Saturday, June 5, 2010

In search of Excellence

A while ago, I had read the book "In Search of Excellence" by Thomas J Peters and Robert H Waterman. One particular quote from this book had left an indelible impression on my understanding of Leadership. Sharing the same below..

"An effective leader must be the master of two ends of the spectrum: ideas at the highest level of abstraction and actions at the most mundane levels of details"

As professionals move up in the corporate ladder, I observe they becoming less and less Hands-On. Decisions made without proper understanding of ground realities or without enough attention to details almost always prove to be wrong. Hence it's imperative for professionals to keep themselves abreast of the latest happenings in their core business area.

For those who are interested, the book describes following 8 attributes of innovative organizations
  1. A bias for action
  2. Close to the the customer
  3. Autonomy and Entrepreneurship
  4. Productivity through People
  5. Hands on Value driven
  6. Stick to the knitting
  7. Simple form Lean Staff
  8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties
Yet another quote from this book on "Creativity vs Innovation"

"Creativity is thinking up new things, Innovation is doing new things.. A powerful new idea can kick around unused in the company for years, not because it's merits are not recognized but because nobody has assumed the responsibility of converting it from words into action. Ideas are useless unless used."

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Good To Great

Just finished reading "Good to Great" by Jim Collins.

I quite enjoyed reflecting/debating (with self) on the ideas put forth by the author. In the process, got moved by the following perspectives/Quotes
  • GOOD is the enemy of GREAT
  • "I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job" - Darwin Smith, CEO Kimberly-Clark (1971-1991)
  • People are NOT your most important assets. The RIGHT people ARE
  • Great companies made a habit of putting their best people on their best OPPORTUNITIES, not their worst PROBLEMS. Managing your PROBLEMS can make you GOOD, where as building on your OPPORTUNITIES is the only way to become GREAT
  • Stockdale Paradox: "You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be" - Admiral Jim Stockdale, PoW - Hanoi
  • Lead with QUESTIONS not with ANSWERS
  • Spending time and energy to motivate people is a waste of effort. The real question is not "How do we motivate our people". If you have the right people they will be motivated. The key is not to demotivate them.
  • The Hedgehog Circles (refer to the picture)

  • Leverage the Hedgehog Circles to define Organizational strategy
  • The more an organization has discipline to stay within it's three (Hedgehog) Circles, the more it will have attractive opportunities for growth. The challenge becomes not opportunity creation, but opportunity SELECTION
  • Sustainable transformations follow a predictable pattern of buildup and breakthrough

The book helped me putting leadership and management in right perspective. Recommended for all.