Right things

πόλλ' οἶδ' ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ' ἐχῖνος ἓν μέγα

The above ancient Greek text translates as "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."  A surprising number of fables and modern stories have been inspired by this bit of text attributed to Archilochus.  Jim Collins even included a version of one in his book Good to Great. Collins explains it this way:
“Picture two animals: a fox and a hedgehog. Which are you? An ancient Greek parable distinguishes between foxes, which know many small things, and hedgehogs, which know one big thing. All good-to-great leaders, it turns out, are hedgehogs. They know how to simplify a complex world into a single, organizing idea—the kind of basic principle that unifies, organizes, and guides all decisions. That’s not to say hedgehogs are simplistic. Like great thinkers, who take complexities and boil them down into simple, yet profound, ideas (Adam Smith and the invisible hand, Darwin and evolution), leaders of good-to-great companies develop a Hedgehog Concept that is simple but that reflects penetrating insight and deep understanding.”
The wily fox in chase or being chased uses a complex web of tactics and strategies to counter obstacles or challenges. Sometimes he succeeds and sometimes he doesn’t. The determined hedgehog, on the other hand, has one superior advantage in the world, his spiny needles. His goal may appear simple, with his superior advantage he perseveres against every foe. The fox is an opportunist and pounces from opportunity to opportunity—never gaining the clarifying advantage of superiority.

A good friend of mine, Tom Trebing, and a mentor to fresh entrepreneurs, tells (or re-tells) the story this way:
“A fox and a hedgehog were strolling through a country path.  Periodically, they were threatened by hungry wolves.  The fox — being blessed with smarts, speed, and agility — would lead packs of wolves on a wild chase through the fields and over hill and dale. Eventually the fox would return to the path, breathless but having lost the wolves and continue walking. The hedgehog, being endowed with a coat of spikes, simply hunkered down on its haunches when menaced by the wolves and fended them off without moving. When they gave up, he would return to his stroll unperturbed. The crafty cunning fox devises many strategies. The persistent hedgehog knows one effective strategy—i.e.—the fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one GREAT thing.”  
Let me try expanding concept using The Language of Excellence. The essence of excellence in leadership is the concept of Management Candy, M&M’s—doing the main things with the minimum resources necessary to achieve the objective. Great companies succeed because they practice Management Candy. They also have clarity of a mission.  In the choice between the Doing the Right Thing and Doing Things Right they have chosen the Right Thing.

Simply put, great companies have chosen the right thing (their superior advantage), and they have stuck to it like glue!

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For signed copies of books by Tom Collins, go to the TomCollinsAuthor.com. Unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio edition of The Claret Murders go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. Ebook editions are also available through Apple iTunes’ iBooks Store and Smashwords.com.
Published by I-65 North, Inc.

Destination Is More Important Than Transportation

Which is more important—where you are going or how you get there?
To put it in business-speak terms: which is most important “Doing the Right Things” vs. “Doing Things Right.”

Execution is everything! I ran into this again last night. An “expert” was expounding on the virtues of “execution” as the reason behind the success of every great business.

If execution is everything, then great managers could make any bad idea (or destination) a success. It isn’t, and they can’t. Bad execution can rob one of their successes. It can lower results from what is profitable. However, being in the right place at the right time pursuing the right idea rules the day. "Getting the right people on the bus” may be the way to go from “Good to Great,” but having the right bus to start with is pretty darn important.

The issue of “Right Things” vs. “Things Right” gets to the core difference between leadership and management. There is a definite difference. Many leaders are not good managers—if, by management, we mean masters of execution. Leadership has more to do with being in the right place at the right time with the right idea and then, of course, getting people to believe the vision.

While there is a tendency of management experts to attribute the qualities of “doing things right” to organizations that achieve great success, most achieved that success by having done the “right things.” Unfortunately, time catches up with us. Once others begin to imitate such success, execution becomes the important differentiating factor. “Right thing” leaders like IBM, Federal Express, and eventually even Microsoft fall prey to the imitator with superior execution.

Perhaps the best summary is that Leadership (doing the right things—picking the right destination) is essential for achieving success. Management (doing things right) is required to stay successful.

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For more insight into the mystery of Leadership, read The Language of Excellence now available in print and eBook formats.

Tom Collins’s works include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels, Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer, and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. Unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio editon of The Claret Murders, go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.

90 Degrees North

North, the North Star, true north—these are symbols for the pursuit of opportunity.  The North Star has guided those in search of new horizons; north is the important point on a compass.  North conveys a sense of upward direction or momentum.  90 Degrees north defines the mindset of the excellent manager—they have an opportunity focus.  They are headed north—not south, east, or west.  They are not focused on problems or on risks—but on opportunities.
This is extraordinarily important to understand.  I have heard Presidential candidates who define themselves as problem solvers.  I have interviewed many C-level job candidates quick to say “I’m a problem solver.”  Those that did didn’t get the job.  The thing about problems is when you solve one there is always another waiting in the wings.  The team of the Excellent Company focuses on opportunities and problems get solved as a byproduct.  Their attitude about problems is that not all problems need to be solved and, of those that do, not all of them need to be solved by you.  Where are resources better spent?  Solving problems or pursuing opportunities?

That is not to say that there aren’t problems that have to be solved.  When they arise, look carefully for opportunities that often masquerade as problems or what the problems are a symptom of.  If the problems must be tackled directly, don’t treat the symptoms, define the problem, and solve it once and for all.
The distinction between opportunities and problems is related to Effectiveness vs. Efficiency.  Effectiveness is doing the right things.  Efficiency is doing things right.  Right things come down on the opportunity side of the ledger.  Problems are usually related to not doing things right.  Which is more important?  Doing the right things.  Recognizing and targeting the right opportunity, identifying the main thing success depends on, and adopting the right strategy— these are the things that give enterprises the chance to succeed.  Right things open the door; efficiency improves success but cannot create the chance for success. 
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