When 45 Business Gurus Share Their Most Important Insights

Last month, a very interesting book entitled The GuruBook: Insights from 45 Pioneering Entrepreneurs and Leaders on Business Strategy and Innovation, compiled by Jonathan Løw, was published. In it, 45 of the world’s leading entrepreneurs and leaders -- such as Salim Ismail (Singularity University), Naveen Jain (Moon Express), Jimmy Maymann (Huffington Post), Otto Scharmer (Theory U), and Blake Mycoskie (TOMS) -- plainly discuss their ideas about innovation, entrepreneurship, and authentic leadership.

I had the chance to speak with Jonathan Løw about this book, and one of the main questions I asked was: "What inspired you to compile the thoughts of these particular entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders?" Here is his complete response:  

The GuruBook is first and foremost about listening. Although I have been a serial entrepreneur and have tried to start a number of businesses, have worked with innovation in both large and small organizations, and have been a leader in several organizations, I do not imagine in any way that I have all the answers in these exciting but also complex areas.

I believe that the ability to listen is one of the most important characteristics for future entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders. This ability to listen, and the curiosity that is inherent in it, may be the factor that gives you an advantage over the competition. Consider, for example, the English mathematician and physicist Isaac Newton, who, like millions of others, saw an apple fall from a tree. The difference was that Newton asked "why."

As a result of my own curiosity and desire to listen more, it was obvious that I should invite the people who, in my eyes, have generated inspiring and pioneering ideas, organizations, and results, to share their thoughts and knowledge with the readers in The GuruBook.

This book’s gurus have been asked to talk/write about what they’re enthusiastic about. That means that you can look forward to becoming more knowledgeable about:

• How to start a business without an idea.

• Why some ideas succeed while others fail.

• How to demystify the task of scaling up a startup as an entrepreneur.

• How you can be enterprising, no matter what phase your organization is in.

• How to create an innovative culture.

• Why simple questions lead to the greatest innovations.

Why businesses and local authorities aren't startups, and what both can learn from each other.

• How to become authentic as a leader.

• Why authentic leadership is a strength.

• Why there’s an entrepreneur in every successful leader.

• Why the ability to listen is all-important whether you’re an entrepreneur or a leader.

The contents of The GuruBook have weight and value because the articles and/or interviews are with people who, for years, have perfected their ability to listen and have consistently become better at understanding their customers, partners, and colleagues.

Through thousands of meetings, sales calls, customer service responses, innovation processes, brainstorms, mail dialogues, LinkedIn discussions, and so on, they have listened and then acted on what they heard. These are the insights that The GuruBook contains.

I fundamentally believe the future belongs to the curious. The future belongs to the entrepreneurs, innovators, leaders, and passionate souls who are not only capable of “listening more intently” to the world about them, but who are capable of “ listening more intently” to the world about them but who also have the ability to act on the input they get.

A website for the book -- https://www.thegurubook.org/ -- includes a list of the gurus participating as well as some more background on the book.


The "Followership Crisis" -- Are You Ready For It?

An important new book hits the market this month entitled New Giants Rising: How Leaders Can Help People and Companies Grow During the Followership Crisis, and it helps us understand that business growth fueled by labor productivity does not rely on leadership as we’ve come to celebrate it, but on our ability to sustain loyalty and commitment to one another -- a following if you will -- inside and outside our workplaces. When we recognize and understand our historical Followership Cycles, we can begin to restore our workplaces to their lost role as a place to meet the demand of all Americans for a better future.

I spoke with the author, Paul D. Fisher, this past week and asked him: “What exactly is the ‘followership crisis’ and how does it affect the workplace?” Here is his full response:

Followership is the social wealth-building process that creates and sustains a rising middle class through labor productivity. We are in a global social and economic growth crisis because of the slow decline of followership since the 1970s. And the support system we usually use to build it -- media, government, education and institutions of all kind -- have proven themselves unable to help us cope.

As much as they’d like to, our companies are failing to address it too. Business growth is stunted by what we think of as the declining commitment and loyalty of our employees and customers. Our attempts to regenerate followership have been reduced to an endless string of employee engagement programs and hollow content marketing and branding efforts that have provided us no competitive advantage.

To gain that competitive advantage, companies must begin dealing effectively with structural deficits in their social architecture – the systematic means they use to develop purpose, pursue quality, and manage accountability with all their stakeholders. History shows us it has always been the role of business to pull us out of the social tailspin created when higher forms of human need transcend lower ones to help people cope inside their more isolated, robotized and disconnected work places.

For example, Mark Zuckerberg’s recent Facebook post about reforming Facebook by first analyzing “questions of history, civics, political philosophy, media, government and technology” is a surely signal he believes Facebook’s social architecture will not survive into the future without significant modification.

And Warren Buffett’s recent comment on health care -- calling it a “tapeworm on the American economy” (a comment he surely doesn’t personally believe) -- is his attempt to start a national conversation in which society will decide if health care is simply an uncontrolled cost of our manufacturing economy or a model for socially negotiated growth that we should all emulate.

The companies of tomorrow will not grow without reallocating some of the costs of their inclusion and engagement PR campaigns to building the social growth architecture they need to survive in this new environment. And business leaders like Zuckerberg and Buffett are showing us that the first step is to analyze our followership DNA.

Here is a video of Paul discussing the concept:

What do you think of Paul's perspective? Do you you feel it is important for your organization to focus on "social capital"?


The Limitations of Traditional Leadership Paradigms

The most recent book by organization Development (OD) master practitioner Gilmore Crosby, entitled Leadership Can Be Learned: Clarity, Connection, and Results, describes how leaders can be more effective in their interpersonal, group, and large-system interactions. During a recent conversation about his book, I asked Gilmore: "What are the traditional leadership paradigms that have consistent negative effects on work culture? How can this be changed?" Here is his complete answer:

There are two prevalent paradigms that lock leadership and work culture into a limited box:

Denial about authority issues -- Everyone has them, but most don’t realize they do. We all start small and dependent, and carry emotional memories from infancy into adulthood. Having a boss, being a boss, and being in an organization all remind our brain of our early pre-cognative experiences. Wired for survival, our brain wants to protect us from experiences similar to those early moments, including the dependency and interdependency of most work. Our emotional memories (the past) intensify our reactions in the present. If one isn’t aware enough to separate the past from the present, they will be apt to blame the people they are with (the boss, the subordinates, the peers) for their own mistrust and communication gaps. Our authority issues define and limit how we lead and how we relate to the people we report to.

Lack of systems thinking -- From a systemic perspective, it’s not who is on the bus that is most important, it’s how the bus is being driven. Most leaders are trapped in a paradigm of personality theory, obsessed with getting the right people on and off the bus. Many leaders I know take pride in their ability to judge people. That of course is necessary, but without a healthy dose of systems thinking, judging (and being judged) becomes the main focus. That unintentionally drives fear and defensiveness into the culture, undermining the very openness necessary for high performance. Leaders would do well to strive with at least equal energy for creating the conditions for fostering high performance in the vast majority of the people that are reporting to them. If they are constantly changing people out, they are the problem, not the subordinates. The right driver can lift an entire system, the wrong driver can demoralize and undermine performance. I’ve seen both many times.

Practical methods for bringing out the best in yourself and in others are woven throughout my book not as a program, but rather as sound leadership practices suitable to every group in any organization.

What do you think of Gilmore's perspective? Do these leadership paradigms exist in your organization? What have been the effects?

In this video, Gilmore presents a more in-depth overview of his book:
Leadership Can Be Learned Promo from Gilmore Crosby on Vimeo.


Does Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) Improve Manufacturing Processes?

“How does OEE systematically improve your manufacturing processes?” -- That was the question I recently posed to Ross Kennedy, author of a recently published book entitled Understanding, Measuring, and Improving Overall Equipment Effectiveness: How to Use OEE to Drive Significant Process Improvement. Ross is recognized as Australasia’s leading authority on total productive maintenance (TPM) and continuous improvement, and he had some key insights. Here is his complete answer:

OEE or Overall Equipment Effectiveness was created during the development of the Toyota Production System to help understand all the losses that could affect equipment performance so as to reduce lead times and improve quality, rather than relying on the traditional approach of measuring just equipment downtime. I first came across the concept in 1989 in a Productivity Press book titled TPM Development Program. It outlined that equipment could only be effective if it was Available when required, running at the ideal or theoretical speed or Rate (very best in ideal situation), and producing good Quality output first time. Hence OEE = Availability% x Rate% x Quality%.

Originally OEE involved the Six Big Losses (equipment failure, sets and adjustments, idling and minor stops, reduced speed, process defects, reduced yield) , however in more recent times this has been expanded to seven losses with the inclusion of planned downtime when the operating crew are at work.

OEE is often referred to as the measure that allows you to expose and capture the "hidden factory" within your plant. Often sites will identify opportunities worth 20% to 50% more capacity from their production lines or processes with little or no capital expenditure simply by fully understanding and doing something about all the losses that stop their equipment from being effective. I have certainly witnessed this in manufacturing, mining, and process industries during the past 20 years of applying this learning in a structured discipline way.

I have found when studied in detail, OEE losses can be attributed to three key areas:
  • Technical issues such as design weaknesses or poor maintenance practices.
  • People Development issues such as poorly trained operators or maintainers who lack an understand of prevention at source for equipment.
  • Management issues such as inappropriate organization structures, rostering, recruitment, daily management policies, planned maintenance and planned break times.
Once identified and actioned, the improvement results can be very significant.

One mine site in Indonesia reported at an international conference in Asia how over two years they saved over US$135million by focusing OEE improvement on their run-of-mine. At Australia’s largest privately owned brewery, OEE was used to increase the capacity of their main production line by more than 15% each year to defer the need to increase to a two-shift operation for three years while still meeting the growth of their business which was reported in the local media as 17.5% average yearly growth from 1993 to 2012.

Unfortunately at many sites, OEE has become the most misused and abused indicator of equipment performance with some sites changing the definitions to make it appear better as they are required to submit it to corporate for comparison between other sites.

At one large multi-national food manufacturing site I visited they were boasting about their high OEE performance, however when I delved into the way they were measuring OEE, I realised that they had removed Planned Downtime and Set-up or Changeover Downtime and had an Ideal speed set at the standard average speed used for setting budgets and doing costing (typically 20% lower than true ideal or theoretical speed). In effect, they were hiding many opportunities for improvement so that they could report a good performance figure to corporate management. In other words, they had a culture of always trying to look good rather than seeking out opportunities for continuous improvement.

OEE should be seen and used as a "driver" for improvement, not as a performance measure to be compared or benchmarked between equipment and sites. As a "driver" for improvement, the definition for OEE should have a 100% correlation to the good output produced from your line or plant. In other words, if OEE increases by 10% then you should be making 10% more good output or making the same amount of good output within 10% less time, hence the need for the OEE definition to include all the seven losses. 

What are you thoughts on Ross Kennedy's perspective on the use of OEE for process performance improvements? Do you use OEE as a key performance indicator of manufacturing productivity?


The Changing Face of Startups?

I was quite happy that, during this past month, I got the chance to speak to Boyd Cohen -- one of the foremost climate strategists helping to lead communities, cities, and companies on the journey towards the low carbon economy -- about his most recent book, Post-Capitalist Entrepreneurship: Startups for the 99%. His thought-provoking book challenges many of our underlying assumptions about how entrepreneurs form startups and the objectives and roles (or lack thereof) of startup investors in a post-capitalist society.

During our conversation, I asked him: “Why has there been such a radical change in the dynamics of startups?" Here is his response:

Several factors have been evolving and even disrupting the startup scene during the past 5 to10 years. The democratization of the tools of innovation have led to massive reductions in costs, time, and barriers for startups. This includes the proliferation of cloud computing, Software as a Service, and co-working spaces.  But furthermore, the growing number of technologically unemployed and the resentment and frustration with growing inequality has given rise to a new breed of entrepreneur who is less focused on private ownership of land, capital, and human resources (the basic tenets of capitalism) and instead focused on inclusive, open, and collaborative business models, such as platform cooperatives and commons-based peer production. The highly disruptive, and distributed capabilities of blockchain even further these trends, opening up opportunities for alternative currencies and initial coin offerings (token sales) as well as automated distributed autonomous organizations where no intermediary monetizes transactions between peers. 

What do you think of Boyd's perspective? What are your thoughts on entrepreneurs who are pursuing radically different approaches to value creation and extraction?  


Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and Lean Maintenance -- What's the Difference?

“What is the difference between Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and Lean Maintenance?”

That's the question I just posed to Torsten Dederichs, who just published a new book entitled Lean Maintenance: A Practical, Step-By-Step Guide for Increasing Efficiency with Javier Girón Blanco. Considering the amount of money industrial companies spend maintaining their plants and  maintenancing their equipment, I figured it'd be best to include his entire answer here:

What is the difference between onions and apples? Onions are vegetables and apples are fruits.

The first principle of TPM is that the operator is the first line of defense against unplanned downtime. Because operators know their equipment best, they can identify problems long before they get critical. This approach is  a very valuable approach for increasing reliability and reducing  wasted time and repairs.

But what happens when the operators cannot solve the issue themselves? What if the repair needs skilled crafts or engineers? The operator raises a maintenance notification, which launches the maintenance process. And in this same second the operator leaves the TPM world and hands over his engine to our “Lean Maintenance” approach.

Maintenance technicians are the "go-to folks" when machines break down. They are modern-day heroes who can fix anything at anytime. The role of the “hero” becomes evident when maintenance starts to work in a predominantly reactive mode, fire-fighting its way through the day. At this point,  employees begin to view maintenance as a necessary evil because it is basically a cost center that requires management attention as well as capital (spare parts inventory) and personnel. This sentiment is exacerbated when maintenance is performed “at all costs” -- work orders take more time, money and effort to get done, budgets are exceeded, and an unhealthy relationship develops between maintenance and production. At this point, upper management starts to consider ways to get costs under control: top-down cost reductions (meaning that less maintenance gets done, with the corresponding availability risk) and partial or total outsourcing. These measures can provide a quick fix but will not resolve the firefighting nor fix the broken relationship between maintenance and production. This situation can lead to frustration, as things go back to where they were before. To break this vicious circle we propose a different approach.

Maintenance can be a source of profitability by ensuring high availability. As mentioned previously, companies with an efficient and effective maintenance function have a clear competitive advantage. A Lean maintenance function ensures that all resources are dedicated to value-adding activities, taking out the process “waste,” and being able to do more with the current resources.

To achieve Lean maintenance, many elements must be in place: the interfaces between production and maintenance along the full maintenance process must be smooth and maintenance work must be properly selected, prioritized, planned, scheduled and carried out. Everyone involved in the process should know how he or she can contribute to this goal.

The description of the ideal maintenance process and the method for achieving it is the focus of Lean Maintenance: A Practical, Step-By-Step Guide for Increasing Efficiency.

What do you consider the differences between TPM and Lean maintenance? Have you practiced Lean maintenance in your company?  


Do Misconceptions About Lean Cause Many Initiatives to Fail?

At conferences, in magazine articles, and in books, we often hear of the benefits that Lean initiatives provide to organizations' efficiency and general workplace culture, but the failure rates are never comprehensively analyzed. In August, Cordell Hensley published an interesting new book, Lean Misconceptions: Why Many Lean Initiatives Fail and How You Can Avoid the Mistakes, that sheds light on why more than half of performance-improvement initiatives fail to achieve desired results.When I spoke with Cordell last week, I asked him: "What are the common mistakes that cause Lean initiatives to fail?” Here's the answer he provided:

The focus on removing waste is fundamental within Lean, but it should not be the only objective when beginning on your journey. Many organizations think simple: Lean = less waste. While this is true, it is like saying the TARDIS is just a police telephone box.

For example, I am always surprised by how few have heard of MURA (unevenness) or MURI (overburden). These are as, or potentially more, important than MUDA (waste). These other two create waste; and if you don’t focus on removing unevenness and overburden, then your efforts to reduce waste will be in vain. 

In addition, while removing or reducing waste is fundamental within Lean, I argue that it is too easy to ignore or skip the objective of creating capability. I’m not talking about getting a few experts in or training your leadership team but actively engaging everyone in the thinking behind what you’re trying to do.

Lean provides the impetus for challenging the status quo, for seeing every process as something that can be improved, including the improvement process itself. Arguably, improving processes is the easy bit, and identifying waste is relatively simple as well, but it is the change of focus of every employee to solving problems that only comes from a shift in organizational thinking. It is a shift from an organization where employees do as they’re told by management to one where they are engaged in making things better, for everyone, including the shareholders.

Today’s leaders seem to want an answer to their problem that they can buy “off the shelf.” This doesn’t exist! There is no silver bullet or panacea  that can fix  problems or improve performance for every business. The results they seek are readily available, but it takes effort, it takes learning, it takes a shift in paradigms.

Lean has been around for several decades. It evolved from research on Toyota followed by the application by hundreds if not thousands of organizations and their consultants. Many users and “experts” within organizations, however,  have modified and adjusted the thinking to suit their immediate needs. This has created misconceptions within the industry and has denigrated the term to little more than a process improvement technique. 

This evolution has, in most cases, reduced the potential that organizations can achieve and has sadly been used to put many thousands of people out of work. Throughout my book, I try to demonstrate a different view of Lean and the culture desired to enable organizations not only to improve their processes and systems but also to create the capability to learn and adapt to the ever-changing world in which they operate.

What do you think of Cordell's perspective? Have you been involved in a Lean initiative that has not lived up to expectations? What do you think are its shortcomings?


What New Engineers Should Know About Problem Solving

Melisa Buie, the director of operations at Coherent Inc., published a very helpful book for new engineers just entering the workforce entitled Problem Solving for New Engineers: What Every Engineering Manager Wants You to Know. The book focuses on developing a strategy for minimizing, eliminating, and finally controlling variation.

During a recent conversation with Melisa, I asked her: “What hinders new engineers most regarding problem solving?” Here is her complete response:

Problem solving requires a paradigm shift for most scientists and engineers when they transition from the academic world of memorization, retention, and recitation of knowledge to a creative more fluid kind of thinking. From our pre-kindergarten interactions to the day we graduate with a BS or MS degree, we are taught that knowledge rules. Knowledge is the most important thing. In school, the person who knows the most wins or gets the ‘A.' We are taught that knowing is the most important thing. Knowing is valued most.

In school, that knowledge is gained from our books, from our professors, experts, or journals. We participate in science through demonstrations and labs, both of which are scripted with known results. We are told when to watch, when to pay attention, and when to record our findings. These experiments are then recorded in nice packages called lab reports and graded. Our grades are determined by the care we take in recording our findings in the templates provided. Our labs are recipes that we follow.

Helen Keller wrote: “The more I handled things and learned their names and uses, the more joyous and confident grew my sense of kinship with the rest of the world.” Problem solving is about handling things and gaining kinship with the world. Problem solving is about discovery and creativity. The sooner we can flip the switch from being told something to figuring it out for ourselves -- discovering for ourselves -- the sooner we begin to really enjoy science and engineering.

Don’t get me wrong, knowing is important but equally important, after graduation and joining the workforce, is gaining confidence with handling things. The nice thing is that we don’t have to give up our quest for knowledge -- if we make the leap to discovery, we begin to experience discovering for ourselves. 

For the engineers reading this post: What hindered or helped your problem-solving skills when you entered the workforce?    


Social Responsibility and Shared Value = Higher Profits

This past month, John C. Camillus, Bopaya Bidanda, and N. Chandra Mohan published a book titled The Business of Humanity: Strategic Management in the Era of Globalization, Innovation, and Shared Value, which explains why many organizations are pursuing a novel, forward-thinking business model. These companies are building "humanity" into their models as the driver of economic, environmental, and social sustainability.

During a recent email conversation with the authors this month, I asked them: “Can companies built on shared value sustain for the long term?” Here is their collective response:

That is a fundamental question that goes to the heart of the Business of Humanity® Proposition. Our answer is an emphatic "Yes!"

Iconic figures such as Nobel Peace Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus contribute to keeping this question alive by proposing “social business” as a model, de-emphasizing profits and focusing primarily on addressing social concerns. This mindset, though most commendable, raises justifiable questions about sustainability.

We see shared value as a requirement for the survival of business. For instance, the importance of sharing value with communities is becoming apparent and activist non-governmental organizations (NGOs) make it an imperative. Remember that Tata Motors had to abandon a $300 million investment in an assembly plant because the local community felt that it had been exploited when land was acquired for the plant.

We go even further by arguing that sharing value strategically with the organization’s stakeholders enhances profitability. The disruptive innovations that are part of the Business of Humanity’s profit-enhancing business model will create damaging conflicts between stakeholders if they are not purposefully engaged in the process of value creation and understand that they will be earning a slice of a substantially larger pie.

We are definitely not being Pollyannaish. When Paul Polman, the chairman of Unilever, was asked how his company could continue to make profits with its emphasis on social and environmental sustainability, his response was that he did not see how profits could be sustained without such an emphasis. The Business of Humanity strategy development process is designed to ensure that shared value promotes profitability and, consequently, sustainability.

Do you think there is validity to the argument that a more human-centered capitalism is vital as a long-term business strategy and the correct method for sustainable economic behavior?  


Lean Initiatives in the Construction Industry -- Can they succeed?

Just this month, Gary Santorella published a new edition of his forward-thinking book, Lean Culture for the Construction Industry: Building Responsible and Committed Project Teams. Much has changed in the construction industry since Gary published the first edition of his book back in 2010, so I contacted him to discuss what he has observed and learned working with professionals in this industry during the past seven years. One of the questions I asked was:“What are the main obstacles to a Lean initiative in a construction environment?” Here is his very candid and insightful answer:

The main obstacle is not an intellectual one, but psychological. In an industry that relies heavily on a multitude of personalities and companies, all of whom have competing interests, there is a natural tendency to resist tools that were developed in a controlled manufacturing environment. When you allow people to talk freely, there is a sense of skepticism that Lean practitioners “just don’t get us or what we do.” And, in many ways, they are right. Many of those trying to implement Lean in the construction industry are a bit tone deaf. They hear resistance as an intellectual challenge, and therefore counter it by generating copious amounts of data, imposing weighty (and sometimes faulty) measurements, and implementing Lean tools in such a way that is cumbersome – all of which only serves to justify the divide.

Given that most Lean practitioners are engineers by training, I understand the inclination to go straight for the analytics rather than attend to interpersonal struggles and issues influencing workplace culture, but in doing so, they ignore the realities of our industry. On any given day, the average Project Manager interacts with scores of individuals, each of whom comes from a variety of different backgrounds. From owners, architects, and city planners, to inspectors, workers and various employees and departments within their own company,  managers in construction, more than any other industry, have to be able to navigate the murky waters of human dynamics and interpersonal politics. That’s not to say that there aren’t ample opportunities for measurement and Lean tool implementation. Pull-planning, Value Stream Mapping, 5S and Kanbans have literally transformed businesses that were bleeding money in the form of waste. We know the flow stoppages that are the result of people choosing to store information idiosyncratically on their personal hard drives rather than using the standard practice of uploading to a common share drive. But when we emphasize data, and measurement, and tools we are taking Lean out of its proper context and missing the most transformative element of Lean – it’s ability to transform a culture.

The construction industry is, unfortunately, fraught with blame, finger-pointing, and self-protective cover-your-butt behaviors. The average Owner-Architect-Contractor meeting is more of an exercise of the fine art of attack and counter attack than productive waste identification and problem solving. Teaching people to use Lean tools in the context of their interactional realities is far more productive than measuring everything. When all of the competing parties understand that there is far more to be gained – financially and psychologically - by viewing problems as opportunities to improve, rather than as weapons, that’s when people start to understand the true power of Lean.

As Lean practitioners, we need be as interested in helping people to embrace the concerns of all of the parties, as we are in implementing the tools. To me, this is the true power of Lean. I love the framework because if implemented properly, it melds process and measurement with the psychological realities of human interest, and embodies the true meaning of the word teamwork by empowering people to change their working environment for the better. It’s exciting and humbling to see people come to the realization that they are far better off as a united whole, than a bunch of separate competing interests who are resigned to doing battle with each other. To me, this is the true power of Lean. The tools should be a means to get there, rather than the end result. 

What do you think of Gary's comments? For those working in the construction industry, do you agree with his observation of behaviors and habits?