Cool Friend: C. Michael Hiam
When Michael Hiam was growing up, he had a family friend named Sam Adams, who had a fascinating story to tell. Sam never got the story told, but Michael did it for him in his first book, Who the Hell Are We Fighting? The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars. The subject captured Tom's attention; he grabbed the book and read it. Then he called from New Zealand on his break, asked Erik to read it, find the author, and do an interview. That's how Michael Hiam became our newest Cool Friend. Read the interview for quite a history lesson, and, as I said, a fascinating story.
Cathy Mosca posted this on 02/28/2008.
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An article in the February 18th AdAge.com newsletter, titled "Snide Advertising is Bad for Business and Society," decries the trend toward "sarcastic" and "malicious" advertising.
With examples such as the FedEx "Dean, I need you to continue not living up to your résumé" ad, which you might have seen, author Richard Rapaport shows how pervasive this trend is. "Take the culture's most facile minds, challenge them to pry cash from an increasingly tapped-out audience, and what do you get?" Rapaport asks. "Commercials built on sadism, on derision, on one-upsmanship—in a word, 'snide.'"
Rapaport is right. This trend is bad for business. So why does it happen?
First of all, let's not credit ad agency creatives with being "the culture's most facile minds." The advertising that major agencies practice is still based on the flawed notion that "brute force" wins the hearts, minds, and wallets of consumers. Snide is used because agency creatives (and their complicit clients) mistakenly believe that their goal is to "cut through the clutter." No, the goal is to create ads that blend with all other contacts the customer has with the company doing the advertising, in order to create a connection that encourages the customer to be more involved with that company and its products.
If these minds were so facile, they wouldn't miss, so completely, the point of what they are doing. Or, in a more cynical vein, we could say they know what they are doing, but are more interested in creating clever advertising than in helping their clients' businesses.
Advertising is a sick business. And it isn't just for the oft-mentioned reason that "consumers are using so many more media outlets—the Internet, hundreds of TV stations, thousands of publications."
It is because people just don't buy this way anymore. Customers—your customers—are scrutinizing, savvy, discerning, and self-reliant. They look beyond your promises, and consider every interaction with your company as a chance to evaluate you.
Snide advertising isn't only snide. It is anachronistic.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 02/26/2008.
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Future Shape of Quality
Tom Peters believes that the term "excellence" requires wholesale redefinition, if the word is to be applicable to businesses in the future. "Perhaps, excellent firms don't believe in excellence—only in constant improvement and constant change," says Tom. "That is, excellent firms of tomorrow will cherish impermanence—and thrive on chaos." This is a long way from the "7S" model set out in Tom's seminal book, In Search of Excellence.
To my mind, the words excellence and quality have always had similar connotations. So, one might reasonably assume that what's true for future excellence might also be true for future quality, and vice versa? Apparently not, it would seem! I have been working recently with one of the UK's most prestigious authorities on Quality. I suspect their "body of knowledge" on the subject of quality would rival that of most similar bodies around the world. However, when you get past all the contemporary language, their principal focus is still the application of retrospective static models of quality, which are supervised and certified by third-party process-conformance checking. It seems that a quality company can still market concrete life jackets providing they are all made the same way, all carry a stern danger-to-health warning, and the company has a clear complaints procedure!
Reading again through the string of interesting comments on Mike Neiss's recent "Hard Work Matters" blog and the debate about how Future Shape of the Winner compares with the Malcolm Baldrige quality award system has made we wonder if there are any quality assessment methodologies out there that can calibrate the impermanence requirement of future excellent companies. Is there a quality assessment tool that can accommodate hot words like "cherish" and "thrive"?
Richard King posted this on 02/21/2008.
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Where's the WOW?
Remember that television commercial that asked "Where's the Beef?" Last week, I read a great article from the Gallup Management Journal about Toyota Financial Services and their transformation. One question that came to me was "Where's the WOW?"
In the midst of change, at the very core, is a little thing called "talent." Leaders can have great ideas and great visions, but the only way that change is effected is through people. Toyota Financial Services had a grand idea of moving beyond car loans for its Lexus and Toyota dealerships. Why not offer branded credit cards, and other loans? Toyota was looking to increase their brand loyalty. They understood that it would require transformation in many areas of the organization.
When we think about change, we have to start with talent. But we must look at the architecture (systems and structures), and what's our goal (ambition). This is the area that Toyota had to reassess: What was the ambition of the company and how could they connect that to the talent.
Toyota had to discover how to get energy and momentum going in this transformation and, most importantly, how to engage the talent. They asked the question that I have asked many of my clients, "Where is the WOW?" What was going to get the attention of the talent, and what was in it for them? How was this initiative for Toyota going to be different from others, and how would their financial services be unique and special amidst the services from others?
WOW happens when you ask the question, put "fresh eyes" on the project, get closer to your stakeholders, and do not accept excuses that lead to mediocrity. How many times have organizations missed this important question, "Where is the WOW?" In other words, why should anyone, the talent, the customer, and other key stakeholders care about this initiative?
Val Willis posted this on 02/20/2008.
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New Cool Friend: Ron Crossland
Our new Cool Friend, Ron Crossland, is a very trusted old friend. In his new book, The Leadership Experience: From Individual Success to Organization Significance, coauthored with Gregg Thompson, Ron shares the fruits of his intense research into leadership through the ages. He argues that since the tenets are timeless, it's time for us to stop trying to define leadership and start developing leaders in a more robust way. Read his interview with Erik Hansen to learn more. Or, visit his website, roncrossland.com.
Cathy Mosca posted this on 02/20/2008.
Tom Peters Company Wows! You With Two Events
There are two upcoming events presented by the associates at Tom Peters Company, in the UK and in the U.S. You've got to know them through their posts on tompeters.com, now you can hear them virtually and in person.
First, you can learn more about Future Shape of the Winner and how you can apply its principles in your own situation at a free Webinar, on Thursday, 6 March 2008, once at 12.00 midday GMT and once at 12 midday EST. During this one-hour web presentation, the team at TPC!UK will explain how FSW can help you deal with some typical dilemmas facing business today, tell you how to begin applying the basic FSW principles in your business, and outline next steps for those who want to go further. For information and registration, go to tompeters.co.uk.
Cathy Mosca posted this on 02/19/2008.
Second, the Brand You road trip is back in progress! The next stop on the tour is Dallas, where Tom Peters Company, U.S., will team with Southern Methodist University to bring you the Brand You: Inspired Performance workshop, on Monday, 31 March 2008. Sign up to learn why all your employees should be Brand Yous. That is, talented people dedicated to achieving excellence, who improve your brand while enhancing their own. For information and registration, go to www.cox.smu.edu.
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Ambition and Productivity
Last week the Associated Press reported that "Worker productivity, the key factor in rising living standards, slowed sharply in the final three months of the year while wage pressures increased." This drop in productivity coupled with the news that the service sector shrank for the first time in five years has many economists talking about how big the impending recession will be rather than debating whether one will occur.
At tpc we have long advocated enabling IT efforts and structures to increase organizational productivity. Many of you are familiar with Tom's rants on the white collar revolution and the advent of white collar robots. We also believe there is another, powerful mechanism for improving productivity. People will become more productive when they want to become more productive! And they want to when their output is moving the organization closer to a compelling shared purpose, vision, or what we call "Ambition" in our Future Shape of the Winner model.
Many of us have probably known someone in the workforce who was going through the motions, fulfilling their job duties with no particular zeal, and sometimes even beginning their retirement while they were still on the payroll. And yet this same person may be a hardworking volunteer for a charitable organization they believe in. The difference is having a purpose that has real meaning. Being part of something that really matters! And improving the return for investors (although the lifeblood of a successful business) is not compelling enough to pull out that voluntary discretionary effort we all have available. It has to be a statement of the common cause for the common good.
That is why we advise our clients to start with ambition. Who do we intend to be and what part might the individual members play? Why does it matter? When it is important, it becomes a "want to" driver, rather than the "have to" necessities of my job. And the work we perform when we want to is always more productive than the work we do because we have to.
What do you think? Agree or disagree that it's the place to start in your strategic plan? Can that raise productivity? Do you have any ideas for building passion through purpose?
Mike Neiss posted this on 02/18/2008.
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Though he has not been blogging for a month while he is on a break, Tom got an event into his schedule while traveling. Yesterday he spoke to Flexirent, a rental company that "gives you the flexibility to keep pace with technology." Tom focused on two subjects: leadership and talent.
If you were there, let us know your reaction in the comments under this blog entry. If you would like to get the slides presentations, you can use these links:
Cathy Mosca posted this on 02/18/2008.
Flexirent, Leadership, Sydney
Flexirent, Talent, Sydney
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A Focus on Talent
Is your company adequately prepared to meet your company goals and objectives this year? In a recent article in Training magazine, this issue was discussed. Many senior leaders are concerned that they aren't hiring the right people and that the existing talent may not be ready to perform as needed.
I found it interesting that the majority of senior leaders (92%) rank hiring the right talent as important. I totally agree that hiring the right people is critical to the essence of business, but I also believe that there is a gap when it comes to retaining the people that are hired. Equal attention must be given to existing staff.
Can you recall how excited you were your first day on the job and how exhilarating you thought things would be? Do you still feel that way now? Are you doing work that truly engages you, are you sufficiently challenged to tap into all your talents, and do you feel that your opinions and ideas are valued?
The culture that organizations create has everything to do with how people feel in the organization. Time, money, and effort can be spent hiring the right person, but if the same amount of energy is not put into creating and sustain the right culture, it is like playing a slot machine—you waste a lot of money trying to get a few wins. I agree with this statement in the article: "To successfully address senior management's concerns, human resources leadership needs to embrace its strategic role as an executive partner, and define and execute a holistic human capital management strategy that builds a superior corporate culture based on performance and accountability." I would add that not only must HR be strategic and holistic, but senior and mid-level managers must be, as well.
We know that at the heart of any organization, regardless of its size or type of business, is the talent within it. I have been in many organizations and talked with people at all levels, and I can see the untapped potential that so many organizations are missing. Taking talent for granted and not providing tools and opportunities are a recipe for disaster. Most talented people just have to be given challenges that stretch their potential, a support net that helps them to bounce back from adversity, and a leader who cares. Hiring the best is step one, retaining the best is step two.
I am curious—how does your organization retain the right people? Do you think that your organization is as focused on retention as they are on hiring? Let me know!
Val Willis posted this on 02/15/2008.
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Happy Valentine's Day!
Not from Vermont!
From New Zealand!
Back on 20 February.
[VT pic above, NZ below]
Tom Peters posted this on 02/14/2008.
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It's Good to Talk!
There has been a lot of talk on this blog lately about how an organisation's structure and infrastructure (which, in Future Shape of the Winner© parlance, we call its Architecture) can affect the ability of its people to innovate, or even just to get things done. For many of our clients there is a limit to what they can do to change organisation structure or infrastructure, and yet, if they want to release the potential of their people, we believe there has to be a way around this dilemma.
So, it was with great delight I read a recent study done by Google, that has uncovered some fascinating insights into how information flows around their organisation. Google has been able to correlate information flow amongst their employees with a whole variety of factors; a person's department, their membership on email lists, projects they had worked on, friends, where they went to college, etc., etc. ...
What they have discovered is that by far the most significant influence on who knows what is their physical location at work. Their study has found that social and professional proximity matters very little, whereas people who sit near each other in the office tend to know the same things.
Over the years, I have seen a number of situations in which my client, apparently restricted by organisation charts and structures, has simply decided to sit people together who ought to collaborate, without changing any reporting relationships. Particularly when there is a customer service dimension to the work, the natural outcome of such a relocation is that everyone settles into a pattern of sharing that has a significantly positive effect on the work.
The study findings were rather surprising to me in today's world of multiple virtual connections. And yet one conclusion is rather depressing–if you really want to influence a person's behaviour, must you live in their world? So, what can we do in our dispersed organisations? Are we doomed? How are organisations that you know well overcoming the problems of distance in getting their messages out there?
Madeleine McGrath posted this on 02/13/2008.
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Have you checked out the PSF wiki lately? Feeling shy? No need! People are joining in and sharing their stories and thoughts about PSF strategy. Here are a few examples you'll find there:
On taking ownership:
Madeleine McGrath: "A client of ours pulled off a remarkable PSF transformation by positioning his management team of a business unit as a Professional Service to the organisation. He launched the initiative by calculating the gross cost of employment of the 12 person team (a few miilion UK pounds!) and asking if they felt they could justify the value that they added. There was a tense moment or two at the event, but from that point onwards we noticed a shift in the team's mindset. We went on to reframe their work agenda to transform the ownership that they had of what the unit was attempting to achieve."
On selecting clients carefully:
Mike Neiss: "A psf doesn't 'sell stuff' to a client, they join them in a partnership to do great things. And just like external knowledge workers, an internal psf is only as good as their last client. So when you find a turned on, gets it, passionate client, coddle them with fantastic results. You really need to see your "brand" as an extension of the clients. As an external provider, it does take some real thought and quite frankly, courage, to turn down a client. Cash flow does matter! And internally, it is very difficult to turn down a request. However.....it doesn't mean you have to provide WOW in equal measures. As an external consultant, we have to have faith that a remarkable engagement with a cool client will lead to lots of business by word of mouth. And likely to clients that are also cool. Internally, positive press regarding your best client's results will do the same. You don't get cash, you get political currency!"
This is based on Tom's PSF 50List, so there are plenty of topics to cover under the PSF umbrella. Let us hear your stories. Simply click Edit Page at the top of the page to which you'd like to contribute. The password/invite key is tompeters. See you there!
Shelley Dolley posted this on 02/11/2008.
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Success Tips at ChangeThis
The Success Tips, also known as 100 Ways to Help You Succeed/Make Money, are complete. Well, sort of. Tom has gone past 100—the last one is #110—and we hope he continues to add to their number. But, there are 100 Success Tips, which was the original plan. Part 2, tips 51 through 100 (plus a bonus #101), is published this month by our friends at ChangeThis. You can get Part 2 here, and while you're at it, you might want to download Part 1 also. Or, go to ChangeThis.com to see what else is new there.
Cathy Mosca posted this on 02/08/2008.
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And ... some of you have noticed that our other authors have populated the front page. We here at tompeters.com are glad to have them fill in during Tom's absence, which will last until later this month. We apologize for not making this announcement before Tom left. Please see this as a chance for you to learn what people like you are doing with Tom's tenets in their day-to-day consulting practices.
Cathy Mosca posted this on 02/06/2008.
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Hard Work Matters
I enjoyed the recent discussion we had on Innovation and Execution. I was delighted to read an article in Sunday's New York Times business section titled "Eureka! It Really Takes Years of Hard Work," by Janet Rae-Dupree. In her article, Ms. Dupree states that innovation is much more than the aha! moment. It is most often the years of hard work in the background that really leads to innovation. I think she is right on.
It is so easy to fall in love with any idea when it holds the promise of transforming your organization into a top performer. Truth be told, I make a fair share of my living selling these ideas. But I am often wary of overselling the ideas by promising results. That stance probably cost me some sales along the way, but I feel that when I offer ideas I am really only offering choices. I believe passionately about the choices I offer, and I do argue vigorously for their implementation. I believe, however, that those of us who have chosen the consulting and training profession have an obligation to help our clients understand the depth of the hard work that will be necessary to gain a return on our offerings.
Our clients want to believe a brilliant idea can magically make a difference. Need to fill your leadership pipeline? Hold leadership training classes. Not as efficient as you would like to be? Educate the organization in the Toyota Production System. Collaboration a problem? Maybe some teambuilding activities. These are all good ideas and good choices. They do not become actionable without the hard work required to unfreeze old behaviors, remove existing organizational barriers, build new reinforcement mechanisms into the system, provide the necessary funding for support activities, etc. The ideas will not become part of the way work is done in the organization unless they produce results that help the organization win customers, investors, and top talent. Yes, the work matters. And results matter. And hard work matters. Because without it, there are no results.
Mike Neiss posted this on 02/05/2008.
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The Beatles Intergallactic Brand
It's been generally believed that the Beatles brand has broad and enduring appeal, but now it's time to market test its "universality." At 7 p.m. EST (12 midnight GMT) NASA, the US space agency, is beaming the Beatles song, "Across the Universe," well, across the universe. It's the first song to be sent into outer space, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' recording of the tune, which appeared on their "Let It Be" album. (This year is also the 50th anniversary of NASA.) The song, one of John Lennon's finest, will be aimed towards the North Star, Polaris, where nearby residents can hear it in 431 years. (If they like it we should know by 2870.) Thousands of Beatles fans across the world are expected to play the song at precisely the time of launch or watch the send-off on NASA TV.
But what IS it about the Beatles brand that 40 years later it can still generate this kind of attention on Planet Earth?
John O'Leary posted this on 02/04/2008.
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Cool Friend: Rosabeth Kanter
Rosabeth Moss Kanter has a list of accomplishments and books about as long as Tom's. She's a professor at Harvard Business School and former editor of Harvard Business Review. She's the co-founder of a consulting firm, Goodmeasure Inc. She's the author or coauthor of 17 books, among them the classic prizewinner Men & Women of the Corporation, bestsellers such as Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End, and The Change Masters, named one of the most influential business books of the 20th century by Financial Times. Her specialties are strategy, innovation, and leadership for change.
Professor Kanter explains why you should be a change agent for the world in her new book, America the Principled: 6 Opportunities for Becoming a Can-Do Nation Once Again, and in her Cool Friends interview here.
Cathy Mosca posted this on 02/01/2008.
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The financial loan market has taken a lot of heat these days. There is not a lot of alternative loan financing for small businesses, but according to the News & Observer, peer to peer financing is starting to catch on. People who need to raise cash put bids out on the Internet for the amount they need and the interest rate that they want to pay. Different people, or those specializing in lending, decide if they want to back the loan or not. No banks, no brick, no mortar. Just another portal on the Internet making inroads into the financial market.
Val Willis posted this on 02/01/2008.
This is an interesting concept in a market where financing hasn't changed much in years. As George Hofheimer, chief research officer at Filene said, "There is so little innovation in traditional consumer finance that anytime something new like this comes along, it is a rarity and something to watch." So, let's watch to see if this disruption takes hold.
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Super Bowl Rant
Late January always brings, along with the cold weather, news stories about Super Bowl advertising. We hear how Super Bowl advertising is a "no-brainer" because of the audience size, and how advertisers will benefit from "all the buzz."
I disagree with just about all of this news. In this post I will answer the seven most common reasons people think Super Bowl advertising is a great marketing opportunity:
* It's the only time you can reach so many people at one time.
* A Super Bowl advertiser gets extra value because people are interested in being entertained by the commercials.
* But it worked for (insert company name here).
* They must know what they are doing if they are spending so much money.
* You have to be there if your competitors are.
* It's ok if you're a big enough brand and can afford it.
* It burnishes a company's image, and can even increase a stock price.
If you've purchase a 30-second spot for this year's game, prepare to be upset with me.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 02/01/2008.
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What we're talking about on the front page.