Book Review: The Coming Jobs War

Book: Jim Clifton, Chairman, and CEO of Gallup, The Coming Jobs War: What every leader must know about the future of job creation:

  • Definitive leadership strategy for fixing the American economy, drawn from Gallup’s unmatched global polling and written by the company’s chairman.
  • What everyone in the world wants is a good job. “This is one of the most important discoveries Gallup has ever made,” says the company’s Chairman, Jim Clifton.
  • In The Coming Jobs War, Clifton makes the bold assertion that job creation and successful entrepreneurship are the world’s most pressing issues right now, outpacing runaway government spending, environmental degradation and even the threat of global terrorism.

I liked the focus on the importance and impact of creating “good” jobs and that we are in a global competition (war). In addition to surveys, I also liked the fact that he identified a target for GDP growth rate at 5%  to help assess progress:

  • GDP is the sum of all production and spending in one country in one year.
  • America needs 5% GDP growth to maintain it’s leadership of the free world.
  • America goes broke when its GDP falls, and jobs can’t be found. A country goes broke one company at a time and then one city at a time. It grinds down. And it’s happening now.”
  • Less GDP growth also means that the United States won’t have the money to afford its national entitlements – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid …
  • America’s only real solution — and keep in mind, this is true for every country too — is to expand the size of the GDP pie. That means job growth.
  • Very few Americans are aware that small and medium-sized businesses are responsible for most of the jobs in America.
  • The fact is that the rich tax base depends primarily on companies with fewer that 500 employees and even more so on companies with fewer than 100 employees.

Good Jobs

  • Clearly, having a good job is worth more than a paycheck. If you have a great job — one with unlimited growth opportunity, a manager who is interested in your development, and that gives you a sense of mission and purpose — you have about the best life you can have at this time in human history.  Conversely, being unhappily out of work for six moths – or even more deadly, being out of work for 18 months or more — is about the worst life you can have, anywhere in the world.

Businesses, Corporations, Organizations

  • Gallup has determined that 28% of the American workforce is “engaged,” another 53% is “not engaged” and a staggering “19%” is “actively disengaged.”
  • Customer engagement is the better predictor of sales and growth.
  • American businesses need to have the highest customer engagement scores in the world because when they do, they win the hearts and minds of all U.S. customers. And then, slowly but surely they will win the hearts and minds of all global customers.

W. Edwards Deming made similar assessments to Clifton/Gallup on the importance of customers (the most important part of the production line) and the need for organizations to develop a culture that embraces continuous improvement.

Deming described the improvement cycle as a “chain reaction” —  If you improve quality by doing the right things as defined by customers, costs decrease, productivity improves, increase market share, stay in business and provide jobs and more jobs.

I just came across a recent article on Deming in the Harvard Business Review by Joshua Macht, titled: The Management Thinker We Should Never Have Forgotten.  Macht states that “Toward the end of his life, Deming began to theorize as to why his ideas were never fully embraced. He was 90 when he wrote the following to Peter Senge (who recounted the correspondence in his influential The Fifth Discipline):”

Our prevailing system of management has destroyed our people. People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-respect, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning. The forces of destruction begin with toddlers — a prize for the best Halloween costume, grades in school, gold stars — and on up through the university. On the job, people, teams, and divisions are ranked, reward for the top, punishment for the bottom. Management by objectives, quotas, incentive pay, business plans, put together separately, division by division, cause further loss, unknown and unknowable.

Clifton’s book also identifies quite a few strategies that could be applied at the community level to include the critical role of entrepreneurs, innovators, inventors, tribal leaders, super mentors, and local leaders.  The critical importance of entrepreneurs is that they provide  “successful business models” and that “the business model really is everything.” pg. 84.

In support of creating good jobs, Clifton also identified the importance of needed first steps (pg. 169-177) that include law and order, food and shelter, key institutions, mobility and communication, youth development, job climate, and job enhancement. This includes the needed community infrastructure to support good jobs, e.g., it takes a community.

He states: “The feat these leaders have to pull off is doubling their entrepreneurial energy by aligning all their local forces.”  ”They succeed by declaring all-out war.”  Pg. 65.

Deming did not have a successful business model, but there are Deming based models that I have used with success that may support the needed alignment to double entrepreneurial energy.

The Baldrige criteria for performance excellence is another proven framework that supports continuous improvement.  The Criteria is available for businesses, non-profits to include government, health care, and education.  I expressed my advocacy for application of the criteria for improving the quality of government service in my article “A Government Program That Has Withstood the Test of Time” that was referenced in the Blogrige post:  Would the Founding Fathers Have Embraced Baldrige?

In the 8-Step Process for Leading change, the first step is to “Create a sense of urgency.” A sense of urgency is needed to challenge the acceptance of the status quo. Clifton created a sense of urgency through a “declaration of war”  and reinforcing what the situation will be like if we do not improve and support the changes needed to achieve the 5% GDP rate.  There  would very likely be a correlation between a group’s actions and results with the group’s sense of urgency.

In my community, for instance, the issue of kids hunger motivated a volunteer group to successfully address the issue by providing food that could be taken home in backpacks and supporting more summer food programs to help ensure that no child was without food during the summer break from school.

I think any group can develop a sense of urgency by identifying the adverse impact on people and the community when people lack access to what Abraham Maslow identified in the hierarchy of needs.  Clifton identifies the needs in the “Gallup Path to Global WellBeing” (pg.169).

The aim of the U.S system of government as identified in the preamble to the Constitution was to form a “more perfect union.”

A “more perfect community” would include people working together to reduce imperfections also commonly referred to as continuous improvement.  In the words of Vince Lombardi, perfection is not possible, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.

Clifton reinforces that winning the war on jobs has to be led at the local level.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Coming Jobs War

  1. Wow. What an interesting post. Thanks, Tim. I see there were 129 reviews for this book. I hope the right folks are paying attention to what it says. I’m going to add it to my read list.

    I like how you brought in the preamble, “to form a more perfect union.” Viewed in that light, it is our patriotic and national duty to continuously improve as a whole. I never thought about it like that.

    I’m curious–how did you find out about this book? It seems a little off the beaten path.

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    • Hi Dan, thanks for the feedback. I’ve been researching economic development related strategies and a recent acquaintance recommended the book.

      The insight on the “more perfect union” was inspired by Deming’s work – in particular, one quote. I saw from your site that you reviewed the Deming Dimension. The “one quote” is at the start of Chapter 4: “If I had to reduce my message for management to just a few words, I’d say it all has to do with reducing variation.” I wrote a paper that I presented at the Deming Research Conference to explain this simple and insightful quote: See The Deming Paradigm: Unknown by Most, Misunderstood by Many, Relevant to All at http://successthroughquality.com/articles.html The paper is not the most entertaining of reads.

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  2. Tim, I have read your paper, THE DEMING PARADIGM FOR REDUCING VARIATION. Thank you very much. It has given me a lot to think about and I will be revisiting it. I appreciate you taking time our for me.

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