The Catalyst: How You Can Become an Extraordinary Growth Leader Hardcover – Mar 24 2009
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“Jeanne Liedtka has dedicated herself for years–with passion and rigor–to an inspired concept: people can build pockets of greatness deep inside any organization. Growth leadership is a choice, not a blessing from above–a choice made by largely unknown heroes who create exceptional enterprises, no matter what the bureaucratic obstacles. By studying these remarkable internal entrepreneurs and lending fresh insight as to how they achieve success, she has done the world of management a tremendous service.”
—Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and coauthor of Built to Last
“Bob Rosen, Jeanne Liedtka, and Rob Wiltbank unlock the secret to growth in today’s turbulent and uncertain times. The Catalyst is a must-read book for all leaders of the twenty-first century.”
—Marshall Goldsmith, bestselling author of What Got You There Won’t Get You There
“For anyone who really wants a practical, commonsense approach to how innovation and growth really happen . . . these guys have cracked the nut!”
—HARRY KRAEMER, former CEO of Baxter International and clinical professor of Management and Strategy, Kellogg School of Management
“The timing of this book couldn’t be better. When the markets are tough and you can still grow, you’ve really differentiated yourself–you’ve risen above. This book will show you how to develop a sustainable growth engine. We’ve used its principles at Harris and they work.”
—Howard L. Lance, chairman, president, and CEO, Harris Corporation
“Finally! A book that unlocks the secrets of the middle managers who create new innovative businesses inside the heart of big companies. This is Built to Last for the rest of us.”
—Gerry Langeler, director, OVP Venture Partners, and founder, Mentor Graphics Corp
“A radical, totally original book on how to create and sustain organic organizational growth. A must-read for all managers.”
—Warren Bennis, distinguished professor of business, University of Southern California, and coauthor of Transparency and Judgment
About the Author
JEANNE LIEDTKA is a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. Formerly the executive director of the school’s Batten Institute, Jeanne has consulted with a wide variety of organizations and their leaders, from museums to law firms to large corporations, since beginning her career as a strategy consultant for the Boston Consulting Group.
ROBERT ROSEN, chairman and CEO of Healthy Companies International, and an internationally recognized psychologist and business advisor, has interviewed and advised hundreds of CEOs around the world. He is the best-selling author of Just Enough Anxiety, Leading People, Global Literacies, and The Healthy Company.
ROBERT WILTBANK is a partner of Buerk Dale Victor, a growth-stage venture capital fund based in Seattle, Washington, working with dozens of new ventures in a wide variety of industries. He is also a professor of strategic management in the Atkinson Graduate School of Management at Willamette University.
Top Customer Reviews
As Liedtka, Rosen, and Wiltback explain, "We wanted to know, first of all, if these leaders could be identified by a particular set of traits that would help C-suite executives identify and recruit them. Even more important, we wanted to know if the behaviors that these people exhibited could be learned by other managers...What we wanted to find out was whether their techniques and strategies could be [begin italics] taught [end italics] to other managers...What we learned exceeded our wildest dreams." The title of their book was a word that they chose very carefully to describe their exemplary leaders. "Catalysts drive action. But there's more. In science the term catalyst refers specifically to an agent that is [begin italics] required [end italics] to activate a particular chemical reaction. In other words, chemical catalysts don't just make things happen; they make things happen that wouldn't happen at all without them.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As Liedtka, Rosen, and Wiltback explain, "We wanted to know, first of all, if these leaders could be identified by a particular set of traits that would help C-suite executives identify and recruit them. Even more important, we wanted to know if the behaviors that these people exhibited could be learned by other managers...What we wanted to find out was whether their techniques and strategies could be [begin italics] taught [end italics] to other managers...What we learned exceeded our wildest dreams." The title of their book was a word that they chose very carefully to describe their exemplary leaders. "Catalysts drive action. But there's more. In science the term catalyst refers specifically to an agent that is [begin italics] required [end italics] to activate a particular chemical reaction. In other words, chemical catalysts don't just make things happen; they make things happen that wouldn't happen at all without them. They accomplish this by reducing the barriers that would, under normal circumstances, prevent a reaction. That is exactly how the growth leaders - our corporate catalysts - overcame growth gridlock [i.e. an entrepreneurial initiative is neutralized by administrative skepticism] and the terror of the plug [i.e. an arbitrary, often unrealistic revenue target] in their organization."
After first identifying the "what" of leading extraordinary growth, the authors devote most of their attention throughout the book to explaining the "how" and "why" of it. There is minimal provision of theory and hypothesis in their narrative. (However, they do offer some excellent advice about translating a sound business idea into a sound hypothesis on Pages 209-213.) Wisely, they focus on real managers in real-world situations, allowing their core concepts and insights to develop and emerge organically. Their material provides answers to questions such as these:
Why do most growth initiatives fail?
What are the "unnatural acts" that Catalysts commit?
Which is the best "path" to producing growth?
What is the "virtuous cycle" and why is it important?
What are some of the myths about entrepreneurs and why are they wrong?
How do Catalysts test their new business ideas?
What are the seven formulas for reframing and how to apply them?
Why are learning launches so important? How to achieve success with one?
How to lead a high-performing growth team with "pragmatic idealism"?
How do Catalysts use speed effectively to achieve high-growth?
These are but a few of the questions that Liedtka, Rosen, and Wiltback address. They even provide a Postscript, "Advice to the C-Suite on Growing Leaders." Once again, the material is rock-solid and presented with uncommon clarity. Of special interest to me are a set of goals and "a kind of manifesto" of six strategies formulated by 45 senior managers in Westinghouse Electric's Engineering Services (WES) division, now owned by Toshiba. The goals and strategies are best revealed in context, within a frame-of-reference, and can be found on pages 228-230. The importance of the WES example is that it suggests what almost any organization can do to help individual leaders to create top-line revenue growth. The WES example also suggests some "interesting directions for senior executives thinking about kick-starting the growth engine in their business." Liedtka, Rosen, and Wiltback identify six initial steps to accomplish that worthy objective on pages 240-242.
In "the best of all possible worlds," an organization will have Catalysts at all levels and in all areas of operation who achieve and then sustain extraordinary growth. Even in an ideal world, however, not everyone involved at any one time will be a Catalyst. Hence the importance of a workplace culture that attracts high-potential Catalysts and in which it then "grows" them, with Catalysts serving as mentors centrally involved in that developmental process. I really do believe that there are many such organizations now at various stages of an admittedly long and perilous journey to fulfill all of their potentialities. Will any reach that destination? Perhaps not but at least everyone involved will have achieved personal as well as well as organizational goals that would not otherwise be possible. Those thinking about "kick-starting the growth engine in their business" and are in need of guidance and encouragement would be well-advised to read this book and do so with appropriate care. The value of what Jeanne Liedtka, Robert Rosen, and Robert Wiltback offer is incalculable.
Filled with terse, but insightful comments ("Make a small bet fast," "Be willing to call the baby ugly")in context, the Catalyst is both a philosophy for change and a blueprint for how to get there in America's corporate culture demanding massive "needle movements" yet unable to let go of enough power to even nudge the bottom line.
In America's obsession with increasing short-term shareholder value in order to appease Wall Street, we've forgotten that the long-term business of business is to make life better for customers; to work with the customer and not simply view him as a "sucker born every minute," as P.T. Barnum is famous for putting it. Adam Smith, we often forget, was a social reformist, not an economist demanding that every idea be backed up by a cult of numbers, and he explicitly mentioned the interaction between manufacturer/seller and buyer/user as the ethic that allows capitalism to flourish.
Especially in today's economic climate, a book which returns us to the real philosophy of Main Street, yet does so while addressing the culture of Wall Street, is a book that ought to be read by every person with a good idea and by every manager trying to generate innovation, and change, in their organizations.