How Book Review

Don’t expect “how to” type of advice from Dov Seidman’s How. The “how to” doesn’t help you get ahead of competitors. You could lower prices, do things faster, and customize the product to the customer’s exact specifications. The competition can easily turn around and lower prices, do things faster, and customize more. It turns into a cycle that focuses on time and cost. The real value comes in building relationships with people.

GE’s CEO Jack Welch response to a question about why GE would disclose its secrets for competitors to copy — the “whats” — best sums the book. Welch said, “There’s no secret to the what; the secret is in how. They can know our model, but they cannot do it. They can’t copy our hows.” Businesses that stand out pay great attention to the “way” to reach their business goals. The journey is how a business can differentiate itself from the competition.

High quality still matters even with a great “how” in place. Companies who succeed in the “how” already know that must produce or provide high quality products and services. That’s a given. Seidman explains “how” vs. “what” with the following questions:

How

  • How can I best delight my client?
  • How can I bring the company greater repute?
  • How can I make the meeting more successful?

What

  • What does the manual say to do?
  • What is my job description?
  • What is on the agenda?

Notice the difference? “How” focuses on values and taking a proactive stance in building relationships with others. “What” is more about compliance and passive interactions. This means changing the thinking from “can” to “should.” Sure, you “can” work to make a meeting more successful, but you don’t have to as no rule says you must. But someone with high values and interest in building relationships thinks this “should” happen.

For example, a customer asks an employee in bakery that sells sandwiches to cut a roll in half and butter it. A knife sits on the counter near the rolls. The employee’s reply? They can’t do that and hands the customer a plastic knife and butter. This example of dissonance shows how a bakery takes action that doesn’t support its goal to provide high quality customer service.

Many companies have a disconnect between their business goals and how they run their businesses. Seidman explains dissonance and how to move toward consonance. This example is what the book is about — covering the problems and how to address them for different facets divided into three parts: HOW we think, HOW we behave, and HOW we govern.

The book isn’t a fast and easy read. But it isn’t as complicated as a college textbook. Thankfully, it contains many examples to help readers comprehend the HOW concepts and apply them.

Unlike other business books, How isn’t a manual with step-by-step instructions, rules, processes or anything to study. Rather, it changes the way you think and that affects how you approach anything in business and even in life. Instead of being like the bakery that won’t cut bread, become the bakery that goes the extra mile to cut bread AND add a surprise cookie.

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