Tag Archives: Ram Charan

Jason Kidd summarizes success: “Read, React, Execute” — one of the jewels from What Americans Really Want…Really

What do Americans Really Want?  – One thing that they want is success, without paying for it…

What Americans Really Want...I’m working my way through the new Frank Luntz book, What Americans Really Want…Really.  It is my selection for this Friday at the First Friday Book Synopsis.  I heard him interviewed on the Krys Boyd Think program on KERA (NPR in Dallas—listen to the interview here), and she described it this way to Mr. Luntz:  “Your book concludes that we are a nation of well-meaning hypocrites.”  Luntz agreed, admitting that we want small government, lower taxes – but better government services.  (See my earlier post, To be Rich without Being Greedy — What Americans Really Want…Really by Frank Luntz about this book to see another example of this of this “hypocrisy” – or, at the least, inconsistency).

The book has much to offer as we think about success in business and in life.  Here’s an excerpt:

You can learn a lot from listening to accomplished individuals talk about their craft…  Among the most memorable conversations of my career was one with Jason Kidd, one of the great basketball point guards – not just of our time, but of all time.  He had three simple words to explain the success on the court:  “read, react, execute.”  Read the basketball court not just as it looks at that instant but as it will look a split second later; react to the opportunities in front of you as they develop; and execute so that those opportunities are realized.

Read — react — execute.  There’s Ram Charan’s Execution in three words…

If you are in our area, come join us.  We meet this Friday, 7:00 am.  Register here.

“Execution is what brings the results in.” — So says the CEO of Dr Pepper

Execution is not just tactics – it is a discipline and a system.  It has to be built into a company’s strategy, its goals, and its culture.Execution

And the leader of the organization must be deeply engaged in it.  He cannot delegate its substance.

(Execution:  The Discipline of Getting Things Done.  Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan)

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Texans know -- this is the best soft drink!

Texans know -- this is the best soft drink!

Those of us from Texas have always known – Dr Pepper is the superior soft drink.  I don’t drink coffee, but my morning beverage has pretty much always been Dr Pepper.  I sadly confess that as I have gotten older (and a little larger) it has transitioned into their diet version, and my current drink is Diet Dr Pepper Cherry.  By far, the best diet drink ever!

Dr Pepper, though always great, has not always been run like a great company.  But CEO Larry Young, a break from ownership by a British company, and a good strategy (healthier products, with catchy names, like Mott’s for Tots), have all made a difference.  This is chronicled in the article Why Dr Pepper Is in the Pink of Health:  Freed from Cadbury in 2008, it has been cutting costs while building up brands and sales from Business Week.

The article concludes with a key quote from CEO Young about the most critical issue:  you guessed it, it’s execution.

But the biggest key to success is distribution. Recently Dr Pepper scored a coup: a fountain spigot in McDonald’s (MCD) 14,000 U.S. restaurants. And staffers like Tony English, DPSG’s director of supermarket sales in Dallas-Fort Worth, where people drink more Dr Pepper than Coke, spend their days hustling from one store to the next. His team’s only day off: Christmas. Young would have it no other way. “Strategy is fantastic,” he says. “But execution is what brings the results in.” (emphasis added).

Yes, strategy is fantastic.  But without the ability to execute, strategy is just wishful thinking…

And by the way, the NFL has about half of its teams each week lose, not because the strategy was bad, but because the execution wasn’t there.  I forget who said it, but yesterday in a post-game interview, there was the familiar mantra:  “we failed to execute.”

The lesson is clear, and it is reinforced time and time again:  “Execution is what brings the results in.”

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To purchase my synopsis of Execution, with audio + handout, go to our companion website 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

Malcolm Gladwell is #2 on the list of the Business Top 50 Thinkers

CK Prahalad -- #1 on the list

CK Prahalad -- #1 on the list

I’ve just become aware of the current listing of the Thinkers 50 (The definitive listing of the world’s top 50 business thinkers), which lists the most influential business thinkers by ranked order of importance and influence, based on 10 measures:

The Measures:

1. Originality of Ideas:  Are the ideas and examples used by the thinker original?
2. Practicality of Ideas:  Have the ideas promoted by the thinker been implemented in organizations? And, has the implementation been successful?
3. Presentation Style:  How proficient is the thinker at presenting his/her ideas orally?
4. Written Communication:  How proficient is the thinker at presenting his/her ideas in writing?
5. Loyalty of Followers:  How committed are the thinker’s disciples to spreading the message and putting it to work?
6. Business Sense:  Do they practice what they preach in their own business?
7. International Outlook:  How international are they in outlook and thinking?
8. Rigor of Research:  How well researched are their books and presentations?
9. Impact of Ideas:  Have their ideas had an impact on the way people manage or think about management?
10. Guru Factor:  The clincher: are they, for better or worse, guru material by your definition and expectation?

It is an impressive list, and one that I think most of our readers will agree with.  Among the authors in the top 20 that we have chosen for presentations at the First Friday Book Synopsis are:

Malcolm Gladwell -- #2 on the list

Malcolm Gladwell -- #2 on the list

Malcolm Gladwell (#2), W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgnew (#5), Bill Gates (#7), Gary Hamel (#10), Ram Charan (#13), Marshall Goldsmith (# 14), Jim Collins (#17), Tom Peters (#19), and Jack Welch (#20).

The #1 Thinker is CK Prahalad, the author of the book:  The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid:  Eradicating Poverty through Profits.  This book is one that I am aware of, but have not read and presented.

For a brief slideshow of the top 15, go to the Huffington Post article The Top 15 Business Thinkers: Thinkers 50.  For the complete list of the 50, click here to go the web site for the Thinkers 50.  You will find a video interview with CK Prahalad, and profiles of all of the rest on the list.

(By the way, check out the post by our blogging team member Bob Morris:  Q#147:  Who were the most influential business thinkers in the 20th century?)

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You can order our synopses for many of these books, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com – including all three of Gladwell’s books, The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgnew’s Blue Ocean Strategy, Charan’s Execution (and other titles), and Collins’ Good to Great (and soon, Collins How the Mighty Fall – we have presented it, and it will be available on the web site soon) — plus other titles by some of these leading business thinkers.

Which is It? Overmanaged and Underled — OR, Undermanaged and Overled? How about Undermanaged and Underled?

In Leading Change, John Kotter states that some organizations try to implement a change program which is then likely to be “overmanaged and underled.”  In The Leadership Pipeline:  How to Build the Leadership-Powered Company by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel, that theme is more broadly developed.  They write:

Because of the new business realities, including ever increasing and unpredictable complexity; AND, because businesses “dramatically reduced their investment in talent development, greatly reducing or even eliminating training programs, development assignments, and time for coaching,” the famine for leaders is acute.

1.              The need for leaders has grown exponentially.
2.              There are not enough leaders to meet the demand.
3.              There is not enough “talent” from which to develop enough leaders.
4.              The inevitable consequence is that many (most?) companies are at least partly underled, thus underperforming.

Other authors, almost too numerous to mention, echo such sentiments.  Now comes The Best Leadership Is Good Management:  Too many so-called leaders fancy themselves above the messy, but crucial, work of managing by Henry Mintzberg in the latest Business Week (published on-line on Aug. 6, 2009).  Mr. Mintzberg argues that the opposite is true.  He states:

Corporate America has had too much of fancy leadership disconnected from plain old management.
We’re overled and undermanaged. As someone who teaches, writes, and advises about management, I hear stories about this every day: about CEOs who don’t manage so much as deem—pronouncing performance targets, for instance, that are supposed to be met by whoever is doing the real managing.

So – which is it?  I suggest that it is both.  I think there has been a failure in management.  This is the point of such books as Execution and Six Disciplines Execution Revolution.  Execution is all about management processes, actually getting the job done, well, and on time.  But I think we also face a failure of leadership.  It is leadership failure that keeps companies from facing an uncertain future with a strategy to survive and thrive.  How many have said that General Motors should have seen the changing landscape far before it did?  Leadership is about seeing the big picture, setting the direction—and then making sure that the job gets done.

So – I agree that we’ve got to get a whole lot better at management.  But we’ve also got to get a whole lot better at leadership.

Robert Greenleaf nailed this years ago in Servant Leadership.  He described two kinds of leaders.  His terms were different:  Conceptualizers and Operators.  But the two roles are the same – an organization needs leaders to help them see the future (conceptualizers), and leaders who can make that future happen (operators).

So, here’s Randy weighing in on the debate.  I think Mr. Mintzberg is both right and wrong.  He is right – we are undermanaged.  But he is wrong – we are not overled.  Too many American organizations are, sadly, both undermanaged and underled.

Once you Decide and Plan — It’s All About Execution

Yes, plans can be tough to make.  Planning done right is hard work, and a failure to plan leads to ongoing failure down the road.  But most business failure has more to do with a failure to execute than it does with a failure to plan.

This message was stated clearly in the Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan book:  Execution:  The Discipline of Getting Things Done.  They wrote:  “Many people regard execution as detail work that’s beneath the dignity of a business leader.  That’s wrong. To the contrary, it’s a leader’s most important work…  Putting an execution environment in place is hard, but losing it is easy…  When a company executes, its people are not victims…  When a company executes well, its people are not brought to their knees by changes in the business environment.”  Here’s their definition of execution:  Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing hows and whats, questioning, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability.

A few other books have picked up and built upon the execution theme.  Notably, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution:  Solving the One Business Problem that Makes Solving All Other Problems Easier by Gary Harpst.  In this book, Harpst quotes from business guru Michael Porter:  “It’s better to have grade-B strategy and grade-A execution than the other way around.” I like Harpst’s simple reminder:  STRATEGY:  DECIDING WHAT TO DO — EXECUTION:  GETTING IT DONE. “Of the two, execution is far more difficult to achieve.”

Another volume to consider is the one by Amir Hartman,  Ruthless Execution:  What Business Leaders Do When Their Companies Hit The Wall.  He finds execution especially valuable when a company hits a tough spot:  “Ruthless execution is the method and strategies that business leaders employ to break through performance walls.”

I thought of these books in church this morning.  We had a guest preacher, the regional Bishop for the Methodist Church, Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe.  He asked a simple question:  “What is unfinished?  What unfinished business do you need to finish?”  The text was from 2 Corinthians 8:11 —  “Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it.”  The subject  at hand dealt with helping those in need.  But the underlying principle was unmistakable:  finish what you start.  Finish what you plan.  Plan — then execute your plan.

So, yes, I confess that my mind drifted to these business volumes in the middle of church.  Why?  Because the truth is inescapable — for business, and for my own life.  Starting is relatively easy.  Finishing strong, finishing well… executing.  That’s where success is truly won.

{To purchase my synopses of Execution and Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, with handout + audio, go to our 15 Minute Business Book site}.


Panic — What Some (A Lot of!) People Feel in this Economic Climate

A childhood memory.  I loved comic books.  And I liked the ads in the back nearly as much as the comic books themselves.  Look like Charles Atlas; buy x-ray specs; sell Grit.  I wish the world could be filled with only Grit articles.  This is from an early editorial, (yes, I found this on Wikipedia):
Always keep Grit from being pessimistic. Avoid printing those things which distort the minds of readers or make them feel at odds with the world. Avoid showing the wrong side of things, or making people feel discontented. Do nothing that will encourage fear, worry, or temptation… Wherever possible, suggest peace and good will toward men. Give our readers courage and strength for their daily tasks. Put happy thoughts, cheer, and contentment into their hearts.

Well — it’s a nice thought.  A newspaper with only good news.  A world with only good news.  But that’s a little tough in these days.  The news is nearly all bad — and the news may be worse than we thought.  Consider these words from No Return to Normal:  Why the economic crisis, and its solution, are bigger than you think, by James K. Galbraith from the Washington MonthlyThe deepest belief of the modern economist is that the economy is a self-stabilizing system. This means that, even if nothing is done, normal rates of employment and production will someday return. Practically all modern economists believe this, often without thinking much about it. (Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said it reflexively in a major speech in London in January: “The global economy will recover.” He did not say how he knew.) Galbraith goes on to argue that the economy is not a self-stabilizing system, and we are not even close to digging out of this danger.

Karl and I are choosing books with the current climate in mind for the April First Friday Book Synopsis.  Karl will present the new book by Ram Charan, Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty:  The New Rules for Getting the Right Things Done in Difficult Times.  I have chosen Panic:  The Story of Modern Finanacial Insanity, edited by the terrific writer Michael Lewis.    (By the way, the book is worth the price for the Dave Barry essay on Real Estate).

Lewis opens the book with the broad equal-opportunity declaration that everybody has suffered from the fallout:  “The striking thing about the seemingly endless collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market is how egalitarian it has been.  It’s nearly impossible to draw a demographic line between the victims and the perps.”

Here’s my current read of the situation:  we are still in the “assign blame” phase.  We almost welcomed the side-story, which was legitimately stirring our populist anger, about the bonuses given to AIG executives.  But at some point, we have to get down to the business of writing new chapters for companies in distress.  How do we build a successful company in this era of cutbacks and panic?  I suspect that soon, book titles will make this transition from “what went wrong” to “where do we go from here?”