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Traction by Gino Wickman

The full title of this book by Gino Wickman is

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business

In my review posted on Amazon.co.uk, I gave the book a 5 Stars rating. This means it is Excellent.

Here is my book review.

Comprehensive high level view of what to do to grow your business through internal excellence

I can understand why some ambitious entrepreneurs and business owners love this book. Its operating system makes a great deal of sense at a high level. While Michael Gerber’s classic small business book “The E-Myth Revisited” presents some similar ideas, this is much detailed and more of a “how to do it” guide.

As a business coach with my own ideas on business growth , it is hard to read a book like this objectively. Inevitably there are plenty of things that broadly match my opinions but there are also things that I don’t like or make me feel uneasy.

The process starts with the vision but here, vision is used to describe strategy rather than a narrow vision a snapshot of the future desired state). This section whizzes through thoughts about strategy and marketing strategy with next to no mention of customers and what they want or competitors and the competitive environment. This is NOT a marketing and sales playbook.

What I do like is that it is very much based in backward planning. You (or preferably your management team) decide what you want in the long term. With that in mind, you set increasingly short term objectives. E.g. from 10 years to 3 years to 1 year to the next three months. This makes sure that what you’re doing now is consistent with what you want for the future.

I thought the People chapter about getting the right people in the right positions was excellent and I’m definitely bringing these into my best practices.

The chapter on Numbers (key performance indicators ) is relatively simple. It recommends a top level dashboard to keep on top of the entire business as well as assigning everyone a number. It is also very focused on leading indicators that predict future performance rather than lagging indicators. I have a few concerns about local optimisation causing sub-optimisation for the entire business if people are judged on one personal measure.

The next chapter is about identifying and solving Issues. It’s based on establishing an open and honest culture where problems are acknowledged rather than hidden away or disguised. The emphasis is on solving these problems. The emphasis is on digging down to the root cause rather than solving the surface symptom but the book lacks a process to do so. This can be a complex area.

Many businesses waste a great deal of time with firefighting i.e. making short term fixes to long term problems. This stores up problems and over the months and years wastes much more time and causes a great deal of frustration . I love the way the book emphasises finding proper solutions, even if uncomfortable for some. It requires a commitment to the greater good of the business.

Next is the deep-dive into your processes. This may not feel exciting but it is vital if your business is going to run smoothly while you drive it forward. Well designed and documented processes mean the business can function without your day-to-day supervision and make the business easier to sell for a good price.

The sixth and final element of the process is called Traction and this brings the longer term objectives down to quarterly improvement goals (called rocks) together with quarterly and weekly meetings. This may sound like a lot of meetings but this is how you get things done. From my own experience, I’ve always liked weekly meetings to maintain focus and keep the momentum driving forward.

I like the system a lot. I can’t say it’s groundbreaking but it does bring together best practices (or at least good practices) into a simple system. When I explained it to a client, I said it was like a jigsaw puzzle and you had all the pieces laid out to form the complete picture.

It doesn’t get off to the best start with the Vision/Strategy section. Since everything else is designed to implement these objectives, the book has to start here but, if this is where your biggest issues are, then you need to read another book first. Where this book excels is implementing the developed strategy.

You implement strategy through your people and organisation structure, through your performance reporting, through your systems and processes and through your management system. This is the true focus of the book and it is excellent.

Who should read this book?

I think it’s main benefits will be felt in businesses big enough to have three or more tiers – that the owner(s), some managers or supervisors and staff.

When there are just the two levels, you won’t have anyone who doesn’t have the benefit of direct contact with the owner. At that stage it isn’t a problem to maintain consistent focus, direction and values provided the owner is capable. Beyond that things get more complicated.

This book is very highly recommended. Just adapt the system to to suit your size and business.

You can buy the book from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com


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