Monthly Bookmarks –
141st Edition – February 14, 2022
If I knew I’d live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself,Katherine Johnson on turning 100 and the NASA mathematician featured in Hidden Figures, author of My Remarkable Journey
1. Strategy, for the 489th time, what is it?
I recently reread Lafley and Martin’s, Playing to Win, the most practical book I’ve ever read on strategy. Their simple and subtle framework centers around five questions:
- What is your winning aspiration?
- Where will you play?
- How will you win?
- What capabilties must be in place?
- What management systems must be in place?
Martin states clearly and succinctly, “Strategy is about making specific choices to win in the marketplace.”
2. A Retired CFO on Acquisitions
In chapter five of Playing to Win, I appreciated the discussion on how acquisitions can fit in a company’s overall strategy (refer back to the five questions). Clayt Daley was the former CFO of P&G who retired in 2009. Daley stated P&G had three relevant criteria for any acquisition:
- The business to be bought had to be growth accretive or in a market that was growing.
- The business had to be structurally attractive with gross and operating margins above the industry norm.
- The potential purchase has to fit with the buyer’s strategy.
Simple, right? Yet, many acquisitions rarely meet the original expectations during the negotiating phases of a purchase.
3. The Best Business Book I’ve Ever Read on Deliberate Business Growth
Assume you are speaking to an audience of 500 small businesses that are in growth mode. You ask the question, “Why are you growing or why do you think you need to grow?”
The majority of answers will be a derivative of, “If I’m not growing, I’m dying.”
In Smart Growth, Dr. Edwin Hess spends the entire book refuting The Growth Mental Model which states all growth is good and makes growth the key objective of a business. Is he right? Before you answer, my favorite case study in the book is about Defender Direct, a seller and installer of ADT security systems.
One of my favorite lines by the Defender Direct founder on growth –
A few years ago we stopped trying to double our business and realized the way to grow was to double our team members’ enthusiasm, optimism and skills.Edward D. Hess. Smart Growth: Building an Enduring Business by Managing the Risks of Growth (p. 110).
By the way, I’m rereading some of my favorite books over the past thirty years. This is one of the titles. What are your favorite books worth a second read?
4. I Loved Twelve Mighty Orphans
The book starts on a sad note regarding one of the orphans who played in the NFL. It ends on a sad note–the same orphan who could not escape the demons that he experienced as a youth. Between those bookends, you’ll find a story of leadership, determination, and camaraderie. There are glimmers of Boys in the Boat and Seabiscuit in this book.
The book’s hero is Rusty Russell, an offensive brainiac who could have coached football at any Texas high school during his era. Or is it the Masonic Home Mighty Mites who were constantly facing teams with bigger players with coaching staffs that sometimes outnumbered those in the NFL?
One of my favorite lines in the book could have been uttered by a startup or a struggling entrepreneur who finally hit a home run:
Truth is, about ninety percent of the stuff I tried wasn’t any good. But we took the ten percent and made it good.Coach Rusty Russell on his improbable success with the Mighy Mites of the Masonic Home in Texas
5. Reading, Listening, and Studying
Can guess the question I’m asked the most on a regular basis? Mark, what are you reading? Below is my list including what I’m listening to.
- I’m currently reading Principle-Centered Leadership by the late Stephen Covey. This is my second time around with this book, and I like it better than his 7 Habits book.
- I just finished Playing to Win for the second time by co-author Roger Martin. I’ll be interviewing Roger soon for an upcoming podcast episode.
- I’m listening to My Remarkeable Journey: A Memior by Katherine Johnson, one of the mathematical guineses introduced in the hit, Hidden Figures.
Articles that I’ve recently read and studied:
- Six Styles of Leadership by Erin Casali
- Lessons from NUMMI by John Shook (excellent – first learned about NUMMI from Matthew May)
- Spotting Management Fads by Danny Miller
- Gestalt Laws, Charts and Tables: The way your brain wants them to be by XL Cubed
- Skills, Attitudes and Behaviours That Fuel Public Innovation by NESTA
Recent CFO Bookshelf Podcast Playlist:
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Always be learning and growing.