Jeff Immelt, former chairman of General Electric Co., speaks during an interview on the David Rubenstein Show in New York, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. Immelt said leaders need to face up to emerging problems and that "the future always comes". Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg
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Andrew Hill’s challenge

The FT’s management editor sets a weekly test of your business, strategy and management skills.

Jeff Immelt, former chief executive of General Electric, is the latest leader to be castigated retrospectively for not having acted quickly enough to prepare his company for wrenching strategic change. But chief executives have a full enough plate as it is and management consultants, thinkers and, yes, journalists keep adding to it with advice, often overlapping or even conflicting.

I tallied up the to-do lists offered by speakers at last week’s Drucker Forum on management in Vienna and came up with a long stream of sometimes contradictory maxims. My fear is that the overwhelmed executive will revert to the crude goal of maximising shareholder value — and drop other better and more nuanced objectives.

I’ve long thought the job of managing GE may be hard for one person to achieve, so for this week’s challenge, I’d like to hear in one sentence what you think Mr Immelt could or should have done differently — from breaking up the conglomerate to revolutionising the hierarchy. Send your thoughts to

Alison Chappell has a counter-intuitive suggestion in her answer to last week’s challenge about how to mitigate the effects of a corporate restructuring. She recommends "starting the restructuring at the bottom: finding the right people for the new organisation, and allowing them a say in who gets to lead them from the level above, based on their view of who is a good leader".

In further reading this week, I recommend taking a look at the essays submitted by young authors for the Peter Drucker Essay Challenge, run in conjunction with the annual management festival. The most thought-provoking and freshest ideas usually come from this cohort of writers and thinkers, including, this year, reflections on the business and personal impact of technology, the "compassionate enterprise" and "what LinkedIn would look like for the LinkedOut".

Professor’s picks

Every week a business school professor or academic recommends useful FT articles.

Professor Ajay Bhalla, professor of global innovation and family business at City University’s Cass Business School, selects

Not all scions are useless at business The article shows that well-trained family executives bring much value to their family business. However, less is known about how to prepare the next generation to maintain the running of the company.

My research with two professors shows that to build a lasting business starts with instilling four skills in the heirs, of the organisation, from an early stage.

Skills include financial expertise, focusing not only on how to calculate returns but to accumulate resources to start new ventures. Another skill is reputation management, which involves taking part in activities that enhance the family’s reputation in society.

Jonathan Moules’ business school news

As hard as it is for some to feel empathy for lawyers, the market has been suffering a tough few years in the US. Automation or outsourcing of entry level tasks, such as data discovery, has enabled law firms to take on fewer graduate level staff. As a result there has been a steady drop in law school admissions since 2010.

Innovation is seen as the solution. For example, Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law has injected core elements of an MBA course into its juris doctor degree programme. The University of Maryland’s Carey Law School has set up an incubator to help students looking to set up in solo practice.

This might not solve the bigger problem, but it might give some established schools a better chance of survival. It is part of a bigger evolution in business education more generally as MBA programme designers look to create more relevant course content, delivered in a way that suits students that expect flexibility and convenience in everything they do.

The jobs market is getting harder for professions such as the law, but the options for those who want to improve their skills are increasing.

Ask the academics

Got a question for leading business school experts? Send it to and we will publish the best replies in future newsletters.

Test your knowledge

How good is your grasp of the news? Test your reading of last week’s top stories with the FirstFT quiz.

Edited by Wai Kwen Chan —

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