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Friday, November 8, 2013

No Steve, Jack or Bill, just The Caterpillar Way

How many companies get Leadership right? Do you always have to have that charismatic leader that makes us think about them before the company? Tomorrow’s podcast is with Craig Bouchard, author of the book, The Caterpillar Way: Lessons in Leadership, Growth, and Shareholder Value. If you know my legacy a bit, you understand the high degree of interest.

An excerpt from the podcast:

Joe: What struck me about the book more than anything else is that there was not a Jack Welch, a Steve Jobs, or a Bill Gates. It was a credit to the entire Cat organization. Was that true? Is that how Cat is?

Craig Bouchard:  I really confess. It's incredibly true. I've been the CEO for a couple of companies. I'm the CEO of Signature Group, a public company right now, in a great company. But in the case of Caterpillar, I've never seen such a large group of people so thoroughly dedicated in increasing their revenues and decreasing their expenses as a team - which is kind of simple - but what I'm trying to say is that it's rare in real experience. That company is really - everybody is on the same page and that's a management feat of course that they've accomplished that.

Joe: Yes it's a huge management feat but not to have that person out there waving the flag just amazes me.

Craig:  Yes and when I look at Cat is and the most remarkable thing going back to the 80's. They had basically six incredibly large complicated decisions to change the company during this past thirty years. Six times, they turned the entire place upside-down strategically requiring such a flexibility of their management and their workforce - it's just really remarkable and each one of those decisions could have turned into a disaster and each one like them have turned into disaster for other companies, and Caterpillar went six-for-six. Basically with four different Chief Executive Officers through that time period responsible for those six decisions. Not only did they go six-for-six in decisions, they managed to get it right who was the right person to implement and come up with an implementation for each of them. This kind of a record is almost unheard of in terms of these types of gigantic decisions were implemented.

Joe: Did the CEOs get picked based on the needed initiative, or because they were good at, or did it happen because they were at that?

Craig:  We talked about that a little bit in the book. How much of it is luck and how much of it is that the board of directors, they had at the time, picked the right guy for the right job in the challenges that existed at that time. Between Donald Fites, Glen Barton, James Owen, Doug Oberhelman and George Schaefer before, these five guys are very different people with different skill sets. In whatever way that it was accomplished with the board of directors at Caterpillar and its succession planning is a very determined and thorough process in the company. To put in place the right person at the right time in those challenges during those thirty years and my conclusion because they got it right five times in a row - it is not luck.

About Craig Brouchard ( Entrepreneur, writer, art collector, great father and pretty good husband. Crafted the first and only "hostile reverse tender merger" ever successfully completed on Wall St and founded two public companies; Esmark and Shale-Inland.

  • 2013 - Founded Cambelle-Inland, named for my daughter Cambelle
  • 2010 - Founded Shale-Inland, named for my daughter Shale, now public in the bond markets (A3)
  • 2003 - Founded Esmark Inc., the highest appreciating stock on Nasdaq for the full year 2008

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Improving Interactions through the Lean Value Chain

Making products fly involves more than just the development team. So how do we involve, interact and improve with the non software parts of the value chain? Let Mattias Skarin walk through lean techniques and thinking that helps drive improvements across organizational borders.  Mattius is one of thought leaders of the Kanban Movement and is speaking at the upcoming Lean Kanban Central Europe Conference (It is in Hamburg, Germany, Nov 4-5, 2013). He is speaking about: Improving the full value chain & Visualization – What‘s my brain got to do with it? (Lightning Talk)

Mattias Skarin works as a Lean and Kanban coach, building systems that enables you to cut time to market and improve quality. He has helped several software teams deliver with confidence, scaled Scrum over multiple teams (cutting game cycle time from 24 months to 4) and improved life at operations using Kanban. He is an author of the book, Kanban and Scrum – making the most of both, and regularly train and coach in Lean, Kanban and TDD. He blogs on and the blog has one of the best set of sample Kanban boards on the planet.


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Lean Sales and Marketing: Learn about using CAP-Do

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our Decisions Need to be Co-created

When we approach sales we typically think of how we will address the customer’s problem. What needs we need to address and how we will do this in an engaging way? We are in The Experience Economy says authors Pine and Gilmore. Though many of us dwell on the Experience Economy, I think we are moving past that at an accelerated rate. This movement has its foundation in Service Dominant Logic, where the fundamental belief is that value is co-created with customers. The value is in the use of the product or service. This type of thinking is awkward to many organizations. In my latest book CAP-Do: Connecting Demand to the Lean Supply Chain, I begin the journey discussing sales and marketing from a perspective of being systemic, emergent, and participatory.

My latest thinking has been a result of spending time with stakeholder and customer journey maps and building user personas. These processes have assisted me moving from inside-out thinking to an outside –in perspective. It also helped my clients build better customer experiences. What I realized working with customers was that many of common problems they encountered became rather standard to deal with and many even automated. When we addressed sales issues we found a striking number as either straight-forward or responding to “opportunities” we had little chance of winning. If you would like more information on my sales perspective, read the blog post, Lean Salespeople are Challengers, not Problem Solvers.

The world of sales is on the edge of a collaborative way of selling. We no longer can just sell to a customer; we have to understand our customers’ business and our customers’ customer’s business. This can be done through scenario planning and from a perspective of being systemic, emergent, and participatory or The Cap-Do process.

From the book ' target=_blank>' target=_blank>' target=_blank>' target=_blank>Solving Tough Problems, author Adam Kahane classifies problems. His definitions: 

  • A problem has low dynamic complexity if cause and effect are close together in space and time.
  • A problem has high dynamic complexity if cause and effect are far apart in space and time.


  • A problem has low generative complexity if its future is familiar and predictable.
  • A problem has high generative complexity if its future is unfamiliar and unpredictable.


  • A problem has low social complexity if the people who are part of the problem have common assumptions, values, rationales, and objectives.
  • A problem has high social complexity if the people involved look at things differently.

When any of the problems exist that are coded in red, they are fairly simple problems to address and most organizations know the answers and their preferred vendors. They may make a decision with preferred vendors or research other vendors just to confirm their decision (The dreaded request for proposal we often receive).

The other set of problems, not in red, we struggle with as organizations. They are often described as messy or wicked problems.  The latest inbound marketing programs that are “social” in nature fail to deliver. They are simply built from our old thinking of a marketing funnel, responders, and workflows. We guide and manipulate the customer down some arbitrary path to arrive at the correct (our) decision.

As Kahane says,

Simple problems, with low complexity, can be solved perfectly well—efficiency and effectively—using processes that are piecemeal, backward looking, and authoritarian. By contrast, highly complex problems can only be solved using processes that are systemic, emergent, and participatory.

We as an organization do not have solutions to problems of high generative complexity. They cannot be calculated in advance, in a journey map, based on our past thinking, but have to be worked out as the situation unfolds. Seldom are they miraculously worked out by “single experts” but rather by a team of highly involved people. A coalition or a team made up of customer(s) and vendor(s)  must accept the fact that there is not one right answer. It must emerge from doing or working towards the problem. Just as value is co-created in use our decisions need to be co-created.

We always equated the experience economy to a theater with actors being the customer facing people, the back stage the supporting cast and the audience the customer. I think that is a broken metaphor. A better metaphor may be a race team where the product/service is the car, and the driver (customer) is using it. The pit crew (vendor) is in constant communication and in support of its use. There is no backstage, we are completely transparent and, in fact, the customer’s own support might be part of the pit crew.

Do you have an analogy that might work?