Fast Company, May 1999, Tom Peters
Distinguished project work is the future of work—for the simple
reason that more than 90% of white-collar jobs are in jeopardy
today. They are in the process of being transformed beyond
identification—or completely eliminated.
“WOW” projects add value and leave a legacy (and
make you a star.)
“Will we be bragging about this project five years from now?
If the odds are low, what can we do right now to turn up
the heat?” Draft people as if you’re an NBA general manager
– get the hottest people you can. And pick projects like
a venture capitalist: bet on cool people who have demonstrated
their capacity to deliver cool projects.
Point of the exercise is not to do a good job; it’s to use
every project opportunity that you can get your hands on
to create surprising new ways of looking at old problems.
accept a project as given. That’s someone else’s way of
conceptualizing the project!
focuses on the tangibles but the intangibles (i.e. emotion)
are what matters.
the confusion: “when we launched this project, we thought
we knew what we were doing. Now we know that we don’t
know what we’re doing—but the things that we’re confused
about are much more important.”
- be your
own firm within a firm.
management is emotion management.
Reengineering by Mike Hammer (See HBR '89). Managing, or administering,
businesses doesn't work today. What a retched work--administer.
It conjures up the image of a bureaucrat.
The apotheosis of mid-20th-century
administrator was Robert McNamara at Ford. McNamara didn't
know anything about cars. He knew nothing about making cars,
nothing about selling cars. He was a financial analyst.
He had a deep, unspoken assumption that work didn't matter.
Reengineering means radically
changing how we do our work. Work is the way in which we
create value for customers, how we design, invent, and make
products, how we sell them, how we serve customers. Reengineering
means radically rethinking and redesigning those processes
by which we create value and do work.
Titles: I would rip out VP/marketing
and replace it with "process owner of finding and keeping
In a reengineered company you have
to leave behind this single-function mentality and wear
more than one hat. You need to do whatever it takes to keep
the customer coming back. Managers are not value-added.
A customer never buys a product because of the caliber of
management. Less is better. One of the goals is to minimize
the necessary amount of management.
If you are designing a business for
a world of stable growth, then you want the Adam Smith,
Frederick Taylor, Henry Ford model. Trouble is, stable growth
does not characterize our environment today.
"Folks, we're going on a journey.
On this journey, we'll carry our wounded and shoot the dissenters."
A worker is someone who cares about
a task, about getting things done, and is basically working
for the wage at the time. We don't need workers in our company.
We need professionals. A professional is someone who focuses
on the result, on the customers rather than on tasks. Professionals
need coaches and leaders.
London: What do you
think about all the talk today about "re- engineering
the organization." One word I've heard you use is not
"re- engineering" but "de-engineering."
Wheatley: Yes, I put
that word out to the world. We really have to "de-engineer"
our thinking, which means that we have to examine how mechanistically
we are oriented -- even in our treatment of one another.
This is especially true in corporations. We believe that
we can best manage people by making assumptions more fitting
to machines than people. So we assume that, like good machines,
we have no desire, no heart, no spirit, no compassion, no
real intelligence -- because machines don't have any of
that. The great dream of machines is that if you give them
a set of instructions, they will follow it.
I see the history of management
as an effort to perfect the instructions that you hope someone
will follow this time -- even though they have never followed
directions in their whole life.
How is the world going to be different because you and I
are working together?
Author: Margaret Wheatley
and Myron Kellner-Rogers in A Simpler Way
There is a
simpler way to organize human endeavor.
It requires a new way of being in the world.
It requires being in the world without fear.
Being in the world with play and creativity.
Seeking after what's possible.
Being willing to learn and be surprised.
way to organize human endeavor
requires a belief that the world is inherently orderly.
The world seeks organization.
It does not need us humans to organize it.
way summons forth what is best about us.
It asks us to understand human nature differently,
It identifies us as creative.
It acknowledges that we seek after meaning.
It asks us to be less serious, yet more purposeful,
about our work and our lives.
It does not separate play from the nature of being.
of a simpler way is a world we already know.
We may not have seen it clearly,
but we have been living in it all our lives.
It is a world that is more welcoming,
more hospitable to our humanness.
Who we are and what is best about us can more easily flourish.
of a simpler way has a natural and spontaneous
tendency toward organization.
It seeks order.
Whatever chaos is present at the start,
when elements combine, systems of organization appear.
Life is attracted to order --
order gained through wandering explorations
into new relationships and new possibilities.
OLD ways die hard. Amid all the evidence that
our world is radically changing, we cling to what has worked
in the past. We still think of organizations in mechanistic
terms, as collections of replaceable parts capable of being
reengineered. We act as if even people were machines, redesigning
their jobs as we would prepare an engineering diagram, expecting
them to perform to specifications with machinelike obedience.
Over the years, our ideas of leadership have supported this
metaphoric myth. We sought prediction and control, and also
charged leaders with providing everything that was absent
from the machine: vision, inspiration, intelligence, and
courage. They alone had to provide the energy and direction
to move their rusting vehicles of organization into the
Michael Crichton: In recent decades,
many American companies have undergone a wrenching, painful
restructuring to produce high-quality products. We all know
what this requires: Flattening the corporate hierarchy.
Moving critical information from the bottom up instead of
the top down. Empowering workers. Changing the system, not
just the focus of the corporation. And relentlessly driving
toward a quality product. because improved quality demands
a change in the corporate culture. A radical change.
the first constant in the job of management is to make human
strength effective and human weaknesses irrelevant. That's
the purpose of any organization, the one thing an organization
does that individuals can't do better.
managers are accountable for results, period. They are not
being paid to be philosophers; they are not even being paid
for their knowledge. They are paid for results.
These are the factors stressed by GE in its new management process:
focus on customers
Government: How the
Entrepreneurial Spirit is
the Public Sector -- from Schoolhouse to
City Hall to the Pentagon, David Osborne and Ted
Addison-Wesley, 1992, ISBN: 0-201-52394-9.
is subtitled: An American Perestroika.
The jacket says:
Osborne and Gaebler isolate and describe ten
around which entrepreneurial public organizations
are built. They:
more than they row
communities rather than simply deliver services
competition rather than monopoly
driven by their missions, not their rules
outcomes rather than inputs
the needs of the customer, not the bureaucracy
on earning, not just spending
in prevention rather than cure
problems by leveraging the marketplace, rather than
creating public programs.
a few more relevant quotes from the intro:
Americans would really want government to act just like
business--making quick decisions behind closed doors for
If it did, democracy would be the first
casualty. But most
Americans would like government to be less
"Governance is the process by which we collectively solve
meet society's needs. Government
use. The instrument
is outdated, and the
process of reinvention
has begun. We
do not need another New
Deal, nor another
Reagan Revolution. We
need an American
Dee Hock on Management
An organization, no matter how well designed, is only
as good as the people who live and work in it. Ultimately
what determines the organization's performance is the approach
to management its leaders take. Some of Dee Hock's management
principles, in his own words:
PhD in Leadership, Short Course: Make a careful list of all
things done to you that you abhorred. Don't do them to others,
ever. Make another list of things done for you that you
loved. Do them for others, always.
Associates: Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity;
second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding;
fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience. Without
integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation,
capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is
limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless;
without knowledge, experience is blind. Experience is easy
to provide and quickly put to good use by people with all
the other qualities.
Employing Yourself: Never hire or promote in your own image.
It is foolish to replicate your strength. It is idiotic
to replicate your weakness. It is essential to employ, trust,
and reward those whose perspective, ability, and judgment
are radically different from yours. It is also rare, for
it requires uncommon humility, tolerance, and wisdom.
Compensation: Money motivates neither the best people, nor
the best in people. It can move the body and influence the
mind, but it cannot touch the heart or move the spirit;
that is reserved for belief, principle, and morality. As
Napoleon observed, "No amount of money will induce
someone to lay down their life, but they will gladly do
so for a bit of yellow ribbon."
Form and Substance: Substance is enduring, form is ephemeral.
Failure to distinguish clearly between the two is ruinous.
Success follows those adept at preserving the substance
of the past by clothing it in the forms of the future. Preserve
substance; modify form; know the difference. The closest
thing to a law of nature in business is that form has an
affinity for expense, while substance has an affinity for
Creativity: The problem is never how to get new, innovative
thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every
mind is a room packed with archaic furniture. You must get
the old furniture of what you know, think, and believe out
before anything new can get in. Make an empty space in any
corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill
Leadership: Here is the very heart and soul of the matter.
If you look to lead, invest at least 40% of your time managing
yourself--your ethics, character, principles, purpose, motivation,
and conduct. Invest at least 30% managing those with authority
over you, and 15% managing your peers. Use the remainder
to induce those you "work for" to understand and
practice the theory. I use the terms "work for"
advisedly, for if you don't understand that you should be
working for your mislabeled "subordinates," you
haven't understood anything. Lead yourself, lead your superiors,
lead your peers, and free your people to do the same. All
else is trivia.
Dee Hock on Organizations
Whenever Dee Hock talks to people about chaordic organizations,
someone always wants to know, "Where's the plan? How
do we implement it?" But that's the wrong question,
he says, because an organization isn't a machine that can
be built according to a blueprint.
"All organizations are merely conceptual embodiments of
a very old, very basic idea--the idea of community. They
can be no more or less than the sum of the beliefs of the
people drawn to them; of their character, judgments, acts,
and efforts," Hock says. "An organization's success
has enormously more to do with clarity of a shared purpose,
common principles and strength of belief in them than to
assets, expertise, operating ability, or management competence,
important as they may be."
Some principles that worked for Visa:
The organization must be adaptable and responsive to changing
conditions, while preserving overall cohesion and unity
of purpose. This is the fundamental paradox facing businesses,
governments, and societies alike, says Hock--not to mention
living cells, brains, immune systems, ant colonies, and
most of the rest of the natural world. Adaptability requires
that the individual components of the system be in competition.
And yet cohesion requires that those same individuals cooperate
with each other, thereby giving up at least some of their
freedom to compete.
The trick is to find the delicate balance that allows the system
to avoid turf fights and back-stabbing on the one hand,
and authoritarian micromanagement on the other. "Neither
competition nor cooperation can rise to its highest potential
unless both are seamlessly blended," says Hock. "Either
without the other swiftly becomes dangerous and destructive."
The organization must cultivate equity, autonomy, and individual
opportunity. "Given the right circumstances,"
says Hock, "from no more than dreams, determination,
and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently
do extraordinary things."
The organization's governing structure must distribute power
and function to the lowest level possible. "No function
should be performed by any part of the whole that could
reasonably be done by any more peripheral part," says
Hock, "and no power should be vested in any part that
might reasonably be exercised by any lesser part."
The governing structure must not be a chain of command, but
rather a framework for dialogue, deliberation, and coordination
among equals. Authority, in other words, comes from the
bottom up, not the top down. The U. S. federal system is
designed so authority rises from the people to local, state,
and federal governments; in Visa, which contains elements
of the federal system, the member banks send representatives
to a system of national, regional, and international boards.
While the system appears to be hierarchical, the Visa hierarchy
is not a chain of command. Instead, each board is supposed
to serve as a forum for members to raise common issues,
debate them, and reach some kind of consensus and resolution.
From Harvard Mgt Update 4/99
A company’s ability to seize an opportunity often
depends on how fast it can field a team of talented individuals,
wherever they may be. That puts a big premium on the skills
of virtual management-the ability to run a team
whose members aren’t in the same location, don’t report
to you, and may
not even work for your organization.
So far, savvy virtual managers are rare. “I’d be surprised
if anyone has it figured out yet,” says Tom Kunz, a principal
with Shell Oil Co.’s Network Learning and Support Center
in Houston, a unit that supports the corporation’s virtual
But though the skills are still scarce, the subject is being
well studied; in fact, there’s already a body of research
on the keys to successful virtual management. Among the
1. WALK BEFORE YOU RUN.
Companies often forget that someone who can’t manage a conventional
team effectively probably can’t handle a virtual one, either.
You’ve got to “do successful teaming in your own house first,”
says Bill Hanson, a former VP of manufacturing at Digital
Equipment Corporation who now is industry codirector of
the Leaders for Manufacturing program at Massachusetts Institute
of Technology. Success with any team means learning to make
team members a top priority.
2. LIGHT A “FIRE IN THE BELLY.”
A virtual team needs a clear mission. The team must flesh
out exactly what it will accomplish and how it will do so.
The process works best when everyone gets involved-which
often means getting together for a kickoff meeting.
3. ASSUME NOTHING; SPELL OUT EVERYTHING.
You have to test assumptions about everything: how the team
will communicate, what terms such as “quality” mean in practice,
even whether the schedule means the same thing to everybody.
Once a project is underway, the manager has to keep team
members from becoming isolated. That could mean sending
e-mail, posting to a project Web site, sending faxes, or
making phone calls. The manager should also
encourage team members to keep in touch with one another,
even when there’s no pressing need to do so. Familiarity
breeds trust, and people who trust one another will inevitably
5. FIND ALLIES.
A common problem with virtual teams: members often work
on more than one team at a time, so you may be competing
with others for an individual’s time. Ken Campbell, a senior
consultant with Genesis Consulting in Ridgefield, Conn.,
who has served on several virtual teams, suggests
getting an “executive sponsor.” Suppose you need the company’s
legal department-500 miles away-to lend you a day of a researcher’s
time. You may need an alliance with someone high enough
in the organization to go to the
executive running that department and request help on your
behalf. Be aware, though, that you’re asking the higher-up
for a real commitment.
6. COMPENSATE CREATIVELY.
In a team including people from different companies, chances
compensation will be tied to project success. Campbell suggests
incentives on both project and personal performance (see
“How to Compensate Teams,” HMU, November 1997). Above all,
be prepared to answer the question, ”If I turn in excellent
work on time and ahead of schedule but the project still
fails, will I get a bonus?”
7. WATCH FOR CONFLICT-AND LEARN TO MANAGE IT.
Conflict is inevitable, in virtual teams as well as in conventional
ones. If you have an e-mail archive, check it daily for
disagreements among team members. If you find any, call
them in person.
Phone conversations are a good time to probe for potential
problems. “You have to have a sensitive ear and be very
precise with the questions you ask people,” says Genesis
vice president Hal Tragash. It can be hard to hear a cry
for help from an overburdened team member, and if you miss
it, you could have problems down the line.
8. DO BETTER NEXT TIME.
Kunz, of Shell, has begun doing detailed postmortems of
the teams he works with. “We try to bring all the parts
together so everyone can see the
value of their individual pieces,” he says. The goal: better
Done well, in fact, virtual teaming can be a constant source
of learning. And the lessons go beyond the virtual.
Article excerpt (The Art of Managing Virtual Teams: Eight
Key Lessons, By Charles Wardell) from the November 1998
issue of HARVARD MANAGEMENT UPDATE.
useful concepts… homeostasis, cybernetics,
in a small-group breakout, writing
imaginary newspaper headlines inspired by the Disciplined
Society. In futurist terms, they're "incasting"
- assuming that a major transition has taken place and
working backward to deduce the events that might have led
to it. Incasting is different from forecasting - looking
at current events and speculating on where they might lead.
It's also different from predicting - which, as any real
futurist will tell you, is nearly impossible.
homeostasis - the tendency of living things
to maintain equilibrium in changing conditions. For example,
when we are hot, we sweat and the condensing liquid cools
us down, when we are hungry, we eat, when we are cold, we
shiver, which warms us up and so on. Our biological selves
show many examples of homeostasis. However, the concept
is taken further, namely into the realms of psychology where
many psychologists assume that we have an innate need to
keep all our beliefs, desires, values etc. in a state of
equilibrium, i.e. internally consistent
cybernetics in which the notion of biological
homeostasis is generalized to include all systems which
maintain variables within limits. Thus cybernetics is much
concerned with feedback systems which permit such self-regulation.
A simple example would be a central-heating system, which
uses a thermostat to monitor the temperature and turn the
boiler on or off accordingly.
paradigm shift - a term associated with T Kuhn's
Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in which he proposes
that science conforms for some time to a dominant paradigm
which then reaches a crisis and is consequently replaced
by a new paradigm. For example, the replacement of Aristotelian
physics by the new Galilean/Newtonian variety represents
a pradigm shift, as does the subsequent replacemnt of Newtonian
physics by relativity theory and quantum mechanics.
self-organization is the term used to refer to the spontaneous
organization of a system's elements into coherent new patterns
and structures. For example atoms 'seek' a minimum energy
state by forming chemical bonds with other atoms, thereby
creating molecules, individual organisms organize into 'societies'
of organisms which interact with other 'societies' to produce
an ecosystem, human beings try to satisfy their material
needs in their interactions with one another, which gives
rise to markets and economies. These patterns are not planned,
they just emerge. An excellent example of such 'emergent
behaviour' is provided by Craig Reynolds simulation of the
flocking behaviour of birds and a variety of animals and
fish. His simulaton requires that each 'boid' on his computer
screen follow three simple rules:
maintain a minimum distance from
other objects, including other 'boids'
try to match velocities with
other boids in its neighbourhood
try to move towards the perceived
centre of the mass of boids in its
These three simple rules, however many
boids there are and whatever their starting positions, produce
the extraordinarily complex behaviour of real flocks of
birds or shoals of fish, despite the fact that each rule
is entirely local (i.e. to a single boid) in its application.
Research into self-organization
and its application to the structure and management of organizations
is currently being conducted world-wide. When I know more
about it, I'll add something here.
Five Conditions for High-Performance Cultures
W. Mathew Juechter, Caroline Fisher, and
Randall J. Alford
Most companies have tried a lot of ways
to increase work performance-such as TQM, 360 feedback,
and restructuring-only to fail to see the results they wanted
and expected. This article argues that the key to positive
lasting change and high performance lies in an organization's
culture-along with five critical conditions.
A high-performing organization must have
a strategic focus, a clear view of reality, employees' commitment
rather than compliance, and aligned behavior. The five essential
conditions for cultural transformation are (1) a relevant
focus, (2) top-driven but fueled throughout change, (3)
leaders' commitment, (4) comprehensive involvement, and
(5) external coaches. Successful change initiative requires
a broad cultural framework and systemic support. Leaders
must confront the "messy business" of their human
systems to become the architects of resilient, responsive,
and high-performance cultures.