Book Notes: Winning

Winning by Jack Welch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, it gives quite a lot of really interesting stories which really go much beyond the notes I have capture here.

Underneath it all
MISSION AND VALUES – So Much Hot Air About Something So Real

A good mission statement and a good set of values are so real they smack you in the face with their concreteness.

A good mission statement answers “How do we intend to win in this bussiness?”, giving a clear direction to profitability and inspiring to be part of something big and important. In compiling the mission statement it is important to listen to smart people from everywhere in the bussiness but it is management’s responsibility to listen, then define it then deliver on it.

Where as the responsibility for mission is the managements the responsibility for values is everyones, and while management might come up with a first version it is important for everyone to feel that they can have input and challenge them to make them better. It is then important to reward people who follow them and punish those that do not – living the values is crucial to winning.

Mission and values must be reinforcing – which seems obvious at first, but over time they can drift apart and if kept unchecked can cause the downfall of the company (e.g. Arthur Anderson).

CANDOR – The Biggest Dirty Little Secret in Business

First you get more people and ideas expressed in conversations which results in more richer ideas where people feel they can discuss, pull apart and improve ideas rather than just shutting people down.
Second it generates speed which is needed in a world market competing against a five person startup.
Third it cuts cost with meaningful discussion not just dull presentations

DIFFERENTIATION – Cruel and Darwinian? Try Fair and Effective

This is the way to manage people and businesses – for businesses it was being #1 or #2 in the market or having a plan to get there, if this were not the case then the company would have to be restructured, sold or closed. This made winning very clear and also made it clear where money should be invested – not just giving a little to every bussiness.

Managers already rank people in their head so why not make it visible.
Top 20% – these are your best and are treated well with share options bonuses etc
Middle 70% – these are the majority and here the challenge and risk is to keep them motivated and engaged. Focus is on training, feedback and goal setting. You don’t want to lose these people you want them to improve.
Bottom 10% – these people have to go, ideally once you tell them they are in the bottom 10% they will leave on their own to find jobs which are much more suited to them.
The challenges is that in some companies 20-70-10 does not work because of cronyism or favoritism. It could be that management classify the top 20 are head nodders and the bottom 10 are the ones who ask tough questions. This can be resolved with a candid clear cut appraisal system with clear goals, expectations and timelines.

VOICE AND DIGNITY – Every Brain in the Game

Every person wants and deserves a voice and dignity. Voice meaning that everyone is respected for having a valid opinion and feeling from their perspective. Dignity being acknowledged for their work, effort and individuality. Using “Work-Out” sessions where an external facilitator the manager would open the event and then leave for the sessions to be as open as possible, the manager would return at the end of the day and for 75% of the items give a yes or no answer right away and committing to respond to the remaining 25% soon after.

Your company
LEADERSHIP – It’s Not Just About You

Before you become a leader success is about growing yourself. Once you become a leader success is about growing others.

What leaders do:

  • Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence
    • You have to evaluate – making sure the right people are in the right jobs, supporting and advancing those who are, and moving out those who are not
    • You have to coach – guiding, critiquing, and helping people to improve their performance in every way
    • And finally you have to build self-confidence – pouring out encouragement, caring and recognition.
  • Leaders make sure that people don’t only see the vision but that they live and breath it
  • Leaders get into everyone’s skin, exuding positive energy and optimism
  • Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency and credit
  • Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls
  • Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action
  • Leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example
  • Leaders celebrate

HIRING – What Winners Are Made Of

Integrity – they tell the truth, keep their word and take responsibility for past mistakes
Intelligence – not just education (which is a piece of the puzzle) but intelligence is critical
Maturity – individuals can handle the heat, stress and setbacks

4Es and a P
Positive energy – they love what they are doing and seem to never get tired
Energise others – the ability to get people revved up and passionate to do things
Edge – the courage to make tough yes or no decisions
Execute – the ability to get the job done
Passion – a deep felt and authentic passion for work

For senior leaders then you are also looking for
Authenticity – to have self confidence and conviction
See around corners – to be able to predict things before they happen
Surround themselves with better people than they are – a great leader has the courage to pull together a team which can make them look like the dumbest person in the room
Heavy-duty resilience – when they make a mistake do they re-group and then get going again

PEOPLE MANAGEMENT – You’ve Got the Right Players, Now What?

  • Elevate HR to a position of power and primacy in the organisation, and make sure HR people have the special qualities to help managers build leaders and careers. In fact, the best HR types are pastors and parents in the same package.
  • Use a rigorous, non bureaucratic evaluation system, monitored for integrity with the same intensity as Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance
  • Create effective mechanisms – read: money, recognition and training – to motivate and retain
  • Face straight into charged relationships – with unions, stars, sliders and disruptors
  • Fight gravity and instead of taking the middle 70 for granted treat them like the heart and soul of the organisation
  • Design the org chart to be as flat as possible with blindingly clear reporting relationships and responsibilities

PARTING WAYS – Letting Go Is Hard to Do

Firing people is not pleasant for neither the employee nor the manager but there are three mistakes which are common.
Moving too fast – Identifying someone is underperforming and not giving them a chance to improve
Not being candid – Where you have said nice things to the person but not the real feedback so when they are fired the feel mislead
Taking too long – where someone is obviously underperforming and everyone knows it but the fear of firing someone is too large these people suffer as a result

CHANGE – Mountains Do Move

  • Attach every change initiative to a clear purpose or goal. Change for change’s sake is stupid and enervating
  • Hire and promote only true believers and get-on-with-it types
  • Ferret out and get rid of resistors, even if their performance is satisfactory
  • Look at car wrecks – where things go wrong see what might be salvaged

CRISIS MANAGEMENT – From Oh-God-No to Yes-We’re-Fine

  • Assume that it is worse than it appears
  • Assume there are no secrets in the world and that everyone will eventually find out everything
  • Assume that you and your organisation’s handling of the crisis will be portrayed in the worst possible light
  • Assume there will be changes in processes and people
  • Assume your organisation will survive, ultimately stronger for what happend

Your competition
STRATEGY – It’s All in the Sauce

  • Come up with a big aha for your business a smart realistic relatively fast way to gain substantial competitive advantage
    • What does the playing field look like now
    • What the competition has been up to
    • What you’ve been up to
    • What’s around the corner?
    • What’s your winning move?
  • Put the right people in the right jobs to drive the big aha forward
  • Relentlessly seek out the best practices to achieve your big aha whether inside or out adopt them and continue improving them

BUDGETING – Reinventing the Ritual

The standard budget process is broken as finance and the company are on different sides – there is a phony war where people can not be honest and open which turns it into a game. If instead two questions were asked ” How can we beat last years performance?” and “What is our competitor doing and how can we beat them?”. This is more an operational plan and unlike a budget can and should change as the year progresses.
This can only work if bonus is not tied to the budget and is instead linked to how the company improved on the previous year and in comparison to competitors.

ORGANIC GROWTH – So You Want to Start Something New

Starting and growing a new product or company with value of $50k is more complicated than running an established bussiness of $20m. However there are common mistakes which companies make.
First companies tend to under resource new ventures.
Second they make too little fanfare about the potential the new idea has
Third they limit the ventures autonomy.
These are hedges by the company to limit the potential risk and impact but they also limit the chases of its success. Instead
Spend plenty up front and put the best, hungriest and most passionate people in leadership roles.
Make an exaggerated commotion about potential and importance of the new venture
Err on the side of freedom; get off the new venture’s back

MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS – Deal Heat and Other Deadly Sins

  • The first pitfall is thinking that a merger of equals can occur. Despite the noble intentions of those attempting them, the vast majority of such mergers self-destruct because of their very premise.
  • The second pitfall is focusing so intently on strategic fit that you fail to assess cultural fit, which is just as important to a merger’s success, if not more so.
  • The third pitfall is entering into a “reverse hostage situation”, in which the acquirer ends up making so many concessions during negotiations that the acquired ends up calling all the shots afterwards.
  • The fourth pitfall is integrating too timidly. With good leadership, a good merger should be completed within 90 days.
  • The fifth pitfall is the conqueror syndrome, in which the acquiring company marches in and installs own manages everywhere, undermining one of the reasons for any merger – getting an influx of new talent to pick from.
  • The sixth pitfall is paying too much. Not 5 or 10% too much, but so much that the premium can never be recouped in the integration
  • The seventh pitfall afflicts the acquired companies people from top to bottom – resistance. In a merger, new owners will always select people with buy-in over resistors with brains. If you want to survive, get over your angst and learn to love the deal as much as they do.

SIX SIGMA – Better Than a Trip to the Dentist

The book advocated Six Sigma in areas such as repetitive tasks and complex new products with the key aim to be the reduction in variation – with the highlight of “variation is evil” and Six Sigma provides a way to reduce this.

Your career
THE RIGHT JOB – Find It and You’ll Never Really Work Again

Imagine you are considering a new job…

SignalTake it as a good sign if…Be concerned if…
PeopleYou like the people a lot – you can relate to them, and you genuinely enjoy the company. In fact, they even think and act what you do.You feel like you’ll need to put on a persona at work. After a visit to the company, you find yourself saying things like, “I don’t need to be friends of people I work with”
OpportunityThe job gives you the opportunity to grow as a person and a professional, and you get the feeling you will learn things there that you didn’t even know you needed to learn.You’re being hired as an expert, and upon arrival, you will most likely be the smartest person in the room.
OptionsThe job gives you a credential you can take with you, and is in a business and industry with a future.The industry has peaked or has awful economics, and the company itself, for any number of reasons, will do little to expand your career opportunities
OwnershipYou are taking the job yourself, or you know who you’re taking it for, and feel at peace with the bargainYou are taking the job that any number of other constituents, such as a spouse you wants you to travel less or the 6th grade teacher who said you would never amount to anything.
Work ContentThe “stuff” of the job turns your crank – you love the work, it feels fun and meaningful to you, and even touches something primal in your soul.The job feels like a job. In taking it, you say things like, “this is just until something better comes along” or “You can’t beat the money”.

GETTING PROMOTED – Sorry, No Shortcuts

To get promoted:

  • Do deliver sensational performance, far beyond expectations, and at every opportunity expand your job beyond its official boundaries.
  • Don’t make your boss use political capital in order to champion you.

In addition the following help:

  • Do manage your relationship with your subordinates with the same carefulness that you manage the one with your boss.
  • Do get on the radar screen, being an early champion of your company’s major project or initiative.
  • Do search out and relish the input of mentors, realising that mentors don’t always look like mentors.
  • Do have a positive attitude and spread it around
  • Don’t let setbacks break your stride

HARD SPOTS – That Damn Boss

  • Why is my boss acting like a jerk?
  • What is the end game for my boss?
  • What happens to me if I deliver results and endure my bad boss?
  • Why do I work here anyway?

WORK-LIFE BALANCE – Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Having It All (But Were Afraid to Hear)

  • Your boss’s top priority is competitiveness. Of course they want you to be happy, but only in as much as it helps your company win. In fact, if he is doing his job right, he is making your job so exciting that your personal life becomes a less compelling draw.
  • Most bosses are perfectly willing to accommodate work-life balance challenges if you have earned it with performance. The key word here is: if.
  • Bosses know that the work-life policies in the company brochure are mainly for recruiting purposes and that real work-life arrangements are negotiated one-on-one in the context of a supportive culture, not in the context of “but the company says …!”
  • People who publicly struggle with work-life balance problems and continually turn to the company for help get pigeonhole as ambivalent, entitled, uncommitted or incompetence – or all of the above.
  • Even the most accommodating bosses believe that work-life balance is your problem to solve. In fact, most know that there are really just a handful of effective strategies to do that, and they wish you would use them.
    • Keep your head in whatever games your at – compartmentalise so you do home stuff at home and work stuff at work
    • Have the mental to say no to requests and demands outside your chosen work life balance plan
    • Make sure your work life balance plan doesn’t leave you out – with pulls in 2,3,4 directions it is easy for there to be no time for you

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