Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” seems to be full of data-driven wisdom that is often overlooked.
He tackles chapter two entitled “First Who… Then What”
It’s about getting the right people in the team, and in the right seats, and getting the wrong people off the team – then mapping out where you’re supposed to go.
In the real world, it usually happens the other way around – map out where you want to go, then see if you have the right people in the right seats. If not, start hiring them.
Let me enlighten you with an excerpt from the book:
The good-to-great leaders understood three simple truths. First, if you begin with “who,” rather than the “what,” you can more easily adapt to a changing world.
If people join the bus primarily because of where it is going, what happens if you get ten miles down the road and you need to change direction?
You’ve got a problem.
But if people are on the bus because of who else is on the bus, then it’s much easier to change direction: “Hey, I got on this bus because of who else is on it; if we need to change direction to be more successful, fine with me.”
Second, if you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away.
The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great.
Third, if you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction; you still won’t have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.
Consider the case of Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo began its fifteen-year stint of spectacular performance in 1983, but the foundation for the shift dates back to the early 1970s, when then-CEO Dick Cooley began building one of the most talented management teams in the industry (the best team, according to investor Warren Buffet).
Cooley foresaw that the banking industry would eventually undergo wrenching change, but he did not pretend to know what form that change would take.
So instead of mapping out a strategy for change, he and chairman Ernie Arbuckle focused on “Injecting an endless stream of talent” directly into the veins of the company. They hired outstanding people whenever and wherever they found them, often without any specific job in mind.
“That’s how you build the future,” he said.
“If I’m not smart enough to see the changes that are coming, they will. And they’ll be flexible enough to deal with them.”
Cooley’s approach proved prescient. No one could predict all these changes that could be wrought by banking deregulation. Yet when these changes came, no bank handled those challenges better than Wells Fargo. At a time when its sector of the banking industry fell 59 percent behind the general stock market, Wells Fargo outperformed the market by over three times.
What did I learn from all this?
I learned that I have to have the right people (and that’s a huge category to deal with) at the right seats in my company – and lay off the wrong ones.
When push comes to shove, if I have the right people in my team, it’ll be able to self-motivate and self-adapt to make things better.
This is going to be my hiring-firing strategy from now on.
It’ll dictate the course of our culture, and ultimately, our future.