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Good Friday morning to you!

Our 14 year old dachshund Frieda.

To-Do lists are time-proven powerful tools that help us be more productive.  Only we have a slight problem with them now – their length!  Question for you – is your To-Do list so long now that you often don’t even look at it since it so overwhelming and actually discourages you?

Maybe you need a new list – a “Stop Doing LIst”.  Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, strongly advocates this approach as do others (click here to read a recent Harvard Business Review article).  For some reason we believe that we can just keep adding things to our lists and somehow miraculously get them all done.  Actually this is foolish thinking.

We are finite creatures with finite amounts of time.  We have limits.  We have weaknesses.  We cannot do it all.

So, what are you going to stop doing in order to be able to focus on the most important things?  If you want to have a more successful and rewarding life, one key step is developing a “Stop Doing List”.  Then focus on what is really important and put your energy into those things.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Jim Collins is one of my favorite leadership / organizational authors and I have applied many of his principles from Good to Great and our leadership team is going through a study on his book Great by Choice.

Recently in Inc. online he has an article on “Good To Great in 10 Steps“. Click here to read the entire article.

The 10 steps are:

1. Download and complete the diagnostic tool on his site (actually a very good tool)

2. Get the right people in key seats.

3. Once a quarter, have a brutal facts meeting. (this one is very interesting to me & seems to be valuable but difficult for most people)

4. Set a 15 to 25-year big, hairy audacious goal (BHAG).

5. Commit to a “20-mile march” that you will bring you to your big hairy audacious goal. (the 20-mile march concept is described in his book Great by Choice)

6. Place at least one really big bet in the next three years.

7. Practice productive paranoia.

8. Get a high return on your next luck event.

9. Make a to-do list. “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any,” says Collins.

10. Commit to a set of core values that you will want to build your enterprise on, without changing them, for 100 years.

It’s a good article and well worth the read.


Innovation!  Creativity!  Think outside of the box!!!

Innovation particularly is the buzzword of the day.  It seems to be the silver bullet that organizations seek to solve their challenges.  It’s the cool word to have on your resume and all the “cool kids” are innovators.  But is that all you need?

According to Jim Collins in his research in his book Great by Choice – No!  In fact in his research some of the great companies were less innovative than the comparison companies.  Why? What is missing?  Discipline.

Collins says, “Of course, it is not discipline alone that makes greatness, but the combination of discipline and creativity. . . The great task, rarely achieved, is to blend creative intensity with relentless discipline so as to amplify the creativity rather than destroy it. When you marry operating excellence with innovation, you multiply the value of your creativity.”

Being creative is great and needed, but virtually useless without the discipline to execute or deliver.  In fact, according to Collins, Intel’s number one core value is discipline.

So, develop a culture of disciplined thought and action and then add the creativity for a powerful combination.




Most of us want to be part of a “great” organization – if we are the owner, we want it to be a great organization.  Often times when we do encounter a great organization we think that they were just at the right place at the right time of in other words, lucky. The reason our organization is not great is because we weren’t so lucky.

According to Jim Collins in Great by Choice – that argument is not valid based on their research of over six thousand years of corporate history.  He contends the following:

“. . .greatness is not primarily a matter of circumstance; greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline. The factors that determine whether or not a company becomes truly great, even in a chaotic and uncertain world, lie largely within the hands of its people. It is not mainly a matter of what happens to them but a matter of what they create, what they do, and how well they do it.”

It is a choice to be great and the discipline required to be so.  It is a choice to set high standards – to not compromise and the willingness to act in a disciplined manner.  This is hard work and requires making difficult choices.  The bottom line is that a great organization is achievable – if you choose it and are willing to work to make it so.

What is your choice?

Show Horse or Plow Horse?

February 8, 2012

Which one are you? Are you a “show horse” or a “plow horse”?

Our society clearly prefers the show horse, the person that has the outsized personality, the person that has loads of charisma and talks easily.

However, Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, points out that in the great companies, the CEO’s all had a charisma “bypass”. They were all “plow horses” content for others to get the recognition, while they stayed in the background plowing away. They were quick to take the blame when things went wrong and give away praise when things went well. They also were diligent – hard workers that stayed focused. Through their intense humility and tremendous will they built great organizations.

Popular culture elevates the show horse, but it is the plow horse that gets it done. So if you, like me, have had a “charisma bypass” don’t fret. Just keep on plowing and you will make a difference!

Blessings on your day,

The past few years have been marked by various challenges, especially of the financial variety. I do want to be quick to point out that our country has endured much worse and has come out stronger.  Nevertheless, it has been a difficult time for many individuals as well as organizations.  However, some people and some organizations have thrived.  Why?

In his most recent book, Great by Choice, JIm Collins discusses companies that have thrived in times of adversity.  Companies like Southwest Airlines and what makes them different than the others who were in similar circumstances, but fared poorly.  He lists three key behaviors that were consistently exhibited by the organizations that thrived in times of adversity:

  1. Fanatic Discipline
  2. Empirical Creativity
  3. Productive Paranoria

Discipline is key – for individuas as well as organizations.  Following is how Collins describes discipline:

“Discipline, in essence, is consistency of action—consistency with values, consistency with long-term goals, consistency with performance standards, consistency of method, consistency over time. Discipline is not the same as regimentation. . . True discipline requires the independence of mind to reject pressures to conform in ways incompatible with values, performance standards, and long-term aspirations. For a 10Xer, the only legitimate form of discipline is self-discipline, having the inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome, no matter how difficult. . . They don’t overreact to events, succumb to the herd, or leap for alluring—but irrelevant—opportunities. They’re capable of immense perseverance, unyielding in their standards yet disciplined enough not to overreach.”

So – how disciplined is your organization?  How disciplined are you? Is this area an opportunity for growth?

Have a great day – it is starting to snow here in southwest Michigan.

Collins, Jim; Hansen, Morten T. (2011-10-11). Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All (Kindle Locations 366-368). HarperBusiness. Kindle Edition.

“The great task, rarely achieved, is to blend creative intensity with relentless discipline so as to amplify the creativity rather than destroy it. When you marry operating excellence with innovation, you multiply the value of your creativity.” – Jim Collins in Great by Choice.

Discipline in operating excellence is critical for your ministry, even more so than innovation.

What about operating excellence in your personal life? Are you rigorous there as well?

Have a great weekend!