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Habits of Spectacularly Successful Organizations January 17, 2012

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Since the late 70’s we have taken a microscopic focus at what comprises successful business strategy.  It began with an evaluation of organizations by McKinsey which only secondarily looked at both “structure and people”.  Of course that initial  work was made popular by Peters and Waterman that began looking  into organizational successes.  The investigations eventually  talked about the reasons behind the  success of  business teams and companies  and then tried to identify what common threads and  practical qualities existed among those highly successful organizations as proposed in the first book “In Search of Excellence”.  After the original book was published  the business community became smitten with the book’s popularity which then helped spark  the entire “Excellence” phenomenon.  Since then many authors  have also looked in depth at better techniques to realize excellence like Ken Blanchard and his “One Minute”  type of approach.  Then there have been additional examples of company excellence illustrated by Jim Collins in “Good to Great”, which followed with multiple examples  identifying who is successful, why they continue and how all of us can  nurture our own successful organizations. The common thread seems to be recognition of building a great organization that continues to flourish, more like building a well designed clock that will operate flawlessly for many years and in many environments.

Recently in the January Forbes article, by Eric Jackson , he refreshed  Sydney Finkelstein’s “Why Smart Executives Fail” Study with Finkelstein’s 2004 list of red flags, the Seven Habits of  Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives…

Habit #1:  They see themselves and their companies as dominating their environment

Habit #2:  They have no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interests

Habit #3:  They think they have all the answers

Habit #4:  They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them

Habit #5: They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image

Habit #6: They underestimate obstacles

Habit #7: They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past


We should focus on the importance of positive actions, recognize what are the positive  “Do’s” … what real traits and business acumen  should we engage in for a maintaining a path for personal and business excellence?

It is paramount that people focus  the hardest when you are on top, knowing that the natural inclination is to enjoy the success and forget about your competition.  The entire organization needs a good deal of “team-empowerment” and insuring the consistent “message” that everyone delivers, not just one person or one department.   One person or even one area never has all of the answers and therefore it is prudent to be vigilant about your competition and your customer’s changing needs.  In that same effort you need an operating environment that is conducive to bringing competing visions and welcomes all of your people who are willing to be thoughtful about delivering alternative visions.  The brand and message is very important but only as it delivers on quality and performance not the staleness of a never changing product or service.  As we look forward it is important to understand the economic landscape and, just like within a classic “SWOT study”, you need to appreciate both your strengths and be aware of your vulnerabilities.  Lastly knowing what worked in the past is only important in that it is a benchmark for the type of approach that was taken and not as a boilerplate for exact details moving forward.  As technologies and popularities change so to must the way businesses plan offerings and execute for the changing future.

Very often the people closest to the action are frozen  by either “bad habits” or misplaced “confidence”.   It frequently takes an objective eye and an impartial Detective to help organize a compelling vision and insure a new action-plan for the future.   Excellence is a destination and a journey which takes a real focus, a strong commitment, a relevant plan and a team all working in tandem.  Don’t sacrifice the future because you were caught up in a  successful moment-in-time.

The Performance Detective


What Really Drives Business Excellence? February 15, 2010

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Clambering for a new solution… everyone talks about the latest business guru or most recent business philosophy de jour.  We discuss the merits of what you should do to have your business improve its sales or expand its market.  It is frequently mentioned that we must communicate a new approach or instill a new spirit or establish a new set of goals in order to truly grow your business.  But for all of the books or authors or even latest fads it frequently comes down to two questions…  How do we get everyone on the same page?  And … How do we begin?

As the Performance Detective … I see people go to great lengths to try and understand what needs to be done.  The short of it, is that most people don’t know what has to be done and are prevented from doing it because they get lost in managing everything but the basics.  They either lack an understanding of how people are brought together with a well developed plan or product or they haven’t assembled a business team that can successfully implement a value-added strategy.

We have all read long ago about successes or heard about Tom Peter’s observations in his “In Search of Excellence” series, and we have listened to recent stories of success as identified by Jim Collins in “Good to Great”.    How do you capture all of the elements that these different companies and different people have in common?  Well in many respects it is very hard because people are creatures of habit and become locked-in a certain way of doing things or just in how they approach their jobs.  On the other hand it might not be as hard as you think to exact change in a positive way.

Several basics that help companies compete at a very high level; start with the approach of their people.  And it is quite important that everyone feel valued to bring their best to the table on a regular basis. An important element is to put people before policies and to insure that you communicate an atmosphere of positive energy and make no excuses for wanting the best.

High performance is not high maintenance and if you want customers-for-life you take the time to let your own people know that they are “your” customers for life and you believe in them and believe in their decisions.

You can establish the right team by both promoting managers and executives with a thirst for continual improvement and also weeding out people that are too caught up in the position itself.  Don’t even address strategy and policies and approach until you have the right team in place and you know how to successfully interact with one another.

Having a positive action oriented organization is the end of the beginning to develop an outstanding organization.  When your own people respect and believe in one another, you will have built an organization that will strive for the very best at every level.  You will excel from business planning and product development to valued sales performance to great customer service.

Understand that the small details mean a lot to the bigger picture.  But you will never get to that big picture unless you have the trusted team that can deliver in each area of your business.  John Miller identifies personal attributes in his QBQ work and then in his more recent book provides 47 ways to make your organization Outstanding. Without a team that is first knowledgeable on how to pursue excellence or simply expecting every member of their own group to interact effectively by osmosis … then the delivery of real company-wide Excellence is indeed impossible.  The real secret is in establishing a team which understands the team dynamic and one which believes in personal responsibility then being able to deliver outstanding service at every turn because it is part of the innate business culture you have consciously nurtured and bred.

The Performance Detective