I think we all liked the kinds of stories Tom Peters told. We liked the story about how astronaut Frank Borman insisted on clean tray tables when he took over as president of Eastern Airlines. If you can’t take care of the tray tables, why should the customer think you can take care of the engines? “Now clean your desk,” we’d joke. We also like the one about how a worker took the initiative to charter an airplane to get some important delivery through. “Get the helicopter,” we’d joke.
The eight ‘themes’ Peters and coauthor Robert Waterman highlighted were:
- A bias for action, active decision making - 'getting on with it'. Facilitate quick decision making & problem solving tends to avoid bureaucratic control
- Close to the customer - learning from the people served by the business.
- Autonomy and entrepreneurship - fostering innovation and nurturing 'champions'.
- Productivity through people- treating rank and file employees as a source of quality.
- Hands-on, value-driven - management philosophy that guides everyday practice - management showing its commitment.
- Stick to the knitting - stay with the business that you know.
- Simple form, lean staff - some of the best companies have minimal HQ staff.
- Simultaneous loose-tight properties - autonomy in shop-floor activities plus centralized values.
Those must not have been the silver bullets we were looking for.