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imX Keynote: Extraordinary Results from Ordinary People

Getting results from ordinary people is a simple process, according to business development expert and author Peter Schutz: managers have to make plans and implement them. But, of course, getting that implementation right is the hard part. Schutz, who operates Harris & Schutz Inc., has had a long career in manufacturing, having worked in engineering for companies such as Caterpillar and Cummins. He was also CEO of Porsche AG from 1980 to 1988, where he restored the company to profitability and increased sales in part by refocusing the company on its racing heritage. 

Schutz said that, when looking at global business, transportation and labor costs will eventually equalize throughout the world, meaning that the key to the future of business will be quality. “The United States needs better trained people and more competent management to become the world leader once again,” said Schutz. 

Schutz used the bicycle to explain his philosophy. “Business has a lot of characteristics similar to a bicycle,” he said. “The back wheel makes the whole thing go, and that back wheel is analogous to technical knowledge, expertise, products and production methods. But the bicycle also has a front wheel. It’s there to steer, and take all that technical expertise in the most favorable direction. It provides balance to the whole thing. Too many people try to ride through their careers on a unicycle, with one big back wheel, but you will come to discover that understanding the direction and keeping the system in balance is the key.” 

Balancing and getting the direction right is the key to getting extraordinary results from ordinary people, according to Schutz. “You have to make your organization attractive to groups of ordinary people who work together and don’t make mistakes,” he said. That will make the company attractive to the superstars who can lead companies into the future. 

Who are the right people to bring into the organization? According to Schutz, you should always hire character and teach skills, never the other way around. “You will not be able to change character,” he said. “And you have to put together a team that has diversity. I’m not talking necessarily about racial, ethnic, or gender diversity. Rather, you need some who live in the past, some in the present and some in the future.  You need some people who think about money and others about customers and still others about science. You need a diversity of attitude. Let them fight it out, hear it all, and nourish that process.” 

Getting the planning and implementation process mentioned above right is the key to success, Schutz explained.  “How do you make a plan? You start out with a good back wheel of the bicycle. But you must understand that making a good decision does not guarantee good implementation, and the more radical the plan, the harder it is to implement it.”

Schutz said companies have a better chance of success if the planning process is done like a democracy, where management explains it to lower management, and tries to them get to buy in. Those people will then help sell the implementation process to the people they manage.

“However, the implementation process has to be a dictatorship, with people understanding what they have to do and doing it,” cautioned Schutz.

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