The journey that Huggy Rao and I have taken to write, and yes, now peddle our book Scaling Up Excellence has taken many strange and amusing turns. Publication date is getting mighty close. It ships February 4th. The transition from "production" to sales has been a bit jarring for both of us. We spent a full seven years working on this book and it has been pretty much all I have worked on writing for the last three years. The writing wasn't really finished until a few months ago and the last minor edit was finished just about six weeks ago. When people asked me what I was doing during 2013, I often joked -- truthfully -- that 'I am trying to type my way out of solitary confinement in my garage." (See my last post, I actually quite liked the self-imposed imprisonment).
Now BOOM I have escaped from the garage and we are in full-blown book promotion mode. It is fun and we are delighted to finally be able to have a book to sell after all those years in "design and production" mode. Thank goodness, we have a wonderful team at Crown Books who are carrying much of the load -- but the switch from the privacy of writing to the public engagement (and silliness) of promotion is still a disconcerting, I confess.
One of the most fun things that we have worked on in recent days is an offer to entice people to pre-order the book. The first couple weeks after a book is published are (like the opening of a movie) important to its long-term success and impact. So every publisher comes up with ways to motivate pre-orders, as they help fuel the early sales numbers. But I have never worked with a publisher that has put together a "package" like the one just assembled by the Crown team. It reminds me of one those late night TV ads where they keep saying "wait, there is more." You can see the offer here, at www.scalingupexcellence.com. This site was built by the Justin Gammon, the same skilled guy who designed our book cover. In our biased view, it looks great. Here are the goodies and a bit about each:
Crown will mail you a 2014 "The Year of Subtraction" wall calender. It lists nine points from the book to spur ideas about removing sources of friction, cognitive load, and destructive behaviors that impede the spread of excellence. You can see it here -- but the picture does not quite do it justice. It is pretty big, about 11 by 17 inches, and the quality is quite good. To give you taste, the points include "Stop doing dumb things because everyone else does," "Teams busting at the seams?," and "Choking on jargon monoxide?" (inspired by Polly LaBarre) -- each followed by a short illustration.
Clearly, although we say that scaling is a "problem of both more and less," there is a lot more to it than just subtraction. But Huggy and I were inspired to do this calender by "the subtraction game" that we've been using lately as an exercise during scaling speeches and workshops. People love to play it. We put them duos or groups and ask them what things are getting in the way of scaling up excellence and to outline how they might get rid of these impediments -- we give them between 5 and 20 minutes, and it is amazing what they produce. We've done it with groups from Stanford including 25 or so senior executives in our development office and about 200 managers and executives in "business affairs" (i.e., they deal with budgets and related financial issues), with 70 or so senior executives from an insurance company, with 20 "high potentials" at a clothing retailer, and a several other groups. We are getting reports of subtraction that has happened as a result: One organization combined two heavily overlapping processes, another transferred a rather destructive executive to a different role in hopes that he can improve his performance (if not, they are going let him go), and our favorite -- the executive who pledged to send a dollar to charity for every email he sends (we need to follow-up and see if he is sticking to it).
BUT WAIT THERE IS MORE
Crown will send you a sneak peek pdf of the preface and Chapter 1. So you can start reading before your shiny new book (it really is shiny) arrives (or you download it) on February 4th. The preface talks about how we became obsessed with "the problem of more" and introduces overarching lessons including that scaling in organizations always starts and ends with individuals and that, to do it well, sometimes you've got to think and act as if you are knee-deep in a manageable mess. Chapter 1 starts with the most important lesson we learned and then moves through nine scaling mantras including "spread a mindset, not just a footprint" and "fear the clusterfug." You will also learn why, to scale faster later, sometimes the best advice is "don't just do something, stand there."
BUT WAIT THERE IS MORE
A rollicking conversation with David Kelley available -- for now -- only to people who pre-order. Last Monday, Huggy and I had a wide-ranging and informal talk with David Kelley about the challenges he faced in scaling two successful quite "disruptive" organizations where he is the primary founder: IDEO and the Stanford d.school. David, who is one of the book's scaling heroes and someone we know well, was, as always, wise, funny, and looked at the problem in a way that others don't. In particular, David explained how, when you scale, you have to accept that you will never have the perfect team or workforce, that sure, you get the best you can, but perfection isn't possible, so you've got to look past the weaknesses that people have and take the good they have to offer. He was not just talking about this in the abstract -- he used my strengths and weaknesses as the main example (I am a co-founder of the d.school, so David knows me well). Only people who pre-order the book get access now to this fun conversation.
So that is our offer. I am biased, but I think it is pretty good. Of course, we are following the rules of late night TV commercials: There are a limited number of calenders as well!
If you do try the pre-offer, Huggy and I would love to know what you think of the calender and the conversation with David Kelley -- as well as the book itself, of course!
P.S. Huggy and I especially thank the amazing Ayelet Gruenspecht at Crown, who the driving force behind making the offer come to life. Ayelet is the master of turning knowledge into action.
P.P.S. Alas, this offer is only for people in the United States. I am sorry that it isn't for people in other countries -- this is because a different group distributes the book in every country, even in Canada!