经济学人官方译文 | 成功的管理没有神奇公式

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Bartleby
巴托比
Juggling act
杂耍
There is no magic formula for management success
成功的管理没有神奇公式

AIRPORT BOOKSHOPS teem with guides that promise to teach executives the secrets of success. Read this tome, follow this philosophy, change your habits and you, too, can be a management titan. As a moment’s reflection on business history demonstrates, there is no sure-fire route to glory. Instead, running a company is a permanent exercise in juggling trade-offs. What is the right course of action may vary at different times, and in different industries.
机场书店里到处是号称能向高管们传授成功秘诀的指南。看看这本大部头,听听那套管理哲学,改变你的习惯,你也可以成为一名管理大师。但对商业史稍加反思就能知道,世上并无必胜之道。相反,经营企业是一场永无休止的权衡利弊的把戏。时间不同、行业不同,成功之道可能也各不相同。

Take, for example, the pace of expansion. The fashion is for “upscaling”—creating a business model that can dominate its niche within a few years. This model’s turbocharged version, “blitzscaling”, is beloved of venture capitalists who dream of recreating the “network effects” that fuelled the rise of Google and Facebook. That is, in part, because most venture investments fail and a few big successes are needed to make up for all the duds.
以扩张速度为例。现在流行“快速”扩张,即创造一种可在几年内称霸所在利基市场的商业模式。这一模式还有加强版——“闪电扩张”,风险资本家对此尤为钟情,他们梦想再现当年造就谷歌和Facebook的“网络效应”。某种程度上,这是因为风险投资大多数都是失败的,需要少数大获成功的项目来弥补所有失败的损失。

From the point of view of the entrepreneur, however, upscaling may well be a mistake. For a start, not all businesses are subject to network effects. Second, by expanding too fast, companies risk losing control of product quality and messing up their management structure. Building a business is like running a marathon, and few people win a long-distance race by setting off like Usain Bolt. The first Walmart store was opened in 1962 and it took another six years before the retail chain expanded outside its home state of Arkansas.
然而,从企业家的角度看,快速扩张很可能是个错误决策。首先,并非所有企业都能得益于“网络效应”。其次,扩张太快,产品质量可能失控,管理结构也会乱作一团。经营企业就像跑马拉松,长跑比赛的赢家是不会像博尔特那样起跑的。第一家沃尔玛在1962年开业,六年后这家连锁零售商才从老家阿肯色州扩张到其他州。

The fashion for upscaling means that companies are encouraged to get their product to market as quickly as possible. The theory is that customers get a rough-and-ready prototype at the start, which is improved over time. This may work for smartphone apps, which are easy to update, but not for most other products, where a reputation for shoddiness may be impossible to shake off.
快速扩张的风潮促使公司尽快将产品推向市场。其理念是先给客户不完善但可用的原型产品,之后再逐步改进。对智能手机应用而言这可能行得通,毕竟这些应用很容易更新,但其他大多数产品却不是这样,因为一旦背上粗制滥造的名声,可能就无法洗脱了。

In his book on financial frauds, “Lying for Money”, Dan Davies, a former financial regulator, explains how companies must balance the goals of cost, quality and customer satisfaction. Focus too narrowly on cost and the quality of goods may suffer; concentrate on quality and costs will rise. Try to ensure both and the business may become so obsessed with its own production processes that it ignores customer needs.
曾任金融监管官员的丹·戴维斯(Dan Davies)在他撰写的有关金融诈骗的《说谎骗钱》(Lying for Money)一书中解析了公司如何必须在成本、质量和客户满意度等目标之间做好权衡。过度关注成本,商品质量可能会下降;只专注质量,成本可能会上升。尽量兼顾这两者,企业又可能一味执着于自己的生产流程,以致忽视了顾客的需求。

Another trade-off is between centralisation and delegation. Early Victorian businesses resembled the army: generals (executives) handing down instructions to non-commissioned officers (foremen and overseers) who in turn directed the foot soldiers (workers). This hierarchical structure was devised for a world in which employees were required to follow a clear set of instructions.
另一项权衡是集权还是放权。维多利亚时代的早期企业很像军队:将军(高管)向士官(工头和一线管理人员)发出指令,再由后者指示步兵(员工)行动。这种等级架构是应当时员工须按明确指示来工作的大环境而生的。

As businesses became more sophisticated in the 20th century, organisations became much more elaborate. Companies were split into divisions by geography and product type. Middle managers took charge of functions such as marketing and finance. Eventually, though, businesses started to view these structures as expensive and overly bureaucratic.
到了20世纪,企业变得越来越复杂,组织方式也变得精细得多。公司按地域和产品类型划分为不同部门。中层管理人员负责营销和财务等职能。然而,最终,企业开始觉得这些架构太过昂贵和繁冗。

In the past 20 years or so management layers have been stripped away. A flat structure, with delegated decision-making, seemed more appropriate for a service-based economy. The idea of “agile” management, in which workers are frequently reassigned to multidisciplinary teams, is all the rage.
过去大约20年的时间里,管理层级被削减。决策权下放的扁平结构似乎更适用于服务型经济。频繁让员工在不同的跨领域团队里轮岗的“敏捷”管理理念大行其道。

But this trend can likewise go too far. When power is dispersed, the result can be a confused mess. Some firms may conclude they are better off under centralised command.
但这种趋势同样会矫枉过正。权力被分散,结果可能是没有头绪、一片混乱。有些公司可能会得出结论,认为集权管理更有利。

The last trade-off is between focus and diversification. The relegation of General Electric from the Dow Jones industrial average last year seemed like another nail in the coffin of the industrial conglomerate. Institutional investors can diversify their portfolios by investing in a range of sectors; they do not need a conglomerate to do it for them. Yet cash-rich tech giants are similarly buying promising startups, often with no obvious relation to their core business (think of Google’s purchase of Nest, which makes thermostats).
最后还有在专一与多元化之间的权衡。去年通用电气被剔除出道琼斯工业平均指数,似乎是给这家工业集团的棺材板上又钉了一根钉子。机构投资者可以通过投资多个行业来实现投资组合多样化,而不需要一家企业集团来代劳。然而,财大气粗的科技巨头还是这样到处收购前景光明的创业公司,而后者往往与前者的核心业务没有明显关联,例如谷歌收购恒温器制造商Nest。

At some point the growth prospects of even the best products falter. For businesses to survive, they must find new things or services to sell. Choosing the right time to expand and diversify, and the right organisational structure to do it, is a matter of judgment. That judgment, and the flexibility to change plans, is what makes a good manager. It cannot be reduced to an in-flight read.
即便是最好的产品,到了某个节点,增长前景也会不稳。企业要生存就必须推出新产品或新服务。在合适的时机扩张及推进多元化,并选择与之相配的组织架构,这需要判断力。这种判断力及灵活变通正是优秀的管理人员所必备的。这一切可没办法浓缩到一本飞机读物中。

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