First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Never forget those on the “third shift”

In How to Be a Fierce Competitor: What Winning Companies and Great Managers Do in Tough Times, Jeffrey Fox explains why we should never forget about those who tend to be underappreciated, if appreciated at all: “The ‘third shift’ is a metaphor for those people and those groups of people who toil in relative anonymity in the organization. They may be the workers on the night shift; the scientists in distant labs, behind locked doors. Working on the next breakthroughs; the customer service people dealing with problems and one irate customer after another; the field repair people fixing critical customer machinery on a weekend or holiday; the caregivers that empty bed pans. These people may not be omnipresent, but they are critical to the continuing success of the company. Great managers recognize such people, give them credit, give sincere thank-yous.” Whatever the size and nature of an organization may be, it will never have enough people who are not only willing and able but also eager to go “the extra mile” to do whatever must be done…and done right.

Also, managers with highly-developed “street smarts” make it a point to stay in direct and frequent contact with those on their company’s “third shift” because they are appreciate the value of knowing how these associates are treated by the company’s customers, vendors, service providers, etc.

Monday, March 15, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson on the right reasons to quit

Here is a series of brief excerpts from one of the chapters in Rework, co-authored by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. It was published by Crown Business/Random House in 2010.

* * *

Jason Fried

“It’s easy to put your head down and just work on what you think needs to be done. It’s a lit harder to pull your head up and ask why. Here are some important questions to ask yourself to ensure you’re doing work that matters:”

Why am I doing this? Is the original objective the most important one or is there another more important one now?

What specific problem are you solving? Are you responding to symptoms or eliminating root causes?

Is this actually useful? What will be the practical implications and consequences if you complete this work?

Are you adding value? Does this strengthen your company’s relationship with a customer? Does this make you more valuable to your associates? Does this increase your job security?

Will this change behavior?
Who are the beneficiaries? Will they recognize and appreciate the importance of what you have done? Will they make effective use of it?

Is there an easier way? If you can’t think of one, have you asked those who are better qualified to simplify the process?

Is there anything else you could — and should — be doing instead? As Stephen Covey strongly recommends, focus on what is important rather than on what is urgent. James Kilts would agree, adding that you should focus on what is most important, not merely on what is important.

Is it really worth it? How soon will the impact be obvious? Can you quantify the value?

David Heinemeier Hansson

* * *

In this context, here is my favorite Peter Drucker quotation: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Seth Godin also has much of value to say about all this in The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). When encountering what Godin characterizes as “the Dip” (i.e. a temporary setback which creates a “moment of truth”), know the difference(s) between “the right stuff” and “the wrong stuff” and proceed accordingly.

So many decisions in life are gambles (i.e. “knowing when to hold and when to fold”) and must be made without complete information and therefore require a combination of knowledge, judgment, instinct, and faith. In a phrase, an “enlightened hunch.”

Monday, March 15, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something! – a reminder from Mary Kay Ash

A quick story:  we had quite a snowstorm (for Dallas) a few weeks ago.  A limb from a tall tree landed on our roof.  I have neither the tools nor the expertise to take care of that problem, and as I was trying to figure out what to do, the doorbell rang.  It was an enterprising man, looking at the trees from house to house, and he offered to remove the limb from our roof, cut it up, and get it out to the curb for pick up. His price was very reasonable.  I hired him on the spot, and was thrilled at the convenience.  I had to spend no time looking for someone to take care of this problem.

He showed up again this weekend, observing that we had some more work that needed to be done – and he was right.  I had been meaning to call someone.  Now, it is taken care of.

So – here’s the lesson – if you have a good service or product, don’t neglect sales.

Here’s a chapter title from the book by Mary Kay Ash, The Mary Kay Way:  Timeless Principles from America’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur, with her sub-points:

Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something!
• (the absolute centrality of the independent sales force…)
• the entire company should be sales-oriented
• the company’s attitude can make or break the sales force
• build self-esteem and confidence


By the way, does your company need a custom business book synopsis?  Just click the hire us tab at the top of our blog, or send me an e-mail:  A good book synopsis can generate some really useful conversations and help you plan your next steps.

Monday, March 15, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , | 1 Comment

Michael Lewis Labels the Villain – Mass Delusion


Look, forget the myths the media’s created about the White House– the truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.
(from the movie All the President’s Men)


I sat enthralled last night in front of my television as 60 Minutes devoted one half of its program to Michael Lewis and his account of the financial meltdown in his new book, The Big Short.  You can read a review of the book here by Felix Salmon.  He calls it “the single best piece of financial journalism ever written.”  It is definitely on my reading list.

At one key moment, he said that the people behind the meltdown were not criminals, but simply wrong, blind. deluded…  (Maybe his new book on Wall Street should have the same title as his best-selling book, now an Oscar winning movie, The Blind Side).

Here’s one summary of his appearance on 60 Minutes from the Huffington Post (with video embedded if you missed the segment).

It may be tempting to think Wall Street is full of criminals who got off easy during the financial crisis.
But bestselling author Michael Lewis cautions against such an easy conclusion.
“I think the story is much more interesting than that,” he said during an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes. “I think it’s a story of mass delusion.”

And here is some of what I thought about it all as I pondered the segment with Michael Lewis.

I have frequently written about the absolute necessity of work ethic on this blog. From books like Outliers and Talent is Overrated, and a host of other sources, we learn that success requires a really focused, long-term work ethic (remember the 10,000 hour rule).  But according to Lewis, the people on Wall Street were not slackers.  They worked long hours, and they were constantly seeking the next big deal.

But, working hard does not guarantee wisdom or rightness.  And this entire superstructure kept getting shakier and shakier – it was a “delusion.”

And here is the other lesson I learned. The capacity to accept delusion as real is a human failing.  How many businesses do precisely this?  I’m not sure that these were “not very bright guys” (the quote from All the President’s Men).  But they so focused on what they wanted to be true, what they wanted to work, that they were blind to/oblivious to the warnings that should have been seen and heard and acknowledged.

How many companies fail to see the warnings in their own industry, and fail to make the changes needed? Too many.

The essence of good leadership is to lead your people along the right path and not lead your people down the wrong path.  There were a lot of people going down the wrong path, and it has cost us all a great deal.

Monday, March 15, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , | Leave a comment



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