An exclusive interview with author, John G. Miller by Daniel R. Murphy-
Murphy: You have recently published your third book, Outstanding! – 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional. As you know there are lots of books out there on organizational performance. How is Outstanding! different from the rest? What can the reader expect from it that will not be found in other books on the subject?
Miller: Well, I think “practically.” Because of my background as a salesperson of training programs, I realize there’s no sense writing or teaching content people can’t use. As one reads the “47 ways,” one can really ask how am I doing in this area and what can our organization do better here? And because there are the 47, there’s truly something for everyone!
Murphy: You have published two other best sellers in this subject area: QBQ! The Question Behind the Question and Flipping the Switch: Five Keys to Success at Work and in Life. How is Outstanding! different? What does it offer that the first two do not?
Miller: Allow me to quote my own publisher, who said, “This book will do for organizations what QBQ! and Flipping the Switch have done for individuals: Make them better.” So the difference is, the first two were more personal and the new “O” book is broader, focusing on what people can do to enhance the organization. Yet, there is still a theme of accountability, because nobody should wait for others to be outstanding. It always begins with me!
Murphy: Many people in the so called lower levels of an organization often do not see their role as enhancing organizational performance. They see that as a management role. How do these principles apply to every employee of an organization regardless of their role?
Miller: Truly, employees are often not accountable. Now, I am no apologist for senior management, but seriously, why isn’t it everyone’s job to “improve the place”? That’s not just the boss’ job, that’s MY job too! Of the 47 ways, at least 40 can apply to anyone!
Murphy: In Outstanding! your chapters are concise and have a punch to them. Was that deliberate and why did you adopt that writing style?
Miller: Thank you. Yes, it’s deliberate. People learn better when given small bites, to chew on, not a 7 course meal! And stories are the best vehicle for content as they make it memorable. When we recall the story, we can recall the idea—and then apply it.
Murphy: We all know that in this global and I might add faltering economy, having a competitive edge is essential to success for an individual and an organization. Can organizations or individuals really succeed and effectively compete today without striving for outstanding performance?
Miller: I’d say this: Companies can survive, but why not thrive? In good times and bad, the outstanding firms continue to win. In fact, by applying the 47 ways, we are better prepared for the inevitable downturns all economies suffer.
Murphy: We read and hear a lot lately about individuals being free agents and having multiple jobs and careers throughout their lives. If someone does not see their position with an organization as a long term commitment what motivation is there for them to work hard to make the organization outstanding?
Miller: Not much. ‘Nuf said. 🙂
Murphy: What did you learn, or what most importantly did you learn in the process of writing this book?
Miller: I always learn when I write. Always. It sharpens my thinking, forces me to crystallize my thoughts. It makes me a better speaker. What I learned this time around is I had so much more to say beyond QBQ! and Flipping the Switch. I’ve been in the training industry since 1986 and it was time to share this collection of ideas. I also learned that unlike my other books, the new “O” book is a team study book. Certainly, individuals can read it and grow, but I’ve discovered it’s best used by a team to explore and discuss together.
Murphy: What were the most important experiences in your career that taught you the lessons you write about in the book?
Miller: From 1986-1995 I sold training to execs in Mpls/St. Paul, MN. These years are the foundation of all that I write. Certainly, I’ve seen things since then that are in the “O” book, but amazingly, that decade of selling and facilitating leadership training for 10,000 hours over a decade is still the foundation of what I know. Also, just being a consumer myself—one who buys things—gives me experiences to share in the new book.
Murphy: Readers often go through a book like this, read all or most of it, and then put it on a shelf and forget about it. I know an author may not like to hear that, but I think you know it is often true. How would you recommend that readers use this book to help them and their organizations become more outstanding?
Miller: Team study. Absolutely. This is the way to go. Read it alone, that’s fine. And go back to your favorite 8, 10, 12 chapters and work on those. Great. But still I believe one gets most out of this new book by talking about it with others. The 47 ways can definitely create discussion, disagreement, and dialogue—all healthy for any organization. And remember, as we say in the QBQ! book, repetition is the motor of learning! One read is never enough.
Murphy: Was this book difficult to write? How long did it take? I ask that because it is well written and for many the idea of writing a book like that is daunting.
Miller: This book was surprisingly easy. The content was all in my head and the minute we decided to “Go!”—it came flowing out of me. We wrote out first chapter in May and we were done by Labor Day. It was an outstanding summer!
Murphy: You say the principles in your book apply equally to nonprofit and government institutions. They do not operate on a profit basis. How can nonprofits remain customer oriented and why should they when their customers often do not pay them anything for their service?
Miller: Any organization can be “fired” by its constituents, non-profit or for-profit. We work closely with the Denver Rescue Mission who serves the homeless every day. They need donors to keep supporting them and the CEO and his team know those donors are their customers and they work hard to keep everyone of them. Regardless what an organization does, it can be fired by its customer base.
Example: I have 6 post offices I can choose from and believe me, there is one I will drive right past and never use due to unhappy employees and long, slow lines. Since I have a choice, I fire that PO weekly and use another—all on purpose! What the “O” book is really all about is being so exceptional that our customers never do fire us.
Murphy: You discuss this in your book, but can you tell us here in a few words how do you motivate a team to stay dedicated to excellence and to strive to be outstanding on a day to day basis?
Miller: It all comes down to one cornerstone idea: Belief. People are who passionate, excited, “on fire” and all that, believe in the institution they represent, what is stands for, the products and services it offers, and the people they work with. When belief is high, great things happen. When it’s low, we see cynicism, grumbling, complaining, blame, etc. Keep the belief high!
Murphy: Are you working on a new book, and if so what will it address? When might we expect it out?
Miller: Nope. Too busy selling and teaching the content from QBQ!, Flipping the Switch, and Outstanding! Nothing else planned right now. We do many things at my organizational development firm in Denver, Co! We speak at events, sell books, and license training to clients to use in-house. Your readers can learn more at www.QBQ.com and www.OutstandingOrganization.com .
Murphy: Thank you so much Mr. Miller for sharing your thoughts on this subject and your book. I hope we will see more from you soon.
Miller: Dan, thank you for helping us spread out message of how to be outstanding!
Daniel R. Murphy
Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.