The Importance of Management Style
When Ross Perot was negotiating for control of F. I. duPont, Glore Forgan in late 1970 and early 1971, he had sometimes talked as if he were willing, even anxious, to withdraw entirely from the investment business. But his actions contradicted his bargaining posture. From December 15, 1970 on, he assumed the responsibility for managing F. I. duPont, Glore Forgan. And no one said him nay.
Ross decided the firm needed to be managed very differently from the way it had been in the past, a reasonable attitude considering how ineptly Maurice Stans, Archie Albright, the senior partners of Hirsch, and Edmond duPont cum Wally Latour had failed to meet the challenges of the previous five years.
Hadn't Ross become one of the richest men in the world managing EDS the way he thought a business should be managed?
Ross began by doing what top partners of Glore Forgan and of most other firms had neglected. He visited the back offices. In fact, he was ten years ahead of his time in practicing the "walking around management" that Thomas J. Peters later popularized.1
Ross Perot breezed into department after department, affably talked to everyone, listened intently, and dictated notes to a lieutenant, deferential at his side.
The next day, departmental officers, like Richard McDonald who headed over-the-counter trading, got a fist of orders.2
Unfortunately, U.S. Naval Academy graduate H. Ross Perot acted like a captain assuming command of a naval vessel, not like the CEO of an investment firm. Many of the orders given department heads were picayune, such as specifying the level to which the blinds should be drawn.