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"If you believe (as I do) that 'leaders are made,' or more precisely, choose to lead and to develop their skills as leaders, then you will find Ram Charan's very practical book on the eight 'know-hows' that are the foundation for leadership performance and success a very worthwhile read."
–A.G. Lafley, chairman and CEO, Proctor & Gamble
"Ram Charan has hit the nail on-the-head by constructively linking personal attributes and business success. His is an important message at an important time for business leaders."
–James McNerney, Jr., chairman, president and CEO, The Boeing Company
"Ram Charan cuts through the fog and 'mystique of the leader' with bold, fresh insights into the real substance of business leadership. What is truly pathbreaking is Know-How's integration of the eight skills for running a business with the personal and psychological traits of the successful leader. It is the must-have book if you want to differentiate yourself from the pack."
–Bill Conaty, senior vice president, human resources, General Electric
"Uniquely Charan. Pactical, insightful, application-oriented and full of wisdom. Read it and then refer to i frequently to enrigh your career. A real treasure."
–Larry Bossidy, retired chairman and CEO of Honeywell International and co-author of Execution and Confronting Reality
"Know-How is the distilled wisdom of one of our era's most insightful business minds. How do you achieve great business performance? Ram Charan knows how."
–Geoffrey Colvin, editor-at-large, Fortune magazine
"What Peter Drucker's The Practice of Management and The Effective Executive were to the 20th century industrial age, Ram Charan's Know-How is to the 21st century global digital knowledge worker age. Brilliant, immensely practical and comprehensive- with almos self evident prophetic wisdom. But, as we all know, what is common sense is seldom common practice."
–Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The 8th Habit
"Know-How brings the complex subject of business leadership down to earth with practial advice on what you really need to know to run a business."
–Michael J. Critelli, chairman and CEO, Pitney Bowes
"Know-How puts to rest a lot of myths and false assumptions about the job of a leader. In a commonsense, practical way, it provides eight how-tos that are the foundation of leadership. Know-How is a breakthrough book for leaders and those who aspire to a leadership job."
–James M. Kilts, Centerview Partners, former chairman and CEO of Gillette
"Ram has an unparalleled track record of providing executives with compelling yet practical advice on how to succeed in tumultuous business environments. Know-How continues the tradition, defining in detail the performance factors that can give executives a competitive edge no matter how markets evolve."
–Ivan G. Seidenberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon
Let me illustrate the difference between having know-how—the real content of leadership—or not, using two situations I personally observed.
I’ve disguised the executives and the companies, but they are true stories that I witnessed. The stories center on two CEOs, Nick and Bill. Nick had all the traits commonly associated with leadership in abundance. He had an incredibly facile mind and high energy. He was highly articulate and decisive, and had the charm to make you feel like you’re the only one in the room. He was a financial wizard and an inspirational leader. Bill had many of those traits too, but he also had the know-how to go with them. Their stories are very different.
The board of the company Nick joined was worried. The company had for many decades been number one in its industry in America, but ten years previously it had been eclipsed by a competitor that had grown by leaps and bounds and had displaced it as the industry leader by a wide margin. The company had been losing market share to its growing rival for two main reasons. One was customer dissatisfaction and defection. The second was operational problems resulting in higher costs and negative cash flow. The two previous CEOs had failed miserably. Now the board was trying again. The best headhunter in the business was on the case, armed with a meticulously prepared list of the criteria a candidate would have to meet. This time the board was determined to get it right.
When Nick interviewed for the job, the board’s search committee recognized him as the company’s savior. He was extremely quick on his feet and accomplished, and had a commanding presence and was a great communicator. He had progressed swiftly through the ranks in his previous job, yet was humble and sincere. He had risen through finance and willingly admitted, when a board member asked, that it would be a stretch to learn operations and logistics, both of which were crucial to the business, and he promised to surround himself with top talent in those areas.
At age forty-four, Nick was energetic and fit. He also radiated an emotional maturity beyond his years. He was seen as a visionary, someone with the passion to revive the glory days of the company. He exuded confidence and was young enough to see the mission through to its conclusion. All the meticulous reference checking confirmed that his apparent strengths were real.
Wall Street was thrilled when the board announced Nick’s appointment. The business press rushed to do glowing profiles. Employees emerged with new energy after every rousing speech Nick made. What a relief; here, at last, was the CEO who would restore the company’s former luster.
True to his personality, Nick took hold of the company quickly and made some bold moves. He told the board, then publicly announced, that he intended to gain market share head-on from the company’s biggest competitor. Within a few weeks he replaced the homegrown president with the head of one of this competitor’s divisions, a reputed expert in operations and logistics. And he brought his longtime information technology consultant aboard to head the IT department and make radical changes to fix IT, an area in which the company’s chief competitor excelled by a wide margin.
It was exciting at first, but it wasn’t long before the accolades stopped. Nick’s former IT consultant, now his vice president of IT, had built her career giving companies advice about what they needed to do. She had never actually done it. She had no skills in motivating a group of very bright and independent technology experts and the IT overhaul soon lagged badly behind schedule. She had to return to Nick several times over the course of a year to ask for increases in the IT budget.
Meanwhile, the new president had been building a personal fiefdom, hiring many of his former colleagues from the competitor. Together they set out on an ambitious effort to win discounts from suppliers by buying in large lots. The idea was to get prices down to win back market share. Of course, the big competitor quickly countered the new strategy by discounting prices in select merchandise at locations strategic to Nick’s. The price discounts hurt the competitor’s profits a bit, but the competitor was so large that its targeted price cuts did not have a significant impact on its bottom line. It wasn’t long before Nick noticed that merchandise was beginning to pile up in the retail outlets. Over time some of those products became outdated and had to be marked down drastically, far below what it had cost the company to purchase them. Worse, the large purchases and inventory buildup sapped much-needed cash.
The company’s chief financial officer became increasingly concerned about the company’s cash position. He warned Nick several times that the president’s unchecked buying sprees were endangering the company’s survival. Cash was dwindling at an alarming rate and unless that trend were reversed—and soon—the company would be in default of its loan covenants. As the CFO’s warnings became increasingly shrill, Nick became increasingly irritated and finally told the CFO that he wasn’t supporting the company’s goals and would have to leave.
From the Hardcover edition.
Posted May 21, 2007
The author spends a chapter on each of the eight skills (know-hows) essential for effective leadership. While I found some of his anecdotes interesting, the book did not provide the source of insight that I was looking for. Many of the ideas are common sense, and are found in other business books. For example, in a discussion of a company (Thomson Corp), Charan discusses a couple of 2x2 matrices used for historical and prospective analysis. This is essentially the same tool popularized by BCG (Boston Consulting Group) from the 1970's. Perhaps the value in the book is putting the leadership traits/skills in a framework that is easily summarized and digested.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 31, 2007
Given the reality of the modern world, business schools and management training programs should offer a class called: 'Business Savvy 101: An Overview of Hidden Agendas, Power Struggles and Other Leadership Challenges.' Fortunately, Ram Charan offers a tutorial on that subject in this book. He provides excellent insights for aspiring executives and current leaders. Although parts of the text are repetitive, that fault is far outweighed by the value of Charan's concrete examples from brand-name companies. We recommend this book to readers at all levels of management who want to sharpen their leadership skills.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 24, 2009
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Posted March 13, 2009
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Posted January 25, 2010
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