Friday, May 26, 2017

Scaling Up Excellence - Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao

Another great book suggestion by Rajesh when I was visiting them at Bangalore recently. This book addresses the problem of scaling - not just anything - but excellence. How would you like to scale excellence faster? And better? Since there is so much talk about scaling excellence - and I like the topic too - I plunged right into it.
Crown Business, 368 p

Scaling mantras are
1) Spread a mindset not just a footprint- Build a culture
2) Engage all senses - Go deep and wide and literally engage all senses
3) Link short term reality to long term dreams
4) Accelerate accountability
5) Fear the cluster fug (illusion, impatience and incompetence)
6) Scaling requires addition and subtraction
7) Slow down to scale faster and better - down the road

The Ground War mindset is advocated at the very beginning - as opposed to air attacks. Like any job well done it's basically about getting down to the brass tacks and working at the details step by step and not just going through airy fairy motions and great speeches and events. The two models they discuss are about Buddhism (everyone does it their own way) and Catholicism (create one role model and replicate it). I suspect the book leans towards the latter.

Some scaling principles include - Hot causes and Cool solutions - Hot causes being role models and Cool solutions being whatever they do is cool so they get followers. Jet Blue Valentine Day Massacre is about how the CEO of Jet Blue got everyone involved in dealing with customers during troubled times. Basically talking about mindset is just not enough - you need to ensure that it is imbibed.

The Virtuous Cycle (how to address any problem) - 1) Name the problem 2) Name the enemy 3) Do it where all can see 4) Break assumptions 5) Gateway experience 6) New and better rituals and 7) Lean on people who can't leave well enough alone

To Cut cognitive load on few
  • The job of hierarchy is to cut hierarchy - superb line. In fact the objective of anything is to eliminate it. 
  • Use subtraction as a way of life. (Hemingway and his obsession with removing anything that was not necessary). More with less should be the mantra.
  • Make people squirm (if you aren't upsetting people you aren't pushing hard enough).
  • Bring on the load busters. 
  • Divide and conquer - divide the load into biteable sizes and work at them one by one. 
  • Bolster collective brain power (increase cognitive capacity instead of adding people). Seek more opinions and see how you can use them.
  • Give ground grudgingly
People who propel scaling
As far as people go, the ones who help scale have the following characteristics.
  • I own the place and the place owns me
  • Talent density - there are organisations that look for stars - High school drop outs
  • Accountability is a great virtue
  • Talent x Accountability = Scaling capacity
To bring in accountability - the key factor for all great work.
1) Squelch free riding, free riders (get rid of them)
2) Inject pride and righteous anger
3) Bring guilt prone leaders
4) I'll be watching you - What you inspect, people respect
5) Create the right gene pool
6) Use other organisations as your HR department
Extreme accountability example - Taj, Mumbai incident when several employees put their lives at risk before the customers.

Connect people and cascade excellence - How to spread excellence through people
1) Whom to connect - Its about diversity and not numbers (don't look for similar people, look for diversity to spread wide)
2) Look for master multipliers
3) Bring on the energisers (actively look for the energisers)
4) Activate dormant connectors (put some effort and motivate them)
5) Make team work into a game (use your imagination ala Ramakant Achrekar)
6) Making Nets work
7) Top down approach (start at the top..that's where it all starts)
8) Broadcast message to one and all (don't keep any secrets, tell all so they know)
9) Have many teach a few
10) Power of Bridging disconnected islands
11) Create cross roads where people connect

Bad is stronger than good - Fabulous Principle to Know
Bad somehow has more fascination than good - bad is personal, good is public
1) Disney - happiest place on earth (how Disney lives up to its motto of being the happiest place on earth)
2) Dissonant details (all dissonant details that mess with the motto must be removed immediately)
3) It's not my problem (this attitude must go)
4) Good people, perverse, bad behavior (must be realigned with good people, good behavior)

Breaking bad - Handling Bad Attitude
When you identify the disease, stop it form spreading
1) Nip it in the bud
2) Get rid of bad apples (research shows that one bad apple in a basket can reduce efficiency by 40%)
3) Plumbing before poetry (address the bare essentials first and then go for art)
4) Adequacy before excellence
5) Use cool kids to define and spell behavior (use the role models well to display the behavior you want to encourage)
6) Kill the thrill
7) From current to future selves 9see yourselves in the future - don't address only the current selves)
8) Focus on best times, worst times and the end (three scenarios - good, bad, worst)

Heed warning signs, danger signs

1) Imagine you've already succeeded or failed (be aware of both scenarios)
2) Look back from the future (walk backwards from where you ant to be)
3) We started where we were, not where we hoped to arrive
4) We did scaling not swarming
5) Mindset as a guide, not as an answer
6) Used constraints to channel (don't get bogged down by constraints, use them)
7) Hierarchy squelched friction, not weaken it
8) We worked with people we respected not friends
9) Accountability prevailed

The book has several examples and concepts that I liked. Accountability + Talent is Scaling Capacity. Accountability is key. Enforcing and building  culture top down is key. Inspecting that culture is followed is key. With the right people, right role models, right principles and a step by step effort, the mindset and the culture of accountability can be built. One can scale excellence - people must get a taste of it first.   

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