Category Archives: Books

Best Two Books to Give an Executive for the Holidays

The two biggest problems faced by most executives are –

  • Defining roles and finding people to fill those roles.
  • Defining the working relationships for those roles, or structure.

That is why I wrote Hiring Talent and Outbound Air.
Hiring Talent
Most managers are not very good at hiring. They don’t practice enough to get good at it. They don’t prepare for it. They fall into traps, make the hiring decision too quickly, based on emotion. And the cost is huge. If a manager does this job well, life is wonderful. If a manager does this job poorly, life is miserable and for a very long time.

Outbound Air
Outbound Air
As we define roles for people to play, how do we define the working relationships between those roles. It’s all about structure. Structure is the context in which people work. Structure drives culture. Most org charts are full of lines and boxes. Some of the lines are solid, some are dotted. We have an intuitive feel for how we want people to work together, but there is actually a science to it. Outbound Air is a business novel that chronicles how organizations grow and mature. Everyone wants to take their company to the next level, but few have a clue what the next level is. Everything we know about organizational structure and levels of work rests on the research illustrated in Outbound Air.

Outbound Air Now Available on Amazon

Outbound Air is a fictional account of a regional airline acquired by an investment group. The story illustrates the adolescent pains of organizational growth as the new CEO takes one mis-step after another. Outbound Air’s return from the brink of destruction is a vivid tale of how organizations work.

Why read this book –

Every management team wants to take their company to the next level. Most have no clue what that means. I press for answers and get general responses, like –

  • Higher revenues
  • Larger geography
  • More stores

I am a structure guy, and, levels actually exist. Each level in the life of a company has defined characteristics and carries predictable challenges that must be solved before the organization can go to the next level. This book answers the question that no one asks, “Just exactly what is the next level?”

These levels teach us about organizational structure. This structure helps a company understand why it has its problems and how to solve them. This book is about the structure of work, specifically –

  • Predictable levels of organizational growth, a prelude to levels of work.
  • Levels of work and accountability, in both managerial relationships and cross-functional relationships.
  • How to implement functional structure based on levels of work.

The safety briefing is over, buckle up and prepare for an immediate departure.

Outbound Air – Levels of Work in Organizational Structure

Outbound Air

Just Published

I just got word that it’s published. I mentioned this book to a few groups recently and now it’s available from Amazon. Last summer, I was asked to publish a chapter about managerial and cross functional relationships.

Management Development Handbook

Management Development Handbook

The lead chapter is written by Meg Wheatley on Complexity and Perserverence. My chapter is in section III of the book The Goal – Teams Who Do Their Best Work Together. My chapter is Get Rid of the Dotted Lines.

You can read more about the book in this post by Lisa Haneberg, the book’s editor – Management Development Handbook

If you would like a digitial version of my chapter, just Ask Tom.

Traction, Get a Grip

Stalled out in Denver due to weather in San Francisco. First flight-leg reading, Traction by Gino Wickman. You know, I don’t often do book reviews, but this one caught my eye. Not that it breaks any new ground, but it is a well-organized reminder of the mechanics in building an organization.

It begins with a quick organizational diagnostic (20 questions) which tells you where the book is going. Each section has some sort of checklist, tool, core questions that would be valuable to any organization trying to define this stuff. My favorite was the section on Vision and his Vision/Tracker Organizer (TM), which contains a two-page template that distills the best thinking you can muster about your organization. But then, I must admit I’m a sucker for models and templates.

The real estate on each of the two pages dictates the amount of documentation required to complete, but don’t fool yourself. The most difficult pieces of thinking will be required where the word limit is the lowest.

Here’s why I think this is important. During this recession, in many places, all hell broke loose. We stopped thinking like this while we were down in the storm cellar. It’s time to get out of the cellar and start to rebuild.

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business

No Internal Agreement

This concludes our conversation with Jaynie Smith, author of Creating Competitive Advantage.

As we move from the recession to recovery, and as we attempt to acquire new customers, gain market share, where do customer and client disconnects occur?

Again, our research shows that 90% of companies have no internal agreement on what matters to customers. We always ask our clients to guess which three attributes came in 1, 2 and 3 in their customer research. Not only don’t they guess it right, they have no agreement amongst themselves. So how can the market-place receive what it values when the internal team is riding off in 25 different directions. The answer is simple: It can’t. We must have internal agreement based on the voice of the customer to know where to concentrate operationally and in alignment with our sales and marketing messaging.

You can find Jaynie’s book Creating Competitive Advantage at

Even In a Down Turn

This continues my conversation with Jaynie Smith, author of Creating Competitive Advantage.

Can you talk about the necessity of integrating marketing elements with operational reality to drive new ideas into existing and emerging customer segments?

Our research shows that 95% of companies are not focused on the things that matter most to their customers and so their resource allocation is not aligned operationally with delivering what matters most to their customers.

A tour operator spent lots of time and money chasing industry awards only to learn that it matters last on a list of 20 attributes to their clients. But would-be travelers wanted solid knowledge delivered by their destination specialists. This company invested in everyone who sold a “continent” to make sure they had traveled to the countries sold and had extensive ongoing training relative to the vendors used. Cross training, then became the next operational investment. This company is booking at a better rate than nearly all of their competition even in a down turn.

The conversation continues the rest of this week. You can find Jaynie’s book Creating Competitive Advantage at

Remove Risk

This continues my conversation with Jaynie Smith, author of Creating Competitive Advantage.

In an attempt to scratch out precious points in market share, which will multiply during the recovery, what changes should companies design into their marketing strategies?

Companies should delete the “blah, blah, blah” cliched messages of yesterday and substitute with solid metrics that speak to reliable past performance. Unlike a mutual fund, past performance is the best indicator of whether or not you can deliver in the future. We need to build confidence and remove risk, more than ever, right now, in their buying decision.

So, we don’t say…”we will deliver in 24 hours”, that is a promise. No one believes promises anymore. But if you say, we have measured on time delivery for the last 3 years and are tracking at 98.2% , customers know you hold folks accountable for it, so you have more credibility.

The conversation continues the rest of this week. You can find Jaynie’s book Creating Competitive Advantage at

Whiplash in the Market

If you think we are at the bottom of this recession and can breathe a sigh of relief, think again. Year over year, we may see improvement in sales volume, but even as your revenue builds, there is still whiplash in this market. So, I spent some time with my friend Jaynie Smith, author of Creating Competitive Advantage.

As we make this slow turn from recession to recovery, what are the biggest mistakes companies make attempting to re-engage their markets, the ones, by necessity, they have contracted away from?

Most companies are delivering yesterday’s value proposition, using old messages, and assuming their customers and prospects have the same buying criteria they did two, three and five years ago. Markets change and certainly with this recession, each company has redefined what it values in making purchasing decisions.

For example, we have seen, across the board, in the last year, market research showing that, despite the industry, many buyers want to know the vendor/supplier they choose has strong financial stability. Yet, few marketing and sales messages address this key attribute. We have seen prospects tell our clients, first and foremost, they want to receive easy-to-understand and accurate billing. Simple.

All this makes sense in view of the recession, yet few companies take the time to learn what their customers truly value in today’s world.

The conversation continues the rest of this week. You can find Jaynie’s book Creating Competitive Advantage at

Make Your Move

I just got my hands on a copy of Make Your Move by Alan and Brian Beaulieu.

These are the guys that kept most of my clients out of trouble during this past recession. With their help and forecasting, we started preparing for this recession as early as 2006. With their help and forecasting, we are now working on the recovery.

Inside, you find explanations of their business cycle, its four phases and what to do, as a business, in each phase. They also explain their powerful predictive tool which graphs a very simple fraction through time to show your Rate of Change.

You can get the book at Amazon or directly from