Seduced by Success: How the Best Companies Survive the 9 Traps of Winning
by Robert J. Herbold
This is my kind of book. I really enjoy it for a number of different reasons:
- For those in the early stages of their careers, this particular book is like taking a terrific leadership and management course.
- For more seasoned readers, it’s a wake-up call strongly suggesting that you re-evaluate your current situation to avoid the obvious traps that caused other organizations to lose their way.
- Rather than hearing one person’s opinions, which may or may not be valid, this book is based on detailed case studies involving 44 different companies that have dealt with the nine traps of success.
- It’s written by someone who has lived and worked among the companies and challenges he writes about. Bob Herbold, the former Chief Operating Officer of Microsoft, is a 26-year-veteran of Procter & Gamble who lived through each of the nine traps. He explains how to survive them or avoid them by understanding how others have survived them.
The author demonstrates with clinical precision that a company’s fall from grace can frequently be traced back to its time of greatest achievement. This has become even more evident over the past few years to most everyone other than those falling victim. It’s amazing that precisely the same elements which result in a given company’s success can often be the causes of its subsequent decline.
Do they become so successful and complacent that they grow blind to the obvious? The victims of these nine traps of winning are usually the last ones to recognize their failings. Think about that as you take a quick inventory of your own organization in the following areas.
The nine traps every successful organization must avoid are:
- Neglect: Sticking with yesterday’s business model.
- Pride: Allowing your products and/or services to become outdated.
- Boredom: Clinging to your once-successful branding after it becomes stale and dull.
- Complexity: Ignoring your business processes as they become cumbersome and complicated.
- Bloat: Rationalizing your loss of speed and agility.
- Mediocrity: Condoning poor performance and letting your star employees languish.
- Lethargy: Getting lulled into a culture of comfort, casualness, and confidence.
- Timidity: Not confronting turf wars, in-fighting and obstructionists.
- Confusion: Unwittingly conducting schizophrenic communications.
These mistakes cut your business legs off at the knees, destroying your ability to recognize and meet the need for change. Why is it that so many companies have had so much trouble remaining successful while others have been capable of sustaining their success? Herbold provides focused examples, both good and bad, involving well-known companies such as: General Motors, Toyota, IBM, Sony, Wal-Mart, Proctor & Gamble, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, Starbucks, Fidelity Investments, Porsche, Harley Davidson, Apple, and Harrah’s … to name a few. For each success trap, the author provides illuminating examples of top companies that were seduced by their success, as well as others that managed to maintain and even broaden their achievements.
Herbold shows you how to avoid these landmines by
- Continually revitalizing your brands and products.
- Demanding new approaches to “proven” practices.
- Maintaining speed and agility through strong leadership.
- Making sure employees are empowered to achieve and are not handicapped by bureaucracy.
- Using an exciting new product to overhaul your culture.
Reading this book will inspire you to develop a culture that constantly questions all practices at all times. To sum up, there can be no continuous improvement, much less continuous and sustainable success, without relentless skepticism.
(This book review was originally published in 2007 as one of the Top 10 Books – Edition 16.)