"I think 'beauty' has a (prominent) place in every project." Tom Peters
I admit I've tired of Garrison Keillor, but I do like his tag line; it covers a lot of territory: "Be well. Do good work. Keep in touch."
Garrison Keillor: "Do good work." That is a powerful sentiment. How does today for you stack up on that "metric"?
Good work: Of service to our clients. Of service to our peers. Of service to our community. Committed to personal growth. Pushing the limits.
By definition "do good work" revolves around the phrase "of service."
Good work: Help others grow. Infectious enthusiasm. Always approachable. A ready smile. Keeping promises. Learning. Learning. Learning.
Good work: Most of our conscious life will be at work. Like it or not. Waste your work life and you have wasted your life.
Good work: The quality of the experience of producing the product is as important as the product itself.
Not sure why "do good work" struck me so hard. I guess I realize what a monumental challenge it is to live up to day in and day out.
In many circles, the book was anxiously awaited. It was anxiously awaited by Tom, too. He assumed the book would be a hatchet job—and that one of the hatchets would be imbedded in his back.
He need not have worried. The book: The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business, by Duff McDonald. It produces as many positives about McKinsey as negatives. But Tom and In Search of Excellence are treated in glowing terms. "I was stunned," he told us. There are numerous references to Tom and Bob Waterman, but the brief excerpt below is indicative:
"Though his tenure was relatively short and he left under contentious circumstances, Peters is the most famous consultant McKinsey has ever produced. His influence on the firm was enormous and helped raise its profile beyond Bower's wildest dreams. ... Peters helped rebrand McKinsey as a group of thinkers, while at the same time revealing some less-than-great qualities of McKinsey, such as its utter incapacity to deal with a star in its midst."
Tom joins long-time friends Robert Thompson and Mike Neiss on their podcast, Thought Grenades. These two former members of the erstwhile Tom Peters Company have been hosting a different thought leader weekly for over three years on their podcast, available through iTunes.
• Why, if you're searching for excellence in business these days, you should start looking with small businesses.
• Why, if you want to criticize government, you should get yourself elected to the local school board.
• Why "Act, think," beats "Think, act.
Tom has given more than 2,500 speeches in the last 30 years. He knows what it's like to face a crowd, whether it be friendly or skeptical. As his own toughest critic, he's never been completely satisfied with his performance.
While he has offered pointers here and there, he's never written at length about speaking until now. We are fortunate that he has overcome whatever trepidation he may have had to tackle this topic. You'll find in the document below extensive advice and practical wisdom about speaking from a man who has spent most of his life on a stage, trying to share knowledge and spur action. Whether you give speeches for a living or on occasion, and even if you don't but you want to understand what makes a great speaker, read this piece. Then put it aside and read it a few months from now. It will change both how you speak as well as how you listen.
In June 2012, we released the Korea-inspired "Human Capital Development Manifesto." On January 1st, we added "What I've Come/Am Coming to Believe." Most recently, there came the "Education Manifesto/Polemic." Now I have combined all three, and put them into two files. First a PDF file; second, a PowerPoint presentation.
Okay, it's just a list—and you've seen 100 like it. Nonetheless, it woke me up in the middle of the night—and I put a few Notes onto my iPhone. It—of course—made it into the electronic sunshine as a tweet. (I'm not terribly keen on "Winner's," but I couldn't figure out anything much better: "Success Factors" a little whatever; "Stuff" not too bad; pick your own—you get the idea, I'm certain.)
Winner's 7: Choose your attitude. Take the lead. Listen intently. Learn something new. Help someone. Arrive early/leave late. Eye contact. [Tweet: 139 characters with spaces]
Winner's Daily Dozen
1. Your call and yours alone: Consciously choose the attitude you take to work this morning. (Bingo: Positive, enthusiastic—regardless of how you feel inside.)
2. Realize that each day literally offers up on a silver platter a dozen leadership opportunities, regardless of your age/experience/rank/seniority/status. (So grab ONE.)
3. Arrive early. Leave late. (Out work 'em ... it works.)
4. Listen aggressively: Formally practice and improve listening skills. (Effective listening = #1 long-term differentiator.)
5. Learn something new today. Meet someone new today. (Reside permanently on the edge of your discomfort zone.)
6. Cherish your boo-boos. (No screw-ups today = Abject failure to nudge ye olde envelope.)
7. Civil. Always. (Make it a religion.)
8. Unbidden, help someone with some[little]thing. (Make it a religion.)
9. Take a nanosecond to say "Thanks" for the tiniest atoms of helpfulness. (Make it a religion.)
10. Smile. (Make it a religion.)
11. Eye contact. (Make it a religion.)
12. EXCELLENCE. Always. (Excellence is not an "aspiration." Excellence is the next five minutes. Or not.)
I have thoroughly revised last week's paper as a gift to myself before heading to Golden Bay/New Zealand for a few weeks. You'll find it here in PDF format.
Lemme know what you think at Twitter: @tom_peters.
The immediately prior post means a lot to me—and I hope it provokes you, though to many of you it will be old hat. (In which case, forgiveness is begged.) In any event, I have produced a shorthand version, here and in PDF form:
Summary: What I've Come/Am Coming to Believe
*The power to invent (and execute) is switching/flipping rapidly/inexorably to the network. "Me" is transitioning to "We"—as consumers and producers. Nouns are giving way to gerunds—it's an "ing"/shapeshifting world!
*The Internet must stay open and significantly unregulated to enable, among other things, the entrepreneurial spurt that will significantly underpin world economic growth.
*Entrepreneurial behavior and upstart entrepreneurial enterprises have underpinned every monster shift in the past, such as farm to factory. This time will likely be no different.
*An obsession with a "Fortune 500" of more or less stable giants dictating "the way we do things" will likely become an artifact of the past. (Though big companies/"utilities" will not disappear.)
*There is simply no limit to invention or entrepreneurial opportunities! (Please read twice.)
*The new star bosses will be "wizards"/"maestros."
*Sources of sustained profitability will often be elusive in a "soft-services world."
*Control and accountability will be a delicate dance. Now you see it, now you don't ...
*Trial and error, many many many trials and many many many errors very very very rapidly will be the rule; tolerance for and delight in rapid learning—and unlearning—will be a/the most valued skill.
*"Gamers" instinctively "get" the idea of lots of trials, lots of errors, as fast as possible; for this reason among many, "the revolution" is/will be to a very significant degree led by youth.
*Women may well flourish to the point of domination in new leadership roles in these emergent/ethereal settings that dominate the landscape—power will be exercised almost entirely indirectly (routine for most women—more than for their male counterparts), and will largely/elusively inhabit the network per se.
*The "Brand You/Brand Me" idea is alive and well and getting healthier every day and is ... not optional. Fact is, we mostly all will have to behave as/be entrepreneurial tapdancers to survive, let alone thrive. (Again, the under-35 set already seem mostly to get this; besides, this was the norm until 90 years ago.)
*Individual performance and accountability will be more important than ever, but will be measured by one's peers along dimensions such as reliability, trustworthiness, engagement, flexibility, willingness to spend a majority of one's time helping others with no immediate expected return.
*AI is ripping through traditional jobs at an accelerating pace. Virtually no job, circa 2000, no matter how "high end," will remain in a recognizable way within 15-25 years. It's as simple—and as traumatic—as that.
*Wholesale/continuous/intense re-education (forgetting as well as learning) is a lifelong pursuit/imperative; parent Goal #1: Don't kill the curiosity with which the child is born!
*STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) is no doubt significant to a landscape being transformed by technology, though it has severe limitations. I favor the somewhat more robust formulation labeled STEAM/steAm. The "A" is for Art, or the arts. "The arts" are to some extent "what's left" in terms of value creation as AI/robotics vacuum up traditional high-end occupations—think Apple.
*The surprisingly good news: Education is busily re-inventing itself and leaving the ed establishment in the dust! The idea of and shape of education per se are erasing all that's come before.
*GRIN/Genetics-Robotics-Informatics-Nanotech: Overwhelming transformation is hardly just the provenance of AI/Robotics. Change, entrepreneurial activities and early adoption in the "G"/genetics and the "N"/nanotech arenas are accelerating. In fact, our 25 year horizon may border on the unrecognizable.
*Government has a large role to play, like it or not. E.g., government-funded BASIC-research and development is a major-league necessity—which is growing rather than diminishing. Acknowledging the limits, at times severe, of markets is imperative!
*Governance: It is hard to imagine that fundamental systems of human arrangement-governance will remain unchanged.
*Downside? I have during my months of forced re-education personally moved from a position of deep pessimism to one of guarded optimism. Will "everything be different" in 10 or 25 years? Perhaps. Will we adapt individually and organizationally; history says yes, but common sense says there are no sure bets, and frightful issues (from genetics to war-and-peace) can readily be imagined. Stay tuned!
Be warned! What follows is disorganized and half-assed! In a recent post, I provided a reading list of sorts. I am a voracious reader—but in the last few months my voraciousness has turned to frenzy. In 2012, I may have closed off a chapter with the publication of a 23-part,4096-slide fully annotated presentation of, de facto, "everything I know," which we call MOAP/Mother Of All Presentations—you'll find it, available for free downloading, at excellencenow.com. As the culmination of that effort occurred, happenstance led me to Seoul for a speech on 14 June 2012. The concomitant conference was grandly called "World Strategy Forum/The New Rules: Reframing Capitalism." I was the only keynoter who was not a finance minister or former finance minister or prime minister or former prime minister or prominent (e.g., Nobel-level) economist. I humbly came at the gargantuan issue from the perspective of "the work itself"—my life's work for 30+ years. I felt at sea, and did not really find my thoughts coagulating until I got home. The immediate product was a draft 10-page paper which I titled "'Reframing Capitalism': A 15-Point Human Capital Development Manifesto/HCDM at the Enterprise & National Government Level." (I have included that draft as an Appendix to this brief paper—my conclusions as of June, as you will see if you read the Appendix, have been significantly altered by what has transpired between my ears in the subsequent six months.) Upon completing the attached post-conference draft, the aforementioned reading binge began in earnest—launched with a re-reading of Ray Kurzweil's mind-zapping The Singularity Is Near. Subsequently, I guess I could say I've been indulging in the "futurist game"—something that I have typically avoided like the plague itself. But at some point, one must put the books aside and see if one can figure out what one thinks. Hence, the brief (remember, disorganized and half-assed) paper attached is a scribbling. For me, this means stream-of-consciousness scribbling, which appears from thin air after life-to-date plus an intense recent regimen of provocative reading. I decided to use 1 January 2013 as a punctuation mark, and to get something of some sort "up"—in this case at tompeters.com. So here it is, at least as much for me as for you:
*The power to invent (and execute) is switching/flipping rapidly/inexorably to the network. Commercial as well as personal affairs are singularly and collectively "migrating to the network." Alliances of unimaginable complexity (as well as simple ones) are being formed, re-formulated, spurting to unimaginable size—and dying off—by the nanosecond. Any given organization, including rather new organizations, is "losing control" of its future by yesterday's typically rigid standards. Acknowledging/ Embracing/Rejoicing in this and experimenting at a lightening fast pace with new/radically different forms of organizing (organiz-ing, not organization; it's an "ing" world) is a survival necessity. Key word is "experimenting," or, more accurately, "playing" with untrammeled vigor.
*As I and others have said in the past, the fluidity of the movie industry and professional services industry and construction industry are more or less traditional role models that actually "prove" the plausibility of today's shapeshifting. The sorts of organizations that populate these industries have always lived with instability/fluidity/project-centrism; and the participants, from assistant grip to junior accountant to senior accountant to producer, have lived with these destabilizing characteristics. So there is much new under today's sun, but perhaps some sea anchors from the past which suggest that one can survive—and thrive—in such inherently unstable settings. (Also, and this is a longtime bugbear of mine, fact is that, unseen or acknowledged by the "business guru class," a sizeable share of the population has lived with uncertainty and "no guarantees" from start to finish of their professional lives—e.g., your local electrician and plumber!)
*The Internet must stay open and significantly unregulated to enable, among other things, the entrepreneurial spurt that will (and is the only thing that can) significantly underpin world economic growth. One imagines that those who enact significant restrictions will pay an extraordinary economic price. We are, of course, impaled on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, intellectual capital is the (only, more or less) coin of the realm; its value must therefore be protected—yet that value is only fully realized via the Net/networks which necessarily run roughshod over IP exclusivity.
*Entrepreneurial behavior and upstart entrepreneurial enterprises have underpinned every monster shift in the past, such as farm to factory. Traditional big businesses will probably survive for longer than the alarmists imagine—but many/most will become irrelevant, or disappear.
*But some giants will necessarily survive. For example, the information infrastructure must be robust; hence the basic utilities will likely need to reside in large, stable organizations—e.g., Microsoft de facto fulfilled such a role for 20 years as computing migrated to the desktop; what some called "unimaginative" was a necessary attribute for widespread, co-coordinated global adoption.
*While a Google may be a dominant player for a time, an obsession with (or even the existence of) a "Fortune 500" of more or less stable giants dictating "the way we do things" will likely become an artifact of the past.
*There is simply no limit to invention or entrepreneurial opportunities. We have not and will not ever run out of "wants." Some may be appalled by this, but it is hard fact. The creation of a jillion quirky innovations associated with a revolutionary technology is eventually sorted to the point that there are a handful without which we cannot live—e.g., the electric power grid and global positioning systems and now the Internet.
In Race Against the Machine, MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee put it this way, "We are in no danger of running out of new combinations to try. Even if technology froze today, we have more possible ways of configuring the different applications, machines, tasks, and distribution channels to create new processes and products than we could ever exhaust." (Incidentally, the full title of the book is Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy.)
*The new star bosses will be "wizards" or "maestros." The chief skills of the chief-of-tomorrow will involve creating ethereal organizations to execute agreed-upon projects—from small to humongous. The projects as well as the data will live in something resembling "the cloud." These "bosses" (who are not bosses by yesterday's "command & control" standard) will get off on uncertainty and ambiguity and lightening-fast iterations and bushels of fast failures and rapid shapeshifting. (Slightly more traditional structures will be, I'd guess, required for the likes of logistics and various utilities—though logistics is obviously a network endeavor, subject to the plastic parameters of networking.)
*Sources of sustained profitability will often be elusive. An advanced barter economy is already emerging. The "CFO" job, like almost all others, will disappear as we've known it. "Profit gurus" will build business models and find ways to temporarily monetize (a term I used to loathe) the products of a network/set of networks. These Profit Gurus will have their own network—they more or less already do in the form of a host of flavors of venture capital. (Among other things, "angel" investors are of the utmost importance to an entrepreneurially activated economy.)
*Control and accountability will be a delicate dance. On the one hand, we need a "the buck stops here" process including appropriate regulation; on the other hand, the control system, too, will be significantly "emergent"—to a far greater degree than normal, projects will repeatedly redefine themselves as they progress and "Who's in charge?"/"Who signs off?" will be unstable.
*Trial and error, many many many trials and many many many errors very very very rapidly will be the rule (think dotcom boom and bust—and, in fact, the incredibly valuable residual in terms of entrepreneurial training and ideas surfaced and approaches rejected); tolerance for rapid learning—and unlearning—will be a most valued skill. (FYI: "Gamers" instinctively "get" this—lots of trials, lots of errors as fast as possible—in ways their error-avoiding elders can only imagine; hence, for this reason among many, "the revolution" is/will be, to a very significant degree, led by youth.)
*Women may well flourish to the point of domination in new leadership roles in these emergent/ethereal settings that dominate the landscape—power will be exercised almost entirely indirectly, and will largely live in the network per se. Women, among other things, are "soft power" experts, more comfortable and effective in settings where informal power is dominant. (Can men adapt? Not clear.) (On the other hand, for better and for worse, men typically have a greater proclivity for risktaking—central to an entrepreneurially driven/dominated economy. A friend once said, mostly in jest, "Let the guys start the low-odds businesses—then let women run them." Hmmm ...)
*One thing women are routinely better at than men is ... listening. And in a networked world, de facto or de jure listening is paramount as never before. We must listen intently within hyper-extended networks of peers if we intend to be inventive and accomplish complex tasks; participation and cooperation are the animating forces of a networked venture/economy. In the past, the best listeners have reaped great benefits from their skillset; but now listening well is a life or death proposition. (FYI: Cutting off and disempowering blowhards has never been so easy! There are no safety nets for jerks. In a networked world, your peers will vote you on or off the island—and revising a permutation will, as always, be devilishly difficult.)
*The "Brand You/Brand Me" idea (I more or less launched the concept/moniker in the mid-1990s) is alive and well and getting healthier every day and is ... not optional. Fact is, we mostly all will have to be entrepreneurial to survive, let alone thrive. The good news is that we mostly were until 100 years ago, so gene alteration is not required—though it, too, may come in the next 25 years! The buck starts and stops with you, not a formally assigned boss—even if you are in a traditional enterprise; "traditional" enterprises may look familiar, but all vestiges of traditional job-security-courtesy-invisibility have evaporated. (Key/essential "Brand You" requirements: (1) Exceedingly good at something—a calling. (2) Constant learning—adding as well as subtracting. (3) Perpetually expanding/deepening one's network—that is, "brand you" success is co-creation success, the antithesis of the egocentric go-it-aloneism that the term might, at first glance, imply. (4) Dancing skills—changing direction and improvising will be commonplace. (5) "Entrepreneurial," in quotes because I mean taking the initiative as a matter of course, not necessarily starting your own business. "Change agent" used to be a special category—now, only change agents/initiators will survive.)
*Performance and accountability will be more important than ever, but will be measured by one's peers along dimensions such as reliability, trustworthiness, engagement, willingness to spend a majority of one's time (at any given time) helping others with no immediate expected return.
*AI is ripping through traditional jobs at an accelerating pace, and the old saw, "We ain't seen nothin' yet," is a truism. (FYI: AI is transforming local/small businesses as well as the giants—think of local bookstores among many others.) Virtually no job, circa 2000, will remain in a recognizable way within 15-25 years. It's as simple—and as traumatic—as that. This AI-driven transformation has long been coming—imagine 25-year time-lapse photography of, say, an auto plant—but is accelerating and now scaling the highest peaks as it increasingly immolates "high end"/analytic/pattern-recognition jobs.
Looked at in the context of the eternally lingering anemic economic recovery, MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee discern the phenomenon this way in Race Against the Machine, "The root of our problem is not that we're in a Great Recession or a Great Stagnation, but rather that we are in the early throes of a Great Restructuring. Our technologies are racing ahead, but many of our skills and organizations are lagging behind."
On 22 May 2000, I authored a Time cover story titled "What Will We Do for Work?" I/It began, "I believe that ninety percent of white-collar jobs in the U.S. will be either destroyed or altered beyond recognition in the next 10 to 15 years." The three causes I enumerated were "destructive" (game-changing) competition, technology/artificial intelligence, and outsourcing." I was a bit ahead of schedule—now the process has clearly engulfed us.
*In general, wholesale/continuous/intense re-education (forgetting as well as learning—the former is the most difficult) is a lifelong pursuit—and not optional. (Obviously, instilling, or at least not killing, curiosity from about age ZERO is part and parcel of the New Age and goes against today's grain. E.g., Parent Goal #1: Don't kill the curiosity with which the child is born! As Picasso put it, "Every child is born an artist. The trick is to remain an artist." Please ponder that one.)
*It is commonplace when discussing education (frequently described as National Priority #1) to obsess on math proficiency and, more broadly, STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math). STEM is, no doubt, significant to a landscape being transformed by technology, though I favor the formulation labeled STEAM, or steAm. (President John Maeda of RISD coined the new flavor.) The "A" is for Art, or the arts. "The arts" are to some extent "what's left" as AI/robotics vacuum up traditional high-end occupations. Consider the world's most valuable company—Apple. While its "T" (technology) is exceptional, it is the "A" that has made all the difference—or, rather, the A ingeniously blended with S, T, E, and M. (As Steve Jobs once bluntly and characteristically put it of Apple's eventual relative domination, "Microsoft never had the humanities or liberal arts in its DNA.")
*In general, in the age of stupendous technology change, the "soft" attributes will be more important than ever. This is true of invention/innovation (see Apple reference above) and abetted by the networked nature of development and execution; for the foreseeable future, development and execution are "soft" arranging and managing tasks.
*Education redux. The (very) good news: Education is busily re-inventing itself and leaving the ed establishment in the dust! You might say that all schooling will become de facto home schooling—and will effectively start at birth. Educational resources are increasingly available on the desktop (or whatever we'll call it); and, ho hum, we ain't seen nothin' yet. MOOCs/Massive Online Open Courses of every flavor are rising—networks will create their own spontaneous and encompassing educational "system" as a vehicle like TEDx is illustrating. Traditional education models will more or less disappear—some forecast only a dozen surviving universities as we know them today within a couple of decades. (This seems, and doubtless is, extreme—but the fact that it can be imagined and seriously discussed is jaw dropping.) And, I repeat, this encompasses the 1st 10 years of education, not just tertiary/tertiary+ ed. Young students can/are reinventing education and the human interaction/convergence processes, unbeknownst even to themselves, at the speed of light; gaming, for (one big) example is not a sideshow—it is the show. Emphasis on ed will shift from ages 5-18 or 22 to ages 2 to 82. Redux redux: The idea of and shape of education per se are erasing all that's come before—the shape of the delivery vehicle and the idea of education-is-forever-for-all.
*GRIN/Genetics-Robotics-Informatics-Nanotech. Overwhelming transformation is hardly just AI/Robotics or the likes of 3-D printing/personal fabs, which have de facto underpinned much of the commentary above. Change, entrepreneurial activities and early adoption in the "G"/genetics and the "N"/nanotech arenas are accelerating. In fact, the 25 year horizon may border on the unrecognizable. The good news—above—is that we will be rewiring the entire economy/nature of existence into a flexible format capable of adjusting-adapting 100X more rapidly than is the case today. And in 25 years the likelihood is non-low that genetic adaptations to deal with genetic adaptations/nanotech may well be standard fare. A great deal of the "G-stuff" is proven—the issue is the pattern of implementation. Among (many) other things, as "G" options accelerate/ multiply, religious conservatism versus scientific aggressiveness, with war and peace mixed in, portend high odds of a global donnybrook.
*Government has a large role to play, like it or not. E.g., government-funded BASIC-research and development is a major-league necessity—which is growing, rather than diminishing. Government's historical role in research has routinely been underestimated, but will be especially true if the cataclysmic changes likely in universities blow below-the-waterline holes in those universities' R&D funding models. Hyper-capitalism, in general, leads to paper-thin profits, which lead to disinvestment in BASIC R & D—e.g., the likes of Bell Labs; this is already happening and is unmistakably accelerating. For another BIG thing, government also has to stay involved in social safety-net issues. As longterm employment evaporates, the services historically provided/funded by big companies will more or less disappear—see the current situation regarding pensions. Hence, government support will remain and become more important as the court of last resort. Add in, then, infrastructure, which is as important as ever—from the Internet backbone to highways and bridges. (And, of course and alas, defense—the world is and will likely stay far short of placid.) Acknowledging the limits, at times severe, of markets is imperative! (Anti-government ideologues must get this through their heads.)
*Governance. To a non-trivial extent, we have been globalizing/globalized for 500 years. But the emergent interconnectedness is of a different character. It is hard to imagine that fundamental systems of human governance will remain unchanged. The growth of interdependence to date, alas, has hardly eliminated wars—though overall human violence does continue to measurably decrease. Some have said that the global giant corporations have become the true, but shadow, system of governance—and there is significant truth to that. Yet I have argued above that a stable portfolio (such as the fictional but real "Global 1000") of giants is unlikely to dominate in the mid- to long-term. What tomorrow's UN will look like is unclear to me; the nation state is not likely to disappear any time soon, and the role of a stable technological backbone, among other things, would seem to necessitate its survival. But will categories such as "democracies" mean what they do today? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
*Downside. I have during my months of forced re-education personally moved from a position of deep pessimism to one of guarded optimism. We have survived discontinuous change in the past. The determining factor is always the same: Timeframe!! There is no doubt that the pace of change is accelerating—it has ever been thus. But arguably (inarguably?) there is a discontinuity in the rate of acceleration per se. AI, for example, like many of its predecessor "gamechanger" technologies, has been "on the verge" for 40 years. But now the cataclysmic moment may have arrived. (Add the "G" and the "N" into the mix—though they are perhaps a bit farther from the tipping point—and you have a case for true destabilization.) Will "everything be different" in 10 or 25 years? Perhaps. Will we adapt; history says yes, but common sense says there are no sure bets. Stay tuned!
[Also available: a PDF of this blog, with appendices. Revised 06 Jan 2012—CM.]
An old friend of Tom's, Rich Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes magazine, wrote a piece in the 19 November issue of that magazine, praising In Search of Excellence. Below, find Tom's excerpt of the article, and see the original here. Thanks to Rich for this tribute!
Confidence had been in tatters for several years, following a big and ugly recession. It was 1982. A 17-year boom awaited at the tunnel's end, but the present mood was awful.
It's often debated whether Ronald Reagan's tax cuts or Paul Volcker's monetary medicine got the U.S. off its back. The answer is both, but let's add a third and fourth reason. Third was the personal computer. ... The PC was more than a machine. It was a garden of entrepreneurship that produced such daring men as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. A fourth reason was a book that came out in 1982: In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman. Yes, I am claiming that a single book belongs up there with tax cuts, a strong dollar and the PC as a pillar of the American renaissance.
In Search of Excellence was the right book for the time. It is a saga of the passion that the authors found in the best companies. The idea of passion in large business was a shape-shifter. In 1982 managers of large companies were expected to be strategic and financial in their focus. Efficiency was prized. Products were things to be counted and shipped, not loved. If quality was a problem, it was a systemic error and not connected to employee morale.
Not fully appreciated at the time was that most American companies had become large and profitable during a time of scant global competition. From the end of World War II through the 1960s little stood in the way. Then came the 1970s, with the rise of Germany and Japan. ... The old rules went out the window. In Search of Excellence gave large company managers a new template. Its eight principles are: A Bias for Action; Close to the Customer; Autonomy and Entrepreneurship; Productivity Through People; Hands- On, Value-Driven ...
It's hard to improve on those eight today. So why was In Search of Excellence originally considered so radical? It shredded the idea that business is all about rational behavior and numbers. The very reason that reason often fails is that humans who work in companies and constitute the customer base aren't entirely rational themselves. Employees and customers seek rational rewards, of course, but they also want something more. They want purpose. They want meaning.
Tom revisits Russia, and his PPT recalls his 2006 appearance in that country's Novosibirsk. Tom insists you need EXCELLENCE NOW to master "New trends in marketing and management," the stated theme of the day. Below you can get the presentation from his World Trade Center seminar in Moscow.
This list of "success factors" emerged after-the-fact from an interview with a reporter from Moscow in preparation for a seminar I'm giving in Moscow in mid-November 2012. FYI:
Just one "secret" to innovation: It's a messy world. We're always operating half informed. Hence, "try more stuff than the other guy" and sort it out as you go forward is the best way to up success odds. ("Ready. Fire. Aim."—Ross Perot)
Paradox: Superb quality is an absolute necessity, and it requires superb systems; but superb quality with the wrong product flunks. Hence one needs to be organized (quality) and disorganized (innovation) at the same time. (Axiom: Management is art, not science.)
Waste #1: "Great branding"/marketing can not overcome a lousy product—it is largely wasted. The product (innovative, attractive, of the highest quality) comes first—though excellence in product and marketing is indubitably required to achieve a smashing success.
Everywhere: "Excellence" in quality and design is not restricted to the "high end." Both characteristics can be imbedded in lower-end products and services.
Iron law: All organizations get worse as they become more and more enormous. No cultural differences.
Iron law: Over the long haul, national success is largely built upon SMEs, with growth and innovation associated largely with a large population of vibrant midsized enterprises—Germany's "Mittelstand" is exhibit #1.
Paradox: Hierarchy is dead. Long live hierarchy. New market requirements and new tools can dramatically reduce hierarchy. Still, I don't want to drive across a bridge that didn't have a "command and control" structure to sign off on safety.
But: Hierarchy is often necessary—but relentless hot war must be declared on bureaucracy "24/7."
"New marketing techniques": The newest marketing technique is the oldest marketing technique but remains "new" because it is seldom practiced with requisite intensity. Namely, get the hell out into the marketplace and listen & listen & listen to customers. Then listen some more.
Always #1: Any nation's Olympic team is as good as its athletes. (Duh.) Exactly the same is true with any (as in any!) organization: Investment in and development of great people comes first and is the greatest sustaining differentiator!
Motivator #1: Treating people with respect is always the #1 motivational "tool."
Why not business: In the army and in the theater and in sports, training is always Priority #1. Why not in business? No organization ever devoted too much effort to training!
Success "secret" #1: Work harder/much harder than the other guy/s. There's more to it than hard work but hard work is the sine qua non. (Again: Think of the Olympics.)
Speed's enabler: The #1 cause of delays is invariably lousy cross-functional communication—the product developers don't talk to the logistics people who don't talk to the sales people. Etc. Etc. Excellence in cross-functional communication must become a day-to-day top-management obsession.
New context, new leaders: Innovation (and execution) today is a collaborative process. Women are on average better leaders than men in collaborative situations. Men take to hierarchies—we invented 'em. Women tend to lead more by inclusion rather than coercion.
Customer #1: In retail and in products designed for retail, she is the primary consumer. Company leadership and the product-service portfolio should mimic, more or less, this fact. (You heard it here 1st: Men and women are different.)
New context, new skills; The Age of Brawn is largely behind us. Brains and creativity and flexibility have come to the fore. Not only are our organizations unprepared—but our schools get it more or less exactly wrong 100% of the time.
Acceleration: Technological change is accelerating as never before. It is not an exaggeration to say that "all bets are off"; adaptability and renewal are imperative on a short cycle unimaginable only 10 or so years ago. (And we ain't seen nothin' yet.)
Mix it up: Company leaders tend to be look-alikes. Only (only!) diversity on any dimension you can name induces creativity over the long haul—from the boardroom to the front line.
"Sexy": Clever strategies and exciting products are important, but superb execution invariably carries the day. Asked his #1 success "secret," peerless hotelier Conrad Hilton replied, "Don't forget to tuck the shower curtain into the bathtub." Amen!
Tom is featured at The Ford Hall Forum in Boston tonight. He is engaging in a dialogue titled "Business Ethics and Other Oxymorons." He will be having a dialogue with Nitin Nohria, Dean of the Harvard Business School; the discussion will be moderated by Donna Carpenter, founder of New Word City and, among other things, publisher of Tom's eBooks
Tom calls what follows, "My 'cheat sheet' for the discussion." Tom adds, "As most know, I am a fierce critic of B-schools. Yet Dean Nohria is making enormous changes, for the better as I see it, at HBS. I'd call the Boston discussion a 'debate,' except Nitin and I are in virtually complete agreement about the role of business in society—and the broad obligations of business leaders. Incidentally, Dean Nohria comes out of the business sub-discipline typically called 'organization behavior'—so do I. Praise the Lord, for once, unlike at my alma mater, Stanford, we have a B-school dean who's not one more bloody economist."
Tom's cheat sheet:
From Lynn Stout, professor of corporate and business law, Cornell Law school, in The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public
"On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy. ... Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products."—Jack Welch, Financial Times/0313.09/page 1/former GE chairman Welch was arguably the most vociferous proponent of the shareholder value ideology (Quoted in The Shareholder Value Myth)
"The notion that corporate law requires directors, executives, and employees to maximize shareholder wealth simply isn't true. There is no solid legal support for the claim that directors and executives in U.S. public corporations have an enforceable legal duty to maximize shareholder wealth. The idea is fable."
"[A corporation] can be formed to conduct or promote any lawful business or purpose"—from Delaware corporate code, in which there is no mandate for shareholder primacy.
"[Courts] uniformly refuse to actually impose legal sanctions on directors or executives for failing to pursue one purpose over another. In particular, courts refuse to hold directors of public corporations legally accountable for failing to maximize shareholder wealth."
"What about shareholders' rights to sue corporate officers and directors for breach of fiduciary duty if they fail to maximize shareholder wealth? Such a right turns out to be illusory. Executives and directors' duty of loyalty to the corporation bars them from using their corporate positions to enrich themselves at the firm's expense, but unconflicted directors remain legally free to pursue almost any other goal."
"From a legal perspective, shareholders do not, and cannot, own corporations. Corporations are independent legal entities that own themselves, just as human beings own themselves. ... Shareholders own shares of stock. A share of stock is simply a contract between the shareholder and the corporation, a contract that gives the shareholder very limited rights under limited circumstances. In this sense, stockholders are no different from bondholders, suppliers, and employees. All have contractual relationships with the corporate entity. None 'owns' the company itself."
TP comment: I read Professor Stout's book like a thriller: It is breathtaking, for my money.
"Managers have lost dignity over the past decade in the face of widespread institutional breakdown of trust and self-policing in business. To regain society's trust, we believe that business leaders must embrace a way of looking at their role that goes beyond their responsibility to the shareholders to include a civic and personal commitment to their duty as institutional custodians. In other words, it is time that management became a profession."—Rakesh Khurana & Nitin Nohria, "It's Time To Make Management a True Profession," Harvard Business Review/10.08
"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality."—JFK
From John Bogle, Enough. The Measures of Money, Business, and Life (Bogle is founder of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group):
"At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, 'Yes, but I have something he will never have ... enough.'" (extracted from the New Yorker)
"Too Much Speculation, Not Enough Investment"
"Too Much Complexity, Not Enough Simplicity"
"Too Much Counting, Not Enough Trust"
"Too Much Business Conduct, Not Enough Professional Conduct"
"Too Much Salesmanship, Not Enough Stewardship"
"Too Much Focus on Things, Not Enough Focus on Commitment"
"Too Many Twenty-first Century Values, Not Enough Eighteenth-Century Values"
"Too Much 'Success,' Not Enough Character"
TP comment: I loved Jack's book and was honored to have been asked to write the foreword to the paperback edition.
"For too long, the economics profession has minimized the critical role of cooperation in economic activity. Emphasis on the individual has risen above all else, and overshadowed the profound ways we depend on each other. ... If we ignore the important ways people cooperate to create wealth, we miss the most valuable source of wealth creation imaginable. ... By appreciating integrity as an asset that is valuable, companies can learn how to invest in it and create wealth."—Anna Bernasek, The Economics of Integrity: From Dairy Farmers to Toyota, How Wealth Is Built on Trust & What That Means for Our Future
"In an era of structured finance, nano-technology, and complex business models, Anna Bernasek's timely book reminds us that the economy runs on something much more simple: trust."—Review of The Economics of Integrity by Dan Gross, author of Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation
"It is not enough for an agency to be respected for its professional competence. Indeed, there isn't much to choose between the competence of big agencies. What so often makes the difference is the character of the men and women who represent the agency at the top level, with clients and the business community. If they are respected as admirable people, the agency gets business—whether from present clients or prospective ones."—David Ogilvy
"I can't tell you how many times we passed up hotshots for guys we thought were better people ... and watched our guys do a lot better than the big names, not just in the classroom, but on the field—and, naturally, after they graduated, too. Again and again, the blue chips faded out, and our little up-and-comers clawed their way to all-conference and All-America teams."—Bo Schembechler (and John Bacon), "Recruit for Character," Bo's Lasting Lessons (Schlemberger was the legendary college football coach at the University of Michigan)
To develop and manage talent;
to apply that talent,
throughout the world,
for the benefit of clients;
to do so in partnership;
to do so with profit.
WPP (World's largest marketing services firm)
Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity
Edward O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth
Jack Beatty, Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America
Martha Nussbaum, Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities
David Hackett Fischer, Fairness and Freedom: A History of Two Open Societies
Hanna Rosin, The End of Men: and the Rise of Women
Part 22 of Tom's "Mother of All Presentations" (MOAP) is available now at ExcellenceNow.com. You can download it as a PowerPoint or a PDF. We've been releasing a new section every other week throughout 2012.
The "15H Theory of Everything" concludes in this section with Hsieh—that's Tony Hsieh, the founder and CEO of Zappos. The theme of the presentation is Wow! Use the word in your daily activities. You might even consider putting it in your corporate values statement as Zappos has done.
Found the following at Twitter:
"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
The next installment of Tom's MOAP, or "Mother of All Presentations," Part 19, is available now at ExcellenceNow.com. You can download the PowerPoint version or a PDF. We we'll be releasing a new section every other week throughout 2012.
In Part 19, which is the 12th "H" in the "15-H Theory of Everything," Tom pays tribute to small and middle-size businesses, with Hartville Hardware, one of the stars from George Whalin's book, Retail Superstars, as an example.
Now that the first Olympic 2012 Party in London is over (Paralympics starts on 29th August), we Brits are all asking ourselves whether we are going to get the legacy we had hoped for. It seems to me that there is a great deal too much focus on whether we can anticipate any profits from our investment. Here are just a few examples of what I think we will gain from it:
1. Looking at the tangibles we are inheriting, we have paid a high price for the regeneration of the area where the new Olympic park was built, but a superb job has been done. A previously derelict and neglected area has been transformed with iconic venues, extensive parkland, and accommodation that will become 2,800 new homes for local people.
There is still debate about whether the athletics stadium will become a white elephant, as we are still arguing about who will take it over after the Games, but the velodrome and aquatic centre look likely to become fabulous resources for everyone to enjoy.
2. A second aspect of the legacy must be the image of the UK that the world got to see. Despite aspersions being cast about whether we were ready for the Games, everything went to plan, finished early, and kept within budget (albeit revised upwards).
We did get a little edgy when members of our military were called in at the last minute to substitute for the shortfall of security recruits, but it turned out to be a real asset to have those guys around the park. They certainly made me feel more secure.
Even the predictions of doom and gloom around traffic chaos came to nothing. Maybe we were nudged into lower expectations, or persuaded to behave differently, but the much-heralded gridlock never materialised.
3. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were a chance to showcase British character and talents. I've seen them variously described as marvellous, ambitious, and slightly bonkers, but then, I can't think of better words to describe our nation. I thought the most magical aspect was Thomas Heatherwick's beautiful Olympic Flame with its 204 copper petals all coming together to form a united cauldron of light. What a brilliant combination of function and beauty it was! Just like the best of British innovation over the years.
4. And what of the people of the UK—how did we acquit ourselves? We got a sense of the latent enthusiasm that was about to explode across the country with the Torch Relay. This covered 8,000 miles across the UK over the 70 days before the Games started, involving 8,000 individuals as Torch Bearers, and an estimated audience of 13 million spectators. It was a magnificent welcome to London for the Games. By the time the various road races got going, the crowds had got into the swing of turning up and cheering, and how they cheered!
The 80,000 volunteers that were recruited as so called Games Makers have rightly received universal acclaim as representatives of this country. As exemplars of engagement and selfless service, they came to embody the spirit of the Games. How impressive is it that we are capable of rallying a crowd of keen and willing contributors when there is a cause that matters to them. There must be something more we can do with that latent energy in future.
5. Finally, the motto of the Games was "Inspire A Generation," and it's unimaginable to me that we won't achieve this. There were stellar performances from so many dedicated Olympians; Michael Phelps in the swimming, Mo Farah in the long distance running, Usain Bolt in the sprinting, the list goes on and on. Across 26 completely different sports, athletes excelled themselves and showed what can be done by adding pure, hard graft to their talent. The team of athletes representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland outclassed themselves, and smashed their own medals target of 48, winning 65 in the end. I know we had the home advantage, but if that means we get a new generation with sporting ambitions ignited, that will indeed be a legacy to treasure.
So what of those who complain about the bottom line? It has cost a fortune, they say, and so far, no one can make the financial case for the Games. In fact, some say it has cost lost revenue. But for me that misses the point. We in TPC define Excellence as being a combination of systems plus passion, tangibles, and intangibles. My money is on the intangibles having a massive impact on our country; confidence, ambition, community spirit and optimism may all be hard to measure, but we've shown we can use them to good effect to stage these Olympics. Let's hang onto them and use them to build a stronger country for the future.
As the Tom Peters Company is based in London, our colleagues have been experiencing Olympic mania first hand. Managing Partner Madeleine McGrath has taken the opportunity to reflect on the similarities between the quests of these exceptional athletes and your own organization to reach Excellence. In the blog posts below, she highlights areas of focus that Tom has emphasized for decades and that she and her team excel at cultivating in their work.
[Photo: Lilies from Susan's garden]
Okay, say what you will, but I spent about three (full) days on this—which you'll see below and in a 1-page, 8-point type pdf.
The genesis was my speech in Tel Aviv a couple of weeks ago. I tried to cover "everything I've learned in the last 35 years"—in the space of a (very) few minutes. When I got home, I was determined to boil it down to one page. Which was fun—but one hell of a struggle.
Well, though I had to resort to 8-point type, I made it!
1. EXCELLENCE. A sterling reason for being. A way of life. A personal choice. (Besides, if not Excellence, what's the point?)
2. Organizations exist to serve. PERIOD. (Selfless service to others is the moral basis for all enterprise. PERIOD.)
3. "Business has to give people enriching, rewarding lives ... or it's simply not worth doing." —Richard Branson
4. To put the customer first is to put our people ahead of the customer. (Leaders' Job #1: "In service" to staff!)
4A. "You have to treat your employees like customers."—Herb Kelleher, on his "only" success secret
5. Obligation on several levels (including community/country) to maximize efforts to develop our people—one at a time.
6. The demise of jobs as we've known them—the accelerating tech tsunami. (Education revolution. NOW. Or doom.)
7. "Productivity through people" in truly small organizations—the ultimate national productivity multiplier.
8. The training imperative. (#1 "C-level"?) (Every employee has superstretch growth plan—managers evaluated thereon.)
9. The "d"iversity (lower case "d") imperative. (Variety of every sort is effectiveness' handmaiden.)
10. The teamwork imperative. (Goal: "I'm 100X better!"—top doc on power of Mayo Clinic's dogmatic "team medicine.")
11. Taking hiring (VERY) seriously. ALL-important. Rarely an "obsession." (Becoming a full-fledged "hiring pro.")
12. First-line manager/leader cadre as (under-appreciated) principal engine of productivity and quality and results.
13. Taking people (VERY) seriously: The Great Craving to Matter. ("Acknowledge" is the most powerful human force ...)
14. "Memories That Matter": Looking back, we recall the people to whom we gave a hand. (Net worth ain't on the tombstone.)
15. Innovation's only secret: WTTMSW/Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins! ("Ready. FIRE! Aim."—Perot/"Demo or die.")
15A. WTTMSW's identical twin: "Fail. Forward. Fast."—IDEO chief. (Forget "tolerate" failure. Instead ... celebrate failure.)
15B. "You miss 100% of the shots you never take."—Wayne Gretzky (Favorite slide/quote among library of 5,000.)
16. Innovation's only (other) secret: "Hang-out" axiom. Every "hang out" decision = Innovation ("Yes" or "No") decision.
16A. The NEW Hang-out axiom: Crowdsourcing ... front and center! (Hang out with literally ... EVERYONE!)
17. Innovation is everyone's fulltime game. (100% of individuals. All groups—e.g., every staff function.)
18. Innovation: Little BIG Things. (Become a maniacal experimenter: Incredible multipliers flow from mundane variables.)
19. The innovation final exam for positively everything from product to employee to etc. to etc.: WOW!!
19A. More than one way to skin a cat: 20,000 people (eBay) vs. 30 (Craigslist); madness is afoot—e.g., the "singularity."
20. Value-added: TGRs/Things Gone RIGHT. Manage! Measure! (These are the markers remembered for a lifetime.)
20A. "Small courtesies." (K = R= P/Kindness = Repeat business = Profit/"Kindness is free.") ("Hard is soft. Soft is hard.")
21. Value-added: DESIGN/Design-is-everything. "Everything is design."—Farson. (Market cap 2011: Apple > Exxon.)
22. Value-added: Service-package-as-tail-that-wags-dog. (E.g., IBM Global Services re-imagines businesses/re-imagines IBM!)
23. Value-added: XFX/Cross-functional EXCELLENCE. (The core: Unsexy "social accelerators"—e.g., "Let's do lunch.")
24. Value-added: Women-as-primary-market-for-everything. $28 trillion/yr worldwide. (Still largely honored in the breach.)
25. Value-added: Oldies-but-richies/ Mostly AWOL opportunity. (USA: Boomer turns 65 every 8 seconds, next 20 years.)
26. Value-added: Mid-sized magic/E.g., German Mittelstand stars. ("Be the best. It's the only market that's not crowded.")
(26A. Value-added? Behold, the pitiful performance of the business behemoths. Entropy inescapable—only patches possible.)
27. Leading: MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around. In-touch-or-bust. (Starbucks' Schultz visits 25+ shops a week!)
28. Leading: Focus. Successful leaders = ONE (big) thing at a time per Drucker. (You = Your calendar. Calendars never lie!)
29. Leading: LISTENING. Differentiator #1?? (No kidding!!) Make it Core Competence #1??!! (TRAIN it!! REWARD it!!)
30. Leading: Meetings. (Like it or not: "It's what I do." So ... make each and every one a paragon of Excellence.)
31. Leading: "Getting" you: "To develop others, start with yourself."—Marshall Goldsmith
32. Leading: Women are today's most effective leaders! ("The Women's Century."/Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.)
33. Leading: Responsiveness/Apology. ("The problem is rarely the problem; the response to the problem is ...")
34. Leading: Enthusiasm! Energy! Exuberance! ("I am a dispenser of enthusiasm."—Ben Zander)
35. Leading: SERVICE/SERVANT LEADERSHIP. (Leaders serve. PERIOD.) ("Service" is the most beautiful word!)
36. Leading: EXCELLENCE. (Excellence is not an "aspiration." Excellence is the next five minutes. Or not.)
37. Leading: WOW! (Make Steve Jobs' mantra your own: Aim for "insanely great"—or don't bother.)
38. "We have a 'strategic plan,' it's called 'doing things.'"—Herb Kelleher
39. The competition ain't the competition: We beat ourselves.* (*Courtesy failure to execute!)
40. Execution is a game of inches—Relentless wins! ("No silver bullet"—Howard Schultz on Starbucks makeover)
41. "Remember to tuck the shower curtain into the bathtub."—Conrad Hilton claimed it was his "only" success secret.
42. "Execution is strategy."—Fred Malek/"Execution is the job of the business leader."—Larry Bossidy.
A new video is available on YouTube, the latest in The Little BIG Things series. This video presents Tom's lesson from Conrad Hilton, master hotelier, which is to be certain the little things get done. In Hilton's view, you should be sure to tuck in the shower curtain.
You can find the video in the right-hand column of this page or watch it at YouTube (time: 2 minutes 34 seconds). Or, get a PDF transcript of the video's content: Excellence: Tuck in the Shower Curtain.
It's 10AM EST on November 10 as I write. Last night my trusty Subaru Outback and I chugged into West Tinmouth VT at 10PM—34 hours after having left my Johannesburg hotel.
I was still high from an amazing day. It was the first all-day event I'd had in a while. The event creator-producer in Johannesburg, Ingrid Masters of the Business Results Group, whom I've worked with in various guises for 15 years, says she doesn't see much value in the 90-minute "keynote." "You really can't get serious about the 'take aways,'" I think was the way she put it.
I think she has more of a point than I'd normally admit. I feel that I can "bond" with even a big audience in 90 minutes. But this, the full-day affair, is truly different—it is the love of my professional life. A full day is a micro-lifetime; relationships are painstakingly developed, one literally connects like an old friend by the end of 9 hyper-intense hours, etc. And, of course, with a few key ideas you can dig down 2 or 3 or 4 levels into cases and details and overcoming objections and implementation tactics and priorities. In any event, I had an unmitigated, unadulterated great time; and I hope that a few folks went "back home" with a renewed determination to try a couple of new things—which of course are not truly new, but, rather, old things we all know that are typically overlooked in the heat of pressing events.
As I said to the group, I deeply respect cultural differences (I think I do); but when it comes to the basics of human behavior—e.g., respect, appreciation, decency, or the lack thereof—there are literally ZERO differences among us regardless of our location on the globe. That's my unshakeable belief.
South Africa is not without problems. I hear the same can be said of my beloved USA. I do not shy away from controversy, but I also am not in town—Johannesburg or Chicago or Riyadh—to talk about national politics or policies. My message: You and I in our small way—in our immediate group of 7 or 17 or 77 or 777—can create (or die trying) what, in 1985 in A Passion for Excellence, Nancy Austin and I called a "Pocket of Excellence." There is absolutely ZERO excuse for our wee bit of turf being anything less than a shining star and stellar example of what can be—especially on the people issues, that all
important "first 99%."
(To the last point, here are three of the most profound quotes in my massive collection:
"We do no great things, only small things with great love."—Mother Teresa. "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble."—Helen Keller. "Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones."—Churchill.)
I went back to the J'burg PowerPoint and added a touch or two to make it slightly more consistent with what actually went down. You'll find attached a new "Final" version.
To my colleagues in Johannesburg ... thanks for a memorable day. It wasn't fair: I had far too much fun for an old guy 7- or 8-thousand miles from home!
In Natal (Brazil) I decided for the first time in a long time not to use slides for my 90-minute presentation—the client was apparently happy, said my direct contact with the audience was even more intense than usual.
Upon getting home, I decided to transfer my notes to a 1-page word doc. Fact is, it has taken the better part of 5 days (and nights!) to get this 1-pager, which became a 2-pager, but no more, into a form that I can call (for now) final.
Somewhere along the agonizing way I discovered that, in a way, I was attempting to summarize the last 45 years' effort observing good and bad organizations into, yes ... 2 pages.
Have I succeeded? Of course not, but it ain't bad. You will find it here as a blog post; far more important (to me) is the 2-page "EXCELLENCE. Now. EXCELLENCE. Always." pdf that you'll also find.
45 years to prepare.
5 days and nights to write.
All yours ...
1. People first, second, third, fourth ... /The "business" of leaders is people: to inspire/engage/provide a trajectory of opportunity—enterprise of every size and type as "cathedral" for human development. "When I hire someone, that's when I go to work for them."—John DiJulius
1A. Customer comes 2nd/If you want to best "Wow!" customers then you must first Wow! those who serve the customers/"If you want staff to give great service, give great service to staff."—Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman's/"You have to treat your employees like customers."—Herb Kelleher, on his #1 "secret to success"
1B. Manager's sole raison d'etre: Make each of my team members successful!
1C. Effective organizations: No bit players!
1D. Appreciation. Acknowledgement. "The deepest human need is the need to be appreciated."—Believe it! A few kind words are often remembered for years!
1E. 1st line supervisors. Every organization's ... most important ... leadership cadre. Productivity is largely determined by the caliber of the 1st line boss. Selection and development of your "sergeants" must become an "obsession"—almost all do a half-assed job.
1F. Weird/There are no "normals" in the history books!/Ensure a healthy supply of oddballs/
Diversity of every flavor = Fresh perspectives! Better decisions!
1G. Memories That Matter. And Don't./"People stuff" sticks with you: You'll look back on the handful of people you developed who proceeded to change the world—and the multitude (if you've earned it) who say, "I grew most when I worked with you." Ever seen a tombstone engraved with the deceased's net worth?
2. You/me: Businesses no longer coddle. You're in charge!/"Brand you"—stand out for something valuable, or else; learn something new every day, or else!/"Distinct or Extinct!"
3. Organizations Exist to Serve. PERIOD.
4. EXECUTION/"Don't forget to tuck the shower curtain into the bath tub."—Conrad Hilton on his "sweat the details" obsession and #1 "success secret"/"Execution is strategy."—Fred Malek/
"Execution is the leader's job #1."—Larry Bossidy
4A. "They do ... ONE big thing at a time."—Drucker on successful managers' #1 trait
4B. Resilience circa 2011: Understand it. Hire for it. Promote for it. Obsess on it.
5. MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around/
Starbucks' Schultz visits 25 stores a week/"In touch" is "not optional"/You = Your calendar/Calendars never lie!
5A. Listening per se = Candidate for Core Value #1/
Listening per se is a profession./"If you don't listen, you don't sell anything."/Docs interrupt patients after ... 18 seconds. And you?
5B. "What do you think?" "How can I help?"—MBWA 8/Eight words, repeated like a mantra while "wandering around," that unlock engagement/success for multitudes.
5C. Innovate by "Hanging out"/"You are what you eat."/"You will become like the five people you associate with the most—a blessing or a curse."/Want "cool"? Expose yourself to cool!/Manage "hanging out" zealously-formally—with customers, interesting outsiders, etc.
5D. K = R = P (Kindness = Repeat business = Profit.) "Hard is soft. Soft is hard."—#1 finding In Search of Excellence. Kindness is "hard"—and pays off in $$$$.
5E. Apology Power—Awesome power: 3-minute "I'm sorry" call heals anything—do it religiously!/"Over-the-top" response to even small booboo strengthens customer relationships!
6. "Little BIG Things"/Focus on "multipliers": Walmart goes to big shopping cart = +50% "big stuff" sales boost!/"Wash your Hands"—save thousands of lives P.A. in hospitals!
6A. "Little BIG Things": SMEs bedrock of all economies. Nurture them. SME's battle cry per George Whalin: "Be the best. It's the only market that's not crowded."
7. Apple > Exxon in market cap courtesy ... DESIGN!/The big "Duh": "Cool beats un- cool!"/Design candidate for "best way to differentiate goods-services in competitive markets."
7A. TGRs/Things Gone Right. Wagon Wheel restaurant, Gill MA—clean restroom with fresh flowers—we remember such touches more or less forever/Manage-measure TGRs.
7B. Scintillating Experiences. Howard Schultz on Starbucks: "At our core, we're a coffee company, but the opportunity we have to extend the brand is beyond coffee; it's entertainment."
8. WOMEN Buy! WOMEN Rule! WOMEN's World! Women buy 80% of everything—$28T world market/"Why Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl"—e.g., studies harder-holds longer-less frenzied buying and selling/Women's leadership style fits 21st century less-hierarchical enterprise./Evidence clear—Women well on the way to 21st century economic domination! Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff at UN: "the century of women."
9. Web-Social Media/"Everyone becomes our valued partner, a member of our community—and watchdog"/The Power of Co-creation—my "Top Biz Book 2010"/SM lynchpin of transformative strategy—for organizations of every shape and size!
10. Value added via transformation from "Customer satisfaction" to "Customer success"—huge difference-opportunity!/E.g., IBM Global Services, from afterthought to $60B/UPS Logistics/MasterCard Advisors/IDEO, help clients create "culture of innovation"/"The Geek Squad"—BestBuy's #1 strategic point of differentiation.
11. Innovation "secret" #1: "Most tries wins."/"A Bias for Action"—excellence trait #1, In Search of Excellence/"Ready. Fire! Aim."—Ross Perot/"Instead of trying to figure out the best way to do something and sticking to it, just try out an approach and keep fixing it."—Bert Rutan/"You miss 100% of the shots you never take."—Wayne Gretzky
11A. Try a lot = Fail a lot/"Fail. Forward. Fast."/"Fail faster, succeed sooner"—David Kelley/"Reward excellent failures, punish mediocre successes."/
Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins—Richard Farson
12. Live WOW!/Zappos creed ... "WOW Customers"/eBay 14,000 employees, Amazon 20,000 employees, Craig's List 30 employees: regardless of issue, Where's your "Wild and Wooly Craig's List Option"?/Final point in superstar adman Kevin Roberts' Credo: "Avoid moderation!"
13. EXCELLENCE is a personal choice ... not an institutional choice!
EXCELLENCE is not an "aspiration"—it's the next five minutes!
13A. EXCELLENCE. Always. If not EXCELLENCE, What?
If not EXCELLENCE Now, When?
For 10 years, I wrote a syndicated column—"On Excellence"—for the Tribune Media Services. It was carried by over a hundred papers—the flagship carrier was the Chicago Tribune. After Steve Jobs' death, one of my old columns surfaced—on Jobs. It appeared on 8 November 1993, when Steve was still "in the wilderness"—before his subsequently triumphant return to Apple.
Herewith, in full ...
Marathoners call it "hitting the wall." You get to a point where you can't go on. But you do. And, miraculously, you come out the other side and finish the race.
Truth is, damn little of merit, in a profession or a hobby, is accomplished without running through a wall or two.
I got to thinking about that while reading Fortune's recent cover story, "America's Toughest Bosses." Some turn "beet red." Others "scream." Some engage in "sadistic" behavior and use tactics that amount to "psychological oppression." While I hardly countenance "Jack Attacks," the tirades by Jack Connors, head of the ad agency Hill Holliday, I also don't believe the best bosses are sweethearts.
The best leaders take their firms and followers to places they've never been before-and, more important, places they never imagined they would reach. The chief's voice may be subdued or, more likely, strident at times. The reason, Fortune acknowledges, is the incredible demands these honchos place, first and foremost, on themselves.
Take Steve Jobs, one of Fortune's seven nasties. I've seen him, in his days at Apple, lose his cool on occasion. Not a particularly pretty sight.
Yet I was thoroughly taken aback by one of Jobs' "excesses," as chronicled by Fortune. A subordinate at Next Computer was showing Jobs shades of green for the company's logo. More precisely, she produced some 37 shades of green before coming upon one that pleased the master. "Oh, come on," the minion recalled thinking, "green is green."
Oh, no, it isn't!
Almost every step Jobs took at Apple (and Next) broke the mold; moreover, it defied industry tradition as set by the all-powerful, undisputed master of the universe (IBM). To say Jobs was fighting an uphill battle is to suggest that Charles Lindbergh's historic flight across the Atlantic was "challenging." Jobs was reviled and ridiculed. Yet he reinvented the computer world, in a way that makes Bill Gates' more recent contributions at Microsoft seem meager by comparison.
How did Jobs do it? By worrying about which shade of green was "right." He triumphed with the Apple II. Then the Macintosh. It was precisely his stratospheric standards ("insanely great" was a common Jobsism in days past) that allowed him and his enormously spirited teams to push past the existing frontier time and time again.
No, sir. Green is not green. Not if you're reinventing the planet. Which is not to applaud his tirades. But it is to suggest that for every disaffected Apple or Next employee burned by Jobs, there are probably 10 who by age 28 achieved Neil Armstrong-like lifetime highs at his side. Perhaps the bitterness of some stems from the subliminal realization they'll never soar so high again. It's a nightmare for a 28-year-old software designer, just as it is for 30-year-old Michael Jordan.
My two best bosses were my two toughest bosses. Neither was a screamer, although one came reasonably close. Both practiced psychological terrorism-though neither knew he was doing so.
Both set mercilessly high standards for themselves. And neither believed in barriers to achievement, including acts of God (which were seen simply as opportunities to demonstrate one's mettle as never before).
Both sent me home screaming. I recall literally a year of just about non-stop headaches in one case.
It doesn't jibe with the perfectly balanced life. But I'll tell you, I learned more, faster, from these two than ever before or since.
The perfect boss is, of course, aware of individual differences and knows exactly how far to push each individual to "attain maximum performance," or some such ideal.
Except I very much doubt bosses like that exist. Those with shockingly high standards undoubtedly cause casualties among their followers. Yet without these outrageous pioneers, we wouldn't get anywhere.
Am I callous? Yes and no. To countenance, under any circumstances, the infliction of pain is callous. But to fail to understand that no epic bridge or dam has ever been built, or fighter aircraft tested, without casualties is to fail to comprehend the real world of high-performance anything.
Fortune quotes experts who say these executive thugs suffer from low self-awareness. I'm sure that's true, and perhaps the toughies would benefit from counseling by a trusted peer (unlikely) or elder (slightly more likely) who would clue them in on the havoc they've left in their wake.
But, let's face it. If these chiefs were thoroughly self-aware they would probably not realize how insane (literally) their towering quests are. And the world would be a poorer place for it.
There is a lot of talk about "adaptive organizations," as there should be. In these perilous and fast-changing times, adaptivity is arguably Skill/Goal #1—and the bones of those, old and young, who failed to adapt litter the landscape.
Books can be and have been and will be written about the topic. Dozens of 'em. But I want to pound a stake into the ground. I doubtless wildly over-simplify, but I insist that there is a one-variable answer to the adaptivity issue—moreover, treatment of that variable is "the" answer to this conundrum and it has been with us, unchanged, for eons. It has been the determining success-fail, life-death factor for companies and armies alike.
In short: Adaptivity is more or less a 100% function of the workforce and how it is recruited and developed and encouraged and appreciated—or not.
Adaptive organizations will have workforces which ...
*Are hired for attitude and character and proven teamwork as much or more than for skill
*Are respected and trusted and visibly appreciated and celebrated
*Are in on pretty much everything in an environment of information sharing and transparency
*Are trained and re-trained ad infinitum—you can, in effect, never spend too much time or money on training and re-training
*Treat "learning new stuff"—each and every day—as a near holy responsibility
*Believe that every one of us and every outsider has something worthy to teach us
*Are routinely exposed to an "insane" variety of outsiders who offer constant stimulation and direct challenges to conventional organizational/marketplace wisdom
*Are given the autonomy (with concomitant accountability) to and encouragement to "try it," almost any "it," at the drop of a hat—and then try it and try it again and again
*Are guaranteed that "useful failures" are cheered rather than jeered
*Are bound by a coda that shouts "good enough is never good enough"
*Are all "dreamers with deadlines," committed to pursuit of the novel and disruptive—and equally committed to flawless and timely execution
*Laugh a lot at themselves and their foibles and pratfalls
*Are, while civil to a fault, irreverent about damn near anything other than integrity and decency
*Are responsible for each other's mentoring and growth
*Believe that their role—each and everyone—is to serve, to serve each other and to serve each member of our family of organizations (vendors, customers, communities, etc.)
*Are diverse to a fault—not legalistically diverse, but from every background imaginable
*Are insistent that each and every one is treated as an utterly indispensable member
of the team—there are no bit players
*Relentlessly pursue no less than EXCELLENCE in all we do, in tough times even more than in times of economic good health
And that's it!
(Or some list more or less like this.)
Of course the above requires inspired leadership which truly puts people first.
Bottom line: If the workforce encapsulates the above ideas—adaptivity will be virtually automatic and a walk in the park.* (*Of course it won't be any such thing—but presumably you get the drift.)
FYI/I repeat: This is an incredibly un-new idea. (It's achievement is, alas, exceedingly unusual—but it has unmistakably been "the secret" for ages.)
Translation (if I was unclear):
A soaring vision is desirable.
An effective strategy is important.
Super-processes are a necessity.
But in the end, it's all about ... THE PEOPLE!*
*It's ALWAYS all about ... THE PEOPLE!
[Ed. This blog is also available as a PDF: "Adaptive" Organizations.]
(Above and below, taking trip #1 in my new 12-foot Vermont Packboat amidst fall foliage on Lake St. Catherine. Photo courtesy Susan Sargent; boat designed and built by Adirondack Guideboat, North Ferrisburgh VT.)
Now at YouTube, the latest video of The Little BIG Things Video Series. Tom tells how he found an answer to the question, "But how can what you describe work in my little shop?"
You can find the video in the right-hand column of our front page, or watch it here (Time: 2 minutes 19 seconds). Also available, a PDF transcript of the video's content: Excellence: It Can Happen Anywhere.
It's no secret that Tom's passion is Excellence. What better subject matter for a series of ebooks, then? We're excited to announce that we're working with New Word City to publish just that: a series of ebooks about Excellence. The series is titled Excellence Now and will cover Excellence throughout a wide range of topics, from innovation to talent to, well, all things Excellent.
We're having a great time experimenting with ways to present Tom's oeuvre in digital format. For now, the ebook series is available for consumption on your iPhone, iPad, and through iTunes on any computer.
Much more digital content is in the works (ebooks, apps, etc.), so check back from time to time. For now, we'll start you off with the eponymous flagship ebook, Excellence Now. It's thoroughly inspirational and beautifully designed. If this doesn't light a fire under you to strive harder for Excellence in your work, we can't imagine what would. Enjoy!
[Our guest blogger is Cool Friend Steve Yastrow. He's an author, speaker, consultant, and we've enjoyed his work for many years. Find out more about him at Yastrow.com.]
In a recent post, Tom quoted David Lascelles to show how corporate mergers are contrary to nature. Lascelles uses bees as an example, relating that bee colonies split into separate colonies as they grow, before becoming too big. Lascelles says that nature is more about "growth, fragmentation, and dispersal" than it is about merging. "What the bees are telling us is that the corporate world has got it all wrong."
Beyond Lascelles's bees, there is another example, even closer to home, to demonstrate this point: humans.
For about 90% of the 200,000 years we have been anatomically modern humans we lived in bands that maxed out at about 150 people. When our groups started to grow beyond 150 people, we split into smaller groups that then continued to grow on their own, until they once again split. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar says that this number of 150 was meaningful: It represents the maximum number of relationships each of us can have with other people. The "Dunbar Number," as it is called, is a natural limit based on our cognitive capacity. (Dunbar shows that other primates, such as chimps, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas, have proportionally smaller group sizes based on their smaller brains.)
Then, about 12,000 years ago we started to settle down into a sedentary "civilized" lifestyle, and shortly thereafter developed agriculture. This led us to live in larger groups, well past Dunbar's limit of 150 people, eventually leading to the urban centers we see today.
Although we usually think of the transition to agriculture and civilization as wonderful progress, it isn't so simple. In his book, Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, Spencer Wells paints a very vivid picture of the ills that civilized life has brought us. Wells describes archaeological evidence that shows how human size, health, and life expectancy actually decreased after the transition to settled living and agriculture. (Wells says that life expectancy for humans who made it past childhood didn't catch up with hunter-gatherer levels until the 19th century.) He claims that warfare, mental illness, and social strife, in addition to many diseases, are all byproducts of the unnatural situations we have lived in for the past 10,000 years. We evolved to live one way, and now are trying to live another way. What we see every day as our natural setting is, in fact, a very unnatural way for us to live.
So, if we are looking for evidence from nature that our belief in corporate mergers and unchecked growth is misplaced, Lascelles's bees are only the starting point. We can also look into the not-so-distant mirror of our own history and recognize that our real success on this planet has been based on small, nimble groups who "spin off" new groups before growing too big.
I have about 3K slides in my "Master Presentation." These are either "the most important," or, surely, in the Top 1%:
Arie De Geus, The Living Company (father of "scenario planning" at Royal Dutch Shell): "Rose gardeners face a choice every spring. The long-term fate of a rose garden depends on this decision. If you want to have the largest and most glorious roses of the neighborhood, you will prune hard. This represents a policy of low tolerance and tight control. You force the plant to make the maximum use of its available resources, by putting them into the rose's 'core business.' Pruning hard is a dangerous policy in an unpredictable environment. Thus, if you are in a spot where you know nature may play tricks on you, you may opt for a policy of high tolerance. You will never have the biggest roses, but you have a much-enhanced chance of having roses every year. You will achieve a gradual renewal of the plant. In short, tolerant pruning achieves two ends: (1) It makes it easier to cope with unexpected environmental changes. (2) It leads to a continuous restructuring of the plant. The policy of tolerance admittedly wastes resources—the extra buds drain away nutrients from the main stem. But in an unpredictable environment, this policy of tolerance makes the rose healthier in the long run."
David Lascelles, Co-director of The Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation [UK]: "Since merger mania is now the rage, what lessons can the bees teach us? A simple one: Merging is not in nature. [Nature's] process is the exact opposite: one of growth, fragmentation and dispersal. There is no megalomania, no merging for merging's sake. The point is that unlike corporations, which just get bigger, bee colonies know when the time has come to split up into smaller colonies which can grow value faster. What the bees are telling us is that the corporate world has got it all wrong."
In response to a Tweet, I summarized In Search of Excellence—and thence the last 30 years of my professional life—in less than 140 characters.
In Search of Excellence basics in 127 characters including quotation marks and spaces:
"Cherish your people, cuddle your customers, wander around, 'try it' beats 'talk about it,' pursue excellence, tell the truth."
Success in 140 characters: Attack EVERY project you do with Reckless ENTHUSIASM and a Passionate Commitment to EXCELLENCE!
Leadership in 140 characters: Energy. Enthusiasm. Passion. "People first" in her bone marrow. Curiosity. Integrity. "Ready. Fire. Aim." Sense of humor. A good accountant.
[This photo and the one at the end of this post were both taken by Tom at his farm in VT. Signs of spring are literally cherished after a long winter in northern climes.--SD]
Tripped over this list—and, frankly, liked it. (After a few edits.) Here it is—FYI. (Download the PowerPoint version here.)
The EXCELLENCE 25/Expanded
If not EXCELLENCE, what?
If not EXCELLENCE now, when?
Great quotes I found while looking for a quote I never found:
"To lead people, walk beside them ... As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate ... When the best leader's work is done the people say, 'We did it ourselves!'" —Lao-Tsu
"A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, 'We did this ourselves.'" —Lao-Tsu
(These first two quotes are quite similar. But the subtle difference in wording was such I decided to post both. Incidentally, the duo also suggest that the basics of leadership are invariant from millennium to millennium—I could teach an entire leadership course, circa 2011, around this/these quotes alone.)
"The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn." —Alvin Toffler
"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it." —Henry David Thoreau
"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." —Leo Tolstoy
"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." —Mark Twain
"Never lose a chance of saying a kind word." —William Makepeace Thackeray
Presenting number 60 from The Little BIG Things Video Series. In this video at YouTube, Tom goes back to his roots, revisiting the first of the basics from In Search of Excellence, A Bias for Action.
You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 2 minutes] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Excellence: Bias for Action.
It's time for the last two sections in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next two sections in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence are titled "Success" and "Big." Success is full of lessons in navigating Excellence and in Big, the final section of the book & synopsis series, Tom urges us to think about our legacy and to change the world or die trying.
You can download free pdfs of those sections from The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series* by clicking below:
*The Synopsis Series is an adaptation that gives you a taste of the BIG idea in each of the 163 Little BIG Things. More information on the book can be found on this page. The Synopsis Series as released thus far can be found here.
If you've collected all the sections, we'd like to take a moment to say thank you. We hope you've enjoyed receiving these installments.
It's time for two new sections in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next two sections in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence are titled "Now" and "Impact." These sections are all about living in the moment, and asking yourself how you're going to make the next 15 minutes matter.
You can download free pdfs of those sections from The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series* by clicking below:
*The Synopsis Series is an adaptation that gives you a taste of the BIG idea in each of the 163 Little BIG Things. More information on the book can be found on this page. The Synopsis Series as released thus far can be found here.
I was asked to write a roughly 1K-word pr√©cis of the 7-S/McKinsey 7-S Model, of which I was a co-inventor. As far as I can tell, this is the first such history of the well-known organization effectiveness diagnostic.
Herewith (and my apologies for the wordiness):
In 2008 in a participant document accompanying a seminar in Dubai, event speaker and former McKinsey & Co. Managing Director Rajat Gupta said in response to an interviewer's question: "The science of management continues to develop as scholars and global business leaders refine their approaches to organizing their enterprises to ensure both profitability and sustainability. There is surely no 'one size fits all' solution that can guarantee success in business. However, among the array of techniques and theories that can help strengthen business, I have always found that the 7-S framework offers a sound approach to combining all of the essential factors that sustain strong organizations: strategy, systems, structure, skills, style, and staff—all united by shared values. The 7-S framework remains one of the enduring elements of diligent, focused business management."
Gupta's rather strong comment came 28 years after Business Horizons, in its June 1980 issue, formally birthed the 7-Ss in an article by Bob Waterman, myself, and Julien Phillips titled: "Structure Is Not Organization."
And the Business Horizons article, in turn, came three years after I, fresh from receiving my Ph.D. in Organization Behavior at the Stanford business school (completed while on leave from McKinsey), was summoned to the firm's New York office and handed a fascinating assignment.
Relatively new McKinsey Managing Director Ron Daniel was launching a priority effort to renew McKinsey's intellectual capital—though that term did not exist at the time. (It was more or less called "R&D.") McKinsey's fabled advisors to top management were under an assault of ideas from Bruce Henderson's upstart Boston Consulting Group. And Daniel was determined to respond with vigor.
A major project on business strategy (the hottest of topics in 1977) had its home port in New York. But Daniel, from his own client work, was bedeviled by the frequency with which clever strategies failed to be implemented effectively. Though not a partner, I was asked to look at "organization effectiveness" and "implementation issues" in an inconsequential offshoot project nested in McKinsey's rather offbeat San Francisco office.(There was a third project, on "operations," run out of the Cleveland office.)
I should note that McKinsey's arsenal mostly consisted of "strategy" and, secondarily, "structure." All that was not to be cured with a scintillating strategic plan was to be dealt with by re-arranging the boxes on the formal organization chart. I exaggerate, of course—but not by much.
I finished a tour in the U.S. Navy in 1970 and went off to Stanford to pursue an MBA and eventually Ph.D. In neither of those pursuits was a page of Peter Drucker assigned. Instead I fell under the sway of the likes of Jim March (at Stanford), Herb Simon (March's partner and subsequent Nobel laureate in economics), and Karl Weick (then at the University of Michigan). Simon's Nobel stemmed from work on "bounded rationality" and its close kin, "satisficing"—the characteristic organizational pursuit of "satisfactory" rather than "optimal" decisions. March went much further, giving us such formulations as the "technology of foolishness" and "garbage can" models of organization, featuring, for example, solutions (pre-dispositions) wandering about organizations in random pursuit of problems to solve.
All of which is to say that I was attuned to an examination of organization effectiveness and implementation that went far beyond the mechanical manipulation of "charts and boxes."
I began my work with a grand tour of McKinsey offices world wide and business schools from inside and outside the USA. At home I visited with the likes of Professor Simon at Carnegie Mellon and, in Norway and Sweden, various researchers examining work group effectiveness—e.g., the Volvo crowd in Sweden and Einar Thorsrud in Oslo, running work group/self-management experiments on supertankers!
Upon returning, I pondered my findings and began tentative presentations around McKinsey. In a 1978 article in Organization Dynamics, "Symbols, Patterns and Settings," the first public expression of these ideas, I discussed unconventional change levers, influenced mightily by Jim March, such as the leader's allocation of time per se as a principal "power tool."
Progress of sorts followed, but it was a slow crawl until Bob Waterman was assigned as my putative boss. Bob, whose principal avocation was and is painting, had broad tastes and an inquiring mind—e.g., he became mesmerized by Karl Weick's work in a flash. More important, he was a damn good consultant—and wanted our work to be constructed in a way that would help the average McKinsey-ite take a shine to issues of organization effectiveness. (Which was, after all, the point of the exercise.)
Bob was great friends with Tony Athos, a professor at the Harvard Business School—and known worldwide as a master teacher. He enlisted Tony to help us turn our ramblings into something "crisp" (a favored McKinsey term) and memorable and "user friendly," as we say these days.
At a two-day s√©ance in San Francisco, Bob and Tony and I, and Tony's cohort Richard Pascale, arrived, more or less full-blown, at the "7-S framework." (See immediately below.) The only, though significant, alteration became Tony's beloved "superordinate goals" morphing into "shared values." Tony was insistent that, corny as it appeared to be, we develop an alliterative model—find stuff that began with "Ss" in this case. In retrospect, it was a move of near genius. In my opinion, without the alliteration, which I initially found juvenile, the concept would not have been the sort being touted by Mr. Gupta almost 30 years later.
The shape of the "model" was also of monumental importance. It suggested that all seven forces needed to somehow be aligned if the organization was going to move forward vigorously—this was the "breakthrough" (a word I normally despise) that directly addressed Ron Daniel's initial concerns that had motivated the project. As we put it in the 1980 Business Horizons article, "At its most powerful and complex, the framework forces us to concentrate on interactions and fit. The real energy required to re-direct an institution comes when all the variables in the model are aligned."
Whether or not it was at the aforementioned s√©ance, the other seminal idea—that there were "Soft Ss" as well as "Hard Ss"—emerged as well and lasts to this day. I continue to say, over 30 years later, that the power of the 7-Ss and In Search of Excellence (1982) and my subsequent work can best be captured in six words: "Hard is soft. Soft is hard." That is, it's the plans and the numbers that are often "soft" (e.g., the sky-high soundness scores that the ratings agencies gave packages of dubious mortgages). And the people ("staff") and shared values ("corporate culture") and skills ("core competencies" these days) which are truly "hard"—that is, the bedrock upon which the adaptive and enduring enterprise is built. To state the obvious, we very much included the "Hard Ss" (Strategy, Structure, Systems) in our framework, then added the "Soft Ss" (Style, Staff, Skills, Shared values—or Superordinate goal); and insisted that there was no precedence among them. Deal with all seven or accept the consequences—likely less than effective implementation of any project or program or increase in overall organization performance.
As mentioned at the outset, the coming out party was the June 1980 Business Horizons article. Then Athos and Pascale subsequently used the model in their popular The Art of Japanese Management (1981), and Bob and I included it in In Search of Excellence (1982).
At one point there was a movement to oust me from my humble office when an Op ed I wrote appeared in the Wall Street Journal in June 1980, emphasizing the primacy (yes, I dared use "primacy") of the "Soft Ss." (Bob W saved me, as he seemed so often to have to do.) On the other hand, my favorite certification of our approach came almost 20 years later from the ultimate "Hard S guy," McKinsey alum Lou Gerstner, in Who Says Elephants Can't Dance, summarizing his IBM turnaround effort: "If I could have chosen not to tackle the IBM culture head-on, I probably wouldn't have. My bias coming in was toward strategy, analysis and measurement. In comparison, changing the attitude and behaviors of hundreds of thousands of people is very, very hard. [Yet] I came to see in my time at IBM that culture isn't just one aspect of the game—it is the game [my emphasis]."
While the "Soft S" emphasis has been my life's work, I admit to astonishment when coming across a quote like the one from Rajat Gupta that opened this paper—suggesting three decades of staying power for our little model. I guess Tony Athos was right about the power of alliteration!
09 January 2011
Note to readers: For the best explication of the 7-Ss, the 1980 Business Horizons article remains a peerless source.
It's time for two new sections in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next two sections in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence are titled "Re-imagining" and "Wow." The Re-imagining section invites you to take a moment to be truly aspirational. In Wow, Tom argues that all efforts must be toward a "gaspworthy" result.
You can download free pdfs of those sections from The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series* by clicking below:
*The Synopsis Series is an adaptation that gives you a taste of the BIG idea in each of the 163 Little BIG Things. More information on the book can be found on this page. The Synopsis Series as released thus far can be found here.
It's time for a new section in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next section in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence is titled "Special Section: The Top 50 'Have Yous.'" According to Tom, your "competitive position" will improve far more if you're proactively doing the 50 practical things in this list rather than abstract strategy work.
You can download a free pdf of this section from The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series* by clicking below:
Here's video number 56 from The Little BIG Things Video Series. Lousy cross-functional communication is often listed as issue number one within organizations. Tom says cross-functional excellence boils down to one main variable. And it's extraordinarily simple. Watch the video to find out what it is.
You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 2 minutes, 56 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Excellence: Cross-Functional Communication.
It's time for a new section in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next section in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence is titled "Details" and it's really the heart of the book. Tom tells four stories to underline how essential little details can be to your brand—like a shiny red truck in Vermont mud season.
You can download a free pdf of this section from The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series* by clicking below:
You take care of the people.
The people take care of the service.
The service takes care of the customer.
The customer takes care of the profit.
The profit takes care of the re-investment.
The re-investment takes care of the re-invention.
The re-invention takes care of the future.
(And at every step the only measure is EXCELLENCE.)
It's time for two new sections in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next two sections in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence are titled "Listening" and "Special Section: Quotations 34." Need a bit of wisdom to spark your fire? Here it is.
Here's video number 49 from The Little BIG Things Video Series. Tom reminds us that grand gestures aren't always necessary, it's the little things that matter.
You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 1 minute, 16 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Excellence: Courtesy Matters.
Tom's all about giving things away for free. So we have a treat for you today. Our friends at Vook have given us a limited number of free iPhone and iPad versions of Tom's The Little BIG Things apps that we can give away. To get one, we're asking you to share a story with us. What kind of story? A two-center.
If you haven't already, read Tom's story of the Two-Cent Candy. What's your or your organization's Two-Cent Candy? Experienced a particularly Excellent one? Please share the story with us, including how it changed your or your customers' perception/reality.
Details: By 9pm GMT (5pm EDT) today, email the story to email@example.com with the subject line: Little BIG Thing. If you're succinct in nature, tweet the story (or link to your blog post that tells the story) using the hashtag #littleBIGthing. The stories will be judged by our completely non-objective panel, and we'll share some of the winners' stories here at tompeters.com.
Thanks and Good Luck!
It's time for two new sections in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next two sections in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence are titled "Work" and "Initiative." Tom talks about what being a professional really means, suggests some counter-intuitive personal strategies for success, and advocates for making an Insane Public Effort.
It's time for two new sections in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next two sections in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence are titled "Attitude" and "Performance." They're a reminder to turn on your eye sparkle. After all, it's Showtime! All the time!
The Memories That Matter
In a month, as I write, I'll be 68. No matter how hard one tries to be forward focused, at that age there is a frequent urge to "sum things up." As one does look back, there is a certain class of memories that stand out. I know my own story—and I've talked to many others. When you look back at "what really matters"—it's rarely "the numbers." Make no mistake, as you soldier on, your tiny or huge enterprise must be profitable to survive. Wanna do great things? Well, check out the "cash flow" statement first. True, but still "the summing up statement" is far more about the basics of human behavior and character than about the angle of incline of a market share graph. What follows is then, in a fashion, "the memories that matter"—or will matter. Why point this out? Because to get the tally right on this one at age 68, the sorts of things enumerated here must have been "top of mind" throughout your career—i.e., yesterday and this morning.
The "memories that matter":
The people you developed who went on to stellar accomplishments inside or outside the company. (A reputation as "a peerless people developer.")
The (no more than) two or three people you developed who went on to create stellar institutions of their own.
The long shots (people with "a certain something") you bet on who surprised themselves—and your peers.
The people of all stripes who 2/5/10/20 years later say, "You made a difference in my life," "Your belief in me changed everything."
The sort of/character of people you hired in general. (And the bad apples you chucked out despite some stellar traits.)
A handful of projects (a half dozen at most) you doggedly pursued that still make you smile and which fundamentally changed the way things are done inside or outside the company/industry.
The supercharged camaraderie of a handful of Great Teams aiming to "change the world."
Belly laughs at some of the stupid-insane things you and your mates tried.
Less than a closet full of "I should have ..."
A frighteningly consistent record of having invariably said, "Go for it!"
Not intervening in the face of considerable loss—recognizing that to develop top talent means tolerating failures and allowing the person who screwed up to work their own way through and out of their self-created mess.
Dealing with one or more crises with particular/ memorable aplomb.
Demanding ... CIVILITY ... regardless of circumstances.
Turning around one or two or so truly dreadful situations—and watching almost everyone involved rise to the occasion (often to their own surprise) and acquire a renewed sense of purpose in the process.
Leaving something behind of demonstrable-lasting worth. (On short as well as long assignments.)
Having almost always (99 percent of the time) put "Quality" and "Excellence" ahead of "Quantity." (At times an unpopular approach.)
A few "critical" instances where you stopped short and could have "done more"—but to have done so would have compromised your and your team's character and integrity.
A sense of time well and honorably spent.
The expression of "simple" human kindness and consideration—no matter how harried you may be/may have been.
Understood that your demeanor/expression of character always sets the tone—especially in difficult situations.
Never (rarely) letting your external expression of enthusiasm/determination flag—the rougher the times, the more your expressed energy and bedrock optimism and sense of humor showed.
The respect of your peers.
A stoic unwillingness to badmouth others—even in private.
An invariant creed: When something goes amiss, "The buck stops with me"; when something goes right, it was their doing, not yours.
A Mandela-like "na√Įve" belief that others will rise to the occasion if given the opportunity.
A reputation for eschewing the "trappings of power." (Strong self-management of tendencies toward arrogance or dismissiveness.)
Intense, even "driven" ... but not to the point of being careless of others in the process of forging ahead.
Willing time and again to be surprised by ways of doing things that are inconsistent with your "certain hypotheses."
Humility in the face of others, at every level, who know more than you about "the way things really are."
Having bitten your tongue on a thousand occasions—and listened, really really listened. (And been constantly delighted when, as a result, you invariably learned something new and invariably increased your connection with the speaker.)
Unalloyed pleasure in being informed of the fallaciousness of your beliefs by someone 15 years your junior and several rungs below you on the hierarchical ladder.
Selflessness. (A sterling reputation as "a guy always willing to help out with alacrity despite personal cost.")
As thoughtful and respectful, or more so, toward thine "enemies" as toward friends and supporters.
Always and relentlessly put at the top of your list/any list being first and foremost "of service" to your internal and external constituents. (Employees/Peers/ Customers/Vendors/Community.)
Having treated the term "servant leadership" as holy writ. (And "preached" "servant leadership" to others—new "non-managerial" hire or old pro, age 18 or 48.)
Having created the sort of workplaces you'd like your kids to inhabit. (Explicitly conscious of this "Would I want my kids to work here?" litmus test.)
A "certifiable" "nut" about quality and safety and integrity. (More or less regardless of any costs.)
A notable few circumstances where you resigned rather than compromise your bedrock beliefs.
Perfectionism just short of the paralyzing variety.
A self- and relentlessly enforced group standard of "EXCELLENCE-in-all-we-do"/"EXCELLENCE in our behavior toward one another."
In video number 42 from The Little BIG Things Video Series, Tom shares the secret of Excellence according to Tom Watson, founder of IBM.
You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 1 minute, 49 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Excellence: Thoughts on Tom Watson.
Herewith for your amusement* ...
(*Okay, "amusement," but I'm rather happy with this set.)
It's time for two new sections in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next two sections in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence are titled "Special Section: Guru Gaffes" and "Crisis." "Guru Gaffes" is a reality check and assault on business jargon. "Crisis" offers some new ground rules for business.
What we're talking about on the front page.
Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.
What we're talking about
on the front page.