Tom Peters is one of only two management gurus to make it onto MIT's 2014 list of "Most Influential Thinkers." He wrote the classic business management book In Search of Excellence, which was the most widely held library book in the United States for seventeen years and today is considered one of the most important business books written in the twentieth century. He was a trail-blazing consultant at McKinsey, and his ideas about the true, humanitarian purpose of business have influenced generations of managers. The Wall Street Journal writes that "Mr. Peters is an enthusiast, a storyteller, and a lover of capitalism. He says that effective management is management that delivers more value to customers and more opportunity for service, creativity, and growth for workers. He is saying that the decent thing to do is also the smart thing. It’s a wonderful message." We're proud to have him as a guest contributor. Below are excerpts from some of our favorite videos:
Strategy to Resolve Cross-Functional Communication
I think 85% to 90% of people would say the most significant problem in their organization is lousy cross-functional communication.
The Finance people don't talk to the Marketing people who don't talk to the Purchasing people, etc. I see it cited over and over again as the number one issue.
I really think that cross-functional excellence boils down, to a significant degree, one main variable. And you know what that is? Lunch.
Here's the most important metric in your professional life: 20 × 12 = 240. It means you work about 20 days a month and you work more or less 12 months. At any rate, 240 is the number of potential useful lunches per year. Never waste a lunch. You have 240 opportunities to deal with a frayed relationship, and 240 opportunities to build on a relationship that's in pretty good shape. If all 240 of those lunches are with the same group of people, then you are sure as heck not taking advantage of the potential.
Getting to know people, simply developing friends, is an awful lot more important than spending 20 million dollars on a SAP software system, period.
Want to deal with cross-functional issues? Make lunch a strategic priority and measure it. Trust me, this will work. Lunch is the most powerful tool you've got.
Strategic Listening and the Most Important Four Words
On one of my trips to Shanghai, China, I gave a three-day seminar. At the beginning of the third day, I was trying to summarize everything that had gone before and I ended up with a little presentation inside a presentation. It only had 2 slides in it. But those 2 slides, I'm convinced, encompass a fair amount of the world.
A Harvard medical school doctor by the name of Jerome Groopman wrote a marvelous book called How Doctors Think. In this book, he stated the obvious: that the best source of information about a patient's ailment is the patient. As long as you're willing to listen. Groopman cited research that showed the average doctor interrupts the average patient after only 18 seconds.
It’s my suspicion that most managers are also 18-second managers. They interrupt to put their opinion in before the person whose opinion you're asking has even had a chance to start.
Let me segue to a guy who made a comment on my blog. His name is Dave Wheeler, and he wrote, “What are the 4 most important words in an organization?” and then answered his own question with, “Those 4 words are ‘What do you think?’”
And so on those two slides, one slide said “18 seconds,” and the other said, “what do you think?”
I think those two slides encompass most of what you need to know about managing and leading: strategic listening, as I call it, and asking everybody, “What do you think?”
That’s a dynamite and encompassing set of ideas.
The Art of Milestoning
Milestones are important. We all know that. I just want to argue that milestones are perhaps more important than you think. And I want to introduce to you what I call “the art of milestoning":
Milestones that are precisely spaced will keep my energy and moral going. Every project consists of milestones and those milestones typically consist of tasks.
First, people need a small win within the first 24, 72 or 96 hours. So, redesign the first task so the task is small enough that a piece of the task can be done in 96 hours. And that is the game, for the best use of human nature, that you play all the way through.
Design the milestones to keep people excited to keep them engaged. Celebrate the living dickens out of the smallest wins as well as the biggest ones.
There is an art that is almost a science, if you are in fact a student of social psychology, to designing a perfect milestone. Please become a milestone-er extraordinaire. It’s really important.
Leadership is about Developing Others
When I was at a seminar in New Delhi there were a couple of senior generals from the Indian army who were sitting in the front row. We were talking about promoting people and what the basis was for selecting one person instead of another. And I’m not sure this is the whole answer, or the right answer, but my view is that when you become a senior leader, you're not supposed to be the number one strategist. You're supposed to hire the number one strategist.
The point of the senior leader is the development of people.
So I came up with the primary questions that you ask or pursue when you are making a promotion decision to a second level manager or above, and here’s exactly the way it goes:
“In the last year name the 3 people whose growth you have most contributed to.
Please explain precisely where they were a year ago, where they are today, and where they will be heading in the next 12 months.
Please explain your precise development strategy in each of these cases.
Please tell me your biggest development disappointment of the last 12 months and looking back could you or would you have done anything differently?
Please tell me about your greatest development triumph and your greatest development disaster in the last 10 years.
What are the 3 big things that you've learned about people development in the course of those last 10 years?”
The goal here is to be very precise in asking people about their record and performance as a developer of other people.
I think it works for senior general talking about junior generals, but it also works for well for a 27-year-old project manager who has a bunch of 23-year-olds working for her over the course of the last 9 months. And even as a 27-year-old project manager with 23-year-olds working for her, a significant part of her job is not just to get the project done, but to make sure each of those people has an exceptional growth experience in the process.
As a leader, young or old, the big deal is this: who have you developed and precisely how have you developed them? That's what you get paid to do. That is your life. That is your legacy.
"Here's what you need to know: This is 100% pure, unfiltered, unexpurgated, Tom Peters. THIS IS THE REAL DEAL. PERIOD." — Seth Godin, author, Linchpin