Monthly Bookmarks –
159th Edition – January 29th, 2024
If you want the average performance of those around you to go up, you must first improve your own performance.Peter Drucker
1. Pick a Management System, Any System
I finally found the research I’ve been seeking for years. First, a question. What are some of today’s popular management systems and a few from the past?
- Scaling Up
- OKRs and/or MBO
- Lean and Six Sigma
- Balanced Scorecard
Hendricks and Singhal published research results in 1999 stemming from the review of 600 organizations that used any management system and 600 that did not. I found their findings to be profound.
The 600 that fully implemented a system grew sales and earnings significantly higher and faster than the six hundred that did not.
Incidentally, more than 100 different management models were uncovered among the 600 companies that used the system. Think a particular system is better than another?
2. Narratives vs. Powerpoint
I’m reading John Rossman’s newest book, Big Bet Leadership. Rossman and his co-author believe that “writing is the best way to capture and summarize complex business situations and thinking.”
My favorite insight into their conviction on writing is the research they highlighted from Edward Tufte, who played a key role in Amazon’s adoption of written narratives and the abolishment of PowerPoint.
Tufte points out that PowePoint leads to relentless sequentiality, resulting from slide after slide of 40-word blurbs. Furthermore, Tufte claims the slides can bend content to favor visual appeal over insights and accuracy.
The solution to the PowerPoint limitations is found in my favorite chapter of Big Bet Leadership, Canary in the Gold Mine, which includes scenario thinking, asking the right questions, and applying smart constraints.
The first leadership book for the age of artificial intelligence, equipping leaders with principles and tactics to achieve audacious outcomes and solve complex problems while smartly managing the inherent risks of bold moves.
3. My First Psychology Book
If we can count pop psychology books, I’ve read numerous titles in this genre. Yet, I’ve never read a textbook on psychology or anything close to it. Somehow, I graduated with two degrees from my state’s liberal arts university without taking a psych class.
At the beginning of the year, I decided to indulge my curiosity by reading a title or two in this book category, and I started with Psych: The Story of the Human Mind by Paul Bloom.
I couldn’t help myself. I started with Chapter 13, Uniquely You. In that chapter, he addresses the numerous shortcomings of personality assessments. To make a point, he mentions Myers-Briggs in that it lacks validity.
Among other flaws, it puts people into distinct bins, seriously distorting the real variability of human behavior. Someone (ahem, me) might fall into the INTP category—introverted, intuitive, thinking, and perceiving—but all these categories fall on a continuum. – p. 312 Kindle Version
In short, Bloom states that the majority of these assessments do not measure what they are supposed to measure, which is all about validity.
Bloom recommends sticking to the Big Five: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeability, and Neuroticism. In short form, this is abbreviated to OCEAN.
Don’t expect a contraction in the personality assessment arena anytime soon. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, and consumers love knowing about themselves and will gladly shell out dollars to feed this appetite.
4. My Favorite Story in A Beautiful Constraint
I believe the book A Beautiful Constraint is far better workshop material than a long narrative in the form of a book.
However, there are some great stories that serve as cornerstones in the book’s recipe for leveraging constraints.
Audi developed the R10 TDI car for the Le Mans race in 2006. The chief engineer could have asked, “How do we build a faster car?” Instead, he asked a different question, “How could we win Le Mans if our car could go no faster than anyone else’s?”
” … the answer was fuel efficiency: they could win Le Mans with a car that wasn’t faster than any of the other cars if it took fewer pit stops. And they were right: the R10 TDI placed first at Le Mans for the next three years.” – A Beautiful Constraint: How To Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business (p. 55)
"Most of us tend to see constraints as restrictive and adversely limiting. This book shows how and why the opposite is true ... "
5. Boundary Conditions
The concept of beautiful constraints, along with the Audi example above, reminds me of boundary conditions, as mentioned in Drucker’s The Effective Executive. He states, “To be effective, a decision must satisfy the boundary conditions.” But what are boundary conditions? He answers this question with a series of questions in the context of effective decision-making:
- What are the objectives the decision has to reach?
- What are the minimum goals it has to attain?
- What are the conditions it has to satisfy?
I would add a fourth question after reading A Beautiful Constraint: what identified constraints will need to be leveraged for an ideal outcome?
It is one of the first groundbreaking books on leadership effectiveness that is as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1967.
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