Preface – Ruthless Consistency: How Committed Leaders Execute Strategy, Implement Change, and Build Organizations That Win


I WANT TO MAKE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE. I want to bring you face-to-face with what you haven’t done but need to do for your organization to win. I want to provoke a smoldering discontent for the way things are and a fierce resolve to change them.

If you’re a leader who has had enough of strategic plans that go off the rails, change initiatives that flounder, or chronic underperformance, then this book is for you. This book is also for you if you’re a leader or aspiring leader who is ambitious and committed to fulfilling your ambitions.

I wrote Ruthless Consistency with middle-market companies in mind. My experience and expertise as a strategy + execution consultant is rooted almost entirely in this segment, a segment that is largely ignored in the business literature yet accounts for one-third of the private-sector economy. These aren’t the big behemoths or sexy startups; yet many of these fly-under-the-radar companies are some of the best companies you’ve never heard of. And while Ruthless Consistency was written with an eye to the mid-market, many of the principles and practices apply to organizations of all sizes, including those outside of business, such as in education and the not-for-profit world.

Part I, “The Reality,” sets the stage. It makes the case for three principles that you must understand and embrace to maximize your chances for success.

Part II, “The Right Focus,” is where the applied journey begins. Simply put, without focus, your organization can’t win. In this section, my intent is to have you reject strategic planning and commit to strategic management, a comprehensive and far more robust approach to developing and sustaining focus.

In Part III, “The Right Environment,” I detail a model that shows how every organizational touchpoint must be consistent with winning. Practices and processes are provided to help manage those touchpoints.

In Part IV, “The Right Team,” I outline successful approaches to the two processes fundamental to building the right team: recruitment and selection.

You might question why “The Right Environment” comes before “The Right Team.” After all, once you’re clear on what your organization must achieve, shouldn’t you put the right team in place to achieve it? If you were starting from scratch, building a new team, then yes. But most organizations already have a team in place and leaders often believe they have the right team. The truth is, you won’t fully know until you’ve created the right environment. Once you have, most team members will thrive, and engagement and performance will soar. However, it will also expose those who aren’t willing or able to meet what’s expected of them. In any event, don’t think of these two parts of the book as strictly sequential. Creating the right environment and building the right team are both ongoing and iterative processes.

Part V, “The Right Commitment,” shines the spotlight on you. Knowing what you need to do is one thing; having the will to do it is another. The chapters in this section identify the enemies of commitment, along with practical and proven ways to overcome them.

Expect Ruthless Consistency to challenge your thinking and your assumptions. Expect to have your level of commitment challenged. And expect to be equipped with models, methods, practices, and processes—all based on real-world experience—that will help you transform ambition into strategy, and strategy into reality.

Don’t just read this book. Reflect on how it relates to your experience. And preflect on how you can and will apply what you’ve read and what you expect to happen as a result. Make notes, highlight, discuss with others, exchange stories . . . don’t just read this book.

Why go down this path with me? Because for the past 20+ years I’ve worked with hundreds of CEOs and other executives making strategy happen. The principles and practices of Ruthless Consistency have been forged by hammering away at real-world challenges across a wide range of contexts.

Imagine that you and I are handcuffed together in the desert, dying of thirst. Off in the distance is an oasis. Each of us has to walk so that both of us can get there. If you stop walking, I won’t be able to drag you there. If I stop walking, you won’t be able to drag me there. I can’t promise you that we’ll make it to the oasis. But I can promise you that I won’t be the one to stop.

Take your first step. Turn the page.