Thursday, September 10, 2009

Awesomely Simple Advice for (Middle) Managers

Earlier this week I received John Spence's new book Awesomely Simple: Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas Into Action. I have been waiting for the book since May last year, and it was worth the wait.

Before listing the key strategies, let's look at what makes them so important. During his trainings and workshops John has been asking hundreds of executives a simple question: "What are the four biggest issues you are dealing with right now in your company?" Just about all are stuggling with four basic issues listed below with typical example of how they are described to John.

  1. Communicating vision. "I have a clear vision of where I am tryin to take my organization. I think about it all the time and it's always on my mind, but I bet if you went two levels down in my company and asked people what the vision of our organization is ... they would not be able to tell you."

  2. Openly addressing challenges. "I realize now that we're not having the tough conversation we need to have in our organization. There are issues, challenges, and problems that everyone knows about but no one wants to talk about. As a leader, I now understand that I'm going to have to accept that is is my role to engage everyone in discussing the undiscussable."

  3. Enabling mediocricity. "I have a few mediocre people in key places in my organization. And I understand that every day I allow them to come to work and do a poor job, turn things in late, mess up projects, and miss deadlines is another day that I am telling all of the rest of the people in my organization that I was just kidding about excellence."

  4. Following trough on plans. "We have a serious problem with lack of execution. We have innovative ideas, good plans. We have goals and objectives, but we lack the discipline to follow trough and ensure that out good intentions become focused actions."
Does any of them sound familiar to you? To me some of them do. If one or more of these are an issues in your organization, I recommend you to buy the book and read more about the six strategies John presents in his book:
  1. Vivid vision

  2. Best people

  3. Robust communication

  4. Sense of urgency

  5. Disciplined execution

  6. Extreme customer focus
For a preview of each of these and some additional resources see John's website at

In his new manifesto, John points out that most of these strategies fall into a handful of key result areas, which are completely within the control (and responsibility) of any manager.

I wish I would have received this advice some years ago. On the other hand, in that case my blog would not exist.