Six Disciplines of Excellence is not just a book to read, place carefully in your bookshelf and forget.
Gary Harpst has written it into a tool that any business can use to successfully grow bigger, more profitable and more consistent.
The book’s title sounds a little like Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and the author acknowledges that books help. He also acknowledges the book’s debt to others such as Michael Gerber and Peter Senge and I would say also to Edwards Deming the quality guru too. This book is all about showing you what a well run company looks like when it has the right processes in place to communicate with its staff, its customers, its suppliers and shareholders.
The Six Disciplines
The disciplines are as follows:
- Decide What’s Important
- Set Goals That Lead
- Align Systems
- Work The Plan
- Innovate Purposefully
- Step Back
One interesting point that’s made early in the book is:
“…growing businesses eventually outgrow the very skills that made them successful in the first place. And that it happens so slowly, most business leaders don’t realize until they’re in deep trouble.”
And as the author explains this book is aimed at SME’s and 20% of it is principals and 80% is practical implementation, including forms and worked examples. Even better the whole Six Disciplines method has been designed with the Internet at the front of his brain.
What The Book Provides
The author explains how you can tell a well led and a poorly led and failing organization. And he doesn’t just tell you what they look like he also goes into what to look for within the company. For example he talks about people not being engaged in a failing project or business.
And while the headline disciplines seem self-evident the author goes into detail on exactly how to create processes that will lead your business from wherever it is now to where you want it to be in the future. And not only does he explain how to create the processes he gives many, if not all, the processes required to help your business step up a gear through using better processes.
Decide What’s Important
The first discipline is “Decide What’s Important.” Harpst recognizes that many businesses will need to renew their mission, so he gives a process that helps do that. More than that he observes that the best people don’t join company’s with mission statements but companies that are on a mission. In this first discipline he demonstrates processes to work out an organization’s values, its strategic position and its “Vital Few Objectives.”
And finally he provides a process to eliminate the projects, products and services that don’t align with the organization’s refreshed new position.
Set Goals That Lead
Harpst shows the processes to produce “goals that lead”, the targets they aim for and the measurements to use to check they’ve on the right road and for when they achieve their goals.
Goals are probably the one thing that everyone in business professes to know all about. After all we all know the “SMART” approach to goals. With that in mind Harpst explains how to engage the team to want to achieve the goals.
In this Internet and high tech world we often hear of the need to align systems whenever a company takes over another one. Yet this chapter deals with aligning policies, procedures and people as well as the technology. And here as with the rest of the book you’re given the appropriate process to help you achieve aligned systems.
Work The Plan
Working the plan becomes a natural consequence of the other disciplines. And it’s all about each person having their own plan which they and their supervisors monitor. At first glance such a detailed level of planning looks very time consuming. In practice once it’s set-up they’re an invaluable tool.
This chapter gives ways of creating new products, new services and better ways of achieving tasks. Again it goes further by noting that you must recognise contributions and champion ideas to get them through.
Harpst explains the importance of competition, company, external and individual reviews to enable the company to move forward whilst taking advantage of improvements or advances in any area.
Any smallish company of between one and a hundred people will definitely benefit from buying, studying and applying the Six Disciplines found in this book. Gary Harpst has taken strands of so many different methods for improving business and cooked them up to produce a recipe for building a better small business. If you’re a small company this book can get you well down the path to a better and more profitable company and improve your own personal growth.