The summer hasn’t even broke into a full swing and books are flying off my shelves. I think reading is my favorite part of summer because it is an opportunity to travel from home. There is nothing better than waking up to hot coffee, my back porch, 3 basset hounds, and the latest choice book.
I just finished Scaling Up Excellence by Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao which was assigned to the Mount Vernon’s leadership team to read over the summer. Its a quick read that is set up like many leadership / management books: Chapter Intro, delineated points, case studies, summary and a bridge to next chapter. Although predictable in form, Sutton and Rao provoked readers to consider the intentionality of scaling. A couple of thoughts came to mind moving through it…
I am a strong believer in the phrase, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” If you haven’t heard Guy Kawasaki speak on Mantra you should. He is an advocate that Mantra should be simple, elegant, and memorable.
Have it your way.
Don’t Be Evil.
Move Fast and Break Things.
Mantra should be inherently embedded into company life and clearly visible from every vantage point of an organization. Sutton and Rao’s list on scaling mantra makes a clear point that scaling in of itself must be a cultural norm.
Subtraction by Addition
Several times the authors talk about the Problem of More meaning that scaling will inherently create More. The paradox the authors constantly come back to is that in order to scale you have to subtract or divide in order to add or multiply. I especially enjoyed their discussion on this around cognitive load. In order to reduce cognitive load they suggest dividing teams into smaller units that are diversified to be specialized. It made me think about the advantages of grade-level teams verses content-teams. Does diversification, rather than specialization, get teams further faster? Is there stronger unity in teams that are highly diversified rather than specialized?
Good To Great Still Holds True
Above all things, reading this book reaffirms the values of Jim Collins’ seminal work Good to Great. From what I remember Sutton and Rao didn’t make an explicit reference to the book, but the echoes of G2G themes as they relate to scaling principles are implicit to their findings: A Culture of Discipline, The Fly Wheel, First Who Then What, and Stop and Start. I view scaling as a lens of organizational growth and success while the G2G principles are the meta-narrative of scaling organizations.
A Question Still On The Table:
What mechanisms do we have that assess cultural fit?
It is becoming more and more clear than innovative organizations highly depend upon their cultural underpinnings to keep their teams on the front lines. Organizations like Google, Facebook, and Plum Organics depend heavily on their cultural norms and mindsets to propel innovation and forward-thinking. Mount Vernon is one of the few schools that has STRONG and visible organizational culture that fosters innovation. This attracts a lot of people! As a result I think we need to be asking this question: How can we improve assessing cultural fit?
One thought towards a solution is developing a common Cultural Landscape. If we had to paint a picture of faculty culture what words would we say in order to paint it for others? I wonder if these descriptors should be more feeling than function? Beyond mission, mindset, and norms what does the cultural life of a Mount Vernon lead learner look like? Having common language is essential to culture setting and I believe describing what cultural fit for others is a crucial step for on-boarding innovators. Scaling an organization requires organizations to scale people.
In case you were curious: What has been / is on my summer reading list?
The Atlantis World by A. G. Riddle – This is the third and final book of The Origins Trilogy. If you like Jack Bauer, Andromeda Strain, and Sci-Fi you would love this fast-paced series. As with many trilogies the third book seemed to be written with haste to keep the fans hooked, but Riddle still pulled out a decent ending.
Watchmen by Alan Moore – One of the best graphic novels ever written. This is a novel that is a MUST read if you haven’t read it. I was inspired to reread it by my friend Dan Ryder’s AP Lit class who just finished a massive exhibit installation around the major themes of the book.
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey – A modern space odyssey mixed with murder mystery that is action packed. My favorite part of the book is that the technology still lives in the realms of modern physics. No faster-than-light travel and using economics as a basis for colonization make for a more interesting and tangible space novel.
Papa’s Blessings by Greg Bourgond – Words mean something. Names mean something. I believe in the power of blessing others. My one goal in my life is to be a good father. I think that starts with high invitation and challenge (expectations) with our kids. This book helps others craft blessings for their family. Very Excited to jump in on this one.
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell – I loved Tipping Point, Blink!, and Outlier so I know I am going to love this one. Its an assigned reading for the MV Upper School Team and I am stoked to read it.
Heaven by Randy Alcorn – Back cover: “Quite possible the second most impactful book next to the bible.” Me: We shall see.