In Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming Obstacles Between Vision & Reality published by Portfolio/Penguin (2010), Scott Belsky introduces what he calls the Action Method and urges his reader to use it to “question many of the traditional practices of project management. For example, “the most productive people run their own parallel processes to accomplish projects [i.e. strategic objectives] more flexibly. These homegrown systems share a common set of principles.
1. A relentless bias toward action pushes ideas forward. Always be results-driven. Always.
2. Stuff that is actionable must become personal. Each task must be assigned an owner as well as a deadline.
3. Taking and organizing extensive notes aren’t worth the effort. Focus on completion of specific, sequential Action Steps.
4. Use design-centric systems to stay organized. “The color, texture, size, and style of the materials used to capture Action Steps are important.
5. Organize in the context of projects, not location. Use a project/task-centric approach rather than a location-centric approach.
Here’s a story that is brilliant in its insight and simplicity. I read it in The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.
David Lee Roth (Van Halen) has an obscure demand in his contract for his concerts. He wants/demands a bowl of M&M’s backstage, with no brown M & M’s in the bowl: “with every single brown candy removed, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation to the band.” At least once, he followed through on his threat.
At first glance, this sounds like a typical over-the-top demand from a rock star too full of himself. But, in fact, it is a brilliant demand. The contract is full of very important issues – the strength of the stage, the quality of the wiring, and much more. People can get hurt when tasks are done poorly or not completed in a big stage show such as his.
“When I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl, well, we’d line check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error…Guaranteed you’d run into a problem.” The mistakes could be life threatening.
This reminds me of a quote from Heb Kelleher (I’m sorry – I don’t remember which book I read it in). It went something like this: “if the rest rooms on our planes are not clean, then the passengers think that the engines might not be well-maintained.”
The lesson: Sweat the big stuff. And, have a check on something small to make sure the big stuff is handled well.
Mincing no words, Seth Godin gets to the point (as he frequently does!). Here’s part of what he wrote:
If you read a book that tries to change you for the better and it fails or doesn’t resonate, then it’s a self-help book.
If you read a book that actually succeeds in changing you for the better, then the label changes from self-help book to great book.
By the way, the only real help is self-help. Anything else is just designed to get you to the point where you can help yourself.
I agree. And, just as all real help is self-help, all persuasion is self-persuasion. A lot of people write and speak a lot of words hoping for one thing – that you will listen to their arguments closely enough and well enough to change your own thinking, feeling, or behaving/acting.
They can’t make you change (maybe they could – but that would be coercion, not persuasion). Their best hope is to give you tools to help you change for yourself.