We Get (We Accomplish) What We Meet About – (with reflections on President Obama’s focus on getting Osama Bin Laden)
I’ve been re-looking at Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish. I have presented my synopsis of this incredibly practical book a number of times. The book describes, and elaborates on, in user-friendly form, the traits and practices of John Rockefeller. At the center of those practices was the discipline of regular meetings.
I am now ready to boil it down to a phrase. Here’s the phrase:
We get (i.e., we accomplish) what we meet about.
We seldom accomplish what we never meet about.
And here’s what I mean. We are living in a constantly distracting world. We have so many things to do. Because we have so much to do, we do all of that “so much” – but we frequently fail to do the one thing we most need to do.
The Harnish book basically says this: have one priority at a time, and meet about it until it is accomplished — (meetings + execution + debriefing + next meeting + more execution).
We see this everywhere. Do you want to know which company will win the Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award? Look at the schedules within the winning companies. They have constant, perpetual, consistent meetings on quality improvement over the long haul – until they genuinely excel at quality.
In the article by John Dickerson on Slate about President Obama’s focus on Bin Laden, Mission Accomplished: How Obama’s focused, hands-on pursuit of Osama Bin Laden paid off, we learn that President Obama gave the directive early in his presidency:
In June 2009, Obama directed his CIA director to “provide me within 30 days a detailed operation plan for locating and bringing to justice” Osama Bin Laden.
A series of meetings were held in the White House to develop aggressive intelligence gathering operations.
By mid-March the president was chairing the national security meetings on the operation. (In all he would chair five such meetings, including the ones on the day the operation took place.)
You get (you accomplish) what you meet about.
Or, at least, you certainly don’t accomplish what you never meet about. Or, in other words, meetings done well may not guarantee success, but a failure to meet with a clear focus almost guarantees failure.
So, whatever your goal, ask yourself this simple question: is it genuinely your focus? If it is, then you are meeting about it, regularly, with the people who can make it happen – until it is accomplished.
Are you meeting regularly? With a clear focus, “one priority at a time?’ If not, it is probably time to start.
Here is an excerpt from an especially informative article that John Dickerson wrote for Slate magazine. To read the complete article and check out other resources, please click here.
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Get your last bits of election speculation and guessing out now—because starting Tuesday night we will have actual facts. People will vote. Candidates will win. Careers will end. Power in Washington will shift. There are 435 elections in the House, 37 in the Senate, and 37 gubernatorial elections. To help you sift through the returns, here’s a reader and viewer’s guide to some key things to watch.
Where we stand
The official unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, though the true picture may be closer to 17 percent. In states with key races, the unemployment rate is worse: In Nevada it’s 14.4 percent; in Ohio it’s 10 percent. President Obama’s approval rating is about 45 percent. The generic ballot shows voters picking Republicans over Democrats by seven points. The congressional approval rating is below 20 percent. Almost $4 billion has been spent on the election.
House contests to watch
There are nearly 100 contested House races to watch. All but five represent possible Republican pickup opportunities. Each one is interesting, and those of you who want to talk through all of them can stay after class. Here, though, are a few pairs of races to watch to get a sense of whether this will be a big night for the GOP or a gargantuan night.
Indiana’s 2nd and 9th districts. Indiana polls close at 6 p.m. ET. It’s a pundit’s first shot at fact-based speculation. Democrat Barron Hill represents Indiana’s 9th District, which is one of the 48 John McCain won in 2008. It is a Republican district that Hill represented and then lost and then won again in the Democratic wave of 2006. This is the kind of place Republicans should win. The 2nd District is a little harder. Obama won that district, represented by Democrat Joe Donnelly, with 54 percent of the vote, and it is less Republican.
Georgia’s 2nd and 8th districts. The South is not Democratic territory. The 8th, represented by Democrat Jim Marshall, is heavily Republican. Obama got only 43 percent of the vote there in 2008. If it’s a very big night, Democrat Sanford Bishop will lose in the 2nd District. That district leans Democratic, and Obama won there with 54 percent of the vote. Almost 50 percent of the district is African-American, a key part of the Democratic base that needs to turn out for Democrats everywhere.
Virginia’s 11th and 5th districts. Democrat Gerald Connolly represents the wealthiest district in the United States, Virginia’s 11th, which is perhaps why he supports the extension of the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000. Obama carried it in 2008 with 57 percent of the vote. It is a quintessential suburban district. The 5th is one that Republicans have been planning to win. It’s a McCain district, and Democrat Tom Perriello won by only a small margin last time.
Ohio’s 15th and 16th districts. A few months ago, I asked strategists from both parties to each pick a district that they thought exemplified the election for their side. The Democrats picked the 15th because Mary Jo Kilroy, the Democrat running in a rematch against Republican Steve Stivers, stood to benefit from a concentrated national effort to turn out the vote in her area. The Republicans picked the 16th District because it leans Republican, incumbent Democrat John Boccieri is a freshman, and the district was one of the 48 John McCain won.
Colorado’s 4th and 7th districts. Democrat Betsy Markey in the 4th should be a casualty of the night. She’s in a strong Republican district that John McCain carried two years ago. In the 7th, Democrat Ed Perlmutter represents a Democratic district Obama carried with 59 percent of the vote. Democrats drawn by Colorado’s Senate race should help him.
If you are a Democrat you can light a little candle for the few Republican seats that your party might pick up. For every one that the Democrats win, the Republican pick up needs to be one seat greater. They might be the difference between Republicans needing 39 seats and 44 seats. The districts to watch are Delaware’s at-large, Florida’s 25th, Hawaii’s 1st, Illinois 10th, Louisiana’s 2nd and California’s 3rd and Washington’s 8th.
Six Senate races to watch
To review: Republicans have to take 10 Senate seats from Democrats to gain control of the Senate. Three are pretty much gone: Indiana, North Dakota, and Arkansas. Wisconsin looks good for Republicans. Of the six remaining, almost all are toss-ups. This means it could be a very late night of vote counting. If Democrats win the early-poll-closing states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the GOP will have to run the table the rest of the night—including California, which looks tough going into Election Day. Here’s a quick rundown of places to watch to see how the night is going.
West Virginia: Joe Manchin is a popular governor, but that hasn’t translated into an advantage in his Senate race. Watch Cabell County, the second largest in the state, it may be the swing county. The southern-border counties of Logan, Mingo, and Raleigh are Democratic territory. It’s coal country, which is why Manchin was firing his rifle at the cap-and-trade legislation in his advertising. Republican John Raese has gone after those voters, too.
Pennsylvania: Obama campaigned just a few days ago in Philadelphia. Did he turn out students and African-American voters for Democrat Joe Sestak? The suburbs around Philadelphia—Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester counties—are the key area to watch. Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 1.2 million in Pennsylvania, but independent voters, one-fifth of whom said they were still undecided heading into Election Day, will be as crucial to the election as they have been in the past. Obama won independents and moderates by 20 points in 2008, but in a recent Quinnipiac poll, Republican Pat Toomey was way ahead among independents, 52 percent to 39 percent.
Nevada: This is a classic test of turnout vs. enthusiasm. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has the former and none of the latter. For Sharron Angle, the situation is reversed. Can Reid turn out a lot of Democrats in Clark County around Las Vegas? That’s the state’s largest county and a Democratic stronghold. A crucial House race in the 3rd District between Joe Heck and Dina Titus may be one place to see which party is turning out voters. Washoe County is a traditional swing area, but Angle is from there. Will familiarity breed contempt or give her the win? Also, watch how the “none of the above” does. If it’s more than three or four percentage points, that means voters are protesting but not voting for Angle, which is good for Reid.
Illinois: Perhaps it’s a sign of the dire political mood that the trophy race for Obama’s old Senate seat is so tarnished. Democrat Alexi Giannoulias was a loan officer for his family bank that made loans to people connected with organized crime. Republican Mark Kirk serially embellished his résumé. Republicans had hoped to make this a “character” campaign about the Democrat, but as one GOP strategist said, “You can’t do that when your candidate has no character.” Republicans have tried to make Giannoulias a captive of the Chicago machine, and he’ll have to hope that machine turns out the vote for him in Chicago. Kirk will rely on the traditionally more conservative voters in the southern part of the state. He represented the affluent 10th Congressional District outside Chicago and will rely on those suburban voters in the collar counties around the big city: DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will.
Colorado: Strategists from both parties agree that incumbent Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet has run a good campaign and Ken Buck has not run a great one. That may not matter if this is a big wave election. Adams, Arapahoe, and Jefferson counties circle Denver and are considered Colorado’s swing counties. Bennet has to hope he can appeal to moderate voters and women there. Republicans need to turn out their vote in El Paso (Colorado Springs), Douglas (south of Denver), Weld (Eastern Plains), and Mesa (Western Slope) counties. Also look to Larimer, a northern county in the middle of the state, that has a strong Tea Party movement. Both Bennet and Buck did well there during the primaries.
Washington: If control of the Senate is close, this one could keep us up for days. Most voters cast their ballots by mail. You can do so on Election Day, and the final vote isn’t made official for 10 days. One-quarter of the vote comes in after the polling places close. The calculus here is simple. Patty Murray, the incumbent Democrat, will try to turn out voters in King County, home of Seattle. She’ll have to match her turnout in ’98 and ’04, which was about 65 percent. If she can do that, she can split the vote in the counties that border King: Snohomish and Pierce. Republican Dino Rossi has to do well in Clark County in the southwest corner and in the GOP strongholds in the east.
Slate.com has an article by John Dickerson on the president’s summer reading list. It includes a great trip back through time, reminding us that John Kennedy liked Ian Fleming, (here’s a witty line from the article. President Obama is unlikely to choose Fleming, because “in the heat of this year’s health care debate, the president doesn’t dare read anything by anyone who once wrote a book called Dr. No.”), President George W. Bush read The Stranger by Camus, and President Bill Clinton read everything! (On one visit to a Martha’s Vineyard book store, President Clinton “walked the aisles pointing to books, saying, “Read that, read that, read that,” according to Susan Mercier, the manager”).
Here’s the reading list for President Obama (from the article):
• The Way Home by George Pelecanos, a crime thriller based in Washington, D.C.;
• Lush Life by Richard Price, a story of race and class set in New York’s Lower East Side;
• Tom Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded, on the benefits to America of an environmental revolution;
• John Adams by David McCullough;
• Plainsong by Kent Haruf, a drama about the life of eight different characters living in a Colorado prairie community.
Notice that the list includes Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded, though, Dickerson writes, “I bet Obama doesn’t finish the Friedman. There’s no book on his list more like his evening briefing books.”
This is the second book that I have presented at the First Friday book Synopsis that has been on a reading list of Mr. Obama. Last summer, in the midst of the campaign, he was reading Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World. (Here’s a photo of then candidate Obama with a copy The Post-American World).
Both books are worth reading. Here’s a key quote from each:
From Hot, Flat, and Crowded:
Green is the new red, white, and blue because it is a strategy that can help to ease global warming, biodiversity loss, energy poverty, petrodictatorship, and energy supply shortages – and make America stronger at the same time. We solve our own problems by helping the world solve its problems. We help the world solve its problems by solving our own problems.
If climate change is a hoax, it is the most wonderful hoax ever perpetrated on the United States of America. Because transforming our economy to clean power and energy efficiency to mitigate global warming and the other challenges of the Energy-Climate Era is the equivalent of training for the Olympic triathlon: If you make it to the Olympics, you have a better chance of winning because you’ve developed every muscle. If you don’t make it to the Olympics, you’re still healthier, stronger, fitter, and more likely to live longer and win every other race in life. And as with the triathlon, you don’t just improve one muscle or skill, but many, which become mutually reinforcing and improve the health of your whole system. (p. 173).
From The Post-American World:
This is a book not about the decline of America but rather about the rise of everyone else. It is about the great transformation taking place around the world, a transformation that, although often discussed, remains poorly understood… Though we talk about a new era, the world seems to be one with which we are familiar. But in fact, it is very different. (p. 1).
Look around. The tallest building in the world in now in Taipei, and it will soon be overtaken by one being built in Dubai. The world’s richest man is Mexican, and its largest publicly traded corporation is Chinese. The world’s biggest plane is built in Russia and Ukraine, its leading refinery is under construction in India, and its largest factories are all in China. London is becoming the leading financial center, and the United Arab Emirates is home to the most richly endowed investment fund. Once quintessentially American icons have been appropriated by foreigners. The world’s largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore. Its number one casino is not in Las Vegas but in Macao, which has also overtaken Vegas in annual gambling revenues. The biggest movie industry, in terms of both movies made and tickets sold, is Bollywood, not Hollywood. Even shopping, America’s greatest sporting activity, has gone global. Of the top ten malls in the world, only one is in the United States: the world’s biggest is in Beijing. Such lists are arbitrary, but it is striking that only ten years ago, American was at the top in many, if not most, of these categories. (pp. 2-3).
What’s on your reading list?