All Hands on Deck

In All Hands on Deck, a CEO takes over a company in distress and finds Walt Disney waiting for him in a limousine. They head to The Magic Kingdom and view business legends like Henry Ford, Ray Kroc, Mary Kay Ash, and Jim Burke interacting with colleagues. The CEO tells his staff that they have lost touch with their founding values, adopts a bold new strategy to rebuild the culture, and despite feeling like he should have negotiated combat pay as he listens to employees and customers vent their frustrations, he succeeds in turning the company around.

Once you get past the premise, this is a great book. I especially liked the insights regarding fear (89-91):

  • Fear is a reaction; courage is a decision
  • Cliques and silos indicate a fear-filled workplace
  • Action is the hacksaw that cuts through the prison bars of fear
  • Make fear your ally by letting it catalyze you to action instead of allowing it to paralyze you into inaction

He called attention to our limiting beliefs with, “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a long, inward gaze.”

He quoted Daniel Pink that engagement requires the following three conditions to be present (104)

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

He quotes Drucker that leaders should treat their workers as volunteers, because they are. It may seem unsettling, but our top talent walks out the door every day. What makes them want to return? He closes with the insight that people cannot be empowered, that the only genuine empowerment is self-empowerment, which he summarizes as “Proceed till apprehended.” He describes empowerment as a state of mind, not a job description.

This book reminded me of a scene in which a hospital CEO asked “How many people own a car?” followed by “How many of you have taken the car to a car wash?”

Then he asked, “How many of you have rented a car,” and “How many of you have taken the car to a car wash?” It took months before physicians came to the realization described in Collaborate for Success (page 5) that :

It has become abundantly clear that we have lost touch with each other. Forces are being brought to bear which many of us have ignored or dismissed because we have felt powerless to influence them. Our professional, ethical charge is to provide our services in the manner that is most beneficial to the welfare of our patients. We are now reminded that the hospital has the same responsibility. Our task is to work together to find solutions that will benefit all three- patient, physician, and hospital- and in so doing, gain strength from one another.”

At a meeting of his senior team, the CEO in All Hands on Deck said (114):

… the accountability pendulum has swung too far to the left brain. We’ve become so obsessed with counting beans that we forgot our future success depends upon planting beans. What had been a culture that encouraged entrepreneurial thinking gradually morphed into one which people were more concerned with covering their tracks than with blazing new trails….

They outlined 4 essential characteristics for building a culture of ownership:

  • Commitment to values, vision, and the mission, as summarized by,“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
  • Engagement with customers, co-workers, and the work itself, as summarized by,“There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes.”
  • Passion: Enthusiasm for the work and fellowship in the workplace, as summarized by, “Making sure that people are having fun is the ultimate retention strategy.”
  • Pride in the organization, the job, and themselves, as summarized by, “The best way to make sure people are proud of their work is to assure competence and motivation through training, recommitting to have the best-trained people in the industry.”

What do you think?

As always, I welcome your input to improve collaboration in our workplaces.

Kenneth H. Cohn

© 2012, all rights reserved

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