We'll admit it: John Chambers's Cisco isn't a "socialist enterprise" in the traditional sense ("Revolution in San Jose," December 2008/January 2009). As senior writer Ellen McGirt explained to one reader, "The 'socialist' reference was a framing device, used to describe the complex notion of the social Web, where power, influence, and information have been permanently transformed by networked technology. Cisco has become as nimble and network-savvy as a startup."
Ellen Mcgirt's compelling and beautifully written article depicts the new Cisco not as a socialist enterprise but as a company willing to create a free-market system within its own organization. The article describes an environment where ideas, innovation, and even blogs rise or fall based on merit, as perceived by the marketplace, not by the state. Does Cisco's new direction give more "power to the people"? Absolutely. Is it more socially and economically responsible? Absolutely. Is it a socialist enterprise? Absolutely not.
I am a retired COO and vice chairman of a large public company. As an active COO I initiated a similar management philosophy in our company for our quality- control initiatives. We basically gave control of all of our QC processes to our employees, with access to education and development programs on a voluntary basis. I believe this program not only improved our quality, but also was responsible for 15% to 20% revenue increases, a 10% to 15% cost reduction, and an immeasurable increase in our associates' morale. We must all recognize the desire of many of our associates to make greater contributions than their traditional positions allow.
Robert P. Barone
Bonita Springs, Florida
Cisco CEO John Chambers was right to "politely ignore" Ellen McGirt's references to socialist and collectivist philosophies concerning his company's new organizational structure and culture. What were described are actually principles of American federalism. However, Ms. McGirt's reference to "Cisco citizens" was right on. And Mr. Chambers has given them the common language and communication tools for a federalist culture so they can be responsible, accountable, contributing citizens of Cisco. Mr. Chambers leads a company that will continue to be resilient and grow.
In a true capitalist sense, Chambers is getting more value out of his employees to better his business and better serve his customers.
It's interesting how ideas take hold and become popular, based on who uses them and how they are presented. Ricardo Semler's Semco has used the approach you describe at Cisco for years, and many of the fundamental concepts discussed are seen in lean manufacturing and agile software development processes.
San Francisco, California
Brighter Than Sunshine
"Solar Goes Supernova" (December 2008/January 2009) was nothing short of brilliant. Chris Turner gathered all the technical detail of an emerging — one might say exploding — market and made it easy to read and understand. No small feat in an age of technospeak where the above-average reader must keep Wikipedia at the ready to assist in the process of learning.
Reputation by Review
Part of the risk of being out there is that a greater number of people can evaluate what you bring to the table ("On the Internet, Everyone Knows You're a Dog," December 2008/January 2009). I have found that over time, the commenters who are habitually negative and offer little value get filtered out. If the sites build customer relationships, they will have the support to counter those that are full of "hatorade."
Richmond Hill, Ontario
Die, Slogans, Die!
I agree with the Made to Stick columnists that an abundance of cliché-ridden slogans are used for internal campaigns and other side initiatives (December 2008/January 2009). But I disagree that there is no place for taglines. You'd be crazy to say that Apple's "Think different" tagline didn't do a world of good for that brand.
Des Moines, Iowa
Was "Have A Solid Holiday" (December 2008/January 2009) funded by the semiconductor industry, with some money thrown in by the PC manufacturers? How about a brief discussion of the problems with solid-state drives? SSD is probably the future, but the technology has a way to go.
Los Angeles, California
Another Mighty Sparrow
Motorola seems to have done what GM could not. Motorola pulled back, retooled, and out came a Sparrow (Futurist, December 2008/January 2009). I don't even have a retail operation and I am thinking of all types of things I could do with that bird.
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A version of this article appeared in the March 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.