Book – Thriving on Chaos

thriving.pngFantastic book!  The most remarkable is the applicability of many suggestions now, a couple of decades later.

The book starts with an idea that was demonstrated so true in recent times:

There are no excellent companies.  The old saw “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” needs revision.  I propose: “If it ain’t broke, you just haven’t looked hard enough.” Fix it anyway.

The book also has many “analog” examples of very modern concepts, examples that give a more complete view of the concept.  As now listening associated with social media, the most effective approaches to listening may not need to be online at all.

One of the most interesting points is the perception of effectiveness of automation (in manufacturing context), which is very similar to implementation of marketing technologies now.  As our industry realized that the biggest challenge of marketing technologies is the “people and the process” rather than “data and technology” itself, similar perception has been observed decades ago:

“Spending big money quickly on automation is not wise.  In the end, its effectiveness depends as much on organizational preparation as on money and technical prowess.  Major automation cannot be effectively “installed;” it must be accompanied by a way of organizational life.”

“…It turns out that the installation of integrated information technology-based systems is not primarily a matter of technology.  It is a matter of organization.  Every power relationship, inside and outside the firm, is affected by the installation of the new information technology systems…  The failure of so many elaborate new systems results from a failure to think through the bare-knuckle issues of power redistribution.”

Creating Total Customer Responsiveness 

C-1 Specialize/Create Niches/Differentiate

Interesting, the author believes that “the more the world perceives the product to be a commodity, the greater the opportunity to differentiate and create new and unexpected niches…”  The example is “shop towel” producer (rug business), which helps industrial launderers to run their business and “rent” the rugs to the end users.

C-2 Provide Top Quality, as Perceived by the Customer
C-3 Provide Superior Service/Emphasize the Intangibles
C-4 Achieve Extraordinary Responsiveness
C-5 Be an Internationalist
C-6 Create Uniqueness
C-7 Become Obsessed with Listening

One organization asked its customers to share their perspective on the industry and what they actually needed.  “Interesting that they wouldn’t give me 15 minutes to listen to me in their offices, but would allow me two hours in my hotel if I would listen to them.”

Calls coming to the service center: asking customers for their ideas during the calls and report what they heard to top management directly. 

“In fact, we’d be much better off if we could pretend that our customers are foreigners who do not speak our language.”

Walmart:  “…each of top executives picks out an item of store merchandise that he or she will directly sponsor throughout the year.  The most beneficial aspect of the program is simply that it keeps senior management’s hand in the business in a very direct way.” 

C-8 Turn Manufacturing into a Marketing Weapon
C-9 Make Sales and Service Forces into Heroes

Innovative approach of a government agency to recognition: “Baltimore’s transit boss… wanted to reward good performance from bus drivers.  Not fazed by the public sector’s inability to give tangible rewards, he figured that downtown merchants benefited from good transit service.  So he solicited gifts from them to give to top drivers (such as free meals and movie tickets) in return for free advertising space on the buses.”

C-10 Launch a Customer Revolution

Pursuing Fast-Paced Innovation 

I-1 Invest in Applications-Oriented Small Starts
I-2 Pursue Team Product/Service Development
I-3 Encourage Pilots of Everything

“We don’t need proposals. Or, rather, we need a new form of proposal.  The most useful proposal aimed at an executive committee is one that has been thoroughly presold to everyone on the basis of hard evidence signed by and contributed to by each key executive’s own field people.” 

I-4 Practice “Creative Swiping”
I-5 Make Word-of-Mouth Marketing Systematic
I-6 Support Committed Champions
I-7 “Model” Innovation/Practice Purposeful Impatience
I-8 Support Fast Failures
I-9 Set Quantitative Innovation Goals
I-10 Create a Corporate Capacity for Innovation

Achieving Flexibility by Empowering People

P-1 Involve Everyone in Everything
P-2 Use Self-Managing Teams
P-3 Listen/Celebrate/Recognize
P-4 Spend Time Lavishly on Recruiting
P-5 Train and Retraincomplexity.png
P-6 Provide Incentive Pay for Everyone
P-7 Provide an Employment Guarantee
Simplify/Reduce Structure
P-9 Reconceive the Middle Manager’s Role
P-10 Eliminate Bureaucratic Rules and Humiliating Conditions

Learning to Love Change: A New View of Leadership at All Levels

L-1 Master Paradox

“Success will steam from more love of the product – and less attachment to it.”  

“The core paradox, then, that all leaders at all levels must contend with is fostering (creating) internal stability in order to encourage the pursuit of constant change.” 

L-2 Develop an Inspiring Vision

“Effective visions are aimed at empowering our own people first, customers second.”  Very interesting – and decades before Employees First – Customers Second movement. 

L-3 Manage by Example

“Lead, as never before, by personal example – in particular, calling attention to the new by means of our primary leadership tool: our calendars; that is, the way we spend our time.”

“Modify your calendar by 15% in the next six weeks to call attention quantitatively to your top priority.”

L-4 Practice Visible Management
L-5 Pay Attention! (More Listening)

“You must have the guts to ask dumb questions.”  (Illustration is a senior consultant unfamiliar to the specific industry unafraid to ask the business to explain industry terms, while junior consultants were afraid that they were expected to know the terms and did not dare to ask questions.

“Eat your way through the medical staff.”  A brilliant approach used by a hospital administrator to connect with medical staff, who was considered as “don’t want to cooperate.”  “I simply declared that I was going to be in my office on the same morning each week, with coffee and Danish, and I’d be pleased if any of the medical staff would drop by and join me toward no particular end.  It was slow to catch on, I’s be the first to admit it.  There were a lot of lonely breakfasts, but now it’s the most important and real “Staff meeting” of the week.” 

L-6 Defer to the Front Line
L-7 Delegate
L-8 Pursue “Horizontal” Management by Bashing Bureaucracy
L-9 Evaluate Everyone on His or Her Love of Change
L-10 Create a Sense of Urgency

Building Systems for a World Turned Upside Down

S-1 Measure What’s Importanttraining
S-2 Revamp the Chief Control Tools

“… Numbers too often focus on highly abstract outcomes.  We need, instead, to emphasize capability building – developing the skills that will give us strategic advantage over the long haul.  We need to talk about “building sales-force capability and support systems,” “achieving flexibility,” and “cutting product development time” more than about achieving “15% earnings-per-share growth.”  The later target may be admirable, but is not much related to the skill enhancement necessary for adjusting to the changing world.”

S-3 Decentralize Information, Authority, and Strategic Planning
S-4 Set Conservative Goals
S-5 Demand Total Integrity

Book – The Content Trap

content.pngVery thought-provoking book that asks the reader to questions some of common industry assumptions.

The author suggests that we overestimate the value of content; successful companies excel not because of the quality and uniqueness of the content they produce, but because the content facilitates connections between customers.  However, companies should not rely on best practices that might be beneficial for other organizations, but need to find their own approach and use content to help their customers connect in a way the most beneficial for the company’s objectives.

Interesting: the decline of newspapers may not have been created by the decline in the readership of the content (the circulation revenue did not decline so sharply), but the decline in advertising – which has primarily “connecting” function.  As buyers and sellers were better served by online resource, newspapers lost advertisement that always supported the content itself.  news.png


Another interesting example: comparison of Tencent and Facebook.  Though Tencent has a very effective digital currency, Facebook’s attempt to create a digital currently were unsuccessful.  Tencent might have accidentally found an application of digital currency when popular handles started to generate value in real currency.  The company makes avatars and other electronic enhancements available in exchange for its digital currency, what keeps generating interest.  Facebook’s attempt to create digital currency did not have sufficient context for the product to become popular.  As a result, these companies have very different revenue profile.


The book explores music industry from the content perspective in useful and also entertaining form.  The change of the musical recording format chart is particularly insightful.


Value of format is also specific for an industry, or, maybe, even a unique product.  The popular book 50 Shades of Grey was initially published electronically, and did not reach wide audience in this format.  The book’s popularity came after the debut of its print edition.

Economist.PNGQuite interesting – and very successful – approach of The Economist: as the company’s brand have been well-known and functioned as a status brand, the company did not have to hurry to provide any unique content online, and did not need to create any additional free content.  The Economist does not credit its success to exceptional quality of content, though it promotes consistency of style.  As sufficient number of people would be happy to be seen with The Economist and not actually read it, the promotional efforts of the magazine in US were based on this nuance.  Marketing efforts were not concentrated in San Francisco or New York, but in many other less expensive markets where The Economist might have “many potential readers, but not actual ones.”  This approach saved marketing dollars and achieved desirable results.

Editorial quality experiment: readers were asked about the editorial quality of the article branded as The Economist, The Huffington Post, or unbranded.  The article was accompanied by high quality ads (Jaguar, AMEX), or simple popup ads, or had no ads at all.

  • The Economist: editorial quality of the article without ads or with high quality ads was perceived the same; simple popup ads decreased perceived quality of the article
  • Huffington Post – no difference in perception of the editorial quality of the article disregarding the presence of the ads or their quality
  • Unbranded article – any ads increased perception of the editorial quality (if anybody is advertising… the content must be worth it…)

ebay.pngAn example of an advertising approach that must also be considered by companies based on their unique business rather than a general industry “best practice.”  Ebay discovered that brand paid search advertisement brought new visitors to their site, who did not quite buy the products.  However, the ads were clicked by returning visitors, who would not need an ad, and would click on organic listing anyway.  In short term, the paid brand search advertisement’s return was negative for Ebay.  Ebay suggested that other brands might have similar results. Google disagreed based on its own research, and recommended each brand to evaluate the benefit of search advertisement for its unique business 🙂

Business strategy itself requires consideration of company’s unique position in the market and “connection” of all strategic elements.  If the company is thinking about “Content,” it needs to focus on how the content will help to connect its customers or leverage existing customer connections.

Book – The Ideal Team Player

team-playerThe book is a pleasure to listen as other management fables by Patrick M. Lencioni.  In a very entertaining form the author presents easy to remember traits of an ideal team player, and a guide on how these traits can be evaluated during the interview process.

The concept of “an ideal team player” is quite simple and immediately useful.  smart


The first and most important virtue of an ideal team player is humility. A humble employee is someone who is more concerned with the success of the team than with getting credit for his or her contributions. People who lack humility in a significant way, the ones who demand a disproportionate amount of attention, are dangerous for a team. Having said that, humble team players are not afraid to honestly acknowledge the skills and talents that they bring to the team, though never in a proud or boastful way.


The next virtue of an ideal team player is hunger, the desire to work hard and do whatever is necessary to help the team succeed. Hungry employees almost never have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They volunteer to fill gaps, take on more responsibilities and are eagerly looking around corners for new ways to contribute to the team.


The final virtue of a team player is not about being intelligent, but rather about being wise in how to deal with people. Smart employees understand the nuances of team dynamics, and know how their words and actions impact others. Their good judgment and intuition help them deal with others in the most effective way.

guideAn interview guide suggests questions to ask during the interview process and possible interpretations of the answers.

The interesting point (from my perspective) is the “hungry” component.  As a humble person with good interpersonal skills won’t create a team discord, this type of an individual is not quite contributing to the team’s success.  The author calls an extreme example of this type a “lovable slacker,” who is a pleasure to be around, but who is not doing enough to help the team to achieve its goal.  Even if “hungry” might seem to belong to a different area of employee’s performance, it does affect the team.