The Gospel According to Barloworld's CE

BARLOWORLD CE Tony Phillips has read the Bible, seen the light, and is using the example of the dispersal of the 12 disciples as a model for his own management reshuffles.

Not that Phillips, who is a modest sort of chap, has any delusions of God-like vision or powers.

It is just that he thinks that modern managers could learn a thing or two from the way in which the word of Jesus was popularised.

"You have to admire the good Lord when he sent out the disciples," says Phillips.

"He sent Peter to Rome, another one to Asia Minor, another disciple to Spain, and so on he pushed people out to the regions. And it was quite successfully done."

Whether or not divine inspiration has played a key role, Barloworld had just announced a fairly extensive management reshuffle which may not have the same effect on civilisation as the spread of Christianity, but which Phillips believes will be good for his company.

"If one talks about the issue of rotation, a lot of us say that if you want to get to the top, you should have spent time outside SA," says Phillips.

Hence this week's announcement that the CEO of Barloworld Motor, Brandon Diamond, is off to Charlotte, North Carolina, to head the group's US fork lift truck and lorry business.

The incumbent, Ken Brown, is retiring.

The chances are that once he has done a stint in the US, Diamond will be asked to return to SA in a more senior position.

"There is quite a lot of movement this year," muses Phillips.

"My successor in Madrid (where Phillips had been posted prior to his promotion to CE of Barloworld) retired at the end of February, and he has been replaced by one of his lieutenants," Phillips says.

"All our Caterpillar franchises have been put under one person, Lester Day, who had been CE of the SA and Russian franchises.

"It is desirable to have a single point of contact with Caterpillar."

Not a bad idea, when you consider that Barloworld's Caterpillar franchises account for over a third of the group's activities.

There has also been an exchange of responsibilities between two other senior Barloworld executives, Peter Surgey and Andre Lamprecht who are swapping responsibility for the Barloworld coatings business and for human resources a post in which it seems a knowledge of the New Testament is most advisable.

"These moves are part of an ongoing process of renewal in our global management team," explains Phillips. "I felt that new people can add new perspective and new energy.

"This is the first such broad reshuffle in Barloworld management." Not that Phillips has not practised what he preaches.

"I personally have had 13 or 14 career moves in the group," he calculates, rapidly running out of fingers on which to recall all his previous postings.

"This was at a time when it was a very popular modus operandi to rotate people through different operations."

Phillips has held different jobs in Johannesburg, and has also moved to and from Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Durban, Madrid and has even been sent to such exotic locations as Bloemfontein and Nelspruit.

"How do you transfer knowledge and learning, and best practice, in an organisation?" he says. "It's a big challenge."

And hence the strategy devised over 2 000 years ago by one who is even more senior than the CE of Barloworld.

Just as God decided to make the earth rotate, so Phillips believes a slightly different form of rotation both inside SA and through overseas postings is a good way of improving the skills of his top managers, to groom one of them to take over from Phillips in the very top post.

Though, hopefully, this will happen well before Phillips is summoned to meet his maker.