Tag Archives: Gary Hamel

Penn Sate, and Libor, and… – What does Your Organization Truly Value?

By definition, every organization is “values driven.” The only question is, what values are in the driver’s seat?
Gary Hamel, What Matters Now


Let’s think about what organizations value.  We’d best start with this:  what does your organization value?  Make sure you know the answer to that question.  Everything depends on it.

And, there’s a pretty good chance that what your organization says they value may not be what they really value.

Here’s the story.

At Penn State, an assistant coach raped a boy – a young boy.
So far, you can only blame this assistant coach.  It is sad; tragic.  But only one person is at fault; only one person is to be blamed.
But then, somebody found about it, and told someone else.  A handful of people learned about this.
They did not take the logical, appropriate, human, humane action.
Now, it is the fault of a very flawed system – a genuine, massive failure of organizational values; and the fault of a group of people, not one person.
The coach then raped other boys.  After someone told somebody else about it.

And now, even after the former director of the FBI issued his report, there are many who say, “no – I don’t believe the findings of the report.  And, the punishment is unfair, too harsh.  We didn’t do enough wrong to warrant that punishment.”

Because, we are in a national, maybe international, state of denial.  “Things are not that bad.  There are only the stories of an occasional bad apple here and there.”

Don’t kid yourself.  There are too many stories of these bad apples, in too many organizations, to consider these isolated incidences anymore.

And in each case, it boils down to this:

This is what we value here:  _________.  And we value this more than anything else.  Nothing else matters as much as this thing that we supremely value.  So, if some kind of wrongdoing is done that might threaten our success fulfilling this thing that we supremely value, we will ignore it, hide it, be intentionally blind to it, because what we value is far more important than this bad thing that was done by some bad apple.

At Penn State, it is hard to know what to put in that “this is what we value” blank.  Did Penn State value football supremely?  Thus, they placed Joe Paterno on a gigantic, pedestal, because he delivered the football product they supremely valued?  Did Penn State value the prestige, and the money, that such a football program brought to their school?  If so, then it was “right” to put a picture of Coach Paterno on campus with a halo over his head, and a statue that so many made a pilgrimage to to show honor to the great  man who represented, who successfully “fulfilled,” their supreme value.

Here, take a look at this picture – the one with the halo.  Think about what it means.  It is, in fact, exactly the picture that should be prominent on this campus.  He represented success in what this school supremely valued.  (Yes, I know that the artist placed the the halo over his head after his death, and pretty quickly painted over the halo as the scandal became so public..  But, I’m describing a “values-honoring symbolism,” as personified in this so very great man to this university – thus, the halo was an appropriate symbol of this man, at this university, with these values).

with halo; then halo painted over

a look at the larger painting

I think they should have left the picture with the halo up, and left the statue up.  Because, in listening to the rants and rage of the people objecting to the NCAA punishment, they still place their supreme value in the same place.  “We did not deserve this punishment” is the cry.  But, in fact, they did.  Because they had all placed their supreme value in the wrong place.  And the punishment is not just for what Sandusky did, and others covered up – it is an indictment of a system with such misplaced values.

And, of course, for the NCAA to punish such “values” just drips with irony.  The NCAA is filled with schools that place this sport pretty close to the “supreme value” level.  And many of these schools make decisions that are not quite good for all so that their prestige and their profits and their reputation about their great football program can be protected.

At Penn State, something mattered more, something was valued more, than the safety of young boys.  It was “okay” to turn one’s back to an assistant coach raping additional boys, because they did not value the safety of those boys as much as they valued something else.

You cannot value two things supremely.  There is room for only one top value in the value hierarchy.

{Of course, I find this despicable.  Why should football and prestige ever have that supreme value slot in an institution of higher learning?  And, I think the actions of Paterno, and others, deserve absolute condemnation.  But, this blog post is an attempt to ask, “what did Penn State supremely value?”  And, then, “what does my, and your, organization supremely value?”}

The Libor scandal is the same story.  (And Enron, and BP, and….).  Yes, I agree that the rape of young boys is far more despicable than overcharging for credit. But there is a parallel — what do these banks value?  You know, the ones which set the interest rates to their advantage – actually, on some days, to the advantage of a small group of “buddies” who asked their buddies to set the rates to maximize their own bonuses.  Whatever they do value, they did not value the best interest of their end customers – the people who had to make the mortgage payments.  They put their own interest above the interest of the people they “served.”

And, they got away with it as long as they could.

As did News Corp with their phone hacking.

As did Penn State with their cover-up – even if it meant that additonal young boys were going to be raped.

As did…

No, the problem is not Penn State, or Libor, or Enron, or…  The crisis is not a few bad apples.  The crisis is deeper that that.  It is a values crisis.  It is a “what we supremely value trumps any other concerns” crisis.

And, I think every customer on the planet should start asking of every store and organization and university “what do you supremely value here in this organization?’’  And then we need to demand honest answers.

Remember Gary Hamel’s clear statement of fact, and warning:

By definition, every organization is “values driven.” The only question is, what values are in the driver’s seat?

Innovation, Innovation Everywhere – and Not a Drop to Drink in so many companies/organizations

The jury came in long ago.  No change, no innovation = real trouble for any and every organization.

From Gary Hamel, What Matters Now (notice the subtitle:  How to win in a world of relentless change, ferocious competition, and unstoppable innovation):

Innovation isn’t a fad—it’s the real deal, the only deal. Right now, not everyone believes that, but they will…
“Change has changed” – truly, faster change; more change… Leaders must ask, “are we changing as fast as the world around us?”

Yet, the next jury is also coming in – we are slipping in the innovation department.

I have written so many times on this issue.  And I think we do wrap a lot of different items under the overall umbrella of innovation.  Creativity; constant improvement; updates; upgrades; version 2.0, 3.0. 10.0…  the list is endless.

But it all boils down to this.  If you have a perfect product, then leave it alone.  (Are there any?).  But if not, keep improving, keep tinkering, keep tweaking, keep innovating.

If you have a perfect process, then leave it alone.  (There are even fewer of these!).  If not, keep improving, keep tinkering, keep tweaking, keep innovating.

So, I write about this, I think about this, I present on this – and yet I (yes, me – Randy Mayeux) either forget to do it, or simply don’t want to do it.  I don’t change, innovate, upgrade, update.  I have my routines, my practices, my habits…  and so I keep doing things in yesterday’s ways, and I could clearly do so much better.  Laziness rears its ugly head again.  As Scott Peck wrote years ago, laziness is our biggest enemy.  It’s not that we don’t work.  It’s that we work in the same old ways – we are too lazy to pursue the new, the different, the next better thing, the next better way.  There is new software out there, new web-based tools to embrace, that would be really useful for me to use.  I don’t want to take the time to learn how to use these.  There are new skills to learn.  I don’t want to take the time and effort to develop them.  And so much more…  the list is large, and growing, and goes on and on.

In other words, we (including me) really do like to do our work, and live our life, the way we have done our work and lived our life.  And so, we fail to innovate.  And, so many people in so many companies are just like us…

I read this on Andrew Sullivan’s blog:  Is The Era Of Big Innovation Over?.  It links to a couple of articles discussing whether or not the big innovations are over.  (We don’t have colonies on Mars.  We don’t fly around with Jetsons-like jetpacks).  He links to Nicholas Carr (author of The Shallows), and his article The hierarchy of innovation.  Carr thinks we are now innovating more internally.  He writes this:

As we move to the top level of the innovation hierarchy, the inventions have less visible, less transformative effects. We’re no longer changing the shape of the physical world or even of society, as it manifests itself in the physical world. We’re altering internal states, transforming the invisible self. Not surprisingly, when you step back and take a broad view, it looks like stagnation – it looks like nothing is changing very much.

And Carr proposes an “innovation-adapted Maslow’s hierarchy.”  It’s pretty interesting  Click on the image to take a look..

Click on image for full view

Think about the two worlds of innovation.  There is the big, big world.  The folks who will be coming up with mass-produced, inexpensive, driverless cars that will be fueled by garbage and fingernail clippings and thus keep the air cleaner and the planet more beautiful.  Or the electricity that will be provided without the use of coal but with massively powerful solar panels built into our sunglasses.  You know, the big, big innovations that will really change the world.

But there is also the small, more accessible world.  My life, my job, the processes I follow…  what am I doing to take the next big, big step in my small, small world?

It will be in the thousands of little innovations that we develop a true culture of innovation.  And that is a culture we need to feed, applaud, and immerse ourselves in.

So – what about you?  Is there a new software or web based-tool to learn, that would be really useful and make you more effective, more productive?  (The answer is yes, by the way.  This week, I’m working on learning how to use Trello effectively).  Start today.  Is there a process in your job to streamline?  Start today.  Is there a better way to respond to your own customers?  So, learn it, do it…start today.

If you don’t join the innovation party, and keep at it, the world may simply pass you by.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Trading Places, and Today’s News – Some Saturday Musings about Values, Morals, Ethics

News item:
Dallas Police Department fires three officers:
Dallas Police Chief David Brown fired three officers Friday in cases involving alleged substance abuse, including one who police say drove while drunk and fired a weapon out of his car and another found to have misused prescription drugs.

News Item:
Parkland Memorial Hospital fired a social worker for complaining about pressure to break safety rules, a new lawsuit alleges.

New item: 
NFL Players Associaotion appealing punishments:
The NFL Players Association has filed a pair of grievances challenging the authority of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend four players for their involvement in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program.
In the first, filed with arbitrator Shyam Das, the NFLPA argues that Goodell is prohibited from punishing players for any conduct prior to Aug. 4, when the current collective bargaining agreement took effect.
“In connection with entering into the 2011 CBA, the NFL released all players from conduct engaged in prior to the execution of the CBA, on August 4, 2011,” the grievance says.


(Warning:  I may ramble a bit in this post).

The Duke Brothers

Do you remember the movie Trading Places.  In the movie, the Duke brothers place a wager that they could turn a common criminal into an upstanding business success, and they could turn a fine-upstanding business success into a common criminal.  Here’s one Duke brother to the other (I think I’ve got the brothers speaking in the correct order):

Mortimer Duke to Randolph Duke:
I suppose you think Winthorpe… say if he were to lose his job, would resort to holding up people on the streets.

Randolph Duke to Mortimer Duke:
No, I don’t think that would be enough for Winthorpe.
We’d have to heap a little more misfortune on those narrow shoulders.
If he lost his job and his homeand his fiancée and his friends.
If he were somehow disgraced and arrested by the policeand thrown in jail, even.
Yes, I’m sure he’d take to crime like a fish to water.

By the way, it worked:  Billy Ray Valentine became the next Wall Street wonder, and Winthorpe took to crime pretty dramatically.

I occasionally think of this movie as I read the painful stories of the failures of our leaders, and our institutions.   Maybe life circumstances do lead some people to do wrong, criminal, evil deeds.  (Would you steal medicine for a son or daughter who desperately needed it, if that was the only way you could obtain it?)  But, as I remember from many years ago during a lawless riot in one inner city, one community leader put it this way:  “the poor must be moral too.”  And the rich, I might add.  And everyone else.

I just presented a book synopsis of the recent biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.  A theologian in Germany at the rise of Hitler, Bonhoeffer was “martyred” for his part in a failed attempt to kill Hitler (yes, he played a part in the Valkyrie plot).  He was “sent to America” to continue his writing and his speaking in safety, (so that he could continue to have influence), but, he heard a higher ethical calling:

I have come to the conclusion that I have made a mistake in coming to America.
I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people. They may have been right in urging me to do so; but I was wrong in going.

Bonhoeffer returned to Germany on the last steamer from America before the war, and ultimately was hanged just two weeks before his camp was liberated by the Americans — on what was certainly the direct order of Hitler himself.


A police officer really does need to live up to a high standard of moral and ethical behavior.  And I know, from experience with fine people involved, that the Dallas police Department takes seriously the ethical training of is leaders.  So the failure of even one hurts the entire organization (not to mention its reputation in the community).

When we have police officers who break the law, when we have superiors in a public hospital firing a social worker for standing up for what is right, when we have a player’s union asking for penalties to be overturned because the rules were not in effect yet (as though doing the right thing is dependent on the way the rules are written)… I think it is safe to say that there is an ethical vacuum throughout our society.

A fine MBA teacher who attends our First Friday Book Synopsis reminds me that this is not new.  This problem is as old as time itself, and no one has found a way to change human nature enough to change such a dark reality.

We could recite the ideas and proposed remedies:  more training in ethics, more oversight, and regulation, and coaching, and mentoring, and better discipline, and…

But here is at least one thing to think about.  Organizations are shaped, in very real ways, in the image of its top leader.  And the more that a top leader sets a clear vision, with an unblinking focus, the more chance that organization has to be shaped in the direction of that vision and focus.

And the more that an organization thinks that that such ethical matters will take care of themselves, the more that an organization decides that an occasional “cya” seminar on ethics is the approach to take to “solve” its ethical issue, the further the organization will fall away from a genuine and lasting ethical core.

In What Matters Now, Gary Hamel writes:

Values (matter now)  :
As trust has waned, the regulatory burden on business has grown. Reversing these trends will require nothing less than a moral renaissance in business.

“A moral renaissance in business.”  This implies that there was once a golden age in business, an age of good morals, an age of less greed, less skirting of the rules and boundaries of ethical concerns.

If only.

But I do think this.  We need a pretty serious effort by the genuine leaders, the ones at the top, to tackle this ongoing, multi-generational/multi-century crisis. With all of their vigor and vision and focus.

If anything trumps morals, ethics, values in an organization, it is a time for a new leader.  And until we get genuinely moral leaders, we will continue to read story after story of moral failure.


The Necessity of Constant Improvement & Innovation in an Insecure Business Era

Every business is successful until it’s not.  What’s disconcerting, though, is how often top management is surprised when “not” happens.
Gary Hamel, The Future of Management

What limits innovation in established companies isn’t a lack of resources or a shortage of human creativity, but dearth of pro- innovation processes.
Few organizations seem capable of proactive change. How do we explain this?  
I think the answer lies, in part, with the difficulty we have in identifying our deeply engrained habits.
Gary Hamel, What Matters Now


We are feeling a little insecure these days.

I think this insecurity is somewhat warranted.

No matter what business you are in, there is a (possibly unknown) competitor planning right now to take your customers away from you.  Someone, somewhere, is finding ways to do what you do cheaper, faster, more efficiently.  And that someone is figuring out ways to do so with a more simple and captivating design, or more simple and easy to use (i.e. better designed) processes.

The pace is breathtaking. Hamel again:  “are we changing as fast as the world around us?”

If you have a good idea, a good product, a good process, your job today is to ask “how do we make it even better?”  Be asking it now; keep asking it every day, every week.  In every meeting.

(And, have those meetings!  You only accomplish what you meet about).

Because someone is asking that question right now.  It’s much smarter for that someone to be you.

Two Questions for your Next Team Meeting – Where are we missing it? Where are we hitting it?

…successful products and strategies are quickly copied. Without relentless innovation, success is fleeting. …there’s not one company in a hundred that has made innovation everyone’s job, every day. 
In most organizations, innovation still happens “despite the system” rather than because of it.
…innovation is the only sustainable strategy for creating long-term value.
Gary Hamel, What Matters Now:  How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation


There is no debate…  it is an innovate or die era.  What worked yesterday will likely be surpassed by someone else’s product, or service, or process, tomorrow.  If you don’t make it better, someone else will.

Innovate, innovate, innovate.

But we are all so busy just doing our work that we don’t have time to think about doing it differently, better, in a new and more innovative way.

But if we don’t, we could be left behind.

Here are two questions to ask every week, in every meeting…actually, to ask almost every day.

Question #1 – Where are we missing it?

We are missing it.  I can assure you of that.  There is something we are doing, now, that isn’t quite right.  There is something that needs our attention, now.  What is that?  Identify it, tackle it, fix it.

Question #2 – Where are we hitting it?  Can we hit it even better? 

Be sure to applaud your best successes.  Celebrate them.  But then, go back to the game film, and ask, can we tweak this to make it even more amazing, more dominant?

Fixing what is wrong.  Making even better has is already quite good.

Innovate, innovate, tweak, fix, and innovate some more…

We’ve got our work cut out for us.

Take these two questions into your next team meeting, and the one after that, and the one after that…

Question #1 – Where are we missing it?
Question #2 – Where are we hitting it?  Can we hit it even better? 

Four Questions – My Takeaways from the book What Matters Now by Gary Hamel

I have now presented my 15 minute version of Gary Hamel’s new book, What Matters Now:  How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation at yesterday morning’s First Friday book Synopsis.  I look forward to one of my longer sessions with this book, where I can spend quite a bit more time on some of the points.

(explanation:  at the First Friday Book Synopsis, we present our synopses in 15 minutes.  It is very fast paced.  And then, frequently, companies or organizations hire us to present our synopses in longer sessions, which is where we have time to give the content a more complete “treatment.”  These presentations are useful in many ways:  leadership training and interaction; issues identification; strategy development sessions…)

For example, on Friday, I simply did not have time to talk about this great point:

Great design is less about genius than empathy—and it’s often the tiniest things that make the biggest difference to consumers.

I think empathy may be one of the traits most needed for business success.  With empathy, we listen better, we solve problems better…  we can meet the needs of our customers and our co-workers when we come from a place of genuine empathy.

The book What Matters Now covers little that is  “new.”  I’m not sure that I “learned” much that was new.  But the book does a terrific job reminding us of what is important, and then leading us to ask the right questions.  In fact, here are my four takeaways from the book, all in the form of questions. Have a go at these…  it will be worth your time.

(And, after you read the book, you might add your own takeaway questions).

#1.  What are your actual values?
Your organization is – and you; yes, you! are – values driven.  So, what are those values?  Answer that question honestly. The values you claim to follow may not be your actual values (i.e., the values that reveal themselves in your decision making and your actions).  What are your values – for you, and for your organization?
#2.  Where are you on the hierarchy of the human capabilities at work?  How can you, how do you help people move toward the summit – that top level, the level of passion?
#3.  Are you actually practicing continual innovation and adaptability?  Throughout your organization?  And in all aspects of your life, especially including your work life?  Have you actually embraced innovation and change?  How have you done so — what is your proof that you practice continual innovation?
#4.  Are you passionate about your work?
If passion matters (which it does), would your customers describe your employees as passionate employees – passionate about serving the needs of the customer with a product and/or service that makes a difference for the better?  And, would your customers, and your coworkers, describe you as passionate about the work you do?

I always try to figure out “just what should we do” after reading a good book.  One thing we can always do is to ask “what are the questions that we need to deal with regarding the issues addressed in this book?”.  Coming up with the questions is difficult work.  It’s even more challenging to answer them.


You can purchase my synopsis of What Matters Now, with audio + a comprehensive handout, soon on our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.  We have hundreds of book synopses available.  You really can sit down with handout in hand, listen to the audio, and learn significant content from the best business books of our era.  Nearly all of these are recorded at our First Friday Book Synopsis events.