How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking the 8 Hidden Barriers that Plague Even the Best Businesses

Overview

Companies make headline news all the time for decisions that make many of us scratch our heads in wonder, even companies that are smart and successful. Here, Neil Smith, with more than 20 years of experience leading large-scale performance improvements, reveals the hidden barriers that cause excellent companies to do dumb things, and smart people within companies to act in dumb ways.
 
Drawing on his experience working with and helping ...

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Overview

Companies make headline news all the time for decisions that make many of us scratch our heads in wonder, even companies that are smart and successful. Here, Neil Smith, with more than 20 years of experience leading large-scale performance improvements, reveals the hidden barriers that cause excellent companies to do dumb things, and smart people within companies to act in dumb ways.
 
Drawing on his experience working with and helping transform top global businesses, Smith has identified 8 barriers that prevent organizations from achieving and maintaining sustainable success. Rich with anecdotes and case studies, Smith outlines a fast and proven process in which 12 principles of business transformation can break down the barriers holding companies back. What Smith offers his readers is the same thing he offers every day to the major companies he works with, a promise that by following his insights, the company will be able to increase communication, simplicity, and profit to levels never before attainable.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

That successful companies don't do dumb things sounds like a no-brainer, but actually, this tautology is a post facto conclusion. The real crux question is how do these industry leaders avoid the mess-ups that lead many companies down the slide of mediocrity. In this memorable bullet point of a book, consultant Neil Smith ticks off the eight hidden barriers that many managers ignore while they are doing everything else right. Filled with tips, corrections, and anecdotes, How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things can help transform a dull business commute into a brain-stimulating session.

John Quelch
“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
Publishers Weekly
How many times have we read about a company’s decline or demise and the problem seemed so obvious that we wonder how management could have missed the signs? In his first book, consultant Smith, CEO of Promontory Growth and Innovation, suggests that many companies get derailed by “dumb things” because management fails to recognize obstacles or confront basic issues. Drawing on 20-plus years of consulting to top international companies, Smith pinpoints eight of the most common barriers that hold businesses back, including familiar concepts like poor time management, which can seem innocuous on a small scale but can cripple productivity if allowed to permeate the culture. Similarly, organizational silos, which plague many companies, prevent growth or productivity through competing priorities. Smith illustrates his points with examples from companies he’s worked with, as well as anecdotes from major corporations. 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. (June)
From the Publisher
"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

Library Journal
Veteran business consultant Smith reveals hidden barriers to innovation. According to Smith, every company is presented with opportunities that are never taken, and sometimes even ignored completely, as a result of communication failures or management problems, either personal or corporate. First, he focuses on eight common communication barriers, including hierarchical silos, inflexible existing systems, and breakdowns in decision-making processes. Chapters include real-world examples of how companies have recognized and eliminated these barriers and include commentary on psychological barriers by personality expert and organizational consultant Richard Levak. The second half explores how companies can further reduce barriers through corporate buy-ins, changing organizational psychology, and monitoring processes. Overall, the book provides readers with a clear understanding of how psychological hang-ups cause companies to operate at suboptimal levels. VERDICT While there's nothing radical in Smith's book, he provides a good reminder on how complacency slows growth. Recommended.—John Rodzvilla, Emerson Coll., Boston
Kirkus Reviews
Assisted by veteran business and leadership writer O'Connell, Smith (CEO of Promontory Growth and Innovation) offers his recipe for business success. The author's "secret sauce" is consensus building. This idea, along with many of the other ingredients in his concoction, is well known by now. The names might change, but the staples remain the same--reductions in the cost of running a business through layoffs and what used to be called speed-up. The author claims that his process is designed to encourage the emergence of ideas from all layers and participants. He uses the word "ideas" in a specific technical way that is quite different than its usual meaning. "Every idea will have a value--that is, the costs it saves or the revenues it generates," writes Smith. In this conception, ideas have a concrete financial value that can be quantified based on the risk level assumed in achieving payback of the costs of their implementation over time. Smith bases his system on the importance of undermining inertia and resistance to change; he claims to do this by identifying behavioral and structural "barriers" that have their roots in human nature. Preplanning and staffing is critical. Exposing the identified barriers and changing the burden of proof in internal discussions are among the ingredients that go into the preparation of the "secret sauce." Smith illustrates his ideas with a variety of interesting examples--e.g., a candy company saved money by reducing the types of chocolate it used; a shipping company eliminated left turns on truck routes and reduced accidents. Sometimes his methods can be painful but beneficial to a company--for example, he contends that the bottom five percent of programmers in tech companies can be considered a cost and usually let go. The author claims that his method will increase profits--and they likely will--but changes in corporate culture will be required to realize them.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611749953
  • Publisher: HighBridge Company
  • Publication date: 9/11/2012
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged; 6.75 hours
  • Pages: 405
  • Sales rank: 1,245,004
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

DAVE COURVOISIER is an Emmy-award-winning TV news journalist has been on the air for 20 years in Las Vegas, where he currently anchors the three main nightly newscasts at the CBS affiliate KLAS-TV. Dave began narrations and storytelling in earnest about six years ago (ask him, he’ll tell you exactly where Earnest is). In addition, Dave does voiceover work for many corporate clients, including Las Vegas Resorts, the EPA, and Homeland Security; and if you listen closely, you may also hear his friendly voice in some prominent airports.

NEIL SMITH, CEO of Promontory Growth, and Innovation (PGI), helps large corporations dramatically improve performance and profitability by growing revenues and innovatively reducing costs. His initiatives have helped increase profits at top companies by 20 percent or more.

PATRICIA O’CONNELL has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience in a variety of subjects, including business, leadership, and strategy, and is former Management Editor at BloombergBusinessweek.com.

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