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How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking the 8 Hidden Barriers that Plague Even the Best Businesses [Kindle Edition]

Neil Smith , Patricia O'Connell
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $8.89
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Sold by: Macmillan

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Book Description

Every day, seemingly intelligent and successful companies make headline news for poor decisions that can cause their business to stumble and make many of us scratch our heads in wonder. Why would such a successful business make ”that” strategic decision? Neil Smith, with more than 20 years of experience leading large-scale performance improvements, reveals the hidden barriers that limit excellent companies from reaching their potential, and cause even the smartest managers and leaders to falter. During his experience transforming some of the top global businesses, Smith has identified 8 barriers that exist in every organization and prevent them from implementing literally thousands of ideas to improve the way they work:

Avoiding Controversy

Poor Use of Time

Reluctance to Change

Organizational Silos

Management Blockers

Incorrect Information and Bad Assumptions

Size Matters

Existing Processes

Rich with anecdotes and case studies, Smith identifies the ways in each of these barriers interrupt your own business.  He then outlines a fast and proven process in which 12 principles of business transformation can break down the processes that hold companies back.  What Smith offers his readers is the same thing he offers every day to the major companies he works with,  A PROMISE that by following his insights,  the company will be able to increase communication, simplicity, and profit to levels never before attainable.

Throughout the book, Dr. Richard Levak has contributed personality and organizational insights that shed light on why an individual or an organization behaves in contrary ways giving you a better sense of why these internal walls exist and how to be aware of your actions in your day to day life. 

Editorial Reviews


"Neil Smith has helped create incalculable shareholder value and customer loyalty for companies across America and around the world with one 'radical' idea:  Our own employees know where the barriers to success are, and they know how to break them down so the CEO and the management teams can drive the vision and strategy we set for our companies."--Brian T. Moynihan, chief executive officer, Bank of America Corporation

"This exciting book, How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things, provides an in-depth look at the structural and behavioral barriers that keep organizations from outstanding performance, and offers a clear set of principles to get on track. Neil Smith's brilliant insights into removing these barriers and empowering employees to produce creative ideas are a must-read for managers everywhere."--Bill George, professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School, former chairman & CEO of Medtronic, Inc. and author of True North

“Neil Smith makes "A Promise" for transforming your organization, and I can attest from his work with us at NYSE Euronext that he delivers. In this book, he outlines the process by which any company can become more efficient and profitable while reducing complexity. It is a must-read for any company that wants to improve its performance and for any manager who is serious about adding value to their organization.”--Duncan Niederauer, chief executive officer, NYSE Euronext

"This book provides a practical, common sense guide to the main stumbling blocks facing business leaders and how to deal with them."- John Quelch, dean of China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), Shanghai

"A top-notch consultant reveals his secret sauce! Crisply reasoned and crisply written, this book is a virtual how-to-do-it manual for improving your company. If it doesn't give you dozens of good ideas, you haven't read it."-- Alan Blinder, Gordon S. Rentschler Memorial professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University and co-author of Economics: Principles and Policy

"This book is a great gift to leaders facing the 8 barriers because it underscores how critical it is to engage employees across the entire organization.  Dumb things, goodbye! "--Frances Hesselbein, president and chief executive officer of Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute, former chief executive officer, Girl Scouts of the USA and author of My Life in Leadership

“A helpful reminder on how lack of oversight on even commonplace issues can interfere with an enterprise’s productivity and success, this work will appeal to managers and leaders alike.”—Publishers Weekly

"Neil Smith provides brilliant insights and great practical advice, based on his global expertise in helping excellent companies challenge the status quo and improve performance.  Move this book to the top of your inbox." -- Martin Sullivan, deputy chairman of Willis Group Holdings PLC and chairman and CEO of Willis Global Solutions



“An in-depth look at the structural and behavioral barriers that keep organizations from outstanding performance, and offers a clear set of principles to get on track. Neil Smith’s brilliant insights into removing these barriers and empowering employees to produce creative ideas are a must-read for managers everywhere.”
       —Bill George, professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School, former chairman & CEO of Medtronic, Inc., and author of True North (Bill George)

Product Details

  • File Size: 441 KB
  • Print Length: 241 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1137003065
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Reprint edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007XSN48M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,512 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
With Patricia O'Connell, Neil Smith has written an exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking book. Whereas in Sydney Finkelstein's book, Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes, the focus is on the performance of individuals, Smith focuses on lessons to be learned from excellent companies whose employees generally (but not always) avoid or overcome hidden (albeit "natural") barriers. These barriers, "individually and collectively, can prevent employees from taking actions that are in the best interests if the given company. In short, the barriers are the reason the company does dumb things, not the employees themselves."

Smith devotes a separate chapter to each of the barriers (Chapters 1-8) and then shifts his attention in Chapter 9 to "Twelve Principles for Breaking Barriers" and provides "A 100-Day Process for Breaking Barriers" in Chapter 11. I commend Smith on his skillful use of two reader-friendly devices at the conclusion of each of the first eight chapters: "Barrier in Brief" (Takeaway and Solution) and "Look at Your Organization" (Inaccurate Information and Bad Assumptions). Also, throughout his narrative, Smith also provides five mini-commentaries contributed by Richard Levak: "Why People Avoid Controversy" (Pages 22-25), "Why People Procrastinate" (38-40), "Why People Are Reluctant to Change" (50-52), "What's Behind Management Blockers?" (85-87), and "How to Change Corporate Culture" (209-212).

As I worked my way through this book, I was reminded of passages from two recently published books.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful book with concrete suggestions June 6, 2012
If you were running a company of say 5,000 employees and someone offered to work with some of your senior managers over the next 100 days and at the end of that time, your company's net income would be increased by 20% of more, and your employees felt empowered and you eliminated silos and bureaucracy, would you be interested??

Read the book---Neil Smith lays out very clear examples of what makes his process work---it's amazingly simple and compelling.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful business book June 6, 2012
With businesses constantly making the headlines with stupid actions its amazing companies survives. And these faux paus and mistakes continue year after year. Finally an author with a lot of experience discusses how even simple changes to a system (yes, even complex multinationals) can make a serious and significant impact. Who among us has not run in the silo problem, or the "that's not how our process works" administrative wall. Neil Smith here describes these restrictions and show how to break down the walls and make changes that have a real impact to business. Buy it... for just over $17 bucks just one change in your division will make it worth your while. It's an easy read, filled with examples. You'll be able to put some of the advice to use right away.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
As usual I received this book for free in exchange for a review. This time it was from LibraryThing but I will give my scrupulously honest review below.

The nutshell view of this book is pretty simple. It outlines 8 ways that companies screw up and cost themselves money. Each of the sections is laid out in more or less this format:

1. Some personal anecdote from the author about this problem as he's seen it in the field.

2. Examples of the problem at companies the author has worked for.

3. Specifics on how to determine if you have this problem

4. What to do about the problem once you find it

5. A summary

The book outlines 8 problems ("barriers") but really they boil down to a handful of core problems

1. Poor communication between managers/managed or between departments

2. Failure to think properly about the scale of problems when coming to a resolution or do proper analysis.

3. Unwillingness to change the status quo, "we've always done it THIS way"

Every "barrier" described is a corollary of one of those three things.

On the positive side, the text is very readable and the author brings things to light in a detailed and relatable way. He doesn't just preach from the hilltop, he gives candid examples of these problems as he's seen them in the field. Having worked in a few companies over the years I've seen every one of them in action and he's spot on with his descriptions.

To the negative, it does seem things are rather padded. As I noted the book numbers '8' barriers but really they're pretty closely related to each other. None of this is ground-breaking new material either.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid blueprint for breaking performance barriers December 5, 2012
Leaders of even successful companies unwittingly make bad decisions and costly mistakes. Consultant Neil Smith identifies "eight hidden barriers" that keep companies from reaching their full potential and explains how to shatter them. Recognizing barriers is the first step, but, to create lasting change, companies must reshape their corporate culture from the top down and employees must take ownership of their ideas. Smith identifies both obvious and subtle obstacles, though he can get bogged down in details. getAbstract recommends Smith's diagnosis to executives seeking to increase their companies' efficiency and profits.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the Small Business Owner
As a small business owner, I was interested in seeing if this book would help me recognize if my own company was heading towards doing "dumb things". Read more
Published 2 days ago by Gunther
4.0 out of 5 stars A guide for all leaders in business today
"How Companies Avoid Dumb Things" is a straightforward, common-sense guide to the primary obstacles facing leaders in business today. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Chelle
5.0 out of 5 stars How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things
How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking the 8 Hidden Barriers that Plague Even the Best Businesses by Neil Smith with Patrician O'Connell was a fantastic book I... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Andrea K. Singleton
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and compelling.
Encouraging and implementing ideas in businesses can lead to all kinds of good changes, such as increasing simplicity, efficiency, and profitability or decreasing wastes of time,... Read more
Published 1 month ago by PencilStubs
4.0 out of 5 stars A good business book
A good business book. This book explains about 8 barriers and how to break them. The author is a good writer.
Published 2 months ago by heather
3.0 out of 5 stars Business - An American Fairy Tale
Business books are good money in the US and usually glib and lightweight. As a former journalist unencumbered by working in an industrial company Neil Smith can schmooze without... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Black Prince
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful Look at Why Corporate Dumb Actions Occur and How a Company-Wide...
"You are therefore greatly mistaken." -- Mark 12:27 (NKJV)

Please be aware that the title of this book is a little misleading. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Donald Mitchell
3.0 out of 5 stars This was a gift~
This was a gift - so I am not really all that sure how to rate it (hence the 3 stars for now). It was recommended by a friend and I hope that its recipient enjoyed it. Read more
Published 21 months ago by JTRB
1.0 out of 5 stars Tired Truisms and Terminal Twaddle
In years to come, people will look back on this period in America's business history and wonder where it all went wrong. This book will be a helpful guide. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Norman
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More About the Author

Neil Smith, a graduate of Harvard Business School and Keele University in England, and CEO of Promontory Growth and Innovation (PGI), has over 20 years' experience helping large corporations dramatically improve performance and profitability by growing revenues and innovatively reducing costs. Smith has led initiatives across a number of industries with some of the best known companies in the U.S. and internationally including, Bank of America, Willis, and North American Van Lines.


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