Know What You Don't Know: How Great Leaders Prevent ... Know What You Don’t Know How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen Michael A. Roberto

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  • Praise for Know What You Dont Know

    Michael Roberto has a unique knack of looking at fascinating, complexevents and drawing relevant parallels in all aspects of business management.His latest book is no exception.

    Jonathan Saxe, Chief Information OfficerInternational,Morgan Stanley

    With the speed at which business can change, the ability to see around cor-ners is paramount for business leaders. This book offers wisdom and practi-cal ideas about how to identify (and bring to light) the most critical issuesfacing an organization. Leaders cannot afford to ignore his insight andadvice!

    Paul Dominski, former Vice President,Organizational Effectiveness,

    Target Corporation

    Discovering problems when they are still minor is a vital skill in todays fast-moving business environment. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is theonly thing I intend to do at work every single day. This book guides you tobecome an effective problem-finder.

    Shin Odake, Chief Operating Officer,UNIQLO USA, Inc

    [This is an] insightful, useful, and richly illustrated book about the prover-bial ounce of preventionintegrating stimulating case studies and a range ofpsychological research, Robertos thought-provoking book shows you how toforestall crises by finding problems you didnt know existed.

    Amar Bhide, Lawrence D. Glaubinger Professor of Businessat Columbia University, and author of

    The Venturesome Economy: How InnovationSustains Prosperity in a More Connected World

    Michael Robertos latest book provides an innovative and fresh approach toproblem solving by focusing on problem finding. Know What You DontKnow offers real-world advice on becoming an effective problem hunteron detecting the minuscule cracks before they turn into irreparable cre-vasses. A must-read for anyone interested in the long-term success of theirproject, team, or organization.

    Scott Posner, Executive Vice President,The Bank of New York Mellon

  • Loaded with engaging examples, but also grounded in rigorous researchfindings, Robertos book is a rare treat. If you want to avoid getting blind-sided as a leader, you should read Know What You Dont Know.

    Donald C. Hambrick, Smeal Chaired Professor of Management,The Pennsylvania State University

    Michael Roberto has hit a home run with this book. The ability to anticipateis an essential trait to possess for any great leader of today and tomorrow. Istrongly recommend this book for leaders moving from good to great.

    Joseph F. Raccuia, President and CEO,SCA Tissue North America

    Hospitals are complex organizations where patients lives are in our hands.Know What You Dont Know gave me many practical and proactive ideas totry with my leadership team to identify problems before they become catas-trophes, when they can be used as opportunities for improvement.

    Constance A. Howes, President and CEO,Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island

    The secret to succeeding in business is to understand that the human sideof the business equation is the driver. What Michael Roberto has developedis the critical foundation to make it the reality. This is a must read!

    John D. Callahan, former President,Allstate Insurance

    Have you ever asked: How did this issue get so far? or Why did we not seethe early warning signs? Wouldnt it be rewarding to know you could pre-vent problems, rather than just instituting corrective actions? MichaelRobertos fresh perspective provides practical approaches to developingproblem discovery skills and capabilities. A must read!

    Gerardine Ferlins, President and CEO,Cirtronics Corporation

    This book describes useful techniques by which a leader can spot a problemearly. It is written in an easily understandable manner, with a number of dra-matic and specific examples. Professor Roberto demonstrates the globalapplicability of field-oriented approaches practiced by many distinguishedJapanese managers.

    Shozo Hashimoto, Chairman of the Board,Nomura School of Advanced Management

  • Know What You Dont Know

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  • Know What You Dont Know

    How Great Leaders Prevent ProblemsBefore They Happen

    Michael A. Roberto

  • Vice President, Publisher: Tim MooreAssociate Publisher and Director of Marketing: Amy Neidlinger

    Acquisitions Editor: Tim MooreEditorial Assistant: Pamela BolandDevelopment Editor: Russ HallOperations Manager: Gina KanouseDigital Marketing Manager: Julie PhiferPublicity Manager: Laura CzajaAssistant Marketing Manager: Megan ColvinCover Designer: Alan ClementsManaging Editor: Kristy HartProject Editor: Anne GoebelCopy Editor: Gayle JohnsonProofreader: Paula LowellIndexer: Erika MillenCompositor: Nonie RatcliffManufacturing Buyer: Dan Uhrig

    2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.

    Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458

    for bulk purchases or special sales. For more information, please contact U.S. Corporate andGovernment Sales, 1-800-382-3419, corpsales@pearsontechgroup.com. For sales outside theU.S., please contact International Sales at international@pearson.com.

    Company and product names mentioned herein are the trademarks or registered trademarksof their respective owners.

    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, in any form or by any means,without permission in writing from the publisher.

    Printed in the United States of America

    Second Printing October 2009

    ISBN-10 0-13-156815-9

    ISBN-13 978-0-13-156815-0

    Pearson Education LTD.Pearson Education Australia PTY, Limited.Pearson Education Singapore, Pte. Ltd.Pearson Education North Asia, Ltd.Pearson Education Canada, Ltd.Pearson Educacin de Mexico, S.A. de C.V.Pearson EducationJapanPearson Education Malaysia, Pte. Ltd.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Roberto, Michael A.Know what you dont know : how great leaders prevent problems before they

    happen / Michael A. Roberto.p. cm.

    ISBN 0-13-156815-9 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Problem solving. 2.Organizational change. 3. Organizational effectiveness. I. Title.HD30.29.R628 2009658.4036dc22

    2008033221

    Editor: Steve Kobrin

    Publishing as Prentice Hall

    Prentice Hall offers excellent discounts on this book when ordered in quantity

  • To my parents,Orazio and Violante Roberto

    Ancora imparo.Michelangelo

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  • Contents

    Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xii

    About the Author . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xv

    Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvi

    Chapter 1 From Problem-Solving toProblem-Finding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1Embrace Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6Why Problems Hide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

    Cultures of Fear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9Organizational Complexity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11Gatekeepers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13Dismissing Intuition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14Lack of Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

    Making Tradeoffs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17Becoming an Effective Problem-Finder . . . . . . . 18The Isolation Trap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

    Chapter 2 Circumvent the Gatekeepers . . . . . . . . . . . 27Why Filtering Takes Place . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

    Efficiency Concerns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31Pressures for Conformity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32Confirmation Bias . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33Advocacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

    Circumventing the Filters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35Listen with Your Own Ears . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36Seek Different Voices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39Connect with Young People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41Go to the Periphery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43Talk to the Nons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

    A Most Prescient Leader . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

  • Chapter 3 Become an Ethnographer . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53Why Dont People Do What They Say? . . . . . . . 57

    Leading Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58Group Dynamics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59The Unconscious Mind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

    Honing Your Powers of Observation . . . . . . . . . . 62A Few Words of Caution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66

    Chapter 4 Hunt for Patterns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73What Is Intuition? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75Faulty Analogies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77Solutions in Search of Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80Building Your Pattern-Recognition Capabilities . 84

    Better Analogies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84Mentoring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87Mining the Data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89

    What Do You Learn at Business School? . . . . . . 90

    Chapter 5 Connect the Dots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95The System Was Blinking Red . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96

    The CIA in Kuala Lumpur . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97The Phoenix Memo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98The Minneapolis Field Office Investigation . . . 99The 9/11 Attacks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100

    Why Not Share Information? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102Information Shari