Archives: April 2009

Let's Hope Main Street Performs Better Than Wall Street!

Wall Street’s behavior continues to boggle the mind. With government help, some of the financial news is good—hence, in the mind of the “players,” it’s time to re-open the bonus spigots! Fail to do so, and, OMG, we might not be able to retain some of the “superstars” whose 275 IQs and Excellence-in-Greed got us into this mess.

I’m not sure what the Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual # is, but these people are certifiably insane:

HAVETHEYABSOLUTELYNOSHAMEORSENSEOFSHAREDBURDEN-WHATSOEVERARETHEYINFACTHUMANS????!!!

Miserable.
Rotten.
Immoral.
Scumbags.*

Well, let’s hope Main Street does better than Wall Street!

We may be (50-50 odds?) on the verge of a true pandemic. One important-crucial way to fight it is to stay home if you think there’s even a small chance that your symptoms match up to the H1N1 profile. While the possibility of malingering is never zero, I pray that employers, despite their often pinched straits circa Spring 2009, will be hyper-generous in encouraging people to stay home with pay if they think there’s a chance they are infected. Alas, with the horrid economy, if you have a job at all you sure as hell don’t want to test your employer’s patience. Hence, there must be a lot of bending over backwards by all parties to do every damn thing we can to behave sensibly and thence reduce the spread of H1N1.

Let’s all get down on bended knee and pray that Main Streeters have better sense and a greater commitment to the greater good than the Wall Streeters.

[*"Scumbags" is an entirely inappropriate word to use here—my only defense is that I thought long and hard about this, and I arrived at the conclusion that the only word I could think of to describe those seeking re-instatement of large bonus pots at this point is, well, scumbag.]

100 Ways to Succeed #158:

Transparency & Community & “Over”communication & Excellence & H1N1

The H1N1 threat is the latest crisis to come our way, riding the back of ongoing financial mayhem. Step #1, ASAP, is talk-talk-talk. Action is, of course, the sine qua non of success—but right now comes the talk. And lots & lots & lots of it. In our companies of 6 or 66 or 666 people, we have to start a wholly transparent discussion about how we will deal with every aspect of H1N1. Our Commitment to Community must be spelled out—and what we will do under various circumstances must be debated openly and at length. The tough issues must be addressed head on—e.g., insuring that people know that staying home if there’s even a possibility of being sick with the flu is the ultimate white mark, not black mark. It must be made clear that an “all hands” commitment to dealing with the possible pandemic is the only worthy aim. And that we aspire to be a role model-shining light in our overall response.

I devoutly believe that long-term commercial excellence is a direct product of an enterprise wholly devoted to its people and its community; now is the time to define Excellence in response to H1N1—if it doesn’t come, hooray, but if it does it is an opportunity to demonstrate who we are and what we’re made of.

Think openness.
Think community.
Think excellence.

Home Is Where the …
Kubota Is!

Shanghai_airport_sm.jpg

From the Shanghai Airport [above] to my Beloved Kubota in West Tinmouth, Vermont [below]. Susan decorated the Kubota with daffodils from her garden to commemorate my return; and I’ve already drawn blood from my bramble cutting!

Kubota_homecoming_sm.jpg

Cool Friend #136: Daniel Coyle

Our latest Cool Friend, Daniel Coyle, tells us that people think about talent as a possession, but that’s not quite right. He studied hotbeds of talent and found similarities, from which we can learn in order to develop our own skills. In his Cool Friends interview, he and Erik discuss his latest book, The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. The book is just out (yesterday!), though Tom blogged about it in February (the subtitle has changed since then). You can learn more at his website, TheTalentCode.com, on his blog and Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/DanielCoyle.

Event: Shanghai

Shanghai from the 38th floor of Tom's hotel

If you’ve been reading our blog lately, you know that Tom’s been en route to Shanghai. For the three-day event, he gives us four presentations tailored to his audience and in keeping with topics that have occupied him recently:

Excellence
Innovation
People
Leadership

Please join us in the comments if you had the opportunity to attend the event where Tom was speaking to the Olympic Marketing Training Consultancy, whose founder once offered $620,000 for a chance to meet Warren Buffett.

[And yes! Tom sent the photo above of Shanghai, where the population will surpass 19,000,000 this year, as seen from his 38th floor hotel room window—a little different from the window view in Amsterdam!]

The Answer to a Model-led Fiasco Is Different Models. Right. And Your Old Auntie Quarterbacked the Dallas Cowboys.

I love this quote: “The level of experimentation is abysmal. These firms do not take full advantage of feedback opportunities they are presented with.” The quote accords with my Principal Assertion about Business, which in fact I’ve called the only thing I’ve learned “for sure” in 40 years. Namely: “Whoever tries the most stuff and screws the most stuff up and most rapidly launches the next try wins. Failures are not to be ‘tolerated,’ they are to be celebrated.”

The first quote (which, I repeat, I loved) comes courtesy Freakonomics author Steven Levitt. He’s launched a course, with fellow economist John List, at the Chicago B.School to teach the kind of thinking featured in the book and referred to in the quote above. It is, therefore, in effect a course on the scientific method. The “scientific method”? “He who tries the most stuff wins. Failures are not to be tolerated, they are to be celebrated.”

If the course, aimed at “the best MBA students in the world” (whoever they are—they were the wizards of Wall Street, now serving as busboys in or out of prison), “works,” the world will have a new “model” for doing business. List humbly (reminds me of Larry Summers) says, “We’re trying to bring about a revolution in business, so this [the course for "the best MBAs"] is the first shot over the bows (sic).” [NB: The ships I served on had only one bow, as I recall.]

I conclude, personally, from the above:

(1) I contend-reiterate that “tryin’ a lot a stuff” is the most important thing an enterprise, or individual, can do in pursuit of success.
(2) I report here that “An Experimental Approach to the Right Answers [whatever that means],” in the Financial Times, 0420, and from which the above was taken, made me want to puke! [Re-reading it to prep for this Post induced another wave of stomach flippin'.]

I’m upstairs in biz class in a KLM 747-400 heading for China as I write. I have fretted for days, weeks, about the direction in which I want my 3-day mini-course to go. Last night, between Midnight and 4 a.m. I “got it”—if history is a teacher, I’ll undo it and redo it a couple of more times in the next 36 hours,

My “breakthrough” is a determination to pass along this message repeated in as many ways as I can conjure up:

Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)

I’ll follow that up with:

Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.) Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)

And then I’ll go home to Vermont, where Spring is Springing!

Do business leaders need a … NEW ANALYTIC FRAMEWORK … to replace the one Greenspan and Rubin and Summers and pals gave us? Or should they instead pay strict attention to an FT article that appeared the day after the one cited above, titled: “Business Needs to Speak Out Against Greed“?

I quasi-puked after reading the first article—and stood up in my hotel room in Amsterdam, all by my lonesome, and shouted “Bravo” and tossed a tulip at the FT after reading the next day’s article.

The last thing business needs is a “new analytic framework” taught only to the “best” MBAs—guys, mostly guys, who’ll end up as the next McNamara or Rumsfeld (both members of that dynamic duo score top tenth of the top one percent on “analytic excellence”).

What business needs, in my (not particularly) humble opinion is to do more MBWA (Managing By Wandering Around), to really really really “put people first,” à la Southwest or Wegmans; to hang out, really really really really hang out with customers à la Cisco boss John Chambers, to learn to listen and apologize, as discussed in yesterday’s Post. Etc.

In short:

Business doesn’t need a new framework.
Business needs a new attitude.

When I get home I’m going to print new business calling cards—after all these years I’ve figured out what I do (which is what Bob Waterman and I tried to do 30 years ago in In Search of Excellence). Hence, my new calling card will read:

Tom Peters
The Un-revolutionary

We don’t need another “analytic model” to replace the current “analytic model.” What we need, and I’m gonna put this on the back of my card:

Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = Wander around.
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.) Excellence = Wander around.
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = Wander around.

And if there’s room left:

Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.) Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)

100 Ways to Succeed #157:

Improve Your Business!
Become a Better Person!

Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.) Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)
Excellence = People first, second, third. And fourth. (And fifth and sixth and seventh.)

That's Petters (with 2 T's), not Peters

First there was the picture of Bernie Madoff that looked a lot like Tom Peters and now there’s a guy named Tom Petters (2 T’s!) who is garnering the fraud headlines by trying to hustle non-existent DVD players. We here at tompeters.com just wanted to make sure there was no confusion between Petters and Peters. Our Tom is winging his way to Shanghai, where he’ll be speaking over the weekend.

Strategic Competence!
Damn It!

Amsterdam hotel room window wide open

In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, Marshall Goldsmith proclaims: “I regard apologizing as the most magical, healing, restorative gesture human beings can make. It is the centerpiece of my work with executives who want to get better.”

All I can add is:

Amen!
I believe that skill at Apologizing is nothing short of a “strategic competence”!

“Strategic competence”? Absolutely! Customers lost for want of a timely and sincere “I’m sorry. My fault” number in the billions, from restaurant diners to aircraft engine purchasers.

And now there’s an entire book on the topic arriving May 1, Effective Apology: Mending Fences, Building Bridges, and Restoring Trust, by John Kador.

Read a whole book on the topic?
Yes!
Damn it!
Stra-te-gic-com-pe-tence!

In addition to being an excellent “how to” guide, the book also captures hard evidence. For example, with a new policy on apologies, Toro, the lawn mower folks, reduced the average cost of a claim from $115,000 in 1991 to $35,000 in 2008—and the company hasn’t been to trial since 1994. The VA hospital in Lexington, Massachusetts, developed an astonishing approach to apologizing for errors (forthcoming—even when no patient request or claim was made). In 2000, the overall mean VA system malpractice settlement was $413,000. The Lexington VA hospital settlement # was $36,000—and there were far fewer per patient claims to begin with.

Not only does a sincere apology make you feel much better about yourself (top marks on the “ability-to-look-in-the-mirror” test), but it fattens your wallet in the process (or, rather, keeps said wallet from getting skinny).

While visiting Amazon to get John Kador’s formal pub date (Kindle on May 1, too!), I came across a reference to another apparent gem on the topic, On Apology, by psychiatrist Aaron Lazare. Here are excerpts from a couple reviews: “This unique book is sure to set a reader thinking on many levels, but its ultimate message is the meaning and the magically transformative power of what would seem on the surface to be a simple apology. No one who becomes familiar with Dr. Lazare’s perceptive interpretations will forget his sensitivity and wisdom.”—Sherwin B. Nuland, MD, author of How We Die [TP: Nuland is fabulous]. “This jewel of a book reveals the many facets of the seemingly simple act of apology. … Drawing on a vast array of literary and real-life examples, from Agamemnon to George Patton to Arnold Schwarzenegger, from the current pope to the machinist who approached him after a lecture, Lazare lucidly dissects the process of apology. … Everybody on earth could benefit from this small but essential book.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Read two whole books on the topic?
Yes!
Damn it!
Stra-te-gic-com-pe-tence!

Any comments on your experience with apologies?

NB: Tom mounts his Preakness winning hobby horse again! Women are far far far far far far far far better-instinctive at this than we guys! [One of many reasons that women are better salespeople than men.] [Preakness? I was born in Baltimore; we barely acknowledge Kentucky's preliminary race.]

[Above: My notion of hotel room "windows that open wide"—Amsterdam, canal view; not that there are many non-canal views!]

100 Ways to Succeed #155:

Improve Your Business!
Become a Better Person!
Master the Art of Apology!

Study apology!
(Study = Become a serious student thereof!)
Treat apology as a “practice” (that’s Kador’s advice—and I concur)!
Practice!
Acknowledge that this “practice” can become one of a small handful of “strategic competencies”!