Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008 at 1:08pm
Just a note to say so long for a couple of days. I'm taking off for Rome this afternoon to speak at a large conference of project managers. It's a bit weird, I know. But a few years ago, I wrote a book called Rome, Inc.: The Rise and Fall of the First Multinational Corporation. A very nice gentleman in Rome who is associated with the conference thought it might be an interesting spin for the assembled multitudes now gathering, and asked me if I would like to come and speak. How many times does one have the opportunity to do this kind of thing? I'll tell you. Not many. So here I go.
The thesis of the book is that Rome was the first corporate entity in history. It began as a mom-and-pop enterprise. Two brothers ran it. They hated each other and one eventually killed the other. Sounds like the garment business, doesn't it? After that, the new company engaged in an aggressive push for expansion, both through friendly and unfriendly acquisitions, eventually rising to the position of #1 in its chosen marketplace. At that point, it devolved into a CEO-centric organization ill-suited to manage its ill-considered expansion into new venues, and was eventually brought down by its own size and incompetence, and by a group of hostile start-ups that ate its lunch.
There are many lessons that may be learned from Rome by those of us who work for similar organizations, as well as by the larger eco-system of which we are all an increasingly nervous part. The similarities between that corporate organization and ours are interesting, if not disquieting.
But frankly, I've had enough disquiet for a while. I think I'll have some pasta instead. The good news is that due to the incipient collapse of our own global empire, the value of the dollar seems to be a bit better against the euro than it has been for quite some time. So I'll only have to put two coins in the fountain when I make a wish.
Ciao for now.