Club Reviews: How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I enjoyed this book tremendously. Inside as I read the pages it all sounded so familiar and it made sense. Our workplace today functions exactly how the writer has stated. The newest thing today is culture change but it is hard to get everyone on board to except it. Change is a hard concept for employees as well as leadership to adapt to.
People are afraid to take chances and improve themselves as well as their departments.  No one is willing to stick their neck out for what they believe in because they are afraid of failure or reprisal. I especially like the Silo way of management. Our Director today just spoke about that and we function as a Silo and that is one of the first things we are going to change. We need to communicate in order to function as a team. It won't happen in a day but if we work together we will achieve our goal. As I read the book, it all sounded too familiar.  Great book, its a keeper. Patricia Garcia, Miami

As I read Smith's book, I could continually bring to mind specific instances during the life of my business where the Eight Barriers were in play.  Likely, those barriers have kept us from growing as efficiently as we would like.  The practicality, and sometimes sheer simplicity, of the ideas give an excellent road map to a manager who is interested in enabling employees to take ownership of ideas to help a business grow.
The book does feel like a sales pitch at times.  As is usually the case with the "sales pitch" book, however, real life examples encountered by the author as he consults with real life companies make for invigorating and enlightening reading.  I have already begun to address some of the barriers in my office.  Now if I could only find employees who bought in and spent even some of their time coming up with great ideas to grow the firm.  I am ready to tear down the communication walls and watch profitability soar. Scott Rembold, Coral Gables

Neil Smith provides superb illustrations of how barriers affect how change happens within the organization. He spells out how complacency and lack of urgency can be a strong deterrent to effective execution of new processes.  I learned most of all people across all levels can be agents to change and Management must recognize that empowerment of employees is beneficial to the organizations long-term goals. I would recommend this book. Peter Kihn  Sterling Heights, MI
This is a well-written book. It flows very well which means the principles and stories (examples) weave together very well. It also means that the content has a kind of internal logic in the order in which things are presented. At times, though, I felt that there was an overwhelming amount of content to sift through. My copy of this book is full of underlinings and curled pages. A lot of what was in the book would be considered “reminders” for me. I’ve heard it, done it or written about it myself. I did enjoy how it was all brought together based upon another person’s professional experiences so much like my own, but different enough to have value for me.
I think that the book is in need of a subtitle that includes “managing change”. This is a major contribution to how managers should deal with change. The 8 problems that were addressed were almost like a sidebar to change, even though there was a chapter for each of the 8 problems. Even those chapters were loaded with ideas and applications about change. Bob Preziosi, Davie
Reading Smith's book gives the feeling of having a pleasant conversation with him as an efficiency expert. His Promise model embodies his ideas. Smith's company, Promontory Growth and Innovation, offers a promise combining the best elements from processes that he has used and have worked for him over the years. Promise is also the barrier acronym. The PGI Promise is designed to create the environment necessary for change. The process is clearly laid out in order to help companies save money, increase profits, and reduce complexity. It is easily understood and logical.
Internal resources are used encouraging employees to share their ideas and work together.
Psychology and communication are very important keys in the process of changing the culture of the company in order to make it run more efficiently. Examples with solutions that have been implemented are included to enhance the reality of a program that works. Personal anecdotes that are added give that extra touch! Smith so strongly guarantees that his program will work that if the program fails to do what he says it will - his work is free! What a great guarantee! That in itself is a strong incentive to read and understand the process and to have him be the guide!  You can only gain from his experience and guidance. To top it off, Smith has never had to work for free. That should tell you something! What a great book! I wouldn't try the process without his guidance though. It clearly is not for a do it yourselfer!!!  Besides, what do you have to lose by using his guidance? Margot Byrnes, Miami

This was a fun book to read.  It was so realistic and refreshing to see that many of the best ideas are from the employee themselves, as they are the ones who are living day to day the work lifestyle and can see more clearly than the decisions that are sometimes made by company officials from an office out of the area that are implemented and assumed to proceed in a timely fashion with clear cut results.
The book shows how important it is for companies to think outside the box, look at all channels and continue to brainstorm by including the insight and knowledge from active team members, to compliment a solution that they think will be effective in that particular environment.  It is not only about implementing an idea, but also taking ownership for the idea in all phases starting with conception, moving into implementation, monitoring and focusing on changes or updates where and when needed, and finally results. Trisha Molina, Miami Springs

This book was deceptive in a good way. On first glance, it appeared to be a book that was going to be a book that was easy toy read, yes, but full of platitudes and information that would be easily obtainable anywhere.
As I began to read, I realized that this book was easy to read but was also full of good information and examples that could only have been obtained by working in depth with different companies.
The authors not only presented case studies in a way that was engaging but also displayed the depth of the problem without too much extraneous detail.
I found myself reading portions aloud to my companion as we were driving on a lengthy trip.  I could relate to some of the scenarios as a leader in organizations and as an employee.  There were many "aha" moments and times of reflection. I would highly recommend this book. Lindsey Wilkins
I received my book How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things just a few days ago.  I was reading Colin Powell's latest book It Worked for Me and as soon as I finished I grabbed my book for review.  I thought I would share an interesting story with you before I begin to write my book review.  As you can see by my signature block, I am in the consulting business.  I have spent 50 years in the "defense business" working with the ARMY and Marine Corp to equip our troops with the finest combat and tactical equipment.  Although I am semiretired I still do some consulting and have numerous high level contacts across DOD.  Before I received my book for review I got a call from the CEO of a company.  I did not know this gentleman before his call but I had been referred to him by another consultant friend.  He wanted some help from me on some specific business issues within the defense sector.  We agree to meet at a mutually acceptable site to discuss what help he needed from me.  We had a long but great conversation about what he needed and I have agreed to consult directly for him as we work these issues he has laid out.  About an hour into our discussion, he all of a sudden mentions the book How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things.  He had read the book and as I was very impressed.  He had contacted Neil to start preliminary discussion about starting his own 100 day project.  As you might well guess, my appetite to read the book went off the scale.  Now that I have read the book, I understand why this gentleman was excited to consider his own 100 day project.  Enough of that let me share my review thoughts with you.
I would say right up front this is a great book for any senior leader of any type organization to read and digest.  No matter what size organization and no matter what type organization, CEOs and their senior leadership team are always interested in decreasing cost and increasing revenue.  Or, that is, at least they should be!  Thus this book expertly lays out the fact that while decreasing cost and/or increasing revenue, should be every leaders goal often issues personal or organizational get in the way and the result is "dumb things."  When I do reviews I like to always start with what I call the "bottom line right up front."  For this book the bottom line is-the CEO and leadership's job is to establish vision and set strategy and then let their associates figure out how best to achieve the desired success.  There should be no argument that it is not the senior leaders but rather the folks who do the work who know where all the "dumb things" currently being done are hidden, on purpose or accidentally.
As I read and reread the 8 barriers (A PROMISE), I was struck by how down to earth and simple they were.  And right on the mark!  But then I said ok I got it and agree with the barriers and I quickly lunged into Neil's 12 Principles anxious to see how he suggested one deal with these barriers.  His Principles are down to earth and make absolute sense.  Things like engaging all the stakeholders in the process, fixing accountability, reaching consensus, assigning risk and expecting 100% implementation of all approved projects are right on the mark.
As I came to the end of the book, I was blown away by the 100-Day plan.  I could not help by think back to my days when I ran organization of 15,000 people or so about many of the "dumb things" I had seen over the years.  I was reminded that often times these things are not avoided intentionally (but sometimes they are), but rather in our day to day business we just never get around to attacking these things.  As Neil lays out the plan, shows the people that must be made available, the commitment of leadership and the organizational sacrifice, one quickly sees this ain't easy but it is essential if we are going to have an organization that changes and adapts as customer requirements evolve.  And Neil repeatedly makes the point that in the final analysis, we must have a culture change.
I highly recommend this book to any leader.  I could see where a 100 day plan could be organization wide and if for some reason not organization wide done at division or group level.  And when I saw Neil's disclosure that he had not been involved in any project that did not in combination reduce cost and increase revenue by at least 25%, I was ready to sign up.  I can't imagine any organization's senior leadership not wanting that success.  And to know that then allows the organization to decide how to employ this 25% is overwhelming.  The point is made that most companies will decide how to split this between increased revenue to the bottom line for shareholder value while using some to invest and grow the organization for the future. Doug Newberry, Cane Ridge, TN

Neil Smith uses simple observation and common sense to identify 8 barriers that enable even well managed and successful companies to stifle creativity and efficiency. He gives us all the benefit of not only the process and means to overcome these common pitfalls but to allow us to understand the psychology of why they exist and how we could deal with them.
Interestingly, many of the barriers result from individual selfishness and stubbornness and with culture change and recognition and cooperation, the restrictions to change can be overcome.
This book should be a must read for leaders, as well as managers and workers, since there is a message for each of them at their own level and a lesson to be learned. 
Marvin Stein, Coral Springs

 There's something decidedly old fashioned about author Neil Smith's book, How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things. However, that's not a bad thing. As the preface points out, Smith's observations are borne of twenty years' experience. The reader definitely gets the feeling that the author has been taking notes during the past two decades. One also gets the sense that he would be very interesting to travel with or have at a dinner party due to his keen synthesis abilities. He would aptly fit what Pink Floyd describes in the song, "Comfortably Numb," as having "...amazing powers of observation."  Smith seems anything but, "comfortably numb," however, with his sharp mind and wry wisdom.
I like the structure of the book and how Smith sets up the issues as eight barriers. It's a little corny to have them spell out "A Promise," but that doesn't mean it isn't effective.  It's an easy book to read and digest especially since  at the end of each chapter he summarizes that chapter, provides a "Takeaway," a "Solution," and best of all, questions for applying to one's own situation ("Look at Your Organization").  Two chapters seemed especially relevant today: Barrier 4, "Organizational Silos;" and Barrier 5, "Management Blockers." Probably every reader can relate to organizations where one department doesn't share information with the other and is, perhaps, operating  in extreme conflict. Smith encapsulates this idea so well in his comment in the summary: "The goal of breaking this barrier is not to smash silos, but to 'turn towers into tunnels' - to get people to cooperate across silos." He also asks pointed questions at the end of this chapter to make the reader apply the idea of navigating this barrier. One especially effective question is this: "In what areas would increased collaboration and giving up some autonomy be more beneficial for the company than maintaining your individually?"  Zing. "Don't be selfish," is the unwritten "takeaway."
On a final note, I like the way the author sprinkles in sidebars by Dr. Richard Levak, an organizational consultant. His observations serve to elaborate on an idea in a chapter and this provides yet another dimension to Smith's chapter. Dr. Levak's articles usually elucidate WHY people do what they do and how it can affect an entire organization, good or bad. Barrier 5, "Management Blockers" is an example where Dr. Levak explains why an individual's behavior - feeling threatened - for example, can be toxic for an organization. If a manager likes an idea of an underling, but feels that their supervisor won't like it, he won't present the idea out of fear for his own job. It's easy to believe and most likely everyone has experienced this at one time or another, but this reader never broke it down to simple human psychology. I liked this book and would definitely recommend it. Kathy D. Doran, Miami Beach

I personally enjoyed reading this book because it brought up many issues I face in dealing my many US corporations.

I've faced many of these barriers trying to sell our data and services to corporations seeking to capitalize on the growing multicultural consumer segments in the US.  I've seen people make dumb decisions simply to avoid controversy.  They avoid making an important decision for their company, in order to avoid any type of controversy with their boss or people below them.  We see poor use of time everywhere, that is no surprise.  The reluctance to change barrier is one many corporations are experiencing right now.  The consumer dynamics are changing daily, those corporations that don't change risk becoming obsolete.  I also come across the organizational silos barrier, especially when it comes to data.  Many companies have so much data but they fail to take advantage of it because it is managed by different departments that don't share data with each other.  The miss the boat month after month by not being able to consolidate all this data and make communication between departments more effective.  I see management blockers very often, managers who feel threatened by making a decision never end up making the decision that is best for their company.  Management blockers are not easy to handle and could go one for years before someone takes a stance.  Lastly I'd like to reference the incorrect information barrier, in these data rich days it is imperative for companies to make decisions on accurate and reliable information.  There is no excuse for companies not putting in the effort to get the right data in their hands to make strategic decisions that can drive the growth of their business.  I enjoyed this book and will certainly recommend it to my colleagues. David Mesas

"This book is the perfect guide to the internal workings of a company. It addresses every aspect of management and the outcomes of poor leadership in the most critical of times. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to take their company to the next level. Enjoyed it so much, I purchased one for my boss. Great read and worth every penny. Deidre Campbell, 


  © Template by 2008

Back to TOP