Book Review: Right Away and All at Once

Posted by Kristin Arnold on May 18, 2022

The headline reads, “Visionary business leader Greg Brenneman has written the 21st-century companion to Stephen Covey’s classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” All righty then, it HAD to go on my reading list since I recommend Covey’s book all the time!

This book is about transformations – business and personal. While Brenneman is a highly accomplished CEO & Board member (Continental, Burger King, Home Depot, to name a few), he is also an unabashed Mennonite, so if the Judeo-Christian ethos bothers you, skip the chapters where he brings the same skills to his personal turnaround at age 45.

What I enjoyed the most are the concrete examples that illuminate the five steps:
1. Have a plan and track your progress
2. Build a fortress balance sheet
3. Think money in, not money out
4. Build a team (clean house if necessary)
5. Let the inmates run the asylum

A few key takeaways:

Identify the organization’s value drivers with the business definition, competitive dynamics using a SWOT analysis and Porter’s Five Forces Analysis, a focus on the core, as well as customer satisfaction and retention.

A transformational “go-forward” one-page plan includes four categories that are the backbone of the plan: market, financial, product, people – of course renaming them with inspiring catchphrases!

Don’t run out of cash (ever). Maintain plenty of equity.

Drill down on your one-page plan and develop a detailed set of measurements.

Cost-cutting can actually cost more than it’s worth. Look at unintended consequences before you cut. Trim costs that customers don’t value.

Generate profitable revenue growth.

Stop doing things that lose money: Focus on your core, consider synergistic product additions or acquisitions adjacent to your core.

Your board should reflect a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences. IT should consist of people who are honest with each other and management, and who have the courage to make the right call, even if it isn’t the easiest call.

Build the ideal structure you would need to transform the organization – and THEN compare it to what you have on board. Then align your org chart to match your go-forward plan by

1) not delaying in letting some people go

2) consistently applying the same tests (Brenneman uses the “IQ Dipstick” test and the “Fly across the Atlantic” test!)

3) hiring people who challenge you and complement your skills and

4) building the org chart all the way down the organization. (He also says “the best hires are usually the individuals you or your team already know” – and while I don’t disagree with what he is saying, you have to look really hard to find diversity if you only use that strategy.)

5) compensating executive team members appropriately

Build a winning culture by intentionally “embracing the positive aspects of your corporate culture and changing those that are negative” by

1) continually communicating your go-forward plan – even if you are sick of hearing yourself!

2) opening up direct lines of communication to you as the leader

3) identifying the key elements of your desired culture

4) setting up compensation systems to align with your go-forward plan, and

5) having fun with your co-workers!

This is my playbook for organizational transformation!


Related Articles:

How to Create a Quick Strategic Plan

Use Listening Posts for Voice of the Customer Information

How to Shape and Sustain a High-performance Workplace Culture

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

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