Tom is speaking in Phoenix (+63F temperature shift from Vermont) to the Project Management Institute’s North American Leadership Institute Meeting 2014. “I am excited beyond measure–I’ve been waiting 48 years for this,” he says. “I got my construction engineering masters degree from the civil engineering department at Cornell in June 1965. My thesis was on something very new–PERT/CPM. That is, Program Evaluation and Review Technique/Critical Path Method. Oh, and there was RAMPS/Resource Allocation and Multi-Project Scheduling. The statistical methodology was intimidating, but my brain was then supple, and I nailed it with a document on, more or less, the impact of varying standard deviations of critical path events. Gauss, Bayes, and others were my lodestones. Then off I went to practice civil engineering–as a U.S. Navy Seabee (from Construction Battalion) Ensign in Vietnam in 1966. Whoops. Though building complex structures such as bridges and fortified Special Forces Camps, I didn’t need a lot of PERT/CPM/RAMPS. But I sure as hell could have used some people skills–not to mention a little time behind a bulldozer or grader’s control panel. I.e., I was loaded for bear academically re project management technicalities, but AWOL on the ‘last 95%’–‘PAP’/People and Practicalities. I was royally pissed off at Cornell, and let my faculty advisors know it when my deployment ended and I went home for a bit of shore leave prior to returning for Vietnam deployment #2. Little did I realize that the ‘missing 95%’ I was so irritated at Cornell about was what I’d research and write on 16 years later in a book titled, In Search of Excellence. (Remember the ISOE battle cry: ‘Hard is Soft. Soft is hard.’ The ‘hard’ numbers are flabby/soft as hell; and the so-called ‘soft’ ‘people stuff’ is the true enterprise bedrock/’hard stuff.’) Book or not, I’ve never given the lecture I wanted to give on project management–until now. You’ll find here the PowerPoint I used, ‘The Project Leadership EXCELLENCE 42.’ You’ll also find a PDF version of the PLE42 PowerPoint. I’ve also attached two related papers, ‘Getting Things (THAT MATTER) Done Against the Odds and in the Inky-black Shadow Cast by the Guardians of the Status Quo,’ my implementation summa; and ‘Systems Have Their Place: SECOND Place,’ which argues that systems only achieve their potential if the culture of the organization is appropriate and well imbedded; culture, that is, is the lead variable. To put you in the appropriate mind set, I’ll share here the first slide of my PMI presentation. Peter Pronovost is the Johns Hopkins doctor who brought the checklist into healthcare. It has saved a staggering number of lives. Peter quickly ran into a stumbling block in the road to implementation. Hospital culture usually had to be dramatically altered for the checklist to work. For example, nurses had to be fully empowered to stop the process in train if the doctor skipped a step; that is, ‘simple’ checklists were predicated on true teamwork. Peter wrote about it in his superb book, Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals. Herewith, the extract that served as the text of my 1st PP slide: ‘When I was in medical school, I spent hundreds of hours looking into a microscope–a skill I never needed to know or ever use. Yet I didn’t have a single class that taught me communication or teamwork skills–something I need every day I walk into the hospital.’ Hope you find this stuff of some value.
I. The Moral Bedrock of Management: Maximizing Human Capital Development
II. TRAINING: Investment #1
III. The 34 BFOs/Blinding Flashes of the Obvious: This Is the (OBVIOUS) Stuff I Care About. This Is the (OBVIOUS) Stuff, the Absence of Which Sends Me into a … RAGE
IV. Systems Have Their Place: SECOND Place
V. PUTTING PEOPLE (REALLY) FIRST!
VI. #1 Then/1982. #1 Now/2014: A BIAS FOR ACTION
The document herein attached is just what it says it is–a potpourri, a miscellaneous collection of my favorite recent essays on EXCELLENCE. (Tom Peters. EXCELLENCE. What else?) Several are recent additions–“The Moral Bedrock of Management” and “TRAINING: Investment #1.” The pair are responses to itches I’ve long intended to scratch in print; now I have. “The 34 BFOs/Blinding Flashes of the Obvious” is a summary document of just what the title says, obvious and vital itches that few too managers vigorously scratch. “Systems Have Their Place: SECOND Place” is, dare I say it, one of my favorite pieces that as far as I’m concerned has not gotten appropriate attention. The final duo–“PUTTING PEOPLE (Really) FIRST” and
“#1 Then/1982. #1 Now/2014: A BIAS FOR ACTION” are updated papers on my two favorites-forever topics.
Don’t miss the interview at McKinsey.com, “Tom Peters on leading the 21st Century.” On the 50th Anniversary of the McKinsey Quarterly, they interviewed Tom, and the conversation basically covers his outlook on the next 50 years. Use the link above to find the online version of the interview, which includes several short video clips and a Twitter feed of the talk around what Tom had to say.
Mitch Joel of Twist Image did a “Six Pixels of Separation” podcast with Tom on the state of business today. You can find it on iTunes as SPOS # 429, or here at twistimage.com.
Listing Tom as one of 22 Thinkers to Follow on Twitter, Drake Baer at Business Insider writes this: “Unlike other members of the management elite, Peters is always in conversation with his followers. So throw a quandary his way.” High praise in Tom’s way of thinking.
Tom especially loved this Twitter exchange started by Thinkers50: “Thinkers Who’ve Reinvented Themselves via Twitter.”
Last week, I attended a memorial service for one of my great mentors, the generally acclaimed #1 leadership guru (and extraordinary humanist) (and leader in his own right) Warren Bennis. About 15 of his friends and colleagues spoke—myself included. It was eerie: We each—without exception—said the same thing, albeit in slightly different words. Warren made you feel clever—and at the center of his universe. This ability, in addition to its ultimate expression of humanist existence, may be the effective leader’s most valuable attribute when it comes to engaging the mind and heart and soul and energy of others.
Consider these related quotes:
“When I left the dining room after sitting next to Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But when I sat next to Disraeli, I left feeling I was the cleverest person.”—Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill’s (American) mother
“When you are talking to [Bill Clinton], you feel like he doesn’t care about anything or anybody else around but you. He makes you feel like the most important person in the room.”—Mark Hughes, screenwriter, Forbes blogger
“Leadership is about how you make people feel—about you, about the project or work you’re doing together, and especially about themselves.”—Betsy Myers, Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You
“It was much later that I realized Dad’s secret. He gained respect by giving it. He talked and listened to the fourth-grade kids in Spring Valley who shined shoes the same way he talked and listened to a bishop or a college president. He was seriously interested in who you were and what you had to say.”—Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Respect
“Rather than talking at the assembled group [about the work], he went about it from the other direction. He started out by asking people to tell us about what mattered to them. By sharing their stories with each other, people felt more connected—these gatherings became an opportunity to go from ‘me’ to ‘us,’ and from there to ‘What we can do together.'”—Betsy Myers, on Marshall Ganz’s work with community organizers, from Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You
I would—literally—beg of you to do more than skim these quotes. To be sure, I was very emotional throughout Warren’s service. But I was also stunned at the repetitiveness of the theme among people of remarkably different backgrounds.
Try and translate this into the/your daily practice of leadership. It’s not that I think you—or I, for that matter—can match the intensity or sincerity of Warren’s engagement. But we can at least be aware of our oft straying attention amidst a harried day. Warren’s days were doubtless more harried than yours or mine. But for the duration of the time you were with him—10 minutes or two hours—his ability to make you the star of the drama was matchless. At the very least you can acknowledge the importance of this state of affairs—and raise your personal awareness of your moment-to-moment state of mind. You can also practice attentiveness—one manager reports that she writes “Listen” on her hand before a meeting.
There is, by the way, a virtuous circle process that emerges here. Your attentiveness is fun—that is, you learn a helluva lot about the person, their motivations, and the task at hand via the process that one keen observer calls “fierce listening.”
You’ll like it.
You’ll try even harder.
You’ll get better.
(And in the process probably makes you a better person—nice bonus, eh?)
NB: One useful approach to improvement is becoming a formal student of asking good questions. This is an art—but also a science. I.e., you can study and practice deliberately. One point of entry is Ed Schein’s book Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Rather Than Telling; also see Schein’s Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help. When asking becomes your primary mode of interaction, your attentiveness and other-centeredness more or less automatically go up.
“While aspiration and the prestige of association may be timeless [branding] concepts, truly new territory has recently opened to the brand people. In 1997, Tom Peters, a motivational speaker and management consultant, published an article called ‘The Brand Called You’ in Fast Company magazine—and the era of personal branding was born.”
(FYI: Mr. Rudder is highly critical of my writing style in the FC article—failing to acknowledge that the piece was edited not by me, but from a phone interview by Fast Company co-founder and former HBR editor Alan Webber; besides, to add a gratuitous remark, Dataclysm, though a fascinating book, scores off-the-charts on lousy writing.) (FYI 2: I want to puke when labeled a “motivational speaker.” My definition of a “motivational speaker”: fly-weight, self-aggrandizing, delusional dickhead.)
Bob Sutton returns to talk with tompeters.com about his new book, Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less, which he coauthored with fellow Stanford professor Huggy Rao. Filled with impressive case studies, the book describes what works as well as common pitfalls. One of our favorite ideas is characterizing two models for scaling as Catholicism vs. Buddhism. Curious? You can learn more by reading Sutton’s new Cool Friends interview. You can also visit the book website, www.scalingupexcellence.com, or follow Bob on Twitter @work_matters.
I’ve already made a non-trivial update of my Annotated Master. It’s now 788 slides long—including over 200 annotation slides.
Thinking about slides per se, I wrote this note—on an early slide in the presentation:
The worst feedback I can get on some slide is, “That was a great quote.” Well, I think some of them are pretty darn good. But the point of this presentation is reflection and discussion—and action.
Fact is, I see each of these “great quotes” as fully operational—translatable into “TTDNs”/Things To Do Now.
My great hope is that you will take some bits that pique your interest, ponder them, talk them over informally or formally with colleagues—and, as you see fit, develop a concrete effort to test them in your organizational context.
I’m in this thing for learning and action and personal/organizational improvement—not as a provider of “great” or “clever” quotes.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my last two presentations—to an HR assemblage in Indianapolis and to an entrepreneurial gathering in Edmonton. I was moved to combine the two presentations, add a bit from hither and thither, and then go on an annotation binge. (Something I haven’t done for quite a while.)
You’ll find the end result here—a 567-slide PowerPoint presentation that includes about 100 “pages” (slides) worth of annotations. The goal is an up-to-date standalone piece. For better or for worse, it adds up to a brief (yes, 567 slides is my version of “brief”) representation of “TP’s story, circa 2014.”
I hope you’ll find it of value—and “steal me blind.”
The E-Town Festival, an Edmonton Economic Development initiative, finds Tom in Canada today. Quote from their website: “E-Town Festival feeds the mind and heart of people who get excited by innovation, creativity and disrupting common thought.” Sounds like Tom is a good fit as one of the headliners!
PPT presentations for downloading:
E-Town Festival, Edmonton Economic Development, Final
E-Town, Edmonton Economic Development, Long