Friday, January 27, 2012

Great by Choice ... What is Prayer?

by Dale Shumaker

Great by Choice by Jim Collins (author of Good to Great) answers the question,

"Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos,
and others do not?"

His study included companies over a 15-plus year span who exceeded stock market
results, even through turbulent times, uncontrollable events, beginning their rise to greatness from positions of vulnerability, being young and/or small at the start. These were 10X companies, companies who thrived while others like them with similar circumstances and industries did not. Their distinction was leading their industry index by 10 times.

They had some initial surprises, thinking they may be more risk takers although they were actually more disciplined, more empirical, and more paranoid. They were not distinctively innovated, but the 10Xers scaled innovations by blending creativity with discipline. At first they thought, they would find speedy, fast companies to keep pace with a fast world. Instead, it was a good way to get killed. 10Xers would figure out when to go fast and when not to. Radical change was not there either. 10Xers changed less in reaction to their changing world. To succeed you need a lot of good luck they thought initially, where the 10xers didn't generally have more luck in comparison to others.

What they did find with the 10Xers compared to their less successful companies.... the 10Xers were not more creative, visionary, charismatic, ambitious, blessed by luck, risk seeking, heroic, making big bold moves. They did have this triad of core behaviors:
fanatic discipline,
empirical creativity,
and productive paranoia.

Fanatic Discipline: displaying extreme consistency of action they were 20 mile
marchers. Based on John Brown's 20 Mile March, they kept pace, 20 miles a day... not more, but on tough days relentless to make it the 20 miles. Performance was a discipline, keeping each day in a band of activity... not above the high bar, not below the low bar... but always in the band between bars. A good 20 Mile March uses performance markers along the way, self-imposed restraints, tailored to the enterprise and its environments, within your control to succeed, a Goldilocks time frame that is not too short or too long, designed and self imposed by the enterprise, that must be achieved with great consistency. A 20 Mile March wins because it builds confidence to win in adverse circumstances, reduces the risk of catastrophe when hit by turbulent times, and helps you exert self-control in an out-of-control environment.

Empirical creativity. Fire bullets then cannonballs. Discipline alone does not make
greatness, but the combination of discipline with creativity. Blend creative intensity with relentless discipline so to amplify the creativity and not destroy it. When marrying operations excellence with innovation, you multiply the value of your creativity... that's what the 10Xers do. Don't use up all your gunpowder on a big cannonball at your target at first. If it misses you are out of ammunition. Shoot bullets, if you miss, recalibrate and shoot again until you know you are on target. Then make your cannonball. In other words don't use up your resources too early. Methodically, adjust until you know your are hitting the target you want. A bullet is low cost, low risk, and low distraction. When you know you can hit the target, make the cannonball acquisition, the big market move. So you follow a combination of activities. Fire bullets, assess if your bullet hit anything, do any bullets merit conversion to a cannonball, convert resources to fire a cannonball, don't fire uncalibrated cannonballs, terminate bullets that show no evidence of eventual success.

Productive paranoia: A business curve has good events and bad events, but never hit the death line. That's the line you hit where you can't return. Productive paranoia prepares for the unexpected( i.e., cash reserves) and bad luck before it happens, asymmetric risk and uncontrollable risk (manage time risk), and being hyper vigilant to sense changing conditions and respond effectively. It's being paranoid in good times and bad times, considering worst case scenarios and being ready for them if they happen. The 10Xers build buffers and shock absorbers to deal with unexpected events. Have the oxygen canisters ready. The 10Xers think first, even when they need to think fast. It's what you do before the storm hits that matters. They are extremely prudent in handling risk: death line risk that will terminate the business, asymmetric risk where the downside dwarfs the upside, uncontrollable risk which cannot be controlled or manage. Always be aware of the time you have and resources available.

The 10Xers followed the SMaC recipe... Specific, Methodical, and Consistent. SMaC is a set of practices more enduring than mere tactics. SMaC practices can last for decades across a wide range of circumstances. The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency. Define specific, methodical and consistent practices for all areas of the business. These give clear guidance on what to do and what not to do. What should you do in all areas, with SMaC for each area, is a specific, methodical, and consistent list of practices. Managing the tension between consistency and change is one of the great challenges for any human enterprise. When you evaluate your SMaC for an area exercise empirical creativity (firing bullets not cannon balls), and exercise productive paranoia(zoom out, then zoom in). A detailed chapter worth reading in its entirety.

Where does luck come in the picture. The 10Xers, compared to similar businesses, did not get more good luck, less bad luck, good luck earlier on, or be defined by a giant spike. The difference that the 10Xers got was a high return on good luck. And the bad luck was not catastrophic, it didn't end the game. Many 10Xers credited much of their success to good luck, but they managed it well, and they made sure bad luck never set them back.

The greatest leaders they studied cared as much about values as victory, purpose as profit, and being useful as successful. We are not imprisoned by circumstances, luck, fairness, crushing setbacks, mistakes or our past success. We can only control a small sliver of what happens to us, but we are always free to choose.
More on Great by Choice at

In any business venture, the power of prayer by two or more uniting in Spirit,
brings results beyond natural events. It provides power to overcome challenges, and it keeps us humble when we have overwhelming victories. Prayer keeps us level and with God's Spirit in control.

The Biz Prayer Network, Facebook, features views and instructions on making prayer work, and understanding on what prayer is.
Here are some excerpts from the Biz Prayer Network.

Prayer is entering His Inner Chamber. We, through Jesus the Christ, have the privilege to come directly into His most Holy Place and be with God, talk personally to Him, and have intimacy with Him. This is a heart-throbbing opportunity, a wonder, a joy of Living in constant relationship with God, The Spirit, and Jesus our Lord ( Andrew Murray).

"The word “prayer” really means “a wish directed towards,” that is, towards God. All that true prayer seeks is God Himself, for with Him we get all we need. Prayer is simply “the turning of the soul to God.” David describes it as the lifting up of the living soul to the living God. “Unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.”( Psalm 25:1) (Unknown Christian)

In prayer God gives us His Inspired ideas; in prayer the Spirit directs us on strategies on how to carry out the ideas; in prayer we acquire the boldness, power, gifts to act on the ideas. When we move in faith, favor precedes us and the battle is carried out before us, and victory is being won before we walk in the door. Our faith is expressed in action, our victory won with the Spirit going before us. This is what God was saying to Joshua... be bold, be strong, for the Lord your God is with you. It all originates in prayer.

God deploys us to ask...."“Verily, verily I say unto you, he that believes on Me, the works that I do shall he also do; and greater works than these shall he do, ask in My name, that will I do ask whatsoever ye will, so shall ye be My disciples." These words are of such grave importance, and so momentous. He urges His disciples to obey His command “to ask.” In fact, He tells us that one sign of us being His “friends” will be the obedience to His commands in all things. (The Unknown Christian)

In your prayer time, and schedule a prayer time, take time to linger in His Presence. Praise, worship, worshipful music is good to have in the background. Speak affectionately to God, telling Jesus you love Him. Speak softly and slowly (this is an intimate time, so you don't need to be shouting to the Lord, now, i must admit that may have its time and place). Be brief and use short phrases to communicate as well as long speeches, speak minimally which is to listen more than talk.

Long speeches may do more for you than your prayer, but God understands. He is not into evaluating your technique in prayer. It's the sincerity of the heart that matters.

At times just be silent and rest in His Presence, with pauses between what you say. What pops in your brain at these times, may very well be the Lord speaking to you. Act on these impressions.
Waiting on God has its value in this: it makes us strong in work for God. The second reveals the secret of this strength. ‘God works for Him who waits for Him.’ The waiting on God secures the working of God for us and in us, out of which our work must spring. The two passages teach the great lesson, that as waiting on God lies at the root of all true working for God, so working for God must be the fruit of all true waiting on Him (Andrew Murray).