books - business

Crazy Times Call For Crazy Organizations

The Tom Peters Seminar

From the back: “These bold ideas vault business people beyond reengineering, beyond total quality management, beyond empowerment, even beyond change – toward reinvention and revolution. The result, organized around nine such “beyonds” , is a timely, graphically exciting volume, loaded with “how tos.”

Amanda’s note: What I find interesting is that this book is from the mid 90’s. Some of these ideas still sound innovative (just to me cause I’m new to this stuff?) over ten years later. Why is this? They didn’t really work? Or is the business world really that slow – still too much focus on maintaining the old instead of playing a new game? (and guess what, it was Phil Knight of Nike that said “The target now is to invent a new game.”

My flags…

pg 39 “You don’t do brainwork in groups of a thousand…you do it in quartets, octets, groups of ten…” anonymous exec.

pg 47 “All good work is done in defiance of management.” Bob Woodward

pg 51 The problem ultimately boils down to cold, statistical considerations. If everybody thinks alike in a so-called decentralized operation, then 14 new-product tries from 14 “autonomous” divisions aren’t statistically independent. It’s really one try repeated 14 times. Autocorrelation. Low variation.

pg 57 “People think the president of an outfit has to be the main organizer,” Quad/Graphics CEO Harry Quadracci told me. “No, the president is the main disorganizer. Everybody ‘manages’ quite well; whenever anything goes wrong, they take immediate action to make sure nothing will go wrong again. The problem is, nothing new will ever happen, either.”

pg 59 Successful change comes from creating “self-inflicted catastrophes,” says Symmetrix CEO George Bennet. “The idea is to build a greenhouse in which to nurture the new order – to test the new organizational forms and the creative use of technology – to break the rules and invent the future. The greenhouse is then encouraged to cannibalize the customer base and staff of the old organization over time.”

pg 60 Set the tone for recruitment and people development (people of imagination, anarchists who may lead you down the bumpy but gold-paved path to an exciting future)

pg 75 To inject fun and simplicity into cost-analysis training, financial education director Chuck Mayhew calculates labor, materials, overhead, cost, and sales figures based on a Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe. By adjusting pricing, ingredients, and profit margins, employees can fiddle with the model and test various sales and cost-saving techniques. The intent, Sheppard says, is to teach employees to “manage hour-to-hour activities for improved profitability.”

pg 78 “The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him.” Henry Stimson

pg 81 At the information-systems firm Scitor, CEO Roger Meade has made challenging management part of the corporate creed:

Utilize your best judgement at all times. Ask yourself: Is it fair and reasonable? Is it honest? Does it make good business sense in the context of our established objectives? If you can answer yes to all of these, then proceed. Remember, you are accountable against this policy for all your actions.

pg Think resume. T-h-i-n-k r-e-s-u-m-e. What does this mean? It means frequently asking yourself six questions:
1. What the hell do I do?
2. What have I actually done?
3. Who among my customers will testify to it?
4. What evidence is there that my skills are state of the art?
5. Who new do I know, far beyond the company’s walls, who will help me deal with an ever-chillier world?
6. Will my year-end resume look different from last year’s?

pg 98 …Harari’s advice to all bosses: “Pretend you are leaving the company in six months with no replacement, overhaul your organization and train your people to take over your job, and then find a new way to add value. And be prepared to repeat the cycle, over and over again (maybe with different employers) until your retire”. Scary? Yes. But imperative. (University of San Fran management prof Oren Harari)

pg 100 Support for this “Just Do It” mentality, to borrow a phrase, comes from an intriguing study at Bell Labs reported in the Harvard Business Review. The research analyzed differences between average and top performers. Both types of Bell Labs employees agreed that taking the initiative was the most important thing in getting ahead. Interestingly, both said they regularly took the initiative.

The difference boiled down to two disparate views of what “taking the imitative” meant. The average performer told the researchers that it meant dealing in information – for example, “writing a memo to [a] supervisor about a software bug.” The stars, on the other hand, said that taking the imitative meant “fixing [the] bug yourself.”

pg 108 The lessons learned from the Sewells and Millikens of the world might be a tough one to swallow. Whether you’re a new B-school graduate, rising marketing exec, or CEO, you need to ask yourself: Am I on the road to towering competence that can become the basis for startling moves in my industry? If not, precisely what do I plan to do about it? (And when do I plan to start?) … In an age where all value is cerebral, it’s high time to take a look at whether or not we’re developing an unfair share of gold medalists (who are in hot pursuit of towering competence).

pg 112 … former Apple boss John Sculley succinctly described what I call “the new loyalty.” He said, in effect: Look, Apple can’t promise you a job for life. Not even for five or 10 years. Maybe not even for a couple of years. But what Apple can – and does – promise is that, whether you’re aboard for three months, six months, six years, or unlikely as it may be, 16 years, you will be constantly learning, constantly challenged. At the end, you will be demonstrably better positioned in the local or global labor market than you would have been had you not spent the time with us.

pg 137 On the other hand, they see that a previously internal-only service has profit potential outside (Kennametal, Lane).

pg 141 Can somebody handle any of your “service packages” better than you can? If the answer is yes, seriously consider outsourcing. … Can you extend your staff services (Kennametal inventory management, Lane Group training, IBM employee benefits) to a customer’s or competitor’s shop?

pg 143 …1994 television ad for MCI, recited by 11-year-old Anna Paquin:
There will be a road
It will not connect two points.
It will connect all points.
Its speed limit will be the speed of light.
It will not go from here to there.
There will be no more there.
We will all only be here.

pg 145 Once more, to say it is not to do it. That’s for sure. Time spent, language (“outpartnering” for “outsourcing”), and hierarchical importance (EVP of strategic relationships) help. But much more must be done on working with “outsiders” as trusted comrades in arms. For a first-rate discussion of this classic and novel topic, you’ll do no better than “The TeamNet Factor” by longtime networkers Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps.

pg 216 (Amanda’s comment: this is Po’s theory, years before his book!) Alan Webber wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “In the new economy, individuals at all levels of the company and in all kinds of companies are challenged to develop new knowledge and to create new value, to take responsibility for their ideas and to pursue them as far as they can go. People who manage in the new economy must tap into the emotional energy that comes from wrestling with their own destiny. In the end, that’s a job description that most people would welcome.”

pg 216 The spirit of Nintendo is best captured by a simple exchange. A game designer, Gunpei Yokoi, asked his boss, “What should I make?” Nintendo chief executive Hiroshi Yamauchi replied, “Something great.” … Has any boss, in your career, ever said to you, ‘Do / make something great’?

pg 234 Imagine the first focus group that gathered to review Post-it Notes prototypes. “Folks,” the suave marketer began, “what I have here are little squares of yellow paper. They have glue on one side. Not very good glue. I mean, it doesn’t stick very well. It sort of sticks, but , you know, then it doesn’t. Well, this thing is going to replace paperclips. We think it will be a $1 billion market someday”. Would you have bought that act? Don’t be silly. Can you live without Post-its today? Maybe, but would you want to?

“When I meet a friend who has just returned from a visit to the hospital, clinic, or doctors office,” wrote the respected health-care futurist Leland Kaiser, “I ask, ‘Did you have a good time?’ This is the same question I might ask a friend if she or he just returned from a trip to Disneyland. A visit to a health-care facility should be a great experience.” … I love Kaiser’s question because it’s beautiful, because it’s surprising, breaks all the rules, and because it’s TGR (things gone right) to the core. .. “Did you have a good time?” That’s a challenge, that’s a rallying cry I can imagine building a hospital around. I just plain love it.

pg 278 Sam, the cautious division chief, is the patient professor conducting a tutorial; he loves to chew on ideas, asks good questions, and is a pleasure to talk to. Gwen, in contrast, is often abrupt and, not infrequently, even rude. She doesn’t mean to be, but part of her can’t figure out why the hell you’re there giving the presentation in the first place. If she were you, she already would have recruited some supporters in the field, scraped up some dough, and built something. From the moment she walked through the door as a 21-year-old junior marketing assistant, Gwen has subscribed to the “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” school of subordinate behaviour.

pg 282 Put the pedal all the way to the metal (“organizations are capable of taking on more…” – Mike Walsh). Action (“put our heads down and engineer like mad” – Ed McCracken). Embrace failure (“he doesn’t give a f—” – John Brown on Richard Branson). No tepid responses (“make something great” – Yamauchi). Focus amidst the mayhem (“you’ve got twelve minutes” – Roger Milliken). These are the five cardinal virtues of the most effective leader-revolutionaries, at all levels, including the front line, that I’ve met.

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