Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Force

In Star Wars, the Force flowed throughout the universe influencing all things.  In business, the customer is “The Force.”  Customers—and customers only—produce revenues and decide if a business will have the opportunity for results.  All else is cost!  Customers are the only source of revenue.  Excellent businesses are above all else customer oriented.  They press the flesh; they show the flag; they ask, and they listen.  They like their customers and their customers like them.

On January 22, 2013 starting at 6:30pm I will be signing my books and reading from the latest Mark Rollins adventure, The Claret Murders, at Parnassus Books in the Green Hills area of Nashville.
For more information go to

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Do plans need to be in writing?  Yes, but in a form that serves its purpose.  That is not as a bound volume that resides on a bookshelf never to be referenced once the creators have “finished” their planning task.  It is a communication vehicle—best conveyed in words, phrases, short paragraphs, charts, key performance indicators, and pictures.  It should be in a form easily changed and updated.  It should not be burdened with the niceties of a literary quality.  Its purpose is to have every member of the team guided by the same “playbook.”
In this age of advanced communications and technology, the playbook should be maintained as an integral part of the enterprise’s internal systems.  Those internal systems should serve as the enterprise’s command and control center.  Their purpose is to empower members of the team by giving them the clarity needed for the confidence to make decisions and take action on the frontline.  Management is about achieving objectives through others.  It follows that maintaining and refining the “playbook” is job one for the leader.  In today’s world, the “playbook” isn’t one thing—it is the leader’s blog, the organization’s intranet site, it is periodic video conferences or planning retreats, it is the business’s key performance indicators, its bonus, commission, and reward plans.  Wherever possible, words are better than phrases, phrases are better than sentences, sentences are better than paragraphs, and paragraphs are better than pages.  That is because the excellence company communicates so frequently and so clearly, that words and phrases become triggers conveying much more extensive content.  The use of words and phrases makes the job of constantly communicating, refining, and changing the dynamic plan easier. 
A beautiful Nashville lawyer, an inheritance at risk, a devastating storm and wine to kill for—The Claret Murders, a new Mark Rollins adventure.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Planning is a circle of activity—a dynamic continuous process of setting and revising temporary targets and developing strategies and tactics for achieving them.  Any endeavor or enterprise can be accidently successful for a short period of time—they can have their Andy Warhol fifteen minutes of fame.  However, it is even more likely that they will simply fail without ever achieving their fifteen minutes of success.  The important question is what do purposely successful companies do that sets them apart from the rest of the pack.  The answer is they intentionally do five things: 
  1. Engage in the planning process 
  2. Set goals and objectives 
  3. Develop plans for achieving those goals 
  4. Prepare their team for opportunities and contingencies 
  5. Measure progress and hold people accountable 
Only a few organizational teams achieve excellence.  Or in Jim Collins’ vernacular, only a few go from good to great.  As for the rest, either they don’t plan at all, or the production of “the plan” (a well written an attractively bound document) has become the goal itself.  The problem, of course, is that the best thought-out plan resting on the bookshelf serves its purpose about as well as a broken watch tells time—it shows the correct time twice every day.  Some general is said to have barked “all plans are good until the first bullets are fired. Then it all goes out the window.”  Plans produce targets based on assumptions.  Assumptions are inaccurate estimates about the future.  Thus planning for the future would be impossible if it were not so absolutely essential for survival and success; therefore, the purposefully successful enterprise’s most important plan is the plan to change the plan.
Planning is a continuous ongoing process.  It is not some bound book.  The plan shapes the decisions and actions of the team by establishing temporary targets—and the team’s actions and decisions made on the front line change the plan.
It is a dynamic process illustrated in part by the Opportunity Wedge.  As time advances on the future, assumptions become more accurate.  Decisions and actions made on the front line close in on a target that moves from a Cone of Uncertainty to a clearer target.  For such a dynamic process to work it must be a state of mind, a way of thinking and communicating, where the team is nimble and quick on its feet, constantly adjusting and refining the plan to changing conditions and expectations. 
Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, and Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders.   For signed copies go to  Ebook editions are available on Amazon for the Kindle, on Barnes & Noble for the Nook and in Apple iTunes' iBookstore for the iPad.  Paperback editions are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Can They; Will They?

Can They and Will They in This Environment with Our People

What makes hiring so difficult?  We are each individuals and there is no such thing as one for one substitution.  The question that has to be asked about each individual is “Can they do the job?  Will they do the job?”  If the answer is yes, you still have to ask, “Can and Will they in this environment with our people.”  The can part is the easy part.  Will they is harder to answer.  In this environment with our people is hardest of all.  Unfortunately, the best of us is unlikely to score better that 50/50 when it comes to the hiring process.  But the job of picking the people who will do the job in this environment with our people is so important that it calls for investing in the process.  There should be multiple face-to-face interviews involving multiple people in the organization.  Use of professional personality testing and systems that predict success should be a standard practice.

The first step in the process for filling any job is that you have to know what you are looking forEvery job has a picture—it requires a certain prerequisite KASH and there are traits even including appearance and lifestyle that are best suited for success in the particular job environment.
When it comes to management positions, most companies consider three choices for filling the job.  There is the best mechanic and the logical choice within one’s own organization, and then there is the unknown candidate who can come from either inside or outside of the organization.  Because one is the best mechanic doesn’t mean they have the skills required for the management position.  Usually the best salesman, for example, doesn’t make the best sales manager.  The typical advice is to keep your best salesperson selling.  Put them into a job they are not qualified for and everyone loses.  You lose your top salesperson and gain a poor sales manager.  The rest of your sales team loses under poor leadership.  Eventually you will have to terminate the poor manager, or they will voluntarily leave to return to what they like and do best.  Perhaps even worse is the logical choice decision.  Just because someone’s seniority makes them next in line is no way to select the best candidate for the job.  The only right way is to select the best fit of the choices available.  The excellent manager must pick the candidate best matching the success-orientated job’s picture.  Look internally and also look outside the organization.  Remember “A” level people want to work with “A” level people.
I emphasize the importance of using technology and making the investment in systems that test and provide you with predictions regarding the fit of candidates in your environment and with your people.  But face-to-face interviews are still an essential part of the process.  Interview questions should be "Why" centered.  Why the past history?  Why the present situation?  Why the future aspirations or objectives?  Past, present, and future aspirations are predictors of the future but only if the answers to the question “why” are in harmony with the job requirements.  The fact that a candidate had a paper route as a youth has a different implication, for example, if they did so only because a parent insisted.
The success-oriented company doesn’t wait for job candidates to come to them.  They find them.  Determine the best fit and sell the job to the selected candidate.  The concept of selling the job is important.  In all sales, the buyer must understand how the benefits will enable him to achieve his objectives, and they must understand the price to be paid.  Satisfied customers are not oversold or misled as to features or price.  The same holds true in making the job sale. 

Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, and Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders.   For signed copies go to  Ebook editions are available on Amazon for the Kindle, on Barnes & Noble for the Nook and in Apple iTunes' iBookstore for the iPad.  Paperback editions are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores.