"Companies have got to learn to eat change for breakfast." Tom Peters
Think G.M. Think V.C. Think W.P. Think M.B.S.A.
Think "normal distribution." Think "bell-shaped curve."
And that's all the thinking you need to do. As I see it.
A National Football League team has a playbook that runs hundreds of pages. And some coaches are "geniuses" ... e.g., former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh.
But the heart of the matter is ... TALENT.
TALENT ... in pursuit of victories ... and championships … and dynasties.
Talent? A portfolio! A 48-person active-duty NFL roster is a portfolio. Exactly the same kind of portfolio a venture capitalist has. It's got some proven talent. Some raw talent ... that might perform ... or might not. A few hangers-on ... always in a precarious position. A "red-shirt" squad ... of assistant hangers-on. Whatever.
Business, I contend, is the same way. An enterprise is a portfolio. A portfolio of talent ... pursuing a portfolio of projects ... some of which may shake the world ... some of which may crumble ... some of which may make you famous ... a few of which may make you infamous.
So it goes.
I've got a hang-up. I've had it for about four years. It has to do with management. My beat. Everything you read about management talks about all the stuff that's important ... motivating + inspiring + whatever ... except what's REALLY IMPORTANT. Really important? THE WORK ITSELF.
Work ... in these days of intellectual capital ... is ... THE PROJECTS. Or as we put it ...
WOW PROJECTS. The projects. The projects. Projects is where it's at. People doin' projects. That's the game. The whole game. The beginning of the game. The middle of the game. The end of the game.
No bull. I've surveyed the management literature. Everything is covered ... ad nauseam ... and then ad nauseam plus ... except for one thing. THE WORK.
The work. Projects. In my terms: WOW PROJECTS. "Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes." That's the mantra according to Aussie exec Phil Daniels. Says it's what made him famous. I buy that act.
But back to my beginning.
G.M. ... V.C. ... W.P. ... M.B.S.A.
G.M.It stands for General Manager. As in the "General Manager" of a football team or baseball team or basketball team or hockey team. Or, presumably, a theatre company or ballet company. General Managers do ... PEOPLE. They put together a "roster" (orchestra, hockey). They spend their nights and days recruiting. Their nights and days developing. They do ... PEOPLE. Period. The General Manager of a National Football League franchise is not allowed to pass ... or punt ... or block ... or tackle ... or kick ... or catch. He's "allowed to" ... find people. Develop people. Put together a "portfolio." Portfolio? Yes, that's ... EXACTLY ... what a roster is. A portfolio? Absolutely.
V.C.A boss is a General Manager. (Of the National Football League sort as I see it.) And the boss is also a V.C. Or: Venture Capitalist. What do Venture Capitalists do? They don't punt. They don't pass. They don't tackle. They don't block. They don't kick. They don't catch. They do ... PEOPLE ... and ... PROJECTS. They have a ... GUESS WHAT ... portfolio. It's a portfolio of "bets." Bets on ... PEOPLE. Bets on ... PROJECTS. And that's it. The beginning. The middle. The end. The portfolio ... of bets ... on people ...or projects ... and that's it.
W.P.It stands for ... WOW PROJECTS. The work itself. The "forgotten" work itself. It's what we do. If it matters. If we matter. If we want to make a difference. If we want to stand out. If we want to have something to remember ... our working hours for. The goal of leadership: Get people ... EVERYONE ... working on … WOW PROJECTS. Projects they can put their heart into. Their soul into. Projects they want to be remembered by. Who in the hell wants anybody working for them that doesn't want to be remembered by what they're doing ... RIGHT NOW? That's the way I see it. WOW PROJECTS. Or else. Or nothing else. Why the hell get up in the morning, otherwise? (TRULY.)
M.B.S.A.… stands for: Managing By Story-ing Around. Comes from David Armstrong, head of Armstrong Industries. He heard me, 20 years ago, talking about Managing By Wandering Around ... at Hewlett-Packard. And he twisted it. Made it "story-ing" instead of "wander-ing." And I liked that. Leadership guru Howard Gardner says that the essence of leading is storytelling. What are stories? Tales of ... you guessed it ... WOW PEOPLE ... doing ...WOW PROJECTS. A good leader comes up to a boss in the hallway. Asks one ... and only one ... question. Namely: GOT ANY GOOD STORIES?
Stories are about ... cool people ... working with cool customers ... and cool suppliers ... doing ... cool projects.
Maybe leading is easy.Not hard, as most suggest. Maybe the reason we make it so damned hard is that we forget ... THE WORK ITSELF. If we can find cool people. Get them working on cool projects. Working with cool customers. Dealing with cool suppliers. Fighting against cool competitors. Well … WOW!
What else is there?
Again: The big idea is "portfolio." Portfolio means a selection. A selection of people and projects. A selection that includes the knowns ... and the unknowns. We are "portfolio managers." All of us who are leaders ... bosses.
Think about it.
Portfolio. Cool people. Cool projects. Cool customers. Cool vendors. Cool stories.
How do you measure up?
Tom Peters/West Tisbury MA/01.26.2002
Talent pool to die for
Talent pool to die for. Youthful. Insanely energetic. Value creativity and are willing to take (career-threatening) risks, as a matter of routine. Want to "make their bones" in "the revolution." Love the new technologies. Agile. Willing to fail, repeatedly and publicly. A need to win. Well-rewarded for what they do. No expectation that they’ll stay forever.
Talent pool plus. Willingness to partner with world’s best experts as needed, and it’s often needed. Attitude: "We want to work on this project, which aims to change the world, with the world’s best folks -- and we don’t give a damn whether they are on our payroll or not."
Brassy-but-grounded leadership. Say "I don’t know" -- and then unleash the talent. Have a vision to be unique-dramatically different, but don’t expect the company necessarily to be around forever. Willingness to scrap pet projects, and quickly change direction, as much as 180 degrees. (Even if it means a billion dollar write-off.) No regrets at screw-ups from ideas whose time had not yet come. Great regret at time wasted on "me too" products and projects. Visionary leadership matched by leaders with shrewd business sense: "How do we turn a profit from this gorgeous idea?" Can’t answer the question, "Where will we be in 10 years?" Appreciate "market creation" as much, and usually more, than market share growth. Aim to "change the world," and don’t mind if that’s accompanied by high market cap. Are insanely aware that a market leader is always in a precarious position, and that market share will not protect us, in today’s and tomorrow’s volatile world, from the next killer idea and killer entrepreneur. (Dell & Microsoft & AOL were made in a day -- damn near.)
Alliance maniacs. Don’t assume that "the best resides within." Work with a changing portfolio of state-of-the-art partners throughout the supply chain. This includes vendors and consultants and, especially, pioneering customers who "will pull us into the future." (Forrest Gump: "Don’t own nothin’ if you can help it. If you can, rent your shoes.")
Technology-Network fanatics. Run the whole damn company and relations with all outsiders on the Internet at Internet speed. No halfway! Reluctant to work with partners who don’t share their view on this.
Potential Machines. Don’t know what comes next, but are ready to jump at opportunities, especially those that overturn their own conventional wisdom.
GOT THE BLUES?
GOT THE BLUES?Some of us do. Even though the drugs (Prozac, Zoloft) are plentiful and the Winter Solstice is past -- and the days really are getting longer. But "Brother Tom" has … FINALLY … a cure!
Well … that’s a lie. But ROGER ROSENBLATT has a cure! And that’s no bull.
RR’s book is … Rules for Aging: A Wry and Witty Guide to Life. But as far as I can tell … it has nothing to do with aging.
Why should you trust me? I don’t know. But if you do … rest assured … that I am not exaggerating when I claim that this is the Most Important Book I’ve read in 20 years. Again: No bull. MOST IMPORTANT BOOK. 20 YEARS.
But there is a caveat. You can’t just read it, chuckle, and read a few passages to your spouse or significant other or dog. YOU MUST REREAD THIS BOOK … VERY SLOWLY … OUT LOUD … TO THE CHIMNEY OR DOG OR A FAVORITE PAINTING. In short, you must … MUST … reflect on "this stuff."
I imagine Mr. Rosenblatt wrote this with tongue slightly in cheek. No matter. He got it right. Very right. And I choose to take him very seriously. You’d do well to consider the same. I think.
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.