How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things | Neil Smith

Summary of: How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking the 8 Hidden Barriers that Plague Even the Best Businesses
By: Neil Smith


In ‘How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking the 8 Hidden Barriers that Plague Even the Best Businesses’, Neil Smith highlights the pitfalls that many businesses encounter, regardless of their size or industry. Identifying eight critical barriers – ranging from controversial issues to management blockers – Smith emphasizes the need for effective communication, problem-solving, time management, and structural change. Readers will learn strategies to deal with these barriers, enabling the company to work efficiently, create superior customer service, and unlock a goldmine of untapped ideas.

Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Success

Every company faces hidden obstacles that hinder their ability to do their best work. These barriers can manifest in both structural and behavioral forms, impacting every level of the organization. The book identifies eight distinct roadblocks that companies face and provides solutions to help overcome them. By breaking down these barriers and implementing targeted solutions, companies can unleash their full potential and achieve greater success. With this insight, leaders can reflect on their own organizations, identify potential pitfalls, and take actionable steps towards eliminating them.

Overcoming Barrier to Innovation

Companies thrive when they foster a culture of inclusivity and encourage open communication among employees. Unfortunately, internal leaders often avoid dealing with controversial issues, leaving problems to fester. These leaders prioritize being seen as personable and nonthreatening over making tough decisions and risk angering staff members. To overcome this barrier, companies need to change their processes and create a structured approach to problem-solving. By working together, employees can focus on solutions instead of individual errors. Three personality types are particularly prone to avoiding conflict: agreeable types, detail-oriented types, and sensitive types. To create a safe and inclusive environment for managing conflict, companies need to address the root causes of this behavior and equip employees with the tools they need to feel confident resolving conflicts. With a culture that values inclusivity and open communication, companies can unlock a wealth of untapped ideas that can help them stay relevant and competitive in today’s fast-changing business landscape.

Overcoming Time Management Barriers

The book discusses how companies face both structural and behavioral barriers to effective time management. The behavioral component involves how individuals manage their time while the structural component arises when companies dictate how employees should use their time. A third component, the “value of time,” is driven by customers. Culture change is identified as essential in breaking down behavioral barriers to time management, and companies can prevent wasted time by avoiding duplicated internal efforts. Decision-making is described as a muscle that requires exercise, and setting concrete practical goals decreases procrastination and increases productivity. To overcome procrastination, the book recommends breaking large projects into smaller, concrete tasks, making project completion a part of the corporate culture and holding employees publicly accountable for their projects. The author details how to overcome reluctance, which is one of the easiest barriers to uncover but one of the hardest to break. Finally, the book suggests eliminating repetition or duplicated efforts, making employees aware of the consequences of not meeting deadlines, and asking employees how they could better manage their workflow while offering them support.

Embrace Change, Improve Business

Companies must adapt to customer needs, but people resist change due to comfort zones and fear of the unknown. Managers should foster change through a top-down approach, gradually introducing adjustments and rewarding positive behavior. People cooperate with change if they understand the reasoning and have control. Change should be nonthreatening, self-esteem enhancing and beneficial for people to embrace. Conversely, people resist change if they can’t control, see the benefits, or find it threatening. Reluctance to change can lead to customer service problems, so managers should ensure their corporate culture fosters change to improve business.

Breaking Down Silos

Corporate silos hinder communication and collaboration, limiting the sharing of knowledge across different departments. Silo thinking is pervasive, making it difficult for managers to consider other divisions even when shared knowledge could increase effectiveness. While autonomy is necessary, lasting change requires communication and cooperation between divisions.

Breaking the Barrier

Dispute resolution in credit-card companies can take up to six months to resolve problems. An employee suggested resolving these issues quickly over the phone with merchants and cardholders. Managers reject ideas due to fear of losing power or looking bad. To overcome this barrier, companies should encourage transparency and allow managers to objectively see how they make decisions.

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