Building a Culture of Excellence: Tom Peters

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me. Tiffani is also the author of a new book “Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business” due for release in August 2018.


It is safe to assume that every CEO would have priority building a culture of Excellence because ultimately excellence drives growth and makes a company memorable.

Today, we have a bunch of complex models to help organizations become excellent, but in the pursuit of implementing these complex capability models, organizations forget that excellence is as much about people as it is about the process. It is as much about the small things as it is about the big things.

In a world that is obsessed with complexity, Tom Peters advocates simple things to enable a culture of excellence. He says,

“Embracing new technology is incredibly important, but EXCELLENCE IS HUMAN.”

Excellence is all about being close to your customers, creating ecosystems where best people can do their best work, developing people, listening, caring, smiling and saying “Thank you” often enough. These are not complex things, yet for many leaders, these are the most difficult things to do. And these simple things are at the core of excellence.

Please listen to this episode of the podcast and I am pretty sure it will be thought provoking, as it always is with whatever Tom shares.

Here is my sketchnote summary of the key nuggets of wisdom Tom Peters shared in this podcast episode.

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Lessons from 9 Years of Blogging

QAspire blog completes 9 years this month and here is how I feel at the moment.

They say and I agree that time flies when you are having fun. 2006 was a year when I had just transitioned into my first leadership role. Every single day and interaction with others was turning out to be a tremendous learning experience. (and it still does!) I felt a strong need to document my lessons somewhere and just about the time I started journaling my learning in a paper diary, I discovered blogs. After initial experimentation, I started writing on this blog in April 2006 – a time when Twitter was a new born and Facebook was a toddler!

In August 2006, my blog (then named “Software Quality and Management Insights”) was first noticed by Michael Wade who added it onto his blog roll. In a comment on this blog, he encouraged me by saying,

“I enjoy reading your blog. Anyone who can write clearly on software issues is, in my mind, the equivalent of a translator of ancient Greek.”

When encouragement started flowing through comments and conversations, my enthusiasm for blogging just went up. I realized soon that generosity is the currency in social world – the more you share, contribute and converse, the more you learn, gain and connect. This is even more crucial in a hyper social world that we live in today.

Starting this blog was a play for me and there were no external goals like getting more traffic or building the subscriber list. The goals were (and and still are) internal – to have fun, to learn, to sharpen the writing and to connect with others meaningfully. I learned that the only way to really learn more about things is to do them in spirit of curiosity, play and joy. Have you ever noticed that a kid learns the most between first three years of their lives and then, when they are subjected to scores and grades in the school, their joy is robbed? All rewards, recognitions and external validations are merely by-products of pursuing the inner joy of doing things.

Blogging strengthened my faith in humanity. Kindness and generosity has enriched the web and made it into what it is today. I learned that people are amazing. When you work hard to blog, every single comment, mention, view, re tweet and ‘like’ feels nothing less than a gift. The generosity and kindness of people in blogosphere (and in social media) has never failed to amaze me.

As the community around this blog grew, I was drawn to pick up the phone and talk to some people across the globe whose work I admired. These calls not only strengthened the relationship but took it to a different level. Conversations are a currency of social media and so, I learned that in social media, being social is far more important than the media.

What started as a medium to document lessons soon became a platform to express my thoughts. Any act of self-expression requires a great deal of emotional labor and is fraught with risk of failing. I learned that if we have ideas or strong beliefs on something we care about, it is our obligation to express. Our fear is mostly imaginary.

In 2010, I experimented with writing three posts each week. Recently, I experimented with daily blogging. My big learning from these experiences is – inspiration never comes before discipline – and if it comes, it does not stay. Inspiration first looks at your preparation and discipline before showering the grace. As they say,

“Discipline and perseverance beats talent.. every single time.”

Writing for a long time gives you a good view into your own mind and how thoughts have evolved. Contexts changed, thinking evolved and learning grew. This observation of the self tells me that learning is not an destination but a journey – a journey where perspectives grow, focus widens and old beliefs may give a way to newer ones. Writing a blog is perhaps the best way to stay in touch with your own thoughts.

I continue to enjoy this fascinating journey and looking forward to conversations, learning and connections it brings along.


A Note of Gratitude:

I know I can’t thank everyone who has encouraged me by visiting this blog, commenting on it or amplifying it elsewhere, but here is a list of people I am totally grateful to have connected with amongst many others:

Rajesh Setty, Michael Wade, Kurt Harden, Wally Bock, Nicholas Bate, Utpal Vaishnav, Mitchell Levy, Becky Robinson, Mary Jo Asmus, Phil Gerbyshak, Lisa Haneberg, Tanvi Gautam, Ashok Vaishnav, Folks at Pearson TalentLens, John Hunter, Dan McCarthy, Paul Schwend, Gautam Ghosh, Yashwant Mahadik, Nisha Raghavan, Mike Wong, Folks at WittyParrot, Gurprriet Singh, Folks at SHRMIndia, Folks at Hirers, Jurgen Appelo, Folks at ActiveGarage, PeopleMatters Team, Folks at Impackt Publishing, Karen Martin, Jesse Lyn Stoner

Gratitude 2011

Gratefulness fills me whenever a year ends. Each year brings along new hopes, some challenges, many opportunities. When the year ends, we look back and ruminate on how we did to seize those opportunities, to face those challenges and what we learned out of it all.

One of the things I am so grateful about is this blog, and everything it brings along – clarity in thinking, expansion of my world view, some fantastic (and often life changing) lessons and many encouraging friends. I meet these friends through the words they write – through their passion for sharing ideas and make a difference. Here is a partial list of such friends and mentors on blogosphere that I am so thankful for.

  1. Wally Bock and Michael Wade are two individuals that I respect a lot. They run very high quality blogs that are updated almost everyday. I feel honored whenever they feature my posts on their blogs. I am grateful for knowing such wonderful people.
  2. Kurt Harden runs Cultural Offering Blog and is a source of some great lessons on life and leadership. He appreciates my work as much as I appreciate his. I cannot thank him enough for his support and encouragement.
  3. Nicholas Bate is a genius. He is one of my virtual mentors who is also super-creative. He doodles, compiles lists and writes great books. His generosity in sharing his best work with me never fails to amaze me. I am so glad I know him. (Read his latest series: Strategies for Success)
  4. Utpal Vaishnav is a blogger and a cool friend. He reviews my work, validates my thoughts and adds value through his own experience. His blog is a treasure trove of useful insights on project management and self help. His punch line? “No Actions. No Results. Everything else is a commentary.
  5. Rajesh Setty is my guide, mentor and a friend who leads by example. He just does not show the way, but walks the way. He helped me write my first book and encouraged me through a number of conversations thereafter. He is super-generous, thoughtful and inspiring. I am grateful for our connection.
  6. I am thankful to Lisa Haneberg, Becky Robinson and Mary Jo Asmus for their support and encouragement to my work. At various points in 2011, they connected via Twitter, emails and blog to extend help, inspiration and opportunities.
  7. John Hunter is a passionate improvement expert who shares profound insight and research on his blog “Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog”. He also features great thinkers on quality, leadership and lean related topics via his Management Improvement Carnivals.
  8. I am grateful to have known Dan McCarthy and learned a great deal about leadership and people management via his blog “Great Leadership”. Dan is also known as a host of Carnival of Leadership Development.
  9. Seth Godin is my hero. He wrote a profound book “Linchpin” (reviewed here). This year, he wrote “Poke the Box” and released several other master pieces at The Domino Project. I reviewed Poke the Box this year (with a one question interview with Seth Godin). I am cannot end my “thank you” list without a mention of this generous human being who is on a mission to instigate people to do great work and make a difference.

A blog exists because people read it. I wrote last year, “This blog is a skeleton, a tool. Whatever I write here is flesh and blood. But readers, i.e. YOU are the soul.“ So, thank you for reading and supporting QAspire Blog. I have enjoyed all the interactions with you via my posts, comments and interactions through Twitter and QAspire Facebook page.

Merry Christmas!

Gratitude – 2010

I am filled with gratefulness as I think about 2010 coming to an end. The reason I love blogging is that while I express myself, I meet some very interesting people – meet them through the words we write and through our passion of sharing ideas to make a small difference in the world we all live in.

I am thankful to my friends Rajesh Setty (for being my guide and mentor), to Lisa Haneberg, Phil Gerbyshak and Utpal Vaishnav (for being such cool friends), ActiveGarage team (for hosting series of my posts on Quality), Nicholas Bate (for his profound insights), Kurt Harden (for his generous mentions) and Michael Wade (Nicholas, Michael and Kurt are awesome threesome).

I am very proud to be a part of a wonderful community of leadership bloggers and am grateful to Dan McCarthy (for his insights and for hosting Leadership Development Carnival), to Mary Jo Asmus, Becky Robinson (be sure to check out her new blog) and Wally Bock.

John Hunter is a passionate improvement expert who shares some profound lessons on management, leadership, lean and Deming. Ivana Sendecka is a remarkable individual who is working really hard shipping inspiration and making a difference. Her blog is an interesting collection of thoughtful questions, experiences and stories that inspire. Thanks to both of them for enlightening and inspiring.

I know that the list is incomplete. It will run into pages if I list everyone who interact/make a difference via their  tweets, blog posts and videos (Just a stat: I have more than 220 amazing blogs in my feed reader)

This blog is a skeleton, a tool. Whatever I write here is flesh and blood. But readers, i.e. you are the soul. So, a BIG THANKS TO YOU for being an ardent reader/supporter of QAspire Blog. I have enjoyed all the interactions with you via my posts, comments and interactions through QAspire Facebook page. You validate me, correct me, inspire me and above all, allow me to be myself.

I wish you all a REMARKABLE 2011!