The Right Stuff


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The Right Stuff – a famous book by Tom Wolfe turned into a decent movie, was all about the very early stages of America’s space program. It’ a great book to re-read or read for the first time.

Today’s organizations, we focus on lot’s of “stuff.” Do we have the right sales processes, do we have the right tools, to we have the right training, do we have the right programs, do we have the right metrics, do we have the right people, do we have the right insights?

All this “stuff” helps make organizations and people more effective and efficient. But how come, so many organizations with all the right stuff, just aren’t making it? How come they are missing their numbers, upsetting customers, losing share, losing good people?

Often I get called into organizations. On the face of it, it seems they have all the right stuff. The best CRM, sales and marketing automation tools–well implemented. Well defined selling processes, sales enablement programs that would make the Forrester and IDC guys drool. The quick assessment, so often is, you have all the right stuff, but why aren’t you performing?

Dig a little deeper, and you find they really don’t have “The Right Stuff.” The Right Stuff is all about leadership, culture, values, transparency, open communication, collaboration, mutual respect, and absolute alignment through shared interests. These are the underpinnings and prerequisites for high performance and success. Without these, organizations fail–period!

No amount of spending on the other things can overcome the absence of “The Right Stuff.” Sure these might move the needle a little, but not enough to recover the investment. There might be a temporary uplift in results, but they won’t be sustained. A team or company that has “The Right Stuff,” but little of the other stuff, will have more consistent and much higher performance year after year after year. They’ll have higher customer satisfaction, retention, acquisition and growth. All the other things, the other stuff, in the hands of a team that has “The Right Stuff.” will make them far outdistance their competitors. Each person on the team will be performing at the highest levels possible.

So why do we spend so much time and money on the wrong stuff–technology, process, tools, enablement, metrics, and so forth. The answers are pretty easy–it takes the pressure off each of us–leaders and individual contributors. It relieves us of the responsibility to look deeply are ourselves, asking, “Are we the problem?”

If we are the problem–more often we are–no amount of spending or attention on the “other stuff.” will drive sustained performance improvement. We may be able to force things through for a short time (“The beatings will continue until…..”), but we can never sustain that.

As an outsider, I often see interesting things. Several years ago it was the new CRM system, that didn’t do it. Last year is was Challenger, that gave a bump, but we can’t sustain it, this year we’re betting on marketing automation. I see organizations implementing program after program, tool after tool, system after system. Each and every one of them should produce great and sustainable improvements in performance, but few do–so we move on to the next one.

In reality, those aren’t the problems, they’re the initiatives that take the attention off the real problems. They keep us from forcing ourselves to answer the question, “Are we the problem.”

Patrick Lencioni has it absolutely right when he says, “Organizational health trumps everything.” Organizational health is all about The Right Stuff.

The foundation of your organizational effectiveness is “The Right Stuff.” With that as a base, all the other stuff will make you a world leader.

(While it’s early in the year for predictions, this year, the single most important book you can read then act on is his book, The Advantage.)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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