- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 6 hours and 30 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Gildan Media, LLC
- Audible.com Release Date: January 4, 2012
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B006TEWIBA
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Business at the Speed of Now: Fire Up Your People, Thrill Your Customers, and Crush Your Competitors Audiobook – Unabridged
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John Bernard is well equipped to answer this question. John, though his company Mass Ingenuity, has helped his clients -- which have included major companies and most of the state governments in the Pacific Northwest -- sort through this problem. Now, he has distilled his method with his book, Business at the Speed of Now.
The "big shift" is characterized as a transition from mass production to mass customization. This big shift is being powered by three strong trends: rise of social media, shift toward cloud computing, and coming of age of millennials. The result is a demand for significantly shorter sense-act cycles for business and the ability for companies to treat each customer with a customized solution and personal touch. Companies that can achieve this shift will thrive, those that don't will die.
John describes the end result as a "system of management" and in the book describes their approach from assessment, determination of fundamentals, and discovery of breakthroughs. The book illustrates these steps with stories from his consulting experiences.
One of the stories I liked in particular told how a company front line manager took a customer's complaint but couldn't act on it. The employee had to pass the complaint "up the chain" for approval of the company's response. Although this arrived several days later, the damage to the company's reputation for this customer was already done. In other words, don't push the information to a decision maker, push the decision authority to the employees on the front line that already have the information.
Many (most?) business leaders embrace what James O'Toole so aptly characterizes in one of his books, Leading Change, as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." In a word, "then": whatever was done until now that has been successful. Marshall Goldsmith observes, "What got you here won't get you there" to which Bernard responds, "What got you here won't even keep you here." At best, "then" is a fond memory and for many (most) people, "now" is a continuation of it.
Bernard offers 12 admonitions. He assigns a separate chapter to each, explaining how to formulate and then implement a plan to achieve high-impact results with sharply-focused initiatives:
1. Prepare for Yes (e.g. empower front-line people with authority)
2. Put an End to Then (i.e. simplify the flow of work)
3. Drive Growth with Yes (i.e. create a culture of contagious affirmation)
4. Gain the Speed You Need (e.g. "travel light" in terms of "baggage")
5. Create the Context for Speed (e.g. base decisions on verifiable facts)
6. Achieve Critical Breakthroughs (with a seven phase process)
7. Close the Execution Gap (with seven-step transparency initiative)
8. Equip Everyone with the Core Skill (with seven-step problem-solving process)
9. Banish Fear, Build Trust (e.g. be sensitive to individual needs to earn trust)
10. Stop Bossing, Start Teaching (e.g. remove "no" and "yes" from your vocabulary)
11. Accelerate the Shift [from Then to Now] with five initiatives (Pages 195-196)
Bernard makes skillful use of several reader-friendly devices such as the "Speedometer" self-audit at the end of each chapter than enables the reader to identify areas in greatest need of immediate attention in her or his organization. That is, specific areas that are relevant to the subject of the given chapter. Then on Pages 215-216, the reader can calculate the NOW score based on net scores from Chapters 1-11. Bernard explains what each total score means. I also commend Bernard for including a framework for a "Then-to-Now Breakthrough Plan" that each reader completes. There are also dozens of Figures inserted throughout the narrative that either demonstrate transition processes (e.g. Figure 1.2, "Mass Production versus Mass Customization," Page 8) or summarize key points (e.g. Figure 8.2, "Rules for Total Transparency," Page 142).
I agree with John Bernard's concluding thoughts: "The journey from managing in the then to managing in the now does not differ from the hero's journey [portrayed by Joseph Campbell in his classic, The Hero with a Thousand Faces], and it always includes predictable experiences and struggles. It's no coincidence that the hero's seven steps on the path to success parallels the 11 chapters of this book when viewed as 11 steps." Most change initiatives either fail, or fall far short of original expectations. Business leaders who read and then (preferably) re-read John Bernard's book will be well-prepared to fire up their people, thrill their customers, and crush their competitors. If that is their vision, and it is certainly an admirable one, I presume to remind them of Thomas Edison's observation: "Vision without execution is hallucination."