It doesn’t matter what you think/feel/want – the world (your world!) is just going to keep on changing
I’m getting frustrated (almost mad) – again…
I can barely use the two remotes on my TV. And the different remotes in the different classrooms I teach in. Each and every one is different! Why do they do that to us?
And I can barely navigate the web sites I read. I don’t know how to interpret all the boxes, phrases, buttons, tabs. I’m sinking in the ocean of change.
And now I read that I’ve got to learn how to use the internet “cloud.” And now I read that in the blink of an eye I’m going to have to buy a 3-D TV. And…
I don’t like all this change. I’m not yet adjusted to the last new product; new approach; new, new thing. And now there’s a new, new, new thing.
It’s kind of like my razor. I remember shaving with a single blade razor. For years! Then, for the next years, my razor had two blades. And the advertisers promised me that a closer shave would be impossible. LIARS! Because then they came out with three blades. And, yes, that was in fact a closer shave. And now, it’s four blades. Well – I’m drawing the line. When it hits ten blades, I’m stopping right there – I refuse to go to 11!
You get the picture. What is the norm today is already on its last legs. In nearly every arena.
Man, the change blizzard/ocean/onslaught is tough to deal with.
The Heath brothers tell me why I don’t like all this change. It is work to change. To not change takes no effort at all. To change requires actual effort. Here’s the quote from their newest book, Switch:
The status quo feels comfortable because much of the choice has been squeezed out… The most familiar path is always the status quo.
The familiar path is easier to follow. But — and here’s the lesson — it’s not necessarily the better, wiser path to follow.
I wish I did not have to change — so much. But I will. And so will you.
Opinions differ as to how much of value can be learned from business leaders’ mistakes because, especially in today’s business world, change is the only constant and their mistakes are often the result of bad timing and insufficient information rather than poor judgment and defective character. In this book, Tim Irwin focuses on “five lessons learned from [the] catastrophic failures of leadership” of six prominent CEOs: Robert Nardelli (Home Depot), Carly Fiorina (Hewlett-Packard), Durk Jager (Procter & Gamble), Steven Heyer (Starwood Hotels & Resorts), Frank Raines (Fannie Mae), and Dick Fuld (Lehman Brothers). All of them are highly intelligent, energetic, and ambitious. When assuming the CEO position, all had extensive prior experience and were expected to achieve great success for their respective companies. For reasons that Irwin explains when devoting a chapter to each, all failed.
To extend Irwin’s metaphor, each was involved in – and apparently responsible for — a career “train wreck.” However, as with all other metaphors, this one has limited applications. (I prefer the bus metaphor because a bus can change course whereas a train can’t.) As Irwin points out, each of these six CEOs took their “train” off the “tracks” on which it had previously proceeded…and succeeded. In this context, I am reminded of the fact that when Reggie Jones selected Jack Welch to succeed him as CEO, he old him to “blow up GE” because major changes were needed if the company were to prosper. Welch and GE did.
The decision by the six CEOs to make comparable changes, in each instance, illustrates one or more of the five leadership lessons that Irwin cites:
1. The importance of authenticity, wisdom, humility, and courage
2. The toxic impact of arrogance
3. The need for self-awareness and respect for others
4. Demonstrating what William Faulkner characterized as “grace under duress”
5. Continuous personal as well as professional development
These “lessons” offer no head-snapping revelations, nor does Irwin make any such claim. The fact remains, that some decisions are more important than are others. Presumably each of the six CEOs made hundreds of decisions that were correct. However, what Irwin calls their “compromised character” (i.e. “hubris or being dismissive of others”) led to other decisions that had “catastrophic consequences.” With regard to Nardelli, Fiorina, Jager, Heyer, Raines, and Fuld, their behavior as CEOs suggests that they were unwilling and/or unable to understand the importance of authenticity, wisdom, humility, and courage, the toxic impact of arrogance, the need for self-awareness and respect for others as well as the importance of what William Faulkner characterized as “grace under duress” and of continuous personal as well as professional development.
What a waste, what an avoidable waste. How sad.
factory, n, The source of prolific production.
So I was reading Seth Godin’s blog, and I read this post: The factory in the center. As happens frequently when I read anything, I started thinking – not about what he wrote, specifically, but about something totally different, yet prompted by what he wrote.
Here’s what I realized. Through the First Friday Book Synopsis, Karl Krayer and I have created a book synopsis factory. It is a two-man assembly line, and though we work slightly differently, the “product” “manufactured” is consistent. We produce book synopses. We each read books, and pull enough out of the books to help people know the following:
1) The key content of the book.
2) Enough of the book, in the author’s own words, that those who listen to our synopses capture the style, the actual voice of the authors.
3) A good enough grasp of the key principles/themes/transferable ideas from the books that a listener can figure out what to “do” from the wisdom/suggestions gleaned from the book.
I speak here from my own experience. Like in the classical functions of the factory, I have “automated” my product development. I read a book in order to prepare a synopsis, and have become increasingly efficient at the process. I produce a consistent product, with a consistent handout, in a consistent format. In other words, I do in my job what you do in yours. I have learned a skill, and seek to replicate its use over and over again. Though the content of each book is different (although, after personally preparing something over 220 synopses, some themes definitely emerge), the process is the same. And though I think I am better at it than I was when I started, I still follow the same steps with each book I prepare and present. I ask the following:
1) What is the theme of this book – what is the author trying to say most directly, most clearly? For my presentations, I put this theme in a box at the top of the outline of the book’s contents, and I say: “I always try to summarize the book in a box.”
2) Which quotes from the book best capture the author’s voice, and key ideas from the book? I look for them, find them, and share them. Admittedly, if you read the book, you might choose different quotes. And the author himself/herself might choose different quotes. But I choose the ones that inform me, grab me, enlighten me, challenge me…
3) What can we, (me, personally, and those who listen to the synopsis) learn, and then implement, from this book? — because the reason to read a book, and/or to listen to one of my synopses, is not to “have read the book;” it is to learn and then do things differently because of the wisdom gained from the book.
Like in any factory, I have to keep asking myself, “How can I do this better?” I know I need to get better at what I do.
In one of our descriptives for our “product,” we write “Listening to one of our synopses is not the same as reading the book for yourself – but it’s close.”
And what should an author think of our work? I don’t know – but I do know this. I feel an obligation to be true to an author’s own voice and message. And after listening to our synopses, many of our listeners purchase the books to read for themselves, to take a deeper dive into the ideas and principles.
Let me end this with a personal observation. I have spent my life reading, and for the first chapter of my adult life, that reading was primarily in a ministry context. I preached every Sunday for over 20 years, (and still preach frequently to different groups). In ministry, I learned to read carefully, in order to have something worthwhile to say. My academic training taught me to be true to the message found in a (sacred) text. I respect an author’s own words. And as I wrote this blog post, a quote from that earlier chapter in my life came to mind. The particular book is in a box in storage, so I do not guarantee that the quote is exactly accurate – but it was one of my favorite quotes, and I think I remember it precisely. Here’s the quote:
“The Bible is not bedtime reading to help one sleep more soundly. The Bible is marching orders for an army.”
James D. Smart, The Strange Silence for the Bible in the Church: A Study in Hermeneutics
I think I feel the same way about a good business book. A business book is not intended to be light reading at the end of the day. It is written with intent — to teach us, shape our thinking, change our actions for the better.
Thus, reading and presenting these synopses really does fulfill the role of delivering marching orders for a business army.
And here’s an important footnote to this post: I am writing about the First Friday Book Synopsis and the presentations prepared and delivered by Karl Krayer and me.
In addition to our monthly gathering of the First Friday Book Synopsis, companies and organizations hire us to deliver these within their organizations. They are valuable “let’s think, let’s learn, let’s move forward” tools for business and executive team leaders within organizations.
But our blogging colleague, Bob Morris, has found his own way to provide a similar service. He is a one-man book review factory, and his reviews are posted here and in numerous other places, including Amazon.com (which is where I learned of his work). Bob has developed his own efficient process to share the genuinely valuable ideas from the books he read and reviews. And growing out of the success of his book review factory, he has developed other product lines, such as a valuable “author interviews product line.” It is a wonderful plus to our readers to have him as part of our blogging team.