The rights and wrongs of management books on social issues
管理学书籍探讨社会问题的是与非

【双语】别来玄的 Keep it practical-书迷号 shumihao.com

MODERN EXECUTIVES are often told they should worry about a lot more than their balance-sheets. They should be aware of their company’s environmental impact, of how well they treat their employees and suppliers, and whether their workforce is sufficiently diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity.

现代高管经常被告知要多多关注资产负债表之外的东西。他们要了解公司对环境的影响有多大、员工和供应商的待遇如何,以及员工队伍在性别和种族方面是否足够多元。

Sometimes, this pressure comes from customers unhappy with the company’s stance on an issue. Sometimes employees demand that their firms take action, as when Google dropped a contract with the Pentagon after workers complained. But many businesspeople don’t need a push: they are strong believers in what are known as ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues.

有时,这种压力来自对公司在某个问题上的立场不满意的客户。有时是员工要求公司采取行动,例如谷歌在员工抗议之后放弃了与五角大楼的一份合同。但是许多企业领导并不需要别人施压,他们本身就对ESG(环境、社会和治理)议题抱持强烈的信念。

During the lockdown your columnist has worked his way through four weighty tomes by managers who argue that companies have a broader purpose than simply making a profit. The books were “Trailblazer” by Marc Benioff, “Green Swans” by John Elkington, “Restoring the Soul of Business” by Rishad Tobaccowala and “Share” by Chris Yates and Linda Jingfang Cai.

在封城期间,本专栏作者啃完了四本由管理者撰写的大部头著作,他们都认为公司的目标不止于获利。它们是马克·贝尼奥夫(Marc Benioff)的《开拓者》(Trailblazer)、约翰·埃尔金顿(John Elkington)的《绿天鹅》(Green Swans)、里沙德·托巴科瓦拉(Rishad Tobaccowala)的《重塑商业的灵魂》(Restoring the Soul of Business),以及克里斯·叶兹(Chris Yates)和蔡婧芳的《共享》(Share)。

The danger is that managers use their books to opine on every social issue of the moment. Mr Elkington is a social entrepreneur who has co-founded groups such as SustainAbility, an environmental consultancy. The idea behind “Green Swans” is to focus on changes in the economy that will lead to environmental breakthroughs but his message is lost in a miasma of mixed metaphors. In the space of two pages he writes about “10x thinking”, “an exponential mindset” and the “Chrysalis economy”, while warning that the world is both heading into “some sort of historic U-bend” and backed into “the mother of all corners”. Quite how a corner can have a mother, the author fails to explain.

管理者们一旦要通过自己的书来发表对当下各种社会问题的看法,问题就来了。社会企业家埃尔金顿是环境咨询公司“持续能力”(SustainAbility)等企业的联合创始人。《绿天鹅》的初衷是着重讲述经济中的某些变化将能带来环境方面的突破,但他的中心思想却淹没在形形色色的隐喻构成的迷阵里。在仅仅两页纸的篇幅里,他一边讲着“10倍思维”、“指数(增长)心态”和“蝶蛹经济”,一边警告说世界正在走向“某种历史性的U形大转折”,同时又退回到“困境之母中”。困境如何还能有母亲,作者并没有解释。

In “Share” Mr Yates, general manager of learning and development at Microsoft, and Ms Cai, an “organisation design specialist”, fall into a different trap. The dust jacket promises a book about “new business models based on sharing, reciprocity and co-operation”. Instead readers get a rambling mix of personal biography and economic history.

在《共享》一书中,微软学习与发展总经理叶兹与“组织设计专家”蔡婧芳陷入了另一个陷阱。书的护封上介绍说这本书讲的是“基于共享、互惠与合作的新商业模式”。但读者实际看到的却是个人传记和经济史的大杂烩。

Readers will find more useful lessons from Mr Benioff, the founder of Salesforce. His book is a personal history of how he built his software giant, while donating 1% of its services, profit and employees’ time to help non-profit organisations and charities. He argues that “companies and their leaders simply can no longer turn a blind eye to the issues that matter to their employees, their customers and the communities on which they do business”. To cite one notable example, Salesforce opposed a bill in Indiana that would have allowed business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ customers (after Mr Benioff’s intervention, Indiana’s then governor, Mike Pence, revised the bill to prevent such discrimination).

读者能从Salesforce的创始人贝尼奥夫那里获得更多有用的经验。他在书中讲述了自己打造这家软件巨头的经历,以及一直将1%的服务、利润和员工时间捐赠给非营利组织和慈善机构的做法。他认为,“公司及它们的领导者就是不能再无视员工、客户以及自己业务所系的社区所重视的问题。”举一个著名的例子,Salesforce反对印第安纳州一项允许企业主歧视LGBTQ(男女同性恋、双性恋者和跨性别者等性少数群体)客户的法案(贝尼奥夫干预之后,印第安纳州时任州长迈克·彭斯修改了法案以防止这种歧视)。

The book provides some useful lessons for chief executives who might assume their company is free from bias. Mr Benioff admits that for a long time he assumed his company paid sexes and races equally. But a review showed that it did not and three rounds of pay adjustments were needed before equalisation occurred. This focus on social issues has not stopped Salesforce from making money for shareholders. It also regularly ranks as one of the best places to work.

这本书为那些可能以为自己的公司不存在偏见的首席执行官提供了一些有用的经验。贝尼奥夫承认,很长一段时间以来,他一直以为自己的公司不论性别和种族一律同工同酬。但一次内部审查表明实际情况并非如此,并需要三轮调薪才能实现待遇平等。对社会问题的关注并没有妨碍Salesforce为股东们赚钱。它也经常被评为最佳工作场所之一。

Perhaps the best of the books is Mr Tobaccowala’s. That is because the author, a senior adviser at Publicis Groupe, an advertising and communications firm, has a clear focus: how to ensure you can hire, then inspire, the right workers in the knowledge economy. “Employees who find work meaningful are highly productive, agile and committed,” he writes, adding that talented workers are in a more powerful bargaining position in the current economy. He also argues that companies can be too obsessed with data, and not enough with employee motivation: “The best businesses find ways to marry the math and the magic.”

托巴科瓦拉的书可能是这几本书中最好的一本。这是因为这位广告和传播公司阳狮集团(Publicis Groupe)的高级顾问论述的重点很明确,即如何确保在知识经济中雇到合适的人才并激励他们。“觉得工作有意义的员工生产力、敏捷度和敬业度都高。”他写道。他还补充说,在当前的经济环境下,有才华的员工议价能力更强。他同时认为,公司有时会过于痴迷数据,对激励员工却关注不足:“最好的企业能把数学和魔法结合起来。”

The book is clearly written and full of sensible and practical suggestions. They include assessing all meetings to eliminate those that waste time and suggesting that all employees spend 20% of each month trying to enhance their skills.

这本书表达清晰,也提供了大量合理可行的建议,包括通过评估取消那些浪费时间的会议,并建议所有员工每月花20%的时间提升自己的技能。

Both Mr Tobaccowala and Mr Benioff reflect on how companies can pursue both broader social goals and the desire to grow. Indeed, they argue that the aims are complementary, rather than contradictory. They also demonstrate the benefits of practical advice over grand philosophising about every social issue of the day. Those lessons even apply to managers who aren’t writing books.

托巴科瓦拉和贝尼奥夫都在书中思考公司如何能实现更广泛的社会目标和自身发展目标。实际上,他们都论证了这两个目标是互补而不是互斥的。他们也展现了实用的建议比把当今所有社会问题都提到哲学的高度更有帮助。这些经验甚至适用于那些不写书的管理者。