POWER POINTS: The Greatest Business Decisions of All Time by Verne Harnish and the editors of Fortune










In this book, Harnish, and the editors of Fortune Magazine review gutsy, paradigm changing decisions by business leaders. While you may not agree with their collection and order of priority, it is indisputable that these decisions were game-changers for not just industries in particular, but business in general.

***The foreword by Jim Collins is worth the price of the book!


From the foreword by Jim Collins:

  • We think of most decisions as matters of “what”. In fact, the most successful leaders see their best decisions not as “what” but “who.” “They were people decisions.”


  • The future… the world… is uncertain. “What is the key thing you can do to prepare for that uncertainty? You can have the right people with you.”


  • “Once you have great people in place, you still have to make decisions. Great decisions begin with really great people and a simple statement: I don’t know.”


  • The leaders who made great decisions are “really very comfortable saying, ‘I don’t know’ until they knew.”


  • “To create an environment where ideas flow freely, you have to recognize that your position can be a hindrance to getting the best information. And so can your personality.”


  • Decision-making is not about consensus. It depends on conflict, and that’s the key. […] The debate is real. It is real, violent, debate in search of understanding. Then in the end the leader makes the call. It’s conflict and debate leading to an executive decision. No major decision we’ve studied was ever taken at a point of unanimous agreement. There was always some disagreement in the air.”


  • Great decisions are made when you intersect the external reality (what is true about the world) and your internal drive (what do we value? What do we really want? What is driving us?)


  • “If you look at some of the greatest decisions in business history, the executives had the discipline to manage for the quarter-century, not the quarter.”

And now the book…

The greatest decisions (these are the chapter titles, but they identify the decision… it’s worth doing a little research on each of these.)

  1. Apple brings back Steve Jobs 
  2. How free shipping saved Zappos
  3. Why Samsung lets its stars goof off
  4. At Johnson and Johnson, the shareholders come last
  5. Why daydreaming pays off big at 3M
  6. How Intel got consumers to love chips
  7. Jack’s GE cathedral
  8. Bill Gates decides to take a week off
  9. Softsoap’s blocking decision
  10. Toyota pursues zero defects
  11. Extreme customer service at Nordstrom
  12. Tata takes the sting out of a painful situation
  13. Boeing bets big on the 707
  14. IBM’s operation bear hug
  15. Wal-Mart creates the 6 a.m. meeting
  16. Eli Whitney: is your business in trouble? pivot!
  17. The HP Way
  18. Henry Ford doubles worker’s wages
  • “It’s often the simple things that break open entire industries.”


  • “The decisions that make or break companies are often cobbled together on the fly.” (Zappos decision to offer free shipping and free returns)


  • “If you can take something standard and make it feel personalized, that’s great customer experience.” (Right now Casey Graham’s business, Gravy, is doing a GREAT job at this)


  • Johnson and Johnson’s reaction to crisis “Reveal all you know fast and do everything necessary to take care of your customers.”


  • Johnson and Johnson’s CEO James Burke acted quickly and decisively during the Tylenol crisis. Jim Collins writes, “Burke’s real defining moment occurred three years before, when he pulled 20 key executives into a room and thumped his finger on a copy of the J&J credo.” Out of that meeting came a recommitment to live the creed always. The “Tylenol Crisis” was a public demonstration of a private commitment.


  • 3M allows workers to spend up to 15% of their time on their own projects. They have discovered that 30% of revenue comes from products less than five years old.


  • “Trying to push creative people doesn’t work. They aren’t pushed. They’re driven.”


  • “When people expect their work to be judged by others, it is less creative than if they’re doing it solely for themselves. […] knowing that they’re being watched results in less creativity.”


  • “You can’t aim to be the best in the world with cinderblock cells. You had to have a beautiful symbol of excellence.” Jack Welch talking about the expensive facilities at Crotonville.


  • Small groups can win over large groups if/when they find and control the bottleneck in the process. (see the story of Softsoap).


  • “Deming believed that top management was responsible for 85% of all defects and stressed the need for appreciation of the individual worker. ‘The worker is not the problem. The problem is at the top” (Edward Deming).


  • Break down barriers and drive out fear so that the “top” can hear from the “bottom.”


  • “We are regret-minimizing machines. The pain of making a bad decision far outweighs the satisfaction of making a good decision on the same scale.” (Regret avoidance).


  • “We value something that we own more highly than we value the same thing if we don’t own it.” (The endowment effect) “Ordinary items become treasured possessions once we own them, and the longer we own them, the more treasured they become.”


  • “Operation Bear Hug” – Lou Gerstner’s 100 day strategy when he took over at IBM – listen to people… understand their needs and dreams… build your leadership platform around that understanding.


  • “Keep your minimum-wage employees happy, and your customers will be happy – and then your investors will be happy.”


  • Eli Whitney – “envisioned an entire system for transforming a craft performed by skilled artisans into a process performed by unskilled workers.” The key was to create a process whereby “each worker would do just one thing.”


  • “As long as I live I want to pay the highest wages in the automobile industry.” Henry Ford

The greatest business decisions have been people decisions… decisions to listen to, empower, liberate, resource, communicate with, and trust PEOPLE!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s