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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


Speed, Simplicity, Clarity … in a drive for Excellence July 1, 2011

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Speed, Simplicity, Clarity… in a drive for Excellence

What does it take to be really  be “Good” at a business today.  Many times we differentiate our discussion for either an early stage business effort or a rework of an existing business.  Essentially it has a whole lot to do with the size of the business and what it takes to accomplish positive change or new growth.  We can focus on the dynamics of delivering a service or a product, but success is in laying out a first approach or a new approach  as the identified goal.  We have an idea that things can be done better or faster or cheaper or the end result/product is just more enjoyable.

So how do we get there?  Many business analysts will provide case studies or approaches for who has succeeded in building the better mousetrap.  Businesses themselves have spent millions trying to get better or just improve in terms of; costs, efficiency, quality, productivity, satisfaction and ultimately profit.

Bottom line is that we evaluate by some sort of results measurement.  How we successfully get to that point is al about how we engage our people in this process.  Success is not only dependent on reaching toward our vision and on our clarity of purpose,  but also on developing a consistent approach which optimizes “what “ we are really intending to deliver to our customers, then optimize time, effort, quality and costs.   If we look at the overall approach of folks like Jason and David at 37 Signals,  they offer that the ultimate strength of success is all about our efficiency in… what we do?… how we do it? … and why we do it?  The power is in the efficient execution and understanding of the essential purpose.

As a detective and coach for bringing excellence to business… I agree that being focused on identifying a shorter and simpler path can be a lynchpin for productivity, it is also ultimately as critical that we stay centered on what measure of excellence we want brought to the entire process.  We are all creatures of habit and by valuing what we do and why we do it, it becomes essential to motivate our people to exceed  and innovate in the entire length of the process from selling to production and from delivery to follow-up.  Better yet… involve your people in the development, identification and execution of real process improvement.  Just do it!

The Performance Detective  @PerformDetectiv