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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.

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


"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


*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


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.")

“Innovation Is Strategy”:
Imperative #1 for the Crazy World of 2015/2015+

I'm labeling what follows a "précis" of my current concerns. It originated with a client request for projected "takeaways" associated with a forthcoming speech. I responded, as requested, with a single page. Then, more or less for the hell of it, I expanded the outline/précis to a 2,000* word short essay (PDF and PPT also).

Herewith FYI:

*It's been said a million times, but it must be repeated: The pace of change is unprecedented—and staggering. Robotics, genetics, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology, among other things, are literally "changing everything." White-collar work can be augmented (IA/Intelligence Augmented), but high-end white-collar jobs by the tens of millions are under threat (AI/Artificial Intelligence). Robots to vacuum the living room floor are terrific, but roboticized war via "autonomous drones" is too gruesome to contemplate. "Designer babies" (and other genetic "miracles") may result in extraordinary healthcare advances—but may also introduce the stuff of wild-eyed science fiction. Our organizations—and nations—must take all this into account. The world will change shape—for better, and for worse. And it's happening more or less in a flash. Leading physicist Albert Bartlett goes so far as to suggest, "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."

*From a business—and, for that matter, government—perspective, there is, in a sense, only one overarching strategy: constant, high-speed innovation. The likes of efficiency and top quality are imperative for every enterprise—and the achievement thereof is hardly a small thing. (It's one damn big thing!) But that's "table stakes" in 2015/2015+. The (only) winning hand for one and virtually all is an organization designed from top to bottom as a de facto "innovation machine." In three words: "Innovation is strategy."

*A "culture of innovation" must be embedded and nurtured by top management and made central to every leadership position. Who are the organization's innovators? EVERYONE. (Or else.) A culture of innovation turns every organizational unit—from 6 to 6,666—into a school house, a learning machine, a buzzing, blooming experimental laboratory. (FYI: It goes without saying, implementing and sustaining such a culture is a daunting task in most organizations—it requires daily attention, more or less forever.)

*Simple as it is to say, but ever so hard to instill, there is a "big secret," and it is "Whoever tries the most things wins." "Move fast, break things" is Facebook's mantra—and it must become the mantra of all of us. Translation: Literally everyone must be trying and testing "new stuff" every day. There is an uncomfortable corollary to this, captured in the title of a recent book, The Paradox of Innovation: Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins. To try a lot necessarily means to fail a lot—leaders must understand this and make it a centerpiece of the strategy and culture of the organization. "Good tries" that fail are to be celebrated, not punished or hidden. And hustle on an unprecedented scale should go without saying.

*Almost as important as lots of good tries is diversity. That is, every business unit must become a bubbling, "crazy" mix of views and backgrounds and tastes, feature constant intersection with outsiders of every flavor—constant contact with those who make us uncomfortable. Side by side with this bubbling cauldron is a "culture of curiosity." We only want team members—in every position—who question every thing every day, keep asking more and better questions—then, of course, tying it all to those constant tries.

*We are citizens of the world—the world is our source of playmates. The new technologies allow us to play with and partner with, day in and day out, practically everyone on the planet. Our source of ideas and partners is "everybody, everywhere." This approach is "not optional."

*Social media is everybody's "game." One social media baron said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation, five minutes to lose it." (True.) And a big-firm financial services CEO said he would rather have a single direct twitter conversation with a customer than spend millions on a Super Bowl ad. (Sensible circa 2015.) Add a dozen like, "radical" assertions and you have this: (1) Social media is ubiquitous—and is everybody's business. (2) Stay as near the forefront as you can—and get personally engaged. Big Time. Best time to start this journey? Today.

*There are two giant, still under-served markets: Women (who buy everything) and "oldies" (who have all the money). Women make the large lion's share of purchasing decisions—of commercial as well as consumer products and services. (Re the latter, in the U.S., for example, over 50% of purchasing professionals are women.) Every aspect of the organization—from strategic planning to R&D to after-sales service should be designed for and take direct aim at the still oft-ignored women's market. Likewise, the population is aging at an incredible rate; and the "oldies" have more or less all the discretionary income—to say their needs are under-served is gross understatement. What's at stake? For one thing, the women's market worldwide is an estimated $28,000,000,000,000.

*"Design" is an attitude, not prettification—and it has universal application. With Apple as our role model, we finally understand that "design pays (b-i-g time)." Both aesthetics and user-friendliness rule. But design consciousness that matters is not an afterthought or "add on." It should infect every decision. And, make no mistake, design consciousness applies to an 8-person training department as much as to a retail outlet!

*Little is as good as big, maybe better. Innovation over the long haul rarely if ever comes from enormous "breakthrough ideas." Steve Jobs never "invented" anything. He took extant ideas and polished and polished and polished some more and perfected and repurposed them until, eventually, something magical emerged. Also, and perhaps even more important, time and again (if you're trying enough stuff quickly enough), a tiny twist or turn will yield gargantuan results—e.g., change the entrance road into a Vegas casino from a harsh 90-degree turn to a gently curved road and the number of people who come to the casino doubles! Walmart significantly increases shopping cart size and small-appliance sales shoot up by 50%! (I could add 100 more similar eye-popping stories if I had the space.)

*Little beats big: Like it or not, our giant firms are rarely our best innovators. It's our SMEs/Small and Medium-sized Enterprises that spearhead innovation and carry the weight of sustainable economic progress. We must support these firms in every way imaginable, from funding availability to development of large-scale innovation incubators to instilling a national proclivity for entrepreneurial efforts. (FYI: In the U.S., women-owned venture-financed startups outperform—finance, growth—male-owned startups.)

*Little-within-big. The "death of hierarchy" is unlikely—and even unwanted. There must be a structure of accountability in any complex operation. On the other hand, much/most of the work in today's organizations will be done by project teams, project teams with a mishmash of members from all over the map, collections/collages of project teams, and constantly re-forming sets of project teams. Developing and sustaining a fluid organizational "structure" that allows these teams to be rapidly generated, change shape, and disappear—without losing the capability to execute and finish the job—is a major and challenging chore.

*"Sweat the details." An old boss of mine in the White House in the '70s said, "Execution is strategy." Great ideas need polishing and polishing—and polishing. It ain't over until the last 1%% is in place. Or consider this: A hotel is only as good as the efforts of the housekeeping staff; lousy housekeeping and a poor customer attitude on the part of front-line employees in general can torpedo a $100,000,000 hotel investment in a perfect location. (FYI: One retail genius said, "Remember, your customers can never be any happier than your employees.")

*Needless to say (but it always needs saying—and then saying again and again), capturing and keeping an energized, empowered, engaged, growing workforce is the bedrock of all the above. "Putting people first" must stop being a slogan—and become everyday reality and agenda item #1 in every organization of every size; the payoff is staggering, from retail to biotech. Training and development—with a passion and a big budget—are the bedrock of the bedrock; as one executive put it, "Why go berserk over training? Greed—it pays off in spades." (E.g., when the financial crisis hit, the Container Store, voted the top company to work for in America a couple of years back, doubled rather than cut the front-line training budget in order to increase the sales tickets from the lesser number of customers coming in the door. It worked. And yes, I did just say that a middle-market retailer, not Google or one of its sexy peers, was the %1 USA company to work for.)

*Women are the best leaders: Toward "gender balance" and more. The evidence accumulates: Women are the most effective leaders. A study reported recently in the Harvard Business Review determined that women top men on 12 of 16 key leadership traits—including "hard 'male' stuff" like goal setting and "results orientation." A McKinsey study showed that boards of giant companies with gender balance had 56% more operating profit than the male-dominated flavor that, alas, remains the norm. It is so so absurd not to act decisively on such information—which is just the tip of the iceberg.

*Forget the "vision": Improving leadership effectiveness stems mostly from assiduous attention to a bin full of "tactics." "Vision" is one thing, but I like to focus on the "(so-called) little stuff": (1) religiously doing your daily MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around—i.e., staying in direct touch with the likes of front-line employees and customers come hell and high water. (2) Visibly and constantly acknowledging staff contributions. (3) Apologizing with an "over the top" response after screw-ups. (4) Acknowledging that meetings are "what you do" as a leader, and turning them from "pains in the butt" into "paragons of excellence"—no kidding! (5) Becoming a Master of Listening—through study and practice. And about 25–50 other things I can readily think of. The "big stuff" (vision) is not unimportant, but longterm improved leadership effectiveness will mostly result from practicing and mastering that hefty bin full of tactics.

*Excellence is not an "aspiration." Excellence is ... the next five minutes. Or not. Excellence is the next conversation in the hall—or not. Excellence is lending someone a helping hand when you are under pressure of a crushing deadline and "don't have the time"—or not. Turning an "insignificant" task into nothing less than a Glorious Exhibition of Excellence—or not. Excellence is not about the long term—it's about right now, or it's a bad joke.

*A "culture of innovation" starts early—that is, the traits enumerated above should permeate the education system, from age five onward. For one (very big) thing, the experimental attitude—and "whoever makes the most mistakes wins"—are antithetical to traditional education, from the USA to Germany to China; that must change if we are to generate satisfactory and challenging employment and economic growth in the near, let alone far, future.

The challenges enumerated here are monumental; few will get passing grades in every category. But we cannot reduce the pace of change bearing down on us, so we must create a strategy and culture that encompasses a big share of the ideas above. And do so at an unrelenting speed.

In Conclusion and Associated With the Above: A Few of My Favorite Quotes for the Times

"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, personal services chain superstar

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

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

"Ready. Fire. Aim."—Ross Perot

"The essence of capitalism is encouraging failure, not rewarding success."—Nassim Nicholas Taleb

"Execution is strategy."—Fred Malek, entrepreneur, financier

"Amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals talk about logistics."—General Omar Bradley, commander of American troops/D-Day

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

"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, American statesman

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

"This will be the women's century."—Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, at the U.N.

"Avoid moderation."—Kevin Roberts, marketing's "guru of gurus"

"You can't behave in a calm, rational manner. You've got to be out there on the lunatic fringe."— Jack Welch

"Be the best. It's the only market that's not crowded."—George Whalin on great independent retailers thriving in the age of giants

[Ed.: Again, you can download a PDF or PPT of this blog.]

Nissan North America

The folks at Nissan invited Tom back after his appearance in August. This time, they presented the same speech to three audiences. Tom, make the same speech three times in a row? Not a chance. So, they taped the first one and showed the tape to the other two groups. Thus, we have two presentations, final and long, for three meetings of the Nissan North America Customer Quality Summit in October 2015.

Get them here:
Nissan Quality Summit, Final
Nissan Quality Summit, Long Version

The Leadership 43
“Some Stuff”

When one speaks of leadership, it seems as though the discussion immediately turns to the likes of "vision" and other lofty topics.

Be my guest.
Follow that path.

Since I don't really know (nor, frankly, much care) what "vision" means, I decided to go another route with a recent speech on leadership in Calgary (11 September).

Hardly a grand route.
But, I hope, a useful route.

So what you'll find in the attached is ... 43 items/notions/suggestions ("Some Stuff") that, if you try a few of 'em, you might well improve your leadership effectiveness.

(The attached PowerPoint presentation is heavily annotated—perhaps 7.5K+ words worth of annotation.)

Read it.
Try "some stuff" yourself.
Hold on to a couple of "stuffs" that seem to work for you.
I do think it may be of value.
(And I can say with certainty it’s taken me about 35 years to write this.)

Excellence 2015! The Leadership 43


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