One of my favorite reference sources is the Yale Book of Quotations. Credit Fred R. Shapiro with a brilliant response to heaven knows how many challenges. Here are several quotations that are not as yet included in the YBQ. Shapiro will gratefully welcome corrections of information provided in this volume as well as suggestions of new quotations for future editions. Submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org or www.quotationdictionary.com.
“The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” Steven Wright
“Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.” Steven Wright
“Don’t worry about people stealing your idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats.” Howard Aiken
“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.” Woody Allen
“I invent nothing. I rediscover.” Rodin
“Many of us pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we hurry past it. ” Søren Kierkegaard
And the last word:
A SCOT’S FAREWELL
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me,
I want no tears in a gloom filled room;
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little but not for long
And not for your head bowed low;
Remember the love we once shared.
Miss me …. but let me go.
For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone;
It’s all part of the master plan,
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick of heart,
Go to the the friend we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me….but let me go.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Brad Power for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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In my consulting and research I’ve seen many companies launch process improvement programs such as Total Quality Management, Business Reengineering, Lean, and Six Sigma. Many got significant benefits, including lower costs, faster time-to-market, and better customer experiences. But after one round of improvement, they gave up and let their organization get flabby again. Organizations, like people, need to stay fit and make improvement a habit to be competitive. So why don’t they? Why is sustained process improvement so rare?
Consider the story of Allied Signal. Under Larry Bossidy, Allied Signal was a “poster child” of process improvement success following the “Six Sigma” approach — enjoying consistent growth in earnings and cash flow from 1991 to 1999, highlighted by 31 consecutive quarters of earnings-per-share growth of 13% or more, and tripled operating margins to almost 15 percent. Bossidy wrote a best-selling book, called Execution, about his approach. Yet when Allied Signal merged with Honeywell in 1999 and Bossidy departed in 2000 and was replaced by Mike Bonsignore, they dropped their Six Sigma attention while focusing on a GE-Honeywell deal. According to market analyst Cliff Ransom, “It took about 18 months for a Six Sigma culture to essentially disappear when the wrong successor to Larry Bossidy took the reins.”
Or consider the story of Wiremold, a famous example of a “lean transformation,” profiled in the book Lean Thinking [click here]. From 1990 when new management and Japanese consultants arrived to 1999, Wiremold’s stock rose 32% per year, the first shipment fill rate rose from 60% to 92%, sales per full time employee rose from $92,000 to $241,000, inventory turnover rose from 3.4 to 15.8, and new product development cycle time declined from 2-3 years to 3-12 months. Then in 2000, Wiremold was acquired by Legrand, a French manufacturer of electrical equipment. Legrand was firmly committed to batch production and standard cost accounting, and the lean transformation unwound [click here] in a few years.
As the Allied Signal and Wiremold stories demonstrate, there are significant potential business benefits from adopting a process improvement program, yet despite these apparent benefits, they weren’t enough to build process improvement into Allied Signal’s or Wiremold’s DNA. What are the factors that get in the way of continuous improvement?
In my research, including analysis of more than twenty companies which have launched major process programs, I’ve identified five factors that have gotten in the way of sustained attention to process improvement:
• Competing demands for attention (as with Honeywell’s potential deal with GE)
• Competing mindsets and behaviors (such as work harder vs. work smarter)
• Strategic irrelevance (other more important levers for competitive success)
• Traditional management processes (Legrand’s cost accounting)
• The pain of disruption
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To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
Brad Power (email@example.com) is a consultant and researcher in process innovation. His current research is on sustaining attention to process management — making improvement and adaptation a habit (even fun?). He is currently conducting research with the Lean Enterprise Institute [click here].
In Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose published by Business Plus (2010), Tony Hsieh explains that the Zappos Core Values Document focuses on the values that help to fulfill the company’s mission, “To live and deliver WOW.”
1. Deliver WOW through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
4. Be adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do ore with Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble
Hsieh explains, “Ideally, we want all 10 core values to be reflected in everything we do, including how we interact with each other, how we interact with our customers, and how we interact with our vendors and business partners.”
As CEO of Zappos, Hsieh misses no opportunity to affirm these core values. Presumably he and other supervisors agree with Verne Harnish who suggests, in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, that supervisors must keep reaffirming core values to their direct reports until they begin to mock and mimic them.
Here is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Harvard Business Review (July/August 2007). You can purchase a copy of the complete nine-page article and/or subscribe to HBR [click here].
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Thirty years ago, two Hungarian educators, László and Klara Polgár, decided to challenge the popular assumption that women don’t succeed in areas requiring spatial thinking, such as chess. They wanted to make a point about the power of education. The Polgárs homeschooled their three daughters, and as part of their education the girls started playing chess with their parents at a very young age. Their systematic training and daily practice paid off. By 2000, all three daughters had been ranked in the top ten female players in the world. The youngest, Judit, had become a grand master at age 15, breaking the previous record for the youngest person to earn that title, held by Bobby Fischer, by a month. Today Judit is one of the world’s top players and has defeated almost all the best male players.
It’s not only assumptions about gender differences in expertise that have started to crumble. Back in 1985, Benjamin Bloom, a professor of education at the University of Chicago, published a landmark book, Developing Talent in Young People, which examined the critical factors that contribute to talent. He took a deep retrospective look at the childhoods of 120 elite performers who had won international competitions or awards in fields ranging from music and the arts to mathematics and neurology. Surprisingly, Bloom’s work found no early indicators that could have predicted the virtuosos’ success. Subsequent research indicating that there is no correlation between IQ and expert performance in fields such as chess, music, sports, and medicine has borne out his findings. The only innate differences that turn out to be significant—and they matter primarily in sports—are height and body size.
So what does correlate with success? One thing emerges very clearly from Bloom’s work: All the superb performers he investigated had practiced intensively, had studied with devoted teachers, and had been supported enthusiastically by their families throughout their developing years. Later research building on Bloom’s pioneering study revealed that the amount and quality of practice were key factors in the level of expertise people achieved. Consistently and overwhelmingly, the evidence showed that experts are always made, not born. These conclusions are based on rigorous research that looked at exceptional performance using scientific methods that are verifiable and reproducible. Most of these studies were compiled in The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, published last year by Cambridge University Press and edited by K. Anders Ericsson, one of the authors of this article. The 900-page-plus handbook includes contributions from more than 100 leading scientists who have studied expertise and top performance in a wide variety of domains: surgery, acting, chess, writing, computer programming, ballet, music, aviation, firefighting, and many others.
The journey to truly superior performance is neither for the faint of heart nor for the impatient. The development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, often painful self-assessment. There are no shortcuts. It will take you at least a decade to achieve expertise, and you will need to invest that time wisely, by engaging in “deliberate” practice—practice that focuses on tasks beyond your current level of competence and comfort. You will need a well-informed coach not only to guide you through deliberate practice but also to help you learn how to coach yourself. Above all, if you want to achieve top performance as a manager and a leader, you’ve got to forget the folklore about genius that makes many people think they cannot take a scientific approach to developing expertise. We are here to help you explode those myths.
Let’s begin our story with a little wine.
What Is an Expert?
In 1976, a fascinating event referred to as the “Judgment of Paris” took place. An English-owned wineshop in Paris organized a blind tasting in which nine French wine experts rated French and California wines—ten whites and ten reds. The results shocked the wine world: California wines received the highest scores from the panel. Even more surprising, during the tasting the experts often mistook the American wines for French wines and vice versa.
Two assumptions were challenged that day. The first was the hitherto unquestioned superiority of French wines over American ones. But it was the challenge to the second—the assumption that the judges genuinely possessed elite knowledge of wine—that was more interesting and revolutionary. The tasting suggested that the alleged wine experts were no more accurate in distinguishing wines under blind test conditions than regular wine drinkers—a fact later confirmed by our laboratory tests.
Current research has revealed many other fields where there is no scientific evidence that supposed expertise leads to superior performance. One study showed that psychotherapists with advanced degrees and decades of experience aren’t reliably more successful in their treatment of randomly assigned patients than novice therapists with just three months of training are. There are even examples of expertise seeming to decline with experience. The longer physicians have been out of training, for example, the less able they are to identify unusual diseases of the lungs or heart. Because they encounter these illnesses so rarely, doctors quickly forget their characteristic features and have difficulty diagnosing them. Performance picks up only after the doctors undergo a refresher course.
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You can purchase a copy of the complete nine-page article and/or subscribe to HBR [click here].
K. Anders Ericsson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Conradi Eminent Scholar of Psychology at Florida State University, in Tallahassee. He is th author of The Road To Excellence: the Acquisition of Expert Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sports, and Games.
Michael J. Prietula (email@example.com) is a professor at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, in Atlanta, and visiting research scholar at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, in Pensacola, Florida.
Edward T. Cokely (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, in Berlin.