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Know What You Don't Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen
 
 

Know What You Don't Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen [Kindle Edition]

Michael A. Roberto
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description

Product Description

Problems remain hidden in organizations for a number of reasons, including fear, organizational complexity, gatekeepers who insulate leaders from problems that are coming up, and finally, an overemphasis on formal analysis in place of intuition and observation. This book lays out the key skills and capabilities required to ensure that problems do not remain hidden in your organization. It explains how leaders can become effective problem finders, unearthing problems before they destroy an organization. The book explains how leaders can become an anthropologist, going out and observe how employees, customers, and suppliers actually behave. It then goes on to present how they can circumvent the gatekeepers, so they can go directly to the source to see and hear the raw data; hunt for patterns, including refining your individual and collective pattern recognition capability; "connect the dots" among issues that may initially seem unrelated, but in fact, have a great deal in common; give front-line employees training in a communication technique; encourage useful mistakes, including create a "Red Pencil Award"; and watch the game film, where leaders reflect systematically on their own organization's conduct and performance, as well as on the behavior and performance of competitors.

From the Back Cover

“Dr. Roberto has skillfully managed to blend in-depth research with his straightforward and enjoyable style and, in doing so, painted a masterpiece that should be considered by any institution or individual looking to detect or solve problems. Presenting cases and their lessons from multiple venues, he offers wisdom readily applicable to any arena.”

Duane Deal, Brigadier General, United States Air Force (Retired)

 

“Solving problems is one thing; finding them early enough to do something about it is quite another. In this entertaining book full of insight and examples, Michael Roberto provides managers with hands-on recommendations on how to avoid falling into decision-making traps by getting a step ahead.”

Sydney Finkelstein, Steven Roth Professor of Management, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and author of Why Smart Executives Fail and Think Again

 

“In typical style, Mike Roberto gets right to the heart of major challenges facing businesses in today’s rapidly changing landscape. He provides not only a burning platform for thinking differently, but also practical tools for busy leaders to implement following an ‘action learning’ approach.”

Jon Shepherd, Chief Learning Officer, Mars Inc.

 

In Know What You Don’t Know, best-selling author Michael Roberto shows leaders how to go beyond mere “problem solving” to uncover and address emerging problems while they’re still manageable–before they mushroom into disaster! Roberto first identifies the diverse, sometimes surprising reasons why problems typically fester in the shadows, ignored and unaddressed. Next, he systematically introduces seven powerful solutions. You’ll discover how to become a business “anthropologist,” observing how your employees, customers, and suppliers actually behave, not just how they’re “supposed” to behave. Roberto shows how and when to circumvent your gatekeepers to see crucial raw data...how to “connect the dots” among issues that seem unrelated, but are really signs of a deeper pattern...how to promote candor among front-line employees...encourage “useful” mistakes, and more. Along the way, Roberto offers powerful insights for overcoming the “isolation trap” so many senior executives face: the trap that can keep you assuming everything is fine, while your company’s problems are spiraling out of control!

 

• Watch your company’s “game film”–and your competitors’
Systematically understand how your company is really behaving and performing–and how you really match up

 

• Recognize the value of “small failures”
Use small problems as a window on your system–and a signal of possible weaknesses elsewhere

 

• Get beyond the numbers, to the reality
Discover why too much formal analysis can actually hide your problems–and start leveraging the value of intuition

 

• Become a true business “ethnographer”
Observe your people in their natural setting–and recognize what they’re not telling you


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 640 KB
  • Print Length: 225 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0131568159
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 5 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: FT Press; 1 edition (29 Jan 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001U5VJN6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #440,975 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Constructive look at problem finding 14 Jun 2010
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Sir Winston Churchill, Great Britain's intrepid prime minister during World War II, was an amazingly perceptive leader. He was one of the first to warn of the military threat Germany posed prior to both world wars. How did he know? He routinely sought out rank-and-file members of the British military and low-level English government bureaucrats to find the truth. In the same way, you should dig deeply into your organization for unbiased, accurate information so you can detect problems before they turn into disasters. In his case-filled, albeit pretty much one-note, book, management professor Michael A. Roberto explains why finding problems is harder than solving them. He shows how danger hidden beneath the surface can present the greatest peril to your company. getAbstract recommends Roberto's engaging book to managers at all levels. Spot those icebergs before they sink your business.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "It isn't that they can't see the solution. It's that they can't see the problem." 23 Mar 2009
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Michael Roberto cites this especially relevant observation by G.K. Chesterton as a head note to the first chapter of this immensely informative book in which he stresses the importance of mastering seven sets of skills and capabilities that are essential to effective problem-finding. Roberto makes the same key point (among several) in his previously published book, asserting that the most effective leaders are those who "cultivate constructive conflict so as to enhance the level of critical and divergent thinking, while simultaneously building consensus so as to facilitate the timely and efficient implementation of the choices that they make." He goes on to assert that "effective leaders can and should spend time `deciding how to decide.' In short, creating high-quality decision-making processes necessitates a good deal of forethought." Throughout Roberto's lively narrative, there is a strong recurring theme: "leaders must strive for a delicate balance of assertiveness and restraint." In this book, he explains, "I argue that leaders must become hunters who venture out in search of the problems that might lead to disaster" for their organizations. Consider what Peter Drucker observed in an article that appeared in the Harvard Business Review in 1963: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."

The title "Know What You Don't Know" has all manner of critically important implications. Here are three. First, it correctly suggests that identifying and then filling knowledge needs requires the same "level of critical and divergent thinking, while simultaneously building consensus" that the problem-solving process requires. And that consensus should be the result of rigorous scrutiny applied to a number of options even if (especially if) some seem counterintuitive and perhaps even contradictory. Only then will it be possible "to facilitate the timely and efficient implementation" of the choice(s) made. The title also correctly suggests that this process requires high-impact leadership, one that insists on both good will and principled disagreement throughout group discussion and consideration while maintaining "a delicate balance of assertiveness and restraint." High-impact leadership also serves as an example of seven critical skills and capabilities that are needed to ensure that problems do not remain hidden (more about them later), to discover "the bad news that typically does not surface until far too late." However, Roberto adds, becoming an effective problem-finder (a "detective") also requires a "different mindset," one that "begins with a certain level of intellectual curiosity, is based on systematic thinking, and meanwhile realize that "every organization, no matter how successful, has plenty of problems [and they] often lie beneath the surface, hidden from view." This is what Andrew Grove, former Intel chairman and CEO, had in mind when asserting that "only the paranoid survive."

With regard to the aforementioned seven critical skills and capabilities, Roberto devotes a separate chapter to each. Actually, I think that (only with minor revision) they could be viewed as strategies as well as skills and capabilities. The most effective problem finders must also be effective navigators and politicians, as the following correctly suggest:

1. Circumvent the "gatekeepers" (i.e. those who control filters and other barriers)
2. Become an ethnographer (observe carefully, ask questions, listen intently, etc.)
3. Hunt for patterns (e.g. identify verifiable causal relationships)
4. Connect the dots (
5. Encourage useful failures (i.e. those that are small, brief, inexpensive, and informative)
6. Teach how to talk and to listen (also when and why)
7. Watch the "game film" of past performance (make adjustments, practice deliberately)

Throughout his narrative, Roberto makes brilliant use of a reader-friendly device that consists of a check-list and brief discussion of key points. For example, reasons why problems remain hidden (Page 9), small problems and failures that can threaten an organization (Pages 19-20), why information filtering takes place (pages 31-34), how to circumvent the filters (Page 36), principles of effective observation (Page 64), seven key questions to use when testing assumptions (Page 85), types of leadership behavior that can encourage more effective treatment of information (Page 108), four ways suggested by Roger Martin (author of The Opposable Mind) to nurture and develop integrative thinking skills (Pages 113-114), how to assess a failure before, during, and after it occurs (Page 125-126), how to speak up more effectively (Page 154), and "Three Dimensions of a New Mindset" (Pages 189-193).

I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Roberto that organizations should commit at least as resources to encouraging, training, supporting, recognizing, and (yes) rewarding their Problem-Finders ("Detectives") as they do their Problem-Solvers ("Firefighters"). Of course both are needed. And both require leaders who demonstrate intellectual curiosity, adopt systematic thinking, and exhibit a healthy dose of paranoia. He goes on to point out, "They do not wait for problems to come to them. They behave much more proactively. They seek out problems. They embrace them...The very best leaders know that speed is critical. The earlier you discover a problem, the more likely you can contain the damage, and the more likely you can solve it readily. Most important of all, successful leaders do not see problems as threats. They see every problem as an opportunity to learn and improve."

Why must the "great leaders" to which this brilliant book's title refers be developed at all levels and in all areas of every organization, whatever its size and nature may be? Problems are equal-opportunity troublemakers. Just as minor scratches can become major infections if ignored or neglected, minor problems can become major disasters unless they are discovered and solved as quickly as possible.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Constructive look at problem finding 14 Jun 2010
By Rolf Dobelli - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Sir Winston Churchill, Great Britain's intrepid prime minister during World War II, was an amazingly perceptive leader. He was one of the first to warn of the military threat Germany posed prior to both world wars. How did he know? He routinely sought out rank-and-file members of the British military and low-level English government bureaucrats to find the truth. In the same way, you should dig deeply into your organization for unbiased, accurate information so you can detect problems before they turn into disasters. In his case-filled, albeit pretty much one-note, book, management professor Michael A. Roberto explains why finding problems is harder than solving them. He shows how danger hidden beneath the surface can present the greatest peril to your company. getAbstract recommends Roberto's engaging book to managers at all levels. Spot those icebergs before they sink your business.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How to become an effective problem finder 4 Aug 2011
By John Gibbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Leaders need to become hunters who venture out in search of the problems that might lead to disaster for their firms; they cannot wait for the problems to come to them, according to Michael Roberts in this book. Unfortunately most business schools teach students how to solve pre-defined problems rather than how to search out the problems in the first place.

According to the author, there are seven critical skills which must be mastered in order to someone to become an effective problem finder:

* Circumvent the filters which prevent you from receiving accurate information, particularly bad news
* Observe how groups of people behave in their natural settings
* Search for and identify patterns
* Connect the dots amongst seemingly disparate bits of information
* Encourage people to take risks and learn from their mistakes
* Refine your communication skills
* Become adept at review and reflection

The book is based on almost 150 interviews with CEOs, business unit leaders and staff executives of small and large enterprises, relating to successes, failures and efforts to prevent failures from taking place. In my view there is nothing particularly surprising about the author's findings or the seven critical skills which he has identified, but perhaps that is because it is fundamentally impossible to reduce the skill of finding previously unidentified problems to a science.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical and provocative 21 Jun 2009
By BSBAz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Drawing on examples as varied as the 9-11 tragedy and Anne Mulcahy's leadership at Xerox, Roberto explains why leaders need to be not only great problem-solvers but also problem finders. He describes the common reasons why leaders often miss seeing problems until a crisis occurs. He then offers seven practical methods of problem finding that any leader, manager or business owner can apply. An easy, fast and interesting read that will pay real dividends.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the leader that is faint at heart, a dictator, or ego-maniac. 3 Jan 2011
By Eric van der Meulen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book explains why it is much smarter to be focused on problem-finding, than problem-solving. Implementing this approach means a cultural revolution in most companies I know. The idea is that if you can catch and address issues when they have just emerged, and not swiped under the rug yet, they are manageable. Illustrated with many examples and based on academic research, this is an engaging and refreshing presentation of seven critical skill sets that could make a life or death difference in your business. Much of this is applicable to project management as well. For example, there is a short list of key questions in the "Hunt for patterns" chapter that will help you scrutinize assumptions. Question 6: How would our conclusions change if each of our key assumptions proves incorrect? If you are ready to challenge your view of the reality around you, and think you can handle surprises, this book will be a delight.
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Sixth, you must refine your own and your organization’s communication skills. &quote;
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Small problems often precede catastrophes. In fact, most large-scale failures result from a series of small errors and failures, rather than a single root cause. These small problems often cascade to create a catastrophe. &quote;
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