What Matters Now | Book Review

General Observations

Gary Hamel has written a timely, well-organized book suitable for Academy Leadership affiliates, leaders, and entrepreneurs who wish to abandon classical hierarchy or piecemeal organizational improvement. In this regard, What Matters Now is very good for a start up or a turnaround enterprise. Likewise, Hamel’s book is an excellent companion for a Focus & Alignment (FAW) workshop.

Hamel introduces the five sections: values, innovation, adaptability, passion, and ideology as a tapas bar; that is, sections which may be individually consumed. This review focuses primarily on the values, passion and ideology sections. The innovation & adaptability sections may be read separately as reinforcement for the need for businesses to innovate continuously.

Overall the book serves as a terrific example of WHY to compose a personal leadership philosophy (PLP), and may be recommended to anyone struggling with what material to put into their leader’s compass. In addition, the timely, relevant case studies are valuable for any consultant or strategic analyst.

Thoughts on Values:

Hamel details one of the best reviews of the recent financial meltdown outside of the Wall Street Journal editorial pages. He initially focuses on Wall Street culpability, but also identifies elected officials in the US Government responsible for the seminal & misguided incentives. Later in the section, Hamel reflects upon the value of hard work, and perhaps lost, timeless values. His concept of service, or stewardship resonates well with our Academy Leadership affiliate team.

Applications to Academy Leadership:

On page 5 the business ethics question corresponds with our “How Many Of You Are Good Communicators?” slide.

Page 7 – The stewardship elements align with our recommended elements of a PLP.

On page 17 – The lack of accountability thread hits the nail on the head. Hamel’s “Incremental Nature of Moral Decay” is a powerful metaphor and may strengthen our notes page about the natural state of getting along within an organization leading to decline in influence.

Page 24 leads us to the importance of non-negotiables, additional PLP reinforcement.

Pages 37-38 – “reclaiming the noble” provides right brain suggestions for a PLP, and aligns with our list of good leader attributes.

Thoughts on Ideology:

This section is energizing. Hamel immediately equates management with control. This is an excellent expose highlighting fundamental differences between management and leadership. Like us, he focuses on the mission, and written leadership philosophies that individuals are held accountable for.

Applications to Academy Leadership:

P. 201 declares Values and Trust are at the heart of the business relationship; similar to our Credibility and Trust slide.

On page 212 Hamel recommends we “Make The Mission Boss” rather than overseers.

P. 213 introduces the Colleague Letter of Understanding (CLOU), similar to our PLP.

Pages 230-231 offer additional advice how to get started with a PLP (CLOU).

Additional Applications to Academy Leadership from Passion Section Four:

Pages 138-141 discuss the disinterested employee. Hamel diagrams a modified take on Maslow asking “Why do it?” from a business context. This is a fine complement to our Maslow script describing human capabilities at work.

Page 142 made me think about a Johari Window exercise with customers. This could be a fun and useful way to assess value delivery vs. perceptions.

On page 151 Hamel lists seven good bullet points that influence PLP and leader development.

Final Thoughts:

Pages 246-254 list 25 moonshots - good starting points for a strategist or entrepreneur’s consideration.

JE | July 2012