The Continually Renewing Phoenix:
The Herald of Revivolution
HEAVY HUMAN TRAFFIC:
SEARCHING TO BE SOMETHING AND SOMEBODY
Once More, with Feeling:
Rewind, Playback, Pump Up the Volume
dark, well past our 7:00 P.M. dinnertime; by the time I slip into my car
to make my way home after another twelve-hour day.
“This is Thursday, isn’t it?” I ask myself.
“No, it’s only Wednesday.”
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, twelve 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.
I review today’s events.
I 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.
“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 8:00 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 about 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.
“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 everyone just shrugs
their shoulders and says, “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 workforce. I
know these issues will get worse as the competition closes in onus.
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 issues confronting us.
Several managers drop by to discuss personnel
issues. These conversations
go well, bust 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
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 the 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.”
I wave goodnight to the family as I trundle off to the den for what
has become my daily after-dinner work session.
In Search of Meaningful Change:
The Ethereal Golden Fleece
The day recounted above never exactly
happened. But versions of it
take place every day. Some
days are better, many are worse. They’re
unfortunately too typical fro those of us trying to create more
productive, more satisfying offices, factories and living rooms.
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
industry and business. The
search to be something to somebody becomes even more complicated by the
global business earthquake zone in which we all live.
NOW IS THE HOUR:
HEED THE NEED FOR REVIVOLUTION
We live in an uncertain world. Old countries and political entities are breaking apart and
new ones are forming. Industries
are changing dramatically 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
Shopping malls morph into amusement parks.
Amusement parks look like Jurassic Parks.
The Web makes it possible to create multimillion-dollar businesses
almost overnight. Corporate
giants are spawned 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. But the answer is
right before our eyes. Invent
a new tomorrow and change the rules!
The January 1997 edition of Fast Company reports 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 Muhammad 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
Businesses regularly get blindsided 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 the twinkling of an eye.
Individuals are similarly 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.
at the Speed of Sound and the Death of Distance
A September 1995 special supplement of
The Economist 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-payer rolls every year. Prices
often rise faster than costs, yielding large profits for many telco firms.
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 U.S., 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 Telcom.
And that’s just counting telephone companies.
To that witches’ brew of competition across the world add cable
companies (Time Warner and TCI), electric utility companies (Utilicorp),
railroads (Deutsche Railroad), water companies, banks (Société Générale),
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 communications capacity.
Counting the rapidly expanding wireless capacity, less than one
fifth of the total global telecommunications capacity is currently
The telecommunications cost structures pose
another strategic challenge. Operations
costs continue to fall. Already
the cost of a call from New York to New Delhi is 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 pay as
much to call for that pizza delivery, as you will to talk to Uncle Ivan
ten time zones away across the pond and half a continent beyond.
All of these swirling changes pose the
potential for a major 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
organizational and individual monumental change from the inside, there
will continue to be many résumés out on the street that list telco
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 semifinished products that went to customers for finishing.
Big steel was essentially in the commodity business.
Managers 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
mini-mill operators, like Chaparral and Nucor, not only produce more steel
than the integrated steel companies, they also rank high on the “Most
Admired Corporation” list, a feat never accomplished by US Steel and
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 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 misguided 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 the
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 REVIVOLUTING FUTURE!
We live in a time of unparalleled
abundance and prosperity. A
1996 study by David W. Moon for Barron’s 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 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 professional positions.
All of this job creation goes on despite
headline-grabbing stories about “downsizing.”
A recent black-bordered Newsweek cover story “Job
Killers” is just plain wrong. Announced
down-sizings totaled 3 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, former 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 hired 10,000 new people. The
bottom line: America’s
unemployment rate –about 5 percent –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 to 73.1 percent.
So wage earners like you and me are getting a larger share of the
economic pie these days. More
important, real per capita personal income rose an average of 3.7 percent
every year in the 1990s, enabling just about all of us to buy more of the
thing 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 1974 to 1991)
only one in twenty poor Americans stay poor, thirteen become middle-class,
and six become rich. The U.S.
Treasury found similar results. That’s
the best upward mobility rate ever.
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 noncollege
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
revivolutionary army. They
are proactively, revolutionarily creating new futures for themselves.
Are you ready to join up? Follow
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
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 upheaval.
New Life Chasing White Balls on the Greens
Dan was forty-seven when we net
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 and three wonderful children.
Two years later we encountered Dan at an information technology
conference. He still had the
beautiful wife and family, but was now with another company.
“My former company decided to outsource IT, so I became excess
baggage. A great outplacement
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 for life.”
“life” turned out to be a lot shorter than Dan was thinking about.
We ran into him at a restaurant recently and got caught up on his
activities. “I left that
company within a year. They
wanted ninety 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 fifty-one 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
know what you might decide to do.”
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 a mid-level
management position at a large industrial naval installation in town.
But he was unhappy. “I’ve
been marking time for the post ten years.
I’ve just got to do something else.
There’s talk of privatizing 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 of people working in the
“What, you want me to go back to school?”
he exclaimed. “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 an MBA
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 Ad
ministration program. He
applied a number of ideas to improve his section at the base that he
developed as part of his master’s, got recognized by the captain and
then the admiral for his improvements and wound up leading the reinvention
task force team.
“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 weekend to begin my new life in Oklahoma.”
We smiled as we went looking for our family
members in the mall. We
midwifed 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).
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 project designer.
Who says one person can’t make a difference?
Calling the Doctor:
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
He told us.
“I’ve been delivering babies in this town for almost twenty
years, and get Christmas cards form more than a thousand people every
year. But I make less today
to deliver a baby than I did twenty years ago, 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 anymore. I’m going
to open a chain of stores providing products, services and information
oriented toward 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 us 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 into the practice to give it up. At forty-seven these flowers can still bloom in a new
We'd wager that the fragrance from their
revivoluting blossoms fills the air.
By the way, he’s one of six physicians in that class, all looking
to use the lever of additional business education to revivolute themselves
into new careers.
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 nearly $2 billion
cosmetics company with an international presence.
Her name: Mary Kay
Ash. Her company: Mary Kay Cosmetics. She
is one of Forbes magazine’s “Greatest Success Stories of All
Time.” She now devotes her
time to helping other women become the beautiful living legends they
deserve to be.
Right, I can hear you saying.
That’s just a once-in-a-blue-moon experience.
But think again.
Today there are 3.5 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.
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 (after taming the
stuttering somewhat), researcher and writer.
All the while maintaining a strong business connection, working as
both a consultant and business owner.
In retrospect, both of us have revolutionarily revived our careers
at least half a dozen times in the course of forty-five years.
For us, revivolution is a personal way of life.
THE PHOENIX METAPHOR FOR REVIVOLUTIONARY SELF-RENEWAL
“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
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 sunrise 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 desktops in Dead Poets Society shouting, “Carpe
Diem”—seize the day. There
is no time like the present. We
live in good time—good economic times, and good times to move on to new
t 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 fifty-two, 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 paints a similar picture of the self-renewing Phoenix.
Each culture paints a 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
re-created forms. The great
scarlet and purple creature continually soars 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 others.
The Roman p poet Ovid wrote:
“There is one bird which renews itself out of itself.
The Assyrians call it the Phoenix.”
But there is no need to go back 2,000 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 the recurring cycle of
The economist Joseph Schumpeter 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, revitalizes and re-create yourself.
Be a soaring Phoenix.
PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS
To soar, the self-renewing Phoenix
utilizes the five principles discussed on the following pages.
First, Renew Yourself:
Create a Future That Makes a Difference and Leaves a Legacy
“Change an organization”—now
there’s 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 our 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 the 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, hardworking folks can create their own future, make
it better, leave a mark and help others.
We know that one person with courage can make a revolution.
It takes hard thinking and hard working.
Sir Edmund 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 comes.”
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 a simple assumption that colors everything:
we can change what other people do.
At home, we micro-manage the kids, grounding them when they
misbehave or get poor grades, and 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 reengineer
systems to change the way people process the 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 experience between us. Rather
than attempting to change an ongoing situation, we’ve discovered that it
is far 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 No. 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 the1980s—a weekly sitcom, 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 trademark laughter, made Smirnoff a famous, successful
But, as in all businesses, times changed.
The Wall fell, the Soviet Union imploded and being a Russian
comedian no longer had a mystique. The
canceled TV show and diminished bookings convinced Smirnoff that he needed
a new act. He moved to
Branson, Missouri, renewed himself and relaunched his career.
He’s now a very successful theater operator/performer. Self-renewal was Job No. 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 southeastern side of the island, 3,000-degree lava spills
out of Kilauea 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 two hundred 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 No. 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, transforming the hard rock
into fertile soil. Plants,
animals, birds and insects populate the forest, taking it into another
renewal stage. The 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.
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—seize the
moment—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’ job
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 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 “My 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
Bill 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 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 development
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’s job is at risk—as are
all 42,000 employees’ jobs.
Sally is also connected to the thousands of
suppliers who provide more than 60 percent 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,
including neighbors, teachers, grocery clerks and insurance brokers.
Many people across the world own share in Boeing, and thus Sally is
connected to all of them.
Sally also has a wide range of personal
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 subcommittee 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 lives she touches in one way or another.
Sally is interconnected with others in the way 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 and island.” The
Internet is today’s manifestations 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 we all participate, is one of life’s most
All Business Connections Are
Personal, and Personal Connections Are Another Form of Business.
People don’t buy form 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 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 teammates.
She delivers what she promises and works to only promise what she
can deliver. Business is
relationships, and all relationships are personal.
“Balance” is a popular word these days:
balance between family and work, between work and exercise, between
career and personal development, according to Sue Schellenberger in the Wall
Street Journal. She cites
the example of Randall Tobias, chairman and CEO of the large
pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, who says:
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 Tohmatsu, 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 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 affect their business day.
Tobias’s 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 teammates.
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
Recognize and Honor Your
Connectedness and interdependency are not new concepts.
We borrow them form 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 complementary
role they play in yours. Leverage
these connections to create a future that leaves a legacy that makes a
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 course.
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 prerequisite to economic freedom.
Democracy fosters a market economy that, in turn, creates
democracy in a community, then, is the driving force that enables economic
prosperity for any given organization within that community.
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”
mandate 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
himself, 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 in Order to Contribute More to
“How Safe Is Your Job?” the
headline agonizes form the cover of Fortune magazine.
“Job Killers,” the cover of Time wails in angst above
the scapegoated “Rogues Gallery” of corporate presidents who announced
substantial job reductions. From
the six o’clock news, to the drive-time talk shows, to the business
press, the media howl of economic instability reverberates.
Those misleading headlines do, however,
present 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.
Recall the words of 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?
In truth, there never was security in any
job—except the security of indentured servitude that Tennessee Ernie
Ford sang about. Union or
nonunion—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 for others.
In the 2960s Sonny Werblin, owner of the AFL
New York Jests, paid an astronomical $400,000 to Joe Namath, a gimpy-kneed
quarterback form 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, Werblin increased
season ticket sales by more than $2 million.
What would you do if someone offered to give you $2 million
tomorrow if you could scrape up $400,000 today?
You’d mortgage the house and everything you owned to the max.
A 500 percent 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 well 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 percent reduction in force and I’m not certain
I’ll make 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 to use 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 every one of us does not assume responsibility for
making tomorrow different, none of us has a place there.
The old movie High Noon says it best.
In that movie a bunch of bad guys ride into town and cow the
merchants. There are more merchants than bad guys. The merchants have more guns than the bad guys.
But the merchants cannot get themselves together.
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: everyone
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 re-creating its success
when it spreads its leadership wings and takes charge.
The self-renewing Phoenix leads his or her network of
interconnected people to create another symbol of the legacy of continuing
success: the Pyramid, itself
a symbol of enduring greatness and creativity.
We’ve divided our book, like ancient Gaul, into three parts.
Introduction to Phoenix 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 principles.
We soar like the 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 he is connected achieve their dreams and aspirations.
Phoenix leaders make five critical contributions to the success of
their interdependent, interconnected people:
they surface issues, engage the people, prioritize resources,
unleash ownership and energize learning.
The Phoenix Pyramid.
The Phoenix leader then creates the new foundation for future
success. That solid new foundation is represented by a Pyramid, itself
a symbol of strength and creativity.
We’ll lay out the systematic way a Phoenix leader builds that
solid Pyramid base for the future success for vision, mission, values,
goals, strategies, disciplined management infrastructures, business
processes and communications systems.
Throughout, we’’ challenge you to renew
yourself, develop your leadership skills and build your strong Pyramid
base for future success.
Do What Actually Works, Do What’s Really Right
Just so you know.
We are primarily businesspeople.
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
there were “bad” strings attached.
And we are doers.
We believe that people learn by doing, not talking.
So, lets get on with the doing.