Friday, December 23, 2011

Jim Collins: First Who…

BusThe 2nd post in our 8-part series reviewing Jim Collins principles of Good-to-Great Leadership. I strongly suggest you buy the book and study it thoroughly. I found it very helpful.
Jim Collins began the chapter on First Who…Then What, “When we began the research project, we expected to find that the first step in taking a company from good to great would be to set a new direction, a new vision and strategy for the company, and then to get people committed and aligned behind the new direction.
We found something quite the opposite.
The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.”
Mistakes of Companies that Did Not Go Good-to-Great
  • Weak Generals with Strong Lieutenants: The weak generals model produced a climate …[where] weak generals would wait for directions from above.”
    • “Genius Leaders with a Thousand Helpers: set a vision for where to drive the bus. Develop a road map for driving the bus. Then, enlist a crew of highly capable “helpers” to make the vision happen.
    The Key: “Who” First and “What” Second
    Collins continues “The good-to-great leaders understood three simple truths:
    1. If you begin with “who,” rather than “what,” you can more easily adapt to a changing world.
    2. If you have right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away
    3. If you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction, you still won’t have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”
    Not only did great companies get the right people on the bus. They ensured that the people were in the right seats on the bus. I personally experienced this in one operation I managed. I inherited an operation with excellent people already in place. Unfortunately, previous management assigned them responsibilities inappropriately to the capabilities of the people. I merely changed their assignments and increased productivity of the operation by 87% in four months.
    Rigorous, Not Ruthless
    Collins found that great companies are rigorous but not ruthless. Collins wrote “To be ruthless means hacking and cutting, especially in difficult times, or wantonly firing people without any thoughtful consideration. To be rigorous means consistently applying exacting standards at all times and at all levels, especially in upper management. To be rigorous, not ruthless, means that the best people need not worry about their positions and can concentrate fully on their work.
    They found three practical disciplines required to enforce the rigor required to become great:
    1. “When in doubt, don’t hire—keep looking (Corollary: A company should limit its growth based on its ability to attract enough of the right people.)”
    2. “When you know you need to make a people change, act (Corollary: First be sure you don’t simply have someone in the wrong seat.)”
    3. “Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems (Corollary: If you sell off your problems, don’t sell off your best people.)”
    Collins concludes this chapter pointing out that the old adage “People are your most important asset is wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” He also highlights “Whether someone is the ‘right person’ has more to do with character traits and innate capabilities than with specific knowledge, background, or skills.”
    This concept found by Jim Collins becomes essential to your career success. Whether you find yourself the leader needing to lure the right people onto your bus and helping others off the bus, or one of the people getting on or off the bus; prioritizing “who” first, then “what” remains critical to becoming great.
    Frieday we we explore the need to face brutal facts in our organization

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