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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


Elementary my dear Watson… January 20, 2010

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Is it business-as-usual in today’s business climate?

Many would say … “far from it!”  But the basic information necessary for truly understanding your people, your process, your product and ultimate your Profit are still there… Albeit  that basic information can be hidden from you for a variety of reasons.  Possibly having fresh eyes like a Sherlock Holmes or maybe more importantly having an intuitive perspective that allows the appropriate discernment to take place. That’s what The Performance Detective provides.

All business, just like a good police department, not only need a set of  “fresh eyes” but also someone trained to gather and examine both the obvious facts and uncover the subtle clues at “the scene-of-the-crime”. We are frequently amazed that the resulting report or business summary seems so apparently obvious once the sum total of information is gathered and then appropriately presented.

We all need the chance to step-back from the immediate glare of both familiarity and a traditional expectation, and then try to look at all of the pertinent facts with a fresh set of eyes.  It is helpful to have someone gather that information who both possesses a wide variety of business experiences but also knows to avoid jumping to conclusions early in the gathering process.  It is also critical to relentlessly probe, and question, and examine, and look, and record, and then review ALL of the information and the people that make up the “scene of the crime”.

Too often this investigative task is colored by both intimacy and bias. The initial report or informative study needs to simply evaluate “what” has occurred and attempt to uncover the breadth of the “how“, but most importantly not delve into the “why” if you really want a productive understanding  of the case at hand.

Eventually developing an impartial report or organizing a set of marching orders for a new direction, or even deciding on a solid commitment to stay-the-course,  becomes an entirely separate and impartial effort.  It is quite easy to either simplify or gloss over the existing business environment or to complicate and over-study the issues.  In the case of  “good detective work” it really is important to clearly see and uncover as many of the facts as possible to ultimately know what is truly happening.  It’s surprising to learn,what any of us can really have missed, when it seemingly is right in front of us.

The Performance Detective wishes you good luck and good hunting, but … be careful out there!