Good to Great – a presonal retrospection

I recently read a book, – Good to Great, and tried to apply it to myself, my immediate organization, and the company that I work for.

I need to be careful here because some of my managers read this blog so I won’t use real names to protect myself.

The three key things that I got from this book are
– different levels of leadership
– hedgehog concept (single focus)
– todo vs stop doing list

The different levels of leadership are:
1) highly capable and makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills and good work habits.
2) contributing team member. conributed individual capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and works effectively with others in a group setting
3) competent manager. organizes people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of a predetermined objective
4) effictive leader. catalyzes commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision. stimulating higher performance standards
5) executive. builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.

First my perspective. When I worked at Sun I did self destructive things like not wearing socks, wearing polo shirts, coming into the office in sandals because my actions should drive my success. I wanted to wow everyone with my brilliance and abilities. I had level 1 down and made it part of my personality. When I came to Oracle I realized that I could not do it on my own and needed to help others and rely upon others to get my job done. I have grown into a level 2 and think that I know how to do this. This year I am working on level 3 by helping the new sales reps and OD reps as they get hired on. The learning curve at Oracle is a little daunting and helping new people learn our product suite helps them communicate this to a customer. I think that I have levels one and two down and am building the foundation to level 3 this year.

I do fall short in level 4 because I don’t have a clear vision other than a revenue target. I don’t know what my company, my group, or I want to accomplish other than grow revenues. This isn’t a good thing. I think I know what the corporate goal is. I need to research to clarify it. I think it is to create an integrated end to end stack of applications and services with open program interfaces to manage the day to day operation of a corporation. As for my group, I think I know what the goal is but I don’t like what I am hearing. My group got split into two so the goal for this year is to reconnect with the remaining customers that we have ignored and rebuild. I think that this is the goal but I don’t like it as a goal. My personal goal is to expand my knowledge base and understand the applications more to align myself with the corporate vision. (I got lucky and was able to ask one of our corporate visionaries who works in acquisitions the question of vision and he clearly stated this while I was typing)

I also fall short of the level 5 leadership because it is not part of my job function. I can try to build this as part of training the sales reps, creating a wiki, and creating workshops/seminars that repeat year over year. I am trying to do this but have not accomplished this.

Here is the scary part. If I do this same evaluation for the people that I work with I would say that most of them are level 2 to level 3 (more level 2 than 3). There are some exceptions that rise up to level 4. The people that I consider to be level 5 are very good at what they do but are area or geography resources and I find it difficult to get their attention for the smaller customers. When I go beyond two levels above me I don’t have enough interaction with these managers to make an analysis. The stuff that I do see from the mid-level managers is technocrat stuff that do not add value to anything that I do. It is more adding value to their managers and not the group. The executives in our group are level 4 and a couple are level 5. I met with the US SC manager last year and he didn’t talk the first 10 minutes of our meeting other than to ask questions. His questions were direct and showed that he did some research on me before getting together. His direct report asked me about programs that he started and things that he did last year that I really didn’t know much about or things that helped me. One of the sales managers that we worked for in years past recently came down to our office to talk about changes in our organization. He did nothing but ask questions. He didn’t offer solutions to our problems. He didn’t recommend how to fix things. He asked what our issues were and asked for more input to help him solve the problems. Unfortunately, the managers below him are all about filling in the check box and being there just in case they are needed. It could be that I don’t know them enough but I am not motivated from my interactions with them.

The hedgehog concept is single focus on a single topic. The three things that correlate to this are passion, what are you best at, and what drives your financial engine.

The passion was the easiest. I can break complex ideas into simple concepts and bring it down to a productive discussion. This is probably my biggest asset and something that I can help my team the most.

What am I best at is probably the next toughest. I have been good at pre-sales. I think I showed this while at Sun. I thought I was good at research until I went back for a Ph.D. program and found out that I didn’t have the motivation or focus to make it happen. I also realized that I am not that good of a developer. What I am good at is breaking down issues and correlating facts from different areas.

My driving engine? This is the metric for measuring success. The book talks about how Walgreens wanted to maximize revenue per custom visit. How would I measure something like this? Sales per hour with a customer? Change in sales quarter over quarter? The number of face to face meetings per week? The number of research hours after a meeting? The number of interactions after a meeting? I need to work with my manager to define this metric. I also plan on going a level or two above my manager to interact positively with them.

The to-do list and the stop-doing list are easy and difficult. I have monthly to-do goals and weekly to-do lists. I even started using to help create and manage these lists for different parts of my life. When I created a stop-doing list all of them were personal goals like stop watching tv, stop eating high sugar foods, stop going out for dinner to save money. I had trouble creating a stop-doing work list. This is something that is difficult to do and I need to focus more time on.

I also liked the comment on stopping the flywheel. I feel like my group just got run over by the flywheel and we are trying to get up and start it rolling faster again. I think I have three or four good flywheel spinning goals that I am moving forward with but only time will tell.

Overall, this was a good book. It made me think. It made me analyze how I am doing my job. It helped me focus on what needed to get done (as well as start blogging again).