Book Review: Ram Charan's Know-How
Know-How: The 8 Skills That Separate People Who Perform from Those Who Don’t is designed to blend leadership vision with real accomplishment. Consultant Ram Charan, who co-authored Execution, identifies the following skills as essential:
Positioning: Finding the point that meets customer demands while making money and being able to shift from that point when required. (And yes, it is possible to meet customer demands without making money. Many management consulting firms can attest to that.)
Pinpointing External Change: Getting ahead of the change curve so your business can take advantage of it.
Leading the Social System: Getting your team to adopt behavior that will achieve desirable results.
Judging People: Matching people’s talents to the job.
Molding a Team: Subduing the egos of highly competent people.
Setting Goals: Aiming for realistic targets and not being trapped by precedent.
Setting Laser-Sharp Priorities: Combining tasks with resources, actions, and energy to achieve the goals.
Dealing with Forces Beyond the Market: Either exploiting their opportunities or minimizing their harm.
Charan doesn’t just spend time with these strategies - he also examines personal characteristics of high performers – but much of the book is devoted to corporate examples. One which might raise some eyebrows is Robert Nardelli, the recently departed CEO of Home Depot. Oddly enough, the Nardelli section deals with the building of a positive social system, which may be the one area in which Nardelli was least successful.
Despite the Nardelli distraction, Know-How contains a lot of thought-provoking and practical examples. For example, in the section on recognizing and voiding derailers:
“The single biggest reason for teams not performing effectively is the psychology of the leader. It often lies in a profound discomfort and even fear of giving the candid feedback that helps mold direct reports into a team. When it comes to taking business risks such as bold moves to gain market share, the image projected is that of the fierce competitor willing to push himself and others hard. But place the leader in the role of critiquing a direct report whose behavior is impairing the team’s effectiveness and a fear response kicks in that leaves him or her indecisive. Perhaps surprisingly, that fear arises from insecurity. Many business leaders have a deep longing for loyalty from their subordinates and will go to great lengths to encourage it, including withholding criticism.”
Know-How is not for new supervisors, although I know some who’d quickly absorb it, but veteran supervisors, managers, and executives will find the book reminding them of core truths that they've forgotten. They will also discover new insights that will help to bridge the gap between the wish and the achievement.