The editors at 800-CEO-READS selected these recently published books as most important to change initiatives:
“In the real world, you can’t have over a dozen employees spread out across eight different cities over two continents. In the real world, you can’t attract millions of customers without any salespeople or advertising. In the real world, you can’t reveal your formula for success to the rest of the world. But we’ve done all those things and prospered. The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s a justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you.”
“What’s differentiates the great ones? What makes some people superstars, while most of their peers hover near the mediocre middle?
It’s not too hard to pinpoint the difference between average performers and poor ones. Easy to spot skills like work habits, product knowledge, communication style and use of sales tools, are all indicators of general competence.
The challenge for most organizations is not determining the difference between good and bad; it’s discerning the difference between good and great.
Why are some sales people superstars, while other people in the same situation, selling the same stuff to the same customers experience a much lower rate of success?”
Stop the Busywork: Seven Ways You Can Do More Great Work
Michael Bungay Stanier
“Imagine everything you do could fall into one of three buckets:
I’m not talking about the quality of the work you deliver – I’ve no doubt that’s fine. I’m talking about the meaning the work has for you and the impact it makes.”
“Something is missing. Something important. Something necessary to making a difference in the world. And most are afraid to find out what it is.
This is a manifesto about the discovery process of finding what’s missing. It’s not as glamorous as a get-rich-quick scheme or as mystical as New Age spirituality. It doesn’t shine with the veneer of a car salesmen’s suit or catch your eye like a pretty girl. No, it more likely grabs your attention like a week-old bag of garbage sitting in the corner or piques your interest like nails on a chalkboard. Yes, it’s hard, but it can’t be denied.”
Is Your Product Launch Doomed?: 10 Ways to Identify an Impending Launch Disaster
“Products don’t sell themselves.
The process of introducing a product to market is a serious undertaking. Unfortunately for many companies it’s merely an afterthought; a set of deliverables created from a checklist at the end of product development. When the level of effort and resources applied to the creation of the product dwarfs that of the launch, it’s no wonder product launches fail to achieve the sales velocity anticipated.
“What follows are ten easily identifiable signs that help forecast if a product launch may be in trouble. Signs you can address and fix before the launch becomes a disaster.”
“Never before in the history of business and marketing has customer service been as front and center. So much so that it is being transformed and reborn in front of our very eyes as arguably one of the most mission critical components that can make or break a business today.
The Customer Service Manifesto documents this sea change, introduces the 10 new rules of customer service and introduces a key hypothesis, namely that customer service needs to be elevated to the front office; to that of a strategic imperative which becomes a if not the key differentiator in the board room and beyond.”
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Here’s a link to a wealth of resources: http://800ceoread.com/.
Michelli is an internationally sought-after speaker, author, and organizational consultant who has been described as “catching what is right in the world and playfully sparking people and businesses to grow toward the extraordinary.” In addition to writing best-selling books about enduring business principles, he hosted an award-winning daily radio program in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for over a decade. He transfers his knowledge of exceptional business practices through keynote presentations that explore ways to develop joyful and productive workplaces with a focus on the total customer experience. His insights encourage leaders and frontline workers to grow and invest passionately in all aspects of their life. Michelli’s books include When Fish Fly: Lessons for Creating a Vital and Energized Workplace which was co-authored with John Yokoyama, owner of the “World Famous” Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle; also, The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary and The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Michelli earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver and his masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Southern California. Revealingly, he believes his greatest accomplishment is his ability to learn from the laughter and humor of his children, Andrew and Fiona.
Morris: Before discussing your books, here are a few general questions. First, as you already know, recent Gallup research indicates that 29% of the U.S. Workforce is engaged (i.e. loyal, enthusiastic, and productive) whereas 55% is passively disengaged. That is, they are going through the motions, doing only what they must, “mailing it in,” coasting, etc. What about the other 16%? Are they engaged? Yes. However, they are doing whatever they can to undermine their employer’s efforts to succeed. If true, how do you explain these statistics?
Michelli: Alas, the 16% actively disengaged group are the toxic element of the workforce. I liken the Gallup engagement groups to categories of property dwellers. You have “owners” – the engaged group, “renters” – the passively disengaged, and “squatters” – the actively disengaged. Owners build equity in a company and are concerned about a business’ sustainability. Renters don’t create problems because they want a quality experience while they are at the job but ‘it is just a job” so they aren’t concerned about building equity in their employer’s brand. The group you are asking about, the squatters, are often just taking up space. If getting things done crosses into their space they can be actively involved in undermining progress. They often are the core gossipers, the severe underachievers, and the most opposed to change. More importantly they are a group that can’t be ignored as they weigh down management resources and undermine morale.
Morris: In 1924, William L. McKnight, then CEO of 3M, observed, “If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give peoples the room they need.” In your opinion, why do so many organizations enclose the hearts, and minds, and souls of their people within “fences”?
Michelli: If you want sheep, fences are good. There was a Harvard Business Review article a couple of years ago that talked about the value of a Machiavellian leader. In essence, the article asserted that in some jobs you just want people to follow the rules, take no risks, and avoid innovation. While those types of jobs are in decline in an information economy, unfortunately a residual notion exists that operational excellence requires compliant workers not free spirits. For me the fundamental shift in leadership is to manage outcomes not details. Given people what you want them to accomplish, give them training so they know how it can be done, give them some boundaries they can’t cross to achieve the desired outcome, and then empower them through trust. I repeatedly see this combination producing exceptional results.
I have blogged a number of times about the changing American workforce, the anxiety caused by the joblessness that continues to spread. The most viewed post on this blog in our history is this one: A Jobless Recovery and a Slip Down Maslow’s Hierarchy.
The problem is not getting any better. The loss of jobs leads to an ever-increasing number of people “working” in “non-jobs,” free-lancing, making do. Here’s Bob Herbert from today’s New York Times:
But once you realize that it will take 11 million or more new jobs to get us back to where we were when the recession began, you begin to understand that we’re not really making any headway at all.
Business Week recently captured the anxiety of this uncertain and insecure time on its cover (from the January 18th issue), “The Permanent Temporary Workforce.” Here it is. It is worth a careful look.
Collins is a student of enduring great companies — how they grow, how they attain superior performance, and how good companies can become great companies. Having invested more than a decade of research into the topic, Jim has co-authored four books — including the classic Built to Last, a fixture on the Business Week bestseller list for more than six years, and the New York Times bestseller, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t, most recently, How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In. His work has been featured in Fortune, The Economist, Fast Company, USA Today, Industry Week, Business Week, Newsweek, Inc., and Harvard Business Review.
Driven by a relentless curiosity, Jim began his research and teaching career on the faculty of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, where he received the Distinguished Teaching Award. After seven years at Stanford, Jim returned to his hometown of Boulder, Colorado, to found his management research laboratory. He is fond of saying, “I am a self-employed professor who endowed his own chair and granted himself tenure.” Collins set up his research lab in the same building where he attended grammar school. Still a place of learning, he uses the laboratory to conduct large-scale research projects to develop fundamental insights and then translate those findings into books, articles and lectures. He continues to conduct rigorous research while maintaining an active teaching schedule with leaders in the corporate and social sectors.
Note: This interview was conducted prior to the publication of How the Mighty Fall.
Morris: Jim, if writing Built to Last today, would you use the same criteria?
Collins: Yes, pretty much. The key criteria for an enduring great company are:
PERFORMANCE: The company must display superior financial performance relative to others’.
IMPACT: The company must have made a unique and significant impact on the world that it touches.
RESILIENCY: The company must be able to go through difficult times and emerge even stronger.
LONGEVITY: The company must demonstrate these variables for a long period of time — decades, not just years.
Morris: You and Jerry Porras identify 18 common myths about the most enduring companies. Which of them seem to be as well-intrenched today as in 1994 when Built to Last was first published?
Collins: Great question. I would say the myth that the only constant is change. In a truly great company, change is a constant, but not the only constant. There are timeless principles of building great companies that never change.
Morris: One of the chapter titles is “Try a Lot of Stuff and Keep What Works.” What is the relevance, indeed the great importance of constant innovation and experimentation to a visionary company?
Collins: Try a lot of stuff, keep what works, and get rid of what doesn’t — this is the secret to the question of how to systematically “be lucky.” Luck is a variable in life. The question is, how do you ensure that you are more lucky than the next person? The answer lies in trying a lot of stuff and also having the discipline of persistence. Luck favors the persistent.
Morris: Can such initiatives alter the original vision?
Collins: You need to think of vision as having two components. On the one hand you have a Core Ideology, principally the core values of the company. The core values of a great company never change; they are like the ideals in the Declaration of Independence, the equivalent of “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” On the other hand, you have the Envisioned Future, principally the company’s BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). The big audacious goals of a company can change over time. For example, Starbucks evolved its goal to turning the Starbucks brand into the most respected and recognized consumer brand in the world after it had experimented with its store concepts and saw that such a goal was possible.
It happens all the time. Someone will ask me “have you read _______?” Frequently, sadly, I have to say “no, I have not read that one.” It always makes me feel like an uneducated idiot. After all, I’m the book guy. If it is important to catch up fast, I make my call – to Bob Morris (our blogging colleague, book-reviewer extraordinaire), and ask, “have you read ____?” He almost never says “no,” and he tells me enough that I feel like I’ve got a start.
Other times, I say “Yes.” And it is the truth.
But the best answer I can give is this one (this is when I feel like it’s my lucky day): “Yes, I’ve read it and presented it at the First Friday Book Synopsis.”
Well, recently someone asked me if I had read Moneyball by Michael Lewis. That was one of the good days. It was a “Yes, I’ve read it and presented it at the First Friday Book Synopsis” day. I presented this book back in November, 2003.
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is Michael Lewis’ account of the miracle of a very good baseball team, the Oakland Athletics (the A’s), who competed with the big boys with a whole lot less money at their disposal. It had to do with finding talent that others did not find, reading statistics in a whole new way, making do with what you could afford – and competing at the highest level. The lessons for all in business are significant.
I remembered plenty, but in revisiting my handout, I found this summary of a portion of the book’s contents. This is useful counsel.
Follow these principles:
• When you don’t have the resources, you have to go to plan B
• Find a plan B that works
• There is a plan B that works – if you look hard enough
• Chances are it is not known by the “long-timers’
• Chances are that you have to bring in true “outside help”
• Numbers are more reliable than intuition, tradition, emotion, or…
• or – “who cares how they look in jeans”
• Don’t forget that you are in a competition
• value surprise
• do what works, not what you “like”
• The aggregate is more important than the lone/the individual
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Start making small to-do lists. Long lists collect dust. When’s the last time you finished a long list of things? You might have knocked off the first few, but chances are you eventually abandoned it (or blindly check off items that weren’t done properly.)
Long lists are guilt trips. The longer the list of unfinished items, the worse you feel about it. And at a certain point, you just stop looking at it because it makes you feel bad. Then you stress out and the whole thing turns into a big mess.
There’s a better way. Break that long list down into a bunch of smaller lists. For example, break a single list of a hundred items into ten lists of ten items. That means when you finish an item on the list, you’ve completed 10 percent of that list, instead of 1 percent.
* * *And a quick suggestion about prioritization: Don’t prioritize with numbers or labels. Avoid saying “This is high priority, this is low priority.” Likewise, don’t say, “This is a three, this a two, this a one, this a three,” etc. Do that and you’ll almost always end up with a ton of high-priority things. That’s not really prioritizing.
Instead, prioritize visually. Put the most important thing at the top. When you’re done with that., the next thing on the list becomes the most important thing. That way you’ll only have a single next most important thing to do at a time. And that’s enough.”
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Other than their dependence on using the word “thing” rather than specifics such as “task” or “objective,” Fried and Hansson offer some excellent advice. The best single source on checklists is Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things [there’s that word again!] Right. I also highly recommend Pages 220-224 in Switch: How to Change Things [!] When Change Is Hard, co-authored by Chip and Dan Heath.