In search of excellence ….

This is an email I sent to all of my team members today ….


This is the title of a business book from the eighties, before most of you were born, so it might seem out of date! Indeed no one at that time could have imagined the changes in the IT industry and the rise and fall of the some of the companies. The purpose of the book was to document a study that investigated why some businesses were excellent compared to others. They found that excellent businesses had the majority of the 8 themes from the book. (I copied these from a book summary)


  1. A bias for action, active decision making – ‘getting on with it’.
  2. Close to the customer – learning from the people served by the business.
  3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship – fostering innovation and nurturing ‘champions’.
  4. Productivity through people – treating rank and file employees as a source of quality.
  5. Hands-on, value-driven – management philosophy that guides everyday practice – management showing its commitment.
  6. Stick to the knitting – stay with the business that you know.
  7. Simple form, lean staff – some of the best companies have minimal HQ staff.
  8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties – autonomy in shop-floor activities plus centralised values.

I think the IT industry and the world economy have changed so fundamentally in the last 10 years that item number 6 is dead. However I see that all of the other items are still relevant to Tech Data and to ourselves. I also see that with items 7 and 8 we are losing the battle, and this will kill us and our company. I am sure you can all point out some aspect of bureaucracy that makes your daily work harder.

So here is the point of me sending you this email.

  1. We need to pursue excellence in everything that we do.
  2. We need to get on with it and “do”. I would point out the P-V that Kenneth has done as a brilliant example of this. This is a case study in taking initiative to get the job done. This is just one example, there are many more. However there are a lot of examples where we have not got on with it. Look at your own lists of actions and “just do it” (I think someone stole that for their own marketing campaign!).
  3. Be close to your customers and champion your own areas: if I look at many of the major incidents we have had in the past 7 days, we lack the discipline of one person being willing to champion that area – this point goes well beyond our own team, but we have plenty of examples ourselves.
  4. Point 5 is obvious. Everyone in the team contributes and needs to contribute. We are not a big team for the work we do. We need excellence in everyone and we should not put up with low quality from our colleagues. If you see, point it out (not just to me!).
  5. For my part, I will pursue points 7 and 8 and try to remove as many obstacles as I can, so that you can excel.

I would like to receive your comments on how we can improve as a team. In the meantime, keep up the good work and don’t settle for anything less than excellence, either from yourself or others.




How you feel is all about perspective

How you feel is all about perspective

And the meaning we put to things. This controls the way we feel about everything.

If you can change the meaning to give something then you make change the way you feel about yourself.  Do this consistently, and you can change your life.  I had this explained to me by an executive coach some time ago.  It takes a lot of effort and can take a long time to make these changes stick.  But at the end of the day this really matters. Let me illustrate with a real example.

Someone seeking help or trying to screw me over?

Friday afternoon at 4pm we are all thinking about the weekend. Some people are starting to disappear.  Dave contacts me asking for an emergency piece of work to be done that evening.

There are two simple ways to think about this.  On one hand you can think that Dave left this to the last minute and his panic is not my problem. He should plan his life better and not try to screw up the start of the weekend. What an asshole!  Fair enough?

OR I can think, Dave is really in a hole, under intense pressure from the business to get this change made here and now. He has decided to call me, because he believes I am the best person in the company to help him get this sorted. He really appreciates the help I can give him. Dave’s just in a tough position between a rock and a hard place.

The first scenario makes me feel bad, screwed over, helpless, I am a victim of someone else’s inability to plan. The second scenario makes me feel like a hero.

Depending upon the meaning I assign to the interaction with Dave, I can feel like a victim or a hero.  It’s pretty clear which option I want to take.  But it took someone else to help me work through this example and see a different perspective.