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Can your CIO write code as well as the Harley Davidson CEO can ride a motorcycle?

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VP’s at Motorola that aren’t technology people?

A while ago I listened to a couple of Motorola engineers lament the fact that several of the Motorola Vice Presidents had college degrees in other than a technology field.  The presupposition, in their mind, being that to run a technology company one needs to be an expert in technology – VP’s with MBA’s and degrees in economics and marketing need not apply.

An Apple CEO that is expert at selling Soft Drinks?

Back in 1983 when Steve Jobs tried to lure John Sculley to Apple as CEO he said to him, ““Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”  Why would Steve Jobs try to hire the President of PepsiCo as CEO of Apple?  What does selling “sugar water” have to do with computers and technology?  (“Pepsi, no Coke”)

CIO’s that are not good coders?

I cam across a teaser on the Internet to sign-up for an article, “Should the CIO Know How to Code?”  I suppose that technology people would hope the CIO can wite some code.  How else could someone who is not a coder run a giant corporation?

A Harley-Davidson CEO that can’t tell a horse from a HOG?

A couple of weeks ago I bought a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  Being as diligent as I am, I took a look at who is running this great (and last) american motorcycle company.  Sure enough, when CEO Keith Wandell came on board in 2009 he probably couldn’t tell a Hog (motorcycle) from a horse.

Shocking fact…  Keith Wandell walks into the CEO office at Harley Davidson and he doesn’t own or ride a motorcycle.  How can this be?  Harley riders would probably hope that the CEO of their cherished company would at least have dirty fingernails and own a couple of tools to work on a bike.

But is it so shocking that non-technology people can run a technology company or that a guy that does not own, ride, or wrench a motorcycle can run a company like Harley Davidson?

The Take – It’s about the business…

Many people forget that a company is not so much about radios, computers, or motorcycles as it is about running a business.  Radios, computers, and motorcycles are just the products at any point in time.  A company is about consumers, markets, demand, economics, and a whole ecosystems of trends, emerging technology, innovation, and competition.  Survival is also much about repositioning.  When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone he also changed the name of the company from Apple Computer to just “Apple” – dropping “Computer” from the company name.  This, to signal a repositioning of Apple to take advantage new opportunities that had noting to do with an Apple computer on your desk.   ( Read related about PESTLE analysis )  ( Read about missing opportunities here )

To be laser focused on a particular technology, or to have a narrow focus only on technology is most times a liability.  Suppose Steve Wozniak was Apple CEO.  How different would it be if a true-blue single-minded engineer set the vision for Apple?  Would Apple have ever transformed the music industry, or created a smartphone?  What goes this have to do with computers?  In some cases, those with a single-minded focus on technology setting a corporate vision can be a liability.  While Steve Jobs, the product and marketing rock star built the most valuable company to date, Steve Wozniak fell into relative obscurity.  What makes companies successful?

Career Paths

For those in their 20’s who want to climb the corporate ladder in a technology company it will be a test to see how long it takes them to figure out that corporate advancement will only be delayed by learning more and more about technology.  Entry to the executive floors is only granted to those with business skills.  The earlier you realize this, the faster you’ll get on track to reach your goal.  Never figure this out and you will  most likely be a techie at the bottom of an organization until the day you retire. 

So, if you are one of those people who really does think that Motorola VP’s should be required to have technology degrees, that CIO’s should know how to write code, and that a better Harley-Davidson CEO would come from the ranks of experienced road-hardended bikers AND you expect to get ahead in corporate america then you should reconsider what it takes to be a successful executive in a FORTUNE 500 corporation.

Off to ride my new HOG. 

Resources

The Skinny on the Harley-Davidson CEO that’s “learning to ride” that HOG.
Read the full article here – http://www.jsonline.com/business/42829807.html

Ned Douthat doesn’t care whether Harley-Davidson Inc.’s new CEO rides a Hog or a horse.

Running a company boils down to boosting sales and profits, said Douthat, a financial analyst with Ockham Research Inc.

“It’s really that simple,” he said. “Harley is struggling now. They just need the best leader for the business.”

Starting May 1, Keith Wandell of Johnson Controls Inc. will be that leader.

He replaces James Ziemer, who has been Harley’s president and chief executive since 2005 and is retiring after 40 years with the motorcycle company.

Wandell, president and chief operating officer at Johnson Controls, takes over at a challenging time. Bike sales have slumped as the recession keeps buyers out of dealerships, and the credit crisis makes it difficult for some customers to get financing.

Wandell doesn’t own a Harley yet, a fact that startled some bikers when his appointment was announced last week. They’re used to seeing the company’s top executives clad in leather, riding the shiniest Fat Boy and Ultra Glide Classic machines.

But that doesn’t matter much to Wall Street analysts who follow the company’s fortunes.

“It’s nice to promote from within. But every now and then it doesn’t hurt to bring in an outsider who looks at things from a different point of view,” Hirsch said.

More companies are searching outside of their industries for chief executives.

They’re seeking leadership qualities, regardless of the person’s background, said John Phillips, a labor attorney and columnist with The Employment Law Post.

Gettin’ with the program…
http://motorcycles.about.com/b/2010/06/28/leading-by-example-harley-davidson-ceo-keith-wandell-will-ride-to-sturgis-rally.htm

Read about Malcolm Forbes and motorcycling – here

Is there a HOG (investment) in your future?
http://seekingalpha.com/article/667751-riding-the-bull-market-with-harley-davidson
http://beta.fool.com/acardenal/2012/06/20/expecting-wild-ride-american-symbol/5956
http://www.thestreet.com/r/ratings/reports/analysis/HOG.html

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Written by frrl

June 25, 2012 at 5:26 pm

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