TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

The commas that cost companies millions

For most people, a stray comma isn’t the end of the world. But in some cases, the exact placement of a punctuation mark can cost huge sums of money.

How much can a misplaced comma cost you?

If you're texting a loved one or dashing off an email to a colleague, the cost of misplacing a piece of punctuation will be – at worst – a red face and a minor mix-up.

But for some, contentious commas can be a path to the poor house.

A dairy company in the US city of Portland, Maine settled a court case for $5m earlier this year because of a missing comma.

Three lorry drivers for Oakhurst Dairy claimed that they were owed years of unpaid overtime wages, all because of the way commas were used in legislation governing overtime payments.

The state's laws declared that overtime wasn't due for workers involved in "the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: 1) agricultural produce; 2) meat and fish products; and 3) perishable foods".

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From the Editor's Desk

To Solve Big Problems, Look for Small Wins

It is tempting, during a crisis as severe as the Covid-19 pandemic, for leaders to respond to big problems with bold moves - a radical strategy to reinvent a struggling business, a long-term shift to virtual teams and long-distance collaboration. Indeed, so much of the expert commentary on Covid-19 argues, as did a recent white paper from McKinsey & Company, that we are on the brink of a "next normal" that will "witness a dramatic restructuring of the economic and social order in which business and society have traditionally operated."

I'd argue that even if we do face a "next normal," the best way for leaders to move forward isn't by making sweeping changes but rather by embracing a gradual, improvisational, quietly persistent approach to change that Karl E. Weick, the organizational theorist and distinguished professor at the University of Michigan, famously called "small wins." Weick is an intellectual giant; over the past 50 years, his concepts such as loose coupling, mindfulness, and sensemaking have shaped our understanding of organizational life. But perhaps his most powerful insight into to how we can navigate treacherous times is to remind us that when it comes to leading change, less is usually more.

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Do not assume US still aspires to be a world leader, Merkel warns

The rest of the world can no longer take it for granted that the US still aspires to be a global leader and needs to readjust its priorities accordingly, Angela Merkel has warned.

"We grew up in the certain knowledge that the United States wanted to be a world power," the German chancellor said in an interview with a group of six European newspapers.

"Should the US now wish to withdraw from that role of its own free will, we would have to reflect on that very deeply."

Merkel, the first German leader to have grown up on the eastern side of the iron curtain, has in the past frequently spoken of her admiration for the US's global influence. When she spoke in front of Congress in 2009, Merkel rhapsodised about the "incredible gift of freedom" bestowed on eastern Germans with the US-supported toppling of the Berlin Wall.

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