Revisiting The Raven and Visiting Foreign Subsidiaries

On January 19 we celebrated the birth of one of America’s most iconic authors, Edgar Allen Poe, who was born on this day in Boston, Massachusetts. Anyone who reads or watches a mystery show on television owes a debt to Poe for inventing the genre.

Poe flunked out of West Point but later became an editor at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, Virginia.

He wrote the poem The Raven and short stories like The Fall of the House of Usher and The Tell-Tale Heart. In the mid-1830s he began to write mystery stories, including The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter - works that would earn him a reputation as the father of the modern detective story. He died in 1849.

I thought about his well-known sad tale when I read a recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review by Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux and Orly Levy, entitled “The Perils of Attention from Headquarters”. The authors had a very different perspective on what I thought to be a rather mundane issue; that being visits to markets outside the US by senior management from US corporate headquarters. The authors posited, “Operations in growing markets such as China often draw substantial attention from corporate headquarters. Unfortunately, that attention does not always add value — and can even impede performance.” The authors studied this issue in an international workshop they ran for “managers of foreign subsidiaries on how to manage the attention of headquarters staff.” Given the current attention that Chief Compliance Officers (CCOs) and compliance practitioners need to spend on China specifically, and international operations more generally, I thought the article had some excellent insights for the compliance function going forward.

The authors identified four major issues in their workshop ...

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