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Reframing America’s Infrastructure: A Ruins to Renaissance Playbook by Marc Gravely – Here are my five lessons and takeaways


  • the system of public works of a country, state, or region
  • the resources (such as personnel, buildings, or equipment) required for an activity
  • the underlying foundation or basic framework (as of a system or organization)}


Reframing America's InfrastructureMy point is simple: we live as dependents on a vast, interconnected web of roads, bridges and other connective devices. Infrastructure is the connective tissue of civilization. (From the Foreword by Norm Pattis). 

Gravely is a big-picture kind of guy. (From the Foreword by Norm Pattis).

Much of modern American infrastructure still reflects that of ancient civilizations in both purpose and design. …Highway systems and ports transport goods and people between cities. Dams provide water and power, bridges and tunnels bypass geographical obstacles. Throughout recorded history, the success of each city and its country has been heavily contingent on the strength and adaptability of its infrastructure.  

“This is our history—from the Transcontinental Railroad to the Hoover Dam, to the dredging of our ports and building of our most historic bridges—our American ancestors prioritized growth and investment in our nation’s infrastructure.”—Cory Booker

Robust investments in infrastructure foreshadow a powerful economy, national security, and world leadership.

Beyond our position as a nation—and just as important—American infrastructure connects our people and businesses. We rely on it for safety, productivity, social interaction, education, and entertainment. Infrastructure is community.

Of all the crumbling, aging infrastructure in America, dams pose perhaps the biggest physical threat to public safety. A collapsing bridge could hurt or kill dozens or hundreds of people; a blowout of a major dam near a population center could easily impact thousands.  

“It is both a sad and a happy fact of engineering history that disasters have been powerful instruments of change. Designers learn from failure.”—Edward Tenner

We live in an era of tremendous opportunity, but if our infrastructure lags, we’ll miss the train.  

It is important not to confuse impact with immediate results.

Marc Gravely, Reframing America’s Infrastructure – A Ruins to Renaissance Playbook


Take a moment, and think about your drive home.  Do you cross a bridge?  Do you know what shape the bridge is in?  Are there any potholes in your neighborhood; even on your street?  How about water drainage after a heavy rain?  And, by the way, is your tap water fully safe to drink? How well does your electric grid hold up when stressed? – Oh, and how’s your internet connection?

These are just a few of the elements that make up the infrastructure of your world.  And, I have some bad news.  Our infrastructure is not in all that great a shape.

Recently I presented my synopsis of Reframing America’s Infrastructure – A Ruins to Renaissance Playbook by Marc Gravely for a group of forward-thinking city leaders.  This was a “custom-order” synopsis.  It’s a book I knew nothing about.  It’s a book I likely would have never selected for my First Friday Book Synopsis event. But, I am really glad I read it.

OK…maybe not so glad.  Because after reading it, I am a little unsettled…

I suggest that you let this book hit your “maybe I should read this” radar screen. You will learn.  And, you will think… 

As always in my synopsis, I began with What is the point?  Here it is for this book:  Our infrastructure is seriously obsolete, dangerous, and inadequate. We need to invest seriously large sums of money, over the long haul, to remedy this situation.

And I ask Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – This book provides an education in the history of infrastructure, going back… millennia.

#2 – This book provides an expansive look at just what all falls under the umbrella of infrastructure.

#3 – This book provides a comprehensive list of problems facing us as we seek to modernize, upgrade, and simply fix, our infrastructure.

I always include a few pages of Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages.  Here are a few of the best of the best from  this book: 

While a packhorse on land could carry a mere fraction of a ton, placing goods on a barge in a transport canal allowed one horse to pull a 30-ton load. 

Just as irrigation channels and waterways urged the formation of social roles and government systems within civilizations, the wheeled wagon prompted the earliest forms of infrastructure investment. No matter how wealthy the city or the number of chariots, a chariot is no good without a road. And the chariot owner alone cannot construct and maintain it. Naturally, infrastructure investment was followed by the need for institution building to assist development—organizational building to “improve the functioning of society by creating, strengthening or changing the way people relate to one another in the context of public action and public activities.” 

Perhaps the most trademark characteristic of the Renaissance was a significant shift in thinking. …freedom of expression and an open mind allowed the naval and military engineer Leonardo da Vinci to spend his time creating, recording his experiments and findings on flying machines, self-propelled tanks, alarm clocks, two-tier cities, and diving equipment in private journals. Da Vinci’s concepts on canal locks and flood control are still used today. 

Infrastructure was instrumental to the building of our nation. Canals, roads, railroads, and advances in communications technology helped the U.S. colonies survive and expand. 

Before the Civil War, John C. Calhoun urged Congress to “bind the Republic together with a perfect system of roads and canals.” 

In the 18th century and in the 21st, there has never been any promising road to progress other than infrastructure. 

By his second inaugural address, Jefferson asked Congress to contribute all budget surpluses to “rivers, canals, roads, arts, manufactures, education, and other great objects within each state.”  At this point, canals, roads, and bridges were typically privately owned but required government charters, meaning the government could set hours and rates.

By the late 1800s, mail, telephone, and railroads had enabled companies like Sears and Roebuck to expand their business through mail-order catalog and delivery endeavors.  pg. 33

Roosevelt sought to reactivate the economy through large infrastructure projects. The idea was not centered on building needed infrastructure, but on creating jobs and putting money on the street.  …Through the National Industrial Recovery Act, Roosevelt vowed to create a million jobs without putting money into financially unsound projects. The economist John Maynard Keynes theorized that if the government injected money into society through infrastructure projects, it would eventually come back in the shape of taxes and other indirect returns. …Roosevelt’s New Deal transformed the nation.

Bridges are not designed to last forever. 

“Climate change is killing Americans. Wildfires, heat waves, mudslides, hurricanes, and floods lead to hundreds if not thousands of deaths every year. But those are only the direct fatalities.”—Annie Lowrey 

All of the Los Angeles-area dams along the San Gabriel River are deemed “high hazard dams” by federal and local safety officials. The “high hazard” classification is used for dams whose failure could likely cause loss of life and massive property destruction. This is not an unusual designation to have. 

In some states, such as Missouri and Texas, regulations allow thousands of smaller dams to go without inspection at all. Only about half of dams in Texas are regularly inspected by state officials, and only about 650 of more than 5,000 dams get the same treatment in Missouri, according to the Associated Press. 

To err, as we all know, is human. To persist in the most egregious error, to deny that an error has been made, and to tell the victims of that error to be silent and obey, well, that requires bureaucracy. 

Funding future needs—There are two major priorities guiding energy policy: meeting increasing demand and transitioning to cleaner sources of fuel. 

While money has been dedicated to renewable production, funds have been lacking for “upgrades and replacements of aging transmission infrastructure, system hardening, and resilience measures that minimize impacts from catastrophic events, improvements to comply with evolving transmission reliability and security compliance standards, and expansion of the transmission system to integrate renewables and natural gas have contributed to the increase in transmission spending.” 

Physical infrastructure assets are usually built as units, a new train station, a new bridge or dam, a new highway. But none of these projects exist in isolation. They are part of complex systems and networks, and we cannot evaluate their impacts without considering each system as a whole. 

The current Chinese President and his predecessor both studied engineering, so they were naturally keen on innovation in their field. …The American public has more often elected lawyers to rule over our nation. 

Writing in The Atlantic, Michael Schuman recently argued that “the contest over electric cars is a proxy war between the West and China, between their economic models and political ideologies.” For Schuman, if China becomes the global leader in the autonomous technology revolution, this will be a terrible blow for America’s free-market philosophy. 

What we can learn from China, it appears, is that if we support our extraordinary innovators with the infrastructure and funding they require, China will be the one that lags behind. 

In 1990, there were only ten cities in the world with a population of over 10 million. Today, there are more than 30. By 2050, there will be about 50 megacities, the majority of which will be in Asia, South America, and Africa.

Abraham Maslow once said, “In any given moment, we have two choices: step forward into growth or step backward into safety.” 

“For an economy built to last we must invest in what will fuel us for generations to come. This is our history—from the Transcontinental Railroad to the Hoover Dam, to the dredging of our ports and building of our most historic bridges—our American ancestors prioritized growth and investment in our nation’s infrastructure.”—Cory Booker, U.S. Senator for New Jersey

America cannot thrive and stay competitive with a crumbling and outmoded infrastructure. The world is changing faster than ever before, and we must act now.

Acting to prevent and mitigate future global warming now will result in lower societal costs and other benefits such as improvements in quality of life in the near term while providing for the prosperity of future generations and the preservation of America’s legacy as a leader among nations in the long term.” …They concluded that whatever the outcome, whether climate change actually occurs or not, the safest bet is to assume it is going to happen, an attitude that might eventually help us avoid catastrophe. In other words, the risk of doing nothing about climate change is just too high. 

In my synopses, I then include key points and principles and information from the book. Here is quite a bit of what I included in this briefing. (Note, in this section of this post, words in italics come directly from the book):

  • About the author, Marc Gravely
  • Marc Gravely founded and leads Gravely Attorneys and Counselors, a prominent Texas based national construction defect law firm with a number of multi-hundred million dollar cases to their credit. As one of an elite group of U.S. infrastructure lawyer counselors advising property owners, both private and governmental, on high value critical decisions, Marc is a frequent media commentator, highly rated speaker including the MENSA national conference, and sports fan. 
  • A few stories
  • The bridge that simply…collapsed… – (August, 2007 – Minneapolis; 13 dead, 145 injured) — In 2017, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association reported that of Minnesota’s 13,355 bridges, 800, or 6 percent, were structurally deficient. The state itself has identified 2,020 bridges in need of repair, which will cost about $ 780 million. …If Minnesota isn’t more determined to prevent another tragedy, what does that say for the rest of the country?
  • two cities have serious water problems: Flint, Michigan, and Jackson, Mississippi — The tragedy of Flint, Michigan is one that should never be repeated, especially not in the wealthiest country on Earth.
  • The Texas Winter grid disaster —“Every eight to 10 years we have really bad winters. This is not a surprise.” Yet, nothing had been done to prepare for the inevitable.  
  • Problem…solution
  • the problems are many
  • solutions include:investments of (very) large sums of money; innovation, attention, and resolve; community cooperation and action; and political savvy
  • Today’s visionaries are already delivering the goods, devising revolutionary tactics to balance infrastructure and conservation, and looking to examples from other nations to upgrade American performance.
  • It is the incremental progress and aggregate effect that moves us forward. 
  • The Infrastructure challenge:
  • build it
  • build enough of it
  • keep it current enough to still be working
  • keep it safe
  • protect it
  • Neglect, Threats, Narrowness; and Hope
  • Neglect – we have not maintained our physical infrastructure
  • numerous sources report that our nation’s bridges remain in dangerous disrepair, suggesting the question of another commuter bridge collapse is not “if” but “when.”
  • Threats – we are vulnerable
  • Today, the oldest of these dams are more than 90 years old, and the decades of wear and tear are starting to show. If one were to suddenly buckle or burst during events such as a torrential storm or an earthquake, the result would be catastrophic. Whole towns would be wiped out, and people would die.
  • Cyber threats!!! — In our networked world, cyber attacks pose a tremendous threat to governments, private companies, and individuals alike. — Today, our military operations are vulnerable, our water supplies, nuclear plants, and cryptocurrency exchanges are vulnerable, and so are our hospitals.
  • Narrownesswe have not paid attention to interconnectedness and big-picture issues
  • Hopecommunities/community involvement might save you; and, technology might save us
  • We really need to fix our roads…
  • Each year, neglected road maintenance causes an absurd amount of damage to vehicles through unnecessary wear and tear, as well as collisions. …the annual price tag for vehicle damage due to faulty road maintenance is $109 billion, approximately $516 for every urban motorist.
  • “Pothole damage accounted for more than two-thirds of vehicle and property claims filed.”
  • A few of the hints and thoughts
  • Solar looks like it will work better than wind…
  • We need to: capture rainwater (on many, many, many buildings)
  • We need to be more creative in placing Solar panels
  • 5G opens up a world of technological possibilities
  • As 5G becomes the global standard, our wireless connections will be more reliable, and virtually every device we use will be connected to the network.
  • Vision Zero, so named because its proponents imagine a world with zero traffic deaths, challenges communities to think differently about traffic accidents.
  • Recycle more; much more… because, our landfills are getting too full!
  • TOMORROW: smart everything (cars; highways; buildings…); travel by hyperloop; living on Mars
  • Building interlinked Hyperloop tunnels worldwide will be a massive undertaking that will create employment for millions of people, and America will not be the exception.
  • Considering trends like urban growth, decentralization, and sinking coastlines, the world’s top architects and engineers are already developing the infrastructure of the future. …‘arcology.’ The result of combining architecture with ecology…
  • We need Globally-minded localist leadership
  • A thought question – Can the “old” ever be as “exciting” as the new? (cf. China Envy…)
  • After having been a world leader in infrastructure projects in those early days, America now faces the challenge of rebuilding its infrastructure, not with the tools of the past, but with those of the future.
  • A reminder… you can look up your state’s ratings at the ASCE’s (American Society of Engineers) site. 

Here are my five Lessons and Takeaways

#1 – Infrastructure is central to all of life; especially because we live in such a connected, highly-populated city/state/country/world.

#2 – Our infrastructure needs some serious attention and help.  This really is a matter of economic health; this really is a matter of life and death.

#3 — We really are going to have to spend a very, very large sum of money to bring our infrastructure up to speed.

#4 – Partly, we just need to kind of survive until technological breakthroughs arrive in time to solve the big problems.

#5 – We really will need to work together, in spite of our differences, to implement needed solutions.

I suspect that if I were to read a few more books about our infrastructure, I would learn more.  But, since this is not my area of study, this book gave me plenty to think about. I learned much.  And, I think I am going to pay more attention to our infrastructure needs.  I think you might want to do that also.

After all, our future pretty much depends on our infrastructure.

Now, would someone please fix the potholes in my neighborhood?!

A New Way to Think by Roger L. Martin – Here are my seven lessons and takeaways

A New Way to Think{Before we get to the book, a famous quote from Abraham Lincoln:

“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” — Message to Congress, December 1, 1862}


Not all the articles with David take on a dominant model that is not producing the outcomes desired and provide a superior alternative. But at one point during our collaborations, David noted that a goodly number of them did, and broached the idea of doing a whole book in that vein. This book is the fruit of that conversation.

As I’ll argue in the following pages, leading businesses needs to be seen less as a challenge of managing organizational complexity and more about making sure that value is maximized at the front lines. This calls for an approach that is less inspired by hierarchy and more by respect for the insights of the people in direct contact with customers…

Solving the problem required a new way to think. It required a different model. That became the heart of my work.

I’m proposing, rather, that my fourteen new or different models will provide a better likelihood of getting you an outcome you want than the model it replaces.                                                                                                                                

By design, the fourteen chapters in this book don’t build on one another in a way that absolutely requires them to be read in order. …In that sense, you can treat this as a management handbook.  

In strategy, what counts is what would have to be true—not what is true.  

Roger L. Martin, A New Way to Think: Your Guide to Superior Management Effectiveness


At the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, we have presented synopses of good, best-selling, useful business books for 24 ½ years.  There are a handful of authors who write such good books that they are “repeat” authors for our presentations.  Roger L. Martin is one of those authors.   And, not only do I think that Roger Martin’s books are useful; I enjoy reading his books.

I have presented my synopsis of his book The Design of Business, and The Opposable Mind, and last month his newest book A New Way to Think: Your Guide to Superior Management Effectiveness. 

So, to state the obvious, I am an appreciative fan of his work.  He helps a business thinker think through things!

This latest book is a book that deals with a theme that seems to be recurring:  the way we’ve been thinking may no longer be adequate to the task.  In early 2021, I presented my synopsis of Think Again: The Power of Knoning What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant.  (My blog post on this book, Think Again by Adam Grant: Here are My Six Lessons and Takeaways, is my most viewed blog post the last few months).  This new book by Roger Martin is a very good “next read” to the book Think Again.

I always begin my synopses with “What is the point?” of this book.  Here it is for this book: The models we use, by default, are not worth using if they are no longer viable; useful; effective. Working harder while using an outdated model will not solve today’s and tomorrow’s problems and challenges.  We need…a new way to think. 

And I ask Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – This book captures a lifetime of thinking by a superior thinker/professor.

#2 – This books helps explain why (just) working harder does not always lead to more success.

#3 – This book is a tutorial on how to “think again” – a very big concept in today’s business environment.

I always include a number of Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages.  Here are quite a few of the best of the best from this book:

Executives, mainly CEOs, hire me to help them improve the performance of their companies.  …To help them, I need to diagnose why the results aren’t what they wish. It has become clear to me over the years that in nearly every case, the poor results weren’t down to their not working diligently enough in pursuit of their goals; it was because the model that guided their actions wasn’t up to the task.   

In other words, the seemingly sensible model was logically flawed: it was predicated on the availability of good market data, but existing market data is not likely to be relevant for genuinely breakthrough innovations.   

But be assured that in due course your new model, too, will be found wanting and will be replaced by a better model still.  

A poor product or service at the front line won’t be saved in the eyes of customers by being part of a particular corporation, even if that corporation has other related products that are successful.  

Corporations must bring together many resources and capabilities to create new products. Consequently, firms become complex organizations. 

If the judge of the value of any product or service is the customer who chooses to buy, not the provider, then it is the provider’s people at the front line, in front of the customer, who are best placed to determine what the customer values. It is up to the rest of the company to help the people in the front lines, where the revenues come in, to satisfy those customer needs. The lower level, in effect, is the customer of the level above it. And like a customer, it should expect to get more value from those services than it pays to get them.   

Managers in the layer above have got to start treating the people below them as customers—understanding their lives and needs, stepping into their shoes. …it is surprising how remote executives become as you go up the hierarchy. 

During his entire time as CEO, A.G. Lafley had a rule that whenever he visited another country, he needed the local P&G organization to set up an in-home visit with a local consumer and a store walk-through at a local retailer. 

Because most companies don’t build corporate strategy from the perspective of increasing the competitiveness at their front line, their corporate structures tend to swell rapidly in terms of both costs and decision-making.   

Modern capitalism can be broken down into two major eras. The first, managerial capitalism, began in 1932 and was defined by the then-radical notion that firms ought to have professional management. The second, shareholder value capitalism, began in 1976. Its governing premise is that the purpose of every corporation should be to maximize shareholder wealth.  Then in 1976 managerial capitalism received a stinging rebuke: Michael C. Jensen and William H. Meckling’s “Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure,” published in the Journal of Financial Economics. The paper, which has gone on to become the most-cited academic business article of all time, argued that owners were getting short shrift from professional managers, who enhanced their own financial well-being rather than that of the shareholders.  …Their critique ushered in a new philosophy of capitalism, as CEOs quickly saw the need to swear allegiance to “maximizing shareholder value.”  No longer would the shareholder be abused—the shareholder would be king.  

If the shareholders were all you cared about, would focusing on increasing shareholder value necessarily be the best way to make sure they benefited? …To actually create shareholder value, put your customers before your shareholders. In other words—and nobody should be surprised by this—Peter Drucker had it right when he said that the primary purpose of a business is to acquire and keep customers.   

To keep customers loyal—and to attract new ones—you need to remain relevant and superior. Hence Instagram was doing exactly what it was supposed to do: changing proactively. That’s an edgy thought, to be sure, but a lot of evidence contradicts it. 

And this brings me to an important truth about customers: the familiar solution usually trumps the perfect one.  …My argument is that sustained performance is achieved not by always offering customers the perfect choice but, rather, by offering them the easy one.  

Research into the workings of the human brain suggests that the mind loves automaticity more than just about anything else—certainly more than engaging in conscious consideration.  Given a choice, it would like to do the same things again and again. …the easy, familiar thing to do is to buy Tide yet again. A driving reason to choose the leading product in the market, therefore, is simply that it is the easiest thing to do: in whatever distribution channel you shop, it will be the most prominent offering. 

Become popular early. 

P&G also made sure that no automatic washing machine was sold in America without a free box of Tide to get consumers’ habit started. 

For internet businesses, free is the core tactic for establishing habits. 

For customers, “improved” is much more comfortable and less scary than “new,” however awesome “new” sounds to brand managers and advertising agencies. 

Remember: the mind is lazy.   

First, in the early steps, they must avoid asking “What should we do?” and instead ask “What might we do?” Second, in the middle steps, managers must shift from asking “What do I believe?” to asking “What would I have to believe?” Finally, by focusing a team on pinpointing the critical conditions and tests, the possibilities-based approach forces managers to move away from asking “What is the right answer?” and concentrate instead on “What are the right questions?  

You can’t chart a course for the future or bring about change merely by analyzing history. The behavior of customers will never be transformed by a product whose design is based on an analysis of their past behavior. …Yet transforming customer habits and experiences is what great business innovations do. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and other computing pioneers created a brand-new device that revolutionized how people interacted and did business. …To be sure, innovators often incorporate scientific discoveries in their creations, but their real genius lies in their ability to imagine products or processes that simply never existed before.

When a new strategy calls for a change in behaviors and values, a powerful culture gets in the way of those changes because all employees will instinctively continue to be guided by their inner rule book in responding to decisions and situations…

Too often we mistakenly assume that our reasoning is clear to others because it is clear to us. We must take the time to be explicit about the choice we have made and the reasons and assumptions behind that choice, while allowing the opportunity for those downstream to ask questions.

Upstream theories, and the decisions based on those theories, constrain downstream experiences. …It’s time to revisit and revise our upstream theory. The business world may be utterly convinced that better execution is the path to greatness, but in truth, a better metaphor would be much more helpful.

“Creativity is the potential of an idea, and execution is the extent to which that potential is realized.”

And, in my synopses, I include key points and principles from the books.  Here are a number of the ones I included from this book.  (Words in italics are taken directly from the book)

  • How A.G. Lafley learned…
  • During his entire time as CEO, A.G. Lafley had a rule that whenever he visited another country, he needed the local P& G organization to set up an in-home visit with a local consumer and a store walk-through at a local retailer. …His visit to the bank of a river in rural western China to speak to the village women who washed their clothes there became legendary. 
  • The Olay decision…
  • At $15.99, purchase intent dropped dramatically. At $18.99, it went back up again—way up. So, $12.99 was really good, $15.99 not so good, $18.99 great.” — For the department store shopper, the product was a great value but still credibly expensive. For the mass shopper, the premium price signified that the product must be considerably better than anything else on the shelf.
  • The Four Seasons
  • If the average tenure at Four Seasons approached twenty years, the talent team could invest ten times the resources per person in hiring, training, and rewards than could competitors, whose employees tended to stay for a year or less. The result for Four Seasons would be far better trained and more experienced hotel employees, without higher talent costs overall. …Under Sharp, Four Seasons enjoyed happier, more loyal, more capable, and longer-serving workers—enabling it to deliver superior service and earn leading-price premiums.
  • The goal for everyone at Four Seasons would be “to deal with others—partners, customers, coworkers, everyone—as we would want them to deal with us.” The Golden Rule… 
  • Mary, the genius bank teller
  • she had three customers; one wanted a social visit. One wanted a friend. And one wanted something of a financial advisor.She recognized their differences; and treated them differently! …and… the bank did not learn from her.
  • I began to see a pattern in the way Mary dealt with her customers. With some, she was polite, efficient, and professional. With others, she would take a little longer, perhaps suggesting that they transfer some of the extra money in their checking account to a higher-yielding term deposit or explaining new services the bank had introduced. And with some customers she would ask about their children, their vacations, or their health but relatively little about banking and finances. 
  • What is the primary purpose of a business?
  • Peter Drucker had it right when he said that the primary purpose of a business is to acquire and keep customers.
  • What this book is/does:
  • This is the way we have always approached this kind of situation/problem/challenge
  • That way may not work any longer…
  • We should, instead, consider this; try this…
  • The power of cumulative advantage:
  • It’s about helping customers avoid having to make a choice. To do that, you have to create what I call cumulative advantage. …Each time you select and use a given product or service, its advantage cumulates over the products or services you didn’t use.
  • Remember the wisdom of Daniel Kahneman (always!)
  • Daniel Kahneman characterized subconscious, habit-driven decision-making as “thinking fast” and conscious decision-making as “thinking slow.”
  • Strategy!
  • There’s a secret about strategy that no one tells you: every organization has one, whether or not it is written down and whether or not it is the product of an official strategic-planning process.
  • Step 1: Move from Issues to Choice
  • Step 2: Generate Strategic Possibilities — On one aspect of this question, I am adamant: the team must produce more than one possibility. …Analyzing a single possibility is not conducive to producing optimal action—or, in fact, any action at all. …I also insist that the status quo or current trajectory be among the possibilities considered. By including it among the possibilities, a team makes it subject to investigation and potential doubt.
  • At least one possibility makes most of the group uncomfortable
  • What would have to be true if… — Once again, during this step, expressing opinions about whether or not conditions are true should be strictly prohibited. The point is simply to ferret out what would have to be true for every member of the group to feel cognitively and emotionally committed to each possibility under consideration.
  • planning must not be confused with strategy.
  • Rule 1: Keep the strategy statement simple — Focus your energy on the key choices that influence revenue decision makers—that is, customers.
  • Rule 2: Recognize that strategy is not about perfection — At its very best, therefore, strategy shortens the odds of a company’s bets.
  • Rule 3: Make the logic explicit
  • AND – Execution and Strategy are joined at the hip – The problem is the model that holds that strategy formulation and execution are distinct and different. A more powerful model about execution is: it’s the same thing as strategy. You cannot talk about execution separately from strategy.
  • Cultivate a very good use of metaphor…
  • Aristotle himself observed, “Ordinary words convey only what we know already; it is from metaphor that we can best get hold of something fresh.” In fact, he believed that mastery of metaphor was the key to rhetorical success. — Research in cognitive science has demonstrated that the core engine of creative synthesis is “associative fluency”—the mental ability to connect two concepts that are not usually linked and to forge them into a new idea.
  • The automobile, for instance, was initially described as “a horseless carriage,” the motorcycle as “a bicycle with a motor.”
  • Culture:
  • I think of it primarily as a book of rules residing in the minds of employees that guides how they interpret situations and decisions.
  • Culture is what helps a manager understand “how things get done around here,” “what I should do in this situation,” and “who must I pay attention to.” …The strength of a company’s culture is determined by the similarity of the mental rule books of the employees.
  • Culture emerges from the interaction between the environment (the formal mechanisms) and individual behaviors (the interpersonal mechanisms). Because of that, little can be done to change the culture of the organization directly by fiat, and CEOs who make the attempt usually lose their jobs.
  • Knowledge Workers:
  • In particular, most companies make two big mistakes in managing knowledge workers. The first is to think that they should structure this workforce as they do a manual workforce—with each employee doing the same tasks day in and day out. The second (which derives in part from the first) is to assume that knowledge is necessarily bundled with the workers and, unlike manual labor, can’t readily be codified and transferred to others.
  • The Rise of the Decision Factory — But they do produce something, and it is perfectly reasonable to characterize their work as the production of decisions: decisions about what to sell, at what price, to whom, with what advertising strategy, through what logistics system, in what location, and with what staffing levels. …knowledge workers hammer away in decision factories. — Decision factories have arguably become corporate America’s largest cost. …the salaries of these decision factory workers far exceed those of workers in physical factories. 
  • Be uncomfortable!
  • In fact, if you are entirely comfortable with your strategic plan, there’s a strong chance it isn’t very good. …You need to be uncomfortable and apprehensive: true strategy is about placing bets and making hard choices.
  • Motivation and management
  • I can say with confidence that in my forty years working with people who really are in the very top category of talent, I haven’t met a single truly talented person who is solely or even highly motivated by compensation. ….feeling special is more important than compensation. …As I will show in this chapter, when it comes to managing high-end talent, the secret to success is making people feel like valued individuals, not as members of a group, no matter how elite.

And here are my seven lessons and takeaways:

#1 – Yesterday matters less than you think.  Yesterday’s customers need to be won back time and again. Yesterday’s successes may not work tomorrow. And yesterday’s strategies and models may be outdated, obsolete, and ineffective.

#2 – Be good at definition:  define current reality well. Define just what makes up the status quo.  Define what could be possible.

#3 – Get very good at thinking about what could be possible.  Aim for what could be possible.

#4 – Get as close to your customer as possible.  Stay as close to your customer as possible.

#5 – Let decisions be made by those as close the customer as possible.

#6 – Projects matter more than jobs for knowledge workers. Much more.

#7 – Treat individuals as…individuals.

Here’s a tip:  take some time to read the table of contents very carefully.  It will really help you see why the insights in this book are worth your time.

I present synopses of 24+ business books every year (at our First Friday Book Synopsis event, and a few others for clients who “special order” a synopsis).  One thing is more and more clear:  what worked yesterday, and yesteryear’s ways of thinking, are not up to the challenge of what we will face tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.  We really do need a new way to think!


My synopsis of A New Way to Think, with the audio recording of my presentation, and my comprehensive, multi-page handout, is now available on this web site.  Click here for our newest additions.

We have many synopses available. Click on the buy synopses tab at the top of this page to search by book title.

The End of the World is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization by Peter Zeihan – Here are my six lessons and takeaways

The End of the World is Just the BeginningThe world of the past few decades has been the best it will ever be in our lifetime. Instead of cheap and better and faster, we’re rapidly transitioning into a world that’s pricier and worse and slower. Because the world—our world—is breaking apart.

What you and your parents (and in some cases, grandparents) assumed as the normal, good, and right way of living—that is, the past seven decades or so—is a historic anomaly for the human condition both in strategic and demographic terms. The period of 1980–2015 in particular has simply been a unique, isolated, blessed moment in time. A moment that has ended. A moment that will certainly not come again in our lifetimes. And that isn’t even the bad news.  

Since 1945 the world has been the best it has ever been. The best it will ever be. Which is a poetic way of saying this era, this world—our world—is doomed. …The 2020s will see a collapse of consumption and production and investment and trade almost everywhere. Globalization will shatter into pieces.  

Instead, the purpose of this book is to lay out what our transition looks like. What the world we are all going to live through is going to feel like. How do the things we know and understand about food and money and fuel and movement and widgets and the stuff we dig out of the ground change? Grow, rearrange. Fail.  

Not only despite the global churn and degradation, but also in many cases because of it, the United States will largely escape the carnage to come.   

The entire concept of the Order is that the United States disadvantages itself economically in order to purchase the loyalty of a global alliance. That is what globalization is. The past several decades haven’t been an American Century. They’ve been an American sacrifice. Which is over.

Peter Zeihan, The End of the World is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization


When I read a nonfiction/business book that I can’t put down because it is so engaging, I feel like I have won the lottery.  (To be honest, many business books are books that are not…all…that…engaging, even though they have important information).

So, when I read The End of the World is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization by Peter Zeihan, I felt lucky.  I absolutely loved reading it.

OK…let me say that differently.  It is actually quite scary to read.  But, it is well written, genuinely informative, clear, engaging..  So, I loved it…and I hated it.

What I hated was the warning it has throughout the book .  That warning is that the comfortable, plentiful, everything-available in a  pretty-much-always-available world that we have shared in recent decades is coming to an end.  Maybe pretty quickly.

In other words, “the world is flat” may no longer be an accurate description as our world unflattens.

I presented my synopsis of this book at the September First Fiday Book Synospsis, our monthly business-book focused event in Dallas.

This is, to put it mildly, a book worth reading.

In my synopses, I always begin with What is the point of the book?  Here is the point for this book:  The world as we have known it is ending. The key ending is this: globalization is ending.  Thus, here are the things to think about to get ready. 

And I ask Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – This book is a pretty good history of how the world developed, worked, and works, in a number of categories.

#2 – This book pulls no punches.  Things are going to change, and not in very good ways.  Nearly everything is going to change…

#3 – This book prepares us, to some extent, for life in this new world coming.

I always include a few pages of Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages.  Here are a few of these best from this book: 

The 2020s are not the first time the United States has gone through a complete restructuring of its political system. This is round seven for those of you with minds of historical bents. Americans survived and thrived before because their geography is insulated from, while their demographic profile is starkly younger than, the bulk of the world. They will survive and thrive now and into the future for similar reasons. America’s strengths allow her debates to be petty, while those debates barely affect her strengths.  

Americans survived and thrived before because their geography is insulated from, while their demographic profile is starkly younger than, the bulk of the world. 

(Americans) they will barely notice that elsewhere the world is ending!!! Access to the inputs—financial and material and labor—that define the modern world will cease existing in sufficient quantity to make modernity possible. 

The last seventy-five years long will be remembered as a golden age, and one that didn’t last nearly long enough at that.  

The real focus is to map out what everything looks like on the other side of this change in condition. What are the new parameters of the possible? In a world deglobalized, what are the new Geographies of Success? What comes next? After all, the end of the world really is just the beginning. So, it’s best if we start there. At the beginning.  

The American story is the story of the perfect Geography of Success. That geography determines not only American power, but also America’s role in the world. …THE UNITED STATES IS THE MOST POWERFUL RIVER POWER AND LAND POWER IN HISTORY. 

Without the Americans riding herd on everyone, it is only a matter of time before something in East Asia or the Middle East or the Russian periphery (like, I don’t know, say, a war) breaks the global system beyond repair . . . assuming that the Americans don’t do it themselves. 

No matter how you crunch the numbers, China in 2022 is the fastest-aging society in human history. In China the population growth story is over and has been over since China’s birth rate slipped below replacement levels in the 1990s.  …A full replacement birth rate is 2.1 children per woman. China’s rate is at most 1.3, among the lowest of any people throughout human history.

For the rest of the world, it will never get better than it was in the 2010s. Never. 

The United States is one of the world’s four settler states, which is a pseudo-technical term indicating that most Americans can trace their lineage to folks who aren’t from what is currently American territory.  …As a settler state, the United States tends to be far more confident in its political identity as well as friendly to immigration than other countries. To the point that the United States is one of only a very few countries that even publicly publishes data on how many of its citizens were born in another country. …with the exception of the indigenous population, no Americans are actually from America. 

The dominant ethnic group in Mexico originates from Spain, while the dominant “ethnic” group in the United States is white Caucasian. …Mexicans of Spanish descent somewhat look down on Mexicans of indigenous descent, and they feel more or less the same way about Central American migrants as Americans do. Once Mexicans migrate to the United States, they assimilate quickly. It’s fairly common for second-generation Mexican-Americans—and nearly reflexive for fourth-generation Mexican-Americans—to define themselves as white. 

Take this concept of utter availability, apply it to absolutely everything, and you now have a glimmer of the absolute connectivity that underpins the modern, globalized economy. The ingredients of today’s industrial and consumer goods are only available because they can be moved from—literally—halfway around the world at low costs and high speeds and in perfect security.  

The world’s supply of grievances is inexhaustible. For the most part, those grievances have not been acted upon for seventy-five years. . . . but only because the Americans changed the rules of the game.

Regardless of what goes wrong, long-haul transport is an instant casualty, because long-haul transport doesn’t simply require absolute peace in this or that region; it requires absolute peace in all regions. Such long-haul disruption describes three-quarters of all shipments in energy, manufacturing, and agriculture. 

After all, should containerized shipping break down, much of the world will be economically decimated from the collapse in manufacturing. But should bulk shipping—which transports food and fuel—break down, many of the world’s people will starve. Alone. In the dark. …keep in mind that most countries lack long-arm navies. …First and most obvious are the pirates. Second and less obvious are the privateers, in essence pirates sponsored by an actual country to harass their competitors, and who have been granted rights to seek succor, fuel, and crew (and sell their *ahem* booty) in allied ports. …The third security concern isn’t likely to be constrained to the no-man’s-lands: state piracy.

Now add in missiles. And drones. And missiles fired from drones. A return to the days of militarized merchant marines is not far off.  …Just imagine what happens when the Koreans or Israelis or French start selling idiot-proof anti-ship weaponry designed to be mounted on bulkers operated by India or Saudi Arabia or Egypt. 

By the time you read this, the world will have a fascinating, horrific case study of true financial disintegration. Nor is Russia done. Beset with a population aging into decrepitude and a system that has given up educating the next generation, Russia’s credit collapse is but one of a phalanx of factors capable of ending the Russian state. The question isn’t will the Russians go out swinging—Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is testament to that—but instead, who else will they swing at? 

There is a difference—a big difference—between a rising price of access and an absolute lack of access. The first leads to an industrial hollowing out. The second leads to outright deindustrialization.

Should something—should anything—happen to those imported food flows, civilizational collapse into anarchy complete with a population “correction” isn’t simply a distinct possibility, it is the most likely outcome. After all, a government that cannot feed its population is a government that falls. 

When the Cold War ended, the Americans had the opportunity to do nearly anything. Instead, both on the Left and the Right, we started a lazy descent into narcissistic populism. …The presidential election record that brought us Clinton and W Bush and Obama and Trump and Biden isn’t an aberration, but instead a pattern of active disinterest in the wider world.  It is our new norm.

And, in my synopses, I include a little info about the author, and a few of the key points and principles from the book.  Here are a few that I included in my synopsis. (Note: portions in italics come directly from the book)

  • A word about this author, and this book…
  • Peter Zeihan is a big, big picture thinker. A little – ok, a lot — on the pessimistic side… And quite an engaging and entertaining writer. (He has quite a section on the role played by “human poo” in the early days of human survival).
  • And… do read this book! – His long-view, looking backwards from the beginning, provides an education, or at least a very good reminder of what you likely pieced together from here and there…
  • What is The Order?
  • At the end of World War II, the Americans created history’s greatest military alliance to arrest, contain, and beat back the Soviet Union. That we know. That’s no surprise. What is often forgotten, however, is that this alliance was only half the plan. …Americans also fostered an environment of global security so that any partner could go anywhere, anytime, interface with anyone, in any economic manner, participate in any supply chain and access any material input—all without needing a military escort. This butter side of the Americans’ guns-and-butter deal created what we today recognize as free trade. Globalization. …One outcome among many was the fastest economic growth humanity has ever seen. Decades of it. 
  • Instead, the Americans offered their wartime allies a deal. The Americans would use their navy—the only navy of size to survive the war—to patrol the global ocean and protect the commerce of all. …There was just one catch. You had to pick sides in the Americans’ brewing Cold War. You could be safe and rich and develop your economy and culture however you wanted, but you had to stand with (technically, stand in front of) the Americans versus the Soviets.
  • At war’s end the Americans used Bretton Woods to create the globalized Order and fundamentally change the rules of the game. Instead of subjugating their allies and enemies, they offered peace and protection. They transformed regional geopolitics by putting nearly all the warring empires of the previous age—in many cases countries that had been in a shifting, cutthroat competition with one another for centuries—on the same team. Inter-imperial rivalry gave way to inter-state cooperation. Compared to the thirteen millennia of history to this point, it was a pretty good deal. And it worked. Really well.
  • (But now…) The American-led Order is giving way to Disorder. — The post–Cold War era is possible only because of a lingering American commitment to a security paradigm that suspends geopolitical competition and subsidizes the global Order. With the Cold War security environment changed, it is a policy that no longer matches needs. What we all think of as normal is actually the most distorted moment in human history. That makes it incredibly fragile. And it is over. …Globalization was always dependent upon the Americans’ commitment to the global Order and that Order hasn’t served Americans’ strategic interests since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
  • Not every location will be able to maintain civilization after Order’s end.
  • The Order established stability, which fostered economic growth, which enabled technological advancement, which led to the availability of these materials, which allowed their inclusion into the products, modernity, and lifestyle of the modern age. …In the Order the only competition over materials access was over market access. …Invading countries for raw materials was expressly forbidden. You simply had to pay for them. 
  • What happened…
  • places mattered…then rivers mattered…then railroads…then seas, and highways and trucks…and American protection of the seas… oh, and fertilizers, and digitization, and… 
  • The Big Problems:

            #1 — we’re getting older; we’re getting fewer — The global worker and consumer base is aging into mass retirement. — Now, in all these countries, the new average is below 1.8 (children) and in many cases well below. …much of the economic growth comes from a swelling population. What most people miss is that there’s another step in the industrializationcum-urbanization process: lower mortality increases the population to such a degree that it overwhelms any impact from a decline in birth rates . . . but only for a few decades. Eventually gains in longevity max out, leaving a country a greater population, but with few children. Yesterday’s few children leads to today’s few young workers leads to tomorrow’s few mature workers. And now, at long last, tomorrow has arrived.

            #2 – We’re about to lose the global world — Regardless of trade or product, nearly every process crosses at least one international border. …A deglobalized world doesn’t simply have a different economic geography, it has thousands of different and separate geographies.

            #3 – The U.S. Navy is the biggest, greatest Navy, by far; really, the only game in town.  But…

  • Very few countries have any vessels that can even cross an ocean unaided. Should anyone want to take a crack at America, they’d have to first get past the U.S. Navy, which is ten times as powerful as the combined navies of the rest of the world.
  • Everything we’ve come to expect about transport since 1946 dies in this world.

            #4 – We are going to go back to growing the food we need near us to survive.  And a whole bunch of people will not survive.  (1 billion +?)

            #5 – Going electric…will have some problems… — From 2014, when the solar boom began, until 2020, solar has only increased to become 1.5 percent of total energy use.

            #6 – The death of “just in time. — Thus…warehouse many, many things again; or ramp up 3-D manufacturing.

            #7 – Climate is changing; getting hotter… — we do not at present have good enough data to project climate change down to the zip code level. Anyone who tries is at most making an educated guess….The data isn’t controversial. It isn’t political. It isn’t a projection. And if there is a trend line of change, you know that the needle has moved already, and you just need to follow it forward a bit. …On average, temperatures in both places have risen 1.1 degree Celsius since 1900. …Will deeper climate change occur in the years and decades after? Maybe. Probably. Okay, almost certainly.

  • About “our” future…
  • we (the United States; and North America) will be better off than all others, because:NAFTA! (U.S., Canada, and MEXICO!).
  • Part of the Mexico factor is obvious: in 2021 the average Mexican was nearly ten years younger than the average American. 
  • Interesting tidbits…
  • winning the Cold War may have been…sort of…bad…
  • The Bretton Woods system generated the longest and deepest period of economic growth and stability in human history. Or at least it did until disaster struck. Until the Americans won. On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Without a foe, the Bretton Woods alliance lost its reason to be.
  • each country making stuff that we use is making different “levels” of stuff… and, basically, few countries will be able at some point to make everything… — With global peace, countries are able to specialize. Taiwan in semiconductors. Brazil in soy. Kuwait in oil. Germany in machinery.
  • China steals, but can’t replicate…

And I conclude my synopses with my lessons and takeaways. Here are my six for this book:

#1 – We really should try to grasp how the world (of commerce; of finance; of agriculture) actually works.

#2 – So much is out of our control.  Geography; the interaction of nations; these are so significant.

#3 – A thought:  maybe our very big defense budget is worth it. Especially the money spent on our Navy.

#4 – Maybe our tendency toward a growing isolationism is a mistake – a serious mistake.

#5 – We need to prepare to live with “less” in many ways.

#6 – There may not be much we can do about this…except get ready for the changes that are coming.

I present over two dozen synopses of new business books a year, for the First Friday Book Synopsis, and other books chosen and requested by some of my clients.  This book stands alone, meaning that it covers ground no other book that I have read covers.

We have enjoyed the peace of functioning globalization, and all the benefits of modern life this globalization has brought us, for decades.  That is now all endangered.  Globalization may actually collapse.  The U.S. will probably be ok.  But, other parts of the world could be in serious trouble.

Read this book.  Worry a little. Then ask, now what!


A footnote:  on the very morning I wrote this blog post, I heard about the rise in global hunger, bright on by the Russia/Ukraine war.  Hundreds of millions are in real danger.  As this book warns…



My synopsis of The End of the World is Just the Beginning, with the audio recording of my presentation, and my comprehensive, multi-page handout, will be available soon on this web site.  Click here for our newest additions.

We have many synopses available. Click on the buy synopses tab at the top of this page to search by book title.

My synopsis of Once I Was You: A Memoir by Maria Hinojosa is Today, Thursday, September 15, 12:30 pm, over Zoom – Come Join Us – (And, here is my synopsis handout)

A special encouragement to attend today’s session, September 15, 2022, on Zoom.

Click on image to download the full synopsis handout

Click on image to download the full synopsis handout

Today’s book, Once I Was You: A Memoir by Maria Hinojosa is a moving book, highly praised.

Please join us. All details below.



If you have an open lunch time window Today, Thursday, September 15, 12:30 pm (CST), I am presenting my synopsis of:

Once I Was You: A Memoir by Maria Hinojosa 

Once I Was YouToday, Thursday, September 15, 2022 at 12:30 (CST) for the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare, on Zoom.

I encourage you to download my synopsis handout, print it out, and follow along.

Come join us on Zoom.

Urban Engagement Book Club
Thursday, September 15, 2022 – 12:30 pm (CST)

Synopsis presented by Randy Mayeux
We conclude shortly after 1:30.
(This event is free).

Here is the complete lineup of books selected for 2022. 

And, here is the Zoom link to join our gathering. 

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Urban Engagement Book Club, 2022
Time: September 15, 2022 12:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 816 6810 8641
Passcode: 237130


Here is the more complete Zoom info.

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Urban Engagement Book Club, 2022
Time: September 15, 2022 12:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
(Every month on the Third Thursday, until Dec 15, 2022)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 816 6810 8641
Passcode: 237130

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Lifelong Learning…STARTS NOW! – Learning from the Best Books as a Lifelong Discipline

Last night, I spoke to the Young Executives, a part of Success North Dallas.  My topic was:

Lifelong Learning…STARTS NOW! — Learning from the Best Books as a Lifelong Discipline

This is a good group, with motivated and engaged learners.  Here is an outline of what I shared.


  • Prelude #2 – The best books I have ever read…
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • And, a recommendation for this group – Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans


#1 – Read books…instead of video, or blogs, or articles…

  • in depth; substance

#2 – Read books; don’t listen to books.

  • to study, you need to do some form of note taking, with retrieval
  • (I read on Kindle)

#3 – It takes a pretty deep dive into five books to learn enough in a new area of learning; to develop meaningful understanding.

#4 – Be part of a learning group. Which meets for…the purpose of learning. 

#5 — What to read

  • Stuff you don’t know
  • Stuff you don’t know well enough
  • Books that update your knowledge
  • Books that you disagree with…

#6 – Oh, and One More Thing…

  • Keep a lifelong reading list – and, don’t forget the classics!


So…what are you doing with your own lifelong learning disciplines?  My simple recommendation…read more books!

Revisiting Getting Things Done by David Allen – With my nine lessons and takeaways

still the "bible" on time management

still the “bible” on time management

I presented my synopsis of Getting Things Done by David Allen, yet again today, for a leadership team for a mid-sized city.

I have probably presented this synopsis close to a dozen times.  That means I have read the book, and then re-read my handout, at least a dozen times.

And…I still don’t have my life fully organized, or fully under control!

There are times when I feel like something of a… failure…

If you have not read this book, it is worth reading. It is THE book on time management; kind of the bible on time management.

How to Get ControlOh, I’ve read other books dealing with aspects of the subject; good books.  The Power of Full Engagementby Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.  Deep Work by Cal Newport.  The newer books Stolen Focus by Johann Hari and Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman.  I’ve even read the first classic in the field, How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life by Alan Lakein.

But, in my view, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen, is truly the go-to bible of the field.

There is so much in the book that is valuable.  In my synopses, I ask Why is this book worth our time? Here are my three reasons for this book: 

#1 – Every minute we spend not knowing what to do next is a failure of system. This book will help.

#2 – Every task that “falls through the cracks” might threaten a relationship with a client, thus threatening business outcomes. This book will help.

#3 – We all have more to do, and tomorrow will have even more of more to do. This book will help.

Here are just a few key excerpts from the book:

The methods I present here are all based on three key objectives: (1) capturing all the things that might need to get done or have usefulness for you—now, later, someday, big, little, or in between—in a logical and trusted system outside your head and off your mind; (2) directing yourself to make front-end decisions about all of the “inputs” you let into your life so that you will always have a workable inventory of “next actions” that you can implement or renegotiate in the moment; and (3) curating and coordinating all of that content, utilizing the recognition of the multiple levels of commitments with yourself and others you will have at play, at any point in time. 

First identify and capture all those things that are “ringing your bell” in some way, clarify what, exactly, they mean to you, and then make a decision about how to move on them. Second, you must clarify exactly what your commitment is and decide what you have to do, if anything, to make progress… Third, once you’ve decided on all the actions you need to take, you must keep reminders of them organized in a system you review regularly.

What Is the Weekly Review? The Weekly Review is whatever you need to do to get your head empty again and get oriented for the next couple of weeks. It’s going through the steps of workflow management—capturing, clarifying, organizing, and reviewing all your outstanding commitments, intentions, and inclinations—until you can honestly say, “I absolutely know right now everything I’m not doing but could be doing if I decided to.”

David Allen presents the five steps of mastering workflow:

Step #1 – Capture     Step #2 – Clarify     Step #3 – Organize     Step #4 – Reflect     Step #5 – Engage

The book is filled with tips, and tricks:

  • The two minute rule – if you can do something in two minutes, (or so), then do it now!
  • The everything within physical reach rule – work where you do not have to “go” get/find anything to do your work. – All the tools you need to do your work; keep them all at your side, always! KEEP PENS AND PADS OF PAPER HANDY EVERYWHERE!
  • Date everything! (every note; every piece of paper)

I presented this synopsis today, and said to myself…darn it, I need to remember to be doing all this stuff.

At the end of my synopses, I always include my own lessons and takeaways.  Here are my nine for this book:


#1 – Seriously, read this book yourself (or this handout in
its entirety); put the systems in place; and in 6 months, re-
read, and refine…
#2 – Question: Where’s your Kroger list?
#3 – Read the glossary of the book, carefully, with pen in hand.
#4 – Check your new, thorough system – every day, and thoroughly every week!

#5 – Do your weekly review; every week!
#6 – Create, and use, checklists.
#7 – Set up, and use, tricks – many tricks.
#8 – Always have everything you need, close at hand!
#9 – As an organization, adopt a “what’s my/our next action?” culture.

After all, getting things done is an important part of what work, and life, is all about.  And Getting Things Done will help you get things done!