Archives: March 2011

New Audio: Tom Reads The Little BIG Things

This week’s additions to the audio files on the book page are in the section titled “DESIGN”:

#127. Design Is … Everywhere!

#128. Is It “Lickable”?

#129. Design Sign: Can You Get There from Here?

#130.Love + Hate = Design Power.

Collect them all, and when we’re finished, you’ll have an audio version of the entire book.

Solo Speech After-party

Giving a speech is [for me] a primal act.
It is the ultimate in being purely “alive.”
At its end I die.

The exhaustion leads to odd thought patterns.
I’ve been thinking about Kurzweil’s singularity a lot.
And juxtaposing it with my work.

I have no idea what the singularity is.
But I’m simultaneously clear about what it is—in the primal part of my brain.

I think [GOD HELP ME] in tweets these days.
Take notes in tweet form.
Herewith a set that emerged from my keyboard during DL494 Santo Domingo-JFK:

The more things change the more they say the same. Not true circa 2011. The more things change the more things change.

Pretty sure I agree with Kurzweil on the meaning of the “singularity” except for timing—perhaps it’s already occurred????

Intensity of giving a speech—each speech always leads to copious tears when I return to hotel room and adrenaline evaporates. It’s a form of dying.

I start “going weird” about 72 hours before a speech. I stay weird for about 48 hours after a speech.

Kurzweil says “singularity.” I say The Great Flip. We labor and wear our fingertips to the bone to feed and clothe and educate our computers-networks.

We now [ALREADY] work for our computers-networks more than they work for us??!!

We barely have time to eat because it takes so much time to feed our computers-networks.

If computers-networks could laugh spontaneously [WILL THEY SOMEDAY SOON?] they’d laugh hysterically at “user communities.”

Business goes a lot faster these days not because of our needs or even our wants—but because the computers-networks require us to go ever faster.

Who’s in charge: JIT-driven computer networks determine [COMMAND] the moment-to-moment behavior of millions/tens-of-millions of workers worldwide.

1985: Speech prep 2 or 3 hours—shuffling my (almost) static 500 glass-mount slide set. 2011: I work for PowerPoint—50 to100 hours prep-per-speech.

Soon we may not be needed.

I talk ceaselessly about the “eternal basics.” Perhaps I’m wrong.

Are we already living in the matrix?

If Thos. Pink quit making shirts I’d probably quit giving speeches.

Twixt ’97-’05 back pain treatment up 65% to $90B. No improvement in back health per population self-reports. (Source: Forbes 03.27.08)

Is fusion surgery a pure and simple racket? (Rehab-exercise program just as effective per numerous studies.) (Source: Forbes 03.27.08)

Santo Domingo Seminar, 24 March

Tom spoke in Santo Domingo Thursday. The public seminar was directed to representatives from various elements of the agribusiness industry.

Excellence: Innovate or Die, Sanut/Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 24 March 2011

The Little BIG Things
Synopsis Series
#46 The Heart of Business Strategy

It’s time for a new section in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next section in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence is titled “Special Section: The Heart of Business Strategy.’” Here’s how Tom describes this section:

I humbly offer the following 51 pieces of “commonplace advice”—”reminders of the obvious” (as opposed to marketing “cleverness” or “devious ‘strategic’ maneuvers” or financial legerdemain) for creating a “winning” “strategy” that is inherently sustainable.

You can download a free pdf of this section from The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series* by clicking below:

#46 Special Section: The Heart of Business Strategy

*The Synopsis Series is an adaptation that gives you a taste of the BIG idea in each of the 163 Little BIG Things. More information on the book can be found on this page. The Synopsis Series as released thus far can be found here.

New Audio: Tom Reads The Little BIG Things

This week’s additions to the audio files on the book page are in the section titled “TIME”:

#123. It Might Be Later Than You Think.

#124. Time Off for Smart Behavior.

#125. Time Out for … Daydreaming!

#126. Master the Art of Milestoning.

Collect them all, and when we’re finished, you’ll have an audio version of the entire book.

Little BIG Video #58
Strategy:
On People Turning 50

Here’s video number 58 from The Little BIG Things Video Series. Tom provides a compelling argument for marketing to the over-50 population, including this quote from Bill Novelli of AARP: “People turning fifty today have more than half of their adult life ahead of them.”

You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 3 minutes, 6 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video’s content: Strategy: On People Turning 50.

The Little BIG Things
Synopsis Series
#44 Now
#45 Impact

It’s time for two new sections in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next two sections in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence are titled “Now” and “Impact.” These sections are all about living in the moment, and asking yourself how you’re going to make the next 15 minutes matter.

You can download free pdfs of those sections from The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series* by clicking below:

#44 Now
#45 Impact

*The Synopsis Series is an adaptation that gives you a taste of the BIG idea in each of the 163 Little BIG Things. More information on the book can be found on this page. The Synopsis Series as released thus far can be found here.

New Audio: Tom Reads The Little BIG Things

This week’s additions to the audio files on the book page are in the section titled “LEARNING”:

#118. Making the Grade: Lifelong Learning Is a Mission-Statement Must.

#119. Out-Study ‘Em!

#120. Out-Read ‘Em!

#121. Out-Write ‘Em!

#122. Now Enrolling: “The Peoples’s MBA.”

Collect them all, and when we’re finished, you’ll have an audio version of the entire book.

A Brief History of the 7-S ("McKinsey 7-S") Model

I was asked to write a roughly 1K-word précis of the 7-S/McKinsey 7-S Model, of which I was a co-inventor. As far as I can tell, this is the first such history of the well-known organization effectiveness diagnostic.

Herewith (and my apologies for the wordiness):

In 2008 in a participant document accompanying a seminar in Dubai, event speaker and former McKinsey & Co. Managing Director Rajat Gupta said in response to an interviewer’s question: “The science of management continues to develop as scholars and global business leaders refine their approaches to organizing their enterprises to ensure both profitability and sustainability. There is surely no ‘one size fits all’ solution that can guarantee success in business. However, among the array of techniques and theories that can help strengthen business, I have always found that the 7-S framework offers a sound approach to combining all of the essential factors that sustain strong organizations: strategy, systems, structure, skills, style, and staff—all united by shared values. The 7-S framework remains one of the enduring elements of diligent, focused business management.”

Gupta’s rather strong comment came 28 years after Business Horizons, in its June 1980 issue, formally birthed the 7-Ss in an article by Bob Waterman, myself, and Julien Phillips titled: “Structure Is Not Organization.”

And the Business Horizons article, in turn, came three years after I, fresh from receiving my Ph.D. in Organization Behavior at the Stanford business school (completed while on leave from McKinsey), was summoned to the firm’s New York office and handed a fascinating assignment.

Relatively new McKinsey Managing Director Ron Daniel was launching a priority effort to renew McKinsey’s intellectual capital—though that term did not exist at the time. (It was more or less called “R&D.”) McKinsey’s fabled advisors to top management were under an assault of ideas from Bruce Henderson’s upstart Boston Consulting Group. And Daniel was determined to respond with vigor.

A major project on business strategy (the hottest of topics in 1977) had its home port in New York. But Daniel, from his own client work, was bedeviled by the frequency with which clever strategies failed to be implemented effectively. Though not a partner, I was asked to look at “organization effectiveness” and “implementation issues” in an inconsequential offshoot project nested in McKinsey’s rather offbeat San Francisco office.(There was a third project, on “operations,” run out of the Cleveland office.)

I should note that McKinsey’s arsenal mostly consisted of “strategy” and, secondarily, “structure.” All that was not to be cured with a scintillating strategic plan was to be dealt with by re-arranging the boxes on the formal organization chart. I exaggerate, of course—but not by much.

I finished a tour in the U.S. Navy in 1970 and went off to Stanford to pursue an MBA and eventually Ph.D. In neither of those pursuits was a page of Peter Drucker assigned. Instead I fell under the sway of the likes of Jim March (at Stanford), Herb Simon (March’s partner and subsequent Nobel laureate in economics), and Karl Weick (then at the University of Michigan). Simon’s Nobel stemmed from work on “bounded rationality” and its close kin, “satisficing”—the characteristic organizational pursuit of “satisfactory” rather than “optimal” decisions. March went much further, giving us such formulations as the “technology of foolishness” and “garbage can” models of organization, featuring, for example, solutions (pre-dispositions) wandering about organizations in random pursuit of problems to solve.

All of which is to say that I was attuned to an examination of organization effectiveness and implementation that went far beyond the mechanical manipulation of “charts and boxes.”

I began my work with a grand tour of McKinsey offices world wide and business schools from inside and outside the USA. At home I visited with the likes of Professor Simon at Carnegie Mellon and, in Norway and Sweden, various researchers examining work group effectiveness—e.g., the Volvo crowd in Sweden and Einar Thorsrud in Oslo, running work group/self-management experiments on supertankers!

Upon returning, I pondered my findings and began tentative presentations around McKinsey. In a 1978 article in Organization Dynamics, “Symbols, Patterns and Settings,” the first public expression of these ideas, I discussed unconventional change levers, influenced mightily by Jim March, such as the leader’s allocation of time per se as a principal “power tool.”

Progress of sorts followed, but it was a slow crawl until Bob Waterman was assigned as my putative boss. Bob, whose principal avocation was and is painting, had broad tastes and an inquiring mind—e.g., he became mesmerized by Karl Weick’s work in a flash. More important, he was a damn good consultant—and wanted our work to be constructed in a way that would help the average McKinsey-ite take a shine to issues of organization effectiveness. (Which was, after all, the point of the exercise.)

Bob was great friends with Tony Athos, a professor at the Harvard Business School—and known worldwide as a master teacher. He enlisted Tony to help us turn our ramblings into something “crisp” (a favored McKinsey term) and memorable and “user friendly,” as we say these days.

At a two-day séance in San Francisco, Bob and Tony and I, and Tony’s cohort Richard Pascale, arrived, more or less full-blown, at the “7-S framework.” (See immediately below.) The only, though significant, alteration became Tony’s beloved “superordinate goals” morphing into “shared values.” Tony was insistent that, corny as it appeared to be, we develop an alliterative model—find stuff that began with “Ss” in this case. In retrospect, it was a move of near genius. In my opinion, without the alliteration, which I initially found juvenile, the concept would not have been the sort being touted by Mr. Gupta almost 30 years later.

7S

The shape of the “model” was also of monumental importance. It suggested that all seven forces needed to somehow be aligned if the organization was going to move forward vigorously—this was the “breakthrough” (a word I normally despise) that directly addressed Ron Daniel’s initial concerns that had motivated the project. As we put it in the 1980 Business Horizons article, “At its most powerful and complex, the framework forces us to concentrate on interactions and fit. The real energy required to re-direct an institution comes when all the variables in the model are aligned.”

Whether or not it was at the aforementioned séance, the other seminal idea—that there were “Soft Ss” as well as “Hard Ss”—emerged as well and lasts to this day. I continue to say, over 30 years later, that the power of the 7-Ss and In Search of Excellence (1982) and my subsequent work can best be captured in six words: “Hard is soft. Soft is hard.” That is, it’s the plans and the numbers that are often “soft” (e.g., the sky-high soundness scores that the ratings agencies gave packages of dubious mortgages). And the people (“staff”) and shared values (“corporate culture”) and skills (“core competencies” these days) which are truly “hard”—that is, the bedrock upon which the adaptive and enduring enterprise is built. To state the obvious, we very much included the “Hard Ss” (Strategy, Structure, Systems) in our framework, then added the “Soft Ss” (Style, Staff, Skills, Shared values—or Superordinate goal); and insisted that there was no precedence among them. Deal with all seven or accept the consequences—likely less than effective implementation of any project or program or increase in overall organization performance.

As mentioned at the outset, the coming out party was the June 1980 Business Horizons article. Then Athos and Pascale subsequently used the model in their popular The Art of Japanese Management (1981), and Bob and I included it in In Search of Excellence (1982).

At one point there was a movement to oust me from my humble office when an Op ed I wrote appeared in the Wall Street Journal in June 1980, emphasizing the primacy (yes, I dared use “primacy”) of the “Soft Ss.” (Bob W saved me, as he seemed so often to have to do.) On the other hand, my favorite certification of our approach came almost 20 years later from the ultimate “Hard S guy,” McKinsey alum Lou Gerstner, in Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, summarizing his IBM turnaround effort: “If I could have chosen not to tackle the IBM culture head-on, I probably wouldn’t have. My bias coming in was toward strategy, analysis and measurement. In comparison, changing the attitude and behaviors of hundreds of thousands of people is very, very hard. [Yet] I came to see in my time at IBM that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game [my emphasis].”

While the “Soft S” emphasis has been my life’s work, I admit to astonishment when coming across a quote like the one from Rajat Gupta that opened this paper—suggesting three decades of staying power for our little model. I guess Tony Athos was right about the power of alliteration!

Tom Peters
Golden Bay
New Zealand
09 January 2011

Note to readers: For the best explication of the 7-Ss, the 1980 Business Horizons article remains a peerless source.

The Little BIG Things
Synopsis Series
#42 Re-imagining
#43 Wow

It’s time for two new sections in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next two sections in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence are titled “Re-imagining” and “Wow.” The Re-imagining section invites you to take a moment to be truly aspirational. In Wow, Tom argues that all efforts must be toward a “gaspworthy” result.

You can download free pdfs of those sections from The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series* by clicking below:

#42 Re-imagining
#43 Wow

*The Synopsis Series is an adaptation that gives you a taste of the BIG idea in each of the 163 Little BIG Things. More information on the book can be found on this page. The Synopsis Series as released thus far can be found here.