Jeffrey Pfeffer, Chip Conley

[Chip Conley believes that] for most people, networking, building social relationships with strangers at, for instance, events and functions, was seen as a task. That mindset held true for many of the other actions required to build power–they were tasks. Tasks, he said, are things like taking out the garbage. You don’t try to develop your “skill” at taking out the garbage, you don’t think … [ Read more ]

Michael E. Raynor, Mumtaz Ahmed and Andrew D. Henderson

Because the prescriptions of most success studies lack an empirical foundation, they should not be treated as how-to manuals, but as a source of inspiration and fuel for introspection. In short, their value is not what you read in them, but what you read into them.

How did these researchers create such compelling narratives, then, if their samples are suspect? The human mind being what it … [ Read more ]

Michael E. Raynor, Mumtaz Ahmed and Andrew D. Henderson

Studying even the right tail of a distribution doesn’t tell you how to break free of the distribution. In short, if you want to use inferential methods to get outside the box, you have to look at someone who is outside the box!

To see the importance of this step in the analysis, ask yourself this question: If two firms in the same industry had differences … [ Read more ]

Zia Khan and Jon Katzenbach

Most organizations have discrete formal groups and processes that use different lenses for evaluating ideas: Marketing represents the customers, finance evaluates the economics, and engineering determines feasibility for launch. They answer the questions in series, and then “throw the problem over the wall” to the next team. They may not even be aware of one another’s findings.

The principles of focused accountability or clear decision rights … [ Read more ]

Frederick W. Gluck, Stephen P. Kaufman, and A. Steven Walleck

A minor but pervasive frustration that seems to be unique to management as a profession is the rapid obsolescence of its jargon. As soon as a new management concept emerges, it becomes popularized as a buzzword, generalized, overused, and misused until its underlying substance has been blunted past recognition.

Phil Rosenzweig

When we ask, “What works in all companies?” we’re looking for an absolute formula in a field — competition in a marketplace setting — that is inherently relative. The answer is, “There isn’t one formula.” If everybody in the industry follows the same prescription, they won’t all be successful. Once we accept this, we’re in the realm of making judgments under uncertainty that are different … [ Read more ]

Jeffrey Liker

In Toyota’s view, you don’t have a problem without a standard. Someone might tell his or her boss, “We’re not meeting our delivery date” or “Our meetings are not happening on time.” And the boss would say, “What is the standard? What would be acceptable lateness?” or “Why is lateness a problem? What is the result of lateness?” As long as the standards are clear, … [ Read more ]


Benchmarking is very popular today — but companies benchmark the wrong thing. They benchmark what other companies do, when they should be benchmarking how those companies think.

Richard Makadok

Over the past few decades, many companies have become obsessed with benchmarking-comparing their performance with rivals on industry-wide standard metrics. But benchmarking pulls companies in exactly the wrong direction, because it leaves them looking more similar to their rivals, rather than more different.

Jim Collins

Great companies first build a culture of discipline…and create a business model that fits squarely in the intersection of three circles: what they can be best in the world at, a deep understanding of their economic engine, and the core values they hold with deep passion.

Nicola Diligu

In order to discover radical innovation opportunities, a company should not only acquire the competencies of the future but also weed out those of the past. In particular, it needs to overrule so-called “best practices” with “next practices.” This is not easy when leaders have blessed best practices as knowledge jewels that shall be protected and handed down to new generations of professionals and managers. … [ Read more ]

Jeffrey R. Immelt

We benchmarked 15 companies that had grown organically for a decade at three times the GDP. We looked at who their people were and what they did. By the end of 2004, we came up with five growth traits. The first is external focus. Then there’s imagination and creativity. And a growth leader must be especially decisive and capable of clear thinking. Inclusiveness is also … [ Read more ]

Thomas H Davenport and Laurence Prusak

Many “best practices”, though useful for illustrative reasons, are not ultimately implemented, because they don’t come with sufficient context to be successfully applied.

Jonathan L. Isaacs

While benchmarking works well for bringing inside the best practices of others, it often amounts to strategy by mimicry. It’s not very good for devising an original “best practice” that doesn’t already exist. Cross-functional teams are good at pooling existing knowledge, breaking down barriers, and finding new ways to work inside the existing game. But these same teams often shy away from more speculative data … [ Read more ]

Charles E. Lucier and Janet D. Torsilieri

The race to change the rules of the game in an industry has two distinct legs. First, the company works toward perfection of its complex business system – learning to achieve industry-leading levels of performance, tuning its value proposition and developing a viable economic model. In our sample, the first leg required an average of 4.5 years. That was the time it took FedEx to … [ Read more ]

Jim Collins

It was interesting to note that these good to great companies spent no time ‘motivating’ people as such – it just wasn’t something they wasted time and energy on. The very idea of motivating people doesn’t make any sense if you have self-motivated people.