There’s an old saw in the world of business management, which goes something like this: “Faster, Cheaper, Better . . . you can have any two, but not all three.”
For many decades, this appeared to be something of an immutable law. But now two separate books by two wildly different authors covering two different ends of the business spectrum seem to assert—rather convincingly—that you can have all three if you’re willing to embrace some new rules.
Smarter, Faster, Cheaper by David Siteman Garland is a high-energy, up-tempo exposition by a social media guru that lays out what most of us have already heard many times before: there’s plenty of money to be made by young-at-heart entrepreneurs who are willing to put their own passion, personality, and knowledge out there for others to follow.
The key, of course, is to soft sell rather than hard sell, to be a resource for others and provide only gentle reminders to buy. “If people like you,” we learn, “they will buy everything you have.”
Garland advises us to combine our personal passion for whatever topic/product/service really moves us with an appreciation for what our community of followers will actually buy. The mechanism for accomplishing all this is today’s free social media.
Without providing an exact road map (which doesn’t exist, Garland assures us), he lays out enough examples, admonitions, and storytelling for us to perceive a generic and fairly well traveled pathway from anywhere you may be now to wherever you’d like to go.
This involves, as you can imagine, producing huge quantities of passionate content designed to have a long shelf life. He advocates creating video—which need not be of television broadcast quality as long as the audio track is tolerable—and then repurposing that video into audio-only and transcripted text versions, plus other formats.
He encourages us to tell stories rather than lecture, to schmooze our audience members and convert them to a community, to connect, listen, and share. For those who may feel less creative and fear the challenge of creating their own content, Garland advocates becoming a content DJ, or a curator, in which role you simply collect others’ content and make it available to your community so they appreciate you as a resource, even if you create hardly any new content on your own.
A tireless cheerleader for new media, Garland urges us to forget about reliance on traditional media, and to consider any mention we may get on radio or TV, in newspapers or magazines, a mere cherry on the top of our big bowl of social media ice cream.
In doing all this, we should have patience, says Garland, because “The money train won’t immediately make a stop at your home.”
And while content, passion, and personality are central themes in the book, Garland does make brief mention of the 80/20 rule, though in reverse: “Those who have created strong content often skyrocketed because of the 20/80 rule,” he writes. “Twenty percent of your time is allocated to creation; 80 percent to promotion, relationship-building, and so forth.”
So confident is Garland, that it’s practically impossible for an eager entrepreneur to come away from this book without believing the money train will indeed make a stop at his/her home, if only he/she has enough patience to keep promoting, relationship-building, and so forth.
Faster Cheaper Better by Michael Hammer and Lisa W. Hershman offers similar levels of hope for those at the opposite end of the spectrum, who labor at massive projects within large organizations.
Unlike David Siteman Garland, who wrote Smarter, Faster, Cheaper to proselytize the enthusiastic individual and likely amateur entrepreneur, Hammer (lead author of Reengineering the Corporation in 1994 and a leading light in the world of management consulting, who died in 2008) suggests that his readers bank on reinventing business units of any size along the lines of what he terms an “end-to-end process” that subsumes all activity from initial sales contacts through product/service design and delivery.
Because of their very different expertise and focus, Hammer and Hershman have written Faster Cheaper Better for people already caught up in the intricacies and heavy-momentum organizational dynamics of extremely large companies. As a result, their recipe for success is necessarily more complex and more procedural. According to Hammer and Hershman, “…the root cause of persistent performance problems is found not in who reports to whom but in how work itself is organized and performed.”
Basically, Hammer and Hershman (a long-time association and now CEO of Hammer and Company) advocate derailing the normal tendency for functional departments—sales, product development, manufacturing, shipping, and so forth—to narrowly define their goals and responsibilities, and pursue their own ideas of how best to operate and what is most important in relative isolation. Instead, they advocate installing a big picture approach within the entire organization, in which everyone focuses on creating an integrated end-to-end process that meets the needs of customers with a minimum of unnecessary and wasteful activity.
In one example, Hammer and Hershman discuss a company that had 94 different steps in its haphazard process of getting new orders and fulfilling them, of which only 11 were of any importance to the customer. Under this regime, it took the company 48 hours to turn a customer inquiry into a proposal, and it was able to deliver on what it promised only about 10 percent of the time.
After Hammer and his group helped the company develop a seamless new end-to-end process, there were only 28 steps required from taking an order to delivering it. Under this streamlined approach, the company could respond to an inquiry in only 6 hours and was able to deliver what it promised more than 85 percent of the time. Resulting sales growth exceeded even Hammer’s expectations.
In Faster Cheaper Better, Hammer and Hershman lay out a complete set of guidelines to help companies develop their own end-to-end processes, which they assert can only be done gradually and across the board, applying nine different principles at once. These principles cover five Process Enablers (Design, Performers, Process Ownership, Infrastructure, and Metrics), and four Enterprise Capabilities (Leadership, Culture, Expertise, and Governance).
Their book is not only replete with ideas, examples, and explanations of ways to move organizations toward an end-to-end process, but features a handy chart which lays out the nine principles along with criteria for grading how well an organization is implementing each of them. By going through the chart and rating one’s organization on the three or four criteria associated with each of the nine principles, managers can produce a fairly comprehensive scorecard which shows where they need to apply more effort to keep moving their organization toward the realization of an effective end-to-end process.
While neither of these books offers more than a set of guidelines for moving in a desired direction, they provide a solid basis for hoping that people doing business at any level can produce marked improvements in their results without having to sacrifice speed, compromise quality, or spend vast sums of money to get there.