Tibetan managers over more qualified and better trained Chinese counterparts.  As a result, production became stagnant.  Eventually, the Ming Dynasty Corp, led by a shrewd upstart named Zhu Yuan Zhang, would steal almost all of the clients of Yuan Dynasty Corp. 

In central Asia, another upstart entreprenuer named Timurlane purchased a majority of the stocks of Chagatai Corp.  He renamed the company Timur Corp.  Elsewhere, the Golden Horde Corp gradually suffered losses due to competition from Russia Corp.  Golden Horde Corp failed to adapt to new market rules and neglected intelligence reports on Russian Corp.  Instead, it resorted to internal feuding amongst members of the board of directors.  Consequently, Russian Corp devoured Golden Horde Corp bit by bit.

I hope I have demostrated that the Mongols, as a business group, were clandestine, quarrelsome, unscruplous, and stubborn.  Genghis Khan's successors failed to fully embrace the qualities that enabled him to build a vast empire from humble beginnings.  They quarreled amongst each other for legitmate claims over titles and spoils of war, leading to inevitable schism of the empire into multiple smaller Khanates.  For the most part, the Mongols failed to integrate with the peoples they conquered, resulting inl revolts, in Persia and China in particular, that eventually ended their rule.  Nor did they establish more sophisticated political and economic institutions other that postal and taxation systems.  Without a permanent hold on the lands they conquered, the Mongols were eventually defeated by those they subjugated.  In the end, they would retreat back to the steppes of Mongolia beyond the Gobi Desert, where it all began.

AAAAAAAAAA
"The crisis of yesterday is the joke of tomorrow.�   ~ HG Wells
           
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Tobodai View Drop Down
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  Quote Tobodai Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-May-2005 at 06:36
very good way on analyzing it I must say! Good analogies to a culture that in our modern world still is heavily paralelled to the mobility of the steppe.  In the past the steppe was the globalizing route of Eurasia, now business has much the same role.
"the people are nothing but a great beast...
I have learned to hold popular opinion of no value."
-Alexander Hamilton
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  Quote chonos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Dec-2005 at 02:39
who were the shareholders?
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