Three Profound Books

Fred MillerOver the last 25 years there have been three books that have profoundly changed the way organizations operate, the way they engage people inside the organization and how they collaborate with the global community. Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson in The One Minute Manager (1981) discussed the traits and behaviors of successful managers, which include talking to your people, establishing challenging, but attainable expectations and rewarding individuals when they achieve those expectations. The aspect we tried to introduce to that thinking was diversity. It was, and still is, important to recognize that the people with whom managers speak will not always look like them, act like them or even come from the same cultural background. Managers not only need to communicate with their people, but they also must recognize the diversity of these individuals and appreciate how that diversity can influence the interaction and the individual’s success.

Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman in In Search of Excellence (1982) redefined the characteristics of organizational excellence. Based on a study of some of America’s best-run companies, it established the basic principles that when implemented would almost guarantee a higher probability of success. The fundamental message I took from the book, though, was the concept of zero defects and achieving higher levels of performance. At the time quality and excellence, to American companies, meant “good, but with acceptable defects.” The book challenged that norm and insisted that excellence meant “zero defects,” even pointing to Japanese manufacturers who were achieving this goal as an example. The sea change caused by this book resulted in “zero defects” being the only measure of organizational quality and a new standard for operational performance excellence in organizations. They established a new operational performance bar for organizations.

A monumental shift in how we as humans will interact differently than we have in the past and how this will change the way we do business was predicted in 2006’s Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. Knowledge is no longer exclusively internal and organizations that do not tap the global knowledge existing outside their four walls will not survive in the 21st century, according to the authors. In this new era of innovation the concepts of open-sourcing, mass collaboration and co-creation are inseparable and can establish every business as a global business. In the past, the giants of industry could make it difficult and expensive for a start-up to establish itself, essentially blocking competition. However, the Internet has flattened the world and has become the key tool of globalization. It has so decreased the price of entry for businesses establishing themselves in the global marketplace that every organization must now operate as if competitors are being born every day.

The messages in The One Minute Manager and In Search of Excellence are as relevant today as they were 25 years ago while the projections in Wikinomics are as revolutionary and groundbreaking as any I have seen. If you are part of an organization that is ready to learn about the necessary mindsets, skill sets and competencies that will prepare you for the demands of business in the 21st Century, then I encourage you to pick up a copy each of these books.