Meet Fred Kindle!

10 months ago, Fred Kindle, CEO of Sulzer, was named to be CEO of ABB. Since he didn't come from a process automation background, not very many people, me included, knew much about his background or his goals, or what kind of a person he was. His keynote speech this morning at ABB Automation World gave me the opportunity to get a sense of the man. "We live from the interaction of customers and channel partners," he said. "Business is about creating results, about creating the environment for results," he went on, "but business is about people, about interaction." He alluded to the very deep trouble that ABB got into in the early 2000s, and said that the company was through the hard part and into recovery. He noted that "it is very easy to spend all your time with the analysts and investors"¦to fall in love with the Street"”which can lead to the demise of a great company." Kindle is a Chicago Bears fan, a Kellogg (Northwestern) alumnus, and a citizen of Lichtenstein and Switzerland. He was a mechanical engineer ("so I am not the right person to ask about Fieldbus, okay?") and after getting his MBA, worked as a consultant until he couldn't stand that consultants don't have ownership of the processes they design, and the systems they create. He joined Sulzer just in time to have to do "the ugly stuff" of restructuring during the early 90s recession. Kindle on Teamwork: "The CEO, in fact all the executive committee members, is a catalyst for change. But the entire company must be behind you in order for change to work. If you cannot get the entire company to rally behind your changes, you will fail. In order to succeed, you must give your team responsibility, authority, goals and the ability to do what it takes to be successful." Kindle on honesty and trust: "I believe that we have to be open and candid, not only with our teams, our employees, but also with our customers. I hate politics. You can have two people get together, and they can interact and communicate, and if you add a third person, you have politics." Kindle on open disclosure: "We issued a press release yesterday detailing some unethical behaviors on the part of some ABB employees in the United States. I want to go on record that ABB has zero tolerance for unethical behavior. It is not something we want, and we will take, and have taken, direct action to prevent it." Kindle on relationships: "It is ingrained in our DNA." I swear, if I hear one more corporate executive talking about his company's DNA, I may hurl. Company DNA is entirely contained in the balance sheet. A CEO who doesn't want to play the game will get fired. Comments? --Walt Boyes

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