The (necessary)
war on linearity:
One engineer’s
(unusual)
life’s work.
tom peters/1026.2006
Think!
vs.
do!
“Apparently our society,
not unlike the Greeks with
their Delphic oracles, takes
great comfort in believing
that very talented ‘seers’
removed from the hurlyburly world of reality can
foretell coming events.” —Len
Sayles/Columbia (from Henry Mintzberg, The Rise and
Fall of Strategic Planning)
“Nothing is more
dangerous in war
than theoreticians.”
—Marshall Petain (John Mosier, The Blitzkrieg Myth,
“War as Pseudoscience: 1920-1939”)
The (Strange) Case of Peter Drucker &
Michael Porter vs. The “Non-linearists”
HERBERT SIMON. (Administrative Behavior.) JAMES
MARCH. KARL WEICK. (The Social Psychology of
Organizing.) EUGENE WEBB. Henry
MINTZBERG. (The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning.)
JAMES UTTERBACK. THOMAS KUHN. (The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions.) CHARLES
LINDBLOM. Daniel goleman.
INNOVATION BIOGRAPHERS.* (*Transcontinental
Railroad, Electrification, Radio, Television, Containerization, DNA,
MOST POLITICAL
SCIENTISTS. SILICON VALLEY. Etc.
Computers, Military History, Etc.)
“This book is about luck disguised and
perceived as non-luck (that is, skills) and
more generally randomness disguised and
perceived as non-randomness. It manifests
itself in the shape of the lucky fool,
defined as a person who benefited from a
disproportionate share of luck but
attributed his success to some other,
generally precise reason.” —Fooled by
Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and
the Markets, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Satisficing. Bounded
rationality.
Technology of
foolishness.
Muddling through.
The Mess Is the Message! Period!
An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution
of the United States —Charles Beard (1913)
The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World
Smaller and the World Economy Bigger —Marc Levinson
Tube: The Invention of Television —David & Marshall Fisher
Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse,
and the Race to Electrify the World —Jill Jonnes
The Soul of a New Machine —Tracy Kidder
Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA —Brenda Maddox
The Blitzkrieg Myth —John Mosier
Plan it!
“Non-linearist”: Try it!
“Linearist”:
“Recently I asked three corporate
executives what decisions they had made
in the last year that would not have been
made were it not for their corporate plans.
All had difficulty identifying one such
decision. Since all of the plans are marked
‘secret’ or ‘confidential,’ I asked them
how their competitors might benefit
from possession of their plans. Each
answered with embarrassment that
their competitors would not
benefit.” —Russell Ackoff (from Henry Mintzberg,
The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning)
“This is so simple it sounds stupid, but it is amazing
how few oil people really understand that
you only find
oil if you drill
wells.
You may think you’re finding it
when you’re drawing maps and
studying logs, but you have to drill.”
Source: The Hunters, by John Masters, Canadian O & G wildcatter
“It is not the
strongest of the
species that survives,
nor the most
intelligent, but the
one most responsive
to change.”
—Charles Darwin
think!
“Non-linearist”: do!
“Linearist”:
“Execution is
the job of the
business
leader.”
—Larry Bossidy & Ram
Charan/ Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
Excellence1982: The Bedrock “Eight Basics”
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
A Bias for Action
Close to the Customer
Autonomy and Entrepreneurship
Productivity Through People
Hands On, Value-Driven
Stick to the Knitting
Simple Form, Lean Staff
Simultaneous Loose-Tight Properties
“We have a
‘strategic plan.’
It’s called doing
things.”
— Herb Kelleher
“Linearist”:
hypothesize!
“Non-linearist”:
experiment!
“We made mistakes, of course. Most of them were
omissions we didn’t think of when we initially wrote the
software. We fixed them by doing it over and over, again
and again. We do the same today. While our competitors
are still sucking their thumbs trying to make the design
perfect, we’re already on prototype version
#5.
By the time our rivals are
ready with wires and screws, we are on version
#10. It gets back to planning
versus acting: We act from day
one; others plan how to plan—
for months.” —Bloomberg by Bloomberg
“Experiment
fearlessly”
Source: BW0821.06, Type A Organization Strategies/
“How to Hit a Moving Target”—Tactic #1
failure =
unnecessary
“Linearist”:
“Non-linearist”:
failure = life
“Fail . Forward.
Fast.”
High Tech CEO, Pennsylvania
“Fail faster.
Succeed Sooner.”
David Kelley/IDEO
“It is generally much easier to
organization
kill an
than change it
substantially.”
—Kevin Kelly, Out of Control
“Reward
excellent failures.
Punish mediocre
successes.”
Phil Daniels, Sydney exec
Message/Implication: go for it!
C.E.O.
C.D.O.
to
a>b*
“Non-linearist”: b>a**
“Linearist”:
*Attitude shapes behavior
**Behavior shapes attitude
deliberate!*
“Non-linearist”: relentless!**
“Linearist”:
* “Do it right the first time” (Hero: Phil Crosby)
**Never retreat (Hero: U.S. Grant)
Relentless: “One of
my superstitions had always been
when I started to go anywhere or
not to
turn back , or stop,
to do anything,
until the thing intended was
accomplished.” —Grant
“Success seems to be
largely a matter
of hanging on
after others have
let go.”
—William Feather, author
“Linearist”:
logical!
“Non-linearist”:
passionate!
“Nothing is so
contagious as
enthusiasm.”
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“People want to be part
of something larger than
themselves. They want to
be part of something
they’re really proud of,
that they’ll fight for,
sacrifice for , trust.”
—Howard Schultz, Starbucks (IBD/09.05)
give me
genius!
“Non-linearist”: give me
luck!
“Linearist”:
“This book is about luck disguised and perceived as
non-luck (that is, skills) and more generally randomness
disguised and perceived as non-randomness. It manifests
itself in the shape of the lucky fool, defined
as a person who benefited from a disproportionate share
of luck but attributed his success to some other, generally
precise reason.”
“We underestimate the share of randomness in just
about everything, a point that might not merit a
book—except when it is the specialist who is the fool
of all fools.”
“Mild success can be explainable by skills and labor. Wild
success is attributable to variance.”
Source: Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance
in Life and the Markets —Nassim Nicholas Taleb
spotless
academic
record!
“Non-linearist”: a.d.d.
“Linearist”:
measured
pace!
“Non-linearist”: Tempo!
Tempo! Tempo!
“Linearist”:
“You miss 100
percent of the
shots you never
take.”
—Wayne Gretzky
FedEx
Economy”
“the
—headline/New York Times/10.08.05
Anything/
Anywhere/
Anytime
“Any3”:
think! Plan!
(r.a.f.*)
“Non-linearist”: Try it!
Screw it up! Fix it!
Try it again! (r.f.a.**)
“Linearist”:
*Ready. Aim. Fire.
**ready. Fire. Aim. (Or, circa 2006: fire. Fire. Fire.)
READY.
FIRE!
AIM.
Ross Perot (vs “Aim! Aim! Aim!” /EDS vs GM/1985)
S.A.V.: screw
around
vigorously!
The “only” possible response to former Xerox chief Paul
Allaire’s “We are in a brawl with no rules.”
Cheap Shot
minimize cost.
“Non-linearist”: maximize
revenue.
“Linearist”:
marketing
rules.
“Non-linearist”: sales
rules.
“Linearist”:
“Everyone lives
by
selling
something.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson
“Analysts … preferred cost cutting, as long as
they could see two or three years of EPS growth. I preached revenue
and the analysts’ eyes would glaze over. Now revenue is ‘in’ because
They
said, ‘Oh my gosh, you
need revenues to grow
earnings over time.’
Well, Duh!”
so many got caught, and earnings went to hell.
—Dick Kovacevich, Wells Fargo
C
*Chief
O*
Revenue
Officer
“Linearist”
Background:
planning, marketing &
finance.
“Non-linearist”
background:
sales & operations.
“Operations is
policy.”
—Fred Malek (1974)
“Execution is
strategy.”
—TP (1983)
“Linearist”
likes: ideas.
“Non-linearist”
likes: people.
‘do’
“Leaders
people.
Period.”
—Anon.
“It was much later that I realized
Dad’s secret. He gained respect by
giving it. He talked and listened to
the fourth-grade kids in Spring Valley
who shined shoes the same way he
talked and listened to a bishop or a
He was
seriously interested in
who you were and what
you had to say.”
college president.
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Respect
“The [Union senior] officers rode past the
Confederates smugly without any sign
of recognition except by one. ‘When
General Grant reached the line of
ragged, filthy, bloody, despairing
prisoners strung out on each side of
the bridge, he lifted his hat and held it
over his head until he passed the last
man of that living funeral cortege. He
was the only officer in that whole train
who recognized us as being on the
face of the earth.’*”
*quote within a quote from diary of a Confederate soldier
“Linearist”
likes: parts.
“Non-linearist”
likes: wholes.
“The Mexican Sierra has 17 plus 15 plus 9 spines in the
dorsal fin. These can easily be counted. But if the sierra
strikes on the line so that our hands are burned, if the fish
sounds and nearly escapes and finally comes in over the
rail, his colors pulsing and his tail beating the air, a whole
new relational externality has come into being—an entity
which is more than the sum of the fish plus the fisherman.
The only way to count the spines of the sierra unaffected
by this second relational reality is to sit in a laboratory,
open an evil-smelling jar, remove a stiff colorless fish
from the formalin solution, count the spines and write
the truth. There you have recorded a reality which cannot
be assailed—probably the least important reality
concerning the fish or yourself,. … It is good to know
what you are doing . The man with this pickled fish has
set down one truth and recorded in his experience many
lies. The fish is not that color, that texture, that dead, nor
does he smell that way.” —John Steinbeck
“Linearist”
office: walls.
“Non-linearist”
office: none.
“Linearist”
style: meetings.
“Non-linearist”
style: m.b.w.a.*
*Managing by wandering around
“Linearist”
reads: michael porter.
Peter drucker.*
“Non-linearist”
reads: waterman &
peters. Tom clancy.**
*Michael & peter
**Bob & tom & tom
“Linearist”
reads: michael porter.
Peter drucker.
“Non-linearist”
reads: doesn’t
“Linearist”
preferred baseball
score: 1-0.
“Non-linearist”
preferred baseball
score: 11-9.
“Linearist”
preferred football
score: 7-0.
“Non-linearist”
preferred football
score: 41-38.
“Linearist”
criminal record:
none.
“Non-linearist”
criminal record:
disorderly conduct.
Chronic jaywalking.
“Linearist”
drives: lincoln town
car. Ford explorer
(weekends).
“Non-linearist”
drives: bmw. Harleydavidson (weekends).
The (Strange) Case of Peter Drucker &
Michael Porter vs. The “Non-linearists”
HERBERT SIMON. (Administrative Behavior.) JAMES
MARCH. KARL WEICK. (The Social Psychology of
Organizing.) EUGENE WEBB. Henry
MINTZBERG. (The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning.)
JAMES UTTERBACK. THOMAS KUHN. (The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions.) CHARLES
LINDBLOM. Daniel goleman.
INNOVATION BIOGRAPHERS.* (*Transcontinental
Railroad, Electrification, Radio, Television, Containerization, DNA,
MOST POLITICAL
SCIENTISTS. SILICON VALLEY. Etc.
Computers, Military History, Etc.)
“Never forget
implementation , boys.
In our work, it’s what I
call the ‘last 98
percent’ of the client
puzzle.”
—Al McDonald, former Managing
Director, McKinsey & Co, to a project team that included TP
You only
find oil if
you drill
wells.
—John Masters, Canadian O & G wildcatter
Worth.
The.
hassle.
Some Stuff
*Hard is soft. Soft is hard. Social stuff. Emotional stuff. Good stuff. *Mess
= Normal = Reality. Rationality = Delusional. (Design accordingly.)
*Failure = Normal = Good. (“Reward excellent failures. Punish
mediocre successes.”)
*Do > Think. Act > Talk. Action bias!!!! Experiment!! Decentralization
= Holy writ = More independent tries. Implementation-Execution.
*Strategic planning, limits thereto. Severe.
*Severe limits to scale advantage. Mega-mergers = Bad = Stupid.
*“Built to last.” Why???????????? Try: Built to change the world.
*People first! People Power! HR (SHOULD) rule!
*Women’s world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Market. Wealth. Leadership.)
*Aesthetics! (Design primacy.) (Grace.)
*EXCELLENCE!
*MBWA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
*Don’t over-complicate. (MBWA, Product, People, Action …)
*Educate for Risk-taking, Creativity.
*B-schools suck. Teach all … except what’s important. D-School = Cool.
*Healthcare’s Big Three: Quality. Prevention. Wellness.
*R > C. (Sell! Sell! Sell!)
*Free markets work. Free trade works. Rise of India-China = Good thing.
*Brand You. Self-reliance!!!!!!!!!!!! Liberation!!!!
*Survival = PSF/Professional Service Firm “mindset.”
*Fun! (“Cool” is Cool.)
*Service-obsessed! (“Raving fans.”)
*Passion-Exuberance-Enthusiasm. “Hot” Language. WOW! Insanely great!
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The Challenge: To Create More Value in All Negotiations