Brutality keeps companies on top, says management guru

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The Independent Online
CONFLICT at work, even to the point of brutality, can be vital for company success, according to an American management guru.

In contrast to the trend towards 'family friendly' management, Richard Pascale, a business consultant, exalts the virtues of working 18 hours a day.

Writing in the latest issue of Personnel Management, Mr Pascale declares: 'Running scared seems to keep a company on the edge of performance.'

One of the companies he admires is Intel, an American group, which has no formal 'contention process' but has a very 'contention-prone culture'.

Intel is driven by the personal style of Andy Grove, president, who believes in a 'gloves off' approach, which at times can be brutal. Mr Pascale concedes that it has a combative form of discussion that most companies would not tolerate.

The American computer giant IBM is given as an example of a company where there is no such conflict and which has become complacent and lost market share as a consequence.

Companies like McDonalds, the hamburger chain, depended for their success on someone challenging accepted ideas about the future of the organisation and producing a 'radical new slant'.

Another company that has harnessed conflict successfully is Honda, Mr Pascale says. The Japanese car group runs 'straight, hard-hitting discussions in which rank doesn't matter'.

Occasionally there are 'extraordinary underdogs' that have become successful through the management of conflict. Mr Pascale mentions Nordstrom, the Seattle-based retailer, British Airways and the US television news broadcaster CNN, which reached for goals that initially seemed impossible.

Conflict is an inescapable part of life in complex organisations, he says. 'The choice you get to make is whether to ignore it, suppress it or harness it.'