No, not the cartoon.

J printed out an article and let me read it, which describes the main character as a plumber (a fix-it-up man) with a Buzz Lightyear look. That’s enough to make a good article.

John Thain’s career is just rock solid, like his reputation and personality. Growing up in a small town in Illinois, he got BSEE from MIT (so he can really change a bulb) and MBA from Harvard. Shortly after he joined Goldman, he was among the few chosen ones to establish an MBS division reporting directly to Jon Corzine, then head of FI. So it was interesting when Corzine fought with Hank Paulson over the issues of Goldman IPO, Thain was in Paulson’s camp, and he wouldn’t be where he is had he sided with his old boss.

Here’s how Thain described Goldman’s culture, which seems like the only culture there should be and could be for a truly successful company as Goldman, or a country and society at large:

“It’s a culture based on teamwork. It’s a culture based on excellence. It’s a culture based on being a great meritocracy. People get ahead based on how good they are, not who they know or how well they can play politics. And that culture is very strong and very successful.”

The article also points out the other two well-known crucial aspects of Goldman’s continuing (and now almost solitary) success and profit on Wall Street: superb and foremost risk management, and group (thus individual) compensation tied to that of the whole company. I cannot imagine any other strategy that can serve as the foundation of long term success.

What makes the article extra good is the way it talks about Stan O’Neal. It’s too easy to bash and trash him now, but the article rightfully acknowledges his efforts and tactics to make Merill rather successful after 9/11, even though they sowed some poisonous seeds. One particularly dooming thing is the “everyone for himself”, a.k.a. dog-eat-dog ethos.

I recently read Michael Shermer’s The Mind of The Market, but never got time to write about it. One thing I remember from the book is that the cultural change Jeff Skilling imparted on Enron was one of the main reasons why it went berserk for revenue and risk and fraud. Take a guess: was the Skilling culture is more towards teamwork and long term success, or dog-eat-dog and short term stardom?