How To Castrate A Bull

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I've read a fair few business & management books over the past few years, in search of explanations behind some of the more questionable decisions I saw in my working years. They did help to explain many of actions taken by senior management and in at least a few cases it seemed that some widely recommended practices were perhaps applied in inappropriate contexts. I am aware that I'm not able to fairly judge since I often did not have visibility of all the details, nor involvement in the politics of it all (and I don't mean that in a negative way, just acknowledging that where people are involved there will always be politics).

Many of the books shared common themes around organisation, accountability, hiring & firing rigorously, identifying values & fostering culture around that, as well as the usual discussions around product, marketing, sales & overall business strategy.

Of all the books I have read, none have been as succinct as How To Castrate A Bull by Dave Hitz. Dave is one of the founders of NetApp and talks through the different stages of NetApp's life and the importance of context in relation to business strategy & management.

Notice how the strategy keeps flipping, from broad to narrow to broad. As an early start-up, you think broadly about what problems you can solve. After you've gained experience with some early customers, you choose just one group to focus on -- a very narrow strategy. After you've succeeded there and have more resources to invest, you broaden out again.

"Don't cross the street by yourself," you tell your four-year-old son, but a few years later you say, "It's okay to cross the street by yourself." It's not that the early strategy was wrong and then you fixed it; the point is that different stages of development require different strategies, and often the appropriate strategy at one stage is the opposite of the strategy for the previous stage.

This recognition is important when it's time to drive change through an organization. People often resist change, and I think part of the resistance comes from a feeling that if it's necessary to do something different, then they must have been doing something wrong before. People don't like to admit that they were wrong. Never mind worrying whether things were all screwed up before -- it's much healthier to focus on what strategy is best for now.

At just 175 pages How To Castrate A Bull provides great time economy. Dave condenses topics that fill entire chapters in other texts to just a handful of pages, yet conveys his message clearly by providing solid examples from NetApp's history.

Thanks to Joz & Kat for getting it for me for my birthday, my first ever present from my Amazon wishlist. =D

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This page contains a single entry by goosmurf published on October 2, 2009 5:13 PM.

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