Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chasing the Rabbit

As readers of my blog may have figured out, I try to read at least one book per week and generally I write about it.

This week's book is Chasing the Rabbit by Steven M. Spear, a former Harvard Business School professor and current MIT faculty member.

He examines the reasons that market leaders stay market leaders, constantly innovating and staying in front of the pack.

These high velocity organizations share 4 common characteristics:

Capability 1: Specifying design to capture existing knowledge and building in tests to reveal problems.
Capability 2: Swarming and solving problems to build new knowledge.
Capability 3: Sharing new knowledge throughout the organization.
Capability 4: Leading by developing capabilities 1, 2, and 3.

The book includes in-depth studies of Toyota, Alcoa, the US Navy's Nuclear Power Propulsion Program and several leading healthcare organizations. Understanding the people and process differences between Toyota and GM makes it clear that technology is not the issue that has lead to 70+ years of profitability in one company and a bailout of the other.

The book contains a great deal of detail, but I can summarize my lessons learned by relating my experience running IT organizations:

1. Empower every person to suggest new ways of doing their work
2. Create a non-punitive culture which openly explores failure/downtime/accidents rapidly after the incident and does not penalize the person, but asks how processes, procedures, and the organization enabled the problem to happen.
3. Favor continuous small change rather than big bang change. This enables corrections to optimize each change before making another change.
4. Embrace openness and transparency in every level of the organization to enhance communication and break down silos.
5. Vigorously support training budgets as the best way to preserve institutional knowledge and grow internal candidates for succession planning.

A worthwhile read!


Manick said...


It is always a pleasure to read your blog. As one who happened on your blog within the first month of you starting a few years ago, in my estimate, you have been one of the most informative CIOs. I owe a lot of my understanding and innovation to you, all the way up to your Broken Window Effect ! You are what this nation of ours is all about.

Thank you,


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