No Steve, Jack or Bill, it’s just The Caterpillar Way


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How many companies get Leadership right? Do you always need that charismatic leader that makes us think about them before the company? An excerpt from tomorrow’s podcast with Craig Bouchard, author of the book, The Caterpillar Way: Lessons in Leadership, Growth, and Shareholder Value, is directed at those questions.

P.S. If you know my legacy a bit, you understand the high degree of interest in the book.

Joe: What struck me about the book more than anything else is that there was not a Jack Welch, a Steve Jobs, or a Bill Gates. It was a credit to the entire Cat organization. Was that true? Is that how Cat is? Caterpillar Way

Craig Bouchard:  I really confess. It’s incredibly true. I’ve been the CEO for a couple of companies. I’m the CEO of Signature Group, a public company right now, in a great company. But in the case of Caterpillar, I’ve never seen such a large group of people so thoroughly dedicated in increasing their revenues and decreasing their expenses as a team – which is kind of simple – but what I’m trying to say is that it’s rare in real experience. That company is really – everybody is on the same page and that’s a management feat of course that they’ve accomplished that.

Joe: Yes, it’s a huge management feat but not to have that person out there waving the flag just amazes me.

Craig:  When I look at Cat, the most remarkable thing going back to the 80?s, they had basically six incredibly large complicated decisions to change the company during this past thirty years. Six times, they turned the entire place upside-down strategically requiring such a flexibility of their management and their workforce – it’s just really remarkable and each one of those decisions could have turned into a disaster and each one like them have turned into disaster for other companies. Caterpillar went six-for-six. Basically with four different Chief Executive Officers through that time period responsible for those six decisions. Not only did they go six-for-six in decisions, they managed to get it right who was the right person to implement and come up with an implementation for each of them. This kind of a record is almost unheard of in terms of these types of gigantic decisions implemented.

Joe: Did the CEOs get picked based on the needed initiative, or because they were good at, or did it happen because they were at that?

Craig:  We talked about that a little bit in the book. How much of it is luck and how much of it is that the board of directors, they had at the time, picked the right guy for the right job in the challenges that existed at that time. Between Donald Fites, Glen Barton, James Owen, Doug Oberhelman and George Schaefer before, these five guys are very different people with different skill sets. In whatever way that it was accomplished with the board of directors at Caterpillar and its succession planning is a very determined and thorough process in the company. To put in place the right person at the right time in those challenges during those thirty years and my conclusion because they got it right five times in a row – it is not luck.

About Craig Brouchard ( Entrepreneur, writer, art collector, great father and pretty good husband. Crafted the first and only “hostile reverse tender merger” ever successfully completed on Wall St and founded two public companies; Esmark and Shale-Inland.

  • 2013 – Founded Cambelle-Inland, named for my daughter Cambelle
  • 2010 – Founded Shale-Inland, named for my daughter Shale, now public in the bond markets (A3)
  • 2003 – Founded Esmark Inc., the highest appreciating stock on Nasdaq for the full year 2008

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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