Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Vive Les Cannoniers!

Last night, Arsenal Football Club, otherwise known as the Gunners, scored a famous victory in a famous football stadium, the Bernabeu in Madrid. They, we, defeated Real Madrid 1-nil in the first leg of the knockout stages on the 2005/2006 Champions League.

It was a great game and a good result for us. But we need to finish off the job in the second leg at Highbury.

Thierry Henry was, well, Thierry Henry. What more can we can we say?

But spare a thought, also, for the man who IMHO has been far and away Arsenal's best and most consistent player this season: the goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. I had my doubts about Lehmann initially and I must admit they have lingered over the years. But this season he has laid all my doubts to rest. For good.

Surely he will be Gemany's first choice goalie in the World Cup laterthis year. Anything less will be a travesty.

Lehmann had a great game last night--once again this season.

In this sort of form, Lehmann may just be what Arsenal need to win their first European Cup.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Re: Zambian Budget Out Today

Today, Mr. Ng'andu Magande, Zambia's Finance Minister and chief architect of the country's economic resurgence, is to present what is perhaps his most important budget speech to date. The country's economic performance has improved steadily during his tenure. He has exercised commendable fiscal discipline and managed to steer the country to a programme of substantial debt relief. The mining industry, still the mainstay of Zambia's economy, has experienced tremendous growth in the last four or five years. Copper mining, the largest sector of the mining industry, has benefitted from privatisation, foreign investment and soaring international copper prices. The key economic indicators look very promising indeed.

But there are threats.

2006 is an election year in Zambia with all the attendant temptations for fiscal indiscipline that that entails. The strengthened local currency has posed a considerable challenge to Zambian exporters. International oil prices, a key factor in the country's economic performance, are extremely high, and may rise even higher this year. While the Zambian economy has been liberalised, a significant local entrepreneurial class has not emerged. There are a combination of factors behind this, too involved to go into here in any detail, but some are historical (e.g., Zambia was a socialist country until as recently as 1991) and some are environmental (e.g., the enormous financial interest rates which made it nigh on impossible for entrepreneurs to access credit).

I believe the key challenge before Mr. Magande and his team at the Ministry of Finance is to stimulate private enterprise in Zambia, for instance by lowering taxes significantly across the board. I'll have more to say on this post-Budget.

Incidentally, the Zambian budget was one of the breaking news stories featured on BusinessWeek Online today.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Peter F. Drucker

Drucker, Peter Ferdinand.

Born November 19, 1909, in Vienna, Austria; Died November 11, 2005, in Claremont, California. He described himself simply as a writer, a teacher and a consultant. There must be precious few autobiographical statements quite as wide of the mark as this one. Not that anything in the statement is false--quite the opposite. Drucker's skill as a writer, his power as a teacher, and his wisdom as a consultant, were justly renowned. No, he certainly was a great writer, a great teacher and a great consultant.

But Drucker was far more than that. Incalculably more.

Peter F. Drucker was, and is, the single most important management and social thinker of the last 100 years. And not only are his ideas important, they are also deeply influential.

Drucker is to management and social philosophy what Shakespeare is to the English Language. It is literally impossible to escape his influence--that influence is always there, whether one realises it or not, or agrees with it or not.

Drucker wrote 38 books. According to my latest count, I have read 25 of them. I have also read numerous other writings by and on Drucker.

If I had to choose one book by Drucker to recommend to someone new to the corpus, it would have to be The Effective Executive, first published in 1966. Despite the fact that the book is 40 years old, it has lost none of its power, freshness and relevance. I've lost count of the number of times I've read this book. It's the sort of book you have to keep and read (not just refer to) over and over again. I intend to devote several of my upcoming posts to discussing the ideas presented in this great book.

If I had to choose one article by Drucker to recommend to someone, it would be Managing Oneself, first published in 1999 in the Harvard Business Review.

Drucker is one of the most quotable thinkers you'll ever encounter. Here are just three of my favourite Drucker quotations to illustrate my point:

"The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said."

""I never predict. I just look out the window and see what's visible—but not yet seen."

"[Drucker was asked] Looking back on your career, is there anything you wish you had done that you weren't able to do?

[Drucker answered] Yes, quite a few things. There are many books I could have written that are better than the ones I actually wrote. My best book would have been one titled Managing Ignorance, and I'm very sorry I didn't write it. "

That's quite an answer coming from the man who coined the terms "knowledge work" and "knowledge worker", which underly the notions of the "knowledge economy" and "knowledge management".

His work is full of such gems.

Drucker's gone, but his influence will endure.

A couple of extra goodies:

-- You can hear the great man himself in this radio interview that he gave in late 2004.

-- Drucker's grandson writes an interesting blog.