Tom's closer to home in Watertown, Massachusetts, speaking for SkillSoft's Leadership Development Channel. Featuring best-selling business authors, experts, and CEOs—those who can have the biggest impact in motivating and challenging the thinking of learners, Leadership Development Channel is a collection of on-demand programs (videos) in multiple learning formats designed to help organizations develop their managers.
You can download the slides here: Skillsoft, Watertown, MA
I was lucky to get to London for the Tom event yesterday. Repeating his message from this blog post, Tom told the story about Conrad Hilton, founder of Hilton hotels. At a gala celebrating his life, he was asked, "What was the most important lesson you've learned in your long and distinguished career?" His reply was, "Remember to tuck the shower curtain inside the bathtub."
At first glance, one may think, that's it? But, think about it ... paying attention to detail makes all the difference when we are trying to achieve excellence. When we miss the little things, we miss the opportunity to achieve excellence; we fall just short of it.
My question of the day is, "What shower curtain do you need to tuck in?"
If innovation is still the best source of competitive advantage, then this truism should apply beyond the world of fashion, IT, and pharmaceuticals, and into less obviously promising areas, like aircraft toilets! A client who works in this sector told me recently that men (still) make up 70% of airline passengers carried. (Reason in itself to re-read Chapter 13 of Re-imagine!) Further, and without going into unnecessary detail, he told me that three out of every four visits passengers make to the toilet during flights is to pee. So, putting these two statistics together, over 50% of toilet utilisation on flights is by men peeing. Question then. Why are there no men's urinals on planes, as there are in just about every other venue where men and women co-exist in large numbers?
Some cynics amongst us might say that this is largely because the status quo does not cause a big problem for men! But things are starting to change. DASELL Cabin Interior (see the Washroom with Urinals page on their website) has just won an industry prize for offering the first aircraft urinal as a unique feature for their customers, the big airlines and plane manufacturers. These novel facilities are certainly more space- and weight-efficient, and attractive for the specifying aero-engineers on that basis alone. But it's likely to be the women passengers who turn out to be the biggest beneficiaries of this particular piece of German ingenuity. Having to share toilet facilities with us men on long flights can't be the best aspect of the air travel experience for women passengers. Installing urinals to take most of the male traffic opens up the attractive possibility of an airline's being able to designate some of the conventional toilet facilities as for "ladies only" without inconveniencing the male majority. This seems like a really good service innovation to me. But how could I possibly know or understand!
Does anyone know of similarly mundane innovations that had surprising benefits?
In the course of the last few weeks, in addition to "live events" (e.g., Johannesburg, Mexico City), I've been working on a set of "Keystone Presentations," seven to be exact. Fact is, they collectively amount to a significant shift in emphasis. I am focusing on the "practical" "eternal" "human" (oh so human!) basics of GTD/Getting Things Done, or Implementation. We have posted several of these presentations along the way. With this post I want to offer you, in one place, all seven—prior to my taking off for a week-long trek on the Dalmation Coast-Croatia.
[Download links for all seven are below—CM] The Alternate Master—The 1158-slide set that Tom would choose from if he were presenting a day-long seminar Real People (PDF)—Also known as "Excellence for the Rest of Us: A Book for Real People, Working in the Real World in 2008" The Healthcare Master—Ten Years in the Making, a completely annotated slides presentation The Implementation Master—The case for Implementation as business strategy #1 3 Cases—Implementation—A corollary to the Implementation Master above Guru Gaffes—Contrasts: Guru-world vs. Real World Equations—A series of equations stating that "Success is a function of ..."
What are they reading in China? According to Joe Nocera in the New York Times this past Saturday, everything to do with business management, and their Tom Peters book of choice is Re-imagine! See what Nocera has to say at NYTimes online.
It's (still) "mud season" in Vermont, courtesy this winter's abundance of snow. Cars and trucks, in particular, look like flying mud balls.
While on my speed walk yesterday, I passed through the Equinox Hotel parking lot—Manchester VT. They are undergoing, under new owners, a massive renovation. The contractor is Bread Loaf Construction, probably VT's best, out of Middlebury.
Bread Loaf folks aren't as smart as they think, as I see it. That is, they apparently don't know it's mud season. Every contractor's truck in the parking lot—and the FedEx and UPS trucks, too—confirmed the "mud ball" image I just pointed out.
Except for Bread Loaf's. There were two BL trucks in the lot, both sizeable pickups. Both, in BL tradition, painted fire engine red.
And neither—and here I do not exaggerate—had the tiniest trace of dirt or mud or even dust.
Later in the afternoon, I was having a long interview with a top dog at the ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, and, not surprisingly, the topic turned to branding. Out of my mouth, unbidden, popped "Branding is a squeaky clean bright red contractor's truck in mud season in Vermont." In fact, we talked about the fact that branding is, well, about ... Everything. On the one hand, that's not very helpful. On the other hand, it reminds us that nothing, absolutely nothing, is irrelevant to individual branding—or branding of a construction company in VT or Megacorp Inc. As a quote from David D'Alessandro, in Career Warfare, goes, "It's always showtime."
(I know, I know—I should have taken a picture. Sorry.)
Check the reception desk.
Check the reception area.
Check the bathroom.
Check your last Client email.
Check 10 "little things."
Is each one stunningly, amazingly excellent?
Does each one confirm & extend & broadcast your "brand promise"?
Your training department?
Your 3-person accountancy on Main Street?
Your BigCo division?
(Remember: You are in control. There are things you cannot make happen, to be sure; but you can project Brand Excellence on a thousand "atmospherics" that determine Client-Employee perception.)
I long ago promised myself I'd stop using airline service horror stories. (A tautology, if ever I've heard one.) I got tired of beating dead horses, and was boring myself to death—and doubtless boring you as well.
Still, a useful reminder is a useful reminder. I flew home last week from Mexico City to Boston, on Delta, via Atlanta. The ATL-BOS leg was delayed about 75 minutes, both in the waiting area and on the plane.
I do not exaggerate: Never once did waiting area personnel or the pilot provide any explanation whatsoever. Not one bloody, frigging word.
No, this is not really news in "airline service sucks land"—though it was a smidgen worse than usual. Nonetheless it was a reminder of the Insanely Important Value 100% of the Time of Keeping People Informed/Over-informed. To reiterate a reiteration of a reiteration: We can almost all deal quite well with shit—we all/almost all deal very poorly with uncertainty. Tell me it'll probably be a 90-minute delay because the pilot is in the bar popping Tequila shots—and I'm fine. (More or less.) Total Silence? I'm on edge, pissed off as hell—irate, in fact.
(NB: Show of electronic hands of those who think Delta-Northwest will in any way, shape, or form positively impact air travelers. TP: Really Big & Crappy + Really Big & Crappy = Shockingly, Gaspworthy Sucko Monumentus.)
Whatever amounts to "sensible communication," triple it!
Play back the last 24 or 48 hours. Is there an instance where you have failed to Fully Inform a client, or other stakeholder, of a delay (wee or grand) or glitch (wee or grand)? If your answer is "nope, all is well"—you are a liar. (Sorry, it just slipped out of the keyboard.)
Make the call.
(And if you have, in fact, good for you, let someone know about a glitch ... call 'em again to update the status of the fix, or relay the sad but honest news that the fix is more complex than first imagined.)
Today we began a new offering from Tom—a daily email with a bit of his wisdom in your inbox. By opt-in only, of course. Today's first Tom Peters Daily Quote went to 57 recipients, but we invite you all to sign up. In the top right of this page there is an icon, which, when clicked, takes you to a page where you can subscribe to our TP Times newsletter, and now, the Daily Quote as well. Thank you to the 57 who found it and signed up without knowing when the quotes would start! We hope you and all new subscribers enjoy it.
Kate at 800-CEO-READ found some photos of Tom from the Pursuit of Wow book tour in 1994 and posted them today. If you've been doing some spring cleaning and have found your own collection of Tom photos, feel free to share them with us.
Opportunities to experience the fizz of a Tom Peters live presentation in London are quite rare these days. That's why we wanted to give visitors at tompeters.com a final heads-up for what is the only London public event in Tom's 2008 speaking schedule. It will take place at the QEII Conference Centre on Monday, 28th April, and Tom is sharing the "Look Beyond Change" theme of the day with Kjell Nordström. You might know Nordström from his Cool Friends spot with Jonas Riddersträle; together they wrote Funky Business and Karaoke Capitalism.
The Peters/Nordström combination promises to provide a heady cocktail for what will be a large and lively audience. Event details can be found on benchmarkforbusiness.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any other questions about the day. We hope you can join us!
This promotional video for (our Cool Friend) Dan Pink's new book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, is pitch-perfect. It's hip, it has a sense of humor, but most importantly it captures the energy and the message of the book. Dan might as well have thrown down the gauntlet. The challenge is not whether you can create a splashy video for your new book or product, it's whether you can communicate quickly and effectively the distilled essence of its brand. Don't forget, it has to be compelling enough for your friends to want to share it.
Wish I Could Bring Myself to Giggle (or At Least Smile) in Public
There's nothing to smile about in the world financial markets. The pain is spreading by the nano-second. But it's hard not to giggle at least a little. Just watching these Geniuses-of-Wall Street, who had Paul Simon perform at their kids' kindergarten graduation parties, pissing on one another is such an incredible spectacle. First, pissing on oneself: Former Citigroup chieftain John Reed celebrated the 10th anniversary of the mega-mega-mega Citicorp-Travelers merger he crafted by calling the deal a "mistake." Reed: "Stockholders have not benefited, employees certainly have not benefited and I don't think the customers have benefited." (Thanks, Johnny boy.) Mr Reed and his partner in crime, Travelers honcho Sandy Weill, of course benefited with a capital "B." Weill, having deposed Reed and run Citigroup, hand-picked Chuck Prince to succeed him, then blamed the Citigroup mess on Prince, calling the problem "poor management," as opposed to an infantile theory Weill and Reed concocted in the first place (e.g., "huge-er is better than merely huge").
Speaking of partners in crime, former Merrill Lynch boss of bosses David Komansky called the work of his chosen successor, Stan O'Neal, "absolutely criminal," the Financial Times reports. (Not a whole lot of restraint, or even vaguely adult behavior, there.) UBS, the Swiss gang of geniuses, spent a decade relentlessly "consolidating" to provide wall-to-wall-to-wall financial services to retail and commercial clients alike; and as part of the UBS flavor of the blame game explaining the loss of billions of Swiss Francs, in addition to crapping all over America per se for its bad genes, have decided that breaking up may be the new, revised wisdom du decade. For what it's worth, there's a pretty vigorous move afoot to chop up Citigroup as well; and pretty much everybody else, whose "realized synergy" was, in fact, measured by the barrels of red ink.
And, naturally, you heard it here last, Jerome Kerviel, the "rogue trader" who trashed France's SocGen almost single-handedly, is defending himself by blaming the bank for not catching him sooner!
As I said, it's all rather amusing, or would be, absent the global economic chaos that continues to boil. As an avowed enemy of almost any giant consolidations in the name of either "synergy" or the provision of "one-stop shopping," I am secretly, until now, drowning in smugness. Also, watching these geniuses turn out to have feet of maggot-infested clay is also chortle-worthy to one who has trouble with the whole Welch-ian (Jack, he who walkethed on water for 20 years—then bequeathed his successor a financial mess), "leader-as-God" phenomenon.
There's such a bizarre element of "obviousness" to this fiasco. E.g.: (1) That which goeth up and up and up doth not goeth more up and more up and more up forever and ever and ever. (You may want to write that one down.) (2) The fact that the experts (economists and mathematicians, for God's sake) had-have no idea how to value the derivatives-of-derivatives-of-derivatives, created by the bucket-load (to the tune of trillions and trillions of buckaroos), should have told anybody with a brain that the doggy doo-doo would splatter all over the fan sooner rather than later. (3) Then there was the notion that these un-understandable instruments could banish risk from the face of the earth "forever and ever and ever and ever, Amen." (4) And anybody near the coal face, with the greed meter dialed down even a little bitsy bit, might, just might, have seen that lending a half-mil or so to a jobless-homeless person might "eventually" present a problem. (Of course, history tells us that the greed meter is never dialed down in the slightest—never has been, never will be.) (5) And now the tragicomic spectacle of the creators of the mess calling the guys they stuck with the mess "criminals" for executing with vigor the strategies they concocted in the first place. (6) Not to mention Tom's favorite: Big mergers suck in 9 cases out of 8 and produce "synergistic-value" in 9 cases out of 7 and destroy lots and lots (and more lots and more lots) of value along the way.
As suggested above, a lot of the giant financial-economic mess we're in is courtesy a failure of common sense—sometimes, often actually, by the so-called bestest of the best and brightest. We are all "insiders" in our own worlds—and we all lose touch with reality to a lesser or greater extent.
There are a host of things one can do to deal with this, but in this instance I want only to suggest routinely running proposals or budgets, or whatever, minor as well as major, by a "common sense ombudsman." Said ombudsman, singular or plural, formal or informal, could be a spouse or a neighbor who owns a restaurant or the guy who runs the distribution center in South Podunk who you ran into at the management meeting in Orlando last year.
Napoleon captured the spirit of this idea, ever so long ago:
"The art of war does not require complicated maneuvers; the simplest are the best, and common sense is fundamental. From which one might wonder how it is generals make blunders; it is because they try to be clever." (from Napoleon on Project Management by Jerry Manas)
General Motors is in the midst of a highly visible project that will reinvent the brand, or provide more evidence that, "GM is a sleeping giant," as a former CEO of Toyota said. The Chevrolet Volt is an electric plug-in hybrid that was introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in 2007. Bob Lutz, the design champion of the Prowler, Viper, Ford Explorer, BMW 3 series, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky, and others, is the brains and the brawn behind the project. This car is cool. Forty miles on a charge from that outlet in your garage, and then, if necessary, a small combustion engine kicks in to recharge the batteries on the road. Top speed of around 120 mph, 0 to 60 scores in at a respectable, albeit quiet, 8.5 seconds. The reclamation of the GM brand as an innovator and leader in automotive technology rests on their ability to meet two publicized goals: First, it has to meet the November 2010 launch goal. Secondly, GM must meet its stated intention of selling this vehicle at a price of $30,000.00. Toyota has said it will have a similar plug-in hybrid available for public sale by that November date. The race is on! As a former GM employee and current stockholder, I am of the opinion that GM cannot afford to lose this one. To win, GM has to reinvent its management and business model. I question whether this new aggressiveness can survive in a culture bloated with bureaucracy and powerful internal departmental silos. Already, they are hedging on the $30K target, though milestones seem to be on schedule for the launch date. Here are some things I would suggest, and I really want to hear from you all on what you think they might do.