Saturday, July 7, 2012

How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking The 8 Hidden Barriers That Plague Even The Best Businesses By Neil Smith, Patricia O'Connell

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

How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking The 8 Hidden Barriers That Plague Even The Best Businesses By Neil Smith, Patricia O'Connell

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Product Description

Every day, seemingly intelligent and successful companies make headline news for poor decisions that can cause their business to stumble and make many of us scratch our heads in wonder. Why would such a successful business make "that" strategic decision? Neil Smith, with more than 20 years of experience leading large-scale performance improvements, reveals the hidden barriers that limit excellent companies from reaching their potential, and cause even the smartest managers and leaders to falter. During his experience transforming some of the top global businesses, Smith has identified 8 barriers that exist in every organization and prevent them from implementing literally thousands of ideas to improve the way they work:

Avoiding Controversy

Poor Use of Time

Reluctance to Change

Organizational Silos

Management Blockers

Incorrect Information and Bad Assumptions

Size Matters

Existing Processes

Rich with anecdotes and case studies, Smith identifies the ways in each of these barriers interrupt your own business.  He then outlines a fast and proven process in which 12 principles of business transformation can break down the processes that hold 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.

Throughout the book, Dr. Richard Levak has contributed personality and organizational insights that shed light on why an individual or an organization behaves in contrary ways giving you a better sense of why these internal walls exist and how to be aware of your actions in your day to day life. 

Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #9097 in Books
  • Published on: 2012-06-05
  • Released on: 2012-06-05
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 9.57" h x .79" w x 6.30" l, .90 pounds
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 240 pages
Editorial Reviews


"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

About the Author

Neil Smith
, CEO of Promontory  Growth and Innovation (PGI), has for the last 20 years focused on helping large corporations dramatically improve performance and profitability by growing revenues and innovatively reducing costs. Smith has led initiatives across a number of industries with some of the strongest companies in the U.S. including, Mellon Bank, Willis, and North American Van Lines. He recently spearheaded the highly visable initiative across Bank of America, and a firm he co-founded was responsible for projects at Heinz, Detroit Edison and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. His efforts have helped increase profits at top companies by 20 percent or more.

Patricia O'Connell, former Management Editor at, brings more than 20 years of writing and editing in a variety of subjects, including business, leadership, and strategy. 

With contributions from Dr. Richard Levak, a nationally recognized personality expert who has been in private practice for over thirty years and has a growing practice in organizational consulting, assisting businesses with executive hiring, development and teambuilding.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful.
5How to overcome the major (hidden) barriers to a "goldmine" of resources and opportunities within your organization
By Robert Morris
With Patricia O'Connell, Neil Smith has written an exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking book. Whereas in Sydney Finkelstein's book, Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes, the focus is on the performance of individuals, Smith focuses on lessons to be learned from excellent companies whose employees generally (but not always) avoid or overcome hidden (albeit "natural") barriers. These barriers, "individually and collectively, can prevent employees from taking actions that are in the best interests if the given company. In short, the barriers are the reason the company does dumb things, not the employees themselves."

Smith devotes a separate chapter to each of the barriers (Chapters 1-8) and then shifts his attention in Chapter 9 to "Twelve Principles for Breaking Barriers" and provides "A 100-Day Process for Breaking Barriers" in Chapter 11. I commend Smith on his skillful use of two reader-friendly devices at the conclusion of each of the first eight chapters: "Barrier in Brief" (Takeaway and Solution) and "Look at Your Organization" (Inaccurate Information and Bad Assumptions). Also, throughout his narrative, Smith also provides five mini-commentaries contributed by Richard Levak: "Why People Avoid Controversy" (Pages 22-25), "Why People Procrastinate" (38-40), "Why People Are Reluctant to Change" (50-52), "What's Behind Management Blockers?" (85-87), and "How to Change Corporate Culture" (209-212).

As I worked my way through this book, I was reminded of passages from two recently published books. First, from Judgment Calls: Twelve Stories of Big Decisions and the Teams That Got Them Right in which Thomas Davenport and Brooke Manville explain how and why decisions made by a Great Organization tend to be much better than those made by a Great Leader. Why? While conducting rigorous and extensive research over a period of many years, they discovered - as Laurence Prusak notes in the Foreword -- "that no one was looking into the workings of what we term [begin italics] organizational judgment [end italics] - the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader's direct control."

Organizational judgment must not only be discerned but also managed. And precautions should be taken to ensure, as Prusak notes, "that the courses of action taken by organizations are more grounded in reality and a shared sense of what is right." In recent years, the rapid emergence and development of social media enable organizations to become even more grounded in what has become an expanded reality. Only through an open and inclusive collaborative process can the use of social media enable any organization to tap the collective genius of its stakeholder constituencies.

In his latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure, Paul J. H. Schoemaker asserts, "The key question companies need to address is not `[begin italics] Should [end italics] we make mistakes?' but rather `[begin italics] Which [end italics] mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'"

Excellent companies achieve and then sustain success with sound collective judgment, their management calls. Meanwhile, as Schoemaker correctly suggests, their leaders view mistakes as (potentially) valuable assets, not as "failures." Schoemaker notes that one CEO obtained some empty L'eggs pantyhose plastic eggs, sprayed them with gold paint, and used them when awarding the "best mistake of the month." That is, the mistake from which the most valuable information was obtained. As Thomas Edison never missed an opportunity to point out, understanding what doesn't work is critically important to determining what does.

What Smith offers in this book is a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective process by which almost any organization (whatever its size and nature may be) can achieve its strategic objectives. How? By avoiding or overcoming "hidden" or at least unrecognized barriers such as the eight on which Neil Smith focuses. I agree with him that most organizations already possess most of what they need to succeed. It remains for their leaders to locate the "goldmine," then allocate appropriately and supervise effectively its precious resources.

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful.
5Very insightful book with concrete suggestions
By Lionslurking
If you were running a company of say 5,000 employees and someone offered to work with some of your senior managers over the next 100 days and at the end of that time, your company's net income would be increased by 20% of more, and your employees felt empowered and you eliminated silos and bureaucracy, would you be interested??

Read the book---Neil Smith lays out very clear examples of what makes his process work---it's amazingly simple and compelling.

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful.
5Insightful business book
By Manager from New Jersey
With businesses constantly making the headlines with stupid actions its amazing companies survives. And these faux paus and mistakes continue year after year. Finally an author with a lot of experience discusses how even simple changes to a system (yes, even complex multinationals) can make a serious and significant impact. Who among us has not run in the silo problem, or the "that's not how our process works" administrative wall. Neil Smith here describes these restrictions and show how to break down the walls and make changes that have a real impact to business. Buy it... for just over $17 bucks just one change in your division will make it worth your while. It's an easy read, filled with examples. You'll be able to put some of the advice to use right away.


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