Why you need to be a plumber first and a poet second

Why you need to be a plumber first and a poet second

Plumber First


What customers are looking for
“Surveys of over seventy-five thousand customers revealed that most aren’t looking for over-the-top service; they enjoy it when it happens, but what drives them away—and really hurts companies—is bad service”




Make it simple

“Netflix executive, who said the company’s entire policy on expensing, entertainment, travel, and gifts is encapsulated in this simple directive: “Act in Netflix’s best interests.”  

 7 Scaling Mantras:
1. Spread mind-set, not just footprint.
2. Engaging all the senses. (Personally, I want every lobby to smell like coffee or popcorn.)
3. Link short-term realities to long-term dreams.
4. Accelerate accountability.
5. Fearing the clusterfug.
6. Scaling requires both addition and subtraction.
7. Slow down to scale faster – and better – down the road.

Why you need to be a plumber first and a poet second

“James March’s distinction -the theory suggests that getting people to focus on the small, mundane, and sometimes gritty details of organisational life is an effective path for eliminating the negative. In March’s lingo, you’d better fix the plumbing before you start spouting out the poetry.”

Nip it in the Bud
“In 1982, criminologist George Kelling – The broken windows theory suggests that allowing even a little bit of bad to occur or persist is a mistake because it signals that no one is watching, no one cares” and “there is a difference between what you do and how you do it.” The best bosses nip bad behaviour in the bud but treat people with dignity in the process.

Look back from the future
“The premortem.” Kahneman credits psychologist Gary Klein with inventing the premortem technique and applying it to help many project teams avert real failures and the ugly post-mortems that often follow. A scaling premortem works something like this: when your team is on the verge of making and implementing a big decision, call a meeting and ask each member to imagine that it is, say, a year later. Split them into two groups. Have one group imagine that the effort was an unmitigated disaster. Have the other pretend it was a roaring success.

Scaling isn’t for everyone
Some founders don’t find the positive parts of running a big show to be very gratifying…. “I like to be left alone to do my own thing. But instead, I was a prisoner of the spreadsheet.”

Your people
• To spread excellence, it helps to hire, spot, and connect energisers.
• Employees are advocates of the customer, rather than ambassadors of the company—their job is to look out for the customer first, last, and always.
• A simple way to encourage the forty-eight employees in their “Division of Psychology” to pay for their fair share of coffee, tea, and milk. The division had an “honesty box” randomly alternated two posters behind the “honesty box” over a ten-week period: pretty flowers versus a pair of eyes that stared back at the employees. Which worked? (See last line)

Annual compensation reviews are treated as rehiring decisions. Managers ask:

  • What would the person get elsewhere?
  • Is this person so good that he or she would be difficult or impossible to replace?
  • What would we pay for his or her replacement?
  • What would we pay to keep the person?
  • Netflix makes clear to employees from day one that merely “adequate performance” results in a “generous severance package.”
  • If you want to make good decisions as the day wears on, watch for signs of fatigue. Even seemingly trivial levels damage performance.


The “myth” that “it’s good to mix it up” because “the longer members stay together as an intact group, the better they do. As unreasonable as this may seem, the research evidence is unambiguous. This finding holds, for example,

  • in string quartets,
  • airplane cockpit crews,
  • basketball teams,
  • product development teams,
  • architecture projects, and surgical teams.

If you want to increase the odds that your heart surgery will turn out well, pick a surgeon who does many operations in the hospital where your procedure will be done and who has done many operations with the other surgeons…

Where scaling has turned ugly,
Three elements kept popping up:

Illusion: Decision makers believe that what they are scaling up is far better and easier to spread than the facts warrant.
Impatience: Decision makers believe that what they are scaling is so good and easy to spread that they rush to roll it out before it is ready, they are ready, and the organization is ready.
Incompetence: Decision makers lack the requisite knowledge and skill about what they are spreading and how to spread it, which in turn transforms otherwise competent people into incompetent ones.

When big organisations scale well, they focus on “moving a thousand people forward a foot at a time, rather than moving one person forward by a thousand feet.”

There is something in this for everyone. Small business owners, project managers, large organisations, public bodies, the lot.

The Business Troubleshooters plug

Our website is www.thebusinesstroubleshooters.com

We hate waste, naysayers and it can’t be done thinking.

We love accountability, measuring and outcomes with positive results.

You got a pain? Something not just working right? Do you feel you are the only one that is accountable?

The answer has already been written about. We want to share that, so our clients become better businesses, more profitable, with happy and engaged staff.

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If there was one thing you could do right now that would have the greatest impact for good for your business what would that be?

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Its the eyes not the flowers