Posts Tagged ‘success’

A Double Success Story

October 14, 2012 2 comments

I really enjoy reading accounts of how companies overcome a minefield of obstacles to achieve both financial and social success. It’s much easier to achieve financial success at the top in exchange for social freedom at the bottom than it is to achieve success in both areas at the same time (hint: HR groups are the greatest impediment to dual success). For confirmation of this assertion, simply look at the coupling between profit margins and social misery at any third world sweatshop.

One such double financial + social success story is told in the Fast Company article:” How Target’s CEO Inspires Teamwork At A Massive Scale”. However, BD00, the saucy and skeptical bloke that he is, always consumes such anecdotes with a grain of salt when the narrator is a single soul from the C-level suite. In the Target story, the telltaler is the CEO himself, Mr. Gregg Steinhafel.

The good news is that Gregg wasn’t appointed from without. He rose through the ranks:

“A veteran of Target’s rank and file, Steinhafel joined the company back in 1979, worked his way up over the next two decades to become president, and eventually took the corner office in 2008.

The bad news is that when you traverse the article and pluck out his quotes, they are the same old, same old:

“We are the coaching staff that help design the playbook, but implement it at the same time.”

“At Target, nothing happens without a large, collaborative effort.”

“Everyone is a mentor and mentee. It is one of the fun and exciting parts of [any] job.”

“It’s our responsibility to act and continue to support the teams.”

“All the senior leaders like to sit down and forward think, and anticipate where the puck is going.”

“We benchmark against the world’s best to develop ideas for future growth.”

“We are constantly checking in.”

Direct quotes and disrespectfully snarky graphic aside, the double success story at Target seems genuine and I’m thrilled that the company has leveraged social media tools to improve its performance through networked collaboration. I just wish that some lower level employees were asked to contribute to its telling – anonymously, of course.

For sure, you’ll easily find a ton of one-sided, C-suite-sourced stories like this Target tale in the mainstream press and best-selling business book section at However, you won’t find any in the works of Ackoff, Argyris, Deming, Block, Culbert, Cohen, Livingston, and other dirty rotten scoundrels. The stories they tell are the stories I find fascinating and mind-changing.

Note: I’ve had a vague and notional image of the pull-cord executive doll in my contaminated mind for several months now. I finally conjured up a BS post to host it. Whoo Hoo!

Categories: management Tags: , ,

Business Acquisition And Execution

To become and maintain a successful business, a company must both acquire and efficiently execute ongoing chunks of business. When top management values both of these critical work activities equally, then all is well. When they value one over the other, and in my business domain it’s always business acquisition that’s shown preferential treatment, then mediocrity reigns.

How do you know when top management is one sided? It’s easy, just look around. Who gets the single offices and single cubes? Who gets the bigger salaries? Who do the executives give way more face time to?


Business acquisition is glamorous and difficult, but in comparison, business execution is dirty, messy, and down right hard. When an acquisition team submits a proposal to a customer after a long and arduous courting period, it’s party time, and rightfully so. However, and this is key, the proposal doesn’t “have to work”. Products “have to work”, or else….

If a proposal is rejected and fails to acquire a chunk of business, then it’s usually because a competitor has offered up a similar or superior product for a lower price and/or a faster delivery time. The loser washes his hands clean and then just moves on to the next opportunity. It’s done and over with, kaput.

When a big, complex, and software-intensive product repeatedly and frequently fails in a customer’s day to day use of it, then continuous stress and pressure is placed on the execution team for what could be quite a long and sustained period of time. Until the execution team, usually through heroic acts of team sacrifice, makes the product behavior and performance “acceptable” to the customer, the two step chain of events is as follows: the customer pressures top management, and top management pressures the execution team. The loop of misery has been ignited. Notice that the acquisition team does not participate in the fun. In the worst case, the acquisition team merges with the top management team to apply greater pressure on the execution team.


Don’t be a stupid arse like me. If you’re given the choice between participating on an acquisition team or an execution team, choose the acquisition team 🙂

%d bloggers like this: