August 27, 2004

Tom Peters on Calendars

Tom Peters, who just turned 60 this year and wants you to know it, has a "60 TIBs (Things I Believe)" document (PDF) up at the new and growing ChangeThis site, and while many of the 60 points are useful or sensible (in a Swimming With Sharks or Selling the Dream business wisdom kind of way), one in particular jumped out at me: his take on calendars. Here's the 49th Thing he Believes:

Your calendar knows all. (You = Your calendar.) Physiologically, we are indeed what we eat. Professionally, we are our calendar. Fact is, there is only one surefire way for the boss to underscore her/his commitment to quality or empowerment or innovation or the Web or whatever: Spend (gobs of) Time on “It.” Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Tom, less famously, says, “You are your calendar.” Your calendar reveals all. (All = All.) Translation, if needed: Your calendar reveals like no other tool (such as soaring rhetoric) what you actually care about. The premier (only true!) indicator of caring is...Visibly Spending the Time:
  • You = Your Calendar.

  • Your True Priorities = Time Visibly Spent.

  • I care = It's on the Calendar. Big Time.

  • I don't care/it's not a priority = It ain't repeatedly/relentlessly on the Calendar.

Axiom No. 1: Calendars Never Lie!

All non-bosses are would-be Kremlinologists, as we used to call them; or intense Examiners of Tea Leaves. There's no more important survival question for an underling than “What's the Boss really thinking about?” And the answer is revealed...with crystal that boss's...Calendar. If she or he is spending (lotsa) time on quality...THEN QUALITY MATTERS. If not...the converse is the case.

There's a crucial variation on this theme. I once watched a highly energetic chief ripped asunder by a senior member of his board. “Richard,” the determined board member almost shouted, “you are smart, energetic, creative to a fault, perhaps even a genius. But much of your 'genius' is dissipated because you apply it to ten different things at a time, albeit with great skill.

“Let me tell you what you need,” he concluded. “A 'to don't' list.”

I don't know about “Richard,” but for me that was a profound moment. Fact No. 1: We all have 50 genuine priorities. Fact No. 2: If we get even two Big Things Done in a six-year tenure on the current job, we will have had a...Great Ride. Axiom No. 1: Therefore, what we choose not to do (the sole subject of that “To Don't” list) is at least as important, or more important, as what we choose to do.

And, finally, effective “To Don't-ing” is far, far more difficult than effective “To Do-ing.”

One thing that struck me as odd in Peters' list: on TIB #25, he has this to say: "To say the schools are not responding, let alone leading, the global economic transition process is a grotesque understatement." Does that sentence parse?

Posted by brian at August 27, 2004 07:30 PM


He has an interesting approach to life - especially to someone not involved in 'corporate' business!

And no, that sentence doesn't parse - should there be a 'to' after responding?


Posted by: Fodd at August 30, 2004 01:22 AM

Yeah... Definitely a "to" after responded... But I have to say I would agree with him, if the sentence parsed properly. :)

Posted by: Ryan Waddell at August 30, 2004 08:57 AM

Tom lives outside the norms of customer demands and expectations. If apple did not provide compatible upgrade paths from one operating system to the next, customers would not move, nor would they be happy. It's funny, but continuous improvement is a lot about removing "helpfulness" from the process. If someone hands you something wrong, send it back. It continues to amaze me how people want to be "helpful" and cover over the problem.

Mercedes or Lexus? Which would you rather own? Neither is perfect, but one is sure damn close.

Posted by: dano at August 31, 2004 10:36 PM

That sentence parses. It could be clarified by putting 'to' after "responding", but then there would also need to be another preposition after "leading" (parallel clauses, see: I can't think of anything appropriate at the moment.

It's still a stilted sentence, but it is grammatically correct. As with software, you can follow all the rules and still have poor results.

geek & english major

Posted by: ratthing at September 2, 2004 07:03 PM

If it parsed, you could optionally remove the second clause. But That would leave:

"To say the schools are not responding the global economic transition process is a grotesque understatement."

which is incorrect.

Posted by: DaveC426913 at September 13, 2004 08:37 AM

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