It's a Project Manager's World Newsletter with Dr. James Brown
      March 2010 Full Moon Edition      

Book Review

The Power of Many: Values for Success in Business and Life

Although I am sure Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, who is running for Governor in the state of California, wrote this book in part for political reasons, I read it for the same reasons I read other leadership remind me of the fundamental truths and hopefully pick up some new perspectives.

This book did not disappoint!

This book does a great job of mixing in personal and business stories to illustrate some key leadership points. Her description of the growth and challenges of eBay was compelling. She shares what worked for her as well as admitting to mistakes. This was refreshing. She also points out where she does not agree with the traditional mindset or popular thought.

For example she states "Trying is important. But trying is not the same as achieving success. I diverge from the philosophers and poets here; to me, success is not about the quality of your experience in striving for your goal. To me, the journey is not the reward. The journey can be fantastic; my journey at eBay was fantastic. But what matters is whether or not you accomplish your mission."

Here are 16 of the excerpts I found particularly important.

1. "When it comes to new product development or certain kinds of marketing where parameters are fluid, I very deliberately do not ask people to be perfect. In fact, I'm more inclined to say that in these realms perfect is the enemy of good enough...If we wait to try to anticipate all the problems in advance, the cost of that delay will be too high. We will learn much faster from trying it out."

2. "You can make a big goal feel small by breaking it down, but you can't make a small goal feel big."

3. "Never be afraid to borrow a good idea. Pay for it by giving credit. In fact, share credit as liberally as you can...Too many business people have an unquenchable thirst for credit, or an ego problem that prevents them from reaching out in a sincere and effective way to people who can help them."

4. "It was a strong reminder that it isn't enough to ask questions and listen carefully to the answers if you don't ask the right questions."

5. "The way I usually put it is the price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake. You do not have to be perfect to be an effective leader, but you cannot be timid."

6. "I usually learned lessons from failures that would become valuable in my later successes."

7. "The process of letting go of yesterday's pet projects and activities can be difficult. But if you can't do that, you can't scale. You can't take refuge in the comfortable and familiar; you have to grow with the job...another aspect to managing scale through your team is to periodically taking responsibilities away from talented people and bringing in the right people from outside the organization."

8. "When you are inventing something from the ground up, a bias toward action and an understanding of how to use iteration to learn more, faster, is crucial."

9. "The difference between a competent executive and a superstar often boils down to the willingness to decide to move forward, even when the path is not crystal clear."

10. "There is a myth-at least I believe it's a myth-that great success demands that we give up, or at least fudge, our relationship to what most of us recognize as decent, commonsense values...But just talking values doesn't mean anything...What seems to surprise people is that..the hard-nosed business values and the "softer" ethical values-were complementary."

11. "I have been asked so many times about being a woman in a man's world, and about how I dealt with sexism in the workplace. My short answer is mostly I just focus on delivering results."

12. "My response as a manager is that it's important to cut until you get that reaction. By forcing people to justify what they are doing and what they're spending on it, you're instilling a healthy discipline. Some will be able to justify what they spend; others will not, and they deserve to see their budgets trimmed."

13. "Being open and honest is easy to advocate but harder in practice."

14. "There is nothing more important than finding the right person for the right job at the right time. People forget that last element. What we needed yesterday is not what we need today."

15. "I can't abide yes-people. I feel energized by other people with new and different perspectives from my own, not an echo chamber."

16. "All success in life demands constant reinvention. If you cannot scale you will fail."

As someone who has dedicated their life to teaching, researching and consulting in the field of project management I agreed with and was thankful she stated a truth I have found... "Project management skills are surprisingly rare in business, even though they are possibly the most important skills needed to be a good operating executive."

A lot of CEO books come dripping with ego. This book provided sound leadership advice with a strong since of humility. That is the way leaders are supposed to be but it often seems rare to find.

Dr. James T. Brown, Author, The Handbook of Program Management - McGraw-Hill 

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