Book Review: The 360 Degree Leader

John C. Maxwell’s book,  The 360 Degree Leader, is an excellent field-guide for navigating the challenges of leadership at all levels of an organization.

Maxwell starts his book by dispelling many common dysfunctional myths that are found at line-level, or middle-level management.  Ideas such as “When I get to the top, I’ll be in control,” and “If I were on top, then people would follow me” are inaccurate adolescent attempts to understand the true nature of leadership–which is influence.

Maxwell continues by explaining the characteristics of influence:

  1. Position – Influence because people have to follow you.
  2. Permission – Influence because people want to follow you.
  3. Production – Influence because of what you have done for the organization.
  4. People Development -Influence because of what you have done for them.
  5. Personhood – Influence because of who you are and what you represent.

Maxwell gives examples of effective leadership in all directions: up, across and down.

To lead up well, he suggests you lighten your leaders load, anticipate your leaders needs and use their time wisely, and invest in Relational Chemistry–get to know what makes your leaders tick.

To lead across, Maxwell suggests you focus on completing your fellow leaders, instead of competing with them.   Be a friend, don’t pretend you’re perfect, and avoid office politics.

To lead down, Maxwell suggest you develop each team member, place people in their strength zones, model the behavior you desire, transfer the vision from above, and reward the results you desire.

Overall this is a good book worth reading and re-reading every so often.  I recommend it for managers at all levels.

Mike J. Berry
www.RedRockResearch.com

Great Mission Statements

Jack Welch, in his book, Winning, talks about how to create great mission statements.

He says most mission statements are dull, uninspired, and even unhelpful.  Most groups write their mission statement to describe only what they are in business to do.  While this is not wrong, it creates a whole bunch of mission statements that all look the same among competitors, and are not really valuable.

Welch suggests that a good mission statement not only describes what the company is in business to do, but how they are going to succeed at it.

For example, “We are going to sell lots of chickens,” is not as effective as “we are going to sell lots of chickens by growing the largest free-range chickens and advertising their value to the industry.”

Following his logic, I did some research and found some interesting comparisons:

Ford Motor Company in Europe’s mission statement (couldn’t find the U.S. mission statement anywhere online) is:

“Our Mission: we are a global, diverse family with a proud heritage, passionately committed to providing outstanding products and services.”

OK, so Ford’s mission is noble, but there is no explanation as to how they will succeed at their mission.  Compare this to Toyota’s mission statement:

“To sustain profitable growth by providing the best customer experience and dealer support.”

Toyota’s mission statement expresses their intention to make money by providing the best customer experience and dealer support.

Indeed, their mission statement tells what they are doing and how they will succeed.  This is an example of an effective mission statement.

There is a business principle at hand here:  Ambiguity is the enemy to progress.  It’s nice Ford wants to provide outstanding products and services, but there is no formula or direction given in their mission statement as to how they plan to do this.

Toyota states it will succeed by providing the best customer experience and dealer support.   Are they succeeding at this?

In 2007, Toyota became the largest seller of cars in America.  As customers, we vote with our money.  It seems then,  that they are providing the best customer experience, and are fulfilling their mission statement.

On a lighter note, Enron’s mission statement is/was:

“Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence.”

Mike J Berry
www.RedRockResearch.com

Book Review: Reinventing Strategy

I just finished reading Willie Pietersen’s book, Reinventing Strategy: Using Strategic Learning to Create and Sustain Breakthrough Performance.

Pietersen first sets the stage for the rest of the book by underscoring the need for organizations to be adaptable.  He paraphrases Charles Darwin, concluding that is it not the largest, the strongest, or even the most intelligent of species that survive, but the most adaptable to change.  He explains that corporations need to start thinking beyond doing things right, to thinking about doing the right things.

He explains that vision is different from insight.  Vision is what the leader has in mind for the group.  Insight is what the group learns about their customers needs, through studying their customers.

Pietersen describes a four-step process he calls the “Strategic Learning Process:”

  1. Situation Analysis (Learn)
  2. Strategic Choices (Focus)
  3. Align the Organization (Align)
  4. Implement and Experiment (Execute)

This process provides the basic toolset for gaining insight, and turning that into vision.  Continuous learning is essential, Pietersen says, and he quotes Arie de Geus’s observation that a company’s “ability to learn faster than competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage” they have.

He continues, “Nature, in effect, suffers from two massive learning disabilities.  When nature fails, it doesn’t know why; and when it succeeds, it doesn’t know why…therefore strategic learning is at the heart of successful adaptation”

Pieterson’s goes on to offer a formula for initiating change.  His formula is:

D x V x P > C

D = Dissatisfaction with Current State
V = Clear Vision for Change
P = Process for Getting it Done
C = Cost of Change

His formula suggests that if D,V, or P are not strong enough to collectively overcome C, change will not occur.

Pieterson concludes his book by suggesting Strategic Learning can be applied to our personal lives to enable personal growth.  Appling it to such topics as Emotional Intelligence, and Personal Renewal, the Strategic Learning process can help us throughtout our life.

Mike J Berry
www.RedRockResearch.com

Book Review: Good To Great

Posted by mikeberry | Agile Executives,Book Reviews,Leadership,SDLC Management,Strategy & Portfolio Management | Tuesday 27 November 2007 10:17 am

I just finished reading Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins.  This #1 bestseller is the best business development book I have ever read.  In fact–I would even say–I can recommend it with every fiber of my being.

Collins takes a team of 20 graduate students from the University of Colorado and dedicates roughly 15,000 hours of research to this book.

Collins’s team explores why some good companies become great companies, and why the rest never do.   Their research subjects were companies that outperformed the stock market index by an average of seven times during a fifteen year span.  Their findings are novel and counter-intuitive.

The first major takeaway I got from reading this book is that great companies have learned to say “no.”  They don’t pursue opportunities that don’t meet certain internal criteria.

The second takeaway is that achievements, although seemingly “sudden” when viewed by outside groups, are really a long set of disciplined decisions made over time by these companies.

The third takeaway is that leaders of these great companies were not magnanimous superstars, instead they consistently seemed to have a compelling modesty about them.

A forth takeaway is that these companies seemed to consistently put their best people on new opportunities, not on their biggest problems.

Another concept Collins introduces is the Hedgehog Concept.  This concept is that companies are most successful following opportunities that have three criteria:

  1. The team or corporation has a deep passion for the subject matter of the opportunity.
  2. The team feels they can become the best in the world at it.
  3. The opportunity is in-line with what drives the corporation’s economic engine.

I think I could write a twenty-page review about this book.  Let me just say you need to go and read it.  If you read any business-development book this year, read this one.

Mike J Berry
www.RedRockResearch.com

Book Review: The No A**Hole Rule

Despite it’s brash title, Dr. Robert I. Sutton’s book, The No A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, is a valuable text that effectively treads where few business authors have treaded before.Sutton makes a case for the need for insight and direction in handling Bullies, Creeps, Jerks, Tyrants, Tormentors, Despots, Backstabbers, Egomaniacs, and any other kind of workplace employees who never learned to play Sandbox 101.I found the book to be an inspiring read and found that it was full of great advice.  Two interesting management take-aways I got from reading the book were:

  1. Corporations loose money due to unbridled “jerkism” and the author suggests that the cost should be tracked in terms of a “TCA” (Total Cost of jerks) metric.
  2. Due to #1, progressive companies need to have instilled in their corporate values, policies, and hiring processes, the sentiment that being a jerk is incompatible with the corporate culture.   Interestingly enough, companies like Google actually have anti-jerk clauses in their employee handbook.

If you find yourself working with a jerk, you can do the following:

  1. Minimize your time spent with the jerk.  Don’t pick projects they are on, don’t attend optional meetings they are in.
  2. Another tactic is to lesson the influence the jerk has on your department and in the company in general.  Try to steer new obligations and assignments that effect you away from that individual.

I found Robert I. Sutton’s book to be an interesting read.  Sorry about the title, Mom.Mike J Berrywww.RedRockResearch.com

Book Review: Results

I finished reading Results: Keep What’s Good, Fix What’s Wrong, and Unlock Great Performance, by Gary L. Neilson and Bruce A. Pasternack.

I have to admit this book seemed much like many of the other “improving business performance” books that I have read, except that this book kept me confused through most of it.

The authors discuss seven different types of organizational profiles, some functional, and some dysfunctional.  After reading the book, I’m still not quite sure which was supposed to be which.  I even found the diagrams in the book to be confusing.

Here and there, the authors have little nuggets of good advice.  For example, they remind the reader that strategy doesn’t bring results, execution does.  And, that execution won’t happen successfully until the right people have the right information and the right incentives.

Despite the confusing text, I can tell the book had a lot of research behind it.  I wish the authors would have simply summarized all of their findings and presented the material with a “how to” model.

Unfortunately, I would not recommend spending time reading this book.  I think for the time invested reading all 279 pages, there are other books in this space that will offer more valuable take-aways.

Mike J Berry
www.RedRockResearch.com

Book Review: Product Development for the Lean Enterprise

I finished reading Product Development for the Lean Enterprise: Why Toyota’s System Is Four Times More Productive and How You Can Implement It, by Michael N. Kennedy.  This book explains why Toyota’s internal product development process has enabled them to surpass the Detroit auto manufacturers production in both volume and quality.

If you haven’t heard already, Toyota now sells more cars in the U.S. than General Motors, as of 2007.  It’s also no secret that Toyota makes the highest quality cars you can buy today.

In his book, Kennedy contrasts the Detroit product development models with Toyota’s model.  He explains that the Detroit manufactures have concentrated on improving the manufacturing process by incorporating JIT (Just-In-Time) Assembly, and investing in Robotics.  He points out that although gains have been made, the Detroit manufacturer’s have really been missing the core of product development–the customer.

In contrast, Toyota has focused on the development process, not only the manufacturing process.  He explains that Toyota invests much more time up front studying customers and getting their insight about product features.  Moreover, Toyota product managers “catalog” various component options and make them available for other product managers to pick from and learn from.  Ever wonder why basically every Toyota and Lexus model car has the exact same window-up/down buttons?  This is why.

These tactics give Toyota both the flexibility and the insight to be able to deliver higher relevance and higher quality in their products.  Not only does Toyota now sell more cars in America, in terms of volume, but also has more vehicle models available for consumers.  This is a direct effect from successfully gathering the voice-of-the customer.

You can’t help but commend Toyota for getting it right.  You should always gather customer insight with any product being developed.

I think the Toyota model translates well to software development in the following ways:

  1. Gathering customer insight about a software product should be mandatory.
  2. Structuring code in re-usable formats (classes) will improve the effectiveness of the development group over time.
  3. Keeping a library of UI artifacts and ideas can help a development team make decisions faster, and have a more consistent look and feel across a large project, or across multiple projects.
  4. In the software industry, we often make the same mistake that the Detroit manufactures make by supposing quality is our final endpoint (ie: “Quality is Job One!”).  We need to understand that relevance is different from quality, and we need to structure our processes to maximize and measure relevance, along side of quality.

Mike J Berry
www.RedRockResearch.com

Book Review: Winning

Posted by mikeberry | Agile Executives,Book Reviews,Leadership,SDLC Management,Strategy & Portfolio Management | Thursday 22 November 2007 5:03 pm

Jack Welch, together with is wife Suzy, have a Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller with their book titled Winning.

Following Jack Welch’s direct, no-holds-barred style, he presents quite plainly the road-map to successful management.

He talks about constructing corporate values and effective mission statements.  He talks about the importance of candor, respect, and effective reward-systems.  He continues with topics on Crisis Management, Change, Strategy, Budgeting, People Management, and finally Work-Life Balance.

This book is full of take-aways and insight.  It’s a real wonder to be able to take decades of Jack Welch’s experiences and have them condensed into a single book.  If you haven’t read this book, you should.  Soon.

Mike J Berry
www.RedRockResearch.com

Book Review: Freakonomics

Posted by mikeberry | Agile Executives,Book Reviews,Leadership,Strategy & Portfolio Management | Thursday 22 November 2007 2:48 am

I just read Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

This New York Times bestseller is an analytical exploration into social cause and affect.  Using analytics, Levitt shows how he was able to detect administrative cheating in the Chicago school districts, prove that sumo-wrestling is fixed, and suggested which baby names will be most popular in 2015.

I can’t say enough good about this book.  It was compelling to read, and a great mind-opener about the value of the relatively-new field of business analytics.

Mike J Berry
www.RedRockResearch.com

Book Review: Execution – The Discipline of Getting Things Done

Posted by mikeberry | Agile Executives,Book Reviews,Leadership,SDLC Management,Strategy & Portfolio Management | Thursday 22 November 2007 2:12 am

I just finished reading Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan.  This is an excellent book that examins the dynamics of making things happen inside of a corporation.

Bossidy and Charan make a case for needing the right people, the right strategy, and the right operations in place to successfully grow a company.  They further their case by suggesting that there is a fundamental problem in business management where executives mistakenly think execution is a tactical aspect of business, and should be delegated.  They suggest this idea is completely wrong and that executives need to shoulder the task of execution at their levels.

They suggest that every business executive team should ask themselves how the company is executing and what accounts for any gap between expectations and management’s performance.

I found two very practical elements from reading this book.   The first is the importance of reality.  Good managers seek reality, and encourage their direct reports, and peers to be as realistic as possible.

The second element is an elaborate description for conducting an effective strategy review.

If your department or company is contemplating a new strategy or a new major directive, this book is a must read.

Mike J Berry
www.RedRockResearch.com

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