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How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking the 8 Hidden Barriers that Plague Even the Best Businesses by [Smith, Neil, O'Connell, Patricia]
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How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking the 8 Hidden Barriers that Plague Even the Best Businesses Kindle Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Length: 241 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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"Neil Smith has helped create incalculable shareholder value and customer loyalty for companies across America and around the world with one 'radical' idea: Our own employees know where the barriers to success are, and they know how to break them down so the CEO and the management teams can drive the vision and strategy we set for our companies." - Brian T. Moynihan, chief executive officer, Bank of America Corporation

"This exciting book, How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things, provides an in-depth look at the structural and behavioral barriers that keep organizations from outstanding performance, and offers a clear set of principles to get on track. Neil Smith's brilliant insights into removing these barriers and empowering employees to produce creative ideas are a must-read for managers everywhere." - Bill George, professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School, former chairman & CEO of Medtronic, Inc. and author of True North

"Neil Smith makes "A Promise" for transforming your organization, and I can attest from his work with us at NYSE Euronext that he delivers. In this book, he outlines the process by which any company can become more efficient and profitable while reducing complexity. It is a must-read for any company that wants to improve its performance and for any manager who is serious about adding value to their organization." - Duncan Niederauer, chief executive officer, NYSE Euronext

"This book provides a practical, common sense guide to the main stumbling blocks facing business leaders and how to deal with them."- John Quelch, dean of China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), Shanghai

"A top-notch consultant reveals his secret sauce! Crisply reasoned and crisply written, this book is a virtual how-to-do-it manual for improving your company. If it doesn't give you dozens of good ideas, you haven't read it." - Alan Blinder, Gordon S. Rentschler Memorial professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University and co-author of Economics: Principles and Policy

"This book is a great gift to leaders facing the 8 barriers because it underscores how critical it is to engage employees across the entire organization. Dumb things, goodbye! " - Frances Hesselbein, president and chief executive officer of Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute, former chief executive officer, Girl Scouts of the USA and author of My Life in Leadership

"A helpful reminder on how lack of oversight on even commonplace issues can interfere with an enterprise's productivity and success, this work will appeal to managers and leaders alike." - Publishers Weekly

"Neil Smith provides brilliant insights and great practical advice, based on his global expertise in helping excellent companies challenge the status quo and improve performance. Move this book to the top of your inbox." - Martin Sullivan, deputy chairman of Willis Group Holdings PLC and chairman and CEO of Willis Global Solutions

Book Description

A corporate manifesto that helps companies break down the barriers that prevent their success

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 798 KB
  • Print Length: 241 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (5 Jun. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007XSN48M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,098,274 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Kindle Edition
As usual I received this book for free in exchange for a review. This time it was from LibraryThing but I will give my scrupulously honest review below.

The nutshell view of this book is pretty simple. It outlines 8 ways that companies screw up and cost themselves money. Each of the sections is laid out in more or less this format:

1. Some personal anecdote from the author about this problem as he's seen it in the field.

2. Examples of the problem at companies the author has worked for.

3. Specifics on how to determine if you have this problem

4. What to do about the problem once you find it

5. A summary

The book outlines 8 problems ("barriers") but really they boil down to a handful of core problems

1. Poor communication between managers/managed or between departments

2. Failure to think properly about the scale of problems when coming to a resolution or do proper analysis.

3. Unwillingness to change the status quo, "we've always done it THIS way"

Every "barrier" described is a corollary of one of those three things.

On the positive side, the text is very readable and the author brings things to light in a detailed and relatable way. He doesn't just preach from the hilltop, he gives candid examples of these problems as he's seen them in the field. Having worked in a few companies over the years I've seen every one of them in action and he's spot on with his descriptions.

To the negative, it does seem things are rather padded. As I noted the book numbers '8' barriers but really they're pretty closely related to each other. None of this is ground-breaking new material either.
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Format: Hardcover
With Patricia O'Connell, Neil Smith has written an exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking book. Whereas in Sydney Finkelstein's book, Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes, the focus is on the performance of individuals, Smith focuses on lessons to be learned from excellent companies whose employees generally (but not always) avoid or overcome hidden (albeit "natural") barriers. These barriers, "individually and collectively, can prevent employees from taking actions that are in the best interests if the given company. In short, the barriers are the reason the company does dumb things, not the employees themselves."

Smith devotes a separate chapter to each of the barriers (Chapters 1-8) and then shifts his attention in Chapter 9 to "Twelve Principles for Breaking Barriers" and provides "A 100-Day Process for Breaking Barriers" in Chapter 11. I commend Smith on his skillful use of two reader-friendly devices at the conclusion of each of the first eight chapters: "Barrier in Brief" (Takeaway and Solution) and "Look at Your Organization" (Inaccurate Information and Bad Assumptions). Also, throughout his narrative, Smith also provides five mini-commentaries contributed by Richard Levak: "Why People Avoid Controversy" (Pages 22-25), "Why People Procrastinate" (38-40), "Why People Are Reluctant to Change" (50-52), "What's Behind Management Blockers?" (85-87), and "How to Change Corporate Culture" (209-212).

As I worked my way through this book, I was reminded of passages from two recently published books.
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Format: Hardcover
"You are therefore greatly mistaken." -- Mark 12:27 (NKJV)

Please be aware that the title of this book is a little misleading. It's not a study of best practices by a selected group of "excellent" companies such as Good to Great. Instead, How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things portrays the lessons learned by author Neil Smith in conducting his firm's consulting practice in helping companies to identify and apply more of their own understandings of what and how to improve. Some may find the book simply a long sales pitch. Having observed two somewhat similar efforts (one inside and one outside) of Fortune 200 companies, I found the information to fit well with what I learned during those activities.

The book's basic premise is that normal human concerns, organizational structures, lack of processes for making improvements in certain areas, and frictions between people lead to companies wasting a lot of time, money, and effort. Without making a direct approach to finding opportunities to change, the same old dumb practices may continue for decades.

The barriers that have to be overcome are described as: avoiding controversy, poor use of time, reluctance to change, organizational silos, management blockers, incorrect information and bad assumptions, ignoring scale effects, and existing processes. In some cases, these are primarily the symptoms of the problem, which actually rest in human psychology. The book draws on Dr. Richard Levak to comment on the psychological aspects of the problems. Each barrier description contained a few examples from Mr. Smith's practice at Promontory Growth and Innovation (PGI). I found those examples to be quite well chosen and aptly described.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars 23 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 9 Oct. 2015
By Patriot - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The audio version is wonderful!
0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This was a gift~ 17 July 2012
By JTRB - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a gift - so I am not really all that sure how to rate it (hence the 3 stars for now). It was recommended by a friend and I hope that its recipient enjoyed it. It was delivered on time and was in good condition.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to overcome the major (hidden) barriers to a "goldmine" of resources and opportunities within your organization 7 Jun. 2012
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
With Patricia O'Connell, Neil Smith has written an exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking book. Whereas in Sydney Finkelstein's book, Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes, the focus is on the performance of individuals, Smith focuses on lessons to be learned from excellent companies whose employees generally (but not always) avoid or overcome hidden (albeit "natural") barriers. These barriers, "individually and collectively, can prevent employees from taking actions that are in the best interests if the given company. In short, the barriers are the reason the company does dumb things, not the employees themselves."

Smith devotes a separate chapter to each of the barriers (Chapters 1-8) and then shifts his attention in Chapter 9 to "Twelve Principles for Breaking Barriers" and provides "A 100-Day Process for Breaking Barriers" in Chapter 11. I commend Smith on his skillful use of two reader-friendly devices at the conclusion of each of the first eight chapters: "Barrier in Brief" (Takeaway and Solution) and "Look at Your Organization" (Inaccurate Information and Bad Assumptions). Also, throughout his narrative, Smith also provides five mini-commentaries contributed by Richard Levak: "Why People Avoid Controversy" (Pages 22-25), "Why People Procrastinate" (38-40), "Why People Are Reluctant to Change" (50-52), "What's Behind Management Blockers?" (85-87), and "How to Change Corporate Culture" (209-212).

As I worked my way through this book, I was reminded of passages from two recently published books. First, from Judgment Calls: Twelve Stories of Big Decisions and the Teams That Got Them Right in which Thomas Davenport and Brooke Manville explain how and why decisions made by a Great Organization tend to be much better than those made by a Great Leader. Why? While conducting rigorous and extensive research over a period of many years, they discovered - as Laurence Prusak notes in the Foreword -- "that no one was looking into the workings of what we term [begin italics] organizational judgment [end italics] - the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader's direct control."

Organizational judgment must not only be discerned but also managed. And precautions should be taken to ensure, as Prusak notes, "that the courses of action taken by organizations are more grounded in reality and a shared sense of what is right." In recent years, the rapid emergence and development of social media enable organizations to become even more grounded in what has become an expanded reality. Only through an open and inclusive collaborative process can the use of social media enable any organization to tap the collective genius of its stakeholder constituencies.

In his latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure, Paul J. H. Schoemaker asserts, "The key question companies need to address is not `[begin italics] Should [end italics] we make mistakes?' but rather `[begin italics] Which [end italics] mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'"

Excellent companies achieve and then sustain success with sound collective judgment, their management calls. Meanwhile, as Schoemaker correctly suggests, their leaders view mistakes as (potentially) valuable assets, not as "failures." Schoemaker notes that one CEO obtained some empty L'eggs pantyhose plastic eggs, sprayed them with gold paint, and used them when awarding the "best mistake of the month." That is, the mistake from which the most valuable information was obtained. As Thomas Edison never missed an opportunity to point out, understanding what doesn't work is critically important to determining what does.

What Smith offers in this book is a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective process by which almost any organization (whatever its size and nature may be) can achieve its strategic objectives. How? By avoiding or overcoming "hidden" or at least unrecognized barriers such as the eight on which Neil Smith focuses. I agree with him that most organizations already possess most of what they need to succeed. It remains for their leaders to locate the "goldmine," then allocate appropriately and supervise effectively its precious resources.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insights into a major problem 25 May 2014
By Barbara girga - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
How Excellent Companies avoid Dumb Things by Neil Smith lists 8 hidden barriers that plagues even the best of businesses. Barrier One: avoiding controversy, was especially interesting to me. I treated many employees in my counseling career field whom had anger at not being able to deal with the conflicts in their office. Denial and rationalization were key issues that the supervisors would use to avoid conflict. They would let up to the employees to 'work it out'. No business was being done to make the company a better work place; energy was spent on surviving the supervisor's lack of dealing with the problem.

Author Smith lists twelve principles for breaking these 8 barriers, a 100-day process to follow and the results to expect. Empowering employees to produce creative ideas is the basis for this book,and I recommend it to all managers and leaders.This is an in-depth look at the structural and behavioral barriers that keep your organization from outstanding performance, and offers a clear set of principles to get back on track. Tthe authors insights are a must read for managers everywhere.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful book with concrete suggestions 7 Jun. 2012
By Lionslurking - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you were running a company of say 5,000 employees and someone offered to work with some of your senior managers over the next 100 days and at the end of that time, your company's net income would be increased by 20% of more, and your employees felt empowered and you eliminated silos and bureaucracy, would you be interested??

Read the book---Neil Smith lays out very clear examples of what makes his process work---it's amazingly simple and compelling.
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