Category: Strategies

Some (MORE) (Very) (Important) Stuff

I have broken up my Golden Bay New Zealand
beach walks with more additions and edits to
"Some (Very) (Important) Stuff"—all in all about a 25% expansion. WHICH I HOPE YOU FIND OF USE! I have also added a second/alternative title page: "50 Ways (Inspired By Twitter) to Accelerate Your Journey Towards EXCELLENCE." Not sure which one we'll end up with.

Have at it!

Or, rather:


Hmmm. Maybe that oughta be the title?


By the time you read this I'll be winging my way to Kiwi-land. But, before I left, I made a last gasp to really (for now) revise like hell and tie down my "Some Stuff" piece. Ended up with 35 parts, 104 pages,12,629 words.

For the moment, I'm happy. To steal from my own title, I think it is ultra-wide-ranging (really) (important) "stuff." I think odds are pretty high you'll find ... SOMETHING ... to put to use.

At any rate, enjoy!

Some (More) (Really) (REALLY) (Important) Stuff

I am off this weekend to New Zealand for several weeks. (Tough life—there, I said it first.) I have been madly updating my "Some Stuff" piece before departing. Here's the latest—with, among other changes, two new parts: a 100+ book reading list; 47 questions for newly anointed CEOs.

(I do hope you can find SOMETHING of immediate use.)


I continue to revise and update "Some (Very) (Important) Stuff." I have done so again, adding Sections XIX and XX. The latter is on the topic of corporate culture. You will also see it below.

In a revision a few days ago, I included a paper titled "Acknowledgement." This time I am appending a paper titled "Systems Have Their Place: SECOND Place." The argument is that systems are indeed important—but their impact is largely negated, or worse, if the supporting culture is not in place. There are 10 case studies, from the U.S. Air Force to Mayo Clinic to Toyota. I've made this paper available before, but I have also just significantly revised it.

Culture Comes ... FIRST

WSJ/0910.13: "What matters most to a company over time? Strategy or culture?" Dominic Barton,* MD, McKinsey & Co. "Culture."

Bill Walsh,* NFL Hall of Fame Coach: "Culture precedes positive results. It doesn't get tacked on as an afterthought on the way to the victory stand."

Lou Gerstner,* former CEO, IBM: "If I could have chosen not to tackle the IBM culture head-on, I probably wouldn't have. My bias coming in was toward strategy, analysis and measurement. In comparison, changing the attitude and behaviors of hundreds of thousands of people is very, very hard. Yet I came to see in my time at IBM that culture isn't just one aspect of the game—IT IS THE GAME."

(*Note that all three of these CEOs are/were Charter Members of the Hardass School of Management. This was a realization that emerged for each one over time, but is stated here—UNEQUIVOCALLY.)

Culture With a ... 100X BANG

"I am hundreds of times [repeat: 100s of times] better here [than in my prior hospital assignment] because of the support system. It's like you are working in an organism; you are not a single cell when you are out there practicing."—Dr. Nina Schwenk, Mayo Clinic*

(*One of the two core values instilled by Dr. William Mayo in 1910 was, effectively, practicing team medicine. Designing the practice around the patient, or "patient-centered care" as some call its rare manifestation today, was the other core value. At Mayo, upon occasion prominent M.D.s have been asked to leave because of their inability to fully grasp the team-practice concept.)


There is a ton of high falutin' stuff written about "corporate culture"—hey, I've written some of it. But the unvarnished stuff appeals most to me. Former Burger King CEO Barry Gibbons is a pal. He orchestrated a magical turnaround at a troubled firm. And the heart of the matter, which he largely achieved, is described—UNVARNISHED—here:

"I didn't have a 'mission statement' at Burger King. I had a dream. Very simple. It was something like, 'Burger King is 250,000 people, every one of whom gives a shit.' Every one. Accounting. Systems. Not just the drive through. Everyone is 'in the brand.' That's what we're talking about, nothing less."

Problems Therewith

Bottom line 1: "Best practices" are to be learned from, NOT mimicked/treated as dogma. "Best practices" must ALWAYS be adapted to local conditions!

Bottom line 2: When pursuing "best practices," DON'T "benchmark." FUTUREMARK. Tomorrow's stars are already out there. Find 'em!

Bottom line 3: DON'T benchmark. OTHERMARK. E.g., a tech company likely can adopt a WOW service practice from a local restaurant or car dealer.

Bottom line 4: Make benchmarking EVERYONE's biz. Ask all to collect best practices from "everyday life." Share WEEKLY.

Corporate governance: Healthcare's service standard shouldn't be other HC providers. It should be Zappos.

One of VA's biggest breakthroughs apparently started with a nurse's observation from local Burger King. (Use of barcoding.)

Adam Jacoby: "Examples of excellence are everywhere. The art is in customization & execution. Don't settle for other's best."

But need not be grand! Can also learn a powerful tidbit from the corner store! (If eyes are always open.)

Lots of small biz owners are refugees from big business—trying to right "worst practices" they were muzzled by.

Corporate governance: Yes, and I discovered my corner shop owner was a PhD in economics and an MBA. Talked for full hour on service!

Sandy Maxey: "As currently used, benchmarking is a tool of self-reinforcing smug complacency—not about innovation."

[Ed.: The above entry is another collection of tweets on one topic from Tom's tweetstream. It's included in the latest (01.07.14) Some (Really) (Important) Stuff PDF he's been updating regularly. Our thanks to all his fellow Twitter denizens who've contributed to the conversation and, thus, the document.]

2014: Getting Started

As you know, I've been translating subject matter tweetstreams into organized and slightly edited text. We have now accumulated over 6K words on 20 topics. I have somewhat cheekily titled it: Some (Really) (Important) Stuff. My defense-of-title? I think it is really important.

'Tis the time to launch the New Year—with, one hopes, a bang. In addition to Some (Really) (Important) Stuff, I've included a reissuance of what I think is a (really) (important) paper. Titled, simply: Acknowledgement! "Simple" acknowledgement may be the most powerful force in the universe—at least in the leader's universe. Please read this. Please apply it. Now. As I say in the new introduction: It ain't exactly rocket science.

Happy New Year 2014!

The Christmas “Thank You” Chronicles:
Tom’s Tweetstream

PLEASE consider this. Monday 23rd or Fri 27th or Mon 30th or Tues 31st: CALL 10-50 people to thank 'em for their support in 2013.

"Acknowledge" & "Appreciate": The two most important words in a leader's language. So, at year's end work your ass off on acknowledgement/appreciation.

21 Dec/I have decided to bug you every day until New Year's Eve to CALL 10-50 people to thank them for their support in 2013.

David Ivers: "It works well Tom! I personally delivered to the 14 people on my team a handwritten Christmas Card with a small Lindt Chocs box."

21 Dec/Christmas gift from you today. If shopping, be especially courteous to grouches and smile at stressed-out staff even if service is sub-par.

21 Dec/Best Christmas gift I've heard of this year: Customer brings a cup of coffee mid-morning to our beleaguered local postal clerk.

21 Dec/If, like many of us, you're shopping today, enjoy the madness. Engage the madness in the spirit of Christmas.

21 Dec/Saturday before Christmas. Cherish the madness. You're only here for a little while.

21 Dec/Be present today. It's the greatest gift you can give.

21 Dec/The worse your voice, the more vigorously you should sing the Carol. It's about spirit, not 6-sigma quality.

21 Dec/Pop into a church and light a candle for someone sick today. (Even if you are a strict non-believer.)

21 Dec/Make those calls to thank people for their support. Promise: You will enjoy it immensely.

We all need a kick in the ass. Once you start, you'll really get off on it.

21 Dec/John Barnes: "On your advice, I've been doing this for 3 years, always one of the professional highlights of the year."

Dave Wheeler: "And spend a few words/seconds to thank your frontline team individually and personally! Cost minimal. ROI monstrous!"

21 Dec/Cost < 0 because it ends up making you feel good at least as much as the recipient!

21 Dec/Nosy me. Asked grocery checkout person how many say "Happy Holidays." She said probably 1 in 4 or 5, "less by late afternoon."

21 Dec/Real key is making kind comment ... WITH EYE CONTACT. Otherwise the gesture is diminished by three quarters.

Trevor Gay: "Best gift I've had this Christmas was the chat I had with the homeless guy when I took my dog for walk today. Feel blessed."

Monday 12/23: Go on a "Thank you" binge. DAMN IT

The degree to which the average analytically trained businessperson fails to appreciate TYP/Thank You Power is staggering/pathetic.

If you feel awkward saying "Thank you" it's because you haven't practiced enough.

If you feel awkward saying "Thank you," tell the person you are thanking that you feel awkward. Zounds. The credit you will get.

Can you say "Thank you" too much? Doubtless, yes. But in the human race's first few million years, no one has overdone it so far.

I worry about Syrian civil war & 7,999,999 other things. That people will say thank you too much didn't make my "Top 8,000,000 Worries" list.

Steve Pfistner: "Ah, the joy of affirming another fellow humanoid."

"Affirming another humanoid"—Love it!

Handwritten notes make me weak in the knees.

An "almost" guarantee: Even if your first "Thank yous" seem forced, the response will be so overwhelming that you'll soon be in the groove.

At the very least, you can do a "Hey, thanks, bro, somehow we survived another year."

Mike Ferguson: "You're saying I have to make a call, not email, right? I thought so. Okay okay okay."

Ever heard the phrase "Bet your sweet ass"?

Cindy Starks: "This is one of those things that I just don't understand. I've tried. Why is it so hard for people to say 'Thank You' or 'Thanks.'"

I am as befuddled as you are.

Drew: "The importance of 'Thank you' is drilled into children, yet often lost on adults. It's something I had to relearn."

Jeff Hathaway: "Things like 'Thank you' should be on the list called 'assumptions,' especially for leaders. Maybe why the future is brighter for Women?"

John Hinton III: ? "I always say 'Please' and 'Thank you.' You never know what type of day someone is having. Best way to convey appreciation."

John Wheaton: "#1 reason engineers leave biz is they are not appreciated."

Damn right, John. We engineers are human, too :-)

John Wheaton: "Say ['Thank you'] in Monday meetings. Say it on rounds. The more you say it the easier it is."

Catherine Huggins: "Expressing thanks is just another way of acknowledging life is bigger than any one individual."

Lisa Rokusek: "Often it takes the doing of gratitude to ignite the feeling. We can't let a lack of feeling stop us from grateful actions."

Lars Leafblad (Fundraiser): "The five seconds of silence I experience when I call a donor for no other reason than thank you is deafening!"

Trevor Gay: "In my experience the most well received 'Thank you' is one for doing your routine task."

My version: No one ever has an "average day." Always something worth noting.

"The Power of Thanks" well supported by science too: ...

Some (Important) Stuff

We've updated our recent tweetstream-based PDF. 14 January 2014, now 35 parts.

Growing Like Topsy:
“Some (Important) Stuff”

It started with a tweetstream on "change." And it's kept growing. [Ed.: 35 parts as of 01.13.14.] Titled "Some (Really) (Important) Stuff":

1. Change. Focus/obsess on allies. And allies and allies. And MORE allies. Don't allow yourself to be distracted or sidetracked by foes.

2. Do good work. You'll spend most of your waking hours at work. Make the best of it—or you will have thrown away your life. (Strong words. Warranted.)

3. Start the day on a high. Bring a SMILE to work. IMMEDIATELY get out and about (MBWA). Etc. Call it "the little BIG things starter kit." First TEN MINUTES determine the flow of the day.

4. Close the week with a bang. More MBWA. Offer thanks for a job well done—"little stuff" more than big stuff. Call three customers. Thank two people in other functions who lent a hand.

5. Training. Training must go from "second best" to the very top of the heap. The training boss should sit next door to the CEO. Training courses should unfailingly make you gasp at their quality.

6. People development. Priority #1 is no less than a ... MORAL OBLIGATION ... to let nothing get in the way of helping our people—each and every one—grow and prosper and achieve beyond their wildest dreams. (Hint: You'll make a lot of money along the way.)

7. 1st-line leaders. It's simple (though rare): The #1 variable determining enterprise productivity is the quality of the full cadre of 1st-line leaders. (Recruit 'em and train 'em accordingly.)

8. Get aboard the "S-train" or else. SM/Social Media. SE/Social Employees. SO/Social Organization. (ALL HANDS.) SB/Social Business. Cacophonous engagement of one—AND ALL—with every aspect of the enterprise, inside and out, is determining the difference between winners and losers.

9. The "sharing economy." Sharing pays!

10. The "hang out factor." Little or nothing is more important than MANAGING your "Hang Out Portfolio"!

11. Civility. Civility allows you to sleep at night. Civility is a STUNNING competitive advantage.

12. "EXCELLENT" Meetings. Meetings are what bosses "do." Meetings are de facto Leadership Opportunity #1. Act accordingly.

The "S-Train"/Twitter

The "S train": SM/Social Media. SE/Social Employees. SO/Social Organization. SB/Social Business. Any way you look at it, it's a revolution.

It is axiomatic: SM/Social Media is wasted (almost a "total waste"?) without SE/Social Employees & SO/Social Organization.

Can you have "social hot spots" in organization & play the Social Business Game? I mostly don't think so. Pretty close to "all or nothing."

Can you have a "social business" if the CEO doesn't play? I border on saying/believing "No way."

The CEO should almost exclusively focus on creating/maintaining/adjusting the culture. SM/SE/SO/SB is a "culture play," pure and simple.

I'd say she/he doesn't have to be an expert, but he/she must be clearly seen as "getting off" on the emerging game. Agree?

In most cases someone/s from somewhere/s [often remote] must demo the process/outcome/small successes for the CEO/top team. They rarely initiate. (I'll stand my ground on that.)

The whole point of an effective Social Business is that everyone plays. Marketing is the least of it. (Yes, I said "LEAST of it.")

EVERY function plays a crucial role. It is the interaction
per se that is the value added proposition.

The power of the "social" is aborted if several bits/functions de facto or de jure opt out.

HR by definition is [should be!] at the center of the vortex if truly want everyone to play the Great Social Game.

Can there be vigorous tension/disagreement w/in a committed Social Organization? Not only "Yes" but "Damn well better be." That's Value Add.

Change/Change Agents

Not sure what triggered it, but went on a Twitter rampage this morning (Thursday, 11/21) on the topic of change.

Herewith, FYI:

Change agentry: Forget the word "enemies." Focus on/obsess on ... ALLIES.

Big change is not about fighting the bad guys. It's about surrounding them with your continuously recruited allies.

Success at change: Building a stable of allies. Failure: Pissing and moaning and picking fights.

Change agent time distribution: 50% recruiting Allies. 40% tending Allies. 10% other. 0% fighting enemies.

Change: Allies do not automatically remain allies. Tend them and do NOT NOT NOT neglect them—the latter is a common sin.

Change the 4F Way: Find a Fellow Freak Faraway. (Change agents need playmates and distant playpens.)

Change you want: It's already happening somewhere. Find it!

Change is about end runs—not smash-mouth plunge down the middle.

Allies: Recruit the quiet ones as much or more than the noisy ones.

Change: Making loud noises is usually a loser's strategy.

Change: Recruit allies 2 or 3 levels "down" ... where the real work is done and from which the system can be indirectly manipulated.

Change: "Suck down" for success.


Change agents: Commit no minor sins. Don't let the bad guys find a narrow opening and bring you down for trivial reasons.

Change agents: Keep a civil tongue at all costs.

Change agents: Speak not ill of thine enemies. Even to pals in private. All the walls have ears.

Change agents: No: Charts and graphs. Instead: Demos. Demos. Then more demos.

Change: Success is more about momentum around small wins than it is about big wins.
Change: Engage your allies in the design process—even if it introduces impurities. They must FEEL true ownership.

100% of change-that-works is NON-linear.

Change: Joyfully let/encourage your allies to take 100% credit for the small wins they're involved in.

Serious change includes bad days, bad weeks, bad months, perhaps bad years.

Change agents: Re-read all emails 3 times before sending.

Social Media is a marvel. Do NOT shortchange face-to-face with Allies.

Change agents: Successful small wins with outsiders provide enormous street cred.

Change agents: Preaching to the choir is just fine. If the members of the choir preach to their choirs it becomes a ... MOVEMENT!

[Ed. Tom has produced a PPT titled "Getting Things Done" including the above.]