Some (More) (Really) (REALLY) (Important) Stuff

I am off this weekend to New Zealand for several weeks. (Tough life—there, I said it first.) I have been madly updating my "Some Stuff" piece before departing. Here's the latest—with, among other changes, two new parts: a 100+ book reading list; 47 questions for newly anointed CEOs.

(I do hope you can find SOMETHING of immediate use.)


I continue to revise and update "Some (Very) (Important) Stuff." I have done so again, adding Sections XIX and XX. The latter is on the topic of corporate culture. You will also see it below.

In a revision a few days ago, I included a paper titled "Acknowledgement." This time I am appending a paper titled "Systems Have Their Place: SECOND Place." The argument is that systems are indeed important—but their impact is largely negated, or worse, if the supporting culture is not in place. There are 10 case studies, from the U.S. Air Force to Mayo Clinic to Toyota. I've made this paper available before, but I have also just significantly revised it.

Culture Comes ... FIRST

WSJ/0910.13: "What matters most to a company over time? Strategy or culture?" Dominic Barton,* MD, McKinsey & Co. "Culture."

Bill Walsh,* NFL Hall of Fame Coach: "Culture precedes positive results. It doesn't get tacked on as an afterthought on the way to the victory stand."

Lou Gerstner,* former CEO, IBM: "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."

(*Note that all three of these CEOs are/were Charter Members of the Hardass School of Management. This was a realization that emerged for each one over time, but is stated here—UNEQUIVOCALLY.)

Culture With a ... 100X BANG

"I am hundreds of times [repeat: 100s of times] better here [than in my prior hospital assignment] because of the support system. It's like you are working in an organism; you are not a single cell when you are out there practicing."—Dr. Nina Schwenk, Mayo Clinic*

(*One of the two core values instilled by Dr. William Mayo in 1910 was, effectively, practicing team medicine. Designing the practice around the patient, or "patient-centered care" as some call its rare manifestation today, was the other core value. At Mayo, upon occasion prominent M.D.s have been asked to leave because of their inability to fully grasp the team-practice concept.)


There is a ton of high falutin' stuff written about "corporate culture"—hey, I've written some of it. But the unvarnished stuff appeals most to me. Former Burger King CEO Barry Gibbons is a pal. He orchestrated a magical turnaround at a troubled firm. And the heart of the matter, which he largely achieved, is described—UNVARNISHED—here:

"I didn't have a 'mission statement' at Burger King. I had a dream. Very simple. It was something like, 'Burger King is 250,000 people, every one of whom gives a shit.' Every one. Accounting. Systems. Not just the drive through. Everyone is 'in the brand.' That's what we're talking about, nothing less."

Problems Therewith

Bottom line 1: "Best practices" are to be learned from, NOT mimicked/treated as dogma. "Best practices" must ALWAYS be adapted to local conditions!

Bottom line 2: When pursuing "best practices," DON'T "benchmark." FUTUREMARK. Tomorrow's stars are already out there. Find 'em!

Bottom line 3: DON'T benchmark. OTHERMARK. E.g., a tech company likely can adopt a WOW service practice from a local restaurant or car dealer.

Bottom line 4: Make benchmarking EVERYONE's biz. Ask all to collect best practices from "everyday life." Share WEEKLY.

Corporate governance: Healthcare's service standard shouldn't be other HC providers. It should be Zappos.

One of VA's biggest breakthroughs apparently started with a nurse's observation from local Burger King. (Use of barcoding.)

Adam Jacoby: "Examples of excellence are everywhere. The art is in customization & execution. Don't settle for other's best."

But need not be grand! Can also learn a powerful tidbit from the corner store! (If eyes are always open.)

Lots of small biz owners are refugees from big business—trying to right "worst practices" they were muzzled by.

Corporate governance: Yes, and I discovered my corner shop owner was a PhD in economics and an MBA. Talked for full hour on service!

Sandy Maxey: "As currently used, benchmarking is a tool of self-reinforcing smug complacency—not about innovation."

[Ed.: The above entry is another collection of tweets on one topic from Tom's tweetstream. It's included in the latest (01.07.14) Some (Really) (Important) Stuff PDF he's been updating regularly. Our thanks to all his fellow Twitter denizens who've contributed to the conversation and, thus, the document.]

2014: Getting Started

As you know, I've been translating subject matter tweetstreams into organized and slightly edited text. We have now accumulated over 6K words on 20 topics. I have somewhat cheekily titled it: Some (Really) (Important) Stuff. My defense-of-title? I think it is really important.

'Tis the time to launch the New Year—with, one hopes, a bang. In addition to Some (Really) (Important) Stuff, I've included a reissuance of what I think is a (really) (important) paper. Titled, simply: Acknowledgement! "Simple" acknowledgement may be the most powerful force in the universe—at least in the leader's universe. Please read this. Please apply it. Now. As I say in the new introduction: It ain't exactly rocket science.

Happy New Year 2014!

Radical Personal Development

I launched the new year at 9AM 1/1/14 with a tweetstream on personal development:

Accelerating tech changes/etc. = Middle class in tank. ONLY answer: Determined/intensive commitment to personal growth. Start date: 1/1/14.

Public policy largely irrelevant. Revolutionary econ structural change here to stay. Only defense is personal development. NOW! [Remember, all these were posted 1/1/2014.]

You totally misunderstand overall econ context if you choose not to start today on RPD/Radical Personal Development.

If Reps & Dems all geniuses & worked together, econ tsunami would still thunder in. Answer is RPD/Radical Personal Development. PERIOD.

Remember: Excellent "Brand You" portfolio is about self-LESS-ness, not self-ISH-ness. You are as good as the network you develop-nurture. PERIOD.

Beating econ revolution: Invest in your network (share). Hit the books (study). Work your ass off. WOW-ify every project. Start: TODAY.

I like RPD. Just bought

Radical Personal Development. Start date: TODAY. Tomorrow: TOO LATE. Do ... SOMETHING. NOW.

RPD/Today: Download an interesting book. Schedule a lunch with someone interesting ... THIS WEEK. Concoct a next step to WOW-ify a current project.

RPD/Today: Check out MOOCs. Work with a pal on a reading list for the next 6 months. Call a good professional pal: Noodle on creating an RPD Club.

Boss: Your job is safer if every one of your team members is committed to RPD/Radical Personal Development. Actively support them!

Bosses supporting RPD/Radical Personal Development: Read Matthew Kelly's The Dream Manager.

Bosses/In the next two weeks: Plan a sit-down meeting with each of your team members concerning her/his RPD/Radical Personal Development aspirations.

Topics Of Current Interest

In the week between Christmas and New Year's a series of topics made their way into my tweetstream:

New Year's Week

This week you get a twofer. An ending and a beginning. Beginnings and endings are all important. Act accordingly.

Good or not so good results, most folks have done their bit to contribute. Show your appreciation this week.

Pope Francis has made an enormous impact on enormous institution with his way of being. Apply to your wee corner of the world this week.

Bad year? It happens. Be a paragon of grace and thoughtfulness.

Good year or not so good year, end it on a high with an un-showy show of energy and enthusiasm and appreciation and joie de vivre.

As the year closes, emphasize that we are a team moving forward. Use the word "we" per se until you're blue in the face.

Leadership 2014: "The Year of the Ear." [Listening rules!]

May each and every one of those you are privileged to lead have a 2014 marked by accomplishment and growth.

Make 2014 the year of committed servant leadership.

Thought for 2014 for those not in formal leadership slots: Every day, on or off the job, offers up a plethora of leadership opportunities! Go for it!


Remember (per me): Excellence is not an "aspiration." It's the next five minutes. Or not.

John Miller: You are only 5 minutes max away from Excellence.

Excellence is not a "culture." It is your next email or IM or 30-second chance meeting in the hall.

If you are a big cheese, excellence that translates into $$$ is about your elevator ride to the top floor.

If ever there were a day for Excellence via MBWA, it's tomorrow.

Remember, excellence is the work that gets done on the real or metaphorical "lower floors." Camp out there this week.

MORE Excellence

Personal impact:

Out work 'em.
Out read 'em.
Out last 'em.
Show up.

Vala Afshar: The Foundation of excellence is:

Extreme politeness

Vala Afshar (or TP?): Excellence is:

Learning people's names
Holding doors open
Greeting people with a smile
Being on time
Being prepared
Front-line Leader Primacy/Training/People First

FIRST place to look re performance deficiencies is excellence (or not) of full cadre of 1st-line leaders.

"Why do companies fail to let underperformers go?"
TP: First priority: Get rid of/reassign least effective 25% of 1st-line leaders, watch what happens.

TP: Often as not, many/most of organizations declared "underperformers" are poorly trained and have truly shitty 1st-line bosses.

TP: First priority: Get rid of/reassign least effective 25% of 1st-line leaders, watch what happens.

Tim Walker: The disparity in skill for those 1st-line leaders is immense, shocking.

New Year's Resolution #1: By end of 2014 we will have made phenomenal progress in improving the quality of our full cadre of 1st-line leaders.

New Year's Resolution #2: By year end 2014, neutral outside evaluators will agree we've moved 10 Big Steps down path to Training Excellence.

New Year's Resolution 2A: We will aggressively invest in training excellence. It will by and large take precedence over CAPEX.

Admiral Chester Nimitz on what the U.S. Navy needed more of, early in the Pacific War [World War II]: Training, TRAINING, MORE TRAINING. [punctuation Nimitz's]

"Tom, what really bugs you these days?"
TP: The "forever problem": Making "putting people 1st" more than lip service. (Maximize mid-/long-term profit via maximizing people development. Q.E.D.)

Vala Afshar: "In a connected economy, an employee investment is also a company brand investment."

TP: As never before! Carve that one into stone!

"Suck DOWN For Success"

"Little" people can get big things done in big places if you master the network; make "low level" pals in key places.

Remember, excellence is the work that gets done on the real or metaphorical "lower floors." Camp out there this week.

My motto: Suck DOWN for success!!!!!

Criticism, [Severe] Limits Thereto

Remember: Criticism poorly given rarely leads to correction. It leads to evasion—avoiding the task in the future.

Joel Heffner: Coaching is like walking on eggs; any dope can criticize.

Try Ed Schein's book Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help. Helping is far more delicate than neurosurgery.

Vala Afshar: Most people will do better work and put greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.

Wendy Maynard: Positivity goes a long way, as does asking people what they think went well.

Wendy Maynard: There's just been too much emphasis in management about "constructive criticism"; it can easily be abused.

Rich McDonald: Why many bosses stink—they watch too many military movies and forget that in-your-face degrading remarks never work for anyone.

Wendy Maynard: Most people were criticized unfairly as kids. As managers, they simply repeat the bad patterns.

Overdoing "Strategy"/Dealing With Strategic Disruption As An Individual

"Amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals talk about logistics."—General Omar Bradley

Great 12/28/13 FT book review: Britain Against Napoleon: The Organization of Victory. Chalk up the win as due to superior management/logistics.

Former McKinsey MD to team, on over-emphasizing strategy: "Don't forget the implementation part, boys. It's that all-important 'last 99%.'"

Jack Welch on "strategy": "Pick a general direction and then implement like hell."

TP: Could we call it WTFWUT* rather than "strategy"? [*WhatThe F*** We're Up To] Strategy is too grand a word for me.

Glen Taylor: Like sports—your competitors already know your strategy Success = execution; focus on that to win.

Clay Christensen [and his obsession with disruption] be damned; message for you and me: FIRST, get so frigging good at something that you have reason to worry about being disrupted.

If you spend your life worrying about disruption, you won't have time to get good enough at anything to be disrupted.

The Christmas “Thank You” Chronicles:
Tom’s Tweetstream

PLEASE consider this. Monday 23rd or Fri 27th or Mon 30th or Tues 31st: CALL 10-50 people to thank 'em for their support in 2013.

"Acknowledge" & "Appreciate": The two most important words in a leader's language. So, at year's end work your ass off on acknowledgement/appreciation.

21 Dec/I have decided to bug you every day until New Year's Eve to CALL 10-50 people to thank them for their support in 2013.

David Ivers: "It works well Tom! I personally delivered to the 14 people on my team a handwritten Christmas Card with a small Lindt Chocs box."

21 Dec/Christmas gift from you today. If shopping, be especially courteous to grouches and smile at stressed-out staff even if service is sub-par.

21 Dec/Best Christmas gift I've heard of this year: Customer brings a cup of coffee mid-morning to our beleaguered local postal clerk.

21 Dec/If, like many of us, you're shopping today, enjoy the madness. Engage the madness in the spirit of Christmas.

21 Dec/Saturday before Christmas. Cherish the madness. You're only here for a little while.

21 Dec/Be present today. It's the greatest gift you can give.

21 Dec/The worse your voice, the more vigorously you should sing the Carol. It's about spirit, not 6-sigma quality.

21 Dec/Pop into a church and light a candle for someone sick today. (Even if you are a strict non-believer.)

21 Dec/Make those calls to thank people for their support. Promise: You will enjoy it immensely.

We all need a kick in the ass. Once you start, you'll really get off on it.

21 Dec/John Barnes: "On your advice, I've been doing this for 3 years, always one of the professional highlights of the year."

Dave Wheeler: "And spend a few words/seconds to thank your frontline team individually and personally! Cost minimal. ROI monstrous!"

21 Dec/Cost < 0 because it ends up making you feel good at least as much as the recipient!

21 Dec/Nosy me. Asked grocery checkout person how many say "Happy Holidays." She said probably 1 in 4 or 5, "less by late afternoon."

21 Dec/Real key is making kind comment ... WITH EYE CONTACT. Otherwise the gesture is diminished by three quarters.

Trevor Gay: "Best gift I've had this Christmas was the chat I had with the homeless guy when I took my dog for walk today. Feel blessed."

Monday 12/23: Go on a "Thank you" binge. DAMN IT

The degree to which the average analytically trained businessperson fails to appreciate TYP/Thank You Power is staggering/pathetic.

If you feel awkward saying "Thank you" it's because you haven't practiced enough.

If you feel awkward saying "Thank you," tell the person you are thanking that you feel awkward. Zounds. The credit you will get.

Can you say "Thank you" too much? Doubtless, yes. But in the human race's first few million years, no one has overdone it so far.

I worry about Syrian civil war & 7,999,999 other things. That people will say thank you too much didn't make my "Top 8,000,000 Worries" list.

Steve Pfistner: "Ah, the joy of affirming another fellow humanoid."

"Affirming another humanoid"—Love it!

Handwritten notes make me weak in the knees.

An "almost" guarantee: Even if your first "Thank yous" seem forced, the response will be so overwhelming that you'll soon be in the groove.

At the very least, you can do a "Hey, thanks, bro, somehow we survived another year."

Mike Ferguson: "You're saying I have to make a call, not email, right? I thought so. Okay okay okay."

Ever heard the phrase "Bet your sweet ass"?

Cindy Starks: "This is one of those things that I just don't understand. I've tried. Why is it so hard for people to say 'Thank You' or 'Thanks.'"

I am as befuddled as you are.

Drew: "The importance of 'Thank you' is drilled into children, yet often lost on adults. It's something I had to relearn."

Jeff Hathaway: "Things like 'Thank you' should be on the list called 'assumptions,' especially for leaders. Maybe why the future is brighter for Women?"

John Hinton III: ? "I always say 'Please' and 'Thank you.' You never know what type of day someone is having. Best way to convey appreciation."

John Wheaton: "#1 reason engineers leave biz is they are not appreciated."

Damn right, John. We engineers are human, too :-)

John Wheaton: "Say ['Thank you'] in Monday meetings. Say it on rounds. The more you say it the easier it is."

Catherine Huggins: "Expressing thanks is just another way of acknowledging life is bigger than any one individual."

Lisa Rokusek: "Often it takes the doing of gratitude to ignite the feeling. We can't let a lack of feeling stop us from grateful actions."

Lars Leafblad (Fundraiser): "The five seconds of silence I experience when I call a donor for no other reason than thank you is deafening!"

Trevor Gay: "In my experience the most well received 'Thank you' is one for doing your routine task."

My version: No one ever has an "average day." Always something worth noting.

"The Power of Thanks" well supported by science too: ...

Some (Important) Stuff

We've updated our recent tweetstream-based PDF. 14 January 2014, now 35 parts.

Growing Like Topsy:
“Some (Important) Stuff”

It started with a tweetstream on "change." And it's kept growing. [Ed.: 35 parts as of 01.13.14.] Titled "Some (Really) (Important) Stuff":

1. Change. Focus/obsess on allies. And allies and allies. And MORE allies. Don't allow yourself to be distracted or sidetracked by foes.

2. Do good work. You'll spend most of your waking hours at work. Make the best of it—or you will have thrown away your life. (Strong words. Warranted.)

3. Start the day on a high. Bring a SMILE to work. IMMEDIATELY get out and about (MBWA). Etc. Call it "the little BIG things starter kit." First TEN MINUTES determine the flow of the day.

4. Close the week with a bang. More MBWA. Offer thanks for a job well done—"little stuff" more than big stuff. Call three customers. Thank two people in other functions who lent a hand.

5. Training. Training must go from "second best" to the very top of the heap. The training boss should sit next door to the CEO. Training courses should unfailingly make you gasp at their quality.

6. People development. Priority #1 is no less than a ... MORAL OBLIGATION ... to let nothing get in the way of helping our people—each and every one—grow and prosper and achieve beyond their wildest dreams. (Hint: You'll make a lot of money along the way.)

7. 1st-line leaders. It's simple (though rare): The #1 variable determining enterprise productivity is the quality of the full cadre of 1st-line leaders. (Recruit 'em and train 'em accordingly.)

8. Get aboard the "S-train" or else. SM/Social Media. SE/Social Employees. SO/Social Organization. (ALL HANDS.) SB/Social Business. Cacophonous engagement of one—AND ALL—with every aspect of the enterprise, inside and out, is determining the difference between winners and losers.

9. The "sharing economy." Sharing pays!

10. The "hang out factor." Little or nothing is more important than MANAGING your "Hang Out Portfolio"!

11. Civility. Civility allows you to sleep at night. Civility is a STUNNING competitive advantage.

12. "EXCELLENT" Meetings. Meetings are what bosses "do." Meetings are de facto Leadership Opportunity #1. Act accordingly.

Twitter Collection

Beginning on November 21 and into December 2013, Tom used his Twitter feed to post several long series of tweets, many of which were re-tweeted extensively. He collected the lists he'd created and assembled a collection that covers these topics: change agents and how to effect change, doing good work, starting the work week with MBWA, ending the work week with "Thank yous," the importance of training/development, one page on Leadership 2014, the impact of Social Media, and the importance of 1st-line managers. [14 Jan: Now 35 parts!] It's presented here in PDF form for your convenience. Please download it, share it, use it!

The "S-Train"/Twitter

The "S train": SM/Social Media. SE/Social Employees. SO/Social Organization. SB/Social Business. Any way you look at it, it's a revolution.

It is axiomatic: SM/Social Media is wasted (almost a "total waste"?) without SE/Social Employees & SO/Social Organization.

Can you have "social hot spots" in organization & play the Social Business Game? I mostly don't think so. Pretty close to "all or nothing."

Can you have a "social business" if the CEO doesn't play? I border on saying/believing "No way."

The CEO should almost exclusively focus on creating/maintaining/adjusting the culture. SM/SE/SO/SB is a "culture play," pure and simple.

I'd say she/he doesn't have to be an expert, but he/she must be clearly seen as "getting off" on the emerging game. Agree?

In most cases someone/s from somewhere/s [often remote] must demo the process/outcome/small successes for the CEO/top team. They rarely initiate. (I'll stand my ground on that.)

The whole point of an effective Social Business is that everyone plays. Marketing is the least of it. (Yes, I said "LEAST of it.")

EVERY function plays a crucial role. It is the interaction
per se that is the value added proposition.

The power of the "social" is aborted if several bits/functions de facto or de jure opt out.

HR by definition is [should be!] at the center of the vortex if truly want everyone to play the Great Social Game.

Can there be vigorous tension/disagreement w/in a committed Social Organization? Not only "Yes" but "Damn well better be." That's Value Add.


Puzzled at work? Discover ways to put Tom’s ideas into Action.