September 13, 2004

Excerpts: Everything You Need to Know About Strategy - Part VIII

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 1:11 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

6. Do you routinely use hot, aspirational words-terms like Excellence and BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal, per Jim Collins) and Lets make a dent in the Universe (the Word according to Steve Jobs)? Is Reward excellent failures, punish mediocre successes your de facto or de jure motto?
Message: Hot begets Hot! (Cold begets Cold.)
And ... you heard it here first!
Dont get me started! My lifes work has been to re-paint dry and dreary management talk in Technicolor hues! I simply dont believe biz is dry and dreary. I believe its about people creating things for people. (Great Thai food at a restaurant or a pacemaker from Medtronics.) People serving people. People growing and achieving beyond their dreamsone Wow Project at a time.
Yes, I am the Guru of Hot, the (Business) Maestro of Technicolor, the Evangelist of Energy, the Wizard of Wild & Weirdand damned proud of it!
Im still in love with excellence. Exceeds expectations is catching a bus from point A to point B and arriving roughly on time and without anything untoward happening. Excellence is an ... Absolutely, Positively Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious evening partaking of a Cirque du Soleil performance in Las Vegas. So: Why cant a business process re-engineering project measure up to the CSPS? (Cirque du Soleil Performance Standard.) Answer: If the biz project fails on the CSPS score ... it is because of the shriveled imagination of the leader. Period. Call me corny. Call me nave. (At age 61, please!) But I am unequivocally convinced that any activity, no matter how apparently humble, can be turned into a Work of Magnificent Art. (Okay, Im drafting this during the Athens Olympics. One can understand Gymnastics as pure art, but Table Tennis? Give me a break. Well, Olympic table tennis is, literally, breathtaking ... eh?)
Jim Collins (most recently Good to Great) calls for BHAGs ... Big, Hairy Audacious Goals. Nice! Apples Steve Jobs exhorts a new product team, Lets make a dent in the universe. Nice! The late adman David Ogilvy charges a creative staffer with making an ad for kids clothing thats immortal. (Nice again.) Well, you get the drift. Great Aspirations (CSPS) dont ensure great results. But you can be sure that the absence of Great Aspirations will ensure non-great results.
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You never hear a Swiss say, I want to change the world. We need to take more risks.Xavier Comtesse, on the establishment of Swiss House for Advanced Research & Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Theres a corollary to all this thats of the utmost importance. If reaching for the moon is routine, then falling short will also occur more than infrequently. Consider Phil Daniels, a successful Australian businessman. At a seminar I gave in Sydney, he felt compelled to rise from the audience and share his wisdom with us. Im eternally grateful that he did. My success, he told us, is due in large measure to a simple philosophy, Reward excellent failures, punish mediocre successes.
While Daniels advice, I think, is fit for the ages, its todays nutty times that are my bailiwick. And in nutty times, with the playing fields morphing by the moment, time devoted to a mediocre success is a tragic waste. No less. (Yes ... tragic waste.) I once heard legendary GE boss Jack Welch say about the same thing. Nobody at GE during his watch, he told us, got in trouble for swinging for the fences and missing. The mortal sin was, instead, spending two years on a project which, even if it worked, wouldnt make the earth wobble a bit on its axis.
Some like it hot! I happen to be among them. Along with Jobs, Ogilvy, Daniels, Welch, et al. As Fast Company put it when reviewing Re-imagine!: In Toms world, its always better to try a swan dive and deliver a colossal belly flop than to step timidly off the board while holding your nose. Thanks!