PODIUM BANGERS

I BANG (!!!!!!!!) EIGHT BOOKS (heavy load!) ON THE PODIUM DURING MY SPEECHES.

They fall into two categories:

The first set of four makes it clear that there is more to life than the giant firms the “gurus” focus on (I’m often guilty). There are a ton of excellent/amazing/super-cool mid-sized businesses out there to emulate. Many are in "boring" industries. My name for them is "Small-ish/Mid-sized Niche Dominators." THEY ARE THE BACKBONE OF NATIONAL ECONOMIC EXCELLENCE. (Poster children: Germany's Mittelstand—until recently, Germany was the world's #1 exporter, courtesy their mid-sized dynamos; one report called the mittelstanders "agile creatures darting between the legs of the multinational monsters.") The slogan that captures the nature of these firms best comes from George Whalin in Retail Superstars: "Be the best. It's the only market that's not crowded."

The next three books focus on the so-called "soft stuff"—e.g., putting people (REALLY) first. The Soft Edge in particular is a gem among gems. (Soft Edge is particularly near and dear to my heart. I've long said that In Search of Excellence can be captured in just six words:"Hard is soft. Soft is hard." The so-called "hard" stuff—such as the plans and the numbers—are really the soft, squishy, and often fictional stuff. The so-called "soft" stuff—such as the people and culture and relationships—are the true "hard" Bedrock of Excellence.)

The last, The Second Machine Age, is simply the best book written to date on the implications of the tech tsunami that is rolling in.

Read 'em!
(Please.)

To wit ...

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, by Bo Burlingham

Retail Superstars: Inside the 25 Best Independent Stores in America, by George Whalin

Hidden Champions: Success Strategies of Unknown World Market Leaders, by Hermann Simon (said by some to be Germany's #1 "management guru")

The Future Is Small: Why AIM [Alternative Investment Market] Will Be the World’s Best Market Beyond the Credit Boom, by Gervais Williams

The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success, by Rich Karlgaard, publisher, Forbes

The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs and Boost Profits?, by Zeynep Ton, MIT

Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love, by Richard Sheridan, CEO Menlo Innovations

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, MIT

(more…)

What Have You Learned?

Tom spends a few months in New Zealand at the start of each year. While he's there, he often pops over to the University of Auckland Business School for a visit. It's refreshing to look at business issues from the perspective of the other side of the world. UABS's connectivity expert, Darl Kolb, has had Tom guest lecture in his class, and recently wrote about the experience.

“Best Slides”/PDF Doc

My monster PP collection—THE WORKS/1966–2016 at excellencenow.com—ends with an Appendix of "Best Slides," about 200 thereof.

Since that appendix is in a way a summary, I decided to convert it to a PDF document. You will find that document below.

It ended up being 49 pages long, encompassing about 13,000 words of text. I have beefed the slides up a bit to offer some "stand alone" coherence to the doc.

All yours ...

THE WORKS: Best Slides PDF

Slide Junkie?

If you love Tom's slides, and have been looking for a simple way to share them online, we have some great news for you. We've uploaded the first chapter of The Works to SlideShare. You can find it here: The Works: Chapter 1 Execution.

THE WORKS 1966-2015: Overriding Logic

This—circa November 2015—is my best shot. It's "THE WORKS." Some half-century in the making (from 1966, Vietnam, U.S. Navy ensign, combat engineer/Navy Seabees—my first "management" job); but also the product of a massive program of self-directed study in the last 36 months. It includes, in effect, a 250-page book's worth—50,000++ words—of annotation.

The times are nutty—and getting nuttier at an exponential pace. I have taken the current context as fully into account as I am capable of doing. But I have given equal attention to more or less eternal verities that will continue to drive organizational performance and a quest for EXCELLENCE for the next several years—and perhaps beyond.

Enjoy.
Steal. (That's the whole bloody point.)
P-L-E-A-S-E try something, better yet several somethings.* ** *** **** *****

*Make no mistake, this is a 14-chapter ... BOOK. I think and write in PowerPoint; but the flow is emphatically "booklike"—and the annotations are extensive, to say the least; if something needs explaining, well, it's explained. I dearly hope you will join me in this cumulative—half-century—journey.

**My "Life Mantra #1": WTTMSW/Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins.

***I am quite taken by N.N. Taleb's term "antifragile" (it's the title of his most recent book). The point is not "resilience" in the face of change; that's reactive. Instead the idea is proactive—literally "getting off" on the madness per se; perhaps I somewhat anticipated this with my 1987 book, Thriving on Chaos.

****Re "new stuff," this presentation has benefited immensely from Social Media—e.g., I have learned a great deal from my 125K+ twitter followers; that is, some fraction of this material is "crowdsourced."

*****I am not interested in providing "good presentations." I am interested in spurring practical action—i.e., pick a few things and try them. Otherwise, why waste your time—or mine?

Contents/"The Works"/1966-2015/EXCELLENCE!

Chapter ONE: Execution/The "All-Important Last 95%"
Chapter TWO: EXCELLENCE (Or Why Bother at All?)
Chapter THREE: 34 BFOs/Blinding Flashes of the Obvious
Chapter FOUR: People (REALLY!) First
Chapter FIVE: Tech Tsunami/Software Is Eating the World++
Chapter SIX: People First/A Moral Imperative Circa 2015
Chapter SEVEN: Giants Stink/Age of SMEs/Be The Best, It's the Only Market That's Not Crowded
Chapter EIGHT: Innovate Or Die/W.T.T.M.S.W./Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins++
Chapter NINE: Nine Value-Added Strategies
Chapter TEN: The "PSF"/Professional Service Firm "Model" as Exemplar/"Cure All"
Chapter ELEVEN: You/Me/The "Age of 'BRAND YOU'/'Me Inc.'"
Chapter TWELVE: Women Are Market #1 For Everything/Women Are the Most Effective Leaders
Chapter THIRTEEN: Leadership/46 Scattershot Tactics
Chapter FOURTEEN: Avoid Moderation!/Pursue "Insanely Great"/Just Say "NO!" to Normal

Epigraphs

"Business has to give people enriching, rewarding lives ... or it's simply not worth doing."—Richard Branson

"Your customers will never be any happier than your employees."—John DiJulius

"We have a strategic plan. It's called 'doing things.'"—Herb Kelleher

"You miss 100% of the shots you never take."—Wayne Gretzky

"Ready. Fire. Aim."—Ross Perot

"Execution is strategy."—Fred Malek

"Avoid moderation."—Kevin Roberts

"I'm not comfortable unless I'm uncomfortable."—Jay Chiat

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it."—John DiJulius on social media

"Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart."—Henry Clay

"You know a design is cool when you want to lick it."—Steve Jobs

"This will be the women's century."—Dilma Rousseff

"Be the best. It's the only market that's not crowded."—George Whalin

Brand You: 2015

Ann Friedman wrote an article for New Republic this month titled "Me, Inc.: The paradoxical, pressure-filled quest to build a 'personal brand.'" She ruminates on the purpose of personal branding and the complexities of creating one in social-media-saturated 2015. Friedman quotes liberally from the Fast Company article, "The Brand Called You" that Tom wrote in 1997, but she seems flummoxed by the entire concept. She laments how contrived it feels to speak about herself in a polished, professional manner. It seems she's taken the phrase "personal brand" too literally. Tom used it to contrast a person with a corporation when branding. With increased use of multiple social media channels, it's easy to see how creative professionals can blur and blend the lines between their personal and professional lives. Personal branding becomes even more important given that amount of exposure.

While it may be a challenge to determine how best to segment the personal and professional online, Tom's message is still extraordinarily relevant whether you're plugged in or not. Friedman calls the concept of a janitor's personal brand ridiculous. What she's missing is the core of Tom's message: Craft, Distinction, Networking Skills. Friedman's right that a janitor does not need a "flashy website." But a janitor's attention to craft and distinction will always be the key to her/his personal brand, and ensure employment long-term, whether with one employer or a string of them. Tom has proved his prescience once again: 1997 or 2015, be distinct or extinct.

Abu Dhabi

The World Strategy Summit, being held in Abu Dhabi from 16–19 November, has the goal of helping government and business leaders become more effective at executing their projects. Tom was in good company as a keynote speaker, along with Reneée Mauborgne, Gary Hamel, and others. He was featured at the pre-summit master class on the 16th and at the main program on the 17th.

Presentations for the two events and a long, web-only version are here:
Abu Dhabi, Pre-Summit Master Class, 16 Nov
Abu Dhabi, World Strategy Summit, Main Program, 17 Nov
Abu Dhabi, World Strategy Summit, Long Version

32 Customer Entanglement Strategies

There was no pressing need to write this. But write it I did. I admit to liking the term "Customer Entanglement." (Not to mention "WOW-ification.")

Here goes:

*Eye-popping customer SERVICE/PURCHASE PROCESS

*Eye-popping customer SERVICE/SUSTAINED FOLLOWUP

*Customer KINDNESS (K = R = P/Kindness = Repeat business = Profit.)

*Fierce customer LISTENING!! ("Core Value" #1? NO KIDDING!!) (CEO: "If you don't listen you don't sell anything.")

*Pursuing customer LOYALTY/maximizing Net Promoter Score (Live or die via customers referring you to others—10X or 100 or 1000X more powerful in LSWSM/Light Speed World of Social Media.)

*Focus on customer LIFETIME VALUE (>>100% profit from repeat business; hence after-sale activity [far] more important than pre-sale.)

*Scintillating customer EXPERIENCE (For EVERY business of EVERY size!) ("Experience" is NOT marketing-speak; 'tis the really real thing. Life = Theater!!)

*Experience WOW-ification via constant "all hands-all-the-time" experimentation (WTTMSW/Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins.) ("WOWIFICATION" IS A REAL WORD. BELIEVE IT.)

*Dramatically improved customer understanding and "WOW-ification" via application of BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE ("Kahneman-ization"—after Kahneman's masterpiece book on perception and decision-making, Thinking, Fast and Slow.)

*Consistent/"OCD" adherence to the WOW STANDARD of customer interaction

*Co-design and develop EVERYTHING with the customer. ("Customer INTIMACY" is NOT a "buzzphrase.")

*The Age of the "Social Employee"—everyone is in the "customer contact business." (Everyone = EVERYONE.)

*Optimal customer interactions via provider's XFX/CROSS-FUNCTIONAL EXCELLENCE (90% of product development and after-sales service screw-ups are more or less driven by lousy internal cross-functional coordination—need X-functional synergy; need X-functional leadership daily.)

*SCREW-UPS = OPPORTUNITY #1. Responding to problems is NOT an "opportunity"—it is, truly, Opportunity #1.

*Intimate customer connection via the "SUCK-DOWN-FOR-SUCCESS" strategy—"STRATEGY," not "tactic"; this is B-I-G. (Get to know the folks in the bowels of the customer organization—they are the de facto [or de jure!] decision-makers/reputation-makers.)

*All leaders need direct customer contact all the time. (Hey, CEO, called a customer ... TODAY?)

*Enabling customer SUCCESS as Gold Standard (Customer "satisfaction" is not [nearly] enough—e.g., UPS says the letters stand for "United Problem Solvers" [that telling name is service-marked]; UPS is in the "logistics management" "space," not "package delivery.")

*Increasing the SOLUTION SPACE WE INHABIT (Do more and more—AND MORE—for the customer; customer-as-partner; again, Social Media magnifies this opportunity 10X/100X.)

*Doing well THINGS THAT CUSTOMERS DON'T WANT TO DO FOR THEMSELVES (Larry Janesky's Basement Systems Inc. experiences rocketing growth—via "basement transformation.")

*Product or service as LOVEMARK (Marketing super-guru Kevin Roberts gold standard; NOT a buzzphrase.) (More Kevin Roberts: "Avoid moderation"—YES, circa 2015.)

*Establishing non-obvious customer connections via BIG DATA ("Big data" is a Big Deal for businesses of every size.)

*Customer entanglement via GAMIFICATION (Make interactions into games—power tool, though non-trivial investment.)

*Customer engagement via intensive use of SOCIAL MEDIA (One Big Biz financial service CEO says he'd rather have ONE twitter conversation with one customer than buy a Super Bowl ad!!!!!!!!) (Please re-read the prior sentence.)

*Lifetime customer coddling via provider's PEERLESS PEOPLE PRACTICES (To put the customer first, put the people who serve the customer "more first"!!!!!!!!!!) ("YOUR CUSTOMERS WILL NEVER BE ANY HAPPIER THAN YOUR EMPLOYEES." —John DiJulius, personal services chain superstar)

*Catering on every dimension from design to follow-up on those who buy the product/WOMEN (Which also necessarily means a high share of women in high leadership positions.) (Women now occupy >one-half of professional purchasing officer jobs—so women buy the bulk of commercial goods as well as consumer goods.) (HOW MANY DAMN FRIGGING TIMES AM I GOING TO HAVE TO SAY THIS?)

*Catering to the AGING/BOOMER POPULATION (At 50, half of one's adult life remains; ONE boomer turns SIXTY-FIVE every EIGHT seconds for the next TWENTY years.) (OLDIES = PEOPLE WITH [ALL] THE MONEY!!!) (HOW MANY DAMN FRIGGING TIMES AM I GOING TO HAVE TO SAY THIS?)

*Customer magnetization via PRODUCT EXCELLENCE (Good stuff is always primo.) Product design and after-sales service trump excellent marketing 10 out of 10 times. Mountains cannot be made of molehills.)

*Attracting customers by DESIGN/MATCHLESS FUNCTIONALITY (Apple has higher market cap than Exxon Mobil. Q.E.D.) (Applies to EVERY enterprise including the 1-person accountancy.)

*Attracting customers by DESIGN/STUNNING AESTHETICS (Applies to EVERY enterprise including the 1-person accountancy.)

*Attracting customers by DESIGN/WOW! (Applies to EVERY enterprise including the 1-person accountancy.)

*It's ALWAYS the "little" stuff—"Little BIG Things" (RADICAL "bias for execution.")

*"THE CUSTOMER PAYS THE BILLS!" (It may be a "yawner"—but it ALWAYS bears repeating.)

[Ed.: PDF and PPT are available for downloading.]

The Guardian

Today Tom's close to home, speaking to The Guardian Life Insurance Company in Boston. As always, we offer the slides from his presentation here:

The Guardian Life Insurance Company, Boston
Guardian Life Insurance, Boston, Long Version

Enjoy!

Six Sustaining—and Very Dangerous—Myths

A 65-slide PowerPoint is attached. It is derived from six fairly recent—and thoroughly researched—books on six key management/organization effectiveness areas where myth typically triumphs over reality.

The myths:

1. Star CEOs drive big enterprise performance differences.
2. CEOs must maximize shareholder value.
3. Stars are stars and maintain their stellar performance in new settings.
4. It's 2015, dude; speed trumps patience.
5. Introverts are by and large not my cup of tea; hey, noisy times call for noisy people.
6. I’ve been around the block; I can figure most things out.

The books:

*Michael Dorff, Indispensable and Other Myths
*Lynn Stout, The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public
*Boris Groysberg, Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance
*Frank Partnoy, Wait: The Art and Science of Delay
*Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
*Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

(Note: To state the obvious, the attached PowerPoint does not do justice to the depth and breadth of the research findings. It is provided as no more and no less than a "teaser.")

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