Did Ma Bell Breed Execs To Fail?

from the not-such-a-good-training-ground dept

GE and IBM are often named as companies that turn out strong management execs who later go on to run other companies. Both companies have strong management training programs that are designed to create the types of leaders the company needs. It doesn’t always work out that way, but in general, the reputation may be well earned. On the other side of the coin, however, some are noticing that executives who grew up at AT&T seem to leave a trail of failure in their wake at nearly every company they go to. Once again, it’s not universally true, but there certainly are a large number of recognizable AT&T alumni failures at other companies. In fact, one person in the article suggests that those who succeed after coming out of AT&T do so because they learned what not to do, rather than how to manage properly. The easiest explanation for this, of course, is that AT&T was a government regulated monopoly, and the culture there was built on that understanding, rather than a real understanding of how to compete in the market. Of course, thanks to SBC, it looks like Ma Bell won’t be throwing off too many more executive alumni (well, other than the current batch, of course).

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Comments on “Did Ma Bell Breed Execs To Fail?”

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dorpus says:


What abou all the executives who came from non-government, dot-com startups, who continue to leave trails of failure in silicon valley? In the American business culture, people like to talk big about how they “don’t need” the government. Instead, they like to start worthless businesses and receive generous government bankruptcy benefits.

Precision Blogger (user link) says:

re: breeding grounds

I worked at an atrocious company called Exxon Office Systems in the early ’80’s. We did almost everything wrong. When Exxon shut us down in 1984-5, many employees moved to AT&T, where we all FLOURISHED. We were able to understand gigantic chaos and make it work for us, but the chaos never got any better.

AT&T had been a guaranteed-rate-of-return company in the past, but that was no longer true in 1985. It was clear at that time however that the same high-level managers were still in control and had not changed their point of view. I wonder how many years it took for most of these powerful guys to retire…

It is said that AT&T lost $1B in its nascent computer business in 1985, a lot of money at that time. Exxon was said to have needed the whole previous ten years to lose an equal amount trying to enter the computer business.
– The Precision Blogger

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