Book Summary – Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers


My bullet-summary of Robert Kriegel & David Brandt – Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers [1996]

  • Important things to take care of in business: maximizing individual performance, effective communication, conflict resolution, team construction, stress reduction, and change management.
  • Sacred cows are those who are afraid to abandon what once made them successful. Today’s organizations must make room for creative ideas and new thinking in order to grow.
  • The change-ready process include five stages:

1. Rounding up sacred cows: people do their jobs while keeping an eye on outmoded ideas and practices. The best sacred cows hunters are people closest to the customer and value chain process. Hunt in teams, with customers: have a fresh perspective!

  • Complaints are often the medium for spotting sacred cows that are in disguise or invisible. Challenge assumptions. Motivate and give special rewards to hunters who have spotted cows. Eliminate duplicating processing: leanness! “we’ve always done like this” is not an excuse for suppressing & improving habits!
  • (Bureaucracy) It should be eliminated any thing that doesn’t contribute to: Adding value to the customer in terms of improving quality or service, Increasing productivity or cutting costs, Improving morale or encouraging action.
  • (Meetings) in the new economy, time is the currency and consensus takes forever!
  • (Speed) speed kills quality, service and innovation. In sports, the rule holds that a passionate 90% effort is more effective than a panicked 110%. And a passionate 90% effort will yield 110% results. Have unstructured time in the day to relax, reflect or meditate; having more time to sharpen intuition, self-discovery and self-awareness; and allowing time for fun and enjoy breaks.
  • (Experts) ironically, experts with a conventional mindset are experts in the old paradigm. Most of the time they operate with antiquated ways and charts. The key to keeping ahead of a changing environment is to think not like an expert but more like a beginner. While experts tell you why something cannot work, beginners see only the possibilities. Hire outsiders to bring a fresh perspective to the organization, Identify ineffective operating practices and traditions, Assign rookies who are optimistic, open-minded and wide-ranging in their interests to design new products and services, Change employee assignments and jobs regularly, Create an environment that encourages asking stupid questions, Look for solutions in related or unrelated areas, Think like a beginner.
  • (Cash cow) don’t rely entirely on past successes. Complacency breeds failure. Conventional wisdom states that success comes to those who are able to find a niche and own the market. But in a fast changing environment, businessmen must learn to avoid pigeonholing brought about by too narrow a vision.
  • (Competitors & customers) sometimes doing things the opposite ways of competitors is successful (e.g. Domino: pizza home instead of customers coming to the pizzeria). Delight your customers w/ added-value services they don’t expect. TRY to be your own customer to see what it’s like…
  • (Quick reactor) quick response to change is a sacred cow belief. This no longer works! The key is to be proactive, not reactive. LEAD the customers instead of just listening to them. Use the customer’s imagination to “pre-view” the future along with understanding the demographic, socio-graphic and psycho-graphic trends of customers; and tracking the emerging social and cultural directions and new advances in technology.
  • (No Mistake) get it right the first time, no mistakes rules are a sacred cow ethic. This credo, while originally designed to improve work practices, products and services, fosters an atmosphere of extreme caution that makes people afraid to take risks or gamble on brilliant ideas. When people become too cautious, innovation, creativity and originality disappears and the possibility of gaining a competitive advantage is lost. Encourage experiments; failure is not a sin but failure to learn from failure is.
  • (Downsizing) reinvention is the alternative strategy. Businesses need to move from bottom-line solutions to top-line approaches that emphasize growth and expansion. Increase spending in growth drivers like R&D, plant equipment and marketing at least as fast as the revenues go up (Gillette’s philosophy).
  • (Technology) it can never replace the up close and personal experience that comes with direct contact. High-tech must be combined with high-touch.
  • (Teams) not every organizational task requires a team. Form the right team for the right task: Problem solving team (Addresses a specific problem and then disbands), Work team (Does the actual labor), Virtual team (Accomplishes assigned tasks and responsibilities by communicating via telephone and computers), Quality circle (Meets intermittently to air problems and upgrade procedures), Management teams (Coordinates management functions such as sales and R&D).

2. Developing a change-ready environment: People are the gatekeepers of change. They can make or break a new program. To effectively implement change, the focus must be on the people who will implement the change (and they normally resist to it). The key is to create an environment in which people are more open to innovation and new ideas. Foster a change-ready environment all the time. 1-min mgmt, caring, respect, empathy, recognition, understanding, honesty, integrity, openness, trust. Inform others on every thing (but private personal information). Lead by example: be a role model. Treat people as human beings with needs, aspirations and fears. Hold people accountable for their actions. Be demanding of performance and be supportive of the person. Empathy means standing in someone else’s shoes. It means the ability to think and feel into another person’s experience.

3. Turning resistance into readiness. Resistance to change: fear, feeling powerless over change, moving out of one’s comfort zone and exerting more effort and not fully acknowledging the personal benefits behind the change. Find the reasons of the particular, personal, individual resistance.

4. Motivating people to change: overcoming resistance is about neutralizing negativity. Motivation is about lighting a fire. When people are filled with enthusiasm, they will take the risk, go the extra mile and fully commit themselves to change. The four keys to lighting the fire are urgency (burn your bridges, have natural leaders on your side to help motivate, don’t cry wolf), inspiration (have a shared vision), ownership (delegate & create accountability for results), rewards & recognition (reward good tries, not just successful results; reward the team but treat employees differently). It’s like we are in a house that is burning, we need to escape or we’ll die!

5. Developing the 7 personal change-ready traits: passion (determination), resourcefulness (making the most of any situation, solve the problem with what you have at disposal), optimism (change = opportunity, not threat), adventurousness (risk-taking innovator), adaptability (flexibility and resilience), confidence (self-esteem; failure = learning possibility, the road to mastery!) and tolerance for ambiguity (calmness in adversity). Be proactive, not reactive to change. Create it!

  • Change fails if it is too much and/or too fast, or if we enter in panic zone (few resources, too many challenges) or drone zone (too many resources, few challenges) –> implant change progressively, do a zone check regularly (balance challenges [rate: challenge of the situation, degree of change, steepness of learning curve, required effort and speed of implementation] with resources available [rate: team size, competence, energy, motivation, available time, technology and information]), recharge batteries (let the tired players sit out for a short period of time every once in a while).
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