Tom Peters vs. Jim Collins – the Revolution vs. the Evolution.

I do read Tom Peter, Re-Imagine and Jim Collins, Good to Great in parallel. I am inspired by both books and I start to think what is the right way for this decade.

Tom Peters rants about Jim Collins:

One of the biggest business best-sellers of the past 20 years is Built to Last, by Jom Collins and Jerry Porras.

I find the idea of “built to last ” … offensive.

In 2003, I think it’s … embarassingly bad. (…) The editors of Fast Company, in a comment on a cover story by Collins that appeared in their magazine, made the case against the Collins View of the World as well as anyone could. “The problem with Built to Last,” they wrote, “is that it’s a romantic notion.  Large companies are incapable of ongoing innovation, of ongoing flexibility.  Increasingly, successful business will be ephermeral. … They will be built to yield something of value—and once that value has been exhausted, they will vanish.”

What is true of companies is also true of individual careers: … Everywhere you look, the model of greatness comes down to this … Make a Big Impact … and then a Quick Exit.

Collins on the other side tries to prove in Good to Great that Peters’ View of the World is wrong.  He shows, that the best companies have been built by people who are Level 5 Leaders. Characterized by Collins with the following attitudes:

  1. self-effacing
  2. quiet
  3. reserved
  4. even shy

Tom Peters wrote that he could not stand this idea of shyness and quite leaders. So he came up with a list of Leaders which have been everything but not shy or quiet:

Carnegie, Rockefeller, …, Thatcher, Picasso, Mozart, Welch, Gates … Mc Nealy and many more …

I am intruged by Peters. He started this book by confessing that he writes Re-Imagine because he is “pissed off”.

He rants — the whole book.  He rants about the nonsense he has seen. (He is 60+):

My overall rant, in brief: People … in enterprises, in government … are by and large well intentioned.  They like to get things done.  To be of service of others.  But they’re thwarted … at every step of the way … by absurd organizational barriers … and by the egos of petty tyrants (be they corporate middle managers, or army colonels, or school superintendents.)

Peters starts a revolution.  He believs we need to destroy the business as it is and re-imagine it.  He believes in destruction lies the power for new things.  By destroying jobs, he shows, we get more new jobs.

A revolution has side effects if you stick to your anger.  We need to find ways to use the power of a revolution and shift our way of working into a new dimension without making the mistakes of revolutionizers.

I compare what Tom Peters writes with the way a ScrumMaster has to be and has to act.  A ScrumMaster fights agains the tyranny of an organization.  Now we need to find ways to destroy the current way we work without risking a collateral damage that destroys too much.  Scrum does provide the framework for that. That is what I believe!

The new way of working has already started!  Most people in companies do not want to see this.  But what Tom Peters says about white-collar jobs vanishing to India or Russia is true.  Thomas Friedmann has shown this and everybody of us can see this in more and more companies.  We do have a white-collar revolution but most of us do not want to see it.  It is a bit like the mine workes in Germany in the 1980s when they fought for their jobs.  In the meantime a new business was created.  Thyseen Krupp is for me the most exiting example for this: The steel maker is 20 years later on one of the biggest travel companies in the world.  Nokia started 1865 as a wood-pup mill, made cables in the 1950 and is now the provider of telecommunications equipment world-wide.

Change is everywhere!


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