TMG Book Club

How BIG THINGS Get Done

At The Mainspring Group one of our core values is discovery and propagation of best practices. We consider ourselves to be “lead learners” when in relationship with our clients. We bring over 50 years of experience in homebuilding operations to the table and we’ll be the first to say: No one knows everything.
As a way to bring this value to life, as well as to connect with our distributed team, we started a virtual book club. We use Slack to dialogue about a book that has been chosen specifically for Mainspring’s current challenges and opportunities.
Each week one of our team members leads us through some discussion questions around that week’s reading. We push each other to think through the information presented and how it applies to our own organization as well as to our clients’ organizations.
We invite you to browse the books our club has digested and let us know what you learned from them – help us live out our core value of discovery and propagation of best practices! Here are all the books we’ve finished so far, accompanied by notes from members of our team about what we learned and who we recommend read the books.

Leadership is Language

By David Marquet

Summary by Kyle Lintala, Bookclub Member
There is a critical correlation between language and performance. By communicating in a manner that is proactive, focused on improvement, and encourages creativity, leaders can learn to effect change for the better, in both tangible outcomes and morale. Author L. David Marquet, a former US Navy captain, takes the reader on a journey to discover strategies and paradigm shifts that help leaders choose the correct words to use at the correct times. The concepts taught throughout the book range from nuances in articulation to complete mindset shifts. Words, and how they are delivered, can make or break a team.
Marquet divides work into two segments: redwork and bluework. Redwork consists of tasks, execution, processes; while bluework consists of planning, deciding, predicting, improving. An important distinction to make is that these are segments of work performed, not people or roles. There is a time, place, and balance for every team member to participate in both types of work – how that balance is articulated by leadership in pinnacle. I have a personal appreciation for Marquet’s emphasis on expanding the inclusion of bluework (thinking) – leverage the uniqueness that is a part of being human.
Who I would recommend this book to

Grit

By Angela Duckworth

Summary by Jason Sherman, Operations Lead

The author has devoted her professional academic career to the topic of Grit – which attempts to answer the question: Why do some people give up, while others persist? The core argument of the book is that persistence pays off, and that effort counts twice – once in practice, and once in the production of work. She gives individual examples, from the grit “paragons” you’d expect to hear about in high performance environments, to the less obvious examples found in more every day life. The major takeaway our group took from the book was that Grit, like many other human traits and characteristics, can be built up over time – so if you want to be the kind of person that is undeterred in the face of obstacles, there is a path you can follow to improve over time.

Who I would recommend this book to

If you are looking for ways to improve your ability to do hard things – not just to start them, but to get them out of the starting blocks and into the world – this book is a must read. Practical suggestions for how you can grow in your ability to weather the storms the world throws at you without giving up.

I’d also suggest this book to parents of kids, especially kids still in primary education. Lots of great stuff in the book about how to raise Gritty kids that will be resilient and, likely, more successful as they enter college and adulthood.

Thinking in systems

By Donella Meadows
Summary by Matt Collins, Managing Member

Donella Meadows’ book, “Thinking in Systems,” is a remarkable exploration of complex systems and the principles behind them. In this insightful work, Meadows provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of how systems thinking can be applied to various aspects of life, from environmental sustainability to business management. Her ability to present complex concepts in a clear and accessible manner makes this book an invaluable resource for anyone interested in understanding the interconnectedness and dynamics of the world we live in.

 

One of the fundamental concepts discussed in “Thinking in Systems” is the distinction between stocks and flows. While stocks represent the current state of a system, such as gross margin or profit, Meadows argues that focusing solely on stocks is insufficient for effective decision-making. Instead, she emphasizes the importance of measuring and analyzing the flows within a system. By understanding the patterns and dynamics of flows, one can gain insights into the future trajectory of the system, enabling the development of predictive forecasts. This shift in perspective allows individuals and organizations to anticipate and plan for future outcomes rather than being confined to reacting to the present state of affairs.

 

For a business, the stock-and-flow concept closely relates to data, reports, and dashboards. While stocks-based reporting provides crucial information about the current status, it often falls short of offering valuable insights for strategic decision-making. By focusing on flows and incorporating them into data analysis and dashboards, it becomes possible to develop a more comprehensive and forward-looking understanding of the system’s behavior. This integration of flow-based metrics and forecasting capabilities empowers individuals and organizations to make informed decisions that take into account the systemic interdependencies and potential future outcomes, thereby enhancing their ability to navigate complexity and drive sustainable success.

Who I would recommend this book to
If you’ve spent years in business and already think in systems, there will be portions of the book that may seem obvious but embrace the idea of creating a touch more clarity and insights into your perspective. No matter how far you are on your journey, I assure you will gain key insights which will help you get to the next level.

Start with why

By Simon Sinek
Summary by Ethan Kelly, Business Analyst

The book first helps us to understand the differences between WHAT we do, HOW we do it, and WHY we do what we do, the way we do it.

 

You will see many examples of businesses that found success, even in hard times, because they knew and were able to communicate WHY they were in business. By contrast, the book also gives you examples of companies that had all the “right ingredients” for success but failed to communicate WHY they were doing anything and failed because of it.

 

You learn that your WHY must resonate with customers. They need to know why you sell that product and it needs to tie into WHY they would buy it. Otherwise, you become a commodity, scrambling to fight for scraps with other purposeless businesses.

 

No matter where you are in your career, or where your company is in the market, it is never too late to Start with Why.

Who I would recommend this book to

If you believe that value comes from being driven by a purpose, this book is for you. If you feel lost, like your actions are not building towards your dreams, this book is for you. If you feel like your company is not resonating with your market, this book is for you.

 

If you or your team members question why your company even exists, stop now, and read this book to understand how important a WHY is for your business.

Leadership jazz

By Max De Pree
Summary by Steve Holzer, Senior Consultant
Leadership Jazz turned the typical top-down military structure over. Max De Pree taught us how to leverage the differing gifts of every team member. Leadership is not telling someone what to do and how to do it. Leadership is demonstrating the best we know how, our own gifts to the benefit of the collective team. We learned, as in the best jazz ensembles, that competition within the ensemble bears no fruit for anyone. Rather, highlighting the strength of each of the members sharing what they do best in the best way they know will build the best outcome for everyone. This extends outside of the ensemble, or company, to customers, investors, owners, contractors, and every stakeholder. The music produced is a joy to consume.
Who I would recommend this book to

This book will shift the goal development of anyone truly wanting to lead the making of a difference in their own work, the work of their associates, and the environment of their organization. This book shares the power each player has to lead, no matter their “position” in the organization. Every person benefits in understanding the dynamics they will discover in Leadership Jazz.

Making Numbers Count

By Chip Heath & Karla Starr
Summary by Jason Sherman, Operations Lead
The author has devoted her professional academic career to the topic of Grit – which attempts to answer the question: Why do some people give up, while others persist? The core argument of the book is that persistence pays off, and that effort counts twice – once in practice, and once in the production of work. She gives individual examples, from the grit “paragons” you’d expect to hear about in high performance environments, to the less obvious examples found in more every day life. The major takeaway our group took from the book was that Grit, like many other human traits and characteristics, can be built up over time – so if you want to be the kind of person that is undeterred in the face of obstacles, there is a path you can follow to improve over time.
Who I would recommend this book to
If you are looking for ways to improve your ability to do hard things – not just to start them, but to get them out of the starting blocks and into the world – this book is a must read. Practical suggestions for how you can grow in your ability to weather the storms the world throws at you without giving up. I’d also suggest this book to parents of kids, especially kids still in primary education. Lots of great stuff in the book about how to raise Gritty kids that will be resilient and, likely, more successful as they enter college and adulthood.