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Jaguar Land Rover has just unveiled record sales for January 2013. The firm sold just short of 35,000 cars in the first month of 2013, up by almost a third against the same time last year. January sales were up by 74% in China, 46% in Asia Pacific, 33% in the UK, 24% in North America and even by 10% in a depressed Europe.
What's encouraging is that both brands did well, whereas previously the big sales increases were largely chalked up by Land Rover and Range Rover models.
In January, Land Rover sold 29,118 vehicles (up 31%), with sales up in all major markets. Meanwhile Jaguar sold 5,759 vehicles (up by 40%), with increased sales of the XJ (up 70%) and the XF (up 37%), reflecting strong sales of the recently introduced XF Sportbrake, as well as all-wheel drive models and more fuel efficient engines.
But despite this sales success, last month Tata warned that JLR profits for the current year would be less than expected, even if the firm is still on track for a record year.
Just in case there is any doubt I am referring to culture and its significance in failing organisations.
A great deal of attention last week was devoted to the problems that were identified in the Francis Inquiry into Stafford Hospital.
This inquiry was set after the scandal of maltreatment of patients and the fact that there was a higher-than-expected mortality rate at the hospital between 2005 and 2008.
It should probably come as no surprise that a 'whistle blower', Helene Donnelly, had raised concerns 100 times over six years on the basis of what she witnessed. In particular she believed that at Stafford Hospital there was a culture of neglect.
The Francis Inquiry heard evidence from over 160 witnesses and sat for 139 days and has recommended that there needs to be a "fundamental change" in the culture if the NHS to make sure that patients are the priority rather than efficiency and cost reduction.
Significantly the report also recommends that it becomes a criminal offence not to disclose information about substandard patient care or mistakes that may have occurred.
Additionally there believed to be a need for a code of conduct which will guide the conduct of senior managers and that the recruitment and training of nurses should place more emphasis on compassion and the needs of patients.
When your read this it reads from the manual of the bleeding obvious and to quote from that wonderful sage Oscar Wilde, who was talking about the death of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop, you'd have to have a heart of stone not to laugh.
In no way would I wish to disagree with the findings of Francis' admirable investigation; quite the contrary.
It's official: just when Germany expected us to head for the EU exit door, it seems we're their biggest trading partner.
We now have the long awaited plans for reforming the UK banking sector in particular safeguards to try to make it harder for the government to end up on the hook for a big bank and all its risky investment business going down bust.
Today's announcement by George Osborne at JP Morgan's office in Bournemouth that he is now willing to back one the major recommendations arising from last year's Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards to break up UK's biggest banks is welcome.
Significantly, Osborne also stated that if UK banks cannot implement these reforms voluntarily, they will be forced to do so.
He simply recognises that some five years into the financial crisis caused by the lunacy of the investment arms of banks, ordinary people (taxpayers who vote) feel that reform is overdue and that should another crisis occur the government could not bail them out again.
It is also to be noted that the Banking Reform Bill will be introduced in Parliament today which will require greater competition and changes intended to benefit customers such as the ability to switch accounts in no more than a week.
So that will sort out the banks?
It's been a gloomy start to 2013 for the construction industry, particularly for contractors based in the West Midlands.
According to the Construction Skills Network (CSN) report by training organisation CITB-ConstructionSkills, the region will see a decline in construction output of 1.4 per cent annually between now and 2017, the worst outlook in the country.
The decline is even steeper, some 10.9 per cent, for those working outside the public housing sector.
News that the black cab maker Manganese Bronze has been bought out of administration for £11.4m by the Chinese car manufacturer Geely is welcome news and probably the best case scenario in terms of rescuing the firm and saving remaining jobs in Coventry.
Manganese Bronze went into administration in October with 99 out of its 176 black cab workers losing their jobs. Geely has now acquired the "business and the principal assets" of Manganese after the deal was agreed with administrators Pricewaterhouse Coopers.
This is the blog version of my Birmingham Post print column earlier this month.
It sticks in the craw this New Year, I know, for struggling West Midlands small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) to watch the big quasi-private sector fish like Capita, Serco, Amey, G4S and VT come from outside an area and gobble up services in their local economies which could have been provided by local SMEs.
Quite rightly, they don't see these big fish (sharks, perhaps?) as 'real' private sector enterprises. Their existence pretty much relies wholly on taxpayer handouts. The SMEs believe they could better provide those services. But these massive para-public companies' size, promises and sales pitches make them difficult to compete with. Indeed they can often be the only ones that can afford practically to bid in the first place, or they spring up unannounced as an offshoot simply to exist for the bid: pop-up shops for public largesse.
It is estimated that Capita alone wins 29 per cent of the public sector money available for these things. Tens of billions of pounds of public sector money annually goes to these mainly big fish.
As they are quasi-public sector companies, not really true private sector enterprises, absorbing taxpayer money, the SMEs are right to ask why these companies were simply not subject to direct spending cuts. Direct top-slicing of contractual amounts payable by any public body to them could surely have been applied as part of the Government's spending cuts.
Had the same cuts to private sector contracts been required then the minnows might have stood a better chance at competing with them on bids in the past or in the future. It's the 17 per cent that can make the difference.
Like any academic subject, organisational strategy is taught on the basis of imparting certain principles.
Almost all strategy textbooks are usually replete with a number of case studies of what happens 'in practice'.
The standard belief is strategists use examples presented in such case studies to consider emulating characteristics which will enable their organisations to enjoy success.
Equally, such examples may also be used to learn to avoid doing whatever was considered instrumental in either undermining success or worse, causing failure.
The reality is that the causes of organisational success or failure are neither simple nor logical. As I happily acknowledge - and I have written a textbook on strategic management - the search for definitive answers is at best erroneous and worse can be entirely misleading.
Tom Peters in his early 1990s presentation 'Crazy times, crazy organisations' stated then that the only certainty was uncertainty.
My interpretation was, if you cannot predict what will happen next, do something radical.
The trouble is, most strategists don't tend to do 'crazy' and prefer to play safe; it avoids taking risky decisions.
So, what do we make of Apple the shares of which have dropped pretty dramatically last week?
The government has finally responded to the Frost/Black review of sickness absence recommendations which was published back in November 2011. The initial review was aimed at making a step change in the issue of tackling both short and long term absence, a problem that still costs the UK economy large sums each year