I had the privilege of speaking to the Gazelles this week in Orlando. I presented two synopses: The Checklist Manifesto and Multipliers. The day was rich with insight, from presentations and conversations.
At this event, Verne Harnish, the founder of the Gazelles organization, the author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, and overall business thinker par excellence, just shares his latest thinking. They call his session “Visitation with Verne.” I have pages of notes and ponderings from his presentation.
He started with a simple challenge: “we need more rigor.” Good challenge!
Here are a couple of key thoughts from his visitation:
#1: You’ve got to out-read and out-learn your competitors. Like all great insights, this is so obvious; yet we don’t see it, pay attention to it, do it. After all the emphasis through the years on the learning organization; after all the insight we gain from this simple fact: good leaders keep reading important books; we still don’t put reading and learning in their needed place in our priorities. Verne reminded us that there is always someone out there trying to keep ahead of you. You’ve simply got to out-read, out-learn your competitors.
Here’s an interesting way to think about it: before you can be effective at “brainstorming,” you have to be very effective at “brain-filling.”
#2: Forget “Strategic Planning” – shift to “Strategic Thinking, Execution Planning.” Vocabulary matters. Vocabulary shapes behavior. What you call/name something shapes what it becomes. And Verne, the man behind the brilliant and exceptionally practical and usable “One-Page Strategic Plan,” (download it free from the Gazelles website, here. Click the “strategy” tab), thinks that it is time for a vocabulary shift.
In reality, there is no such thing as strategic planning. There is only “strategic thinking,” and then comes “execution planning.” This shift reminds us that “strategic planning” is in reality a two-step process. Without the right strategy, execution can not win the day. With the right strategy, a failure at execution loses the day.
There was much more from Verne. But these two strike me as especially critical to our on-going pursuit of success.
You can purchase my synopsis of The Checklist Manifesto, Multipliers, and many other titles, with audio + handout, from our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
Back in my ministry days, I read a little from/about Juan Carlos Ortiz. The story goes that one Sunday, he delivered an impassioned sermon on: “Brothers and Sisters, Love one another.” Filled with Scripture, stories, pleas, arguments, he urged his folks to actually love one another more deeply. The following Sunday, he stood up to preach his sermon, and here it was, in its entirety:
“Brothers and Sisters, love one another.”
Then he sat down. After an awkward silence, with the congregation a little confused, a member of his church called out, “Brother Ortiz, we are waiting to hear your sermon.” Preacher Ortiz rose to the pulpit, and said:
“When you actually love one another, as I preached last week, then I will preach my next sermon.”
Whether the story is true or not, I certainly get the point. It is certainly a true to the real world story.
We read a book filled with good ideas. We think of ways to change/better our work. We “decide” to do things differently. We “learn” what was in the book we read.
But maybe we need to not read any other books; we need to not read the “next book;” until we actually do what this last book we read encouraged/”taught” us to do.
Years ago, for a workshop on some subject or another, I adapted some thoughts from Peter Senge, and included these paragraphs in the handout material:
“The only job security is found in your own ability to keep learning!” (Peter Drucker)
“Through learning, we re-create ourselves.” (Peter Senge)
Learning leads to life style changes which lead to skills:
Learning is far more than taking in information. “Learning is expanding the ability to produce the results we truly want in life.” (Peter Senge)
The ultimate learning disability:
“People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, and their growth areas.” (Peter Senge)
When have you learned?
You have learned when you can do,
and then you actually do,
the skills that are needed to take your next step.
So – yes, I do encourage you to read that next business book. This blog can help you find just the right title for your next areas of concern/growth/challenge. But maybe the wisest course of action is this one:
1) Read a book.
2) Do/implement what it says; what you learned – until it is habit.
3) Then, read the next book – and repeat the process.
President Obama and his “argument-based organization as learning organization” – insight from David Brooks
I intentionally avoid political topics and themes on this blog. I realize that in this very volatile, divided era, once a name or a postition is named, some cheer, others condemn, and people want to argue. (See my earlier post on The Argument Culture, and how Deborah Tannen predicted the coming argument wars).
But this was too good to pass up. Whether you agree with the assessment or not, it provides for serious thought and discussion regarding leadership and decision making. The thought comes from David Brooks, one of the conservative columnists for the New York Times. In his column The Analytic Mode, December 3, 2009, he reflects on President Obama’s approach to his Afghanistan strategy and troop decision. This is what he wrote:
The advantage of the Obama governing style is that his argument-based organization is a learning organization. Amid the torrent of memos and evidence and dispute, the Obama administration is able to adjust and respond more quickly than, say, the Bush administration ever did.
Brooks pictures the Obama approach as that of a learning organization. Here’s the definition (from Wikipedia): A Learning Organization is the term given to a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself.
Though there are five identified traits of a learning organization — Systems Thinking, Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Shared Vision, and Team Learning — I think we can identify the following as critical to a learning organization’s success as a learning organization. A learning organization is an organization where the following is true:
1) Teaching and learning are at the center of the organization.
2) Everyone, from the leaders throughout the organization, values learning.
3) Disagreement and dissent are valued, because if there is no disagreement, learning does not happen. Instead, perpetuating frozen, possibly wrong, viewpoints becomes dominant – and the organization finds itself left behind in a hurry.
This the second time that an author has put modern day business labels on President Obama’s approach to governing. (at least, the second one that I am aware of). The earlier was an author calling President Obama our first GTD President. (see my post here). I’m a fan of the learning organization approach, and Brook’s observation gives me hope.