Archives: July 2007

Goodbye, Coach

Sadly, one of Tom’s inspirations died yesterday. Bill Walsh was the legendary coach who led the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl wins for the 1981, 1984, and 1988 seasons. He also coached at Stanford, and part of his tenure coincided with Tom’s studies. Read this blog by Rich Karlgaard, who knew both Bill Walsh and Tom during those days. We add our goodbye to his.

PrimeTime Women

Our Cool Friend Marti Barletta spoke with Hoag Levins over at Ad Age the other day about PrimeTime Women, the 50- to 70-year-old women who have ALL the money and are ignored by most marketers. Marti gives a shout out to Tom about 6 minutes into this 8 and a half minute video by noting that Tom has been talking about the women’s market “for 15 years.” (So, it’s really been 11 years, but that’s close enough.)

You can watch the video here.

There's Still Time to Sign Up

Are you located near Denver? The scheduled Brand You workshop is to be held there on August 1st, so the time to sign up is now. As we said in an announcement a couple of weeks ago, the war for talent is more competitive than ever. Thus, personal branding is becoming increasingly essential. Explore the possibilities of enhancing Brand You to the advantage of yourself and your employer in a customized, one-day session to be presented by Tom Peters Company in partnership with Arapahoe Community College.

Repeat: Brand You workshop, Denver, CO,
August 1. For more information click here, or for registration, click here. There are only a few openings left, so hurry! And for those of you who can’t make it to Denver, there’ll be another session in Dallas in early October.

A Company Gets It

We know that the women’s market is booming and that many haven’t taken full advantage of this market. Not so Harley-Davidson. They’ve noticed that there is a huge market of women who are buying motorcycles—about 100,00 a year. As stated in the New York Times today, “‘Fifty percent of the population is female and there is pent-up demand,’ said James L. Ziemer, Harley-Davidson’s chief executive. ‘We need to remove barriers.'”

Companies that remove the barriers and recognize the power of women buyers can cash in on a great market, but I think Tom’s been saying that for awhile now.

How does your company take advantage of today’s key markets, boomers/geezers and women??

Our Very Own (non military) War

I attended a conference last week that was trying to encourage a multi-agency (Comprehensive) approach to the solution of (Inter) national security issues. Rarely have I felt such a sense of despair. One senior civil servant after another stood up and reeled off excuse after excuse … blaming everyone but themselves. The conclusion officially was that we are enjoying “sub-optimal state response” to the resolution of the crisis we face. There was a tiny ray of hope (which led to this blog and request for insight) … The reason I was there was that “We” (the private sector business community) are held in high regard by many in public service for our ability to overcome personal interests and agendas for the achievement of corporate success … (I know … I know … we’ll keep that our dirty little secret … OK!). They were looking to us to suggest ways the UK civil service could sharpen up its response to terrorism.

The core of the problem (not exclusive to the UK, I’m sure) is that frequently critical decisions that affect our nation’s best interests are being compromised for personal gain / self interest. The extent to which civil servants are being allowed to “mark their own homework” is truly frightening. Politicians are (largely) held accountable but it’s the “Mandarins” in Whitehall and probably Washington, too, that seem to be inhibiting a high performance response to terrorism. Not the expertise of al-Qaeda. These terrorists / gangsters are relying on our inability to respond in a coordinated way. They are relying on the tribal natures of the Home Office / DFID / Treasury / MOD / Diplomats and the NGO community, et al., to deliver a poorly coordinated and slow response to critical situations.

Why are we as businesspeople so tolerant of non-elected senior civil servants impeding the resolution of international crises? The “War on Terror” is not exclusively a military / Security services affair. Cosy though that thought may be. It is just as much our war on our own drivers of ineffectiveness. It’s a real test of the belief that market forces will ensure optimal state performance (à la Capitalism). Well, I’m not seeing much evidence of a high performing state response to terrorism. Are you?

I left the conference no closer to the answer but determined to mine the intelligence of those who frequent Tom’s Blog site … So the question is “What can we as businesspeople do to ‘encourage’ our senior civil servants to act in our citizens’ best interests and not their own?”

The reason to answer this question is … if we don’t, all the interesting stuff we talk about at this site will, I believe, rapidly become pretty irrelevant.

Customer Service Connect

As I read this article about not siloing the customer service department, but, instead, inviting them to the table, it reminded me of the days when I managed a customer service department. I had thought that by now organizations would understand the importance of the customer service front-line workers. I recall that people on the front line knew the customer, and customer issues and concerns better than anyone else in the org, including the salespeople. There was a big disconnect between the customer service department and other support and production areas. One of the first things that I did, when I was in the situation, was to make the production manager my “new best friend.”

Has the customer service department risen in organizations yet? Do you value the customer service department where you are? If not, what must change to be sure that the customer service department is “rockin'”?

Liberation!
The Situation Is Hopeless!
Hooray!

GE, by almost all measures, is the rare (only?) enormous American firm that has outperformed the stock market over almost a century. Hence the shock value of Sunday’s headline in the biz section of the New York Times: “Is GE Too Big for Its Own Good?” Observers, including many on Wall Street, are beginning to whisper, “Break it up,” following a half dozen years of flaccid performance.

The day before I’d been lecturing in Nairobi—and the first two rows of the amphitheater had included a staggering share of Kenya’s Big Company CEOs. My unrelenting message: Giant companies are stinkers when it comes to long-term performance.

A few of the slides I used:

“[Richard] Foster and his McKinsey colleagues collected detailed performance data stretching back 40 years for 1,000 U.S. companies. They found that none of the long-term survivors managed to outperform the market. Worse, the longer companies had been in the database, the worse they did.”—Financial Times

“The difficulties … arise from the inherent conflict between the need to control existing operations and the need to create the kind of environment that will permit new ideas to flourish—and old ones to die a timely death. … We believe that most corporations will find it impossible to match or outperform the market without abandoning the assumption of continuity. … The current apocalypse—the transition from a state of continuity to state of discontinuity—has the same suddenness [as the trauma that beset civilization in 1000 A.D.]“—Richard Foster & Sarah Kaplan, “Creative Destruction” (The McKinsey Quarterly)

“Of Korea’s Top 100 companies in 1955, only seven were still on the list in 2004. The 1997 financial crisis ‘destroyed half of Korea’s 30 largest conglomerates.'”—from “KET Issue Report,” Kim Jong Nyun

“I am often asked by would-be entrepreneurs seeking escape from life within huge corporate structures, ‘How do I build a small firm for myself?’ The answer seems obvious: Buy a very large one and just wait.”—Paul Ormerod, Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics

“A pattern emphasized in the case studies in this book is the degree to which powerful competitors not only resist innovative threats, but actually resist all efforts to understand them, preferring to further entrench their positions in the older products. This results in a surge of productivity and performance that may take the old technology to unheard-of heights. But in most cases this is a sign of impending death.”—Jim Utterback, Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation

“The more successful a company, the flatter its forgetting curve.”—Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad

“You don’t get better by being bigger. You get worse.”—Dick Kovacevich, CEO, Wells Fargo

“Despite a decade of banking mergers, there is no evidence that big banks are any more efficient or profitable than their smaller rivals.”—Financial Times, on possible Barclays-ABN Amro merger (“When it comes to asking the stock market whether bigger banks are better, the current answer is a resounding ‘no.'”—Citigroup analysis, 2006)

“‘Good management’ was the most powerful reason [leading firms] failed to stay atop their industries. Precisely because these firms listened to their customers, invested aggressively in technologies that would provide their customers more and better products of the sort they wanted, and because they carefully studied market trends and systematically allocated investment capital to innovations that promised the best returns, they lost their positions of leadership.”—Clayton Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma, on the conservatism that cripples very large firms

“Recently I asked three corporate executives what decisions they had made in the last year that would not have been made were it not for their corporate plans. All had difficulty identifying one such decision. Since all of the plans are marked ‘secret’ or ‘confidential,’ I asked them how their competitors might benefit from possession of their plans. Each answered with embarrassment that their competitors would not benefit.”—Russell Ackoff (from Henry Mintzberg, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning)

One Kenyan CEO asked if I truly thought there was, effectively, no hope for the Giants. I wandered around the issue and concluded, “Yup, no hope.”

So what the hell was the point of the seminar, the point of my 7,000 mile trip, at least for the Big Co gang?

Plenty, I think.

That is “no hope” is a dire warning that typical, conservative Big Co strategies are indeed designs for disaster. And I think that is liberating. The message is, “The odds are stacked against you, hence you in effect have damn near nothing to lose—so swing for the fences and you at least up the odds a bit of performing well.”

I often say (and did again in Kenya) that I’ve learned but one thing in 40 years, since I began my management career as a military (Navy) construction engineer in Vietnam in 1966. And that is … “try stuff” … faster than the next guy. (“We have a ‘strategic plan.’ It’s called doing things.”—Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines.) And keep on tryin’ stuff.

Hence this “ultimate” slide on success and failure:

Life 101: A 40-year Reflection

Go on offense.
Give everybody a shot.
Decentralize.
Try a bunch of stuff.
Make it up as you go along.
Get some stuff wrong.
Laugh a lot.
Get some stuff right.
Who knows, you might get lucky …

Or:

Extract “lessons learned” or “best practices.”
Thicken the Book of Rules for Success.
Become evermore serious.
Enforce the rules to increasingly tight tolerances.
Go on defense.
Install walls.
Protect-at-all-costs today’s franchise.
Centralize.
Calcify.
Install taller walls.
Write more rules.
Become irrelevant and-or die.

Attached you’ll find a very brief PowerPoint, from the sub-section titled “Try It” in the section called “Innovation Tactics” in Part II of our Master Presentation (“Innovate. Or. Die.”)

Kenya 2007

Kenya, per my analysis, was the SIXTY-FOURTH country in which I have been lucky enough to present. And to say “the best of the lot” would be an insult to my many wonderful hosts, from OMAN to MAURITIUS to NEW ZEALAND to SIBERIA. But I’m tempted. I have rarely, if ever, had such a warm welcome (to Susan & me); I have rarely, if ever, had such wonderful interactions with seminar participants. So I’ll simply send along the slides—and offer a hearty “thanks and Godspeed” to my new friends from Nairobi, et al. (See you soon, I hope.)

[Slides from the event in Nairobi, where Tom spoke to close to 500 clients comprised of CEOs and top management who are clients of KPMG Training Solutions, are available with the links below.—CM]
Excellence. Always. Section One, KPMG, Nairobi
Excellence. Always. Section Two, KPMG, Nairobi

Cool Friend: Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Someone in the household must take time away from work to care for children or aging parents. That duty requires work flexibility and a non-linear career path, and most often falls to the woman. As the founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy, Sylvia Ann Hewlett has been researching the transitions into and out of careers, and, as a result, has written Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success. Erik talked with her about it, and she became our latest Cool Friend. Read the interview (and the book) to find out what some very large companies are doing to make it easier for you to work and live.

Where's Tom?

Tom has been silent for two weeks as he went walkabout in Africa. He should be finishing up his computer-less hiatus very soon, and we’ll be glad to have him return. Until he gets back in touch, however, we’d like to remind you once more about his Master Slides. He worked to get the presentation completed before his break, and we hope you’ll take this opportunity to take a look.

Part 1: Context. Excellence.
Part 2: Innovation. The case.
Part 3: Up the Value-added Ladder. Solutions-PSF-Experiences-Dreams-Lovemarks.
Part 4: “New” Market Opportunities. Women. Boomers & Geezers. Women as Tomorrow’s Leaders.
Part 5: Brand You. Talent. Leadership for Excellence by Passion & Persistence.
Part 6: Key Lists: “The Irreducible 209.” “Us”-“Them.” Etc.
Part 7: Talent 50. Leadership 50.