November 22, 2002

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Less is More

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 11:01 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Less is More: How Great Companies Use Productivity as a Competitive Tool in Business by Jason Jennings, Portfolio, 260 Pages, $24.95 Hardcover, October 2002, ISBN 1591840015
The last time I spoke with Jason Jennings, we talked frankly about the amount of research and time it took for him to write this book. Well, the end result is definitely worth the effort he made, as this is a beautifully documented tome. Dont let the idea of documentation discourage you from buying this book, however. Jennings fine writing has a conversational tone that demands your attention and keeps you reading. On top of that, nearly every sentence has value and is loaded with content (and while this may seem like a given, try telling that to many of the business book authors out there perhaps they need a lesson in less-is-more). Folks, trust me, this is a great book that reads as easily as some of the best fiction.
Jennings first book Its Not the Big That Eat the Small, Its the Fast That Eat the Slow, co-written with Larry Haughton, appeared in the 6th edition of Jack Covert Selects and was a huge bestseller. I described that book in my review as one of the most fun, loaded with innovative thoughts and ideas that make perfect sense. Less is More follows well within the footprints of Its Not the Big and was also as difficult to synthesize not because it is too complex a book, but because it is so good, you cant help but share what you just read with someone else.
In this new book, Jennings tackles company productivitygetting more with less. First, he and a team of researchers created a set of criteria with which to judge a productive company. As the research went forward, they adjusted the guidelines to match their preliminary findings, ending up with: Revenue per Employee; Return on Equity and Return on Assets; and Operating Income per Employee. Then, they filtered the companies that made that first cut through the questions: Is this company overexposed? e.g. Southwest Airlines, Harley, Nokia, and Might this company pull an Enron?. After the companies that passed the test were determined, the CEOs were interviewed. Those interviews are incorporated into the book and offer much insight. Ultimately, Jennings concludes that productive companies have one unifying factor:
Productive companies have a different definition of the words strategy and tactics than most people in business. That difference is the foundation that allows them to stay focused and build remarkably productive companies. They have institutionalized their strategy.
What is so refreshing is that the selected companies are not the usual cast of characters. Jennings does include IKEA and Nucor, but also tells us about a discount chain in New Zealand that puts twice as much profit per sales dollar to the bottom line as Wal-Mart and nearly doubles Wal-Marts Return on Equity.
I am not saying that this book is as groundbreaking as, say, a new Michael Porter or Peter Drucker, but I am suggesting that this book is on par with the very successful Good to Great in showing you successful organizations that have implemented and applied cutting edge concepts. Jason Jennings has really done a terrific job in giving us this opportunity to learn from those companies successes and failures.