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Silver Bullets

Dear Dave
I recently read Good to Great by Jim Collins. I liked his ideas so much, I’ve asked the other members of my management team to likewise read and become familiar with the tenets of the book so we may discuss it as part of our firm’s annual planning retreat this year.

Collins says that to be successful: it is more about getting the right kind of people in your company first. Collins calls this "getting people on the bus", then worrying about the seating chart on the bus (organization structure), and where the bus is going (the plan). The right people are defined as those with energy, talent and ambition who are for the most part self-motivating dynamos. Collins’ point is that many companies spend too much time planning and organizing without the right kind of people in their company to energize the resulting plan. Companies then expend too many resources futilely trying to motivate the people they have at hand, when if they had the right people in the first place, motivation would take care of itself.

It seems at our firm that we do go way out of our way to keep our people happy and motivated. Is this a mistake? What do you think?

Dear DD
I think it is always wise to take the latest and greatest celebrity business advice with a grain of salt. Shortly after Good to Great came out, a management luminary of equal or even greater brilliance than Collins, Uber-guru, Tom Peters, published his latest book, Re-imagine. In it Peters states that a lot of Collins’ ideas are full of beans. So who do you believe?

Well, here’s the truth—there is no silver bullet solution. Management ideas, fads and trends come and go like the ebb and flow of tides. Remember the TQM hysteria of the 90’s? Lasting business success always has and always will be a result of simply providing a quality, timely service (or product), in a professional manner, at an attractive price, to a market in demand of those services. Manage your firm and interact with your clients and staff with those principles in mind and you won’t go too wrong.

Who can argue with Collins that it would be fantastic to have a firm full of only the best and brightest, but what’s the likelihood that can be achieved? In the real world, across the board perfection is unreachable. So, instead, we need to be continually working towards ideals, such as those expressed by Collins or others, but in the spirit that ideals represent a direction of travel more than an actual destination. At all times, remain focused on the basic blocking and tackling of everyday business.


Wahby and Associates