Soaring with the Phoenix
THE CONTINUALLY RENEWING PHOENIX: THE HERALD OF
Heavy Human Traffic: Searching to be “Something” to Somebody”
Once More, With Feeling: Rewind, Playback, Pump Up The
It is dark -- well past our seven p.m. dinner time -- by the time I
slip into my car to make my way home after another 12-hour day. "This is
Thursday, isn't it?" I ask myself. "No, it’s only Wednesday,"
I realize. The days all run together. “It’s been seven months since I
signed on as Plant Manager. I’ve been hard at it, seven days a week,
fourteen hours a day. And what do I have to show for it?”
"Why is this plant so tough to move?" I ask myself. The boss told me
it was in bad shape, and everyone else seemed to agree. But it's been like
moving through molasses. Everything is harder, takes longer, and gets
less-than-enthusiastic execution. People smile a lot and agree in meetings,
and then go back and do it the same old way.
My mind takes me back to the beginning of my day. Walk through the plant on my
way in. The housekeeping is still poor, a sure sign of low morale. The on-time
shipment chart that I insisted on is three days behind in updating. “A good
example of foot dragging when the boss insists upon something,” I tell
myself. I pass lots of people hard at work making parts. These are good people
looking for good leadership.
I'm ten minutes late for my eight a.m. Operations meeting. The knot tightens
in my stomach when I tune into the conversation. It's about our production
planning system. Haven’t we settled this issue already? It seems to me we've
been talking about this topic forever. Everyone agrees with what we have to
do. We just can't get on with doing it.
The second half of the meeting consists of each production line head
presenting their three-year plans. The first one is a disaster. I wait for
others to speak up -- having learned early in my career that I need to speak
last to maximize the input from the group. Thirty agonizing minutes later
we're still doing the corporate minuet. I ask a few sharp questions and others
pick up the scent. "With some prompting these people are really
good," I think. "How do I get them to prompt themselves?"
But, the real issues don’t ever get addressed. We’re falling further and
further behind in our manufacturing technology base. We tried a lean
manufacturing approach and scrapped it before I came. Inventory is sky high
and the financial folks are screaming that we need to cut it in half. Whenever
I mention the inventory concerns the folks just shrug their shoulders and say,
“It can’t be done.” Employee turnover is the highest in our industry.
We’re just not doing the right things to get and keep a high quality work
force. I know these issues will get worse as the competition closes in on us.
I just can’t get anyone else to be concerned. The knot in my stomach
tightens still more.
Beginning with a working “brown-bag” lunch, my afternoon is
bumper-to-bumper meetings. I spend one hour with the production staff of our
chief component supplier and our own executive staff. Then I spend another
hour with just the Plant Manager of that supplier. We go round and round the
same issues. Talk seems to be the currency of choice in his organization and
mine -- not action. Neither of us can get our people to face up to the serious
future issues confronting us.
Several managers drop by to discuss particular personnel issues. These
conversations go well, but again, we tend to talk more than do. We've been
talking about replacing one of the production line heads - the one who made
such a poor presentation this morning - for almost five months.
My shoulders hurt. The pain in my lower back won't quit. And, the knot in my
stomach is a constant companion. Home is a safe haven. Hovering in the foyer
is the savory aroma of dinner. I hear kids arguing down the hall as a DJ
babbles vacuously. My wife is talking on the phone as I enter the kitchen.
Still in her company attire, she uses her free hand to take a dish from the
microwave -- waving at me with a smile. Things seem intact. No paramedics. No
police. All is well. I thumb through the mail, nothing serious there, then
pitch right in to move dinner along: set the table, round up the kids, help my
wife get the food on the table and watch the minutes spin by.
Several roller-coaster conversations and verbal exchanges later, I have dined,
relaxed, pontificated, warned and even apologized. I shake my head and ask
myself, “Have I really done enough today?” Still, tomorrow is another day.
“Nuts,” I think to myself. “Got to review those Policy changes before I
hit the hay.” Wave to the family as I trundle off to the den for what’s
become my daily after dinner work session.
In Search Of Meaningful Change: The Ethereal Golden Fleece.
This day reported above never exactly happened. But versions of it take place
every day. Some days are better, many are worse. They're unfortunately too
typical for those of us who live in and fight to create more productive, more
satisfying offices, factories and living rooms across the world.
From the workplace to the community to the family, we (Jerre and Jim) see real
human issues to resolve, communications to improve and commitments to keep.
Everywhere we look there are people with hopes and dreams, fears and
anxieties. Real, earnest, authentic people with attitudes and stubbornness and
nuttiness and affection who want to be “something” and “somebody” for
other people. These personal human issues play out on the stage set by
traumatic, dramatic changes in the shape of industries and businesses. The
search to be “something” to “somebody” gets complicated by the global
earthquake zone in which we all live.
Now Is The Hour: Heed The Need for
We live in an uncertain political and economic world. Almost
every month, old countries and political entities break apart and new ones
form. Industries dramatically change right before our very eyes. Jobs we
thought were sacrosanct, disappear in the twinkling of an eye. We confront a
world in which personal and organizational change is revolutionary, not
evolutionary. That is why we refer to the phenomenon as revivolution - renewal
through revolution (or rapid evolution that looks a lot like revolution).
Shopping malls morph into amusement parks. Amusement parks look like Jurassic
malls. The web makes it possible to a create multimillion dollar business
almost overnight. Corporate giants spawn in home basements and garages. Rapid
renewal - or revivolution - is everywhere.
Monumental Change Drives The Need For Revivolution.
Tomorrow arrives too quickly for most of us. Stuck in the mire of today’s
rules that no longer work, we flail around in our search for security. The
answer is right before our eyes. Invent a new tomorrow and change the rules!
The editors of Fast Company in their January, 1997 issue report how Moses
Znaimer, the owner of a start-up TV station in Toronto, Canada called Citytv,
created a whole new set of rules for television news broadcasting. He created
local and interactive TV that was real time with real people. Instead of
talking head news anchors who read Teleprompters to audiences -- Citytv offers
television where the street is the studio and the real time experience is the
program. People love it. When the rules don’t allow you to do what you think
is best to do, change the rules, Moses Znaimer did!
And it's not just businesses that revivolute. Today, churches don't act like
conventional churches in many places. They meet in huge community centers - or
drive-in movie locations. They provide a variety of creative enterprises where
members participate, create, learn and meet others. They use the Internet --
and cruise the streets in vans to reach out in mobile, high-tech and
high-touch configurations to meet the needs of people who can't/ won't come to
them. If Mohammed won't come to the mountain . . .the mountain will come to
Jack Welch, chairman of General Electric Company, recently said: "If your
change isn't big enough, revolutionary enough, the bureaucracy can beat
you." He recognizes the need for monumental change that overrides our own
mind sets that cling to the security of today. Welch’s monumental change, in
turn, drives the need for revivolution.
Businesses regularly get blind-sided by new competitors, new technology, new
industries, or a sudden shift in what customers value. Banks - and bank
tellers - disappear, new automobile nameplates emerge like weeds in a garden,
plants open and then close again in a twinkling of an eye. Individuals are
similarly surprised by radical changes in jobs and markets. We can be sure of
only one thing. The head-spinning rate of global, technical, social, and
personal change will continue to accelerate. Incremental adjustments will
never be enough.
Phone-Genesis: Revivoluting At The Speed Of Sound And The
Death Of Distance.
A special supplement of The Economist in September, 1995, pointed out
that this is the best of times for telecommunications firms. Everywhere around
the world people are scrambling to get a telephone. Millions of new
subscribers - both wireless and wired - join the rate payers rolls every year.
Prices often rise faster that costs, yielding large profits for many telco
Yet, this is also the worst of times for telco organizations. Tomorrow is
coming too fast for most of them. As the world telecommunications companies
deregulate, there is a competitor hiding under every rock. Everyone wants a
piece of the $500 billion global market. In the US, competition for the local
franchise includes not only the local telcos, like Southwest Bell, and
national telco firms, like AT&T, but also international telco firms, like
British Telephone. And that's just counting telephone companies. To that
witches' brew of competition across the world add cable companies (Times
Warner and TCI), electric utility companies (Utilicorp), railroads (Duetche
railroad), water companies, banks (Societie General), software/ hardware
computer companies (Microsoft and Intel) and even chemical companies (Bayer).
From a monopoly market, telecommunications is becoming a classic free-for-all
market of which Adam Smith would be proud.
The increase in competitors fuels the switch from scarcity to glut in
communication capacity. Counting the rapidly expanding wireless capacity, less
than one fifth of the total global telecommunications capacity is current
The telecommunications cost structures pose another strategic challenge. Costs
of operations continue to fall. Already the costs of a call from New York to
Delhi are about the same as a call to the neighborhood pizza place. When
telephone costs are no longer distance related, tariffs will inevitably
change. The time related, distance related rate structure will likely
disappear. You'll likely pay as much to call for pizza delivery as you will to
talk to Uncle Ivan ten time zones away across the pond and half a continent
All of these swirling changes pose the potential for a nuclear annihilation
price war in the telco business. The war is already underway. Consider what's
happened in the long distance business in America. Rates are cheaper now in
real terms than they were in 1984. And mailboxes are filled with mail from
AT&T, from MCI, from Sprint urging you to switch to them for your local
service. Telemarketers call twice a week, offering free weekend calls and
other incentives to switch local and long distance service.
The old-line telcos who die by atrophy or as war casualties will do so because
they were unable to revivolute themselves to create new organizational forms.
Incremental change in service offerings and products will only work for so
long. Without both organization and individual monumental change from the
inside, there will continue to be many resumes out on the street that list
Metal-Genesis: Revivolution In The Big Steel Business.
The steel business has been through the revivolution mill. Originally, the
huge, integrated steel companies set up near the sources of their raw
material. The plants turned out semi-finished products that went to customers
for finishing. Big steel was essentially in the commodity business. They ran
tight centrally managed hierarchical organizations.
Japan attacked first, using new and more efficient technology to produce the
same commodity. Then Korea combined newer technology with cheaper labor. For a
while, it looked as though the American steel industry was dead. But along
came the new mini-mill industry, complete with a whole new way of doing
business, characterized by a flat organization centered around the needs of
the customers it served.
Mini-mill operators bought recycled scrap, used computer-aided design and
computer-aided manufacturing and produced finished products to customer
specifications. Scrap steel was available almost everywhere, so they could
move closer to their customers. They encouraged employee empowerment which led
to dramatic productivity improvements. Today, mini-mill operators, like
Chaparral and Nucor, not only produce more steel than the integrated steel
companies, they also rank high in the "Most Admired Corporation"
list - a feat never accomplished by US Steel and Bethlehem.
Avoid The Quicksand Of Incremental Improvement: Improving
Today Almost Never Creates A Successful Tomorrow.
Most organizations fail largely because they are focused on incremental
improvements of the present, not a revivolution creation of the future.
General Motors invested $121.8 billion in capital equipment and research and
development during the decade of the 1980's, only to see its stock value fall
$22.9 billion in the same period. We jokingly recall the picture of robots
spray painting other robots in Roger Smith's "Factory of the Future"
as the classic example of mis-guided investments.
The General Motors experience exemplifies the need for revivolution and why
investments in improving the present don't pay off. In the automobile
business, as in many others, hectic speed and quantity of change create a
deceptive illusion of dramatic improvement. Actually, most organizations are
only making incremental changes at a whirlwind pace. The carousel whizzes by
on spin-cycle, and people think: "Wow. I'm really going places!" Not
Revivolution spans the face of economic, political and organizational life.
Everywhere we turn, every institution in our lives, cries out for revivolution
These Are the Best of Times -- For
We live in a time of unparalled abundance and prosperity. A
study by David W. Moon for Barron's, in March 1996, reveals that
Americans today enjoy not only the highest standard of living, but also more
disposable income than any preceding generation. Family income, adjusted for
inflation, grew steadily throughout the 1980's. Real disposable income per
capita (RDI) rose steadily throughout the past two decades.
America is the job creation envy of the world. We've created more than 70
million new jobs since 1970, at least 10 million of them in this last half
decade alone. And, these are not "hamburger flipping" jobs, either.
More than 60 percent of the new jobs are high paying managerial and
All of this job creation goes on despite the headline grabbing
"down-sizing." The black bordered Newsweek cover story "Job
Killers" is just plain wrong. Announced downsizings totaled three million
workers since 1989. Compared to the 10 million new jobs, that means a net gain
of 7 million new jobs, better than all the countries in Europe combined in the
same time period. For instance, AT&T CEO, Bob Allen, announced 40,000
reductions (which later shrank to 24,000). However, in the last decade, in the
same industry, MCI added 36,000 new jobs and Sprint 25,000. IBM cut 135,000
people during the 1990's. In 1996, they are hiring 10,000 new people. The
bottom line: America's unemployment rate at about 5% is less than half that of
the rest of the world. There are lots of high paying jobs out there.
Americans are earning more, too. Real wages increased 9.3 percent since 1959,
while wages as a percent of total income rose from 68.6 percent to 73.1
percent. So, wage earners like you and me are getting a larger share of the
economic pie these days. More importantly, real per capita personal income
rose an average of 3.7 percent every year in the 1990's enabling each and
every one of us to buy more of the things we like .
As a result of this economic prosperity, more and more poor people make it
into the middle and upper class today than ever before. A University of
Michigan study found that over a fifteen year period (from 1975 to 1991) only
1 in 20 poor Americans stay poor, 13 become middle class and 6 become rich.
The US Treasury found similar results. That's the best upward mobility rate
But, good paying jobs rely upon education. The pay difference between those
with and without college degrees continues to widen. In 1979, there was a 49
percent wage difference between college and non college wages. Today that
difference is 89 percent. The message: if you want a brighter future, go to
school. That's a good news message, though, because more educational
opportunities exist in the United States than anywhere else in the world.
Join The Revivolution: Follow The
Footprints of Other Revivoluting Individuals.
Many people are enlisting in the revivolution army. They are pro-actively,
revolutionarily creating new futures for themselves. Are you ready to join up?
Follow these footprints.
The Surplus Executive Finds A New Home..
Imagine the challenge confronting Ned, a fifty-eight-year-old marketing
executive laid-off from a large company. Ned spent all of his thirty-six years
of gainful employment with large organizations. He found that large
organizations don't often hire people his age for executive positions.
He finally found a spot with a much smaller organization. He told us, "It's
sort of like it used to be in my old organization, with one basic difference. I
know now that every day I have to sell something, make something, ship something
and collect something - or I don't eat. There is no big Deep Pockets Daddy to
finance me for a while or some assistant to make my calls or prepare my
handouts. I've got to rely upon doing it myself - every day." Ned
revivoluted himself in order to create his future in the midst of continuous
New Life Chasing White Balls On The Greens.
Dan was 47 when we met him - a senior vice president for information technology
for a major money center bank. Dan had it all: a top job in a cutting edge
profession with a growing company, and a new beautiful wife complete with the
three children he never had time to have. Two years later we encountered Dan at
an Information Technology conference. Still had the beautiful wife and family,
but was now with another company. “My former company decided to out source IT,
so I became excess baggage. A great out-placement package enabled me to land
with this smaller company, at just about what I was making, with a real
opportunity to make a difference. My family loves the new location. I’m set
Maybe. But, “life” turned out to be a lot shorter than Dan was thinking
about. We ran into Dan at a restaurant recently and got caught up on his
activities. “Left that company within a year. They wanted 90 hours a week from
me. It was too much. Talked it over with my wife and kids and decided that life
was too short to invest that much in somebody else’s future. Why not invest it
in my own, we figured? I quit the job and went to golf school to become a pro
golfer. At age 51 I decided to do what I’ve always wanted to do - play and
teach golf. Cut back on our expenses and lived on our savings for the year I
went to school. Now I’m the assistant pro at the big course in town and loving
every minute. Come on out and play a few holes. Who knows what you might decide
Talk about revivoluting. Dan seized the moment and created his own future.
Do I Have To Go Back And Sit In A Classroom Again?
We met Jonathan at a seminar some years ago. He was almost forty years old and
had worked his way up to mid-level management position at a large industrial
naval installation in town. But he was unhappy. “I’ve been marking time for
the past ten years. I’ve just got to do something else. There’s talk of
privitizing the base, or moving our work to some other location. I could be on
the street - and not know what to do.”
We urged him to consider one of several education programs that might give him a
non-Navy perspective and set of skills as well as getting him into a network
group of people working in the private sector.
“What,” he exclaimed.” “You want me to go back to school? It’s been
eighteen years since I’ve sat in a classroom. I don’t think I can do it.”
Much conversation later, Jonathan agreed to talk to the admissions counselor for
the MBA program.
Jonathan dropped off the radar screen for several years, until we ran into him
in a shopping mall. We shared a cup of coffee and his revivolution story. He
signed up for and completed the Executive Masters Of Business Administration
Program. He applied a number of ideas to improve his section at the base that he
developed as part of his Master’s program, got recognized by the Captain and
then the Admiral for his improvements and wound up leading the re-invention task
“It was the biggest kick in my entire life. I got several offers from folks in
private industry. One finally was too good to pass up. I’m leaving next
week-end to begin my new life in Oklahoma.”
We smiled as we went looking for our family members in the mall. We mid-wifed
another successful revivoluteer.
So, You Think One Person Can’t Make a Difference, Eh? Ask Carol About That.
Carol worked as a technical writer for a large engineering/architecture firm.
She was good at what she did. But it didn’t bring her much joy. Her boss was
very supportive. “Why don’t you try your hand at design,” she suggested.
Carol did a little design work on a project and liked it (as did the architect
on the project as well).
Carol signed up to go to evening school to learn design. Six long years later -
balancing night school a day job and a growing family Carol finally graduated
and became state certified. Just recently we saw an article in the local paper
that Carol’s firm won the “orchid of the year” award for the best designed
building and Carol was mentioned as the designer on the project. Who says one
person can’t make a difference? Carol did!
Calling The Doctor: Information Please.
Greg was an impressive figure sitting in the rear of the seminar room at the
Executive MBA class we recently taught. With a full head of silver hair, an easy
smile and a soft and reassuring voice it was easy to see why he ran one of the
most successful gynecology practices in town. Why was he in this expensive,
intensive, self-paid two-year education program?
He told us. “Been delivering babies in this town for almost 20 years. Get
Christmas cards from more than a thousand people every year. But, receive less
today to deliver a baby than I did 20 years ago, all the while my expenses are
up more than 2,000 percent. Beyond the money, the practice has changed. People
are less courteous, more demanding, less willing to listen to advice. It’s
just not as much fun any more. I’m going to open a chain of stores providing
products, services and information oriented towards middle aged women. My wife
and I researched the field and decided that there is a huge unmet need out
there. More importantly though, this will give me a chance to recapture our life
together. We’re not getting any younger, and if we don’t do it now I’m
afraid that we’ll be too locked in to the practice to give it up. At 47 these
flowers can still bloom in a new garden.”
We’d wager that the fragrance from their revivoluting blossoms fills the air.
By the way, he’s one of 6 physicians in that class, all looking to use the
lever of additional business education to revivolute themselves into new
Pink Cadillacs And Green Dollars.
Then there's the woman who took her life savings of $5,000 and renewed her
personal and professional world. After working for years in direct sales, she
launched a new life as an entrepreneur, opening a small storefront. She later
became an author. She branched out into helping other women become financially
independent and personally more fulfilled. Today, that little family business
has grown to a near $ two billion cosmetics company with an international
presence. Her name: Mary Kay Ash. Her company: Mary Kay Cosmetics. She is one of
Forbes "Greatest Success Stories of All Time." She now devotes her
life and time to helping other women become the beautiful phoenix legends they
deserve to be. For more see her website: marykay.com
Right, you say. That's a once in a blue moon experience. Think again. Today
there are now three and a half million female-owned, home-based businesses in
the United States, employing 14 million people on a full or part-time basis. And
they're making very good money.
Leading Active Revivoluteer Lives.
We - Jerre and Jim - have lived active revivoluteer lives ourselves. One of us
started out in personnel in a large company. (Actually yearning to be a teacher,
just like "Dad," but didn’t because of a severe stuttering problem.)
Then revivoluted into a college professor, researcher and writer. All the while,
maintaining a strong business connection, working as both a consultant and
business owner. In retrospect, we've revolutionarily revived our careers at
least half a dozen times in the course of 45 years. For us, revivolution is a
personal way of life.
The Phoenix Metaphor For Revivolutionary Self
“Okay, okay,” you say. “I got it. I’ve got to
revivolute - change dramatically. But, I’ve tried that before, and failed.
I’ve quit smoking nineteen times. I’ve been on seventeen crash diets that
only add inches to my waist line. How do I revivolute?”
Look around you for the answer. Self-renewal is the way. See self renewal in
living color blossoming before your eyes. From the ever renewing sun-rise to
the season-changing colors on the trees, we live a life that continuously
rejuvenates itself - and ourselves. Renewal is a natural and permanent part of
life. Plants renew themselves. People renew themselves. Organizations renew
themselves. Revivolute yourself through self renewal.
Now is the time for self-renewal. Robin Williams standing on desk tops in Dead
Poets Society shouted, “Carpe Diem”- seize the day. There is no time like
the present. We live in good times - good economic times, and good times to
move on to new lives. One executive we know told us recently, “I’m going
to die in six months. Not a physical death. But my life in this job will end
in six months. Once I complete the projects on which I’m working - and that
will take about six months - I will stop doing what I’m doing. I will have
made the last big payment on my retirement annuity. The last child will be out
of school. At 52, it’s time to think about what I want to do with the rest
of my life. I may take on another role in this organization, may keep the same
role but change the way I think and do this job. I may move on to another
organization or change professions altogether. Whatever I do, it won’t be
what I’m doing now.” The same “What do I want to do with the rest of my
life” question resounds over and over again in executive suites, plant
floors, classrooms and living rooms. The answer to the question will be found
in the pages of this book.
The Phoenix is the mythical symbol of the continually-renewing life force.
Throughout history and across many different cultures, humans have told
stories about, fantasized about and worshiped the forever renewing Phoenix.
Each culture painted a very similar picture of the self renewing Phoenix:
beautiful sunrise-sunset gold and crimson feathers, a bird which renews
itself, a soaring spirit that periodically emerges in newly recreated forms.
The great scarlet and purple creature continually soared past its’
yesterdays on its way to brighter tomorrows. For all of humankind’s history,
the Phoenix embodied a core attribute of time and life itself: the renewal of
all living things. The Phoenix is a symbol of hope for the future -- and of
our enduring capacity to create infinitely better tomorrows for ourselves and
The Roman poet Ovid wrote "There is one bird which renews itself out of
itself. The Assyrians call it the Phoenix . . . " No need to go back two
thousand years to see examples of the self renewing Phoenix. Look at the sun
every day or the changing colors of the leaves and the seasons to see renewal
played out in living color. From the Spring festivals of Easter and Passover
to the Fall and Winter festivals of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, we
order our lives, our work, and our celebrations around recurring renewal
Joseph Schumpeter, the economist, talked about the phoenix-like
characteristics of our economic system that cyclically leaves the "old
order" behind in order to create a better "new order." We
believe that this same life cycle exists for organizations and individuals. In
fact, we’ve seen it, and lived it.
Look around you today and see, feel and hear self renewal taking place. Turn
every page in this book and you’ll read about self renewal. It is a constant
theme. It represents the overpowering reality with which we deal, day-in and
day-out, minute-in and minute-out. In a world rent by change, Phoenix self
renewal is the path to a more secure future. Renew, revitalize and recreate
yourself. Be a Soaring Phoenix.
PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS
The self renewing Phoenix utilizes five principles to soar.
First, Renew Yourself: Create a Future that Makes a Difference and Leaves a
"Change an organization" -- now there is an oxymoron. Years of
working to "change" organizations - either our own or others -
convince us that "change" is an elusive rare species, often talked
about, seldom observed and rarely captured. Look around. Read the business
press Talk to your colleagues. The instances of successful long term
organizational change are as rare as polar bears in Peru.
Why the poor record? And, given the poor record, why the repeated efforts? The
answer: each and every one of us shares the deep desire to learn, to grow, to
make a difference. We are filled with the wonder and awe of what “can be”
- along with the terror of what “might be.” The questions swirl through
heads-- and hearts, and dog every step. Like a resounding bell in a endless
series of valleys, they echo through waking and sleeping hours. Will tomorrow
be better than today? Will I be better off tomorrow? Will my children? My
grandchildren? Can I make a difference in my life and in lives of those around
me? What do I want the rest of my life to be like? What do I want my work
environment -- my organization to be like? Can I really make a difference?
In the answers to those questions lies the kernel of this book, and our
promise of a better tomorrow. We’re on a journey - an exciting adventure
into tomorrow. We are optimists. We believe that earnest, hard working folks
can create their own future, make it better, leave a mark, help others. We
know that one person with courage can make a revolution. It takes hard
thinking and hard working. Sir Edward Hillary didn’t take a Sunday stroll
and wind up at the top of Mount Everest. We are ready. Are you?
It Is Easier To Create Tomorrow Than Change Today.
Everywhere we look, there’s a need to change.
The morning bathroom line is killing me: we need a bigger house. The car is
rattling: time to trade in and up. Why can’t the children get better grades
in school and be better behaved? Got to change their attitude. The job looks
“dicey:” better look into changing jobs before the Reduction In Force
On and on it goes. Change rears its ugly head in every aspect of our lives.
We busy ourselves trying to “change things.” Virtually every change effort
begins with the simple assumption: we can change what other people do. This
simple assumption colors everything. At home, we micro-manage the kids
grounding them when they cut-up in school or get poor grades, even do their
homework with them to make certain it’s correct and gets turned in on time.
At work, we install customer service programs to change the way employees
treat customers. We adopt simultaneous engineering to change the way engineers
develop products. We establish lean manufacturing techniques to change the way
production workers produce products. We re-engineer systems to change the way
people process the inevitable reams of data in our world. All these efforts
rely upon the simple assumption that we can change the way people perform.
“Nonsense,” shouts the more than a century of living between us. Rather
than attempting to change an ongoing situation, we've discovered that it is
infinitely easier to create a brand new one. "Green field"
organizations and situations almost invariably are more successful. Yet we go
merrily on our way trying to “change things.” "Insanity is doing the
same things and expecting different outcomes," Einstein said. Judged by
that standard, most of us are certifiably insane.
Self Renewal Is Job #1.
Nothing is forever. Today’s star is forgotten tomorrow. Today’s market
leaders become tomorrow’s also rans. Yakov Smirnoff is an example of
successful self-renewal. The Russian comedian, of “Oh, What a Country!”
fame, had a very successful career in the 1980's - a weekly sit-com, parts in
several movies, and a highly visible Best Western commercial. His satirical
way of looking at things Americans’ take for granted, combined with his
patented laughter, made Yakov a famous, successful “celebrity.”
But, as in all businesses, times changed for Yakov. The Wall fell, the Soviet
Union imploded and being a Russian comedian no longer had mystic and panache.
The canceled tv show and diminished bookings convinced Yakov that he needed a
new act. He moved to Branson, Missouri, renewed himself and re-launched his
career. He’s now a very successful theater operator/ performer. Self renewal
was job # 1 for Yakov - and it paid off.
Mother Earth’s Self Renewal In Bright Red And Black.
Visit the big island of Hawaii and watch the earth renew itself. On the
South-Eastern side of the island, 3,000 degree red-hot lava spills out of
Killeawa destroying tropical forests, covering the land with smoldering black
lava and creating hundreds of acres of new land. Just thirty miles to the
North up the coast, too-many-to-count waterfalls spill the 200 or more inches
of rainfall into the ocean carrying in their muddy waters the remnants of
thousands-of-years-ago-lava-flows now softened into rich, fertile soil.
Self renewal is job #1 for the earth. Molten rock boils up from beneath the
oceans and eventually forms land; hard crusts of moonscape-like barrenness.
The wind, rain and sun weather the land, renewing the hard rock into newly
fertile soil. Plants, animals, birds and insects populate the forest, taking
it into another renewal stage. The same weather elements of wind and rain
ceaselessly wash the now soft and fertile soil back into the ocean, causing
yet another renewal phase. In time, the land will disappear again beneath the
waves to be renewed in another place and time. The earth passes through many
renewals: from volcanic rock to rich forests to mud filled rivers rushing to
As it is with the earth, so it is with humans. In fact, our life’s story is
the story of continual renewal: from child to student to husband to parent to
grandparent, from engineer to manager to executive to president to friend. And
we’re not done yet. We know the value of continual renewal. We know that we
must continue to create our own future &endash; seize the moment &endash;
be in charge. That’s why we choose the Phoenix as the symbol for our book.
Create A Tomorrow That Makes A Difference And Leaves A Legacy Of Which You
Can Be Proud.
But, what kind of tomorrow is worth creating, worth spending the long hours
toiling in the salt mines? What kind of “new order” do you want? It
certainly isn’t the “new order” of the dark ages where civilization
almost disappeared. Neither for us is it the “new order” of fear for
one’s jobs that characterizes so much of the downsizing and right sizing
that passes for corporate revitalization these days.
What “new order” do we want? Hard question, easy answer. Like most of you,
we yearn to leave a legacy, something that makes a difference in the world and
makes our children proud to carry forth our name. We collect our children’s
prizes and prominently display them throughout our home and office. We are not
unique. A neighbor’s son is a very good soccer player. Soccer trophies
decorate their fireplace. Pictures of their son in action on the soccer field,
along with his numerous “Your Child Was Citizen/ Scholar of the Month”
bumper stickers, line the guest bathroom walls. Part of their legacy is their
award-winning soccer-playing son.
Our neighbors are no different than President Clinton who frets about his
place in history, or Jack Welch who wants to create a General Electric that
continues to grow and prosper after he leaves. At the deepest point in our
souls, each and every one of us wants to leave something worthwhile behind. We
“Soar With The Phoenix” when we keep creating new futures that will help
us leave a legacy that truly makes a difference.
Second, Plug Into Your Connections: Ah, What A Web Of Business And Personal
Connections We Weave.
We are connected to many people: some we know, most we don’t. Connections
tie us together as members in the human family. Follow the connection lines
for Sally, an engineer at Boeing Aircraft. Sally is connected to other Boeing
employees: the eighteen members of her engine casing development team for the
Boeing 747 airplane, the 2,400 members of Boeing’s product development
department who develop other components of the 747, the 6,200 product develop
employees working on other aircraft like the 737 and the 777, the other 12,400
members of Boeing’s commercial aerospace division, and the balance of
Boeing’s 42,000 employees. She knows only 500 of her 42,000 Boeing
connections, but she is intimately connected to them all. If one mechanic
forgets to complete the solder on one rivet and that causes one Boeing 747 to
fall out of the sky, Sally along with all 42,000 employees’ jobs are at
Sally is also connected to the thousands of suppliers who provide more than
60% of the components that compose the 747. And, she’s connected to the
airlines who buy 747s and the airlines’ customers’ (you and me) who occupy
those jumbo jet seats. Sally also has many connections in her home community
of Seattle, Washington including: neighbors, teachers, grocery clerks and
insurance brokers. Many people across the world own shares in Boeing, and
Sally is connected with all of them. These community connections add many more
thousands of people to Sally’s business connections.
Sally also has a wide range of personal connections. She’s connected with
her primary and extended families. Friends are important to Sally. Her
personal telephone book bulges with the names of hundreds of fellow MIT
graduates. She’s active in several professional associations and those names
fill her book as well. Sally serves on a planning sub-committee in her
community. Through that work she’s met a number of the local officials and
Sally’s connections are many and complex, numbering in the hundreds of
thousands. She knows personally only a few of the many people who influence
her life and whose life she touches in one way or another. Sally is
interconnected with others just like the air molecules inside a balloon are
connected to each other, push one side of the balloon in and it moves all the
molecules around and changes the shape of the entire balloon. Sally lives in a
connected world. We all do.
John Donne, the famous English poet articulated connectedness four hundred
years ago when he wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself...every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the mainland.” The Internet is
today’s manifestation of Donne’s poem, where everything is connected to
everything and everyone is connected to everyone. You can’t see the
Internet, you can’t touch it. Yet the Internet, like the personal and
business network connections in which each and every one of us participates,
is one of life’s most fundamental facts.
All Business Connections Are Personal, And Personal Connections Are Another
Form Of Business.
People don’t buy from a business. They buy from a person. We buy a car from
a salesperson, not a dealership. After all, there are lots of dealerships
selling virtually identical automobiles. Walk down the street and listen to
the pitchmen. Pick out one you can trust and that’s whom you’ll do
business with. That’s true buying cars, homes, and components for 747s.
Sally will tell you that. She works hard to build trust with her customers and
her team mates. She delivers what she promises and works to only promise what
she can deliver. Business is relationships, and all relationships are
“Balance” is a popular word these days: balance between family and work,
between work and exercise, between career and personal development. Sue
Schellenberger in her Wall Street Journal article of December, 1997, cites the
words of Randall Tobias and J. Michael Cook. Randall Tobias, chairman and CEO
of Eli Lilly, the large pharmaceutical company, said, “I don’t want to be
defined solely by the boxes I happen to occupy on organization charts. I also
want to be defined as the father of my children.” J. Michael Cook, CEO of
Deloitte & Touche, a large accounting and consulting firm, said, “I wish
that over the years I had more control over my time and more opportunities to
be involved in family things. I wish I’d understood the importance of that
Thursday afternoon soccer game... at Deloitte we say to people, ‘Though
client demands drive our days, we have the flexibility of having multiple
clients and the freedom to make our own schedule and to decide how and where
to spend our time. Take advantage of that flexibility.”
Those words strike a resonant chord with us. We understand the importance of
balance between personal and business life all too well. Some years ago we
lost our top financial person because his wife died and he just fell apart.
His personal life so impacted his business life that he lost both. Every day
we encounter people struggling with personal issues that impacts their
business day. Tobias’ words ring true for us. We, too, want to be more than
a box on an organization chart. Don’t we all? We’ve said words similar to
Cook’s to ourselves and the folks with whom we work. As the leaders of our
organizations we know that we must be concerned with the personal as well as
the business life of our team mates. As we’ll say repeatedly throughout this
book, “You can’t hire a hand, or a brain. You hire the whole person and
all of that person’s business and personal connections.”
Recognize And Honor Your Connections.
Connectedness and interdependency are not new concepts. We borrow them from
our colleagues in biology and in physics. We see them today, in living color,
as the Internet, read about them as the “Network Organization” or the
”Virtual Organization.” It’s a popular topic, because beyond the hype,
this vital interconnectedness drives a great deal of our behavior.
Each of us - like Sally - has many connections that are like ever-widening
ripples caused by a stone in a calm lake. Our point: we live lives connected
to many others. These connections form the framework within which each of us
plays our part. Identify your connections and the role you play in their lives
and the complimentary role they play in yours. Leverage these connections to
create a future that leaves a legacy that makes a difference.
Third, Create Success For All Your Connections.
Hands need bodies. People need communities, nations and this planet. We are
all interconnected --and interdependent. A healthy hand depends on a healthy
body. A healthy person depends upon a healthy community, a healthy nation and
a healthy planet. Since we’re all connected, my health depends upon your
health. My success, therefore, depends upon your success. I am as committed to
helping you succeed as I am to helping me to succeed. Isn’t that logical? Of
That’s why good “capitalists” are concerned about the health and success
of employees and community members - as well as shareholders. James Gwarty,
Robert Lawson and Walter Bark of the Cato Institute point out that free market
activities exist within a democratic context. Research clearly supports the
reality of this interdependence. On the most macro level, economic freedom
produces national prosperity. Political freedom is a necessary pre-requisite
to economic freedom. Democracy fosters a market economy that, in turn, creates
prosperity. Political democracy in a community, then, is the driving force
that enables economic prosperity for any given organization within that
Freedom creates the opportunity for people to generate innovative ways to help
customers succeed, while a totalitarian state limits both the range of options
available to create customer success and the sole customer for whom success
must be created: the state. Successful American business organizations today
can thank the framers of the constitution two hundred years ago. To ensure
their future success, organizations today must work to strengthen political
freedom and the long term viability of the market economy.
Take the “create success for others” to the more personal level. Teaching
is the best way to learn. Medical training is based on the “see one, do one,
teach one” philosophy, where the doctor-in-training sees a procedure done,
does the procedure and then, to reinforce the knowledge, teaches the procedure
to the next group of doctors-to-be. We’ve learned a lot about life teaching
scouting to our kids. Our wives learned a lot about faith teaching Sunday
school. Helping others learn helps the teacher learn. What a win-win deal.
And, a great example of how our “create success for others” philosophy
helps create success for you.
Fourth, Learn More To Contribute More To Other’s Success.
“How Safe is Your Job?” The headline agonizes from the cover of Fortune
magazine. “Job Killers,” the black-bordered cover of Time magazine
wails in angst above the scapegoated “Rogues Gallery” of corporate
presidents who announced substantial job reductions. From the six pm evening
news, to the drive time talk shows, to the business press, the theatrical
media noise of economic instability is howled and echoed. No wonder so many
people think they hear economic footsteps.
While “job cuts” get exaggerated editorial emphasis on nightly broadcast
news, hiring stories and market opportunities never even get a mention. Take
telecommunications, for instance. AT&T’s reduction of 40,000 (later
reduced to less than 25,000) combined with other announced industry
reductions, brought the number of job cuts backs in telecommunications to
114,000 jobs in 1993-1995. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
Better batten down the economic hatches because a recession was surely coming
in that industry, right? Wrong! In that same two year period there were
560,000 new jobs created in telecommunications. So, in truth rather than a
reduction of 114,000 jobs, that industry actually created 446,000 net new job
opportunities. The industry was booming. Lots of opportunity. The headlines
were just dead wrong.
Those misleading headlines do present the truth in one regard: gone is the
idea that organizations create job security. Writers of every stripe, from the
union press to the “Capitalist Tool” Forbes, convinced us for years
that “The Company” or “The Union” or “The Government” would take
care of us. Read your history of the company town in the 1920's as “The
Company” sought to take care of its employees. Recall also the words from
Tennessee Ernie Ford’s song, “Sixteen Tons” “He mined sixteen tons of
Number Nine coal.....but he owed his soul to the company store.” Is that the
job security we want? Obviously not.
In truth, there never was security in any job - except the security of
indenture that Tennessee Ford once sang about. Union or non-union -- it never
mattered much. There were jobs in good times and no jobs in bad times. And the
bad times came frequently.
“Okay, okay,” you say. “I see what you mean. I’ve got to create my own
job security. But how do I do that? It sounds like an impossible task.” Make
no mistake. It isn’t easy. But it is doable. The solution is simple to
articulate, and hard to do: keep learning more so you can create more value
In the 1960's Sonny Werblin, owner of the AFL New York Jets, paid an
astronomical $400,000. to Joe Namath, a gimpy kneed quarterback from Alabama.
He was vilified in the press for spending ten times what other leading
quarterbacks were receiving at that time. Yet, using the draw of Joe
Namath’s name, Sonny increased season ticket sales by more than $2 million.
What would you do if someone offered you $2 million, if you could scrape up
$400,000? You’d likely mortgage the house and everything you owned to the
max. A 500 per cent return in one year is better than the tables at Vegas. Was
Namath worth $400,000? Absolutely. He created value five times his cost for
his “customers” - the owners who paid him and the fans in the seats.
The “Namath” principle applies in organizations as well. The best job
security in any organization is to create so much value for others that they
see you as essential to their own success. How do you do that? By learning
more. Joe Namath not only had a strong arm, he also worked hard studying
defenses. He worked hard “learning” -- and it paid off for himself, Sonny
Werblin and the millions of football fans he entertained every Sunday
afternoon. Use his lesson - learn more - to create success for everyone in
your network - including yourself. We will talk about how to do these easy
sounding but difficult to execute activities in later chapters.
Fifth, Take Ownership Of Your Company And Your Life.
We hear it all the time. “That’s all right and good for you to say take
ownership. After all, you’re the CEO. But I’m a middle manager. I work for
a Neanderthal. We just announced a 12% RIF (reduction in force) and I’m not
certain if I made the cut. Look, I need this job. I’ve got a mortgage to pay
and hungry mouths to feed. I’d better keep my nose clean and not make
waves.” Or, “Me? A leader? I’m just a machinist around here. I just do
what they tell me to do. ‘Leave the engineering to the engineers. Just do
what you’re told,’ the foreman told me last week after chewing me out for
making a small adjustment in my machine to make it easier and faster.”
Yet, who gets hurt when the business goes south and customers tell us to
“get lost?” Look in the mirror for the answer. If each and everyone of us
does not assume responsibility for making tomorrow different, none of us has a
The old movie “High Noon” says it best. In that movie a bunch of bad guys
ride into town and cow the merchants into paying them protection. There are
more merchants than bad guys. The merchants have more guns than the bad guys.
But the merchants can not get themselves together, so the bad guys run the
town. Along comes the hero, Gary Cooper. The merchants talk him into saving
them. Though he tries mightily to get them involved in the fight, at high noon
there he is, on that dusty street, packing iron, facing the bad guys alone as
the merchants hide behind their counters.
Of course, “Coop” the hero wins and the merchants come out of hiding and
cheer him. In a moving ceremony, they offer him their Sheriff’s badge. He
throws the badge in the dirt. He knows that without the merchants’ taking
responsibility for their own protection, it is only a matter of time until he
winds up in a wooden box. The message of the movie is clear: every one must
assume responsibility for his or her own success. How to do that is found in
the chapters that follow.
The message is very important. Each and every one of us can make a difference.
You are responsible for your life and your career success just like each of us
- Jerre and Jim - is responsible for his life. One person can - and will -
make a revivolution. Are you ready?
THE ROAD MAP
The self-renewing Phoenix soars, renewing its vision,
revitalizing its spirit, and recreating its success, when it spreads its
leadership wings and takes charge. The self-renewing Phoenix leads his/her
interconnected minions to create a symbol of their legacy of continuing
success: the pyramid, itself a symbol of enduring greatness and creativity .
That’s why we’ve divided our book, like ancient Gaul, into three parts:
Part 1 - Principles.
In this section we spell out the basic principles for becoming a soaring
Phoenix: renewal is the natural way to create a future, we are all
interconnected and interdependent, and creating success for others is the best
way to create success for yourself. The Phoenix soars utilizing these
Part 2 - Phoenix Leadership.
We soar as a phoenix when we take ownership of our organization and our lives
and become a leader. A soaring Phoenix seizes the moment, takes charge and
helps everyone with whom they are connected achieve their dreams and
aspirations. Phoenix leaders make five critical contributions to the success
of their interdependent, interconnected people: surface issues, engage the
people, prioritize resources, unleash ownership and energize learning.
Part 3 - The Phoenix Pyramid.
The Phoenix leader creates the new foundation for future success. That solid
new foundation is represented by a pyramid, itself a symbol of strength and
creativity. We see the Phoenix leader creating that strong pyramid base.
We’ll lay out the systematic way that a Phoenix leader builds that solid
pyramid base for future success of vision, mission, values, goals, strategies,
disciplined management infrastructures, business processes and communication
Throughout, we’ll challenge you to renew yourself, develop your leadership
skills, build your strong pyramid base for future success and learn how to
soar with the Phoenix.
Authors’ Biases: Do What Actually Works, Do What’s Really Right.
Just so you know. We are primarily business people. Our focus is, "Does
it work?" We are practical folk, more impressed with the elegance of work
ability than the elaborate articulation of philosophy.
We are also emotional people. We think with our hearts as well as our heads.
We are more concerned with the question, "Is it the right thing to
do?" than, "Are we doing it right?" We have often walked away
from "good" business deals because they there were "bad"
And, we are doers. We believe that people learn by doing, not talking. So,
let's get on with the doing.