Last updated at 17:50 GMT, Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Credit card boss has unusual email rule


23 February 2011

People at work ask hundreds of questions every day by email. For some, this can lead to an overflowing inbox. Mastercard boss, Ajay Banga, has a very different approach to dealing with this type of email.

Lesley Curwen

Mastercard boss Ajay Banga


Click to hear the report:


Curwen: Let me ask you a question about your management technique. I understand you've got a rule: if an employee sends you an email asking permission to do something, then there's a very specific reaction to that. If you don't get a reply to the email, what happens then?

Banga: Well, that's all about urgency. Basically, my approach is that if you don't get an answer within a specified period of time, and the specified period of time differs a little bit, depending on how serious the matter is.

Then it means that you are approved to go ahead. So what happens is, it shifts the burden of response to the individual who has been asked for permission, as against to the individual who is asking, who then has to keep chasing up into a, let's say, a black hole.

Curwen: How well does it work? Do you ever find that mistakes have been made because of this?

Banga: Yeah, you have to be careful and that's why you've got to set the right time limit for different kinds of things. But you know, leadership is about change. And change is about driving people into places to do things they wouldn't normally have done. And then you've got to get out of the way. You've got to empower people to take some of these thoughtful risks with a sense of urgency.

That's the way that you've got to drive a company of thousands of people, because you can't be everywhere yourself. And centralising everything is certainly not the right way for a decentralised company to work.


Click to hear the vocabulary:


management technique

way of organising and managing staff

shifts the burden

moves the responsibility or worry

as against

instead of, rather than

keep chasing up

here, asking for an answer again and again

a black hole

here, a place where things disappear and can't be found


strongly encouraging or pushing


support, encourage and inspire others to take action

a sense of urgency

a feeling that things must be done quickly

to drive a company

organise and push for the success of a business


here, bringing together the different parts of a company to make it more efficient

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