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I love Jim Collin's work. He has passion and discipline and those characteristics help us all learn how organizations can thrive. His latest book is another work of art. He refers to it as "going to the dark side" because he is examining what happens when a once mighty organization fails. I don't think of it as the dark side, but as a way to learn what to do to make sure you don't fail.
The Mighty fall when they stop learning. Success leads to hubris (see Chapter 3 from The Thin Book of Naming Elephants for our take on this) and the frantic search for more (if we are so good, why not get bigger!). At the same time, the arrogant mindset dismisses the brutal facts and hints that all is not well (Housing prices are going up! They will never go down!). Finally, there are desperate grasps for quick fixes (Let's hire a celebrity CEO!). Collins covers it all in 123 pages. Beautiful!
It is also timely. I've been more than a little worried that the current financial situation is a sign that we are on a terminal slide. However, this book provides hope. Not every company that gets to Stage 4 of "Grasping for Salvation" actually falls into Stage 5, "Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death." My take on this book is that the failing companies lost track of what made them great in the first place. As Collins says, "we are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our setbacks, our history, our mistakes, or even staggering defeats along the way. We are freed by our choices." (pg. 120)
Choices are decisions and decisions made well or poorly seem to continue to surface as the very heart of good leadership. Often, however, it is not the BIG decisions that sink a company, it is the day-to-day decisions by a large number of people that add up to the good or bad results. This is where leaders matter. How do they make sure large numbers of people know enough about the business to make the better decision? How do they make sure every person who works for them can answer, "What are you responsible for?" vs. "What is your job?" Collins puts it this way,
"Every person in a key seat should be able to respond to the question 'What do you do?' not with a job title, but with a statement of personal responsibility. 'I'm the one person ultimately responsible for x and y. When I look to the left, to the right, in front, in back, there is no one ultimately responsible but me. And I accept that responsibility.'" (pg. 57)
I would add that actually everyone in an organization is in a key seat. Otherwise they shouldn't be there.
Yet, it is so easy to lose your sense of responsibility in big complex organizations. I believe people really want to do the right thing. Appreciative Inquiry can apply by focusing people on what the organizational values are that should serve as the basis for those decisions of the right thing to do. Vigorous collaborative conversation is how people learn from each other and weigh the brutal facts. Trust between people is essential for the sharing of information and concerns about brutal facts. And our newest Thin Book, now in final production is about how an organization can remind itself of what it is passionate about and good at doing. The Thin Book of SOAR: Building Strengths-Based Strategy will give you the process to use to help each employee answer how their responsibility connects to the organization's values and strategy.
Pre-order Now! The Thin Book of SOAR
The Thin Book of SOAR: Building Strengths-Based Strategy takes the Appreciative Inquiry philosophy and applies it to provide a strategic thinking and dialogue process. There will be more on the new book next month. However, we are accepting pre-orders with a tentative ship date of July 15. Pre-orders will be given an introductory price of $9.75 (25% off of $12.95 retail price). Quantity discounts are also available ($9 for 10 - 50 copies; $8.30 for 51+ copies).
The Thin Book Trust at Work Cards, is a 20-pack of the pull-out card in The Thin Book of Trust. This card is a handy reminder of the 4 distinctions of Trust that author Charles Feltman makes. It is very useful in stimulating a conversation about Trust. The cards are 8" x 5" and are UV coated. If your training budget doesn't allow for a purchase of the Trust book for everyone, give everyone this card instead. They are available in packs of 20 for only $15. It is another way we are trying to provide you with just-in-time products to help make your organization mighty!