Friday, July 3, 2009

Dream Driver

"Three workmen are standing at the edge of a busy construction site, taking a break from their heavy, dusty labor. A passer-by asks the first of the workmen, “What are you doing”? With sweat dripping from his brow, he barely looks up before grunting, “I’m busting rocks”. When the passer-by asks the second workman the same question, he shrugs, “I’m earning a living”. Walking a little further, the passer-by encounters the third member of the work crew and asks the same question, “What are you doing?” The third workman turns, smiles broadly and says,“I’m building a cathedral”.

Peter happens to believe that people who are working towards a shared objective will always outwork and outperform a bunch of wage-earning, rock busters. And the "job" of any leader is to get everyone on the team to see the cathedral.

Peter knows something about this subject.

Credited with sparking a dramatic turnaround at Porsche in the early 80s when the company doubled its sales over a 7-year period, Peter Schutz achieved organizational nirvana. His book, "Driving Force" offers a more detailed account of how building organizations of ordinary people, working together to build cathedrals. offer the only competitive edge capable of withstanding change.

As Peter puts it, Porsche is NOT in the automotive business. Porsche is selling memberships in a dream.

Slick TV spots and the packaging of a dream were a long way off in 1980 when Peter accepted the challenge of turning the company around. As Schutz sees it, "People buy other people before they buy the organization and the products and services it represents. You need to create a culture that bubbles with excitement so that people will dig in, spend their discretionary time and recruit more top talent".

When Schutz took over in 1980, Porsche had experienced its first money-losing year in company history. Morale was in the toilet and the race known as the 24 Hour of Le Mans race was on the horizon. Porsche was not expected to win; the company was broke and did not have a new car to showcase. Peter walked in one day and told told his staff, “We shall never enter a race we don’t intend to win.” And with that edict, the company rallied and ultimately won the race.

In Peter's opinion, "Cars don’t win races. People and the way they work together is what wins races”. Peter also maintains that winning a race depends on the dynamics of balancing democracy with a dictatorship. As he puts it, "They could operate like a dictatorship in the pit, in the heat of the moment, because they had spent months planning very democratically".

Plan like a democracy.

Execute like a dictatorship.

And a cathedral will begin to take shape.

"A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral."

Originally posted: August 21, 2008

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