Author: Dave Esler and Myra Kruger
How an Underdog Company Defied the Odds,
Won Customers’ Hearts, and Grew It’s Employees into Better People
I was sent an advanced copy of The Pursuit and Something Better and while I generally don’t like to read new books until I’ve had them recommended and ravely reviewed by others first but I’m glad I didn’t wait for this book, its absolutely brilliant! I read it back to back with The Adversity Parodox and both books are now in my definite top 5 for business and personal development books. The Pursuit of Something Better is a story of a CEO who takes a mediocre company with high turnover to a thriving culture rich customer focused success. Jack Rooney is that CEO of the company, U.S. Cellular and he comes in with a passion and belief in culture change being the cornerstone of the company’s success and that belief drives new systems and focus that is unstoppable. There is more story and insight and example in this book than many others combined and it shows what can be done not only from top down, but also in other levels of the organization, your life and individual self improvement so don’t think this is an executive book only, its much more than that!
Rooney comes into U.S. Cellular and introduces a new concept known as the Dynamic Organization (the D.O.) which he lives and breathes by example and immediate sets new standards and expectations that all associates in the company will also start living that DO culture. He delivers these systems with a proven track record and overcomes significant hurdles along the way. I found these hurdles and ways they were addressed to be most inspiring as I see the same items in my work and often they feel like impossible roadblocks. This story and book are proof and guidance to get past that!
So, I found there are 4 main themes to the Dynamic Organization in the book and I’ll cover some specific things from each in this review.
This book outlines an impressive transformation that is built upon a new culture for U.S. Cellular, one far from the conventional business wisdom. The culture is one that shifts toward a customer focused, caring and value based company. One that seeks motivational leadership, provides impressive personal development systems and engages and expects every employees to contribute to these new cultural initiatives. Among these deep messages built into the company come a focus to always do the “right” thing and expect that of all its associates, especially its leaders.
Rooney puts many stages of culture change into place and he does so with much resistance, as would be expected, but his systems built over time and prove themselves to be valid in building a better company and all of the culture changes become sought after both internally between departments and regions within U.S. Cellular and eventually outside the company as well. All three areas below are embedded into the culture and the core to making it all work is that this culture is actually what defines the business strategy. In fact, it IS the business strategy. Everything that is promoted in the dynamic organization and the culture for it, are actually the business focus to Rooney and all of the systems, decisions, leadership, and financing is put towards these cultural aspects. This was the most exciting part to me, to see how the success of a company can come by focusing strategy on things that matter to the employees and customers, that things are done with moral leadership and that the company can focus on initiatives that lead to profits, without directly being steered by profits.
The customer deserves the focus and the customer gets priority are also embedded into this Dynamic Organization and it is taken to great extremes in many cases with long term benefits that certainly didn’t seem profitable in any way when first introduced. Much of these initiatives in the story were created at a time when there was huge growth in the cellular industry and most companies were purely after capturing market share quickly to expand and take advantage of the available growth. While this mattered to U.S. Cellular, it wasn’t a focus and the customers were treated better than competitors, service was of its highest quality and the company had expectations from every employee that decisions and actions were taken to ensure the customer would benefit as a result. Many of these things were costly in the short term but they slowly saw the market shifting to recognizing this customer service and the loyalty of their customers grew. It allowed them expand and ultimately hang on to market share while their competitors were still struggling to capture new markets without a loyal customer base. The long term benefits of this payed off and the book outlines many of the challenges that were faced in doing this and how this customer focus was created and maintained at U.S. Cellular.
None of this great change could happen without great leadership and there are impressive stories and systems employed that can be modeled to help companies build stronger more focused leadership. The Dynamic Organization expected drastic contributing to the new culture and that was reinforced with regular leadership development and feedback systems. Peer based feedback systems for all leaders drove much of these expectations and it allowed all associates to identify the desired leadership factors which seemed to enable more and more grass roots leadership.
I think the sheer volume of attention put to ethics in the Dynamic Organization was impressive and one of the most inspiring aspects of the book. It shows how a company can still operate (and do so very successfully) with strong ethical boundaries and expectations. Business competition often stems unethical behaviors and greed that dominate our news and media channels which is so obvious today. These kind of stories and examples of doing the right thing no matter what the costs and the way U.S. Cellular put ethical boundaries and expectations into a company’s core culture is something to be honored and admired.
So, I’d highly recommend The Pursuit of Something Better to anyone interested in culture change, leadership, ethics and moral leadership and customer service. I believe some of these changes can occur at any level of an organization but its especially useful for driving systemic changes and strategic change in your company. I can’t say the book is really a clear guide of exactly how to do this, but the stories are inspiring and many of the systems and actions are described in detailed and will be easy to use as a model for similar systems in your own company. I know I can use some of these in mine!
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