In this talk, which I highly recommend, engineer and innovator Tom Chi describes how he fights against guess-a-thons and gets his teams working in the medium of reality. To see what it’s like for a principal to step into the reality of a student, watch the PBS NewsHour segment I mention in the chapter. You’ll see Assistant Principal Karen Ritter run sprints, battle back-to-back sections of Algebra, and write an essay alongside her ninth-grade shadowee, Alan Garcia. If you’re curious about the swashbuckling world of turnaround specialists, start with James Shein’s Reversing the Slide. Shein’s book is both sharp and irreverent, making for an engaging read. See Chapter 9 for a look at GAAP vs. the 13-week-cash-flow model.
For more on the theory of constraints, I’m not sure if anything can top the classic 1984 business book The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox. It offers practical lessons and examples on how to evaluate an entire system (versus its individual components) as well as insights on organizational culture, leadership and teamwork. And did I mention it’s a novel?
For a quicker but still illuminating read on the theory of constraints, Clarke Ching’s The Bottleneck Rules is a handy field guide for identifying and effectively managing a system’s pain points. As a palate cleanser, enjoy this comedic take on what happens when “closing the gaps” at Chick-Fil-A goes too far.
I learned about the US Air Force’s cockpit study from Todd Rose’s fascinating book The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness. Rose, who headed the Mind, Brain, and Education program at Harvard, breaks down the myth of measuring individuals against the average in schools and at work. He’s really good at showing how there are usually multiple pathways to success: the three approaches children take when learning to read, the seven distinct routes to career success, and more. For a more psychological take on change, including a closer look at the power of bright spots thinking, check out Switch, co-written by my brother Chip and me. If you’re a cat person—or simply interested in learning more about how two vets managed to save more than two million cats—check out the delightful “Unleashing Social Change” podcast episode with Kate Hurley.
John J. Murphy’s 2023 book Solution-Focused Therapy offers a rigorous and thorough overview on ways to get quick and lasting results with personal challenges; for an even deeper dive into SFT tools like bright spots and goal setting, be sure to pick up Solution-Focused Counseling in Schools. For more on how David Philippi applies his Pareto-inspired approach to effective leadership and family matters, check out his blog post “Dad, Son and CEO” as well as other posts on Strategex’s 80/20 paradigm. I briefly mentioned Michael Kaiser’s book The Art of the Turnaround. (“You can’t save your way to health.”) It is excellent—an insider’s view of how Kaiser turned around struggling (and famous) arts institutions such as the Royal Opera House and the Kennedy Center.
An online search of “DOWNTIME + waste” yields a lot of similar results, most from consultancies specializing in lean. Most do the same thing of summarizing the eight types of waste. Here is one graphic I especially liked, and here’s a downloadable DOWNTIME worksheet. Gary Kaplan is also a champion of the Rapid Results approach to change, which he discusses briefly here. Though not waste-specific, it’s certainly relevant to our mission to make quick progress. For more on Rapid Results, check out the book by Robert Schaffer and Ron Ashkenas.
Dr. Doug Eby, the Southcentral Foundation’s Executive Vice President of Specialty Services, offers a look into their radically different approach to primary care in this talk about the Nuka Model (part 1, Eby starts at 6:15, and part 2). If the “middle problem” of motivation resonated with you, it’s worth picking up a copy of Get It Done: Surprising Lessons from the Science of Motivation by Ayelet Fishbach. She draws on the burgeoning field of motivation science to develop a framework for navigating personal change. For more on how Dianne Connery started tapping into her community to resuscitate and transform the Pottsboro public library, check out her inspiring presentation from 2016, “Flip the Script: Changing the Direction of the Library.”
For a deeper look at Gabriele Wulf’s work on motivation and attention, see her 2021 paper (open-access version), coauthored with Rebecca Lewthwaite, which describes her OPTIMAL theory of performance. Self-dialysis: Richard Gibney isn’t the only trailblazer in boosting patients to the top of their range. You can read more about Gibney’s efforts and a similar initiative at a Dallas healthcare system in this Harvard Business Review article. Spotify: In this video, Henrik Kniberg shares how the Spotify engineering team lets their people drive, but makes sure they’re driving in the right direction. The key, Kniberg explains around the three-minute-mark, is maximizing both “alignment” and “autonomy.” For more on letting people drive, listen to this podcast episode with James Daunt. Daunt is the independent bookseller who turned around Waterstones, the UK’s largest book retailer. He did so, in large part, by empowering the staff to decide how they could best serve their communities.
David Feinberg walks the talk when it comes to treating patients like family. His work was a major source of inspiration for this chapter—for more on his leadership in transforming the UCLA Health System, I’d recommend Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph Michelli. Linda Metcalf literally wrote the book on the Miracle Question, a step-by-step guide to seeing your way quickly through confounding situations to meaningful and lasting change. Its primary focus is on personal relationships at home but it also includes some advice on how to build more effective connections within the workplace. If you enjoyed the T-Mobile TEX teams story, be sure to check out my original source, Matthew Dixon’s “Reinventing Customer Service: How T-Mobile Achieved Record Levels of Quality and Productivity,” published in 2018 in HBR. It’s deeply reported and a great read. (Btw I also loved Dixon’s book The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty, co- written with Nick Toman and Rick DeLisi—essential reading for anyone looking to get to TOR in customer service.) For more in the Incident Command System, this case study (with Katrina, fires, Pentagon, etc).
For more on “time confetti” (and how to avoid it), check out Brigid Schulte’s book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, as well as Ashley Whillans’ article, “Time Confetti and the Broken Promise of Leisure.” If your team is looking for a methodology to help compress time, Jake Knapp’s Sprint is a terrific resource. In his book, Knapp details the design sprint method he developed at Google and which he’s applied in organizations big and small around the world. For remote teams looking to accelerate their collaboration, here’s an article on the ways “bursty” communication can help your team thrive.
Here’s my second plug for the talk by Tom Chi that I recommended in Chapter 2. For those looking to understand both how to learn faster and the why behind it, there’s no better introduction. Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi is a great tool for shrinking the learning loop in your organization. Eric Nuzum’s book Make Noise further explores the benefits and clarity that comes with getting your great ideas (and the not-so-great ones) down on paper; although his focus is audio storytelling, Nuzum’s insights can be applied to a range of creative endeavors. (His Substack, The Audio Insurgent, is another great resource for making stories come alive.) For more on the HappyOrNot terminals used by the San Francisco 49ers, check out David Owen’s New Yorker story “Customer Satisfaction at the Push of a Button,” which traces their fascinating history. (The first installation was in a small grocery store in western Finland.)