I think any fool can make something complex. On the other hand, it takes real skill to make things simple. John Spence is passionate about simplicity and his book “Awesomely Simple” is true to its title. It’s rigorously simple. That means it’s delightfully useful.
Over the past 15 years John has learned that business is not complex. He’s distilled lasting business success down to six awesomely simple, yet powerful principles.
#2. Best people
#3. Robust communication
#4. Sense of urgency
#5. Disciplined execution
#6. Extreme customer focus
My two favorite chapters
I don’t want to diminish the value of all the chapters; however, I personally loved the chapter on recruiting talent titled, “Best people.” John says, “The future of your company is directly tied to the quality of the talent you can attract and keep.” I learned that I’m about two years behind in recruiting efforts. As a result of this chapter I look at the people I meet with an eye toward recruitment.
The other chapter that changed me most was, “Sense of Urgency.” The section on “Four level decision making,” is simply genius. Additionally, the nugget about fostering disagreement on page 115 so that teams don’t get stuck on the opinions of more influential members is worth the price of the book.
A random quote from page 161
“… Many companies fail to realize that some of their lowest-paid and often least-respected employees are actually in the best position to make or break the company.”
Organization and resources
Each chapter ends with useful summaries, an effectiveness audit, things to think about, and turning ideas into action. In addition, the Awesomely Simple website is packed with videos, articles, and other useful resources to help readers get to the next level. Finally, if you like e-books, there’s a kindle version.
I’m reading “Awesomely Simple,”a second time. More reviews are on Amazon.
What awesomely simple business or leadership truth can you share with the Leadership Freak community?
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If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy my rant on “Meeting.” — “Fasten your seat-belts this one might sting a bit.”
I think the people underestimate their front line staff (ref: “… Many companies fail to realize that some of their lowest-paid and often least-respected employees are actually in the best position to make or break the company.”) When I built a website, rather than develop the material from the POV of what we wanted to sell from our company, we started with the questions people asked our receptionist about our services. She was a fountain of information and the way I organized the content was directed by our clients’ expectations (albeit filtered through our own priorities). I wouldn’t have had such a great site if not for her. It also allowed me to bring home to senior management that those who met the clients first were the most important in conveying who and what we were all about thus justifying training for them.
Martha — perfect example — the receptionist!!!
Dan, Thank you for sharing your take on John Spence’s new book. I can’t wait to read Awesomly Simple. I have listened to John speak and read his book Excellence by Design – Leadership and truly enjoy how he presents information in an organized, simple, easy to understand manner. Simplifying is a skill that I have been working on for about 10 years and I continue to work on it. It’s the ability to take valuable information – sometimes a large quantity, sometimes complex and sometimes both – and distill it down into a document that can be read and understood in a relatively short period of time. In other words, what you are presenting just makes sense. John Spence has that down to a science. I tell anyone who will listen to me that in business, the executive summary is the most important part of any document and it is the most difficult to write. I believe if you get good at writing executive summaries, then you will be better positioned to influence. If I were an executive, with 100 competing priorities, I’m not going to be able to approve a concept quickly if it is presented to me in a way that is confusing or seems highly complicated. Simplicity not only drives our ability to influence, but to also drive urgency.
The light came on when I read, “I’m not going to be able to approve a concept quickly if it is presented to me in a way that is confusing or seems highly complicated.”
If I want to be influenced or if others want to influence me they must be clear and concise. Of course they must say things I need to hear rather than things they need to say.
Thanks and good luck,
Right on target Jen and Dan — to me it is all about “Pattern Recognition” — when you spend the time necessary to collect solid information and then study that information in-depth… eventually a pattern will emerge, and it is that pattern which expresses the simplicity inherent in complexity. The goal is to get it down to just the essential elements — then you can re-expand itif you desire to.
What I found interesting above is that:
John says, “The future of your company is directly tied to the quality of the talent you can attract and keep.”
Can someone please give us the hints to keep the most talented employees? Money or other satisfaction factors have the key role in keepig those stars in the company?
Thanks for your interest…
One needs to keep the employee staff engaged with a defined role & responsibilities and the encouragement to perform all the time. Good work environment with good bosses around can increase the stability of staff.
Job satisfaction and the growth prospects with monetary benefits keep employee satisfied.
Treat your people well and they will put their heart and soul at work. Celebrate every good occsion and in particular singular or collective achievements to bring in the healthy competition.
Try these practical tips and find a sea change of happiness of employee sustainability.
What is the key to keeping Talented workers?
As a contractor we seem to be loosing a lot of workers due to financial constraints, we give raises but as of late the economy is stifling this process not to mention we do not have redundant income.
Timothy – VolKan and Dr. Asher: from everything I have studied and seen here are the key things that create “satisfied and engaged” employees —- (which is the number one factor in creating satisfied, engage and loyal CUSTOMERS!!!!!). Is it a FUN place to work? I am not talking about parties and pranks all day long – what I mean by fun is, do people enjoy their work and where they work? Do people in the organization smile a lot? Are the employees treated FAIRLY? Do they get reasonable pay, benefits, vacation etc. Do they have a FRIEND at work – often times their best friend? Are they given the FREEDOM to do their job well without micro-management and red tape? Do they take PRIDE in the organization they work for? Do they get some sort of genuine and specific PRAISE at least once every 10 days? Does their work have MEANING, are they doing more than just earning a paycheck? Do they have a strong sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT – are they able to actually complete important work? If you give people a lot of the things I have just mentioned and “fair” pay (what they would make doing a similar job in another company” – you can absolutely attract, motivate and keep top talent! Two key things to point out: MONEY did NOT make the top of the list – it was number 13 – AND – these are all what I call “Atmosphere Issues” – in other words it does not take any money to make them happen – they are all part of the culture. BTW – the number one thing that attracts top talent to your team is the top talent you have working for you now that really LOVE working in your organization and tell all of their cool and talented friends about how fantastic it is at their company!
“… Many companies fail to realize that some of their lowest-paid and often least-respected employees are actually in the best position to make or break the company.” PROFOUNDLY SIMPLE INDEED!
How we treat these folks could be the “making or breaking” of our business. Treat others as you would want to be treated, regardless of the pay scale or level of position held. PERIOD! The people who clean the toilets and scrub the floors are just as important as the CEO. To lead is to serve no matter what the circumstance.
Your post reveals the in-depth facts. Attracting talent is first and foremost challenge of a leader but retaining them is even bigger challenge. Today the real competition is for talent hunt and organizations do almost everything to attract talent but often fail to retain them. This is because of many factors. The main factor is identity, alignment of interest and career opportunity. The peripheral factors are people, process and culture. The leadership challenge to retain talent is to nurture them by providing them environment where they collectively grow with the organization and devoid of fear and biasness.
After attracting talent, skill development plays a major role to retain people. So, leaders should facilitate to match the required competencies and skills of people. One of the major reason why people leave the organization is also the skill gap.So leader should be alert and aware to provide skill development whenever employees are rotated for job.
The random quote given by you seems to be universally applicable phenomenon. Often best people are less paid and less respected. It might be because they believe in their values and love honesty and responsibility. I often think, organization negotiates for salary while recruiting or hiring new person. They claim that salary will not be constraint for right person but in practice they do not follow it. They traditionally believe that salary cut or less paying is the best strategy to increase profitability or reducing cost but it is perhaps wrong notion and based on preconceived and stereotype assumption. In fact, good organizations have very clear and transparent salary structure and a lot of other facilities and they are able to attract and retain best talent.
Another dimension to retain best talent is to pay in time. Organizations often fail to retail talents which do not pay to people in time. So, time is a crucial factor to retain talent.
Awesomely simple also connotes that the best organizations have simple structure. And when structure is simple, strategy have to be simple and its people, process and technology etc.
Thanks for your comment.
I think I tracked with you on most of your comment. Love for you to explain a bit about:
“The main factor is identity, alignment of interest and career opportunity.” I get the last two but not the first one, IDENTITY. Thanks
Identity means perception and relation among people and between people and the leader. Positive perception towards people enhances relation and relation increases retention. Salary and other parameters often take the back seats. Identity increases loyalty and commitment of employees. The classic example of identity is “Dabbawala” a Mumbai based 125 years old lunch box provider service industry. Each employee is partner rather than employee. Each person earns around $40-80$ per month. The industry has been recognized as one of the most reliable supply chains in the world and has been given a six sigma rating by Forbes magazine. Staffs are illiterate and use hand cart and bicycle and no computer. What holds them together? It is not the salary but the identity within the group, outside the group, in the society, outside the society.
Generally there appears disconnect between the identity experience of employees and identity valued by people in the organizations. And this disconnects decreases loyalty and retention. So, identity is based on an exchange of real value through honest and transparent relationships between organizations and employees. In hire and fire policy, identity of a person takes back seat and main driver is organizational needs. As long as organization needs you it pays you, and when it does not need you, simply fires you. That is why; the highest paying employers or highest paying jobs may not guarantee talent retention. On the other hand, lower paying organizations are often strong in retaining people. It is because, they build relations and it enhances recognition, reputation, reference and loyalty. Constant discussion and communication about vision, goal with employees at all levels helps to increase personal identity.
Thanks for coming back with a great explanation and illustration of what you were getting at with your expression Identity. It’s very helpful! and I’m sure useful to LF readers also.
I wasn’t sure if I would read this book, there are so many on my “to read” list. However, this short post and the respect I have for your thoughts on the subject have convinced me.
It’s going on the list right now.
Like PraxisNL, it never ceases to amaze me how companies a management have a tendency to forget how important their front line staff is to the organisation and the brand.
These employees will have a much larger effect than any Sr VP and yet, in most companies, they get very little respect. It’s often a sad state of affairs.
This is why I consider respect to be the most important trait of any leader.
Eric — first — I hope you enjoy my book and that it was worth adding to your reading list! I also wanted to make a comment about something you brought up – RESPECT. After years and years of running leadership programs I have found in the last 3 or 4 years that the ideas of “having a leader that treats me with respect” has now become the number one issue with high-performance employees. Actually – let me just give you the list. This is compiled from my work with more than 3,000 “High-Potential” employees from dozens of different companies when I ask them: “What are the skills, qualities, abilities you look for in a leader you would willingly follow?”
Good team player
A great list – and you’ll notice you point about respect – at the top of the list! Thanks Eric.
Thanks for responding John.
I’m not surprised that it’s a the top of the list. I’ve blogged about respect and I think that it should be at the top of the list of being human.
We all deserve respect for something. Unfortunately, some people don’t understand it’s importance in building trust and relationships and are willing to throw it all away.
And, as we all know, respect and trust can be lost easily and quickly but take a long time to rebuild.
Thanks Eric for your thoughts. Another example from my experience regarding respect was when we were developing some branded material. We had had a very successful year and I proposed to senior management that all staff receive a branded item as a thank you. Based on the conversations I had had with front line staff, I recommended we provide travel cups as our frontline and second line staff were out in the trenches and frequently drank beverages on the run. The senior team leader suggested a keychain as the cup was seen as expensive. Because of the research I had done with the staff, I was able to show how a keychain would be received as disrespect and nothing at all would be a better choice than alienating the staff. I also highlighted the potential for having our brand out in the field in such a prominent fashion. We got the cups and everyone was thrilled. It was a small thing, but something smaller would have had worse consequences IMO.
Something I find Awesomely Simple, but awesomely neglected is the “prize.” We forego the prize or company mission for the immediate need. I work for an infrastructure engineering firm and we ramp up for a project by hiring many only to let most go. Sometimes you need bodies, but most times a strategic hire can deliver and grow the practice.
Silence is Awesomely Simple too. The power of silence can drive innovation. By indulging each question, idea, or moment of sharing, “it” becomes watered down. Silence offers (perhaps unbeknownst) the opportunity to think “it” through again. If its worthwhile then it will surface and require action.
Looking forward to the book, thanks for the review.
Matt — power of silence — very important – super contirbution!
I really liked your tweets… and sometimes 3 words are enough I think 😉
PS:I dont want junk mails pls..
Every email sent from me is really from me. And every tweet is really mine. I hope that lifts me above junk mail. 🙂
I have enjoyed reading your review of the book. Actually when it was first mentioned several days ago I picked up the Kindle version. ( I am an e-reader and like to carry my library around with me; 🙂 I went to amazon and like you said there were excellent reviews there and one of them actually provided a review of each of the chapters. I have just started reading it and can see already that this is not just prose but a workbook to refer back to again and again. I see in the other posts a lot of discussion about recruitment and keeping the talent in the organization. We have undergone a cultural transformatiion over the last 5 years in our organization. Even though schematically we have your typical org chart, the C suite etc, our working model is not the typical inverted V but rather a horizontal line with the different skill sets grouped into Teams with different Y axis lines jutting out (the contributions of the teams fluctuate from time to time) towards the center which houses our only and most important customer the patient. We have found as noted above a world of innovation and creativity by engaging the front line staff at all levels and their contributions are helping us redesign the delivery of care for our patients. Service has risen to be a top priority for most companies and since we live in an “experience economy” (title of a neat book I read a while back) allowing a lot of lattitude for all members to innovate and be creative is really propelling us to a higher level. As we all know Healthcare is undergoing significant transformation and as Darwin aptly put it: “It is not the smartest nor the strongest of the species that survive but those that are most capable of quickly adapting to change.” Like I have mentioned before the FreakLeadership community has become a great resource for learning and I don’t miss any posting if I can help it. Thanks, Al
Sorry I mis-spoke and meant to say Leadership Freak Community, although at times in my role I sometimes can identify with the Freak part more! 🙂
Hmmm, FreakLeadership has potential… perhaps a different connotation but hey…. 🙂
Love your comment, glad you are enjoying the book. I’m with you. It’s not only a good read its a book to keep handy. A work-book.
Thanks for the good word.
Al, would love to see your org chart, sounds right on line with this and other discussions. Bet you had a few contortions getting to that point!
Hey Doc I need to ask you. Did you write Webster’s Dictionary? Everytime I read one of your posts I end up going to my dictionary. It is ok since My vocabulary has grown ttremendously since I started reading this blog! In no time I will have my masters in English. 🙂
I would be more than happy to share the “working” org chart with you. It was a while back but I loved your poem about what we see in ourselves vs. What everyone else sees. Look forward to your future comments. Regards Al
Al — you hit on a key point about the book — it is just as much a “workbook” as it is a book to read — AND — please don’t forget the really robust companion site we built with all kinds of extra information and things to download — it is at: http://www.awesomelysimple.com
Thank you John. I have the link bookmarked and as you can see I carry your book with me and am using it everyday as a great reference. I just love your website. Tons of “good stuff.” Al
Thanks for sharing your insights – i look forward to reading this book.
My concern (not so much of a question) is in our current, I’m finding that organizations are not spending the money or time to develop their internal talent. This will have major consequences once the economy makes a turn and organizations risking losing their talent.
Jean – what you are expressing is what I am hearing from a lot of senior executive – they are VERY concerned that when the economy turns around that they will lose many of their top people… because they have been pushing them so hard for the last year or two. I have seen a lot of companies that have double the workload – doubled the responsibility – frozen or reduced salaries – and completely cut training. There is definitely going to be a fall-out form these sorts of decisions.
On: “… Many companies fail to realize that…lowest-paid…employees are actually in the best position to make or break the company.”
My experience of Corporate America is that they are often obsessed with finding, recruiting and rewarding ONLY those Type-A-Go Getting-Ladder-Climbers. And I can only see that increasing as we wait out the economic recovery.
My observation? We’re in jeopardy of missing on losing the solid workers. Those that collaborate, work hard and have amazing untapped value. Not everyone wants to be a high-flyer giving presentations left right and center – we have to recognize that sometimes a company just needs those underappreciated folks that simply get the job done.
This is a great point! I had a manager a long time ago who called these the “plumbers” in the organisation. He felt that they should comprise 60-70% of the team.
They are the ones who can be counted on day-in and day-out to always be there and get the job done.
He also targeted 20% “super-stars”, these are the type-A go-getters that you mention. And in a large organisation, he expected 10% of under-performers. (Obviously, he didn’t want them but felt that it couldn’t be completely eliminated)
The important point is that organisation really do need these solid workers and shouldn’t dismiss them off-hand.
It’s a good thing to keep in mind when hiring.
My comment is partially comment but mostly question. I have not read the book, so I don’t know if this was addressed under the “best people” component. I believe that part of retaining the “best people” involves providing the tools/environment to integrate their work lives with their personal/family. However, I see more and more often tension between my friends (and myself) who still have young children who impact the logistics of our schedules due to the “running around” that seems to accompany today’s children, not to mention the fact that we just want to see them while they’re awake ….. and the coworkers whose children are grown or have chosen not to have children.
Is there some “awesomely simple” principle to help all employees, no matter what stage of life they are in, eliminate this type of tension and come together to create a great product/service?
Paula – Wow – great question and deserves a MUCH longer answer than I can give here. First – I deeply believe that a company needs to respect and support the idea of “life-balance” for their employees – work is a BIG part of your life… but it is NOT your life. Part of the answer is that the worker must take the time to assess their own personal values and goals. If you want to become an SVP in a multinational Fortune 100 company… you will NOT have a balanced life. The demands are just too great. However, if you career aspirations are not that high – I believe that it is possible to set clear boundaries – based on your values and life goals – and create a very balanced work-home life that is rewarding and successful on both levels. Is it easy? NO – Does it require some hard decisions and a TON of discipline? YES – But it can be done if you are willing to make the necessary decisions to create a well-balanced life.
Tks Dan for bringing this book to our attention. I can`t wait to read it!
I´ve been recently reading about simplicity and finding solutions sometimes by getting rid of part of a structure or process instead of adding more (eg getting rid of certain control steps and giving autonomy to our teams). It`s an amazing subject that needs much more attention on these crazy days of ever changing markets and aconomic realities.
Pablo (from Argentina)
I realize that this component is probably covered in the text under communication or execution –
But lets add;
You know those lovely meetings where things are discussed? but as leadership does not explicitly ask for due dates or a deliverable? So everyone leaves with a vague something might get done?
And second – where the leaders random musings over coffee become an action item for a team because no one knows if this is a new initiative? – Again because there is no culture of explicit delegation.
Elliot – I am 100% with you — I cover that in the chapter on “Disciplined Execution” — hope you enjoy the book!
Thanks for highlighting the book.
With all of the noise about “new and improved” management and leadership techniques, it seems like most people would be well-served to focus on getting really good at the basics.
Dan — you are exectly right! It is my feeling that you MUST nail the basics first — then you can free up time to work on the truly complicated issues. But is you are always putting out fires on the basic issues — the complex issues get far too out of control.
Thanks for the review. I’m going to download John’s book to my Kindle right now.
In my 30+ years of business and leadership experience I have learned the hard way just how true John’s thought is: “The future of your company is directly tied to the quality of the talent you can attract and keep.”
When interviewing potential new talent, I have also learned to listen carefully to what my inner voice is telling me about whether the person is really right for my team. When I did not follow the guidance of my inner voice, I always lost. It takes time, experience and failure (unfortunately) to recognize the value of this innate management tool.
Thanks for your comment. I don’t think you’ll regret the download. I have a hardback but I may get an electronic version also.
Thanks for adding value,
Congratulations! This sounds like a great read for all. In my opinion, and agree with Dan, that the most challenging of all — is to attract the right talent and keep them happy…
Looking forward to reading the entire book! Enjoy your day!
“simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”
– Leonardo da Vinci
Steve — one of my very favorite quote – thank you!!!
Covey’s concept of P/PC balance seems applicable to the quote you included. So often (in my business) customer service management pays so much attention to getting high production at low cost, often without any thorough training (and almost always with relatively low monetary and emotional compensation). There is little attention paid to production capacity, while at the same time there is high demand for production. Employees burn out quickly; turnover is high, and talented employees tend to see you as a stepping stone to the next position.
You will truly know how high your team can rise when you hire, value, and retain the best staff at EVERY level in the organization. Training and retention IS possible on every level – easier said than done, but a goal well worth striving for.
I enjoy reading your blog, Dan. Keep up the great work!
Love the quote! Too many companies don’t value the front line people that are making it happen every day.
I have been reading LF for a few months now and want to thank you for reviewing this book. I was unfamiliar with John Spence prior to this, but I find this small peak into his experience and his book intriguing.
Just based on what you reviewed, I am very eager to find out what John has to say on Robust Communication. I find that all too often communication is undervalued. The resulting lack of communication of any kind, and very effective communication in particular, results in countless problems and usually the failure of whatever initiative is currently underway. This leads to morale problems and issues in being able to meet the expectations of your customers.
I know communication is something I can always improve and I am looking forward to finding some Awesomely Simple ways to be more effective in this area.
Thanks for sharing your story. I’m encouraged that you are a regular reader. If you’ve been around awhile you know I wouldn’t recommend something I didn’t really enjoy.
John will be in shortly, perhaps he will leave you a few awesomely simple communication tips.
Bobby – If we had met several years ago I would have told you that the single biggest issue I face with nearly all of my clients was “Lack of a clear and focused Vision, Mission, and Values” that was well-communicated and well-understood throughout the ENTIRE ORGANIZATION. Although that is still a big problem (just got off the phone with a client that is struggling with this) the number one problem in almost every company I am working with right now is “Lack of open, honest, robust and courageous communication.” In other words – telling the truth – building very high levels of trust – being candid – and believing 120% in the value of knowledge-sharing. It is one of my very favorite business axioms: “People without access to information do not have to take accountability for their actions.” Therefore, to my mind, the goal must be to share as much information as possible with everyone in the organization so that we can all take responsibility and accountability for making the organization successful.
I loved reading how PraxisNL used the secretary as the source of information for finding what the customer wanted.
I work at a car dealership and I keep suggesting focus groups as a means to find out what our customers in this geographical region would like from a dealership. So much money is spent on advertising and giveaways but I wonder how efficient it all is. It seems to me that if we could redirect those expenses based on actual customer feedback, we’d get more bang for our buck…
This book sounds great…if I don’t win it…I’m going to order a copy anyway!
Front door=front line=first impression=lasting impression
Ditto on the observations regarding first contact (and really any contact) that a ‘customer’ has with the people of an organization. Certainly first impressions color the perception immediately and creates a positive or negative reality. Seems true across the board, healthcare, manufacturing, sales, etc. This can drive that sense of urgency.
Think back to going up to a check out stand at any store and NOT being acknowledged by the sales person fairly promptly…or worse (pet peeve), you start the check out process and the salesperson stops the transaction to answer and responds to a phone call.
Contrast that with what I have seen at a regional tire store, Les Schwab, where there staff there run to your car as you drive up. They don’t even wait for you to come in the store. This was initiated, not by senior management or leadership directive, but by front line staff thinking it was a good idea…and how they would like to be treated.
The challenge I would like to hear John’s perspective on is with ‘established’ (or entrenched) organizational cultures that have ‘toxic pockets of negativity’ that can drag down the whole company. Is this where #3, 5 & 6 fit?
Great stuff, thanks Dan and all of the LF crew!
Doc – REALLY great question – very, very, very challenging. Actually I just read a superb book on this topic called “Re-engage… How America’s Best Places To Work Inspire Extra Effort in Extraordinary Times.” The authors set out what I felt were a pretty good list of “rules for Re-engagement”
1. Build trust among workers, managers and executives.
2. Deal with problem employees and dysfunctional environments.
3. Inspire teamwork that crosses generational lines and diversities.
4. Promote excellence through training, rewards and benefits.
5. Value the contribution of individuals and teams.
6. Show employees you genuinely care.
These are hard to argue with (and the book has lots of other excellent ideas and tools) – but here are a few of my thoughts.
A) Refuse to tolerate mediocrity.
B) Establish an “Irresistible Case for Change” to a new culture of excellence.
C) Create a “Guiding Coalition” of key people in the company who strongly embrace and exemplify the new culture of excellence.
D)Set very clear and specific performance expectations.
E) Give people every opportunity, support and help in making the change to the new expectations.
F) Give them a reasonable amount of time to reach the new level of expectations (6 months?)
G) If they cannot / will not change – help them make a transition to a new place of employment.
I could go on for another 10-pages – but that gives you the gist of where I am heading. It is pretty clear to me: “The minute you start accepting mediocrity in your life.. you become a magnet for mediocrity in your life.”
Thanks for the thoughtful response John. Will track down ‘re-engage’ after I finish this ‘Simple’ book I ordered. 😉
I think that ‘guiding coalition’ is very important at the early stages as they are the ‘trailblazers’ or first wave riders and it gets a little choppy out in front… The coalition can serve as a mutual support network as well.
Great quote at the end!
6 6 power principles as listed by John Spence practically cover everything that a successful leadership requires. I am totally sold on ‘Awesomely Simple’ fundas to succeed in any field.
However, one important thing is missing and should be part of the total elementary, yet comprehensive kit i.e. management of capital, from raising the fumds to handling capital profitably.
Innovation and creativity at work could also add flavor and help build a competitive edge to march ahead in the rat race of building business empires.
John seems to have learnt his lessons through a successful stint at the industry level and pronbably as CEO of a commercial organization. this could be my awesomely simple conclusion.
Dr. Asher — wonderful comment — I state in the first chapter of the book that having a QUALITY product that offers real VALUE in the marketplace – AND – have a superb handle on the financials and CASH FLOW are table stakes – you MUST have these two elements to even entertain running a successful business – so I actually put them as MORE fundamental than the six strategies I address in the book. I also address innovation as an essential element of a successful culture – that continuous incremental improvement (Kaizen) by every person in the organization is a key element in building an organization that can sustain long-lasting success. Thank you for your comments – and yes, I have had three stints as a CEO – all in different industries.
Great! I feel much more enthused to read your comments and agreement to what I thought as essentials of leadership in any field. I shall prefer t get connected to you and leadership lessons with practical insight in awesomely simple terms.
I am so glad that you shared “Awesomely Simple” with us! I had never heard of Mr. Spence, but I am sure glad that you two connected! I have found Mr. Spence’s website to be very user-friendly and pertinent to leadership topics for those who are or who desire to become leaders in their profession.
As a graduate student, I’ve learned the importance of keeping things simple in writing proposals and manuscripts. My mentor has always stressed the importance of being an effective communicator in everything I do. I have found that this trait requires much practice, but I believe it’s mandatory if you want to separate yourself from the status-quo. I look forward to getting some tips by reading this book.
Dan, please continue providing us with great leadership material. I’m glad we connected. You have inspired me!
Is it about time for a leadershipfreaklinkedingroup?
Not yet having had an opportunity to read “Awesomely Simple,” and based on the chapter titles alone, the material appears to mirror much of what John Kotter discusses in his books “Leading Change,” “The Heart of Change,” and “A Sense of Urgency” and what Jim Collins discusses in his books “Built to Last,” “Good to Great,” and “How the Mighty Fall.”
Do you feel “Awesomely Simple” simply reiterates Kotter’s and Collins’ work or would you consider it complementary material that provides additional insight to the reader?
– Bernard Schmidt
Bernard — As the author – I would have to say it is likely very similar. You are obviously well-read on the topic – which makes you (and probably a lot of other people on this site) an anomaly. I believe my book does have many of the same ideas (because the are good and valid) – only presented in a more clear and concise fashion – with a strong driving goal of turning these great ideas… into ACTION. I believe that I have put in many more real tools, workshops, audits, discussion points and examples – that help the reader translate theory directly into increased profit and market share. Are the ideas in my book revolutionary or even particularly new — No. But there is a HUGE difference between reading about an idea – and living it with discipline in your business ever day. I would also guess you will find a FEW “new” ideas – a few things I focus on that these other (very talented and knowledgeable) authors might not have focused on. My main goal in writing Awesomely Simple was to distill down the “patter” of key strategies that all business experts espouse as fundamental – then make them as approachable and east-to-implement as possible. Hope that helped you make a decision on whether reading it would be a good investment of your time. Thanks for asking this excellent question!
I noticed connections between John’s work and other books I have read. Kotter on Urgency for example.
What I enjoyed about John’s work are the added features. John is a teacher who teaches from his experiences.
I am compelled to say that I’m not being paid to post my review or encourage others to read Johns book. 🙂
Best to you,
“Awesomely Simple” sounds like a great tool that busy people will find easy to consume and apply. I look forward to checking out the Amazon reviews, but can already see the validity of the 6 principles listed above.
There seem to be a lot of questions in the comments here surrounding “how to find the best people.” In my view, this is tied to a sense of purpose, not just at work, but as an individual. I think you’ll find that your best teammates are the ones who have direction and purpose as a being.
I read an article elsewhere earlier this month that helped illustrate this idea in an interesting way. It was about an entrepreneur’s secret advantage – that he hired artists. Why? Essentially because they have vision and purpose that goes beyond money. Even during trying economical times, there are other ways of being abundant or successful. It was a pretty powerful perspective.
Perhaps this outside of the box approach is food for thought?
(Dan, I’ll send you the link….)
Julia — a wonderful comment — I am in complete agreement — Passion + Purpose (or Direction) are critical for bringing your “complete self” to work every day and contributing 100% of your discretionary effort. People want to make more than a paycheck – they want to make a difference – they want to have pride in their craft and the outcomes of their work. Creating a culture where people can achieve this is ONE aspect of building a “talent pipeline” into your company.
Thanks for your followup John. I appreciate that you use the term “complete self,” as this is essentially how I see it. Just as in a marriage, it works best when two complete and whole people come together to make a life-team (not two half people), I view all successful and/or powerful relationships, professional and otherwise, similarly. Complete, whole people make the best team at work, and make for the best relationships professionally as well as personally. Working in an environment that supports our natural desire for wholeness, instead of sponsoring fragmentation, brings out the best in us.
And to add, I believe the human soul desires to be memorable. Being just another number is hardly a satisfying life experience.
Thanks for your comment and sending the link via email. I read the article. It’s totally awesome! Thanks for brining it to our attention.
Here is the link Julia sent me: http://chrisashworth.org/blog/2010/06/24/my-competitive-advantage-i-hire-artists/
Thanks for adding value.
Thank you for sharing Dan. Sounds like an interesting. 🙂
Thank you for the introduction to this book.
What are your thoughts when mediocrity has been culturally tolerated? It can create a situation where high-performers would rather go elsewhere. On the other hand, if you have many long-term employees who do not want to change, the force of inertia can be immense and simply getting rid of the problem people can demolish trust.
Alan — a lot of my thoughts are up above in my response to Doc – It can be very tough to turn around an organization where tolerating mediocrity has become the norm – but you hit the nail on the head – a culture that tolerates mediocrity soon chases away all of the good performers. Super talented people cannot stand the frustration of having to deal with mediocre performers – especially when the mediocre people are paid exactly the same!!! I use what I call: The Three T’s – Train, Transfer or Terminate. But the decision to no longer accept mediocrity MUST be made at the top – and fully COMMITTED TO by the entire senior team – or the inertia of the negative part of the culture will bring it down. Oh, and how long does it take to turn a culture around from tolerating mediocrity to demanding accountability and quality? I would say a MINIMUM of 18 to 24 months before you see any REAL and lasting change. That is why discipline is so critical in an organization.
Definitely agree with Train or Terminate. Deming indicated that 94% of the problems are the system and 6% are people issues.
Would consider Transfer within the context of finding a better fit for that person within the organization, but not to transfer to another department in order to avoid the performance issue or do what has been called, ‘passing the trash’.
Doc – yes, absolutely! You never ” transfer” unless it is a 100% win/win for all involved and the person can add real value in the new position. Shuffling poor performers off to another division is very poor form indeed!
Hi. Thanks so much for the reminder to think in terms of simplicity. I particularly appreciated the comment that “eventually a pattern will emerge, and it is that pattern which expresses the simplicity inherent in complexity. The goal is to get it down to just the essential elements — then you can re-expand itif you desire to.”
I recently heard an amazing piece of music composed by Arvo Part. It is called Spiegel im Spiegel and to me it embodies the beauty of simplicity.
Edward de Bono has written a book called Simplicity and at one point had issued a simplicity challenge, although I am not sure if it is still current.
I hope that this information is helpful to fellow pursuers of simplicity.
Dan, The random quote at the beginning says it all to me, yet so many of the lower paid people are in the front line. How much do McDonald’s and the other fast food outlets pay their front line staff, and they are the people we make our purchase from.
People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people.
Sounds like another good book John 🙂
John is absolutely correct about the lowest paid worker.
I have a manufacturing background and I have always found that when the line goes down don’t ask the engineers who set it up ask the person on the line. I always asked what happened. What did that noise sound like. I could get the line back up and running in short order by asking the knowledge expert(the line worker).
I worked at privately held company. They wanted to sell the company so they hired a consultant to come in and find out about the company and write up a brief on the company.
What he wrote was fantastic but he had to sue the company to get paid.
He wrote that if it wasn’t for the employees knowing how to do business and run the company the company would have gone under along time ago.
Is “extreme customer focus” an awesomely simple concept. It sounds it, but it seems like it would require a complicate overhaul of most businesses.
David — the answer is yes and no (I should go into politics…never!!) It is a simple idea — that is VERY hard to implement – but absolutely critical to the long-term success of the business. In the end it comes down to consistently doing a few fundamental customer service practices exceedingly well. Things like nailing the “moments of truth” – meeting/exceeding expectations – keeping promises… the secret is to build specific and clear processes around these few vital customer service elements to ensure repeatable success while still allowing employees enough freedom to express their personalities… think Starbucks – always great coffee – always very good service – but not cookie-cutter. It seems you have seen through me as: Simple does NOT mean easy! I can make these ideas easy to understand – but they are still damn tough to implement and sustain!
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We’ve just experienced a situation where power was given back to the ‘little people’. Our Senior Team decided upon an operating model for the business without consultation, implemented it and we quickly found out it was the wrong choice. They went back to the business, discussed the options, set up some test beds, got the staff to make the recommendations and adopted a new model based on the recommendation. As the staff had fleshed out the detail, buy in was assured. Customers loved it too. This provided some powerful insight and now Senior Managers recognise they need help to make more effective decisions, and how powerful and empowering it is to involve others.
Love your comment. It’s great to see you are connected with a company that has enough courage to trust the “little people.” To illustrate how the “little people” work, I just read about a company where the employees run out to the cars in the parking lot to meet the clients BEFORE they get out of their vehicles. Who thought of this? The Little People. Do you think management could impose this type of enthusiasm and dedication to customers? I don’t think so.
Best to you,
It is really encourging that power has been given to little people and this has created trust. I often think what is the indicator of trust? And I find that it the identity, recognition and respect that binds people. When people feel that they are part of the organisation, that makes all the difference.
Just hoping to get copy of book….do really enjoy the blog. Have turned many peers on to the site. Keep up the good work!
Good luck Mary. I’ll put your name in the hat.
Thanks Dan for another great review. I like the title of this book, especially in this era of increased complexity, information overkill, and so many folks having to produce more with less. Simplicity is welcome!
Having an effectiveness audit at each chapter’s end is a great idea – moves one toward action after reflection.
great post – “Robust Communication”; with all of the available mediums for communication, I will embrace this description. My feeling with this is that the communication tool is usually my first tool of choice and includes the good ol’ face to face discussion or phone to ear discussions. Nonetheless while our areas of involvement can decide or help eleviate our methods of communication I believe Robust is a very intriguing description and I will certainly be reading within this area as time moves on. thanks again for the insights
John, your book is spot-on, agree with your position and love to hear you speak! Dan – as you know, I’m all for using your head to manage and your heart to lead. Doing that to drive business outcomes based on people AND principles AND profit should be wickedly awesomely simple. But it isn’t. If all leaders walked the talk with the seven attributes John defined as the magic sauce for followership – respect, honesty, integrity, competent, good team player, approachable and great communicator – I’d wager a bet that employee job satisfaction wouldn’t be at its lowest levels and 20 years. Let’s start a movement, shall we?!
Ingenious job of stimulating hits and traffic to your site! I’m always impressed at the level of help and advice that I get out of each blog…keep up the good work!
I read somewhere that clarity definitely supercedes transparency in communication. Given my field is specialized/quite technical, it is sometimes a challenge to communicate major issues with the senior staff. You can’t overwhelm them with details, but you strive to help them understand the significance. I certainly look forward to reading John’s book, and I agree this has been a very educational week. Thanks much!
Thanks for the report, I will be utilizing this to finish my essay!
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very much looking forward to getting my hands on this one. this is a topic i am intentionally working through right now in both of my businesses.
Thanks again for the great resource.