Robert I. Sutton & Huggy Rao: Scaling Up Excellence

14 April 2017 | Scaling Up Excellence by Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao is recommended by Mike Ducker when he was asked about the way and the practice of growing a firm which has  its innovative product welcome by local markets and some early individual investors put money in. The founder of the firm has had experience in running successful business in national market. With the new firm, the founder is entering global market.

There are many business examples in this book. Those examples provide numerous practical suggestions while making it more challenging to get the points.

 Preface: The Problem of More
Challenge that confronts every leader and organization—spreading constructive beliefs and behavior from the few to the many.

The Problem of More: Executives could always point to pockets in their organizations where people were doing a great job of uncovering and meeting customer needs. There was always some excellence—there just wasn’t enough of it. What drove them crazy, kept them up at night, and devoured their workdays was the difficulty of spreading that excellence to more people and more places.

Sutton & Rao spent 7 years on addressing the Problem and their result is this book.

Although the details and daily dramas vary wildly from place to place, the similarities among scaling challenges are more important than the differences. There are four lessons they learned in the journey.

Lesson #1. Scaling well hinges on making the right trade-offs between mandating that new people and places become perfect clones of some original model (a “Catholic” approach) versus encouraging local variation, experimentation, and customization (a “Buddhist” approach).

Lesson #2. Scaling entails more than the Problem of More.  This four-word phrase is incomplete and takes people down the wrong path when they act as if they have something so wonderful that their only chore is to spread that perfection far and wide. Replication and repeatability will always be part of the scaling equation. Yet effective scaling isn’t simply a matter of running up the numbers by replicating the same old magic again and again. It isn’t enough to keep stamping out perfect clones of some original and idealized founding team, franchise, plant, quality effort, innovation process, charter school, or social services program.

Rather, the problem tackled here is one of both more and better.

Scaling well requires never leaving well enough alone. It means constantly seeking and implementing better ways of thinking and acting across old and new corners of the system.

Lesson #3. People who are adept at scaling excellence talk and act as if they are knee-deep in a manageable mess. They believe that by considering the right decisions, following the right principles, and drawing on their skill and common sense, they will have some control over their collective fate and be able to crank up their odds of success. Yet at the same time they realize that scaling is so complex and fraught with uncertainty that there will always be stretches when they are pummeled with unpredictable and unpleasant events, when frustration and confusion reign, and when the stench of failure is in the air. The best leaders and scaling teams muddle through—and even revel in—these inevitable moments and months of messiness.

David Kelley, founding CEO and chair of IDEO: “Life is messy sometimes. Sometimes the best you can do is to accept that it is messy, try to love it as much as you can, and move forward.”

Lesson #4. Scaling starts and ends with individuals— success depends on the will and skill of people at every level of an organization. It isn’t just something that senior executives need to worry about and understand. Sure, many scaling efforts start with those at the top. But it is impossible to spread excellence without the zeal, efforts, and imagination of people throughout an organization.

Former Procter & Gamble executive Claudia Kotchka: “Start with yourself, where you are right now, and with what you have and can get right now.”

I. Setting the Stage

Chapter 1. It’s a Ground War, Not Just an Air War: Going Slower to Scale Faster (and Better)

Every allegedly easy and speedy scaling success turned out to be one we just hadn’t understood very well. Scaling requires grinding it out, and pressing each person, team, group, division, or organization to make one small change after another in what they believe, feel, or do.

When big organizations scale well, they focus 8on “moving a thousand people forward a foot at a time, rather than moving one person forward by a thousand feet.”

This kind of discipline is equally important in small and young organizations.

This kind of determination and discipline also defines people who spread excellence from the bottom or middle of organizations.

Grit drives people to succeed, especially when they face daunting and prolonged challenges— a hallmark of every scaling effort.

1. Spread a Mindset, Not Just a Footprint
Running up the numbers and putting your logo on as many people and places as possible isn’t enough.

Scaling unfolds with less friction and more consistency when the people propelling it agree on what is right and wrong— and on what to pay attention to and what to ignore. Effective scaling depends on believing and living a shared mindset throughout your group, division, or organization.

The best mindsets provide useful guidance, but applying them to every case is a recipe for trouble. Sometimes it is wise to ignore or reverse even your most sacred beliefs.

2. Engage all the senses.
Mindsets are spread and sustained by subtle cues that activate all the senses.

Bolster the mindset you want to spread with supportive sights, sounds, smells, and other subtle cues that people may barely notice, if at all.

3. Link short-term realities to long-term dreams.
Hound yourself and others with questions about what it takes to link the never-ending now to the sweet dreams you hope to realize later.

Bill Campbell at the Stanford Directors’ College: “The most crucial skill for a senior executive is the rare ability to  make sure that the short-term stuff gets done and done well, while simultaneously never losing sight of the big picture.”

4. Accelerate accountability.
Build in the feeling that “I own the place and the place owns me.”

Accountability means that an organization is packed with people who embody and protect excellence (even when they are tired, overburdened, and distracted), who work vigorously to spread it to others, and who spot, help, critique, and (when necessary) push aside colleagues who fail to live and spread it. The trick – and it is a difficult trick – is to design a system where this tug of responsibility is constant, strong, and where slackers, energy suckers, and selfish soloists have no place to hide.

There are many ways to create this brand of urgent, all-hands-on-deck accountability, but the goal is always the same – to bake-in that constant pressure to do the right thing.

5. Fear the clusterfug.

The terrible trio of illusion, impatience, and incompetence are ever-present risks. Healthy doses of worry and self-doubt are antidotes to these three hallmarks of scaling clusterfugs.

When the three following elements collide, you’ve got a classic clusterfug. This trifecta causes scaing efforts to fail bid and late rather than early and cheaply.

  • Illusion: Decision makers believe that what they are scaling up is far better and easier to spread than the facts warrant.
  • Impatience: Decision makers believe that what they are scaling is so good and easy to spread that they rush to roll it out before it is ready, they are ready, and the organization is ready.
  • Incompetence: Decision makers lack the requisite knowledge and skill about what they are spreading and how to spread it, which in turn transforms otherwise competent people into incompetent ones.
6. Scaling requires both addition and subtraction.
The problem of more is also a problem of less.

Strategic subtraction clears the way for people to focus on doing the right things.

7. Slow down to scale faster—and better—down the road.
Learn when and how to shift gears from automatic, mindless, and fast modes of thinking (“System 1”) to slow, taxing, logical, deliberative, and conscious modes (“System 2”); sometimes the best advice is, “Don’t just do something, stand there.”
Scaling is akin to running a long race where you don’t know the right path, often what seems like the right path turns out to be the wrong one, and you don’t know how long the race will last, where or how it will end, or where the finish line is located. Yet it is one of the fundamental challenges that every organization faces, whether it’s small or large, new or old, or somewhere in between.

Chapter 2. Buddhism Versus Catholicism: Choosing a Path

 Three diagnostic questions that can help you detect when a move is wise, which direction to head, and how to make it happen.
  1. Do You Suffer from Delusions of Uniqueness?
  2. Do You Have a Successful Template to Use as a Prototype?
  3. Will Bolstering Buddhism Generate Crucial Understanding, Commitment, and Innovation?

II. Scaling Principles

Chapter 3. Hot Causes, Cool Solutions: Stoking the Scaling Engine

The nineteenth-century American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The ancestor of every action is a thought ,” while his contemporary, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli quipped, “Thought is the child of action.”

The question of whether beliefs are largely the causes or consequences of behavior has key implications for scaling up change. Many studies show, as Emerson would have it, that first altering people’s beliefs via persuasive and emotionally charged slogans, stories, and arguments induces behavior change.

Other studies, as Disraeli contended, find it is best to start by changing behavior no matter what people believe. In other words, what they do shapes their thoughts and emotions. These studies show that regardless of initial convictions, when people are enticed to behave in concert with some belief (for example, by arguing a point of view they don’t believe or volunteering to eat a food they dislike), they often change beliefs to match their behavior to avoid seeing themselves—and being seen by others— as hypocrites.

Given this controversy, where is the best place to start a scaling effort? Our research suggests that the answer is anyplace you can. While arguments will persist over whether it is most effective or logical to first change beliefs or behavior, the two strategies are mutually reinforcing. So, as a practical matter, you can stoke the scaling engine by targeting beliefs, behavior, or both at once. The key is creating and fueling a virtuous circle.

“What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, and what I do I understand.”

Strategies for starting, sustaining, and accelerating this virtuous scaling circle.

1. Name the Problem
Gloria Steinem explained that, to generate collective emotion and attention around a cause, it is wise to “name the problem.”

2. Name the Enemy
Research on sports teams, combat teams, corporations, political movements, and warring countries shows that, when people feel threatened by an external threat, solidarity and cooperation usually shoot up. As celebrated social activist Saul Alinsky advised, “Pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

The “name the enemy” strategy can be extremely effective. But it can also backfire. It loses its punch when you try it over and over and repeatedly fail to best your enemies. It can do more harm than good if your claims are seen as delusional or inauthentic. And it can be dangerous when people embrace it so strongly that they will do anything to destroy a rival.

3. Do It Where All Can See
Persuading people to take “public” actions that demonstrate a commitment to a mindset or a belief is a powerful means for stoking the behavior-belief cycle.

Public commitments foster especially strong accountability pressures in long-term relationships.

Mindsets spread further and are held more strongly when people have no place to hide.

4. Breach Assumptions
Social norms are often unspoken dos and don’ts that every group, organization, and society enforces. Norms can infect members’ souls so thoroughly that they are barely noticed even as they animate a host of feelings, thoughts, and actions.

Breaching experiments reveal the contours of unwritten social rules.

5. Create Gateway Experiences and On-Ramps
Gateway objects and experiences are equally valuable for paving the path to excellence— especially for guiding transitions to new behaviors and beliefs.

The right transitional experience can serve as a stepping-stone to scale up a new mindset and turn hope into reality.

6. New Rituals, Better Rituals
Rituals can serve as on-ramps for creating or reinforcing a mindset— especially when they are performed in front of others, done by all, and repeated over and over. Such public displays of commitment are difficult to revoke or reverse, and as people perform them over and over they become ingrained habits.

7. Lean on People Who Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone
Picking people who will jump at the chance to live the new mindset— and sidelining or even firing those who resist such change— is often the first step to scaling up a new mindset.

Cornell professor Shaul Oreg developed a “resistance to change”survey that reveals the kinds of people best—and worst—suited to embrace and live a new mindset. Four hallmarks of “change resisters”emerged from this research: 1. “Routine seekers”who agree with statements like “I would rather be bored than surprised.”2. People who have strong negative emotional reactions to change, those who become “tense,”“stressed,”and “uncomfortable”at the prospect of doing or dealing with new challenges and chores. 3. Short-term thinkers, those who agree with statements like “When someone presses me to change something, I tend to resist even if I think the change may ultimately benefit me.”4. People who are “prone to cognitive rigidity,”who agree that “once I come to a conclusion, I am not likely to change my mind.”

These are the kinds of people that you ought to exclude from your scaling effort, at least in the early days. They will slow the effort, and, worse still, their fear and foot-dragging can spread to others like a contagious disease. Instead, you want people who get bored with stable routines, don’t stress out—or, better yet, take pleasure—from new challenges, have a penchant for long-term thinking, and are prone to change their minds when new information comes along. You want people who—even when they express skepticism or outright disbelief—still can’t resist the temptation to try something new, to make things a bit better for themselves and others, and who don’t freak out and freeze up when confronted with the confusion and dead ends that are inevitable as we learn new ways of thinking and acting.

Every skilled executive, manager, and supervisor is both a “poet”and a “plumber.”The poetry part is mostly about communicating hot causes: creating beliefs via words, stories, ceremonies, mission statements, goals, and strategic plans to inspire and guide others. The plumbing part is mostly about cool solutions—especially the nitty-gritty behavior required to ensure that planes or trains run on time, widgets or cars are built, grapes are grown and put in bottles of wine, or in our case, students are taught and those books and papers written.

The art of scaling up excellence is very much about knowing when to create a tight connection between poetry and plumbing versus when to stretch, flex, or even set aside your most precious beliefs.

Chapter 4. Cut Cognitive Load: But Deal with Necessary Complexity

Scaling entails subjecting people to an onslaught of unfamiliar, difficult, and upsetting changes and chores. The sheer volume and complexity often overwhelms the “working memory”of the individuals who do it, which produces blind spots and bad decisions and saps their willpower. Researchers call this condition “cognitive overload,”and its unfortunate effects are well documented.

Research on multitasking reveals the more tasks that people do, the worse they tend to perform each one. The rise of information technologies, especially smart phones, has transformed us into creatures who do many things at once. We text, e-mail, or surf the Web, while simultaneously trying to listen and talk with colleagues, teachers, or loved ones, and—for good measure— perhaps do housework, write a report, or drive a car to boot. Despite claims that younger people who grew up with these gizmos are more adept at such juggling acts than their parents or grandparents, numerous studies show that multitasking undermines everyone’s competence.

Cognitive load is another reason that scaling is the Problem of More. It can tax human minds and organizations beyond what they can bear. When that happens, people ignore their best intentions, work on the wrong tasks, shift focus too often, and perform less well at everything they attempt.

Scaling provides a potential antidote: adding people to share the load. Most scaling adventures— whether starting a restaurant chain or spreading better practices in hospitals—begin with one or two people, or perhaps a small team. And if there is a whiff of success, they add or attract more help. Unfortunately, although extra hands and minds can lighten the burden, these additions carry nasty side effects. As teams get bigger, individual performance suffers.

After devoting nearly fifty years to studying group effectiveness, the late J. Richard Hackman concluded that, for most tasks, the best size is four to six: “My rule of thumb is that no work team should have membership in the double digits.… The number of performance problems a team encounters increases exponentially as team size increases.” Miller’s magic number (seven, plus or minus two) pops up again: once a team has more than nine members, the trouble really starts.

Administrators are often added at a faster rate than those who perform the organization’s main work.

The key challenges are how to add rules, tools, and people without creating bloated and overbearing bureaucracies, filled with overloaded and irresponsible people.

Even small organizations can’t function without hierarchies and specialized roles, groups, and divisions. Well-crafted rules and processes create predictability, reduce conflict, facilitate coordination, and reduce cognitive load because people (often with help from computers) are armed with proven responses to routine situations— rather than having to reinvent the wheel each time . It is impossible to grow an organization or spread excellence without such tried-and-true controls, constraints, and building blocks.

Studies also show that, although people say they dislike hierarchies, they are happier, calmer, and more productive when power and status differences are present and well understood.

Human (and animal) groups can’t avoid hierarchies because power and status differences enhance collective effectiveness in so many ways. Hierarchies clear up confusion about who makes decisions and who does not, when decisions are final, and thousands of details such as where to sit, who talks more and less, what to wear, and when meetings start and end.

“The job of the hierarchy is to defeat the hierarchy.” That is, executives used hierarchy to repair its bureaucracy to build a “better organizational operating system.”

Sutton & Rao provide five tactics for building better organizational operating systems.

1. Subtraction as a Way of Life
Renowned American novelist Ernest Hemingway said the most essential gift for a good writer is “a built-in shock-proof shit detector,” the ability to spot bad or unnecessary text, the skill to fix what is salvageable, and the will to throw away what is beyond repair or unnecessary. Leaders and teams that spread excellence act the same way, ruthlessly spotting and removing crummy or useless rules, tools, and fools that clog up the works and cloud people’s minds.

We don’t advocate unbridled subtraction or a mindless quest for simplicity. As scaling unfolds, it is sometimes necessary to inject a big dose of complexity to get through certain phases—and then cart it away when it is no longer needed.

Complexity and confusion are often unavoidable in the early stages when you aren’t sure what to scale or how to scale it.

2. Make People Squirm
A rule of thumb for practicing subtraction: if you aren’t upsetting people, you aren’t pushing hard enough.

Subtraction often entails removing the old and familiar and replacing it with something new and strange (or nothing at all). Subtraction is jarring because we humans have positive emotional reactions to the familiar and negative reactions to the unfamiliar.

3. Bring on the Load Busters: Subtraction by Addition
The writer Austin O’Malley said, “Memory is a crazy old woman who hoards colored rags and throws away food.”Not only do human beings have lousy memories, but the things that we do recall, ruminate over, and act on are often trivial and useless—“colored rags”that clog our consciousness, sapping our capacity to remember and act on more crucial concerns.

Fortunately, there are ways to short-circuit these failings. Many are simple additions—objects, activities, and technologies—that cut cognitive load, often by turning attention to what matters most and away from what matters least. Some researchers call these affordances; we call them load busters.

The load busters turn attention to what matters most when mental demands are high, priorities clash, and key information is easy to lose or overlook.

4. Divide and Conquer
Breaking organizations into smaller pieces can have striking benefits.

As always, once organizations are divided into roles , teams, levels, departments, locations, and so on, the challenge of coordinating and integrating the work rears its ugly head.

The division of labor always creates demands for integration, especially when multiple teams and departments in different locations must mesh activities together in tight and timely ways. Even when coordination is less daunting, every team and organization depends on people with enough general knowledge to grasp how the system fits together and enough particular knowledge about each part to do specific tasks well .

5. Bolster Collective Brainpower: Increase Cognitive Capacity Instead of Adding More People
Organizational designers sometimes assume that bringing in “new blood” propels innovation and performance. There are times when outsiders bring fresh ideas that help broken organizations and projects abandon obsolete and destructive mindsets.

Organizations and teams that juggle a constant influx of strangers are prone to the same coordination problems, weak social bonds, bitter conflict, and related ugliness.

It is better to avoid such instability when possible. Whether you are selecting a leader, scaling up a new team or organization, or running an existing project team, sticking with savvy insiders and stable teams and blending people who have worked together before are better paths. Stable teams are more adept at drawing on each other’s strengths and countering their weaknesses, and they mesh together their ideas and actions more efficiently and reliably.

If you are forming a new team, or fixing an old one, try to bring in at least two or three people who have worked together effectively before.

Speaking of talented women, if you want a smarter team, make sure that it has a lot of them. Carnegie Mellon’s Anita Williams Woolley and her colleagues studied 669 people in groups that had two to five members. Groups with higher percentages of women had greater “collective intelligence,”performing better on cognitively demanding tasks, from “visual puzzles to negotiations, brainstorming, games and complex rule-based design assignments.” Woolley’s research team set out to study collective intelligence, not gender. But they kept finding that groups with more women performed better on “collective intelligence”tests. Groups with more women typically had superior social sensitivity and thus members cooperated and wove together their talents more effectively. Women were more in tune than men with others’emotions. They listened more carefully, they allowed others to take turns speaking, and their groups weren’t stifled by one or two overbearing members—increasing their capacity to perform complex and difficult tasks. These researchers also found that “having a bunch of smart people in a group doesn’t necessarily make the group smart”because the “average and maximum intelligence”of individual members isn’t linked to performance. Socially sensitive men also help make teams smarter. But if you can’t test for this trait before forming a group or adding new members, remember that men are typically the weaker sex in this regard.

People also have a greater capacity when they aren’t worn down by work and worry. When people get enough sleep, they are more adept at difficult tasks, are more interpersonally sensitive, make better decisions, and are less likely to turn nasty. Certainly, there are times when emergencies and harsh deadlines render sleep impossible. But scaling is a marathon, not a sprint. The humans who propel it will be smarter and nicer if they get enough sleep and even nap at work.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill praised naps: “Nature had not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”

If you want to make good decisions as the day wears on, watch for signs of fatigue. Even seemingly trivial levels damage performance. Build in ways for yourself and others to take breaks, whether it’s getting a bite to eat or taking a few minutes to stretch your legs. It sounds easy to implement. Yet too many hard-charging leaders and busy teams don’t do it.

Scaling requires a balancing act. The aim is to travel forward in the sweet spot between too much and too little complexity as your footprint expands to more people and places— and without swamping people with more load than they can handle.

Scaling requires injecting just enough structure, hierarchy, and process at the right time. The key challenge, then, is knowing when to add more complexity, when it is “just right,” and when to wait a bit longer.

When you scale an organization, you will also need to give ground grudgingly. Specialization, organizational structure, and process all complicate things quite a bit and implementing them will feel like you are moving away from common knowledge and quality communication. It is very much like the offensive lineman taking a step backwards. You will lose ground, but you will prevent your company from descending into chaos.

Chris Fry and Steve Greene, those executives who helped scale up then led Twitter’s efforts to build the engineering organization, suggest: “Everyone knows that this is a bad way to treat a machine—they would never run a computer at 100 percent of capacity day after day because they know it will break. Why shouldn’t organizations, large or small, apply the same logic to their people and teams?”

Chapter 5. The People Who Propel Scaling: Build Organizations Where “I Own the Place and the Place Owns Me”

Hiring the most talented people isn’t enough. When employees put their needs ahead of clients, colleagues , and the company— whether this results from personality, bad role models, or bad incentives— excellence suffers because they feel no obligation to mentor newcomers or help colleagues do great work.

Many, perhaps most, organizations that scale effectively get the job done by depending less on hiring fully formed superstars and more on selecting promising people— and then teaching and motivating them to do exceptional work.

Accountability works best when it is a two-way street.

Hiring the right people is crucial for propelling scaling, but it isn’t enough. Unfortunately, too many leaders and gurus believe that, if they just buy the most skilled and motivated employees, exceptional performances will inevitably follow. They forget that team and organizational effectiveness requires weaving together people with diverse knowledge and skills— not just gathering a lot of talented people and hoping they can figure out how to work together well.

Trying to scale up excellence by purchasing lots of people who have done stellar work elsewhere is also risky because most stars aren’t portable.

When an external star arrives, insiders become demoralized; senior analysts often start looking for jobs elsewhere, and “junior managers take the star’s induction as a signal that the organization isn’t interested in tapping their potential.”

A tug of mutual obligation is created because being “owners” entitles and encourages employees to push themselves, peers, bosses, subordinates, suppliers, and sometimes clients to support exceptional performance. And being “owned” means that employees expect, accept, and work hard to meet high standards held and enforced by superiors, peers, clients, and customers.

Research on teams that make the switch from being led by a single supervisor to being “self-managing”is instructive when it comes to such accountability. The term self-managing may conjure up images of employees who slack off because they are free to do as they please. Yet several studies show that people feel more constrained—and accountable—in such systems. The pressures to conform and perform are harder to escape because each worker is beholden to every other team member rather than to a single manager or boss.

The dynamics also degenerate on teams that the outside saviors join: “Resentful of the rainmaker (and his pay), other managers avoid the newcomer, cut off information to him, and refuse to cooperate.”

Leaders should spend more time and money on encouraging cooperation and information sharing among existing employees, on developing technologies and procedures that enable exemplary work, and on using training and mentoring to develop their own stars.

In other words, as we see again and again, the quick fix rarely works when it comes to scaling. Yes, having money to spend on talent can be helpful. But beware of spending money as a substitute for doing the deep thinking and demanding work required to instill, spread, and sustain excellence.

Seven Means For Scaling Up
Seven means for scaling up organizations and projects that are filled with talented people who feel and act as if they own the place and it owns them.

Talent x Accountability = Scaling Capacity

1. Squelch Free Riding
When people feel accountable to their colleagues and customers, they feel obliged to expend extra effort and make sacrifices for the greater good. Making this happen, and keeping it going, isn’t easy.

The problem is that whether or not a single person acts unselfishly usually has a small—often miniscule—impact on the overall performance of most social systems. As a result, each member of an organization or project has a relatively small incentive to work hard and make personal sacrifices—and a big incentive to get a “free ride”on others’effort. Olson shows that, even when everyone in the system benefits, it is often rational for each person to contribute nothing, or at least far less than he or she is capable of, because the personal costs of action outweigh the personal benefits.

Stanford colleague and venture capitalist Michael Dearing studies more than 60 startups since 2006 and reveals that once a start-up grows to about twenty people, if the right precautions aren’t taken, newcomers start “feeling like just employees rather than owners.”

If you don’t find ways to offset and reverse free riding, be ready for a blight of that “I don’t care and neither do most of my colleagues”mindset. Savvy leaders and teams stock their tool kit with every incentive they can find, borrow , and invent—and blend them to spur collective action and squelch free riding. Money isn’t the only tool for boosting accountability, but it helps—especially when reinforced by hiring, firing, and promotion practices.

Accountability to others plays a central role in scaling up excellence.

Exceptional financial incentives aren’t required to squelch free riding and create accountability; they just need to be big enough to motivate employees given their needs and other job options.

2. Inject Pride and Righteous Anger
Mancur Olson Jr. emphasizes that collective pride and aggressiveness (especially toward outsiders who deride and can undermine a group) are effective countermeasures to free riding. These emotions turn people’s attention toward concerns that are larger than themselves, bind group or organization members together, and are contagious. When people are surrounded by others who feel and act proud about scaling something great, are angry at others who are— or might—impede their righteous efforts, or experience both feelings at once, they think and worry less about their selfish desires and concerns.
And they are also more willing to take difficult, even personally risky, actions for the greater good.

3. Bring in Guilt-Prone Leaders
A 2012 study suggests that, when leaders are prone to feeling guilty, they are especially likely to display concern for others and to put the greater good ahead of their personal goals and glory. Stanford’s Becky Schaumburg and Francis Flynn found that guilt-prone leaders have a strong sense of personal responsibility for their actions and are attuned to the impact of their decisions on others. They feel especially bad about past mistakes and worry constantly about messing up in the future, which they compensate for by being action oriented, constantly taking preventive measures to avoid future mistakes and steps to repair the damage done by their past errors. Schaumburg and Flynn propose that guilt-prone people often emerge as leaders because—to avoid feeling bad about not meeting their responsibilities or hurting others—they work hard and selflessly to help their groups and organizations achieve goals.

Shame-prone leaders are different: when they make mistakes, they feel sorry for themselves, are filled with and frozen by worries that they are bad people, and run from the messes they make.

Schaumburg and Flynn did a series of studies that confirmed guilt-prone people are more likely to emerge as leaders and to be more effective leaders than otheGuilt proneness appears to be a vaccine against the brazen self-interest that can plague leaders. Many studies show that when people gain power they tend to put their own needs first. They ignore others’ needs , act impulsively, and act as if rules are for “the little people,” not them. Guilt-ridden leaders are less likely to display such “power poisoning”: doing so would make them feel bad about themselves.

4. “I’ll Be Watching You”: Use Subtle Cues to Prime Accountability
Scaling mantra “Engage all the senses” highlights how beliefs and behaviors are bolstered by small, seemingly trivial, and often unnoticed cues. Such cues can be harnessed to trigger accountability.

5. Create the Right “Gene Pool”
“A company becomes the people it hires” because founders and first hires create the culture—and thus founders should focus on bringing the right mix of people to tackle the primary risks a company faces.

Also the place makes the people! Many organizations use formal programs to “build” the people they need. One tried-and-true approach is to rotate “high -potentials” through diverse and increasingly challenging jobs.

Organizations can also be restructured in ways that multiply talent.

Scaling up an organization also requires constantly reconsidering the kinds of talent that you have, need, and ought to hire and incubate.

6. Use Other Organizations as Your HR Department
Using other organizations to screen and train talent is a tried-and-true approach.

For over seventy-five years, the U.S. military has selected and developed pilots— who are then hired by commercial airlines. The Air Force Times reports that “45 percent of the 6,100 pilots at Southwest Airlines are veterans or reservists”; their pilot hiring manager is Rocky Calkins, a former F-15 pilot. In Silicon Valley, many high-tech companies use Stanford University as a kind of HR department.

7. Hire People Prewired to Fit Your Mindset
Bringing in people who are prewired with personalities, values, and skills that mesh well with whatever mindset and moves you aim to scale can amplify your odds of successful scaling.

Chapter 6. Connect People and Cascade Excellence: Using Social Bonds to Spread the Right Mindset

Ignorance, mediocrity, and mistakes run rampant when organizations fail to link the right people to the right information at the right time. This is true even when everyone involved has the best of intentions and even when someone somewhere knows exactly what to do (but no one has figured out how to get the information to those who need it).
Energizers propel the flow of excellence
Colleagues seek more information from and learn more from energizers (compared to de-energizers). Energizers also are given more ideas and more help from others and are more likely to have their ideas heard and implemented. Energizers aren’t necessarily charismatic, entertaining, or bubbly; Cross observes that many are understated or shy and strike new acquaintances as dull. Yet as their relationships unfold and they reveal their true colors they create energy through their optimism about the possibilities ahead.Energizers also have a knack for fully engaging the person in front of them right now, valuing others’ideas, and creating conditions that enable others to make steady progress.
Seven tools for getting nets to work
When it comes to scaling excellence, network diagrams—and old-fashioned organizational charts—can be a helpful starting point. But drawing and discussing such orderly images can become seductive diversions. Organizational life is messier than those tidy illustrations suggest. For those charged with scaling up an organization, your job isn’t to draw a network diagram; it is to get the “net”—the organization—to work. Scaling doesn’t succeed until the networks you build are buzzing with constructive actions that reflect and reinforce the goodness that you aim to spread.In this spirit, we offer seven tools for “making nets work,”different approaches for configuring and activating domino chains of excellence. But before we describe these tools, we propose two overarching rules: Once is not enough and One is not enough.
Our second rule, One is not enough, follows from the first. Each tool isn’t right for every scaling challenge. Nor are all tools mutually exclusive. Using a blend of two or more is usually better than relying on just one. In a company or nonprofit, for example, you might combine a message from the CEO that urges people to reduce energy costs in your organization with a bazaar or trade show-style event where people set up tables or booths and share methods they’ve used to reduce such costs. The blend of the two methods is likely to be more effective than either alone. Not only do multiple tools increase the rate of polite pummeling, but different people are attracted to and motivated by different tools. Some people might be more strongly influenced by pressure from management or their direct reports, others by exchanging ideas with peers from other parts of the organization in a bazaar. The idea is to provide people with multiple “on-ramps”to get them on the road to embracing and living the mindset you aim to spread.1. The Top-Down Approach
Although many people are ambivalent about hierarchies, all groups and organizations have and need them to survive and thrive. Hierarchies come in handy for creating a domino chain reaction that starts from the top and cascades down the pecking order.For more complex and controversial changes, command-and-demand often isn’t enough.2. Broadcast Your Message Out to One and All
Webinars, brochures, mailings, websites, and gatherings where senior executives make speeches to employees are part of many scaling efforts. They can signal that the ideas leaders and teams aim to spread are important, teach people about the content, and pique interest. But such “air war”tactics alone are rarely enough to persuade people to join on and help expand a movement.

Creating strong ties required ground war tactics: personal e-mails, phone calls, and especially face-to-face interaction.

3. Surround Them: Have the Many Teach the Few
One of the most effective—if inefficient—ways to spread new behaviors and beliefs is to take one person, or a small team, and embed them among large numbers of people who already eat, live, and breathe the mindset that you want them to embrace. Everywhere they turn, someone is there to model the right behavior, teach and coach them, and correct them when they aren’t saying or doing things that are quite right by local standards.

4. One on One: The Power of Pairs
This tool is core to most successful scaling efforts: nearly all depend at least partly on dyads where each “domino” topples the next.

Pairing teachers and learners is also essential for scaling talent.

Pairings are also critical for spreading change: not just for teaching new ideas and skills but also for persuading others to support and smooth implementation. A key challenge in using this approach is figuring who is best paired with whom. One strategy is to match “socially similar”people or units. That way, each “teacher”can better empathize with the challenges that each “learner”faces. And those being taught can’t complain, “You’re so different from me [or us], you couldn’t possibly understand.”

When it comes to one-on-one influence, focus on supporters and fence-sitters. Try to pair the “persuaders” on your scaling team with powerful people who already trust and admire them. Beware of pairing up with resisters. Even if they are good friends and those resisters otherwise admire your skills and judgment, your efforts may provoke them to harden their positions and may damage your relationship.

5. From the Few to the Many
This is the classic scaling strategy: a group of determined people bands together and labors to slowly spread their mindset, and associated actions and skills, throughout an organization or other network.

6. Brokers: Bridging Disconnected Islands
Brokering is an especially powerful version of the “one to many” and “few to the many” tools.

Knowledge brokers “fill” the holes and transfer information, expertise, ideas, and influence between those who have it and those who need it.

A masterful knowledge broker:

  1. is curious about strangers and their ideas;
  2. lives and breathes the mindset but isn’t obnoxious about it;
  3. has strong opinions, weakly held;
  4. listens and learns; and,
  5. convenes, introduces, and connects.

7. Create Crossroads Where People Connect
Bazaars are largely self-organizing and sometimes rather chaotic “marketplaces”that bring together “sellers”and “buyers.”The word bazaar comes from the Persian word for “market.”It conjures up images of ancient people gathered in the town square to sell and buy wares, as well as modern variants such as flea markets, farmers’markets, and street fairs. When it comes to scaling excellence in and across organizations, bazaarlike settings enable people to build new connections and strengthen old ones—largely through one-on-one interactions.

Regardless of the exact form they take, bazaars set the stage for the informal exchange of ideas, emotions, plans, goods, and money that help individuals and teams and, in doing so, strengthen a larger network.

Scaling requires leaders to find or develop pockets of excellence, connect people and teams, and ensure that excellence continues to flow through those ties. We’ve seen that such leadership can come from people or teams at the top, the middle, or the bottom of organizations.

Scaling is propelled by leaders who think and act like “connectors.” A big part of this role involves exposing or creating links that ought to be made for the greater good. Many scaling veterans are adept at asking questions that reveal missing or weak links, which sets the stage for building stronger networks.

Some of the most savvy connectors are skilled at asking and acting on questions that uncover weak or missing links— but wield little formal authority and don’t have powerful carrots and sticks at their disposal.

Another part of a connector’s role is to snip or weaken links that create tunnel vision or distorted and dangerous views of reality. When people are too closely connected they can lose the ability to imagine, hear , or remember— let alone act on—information that clashes with their beliefs and ingrained behaviors.

Many other powerful teams that try to do good work but fail. They were imprisoned in a web of connections of their own making that filtered out crucial opposing views and new information. And they intimidated and chased away people and groups that tried to give them disconfirming advice. Ultimately, their tunnel vision condemned them to waste time, reach a flawed conclusion, and embarrass themselves.

There is a similar danger within organizations and projects that are led by very tight-knit and powerful scaling teams. Leaders and other members of such teams can delude themselves about the wisdom and impact of their actions. They may suffer from what psychologists call “confirmation bias,” the tendency to trust, remember, and act only on information that supports what you already believe. Confirmation bias is fueled when they reward subordinates and peers who flatter them, skew the data to confirm their views, screen out messengers and messages that deliver news they don’t want to hear—and ridicule and punish people who present them with uncomfortable truths they don’t want to accept.

This challenge raises a question to leaders and powerful scaling teams: Have you done everything possible to make sure that the ties that bind you don’t also blind you?

Our first rule is Once is not enough because beliefs and behaviors do not spread like contagious diseases—one exposure is rarely enough to infect people. If you want a mindset to stick, you’ve got to pummel people with multiple messages and exposures to get people to remember, accept, and live it.

Chapter 7. Bad Is Stronger Than Good: Clearing the Way for Excellence

Eliminating the negative is at least as important as amplifying the positive.

Eight solutions that leaders and teams can use to prevent and eliminate destructive beliefs and behaviors.

1. Nip It in the Bud
Criminologist George Kelling and political scientist James Q. Wilson state the “broken windows” problem: in neighborhoods where one window is broken and left unrepaired, the remaining windows will soon be broken too. The broken windows theory suggests that allowing even a little bit of bad to occur or persist is a mistake because it signals that no one is watching, no one cares, and no one will stop people from doing even worse things. The theory soon started having a big impact on crime policies.

A host of studies confirm that it is best to nip bad behavior in the bud.

Clearing the way for excellence in organizations depends on being a stickler about stamping out destructive behavior. If you look the other way or decide that some small violation isn’t worth dealing with, things can quickly degenerate.

The best bosses nip bad behavior in the bud but treat people with dignity in the process.

2. Get Rid of the Bad Apples
Most people aren’t born bad. Many employees who are prone to selfishness, nastiness, incompetence, laziness, and cheating change their ways after receiving feedback and coaching— or moving to a workplace where management or peers don’t tolerate such behavior. So we advise against assuming that bad behavior is incurable and firing or transferring destructive people at the first hint of trouble.

As the O’Reilly and Weitz study suggests, the best leaders and teams act quickly and decisively to remove destructive characters when lesser measures fail. And one of the most reliable ways to eradicate a destructive mindset is to remove the bad apples.

Bad apples aren’t just a problem that leaders and scaling teams need to tackle in the long run. Lazy, overbearing, mean-spirited, incompetent, and dour people can ruin teams and organizations that are responsible for short-term projects.

But also remember: “employees who are bad apples in one setting are sometimes good apples in another.”

3. Plumbing Before Poetry
Getting people to focus on the small, mundane, and sometimes gritty details of organizational life is an effective path for eliminating the negative.

4. Adequacy Before Excellence
The first order of business should be to drive out bad behavior.

Most customers aren’t looking for over-the-top service; they enjoy it when it happens, but what drives them away— and really hurts companies— is bad service.

5. Use the Cool Kids (and Adults) to Define and Squelch Bad Behavior
the cool people have a disproportionate impact on what others construe as bad (and good) behavior—and whether or not their less cool colleagues will take individual responsibility for stopping it when it rears its ugly head. Thus an effective way to eliminate the negative is to recruit the most admired and connected people in your organization, teach them what “bad”looks like, and encourage them to stop being perpetrators.

6. Kill the Thrill
A common and often vexing obstacle to spreading excellence is that being bad sometimes feels so good.

7. Time Shifting: From Current to Future Selves
You can sometimes break bad by getting people to think about the person they hope to be, not just the person they are now.

People who focus only on their present selves don’t think very much about how the choices they make now may prove costly to them later. They disagree with statements such as “I consider how things might be in the future, and try to influence those things with my day-to-day behavior.”

8. Focus on the Best Times, the Worst Times, and the End
Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s “peak-end rule”: no matter how good or bad an experience is, or how long it lasts, judgments about it are shaped disproportionally by the best and worst moments and if it ended well or badly.

Warning Signs: Five Dangerous Feelings
There are five feelings that, when pervasive, signal that bad behavior already exists— or soon will. These feelings are symptoms of the sorts of bad behaviors that infect a team or organization. Each provides clues about the root causes of such destructive deeds and guidance about which cures will clear the way for scaling up excellence.

1. The first dangerous feeling is fear of taking responsibility, especially the sense that it is safer to do nothing, or something bad, than the right thing. Silence is one of the most reliable signs that people are afraid to take personal responsibility and that the learning and self-criticism that fuel excellence aren’t happening. When people worked in trusting and caring settings, and focused on finding and fixing mistakes, they would make fewer errors.

2. The second bad feeling is the fear of being ostracized, or socially excluded. This particular brand of fear fuels bullying in many schoolyards and prevented those sawmill workers who were morally opposed to stealing, and never did it themselves, from expressing disapproval to their thieving coworkers. In general, embarrassment and exclusion are best applied in small doses and with proper precautions.

3. The third dangerous feeling is anonymity. That feeling that no one is watching you very closely, so you can do whatever you want— be selfish, dishonest, unpleasant, free-riding, or a bit careless about your work. Subtle cues that create feelings of anonymity can provoke bad behavior. Recent evidence shows that darkness instills “a psychological feeling of illusory anonymity, just as children playing ‘ hide and seek’ will close their eyes and believe that others cannot see them.” Apparently, darkness and dim lighting trigger “the belief that we are warded from others’ attention and inspections.”

There is another way that the feeling of anonymity can be dangerous: accountability is difficult to sustain when employees perceive the people they serve as nameless and faceless, as mere objects or numbers to be processed , rather than as living breathing human beings who deserve their full attention and talents. Making such humanity more vivid to employees increases accountability.

4. The fourth warning sign is feelings of injustice. Numerous studies show that when people feel as if they are getting a raw deal from their boss or employer they give less in return; bad behavior runs rampant; and effort, efficiency, quality, civility, and other excellence metrics plummet.

5. The fifth dangerous feeling is helplessness. When people believe that they are powerless to stop bad forces and events, they shirk responsibility, fail to act, lay low, and hide.

III. Parting Points

Chapter 8. Did This, Not That: Imagine You’ve Already Succeeded (or Failed)

Premortem or “Back From The Future” Planning
There are five chapters in the book dissecting key scaling principles: “Hot causes, cool solutions,”“Cut cognitive load, but deal with necessary complexity,”“Build organizations where ‘I own the place and the place owns me,’”“Connect people and cascade excellence,” and “Bad is stronger than good.”

This may sound weird, but it’s a form of imaginary time travel. It is called “the premortem.” Kahneman credits psychologist Gary Klein with inventing the premortem technique and applying it to help many project teams avert real failures and the ugly postmortems that often follow.

A scaling premortem works something like this: when your team is on the verge of making and implementing a big decision, call a meeting and ask each member to imagine that it is, say, a year later. Split them into two groups.

Have one group imagine that the effort was an unmitigated disaster. Have the other pretend it was a roaring success. Ask each member to work independently and generate reasons, or better yet, write a story, about why the success or failure occurred. Instruct them to be as detailed as possible and, as Klein emphasizes, to identify causes that they wouldn’t usually mention “for fear of being impolitic.”

Next, have each person in the “failure”group read his or her list or story aloud, and record and collate the reasons. Repeat this process with the “success”group.

Finally, use the reasons from both groups to strengthen your scaling plan. If you uncover overwhelming and impassable roadblocks, then go back to the drawing board.

For starters, looking “back from the future” helps people overcome blind spots.

Looking back from the future also dampens excessive optimism, especially if the imagined outcome is a failure, is mediocre, or falls just short of being as wonderful as expected.

People are less prone to irrational optimism when they predict the fate of others’ projects or businesses rather than their own.

The world needs dreamers and their dreams. Without them, there would be no new and wonderful inventions and no inspired new ideas to spread far and wide. But dreams of what is possible are best balanced with hard facts and realistic projections about what is probable. Engaging in prospective hindsight can increase the odds that the dreams we select to pursue do, in fact, come true.

A premortem can also shatter illusions that everyone on a scaling team concurs with a decision that is about to be made or that everyone believes an effort is going well and will continue to do so. Powerful and overconfident leaders often reward people who agree with them and punish those who are brave enough (or perhaps dumb enough) to disagree with their delusions. The resulting corrosive conformity is evident when people don’t raise private doubts, known risks, and inconvenient facts. In contrast, a premortem can create a competition where members feel accountable for raising obstacles that others haven’t: “The whole dynamic changes from trying to avoid anything that might disrupt harmony to trying to surface potential problems.”

In a proper premortem, voicing such impolitic bad news and risks is safe, expected, and encouraged.

Was scaling a good idea?
New isn’t always improved. More sometimes turns out to be less. Growth doesn’t necessarily lead to progress. Waiting is sometimes more effective than charging ahead. And at times, “you can’t get there from here”— it is impossible to spread goodness from where it flourishes to where you want it to sprout next.

The “imagine you have succeeded (or failed)” approach is especially useful for “go, no-go” decisions; for deciding if a scaling effort is worth launching at all, should be implemented as quickly or early as planned, or ought to continue.

Several kinds of premortem questions are instructive to mull over. Start with feasibility. Was it actually scalable? Were you able to spread a pocket of goodness in ways that maintained quality and were economically viable?

Feasibility questions also focus on if it was wise to scale as fast and as far as you did.

Teams that launch start-ups should look back from the future and ask, “Did we get too big too soon?” This concern is reinforced by “the Startup Genome Project,”in which Max Marmer, Bjoern Herrmann, and colleagues surveyed 3,200 high-growth start-ups. They found that 74 percent of these young organizations suffered from premature scaling, which Marmer and Herrmann conclude is the main reason that so many start-ups grow too slowly or fail.

Companies that stall or disband hire about 50 percent more employees in early growth stages compared to their more successful counterparts— which don’t add employees until needed. Hiring too many people too soon burns through cash, creates unnecessary administrative burdens, undermines innovation, and causes companies to focus on landing customers before they have anything worthwhile to sell them.

Other premortem questions ought to focus on the toll that scaling took on people’s lives. Even if you did ultimately succeed at spreading something wonderful far and wide, was it worth the cost? We aren’t talking about money; we are talking about the burnout, fatigue, and even physical damage sometimes inflicted by prolonged and intense scaling efforts.

Finally, Suttom & Rao suggest asking questions about the destination you will have reached if your dreams do come true. Sometimes success isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Imagine you have built a large and respected company or nonprofit. Or you have spread quality tools, lean practices, or design thinking far and wide. Ask your team, “Are we happy living in the world we’ve built?”

As an organization grows, whether you like it or not, it will require more hierarchical layers, managers, rules, and (often) annoying administrative processes. It will also become increasingly difficult to maintain personal relationships with all your colleagues (let alone learn their names). Even if scaling up has made you rich, you may be uncomfortable within the walls of your own creation.

Seven lessons that are essential for scaling up without screwing up
The premortem isn’t just a technique for one or two meetings before scaling commences or key decision points. Leaders and teams who weave prospective hindsight into such efforts gain a different and (the evidence suggests) superior vantage point. This means that instead of asking, “What will we do tomorrow?” you ask, “If we do have a successful day tomorrow, what will we have done ?” and framing the next week, month, year, and so on in a similar fashion. In this spirit, Sutton & Rao describe each lesson as if you already “did this, not that” rather than that “do this, not that.”

1. We Started Where We Were, Not Where We Hoped to Arrive
An advice that scaling star Claudia Kotchka gives to people who ask where to begin an innovation effort is: “Start with yourself, where you are right now, and with what you have and can get right now.”

2. We Did Scaling, Not Just Swarming
Some leaders enjoy presiding over exciting kick -off events but lack the grit required for a prolonged ground war.

Although creating enthusiasm and spreading awareness about new beliefs, behaviors, and initiatives are useful first steps for mobilizing a mindset, they aren’t enough. People have to live it or it won’t stick.

3. We Used Our Mindset as a Guide, Not as the Answer to Every Question and Problem
Like all deep rooted human beliefs, mindsets are double-edged swords. You need them, but you should never stop asking whether the time is ripe to cast them aside.

Scaling up in new places, with new people, and over time requires constant vigilance. You must be ready to drop your old tools, no matter how skilled you and your colleagues are at using them, how good they’ve been to you in the past, or how comforting it feels to hold them.

4. We Used Constraints That Channeled, Rather Than Derailed, Ingenuity and Effort
Scaling flows more quickly and easily when people operate under a small number of ironclad constraints that they can rarely, if ever, crash through.

Research on creativity and constraint demonstrates that, when options are limited, people generate more, rather than less, varied solutions —apparently because their attention is less scattered.

One essential guardrail is: a commitment to doing only “value-based” rather than “commodity-based” work. Maintaining such discipline is easy when clients are clamoring for a firm’s services. But when a major downturn hits (such as the 2009 meltdown), it is tempting to resort to “commodity-based” work in order to pay the bills. In the end, doing so is always a mistake because it damages a firm’s brand and undermines its ability to land value -based work down the road.

Ending bad projects before they begin doesn’t just save money and protect the brand; it saves people from living through a “horrible five to ten years,”

5. Our Hierarchy Squelched Unnecessary Friction, Rather Than Creating and Spreading It
Chris Fry and Steve Greene of Twitter don’t believe that the hierarchy should be used to unleash anarchy. They mean it should be used, in Greene’s words, to “build a better organizational operating system.”

They emphasize that, although more roles and processes are needed as organizations and projects expand , skilled leaders wield their power to eliminate needless friction and complexity— not burden employees with “rules, tools, and fools” that make it tougher to do their jobs and waste money and talent.

A basic insight about scaling : “Many hands make light the work” is a dangerous half truth. We’ve shown how adding more people to an organization, a project, or a team creates costly side effects. As more people come aboard, members do (and should) devote more time and effort to communication, coordination, and the maintenance of warm and trusting bonds. Despite such efforts, coordination and relationships are still prone to degenerate as more members join.

6. We Worked with People We Respected, Not Necessarily Our Friends
Although most people prefer to be around others who are similar to them, new mindsets, skills, and practices travel faster and farther when team members have varied backgrounds, skills, and viewpoints. When a scaling effort is launched by a broad group that is representative of an organization’s people and positions (rather than a narrow subset), members will have professional, social, and emotional ties to colleagues throughout the organization.

Teams are more adept at problem solving and creativity when members argue in an atmosphere of mutual respect— when each member feels compelled to “fight as if you are right, and listen as if you are wrong.”

7. Accountability Prevailed, Free Riding and Other Bad Behaviors Failed
Sutton & Rao emphasize how organizations that are filled with employees who feel as if “I own the place and it owns me” squelch free riding and create social pressures to step up and do the right thing.

The same accountability that Taj employees demonstrated that awful day is evident in the ordinary things they do (and have done for years) to put “guests front and center.”This mindset was revealed when John Thomas (now a vice president at Rambus) and his family stayed at the Taj in 2005. After the long flight from the United States to India, they were greeted at the airport by a driver from the Taj. Their three-year-old daughter, Aaria, was tired and hungry, and despite her parents’best efforts she cried throughout the drive. When they arrived at the hotel, a staff member immediately greeted them with a key and informed them that there was no need to stand in the check-in line or deal with their bags. It was all taken care of, and the family could go straight to their room to tend to their cranky child. When they walked into the room, a warm glass of milk and cookies were waiting. Much to her parents’relief, Aaria gobbled down the milk and cookies at once and was smiling and giggling within minutes. When the astonished John Thomas called reception to thank them, he asked how they had known about Aaria’s unhappy state. The Taj staffer reported that the driver had called en route to inform reception about the family’s predicament, and they had taken care of the rest.

Lack of ownership and weak pressures to do the right thing aren’t evident just when employees shirk from providing adequate customer service (or elect not to do so because doing nothing is safer than trying to do the right thing). It also happens when the game of work encourages every employee to look out for him- or herself and no one else; when pay and promotion are linked to selfish acts such as ignoring or even undermining colleagues, people learn that their success and security hinges on thinking first, last, and always of “me”rather than “we or us.”When that happens, ownership and feelings of mutual obligation evaporate, and unfortunate assumptions frame and fuel nearly everything that people do.

In contrast, excellence spreads and persists when accountability pressures permeate a workplace—when that feeling of ownership for problems and solutions pervades each hand-off, each meeting, and each interaction with the people whom an organization serves.

Teach Us More, Learn More


 Appendix. The Seven-Year Conversation: How We Developed These Ideas Notes

1. Combing Through Research from the Behavioral Sciences and Beyond
This approach reflects our view that it is impossible to design and conduct a single study (or several studies) that begins to capture the key elements required to scale up excellence— or any other complex management challenge.

Indeed, during the nearly daily talks between the two of us about this book, we focused most often on linking the stories and cases that we were gathering to rigorous theory and research in accurate, useful , and engaging ways.

2. Conducting and Gathering Detailed Case Studies
We worked with writers at Stanford (especially David Hoyt) to produce several teaching cases where scaling was a central theme, used cases written by other colleagues on organizations, conducted diverse interviews or drew on published sources (or blended both methods), and drew on book-length descriptions of organizations.

3. Brief Examples from Diverse Media Sources
To uncover insights and stories, we scoured diverse media sources, and drew on diverse websites.

4. Targeted Interviews and Unplanned Conversations
During our many conversations with scaling veterans and other skilled people, we never stopped hunting for input to help us illustrate, develop, and test our emerging ideas. We conducted a blend of face-to-face, telephone, and e-mail interviews (including follow-up exchanges to verify facts and glean extra details) on a nearly daily basis. These interactions took many forms, and we engaged in too many to list here, let alone remember, each one.

5. Presenting Emerging Scaling Ideas to Diverse Audiences
We described above how the ideas and reactions from diverse audiences guided us as we wrote Scaling Up Excellence. Our strategy was to aim for a broad range of organizations and industry sectors—given that our goal was to develop a general perspective that most leaders and teams in most organizations would find helpful.

Each group taught us something new, and we revised our scaling ideas and stories in response.

6. Teaching a “Scaling Up Excellence” Class to Stanford Graduate Students
Doing so helped us develop our ideas in three ways. First , it enabled us to discuss and refine them in response to 100 smart— and often critical— Stanford students. Second, our class guests included many of the book’s scaling stars ; some we met for the first time when they spoke to the class, others were old friends. Third, and most important, we learned from hands-on projects where student teams worked to spread excellence.

7. Participation in and Observation of Scaling at the Stanford
We’ve learned a bit about scaling from helping the grow. More importantly, we’ve observed firsthand as David Kelley, the’s founder and inspiration, and other leaders, including Academic Director Bernie Roth and Managing Director Sarah Stein Greenberg, have confronted virtually every scaling challenge considered in this book. In addition, our leadership roles in the Customer-Focused Innovation program allow us to track executives who are spreading design thinking in their organizations, including our scaling heroes Doug Dietz from General Electric, Kaaren Hanson from Intuit, Bonny Simi from JetBlue, and executives from Capital One, Citrix, DIRECTV, Fidelity, Hyatt, Procter & Gamble, and SAP who give us frequent updates about their trials, tribulations, and triumphs.


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