Business Design. Evolved.

Category: Principles of Growth

On the Passing of Charlie Krone

In my bookcase are three unfinished manuscripts I lovingly refer to as the Tao of Krone.  That Charlie Krone – the father of Organization Effectiveness (and Development).  They represent over 8 years of notes while I was working with Charlie while he was mentoring the DuPont Nylon team (and subsequently DuPont Fibers).  I use many of these concepts to this day… the law of three, task cycle, singular integrated developmental organization (SIDBO), All in a Business Family, and the “Essence of Nylon” – a regenerative reframing of the nylon business.

If you really understood what Charlie was about you could not help but love him.  He genuinely cared about people and helping them reach their full potential.  This is not just talk as I know he could have written me off several times, as we would have highly agitated 1:1 discussions about what I often called his “inging” of the English language and “confusing people”.  He wouldn’t quite say it this way, but I was sloppy (my words) in my levels of thinking and had to relearn how to learn.  He would have suggested I was operating at level one unconscious thinking and needed to rise to a more conscious level of thinking.  Those of you who understand Krone will laugh as you read this.

Charlie was also known for his work at P&G and the development of participative management.  While it was highly successful, it was also threatening to the Ford-like industrial engineered work model and traditional management.  Often the participative management approach could create a “mystical aura” as folks who had been confined in their ability to contribute were liberated to work at their highest level and grow.

You rarely hear about organization development, participative management, and organization effectiveness and yet I often reflect that the millennials of today would readily embrace participative management.  However, being a regenerative vs. extractive company is still a struggle for some (VW for example).

His impact on DuPont was profound as we shifted from a company that truly embraced sustainable values and society as a stakeholder and put money behind our words, exiting deep wells, eliminating nitrous oxide emissions, and exiting businesses.  DuPont was a better place for his involvement and influence.

Yesterday, I decided to check on what Charlie had been up to… only to learn he died just before Christmas on December 17th.

Here is an excerpt about Charlie from his obituary…

As a young boy he helped the milkman with deliveries from his horse drawn carriage. His mother had a large garden, and he helped her with harvesting and canning the vegetables and fruit. He grew up loving to work and to help people, and these characteristics remained with him throughout his life. Charlie pioneered many of the founding concepts in the field of organization development, integrating several disciplines to formulate principles and processes for self- actualization, self-realization and systemic thinking. As a consultant he dedicated himself to making the world a better place through applying vision and creativity to developing organizations where people could simultaneously have a meaningful work life, contribute to the success of their business, and develop to their full professional and spiritual potential.

… He is survived by his wife, Bonnie Krone; his brother, Bill Krone; his 3 children, Pam, Keith and Brian; and his 3 grandchildren, Becky, Clayton and Jason. He wishes everyone a happy and fulfilling life. Please send any donations in his name to support the education of the orphaned children of Tibet at Joru Foundation ( or to support children’s equine therapy at Hope, Horses and Kids (”

Charlie – husband, father, friend, teacher, dreamer, business man, rancher, friend of the earth, we will miss You!

Charlie was my teacher, mentor, and in some ways a business father.  My life – and the path I was on – was dramatically changed by Charlie.  I will miss you.

Here is prior post on Charlie’s Four Premises about Growth from All in a Business Family.


Does your business need to be fixed?

The top 10 ways to spot a broken service or manufacturing business:

1. Heroes routinely do battle to prevent delivering a bad product or service. One company I worked with prided themselves on “doing the impossible every day”. (aka Firefighter vs. Rainmaker)

2. Customer complaints. For every customer who complains about your product, there are 16 more that won’t tell you. Each of these tells eight other people about why they don’t like your product or service. Word of mouth can kill you!

3. Supplier complaints. Do your suppliers complain about the irrational last minute demands you make and how long it takes to get paid? Get the procurement process done. Word of mouth can kill you!

4. Employee whining: “I can’t do my job because so-and-so doesn’t do their’s.” Employees want to do a good job. What’s stopping them? This is also exemplified by high negativity amongst leaders and the troops. “Black Hole” behavior

5. Blaming people for poor quality. Ninety-nine percent of the problem is in your systems and processes, not your people. Plugging the leaks focuses on business operations. It’s the process, stupid!

6. Knee-jerk fixes that fail. Common sense and gut feel stop working at a 3 percent error rate. That’s when you need the “common science” of Plug the Leaks to take you to the next level.

7. Margins are low, expenses are high, growth is stalled. Defects and delay eat away at margins and inflate expenses. Too much focus on fixing and almost no focus on innovating.

8. Failures in the field. How big is your warranty or repair department? Your credit risk or audit group? How many people does it take to handle your customer service and tech support calls? Is it easy for your customers to navigate across your entire organization?

9. Too many inspectors checking quality. You can’t inspect quality into your product or service, but you can build it in. Look for rework stations in manufacturing and reconciliation units or extra “baton pass” resources in services.

10. Absenteeism and turnover. Employees hate doing a poor job for customers. They get angry when the internal system prevents them from doing a good job. How are your systems preventing your employees from doing a good job? If your employees can’t trust you to deliver form then what else would you expect?

Adapted from Jay Abraham

8 Lessons for the CEO from Cirque’s Mystere

business of mystere

“Only when the questions become more important than the answers will the solutions emerge.”


A while back the folks at Kellogg’s Innovation Network offered me the opportunity to engage in a dialogue that was a genuine treat.  They had talked the director of Cirque de Soleil’s Mystere into letting us get a behind the scenes look at the business of how the people and the show come together.

Here are 8 key lessons for business leaders that I learned.

  1. Customer Engagement: Emotion, emotion, emotion. It’s hard to imagine anyone that would go to Mystere and not find a wide range of impactful and divergent emotions. I found myself at times in awe of the what a human body could do, lost in the visual imagery of the art of the spectacle, laughing at the acts of the clowns, while the engineer in me kept wondering – how did they do that! It’s that power of emotional connection that all businesses wish they could achieve instead of what most businesses do – cutting costs to deny you service (even to point of creating customer terrorists). This was truly an engineered emotional experience.
  2. Talent Selection: The actors are sought from a pool of the best athletes, musicians, and dancers in the world. The “best” isn’t just a mirror of a leader (i.e. the model emulates the leader) but a diversity of thought, geography, and ideas to ensure a level of organic renewal and energy to the show. It’s about bringing the whole person and their creativity to the stage.
  3. Development: Two thoughts emerged as I listened to the Mystere team. First, this was a leadership team that any CEO would be proud of. They have all come up through the ranks, demonstrated their craft, believe in the mission of Mystere and showed a degree of respect and caring for each other and valuing the contribution of the entire team in a way I found something to be proud of. I also learned that they are SERIOUSLY vested in developing critical thinking skills and whole brain thinking.
  4. Process: When a new Cirque show opens there is process that it goes through (akin to new product development). There is an ideation stage to formulate the base product (such as Mystere, O, Zumanity). Then there is a creative process between the director, artists, and technicians to formulate the theatrics by mixing a combination of the three into a “flow”. Then there are the rehearsals – with a heavy dose of safety management (it’s easy to see where a missed move could result in death). The opening is a “perfecting” period to get the recipe and routine locked down, and finally it’s “locked” in. If I recall correctly, the “baking” took 18 months. This is followed by ongoing quality and safety procedures and practices (akin to Six Sigma perfection and OSHA level safety awareness).
  5. Alternative Business Model: Think about what Cirque did to the circus business in general. It elevated the art of the circus actors to new levels, created an accessibility to audiences by recrafting the circus experience as fun, stage, art, and form, and restructured the business economics at a premium to market. Wouldn’t we all love to create the game changer business model?
  6. Innovation logic: New ideas are always looked at to give even a long running show like Mystere an organic nature. As the director stated, each new idea has to be fully worked out and goes through an R&D process that often “leaves a dumpster full of ideas”. While we did not discuss how many new ideas enter the pipeline – it’s many and only a few make it to the end after a rigorous and valued test and learn process.
  7. On-boarding: An artist must first do their own personal homework by watching videos and studying the character. Once they have studied for a few weeks the artistic director will work with them on stage for about 2 weeks (2 to 3 times a week). This time is used so the artist can learn the character movement. It is also a time for the artistic director to see if the artist could bring something new to the character. Then they spend a week working with props and costume pieces. Once the artist is comfortable there is a full show audition – staging with other artists. Then they are ready for the show. It takes an artist about a week in the show to feel comfortable.
  8. Coaching to Win: The KIN attendees watched the last rehearsal of a new member and then saw him in the actual show later that evening. One thing I noted was how the artistic director coached the new actor. There were no incentives, no stick, just a calming guiding hand with the language of any great football coach focusing on how to draw on strengths and downplay and mitigate weaknesses by drawing on the combined strengths of the entire team.

A few lessons for all of us…



Four Premises about Growth – From Charlie Krone’s All in a Business Family

Charlie Krone and Growth

Often, in order to move forward, one must break long-held patterns and beliefs. Growth, and how we perceive that a business grows, is one such belief/pattern area.

Back when I was the Transformation leader for DuPont Nylon, Charlie Krone presented our team four premises about growth, which were integrated into our “Generation” project (which led to our going from 20% global market share back to 27% market share in the mid 90’s). The principles have held up well over time.

1. The pursuit of growth and evolution is essential to the perpetuation of the state of existence that a value adding process can provide its stakeholder constituencies. For a school the value adding process might be curriculum and teaching methods with the outcome metric based on development of a student. Pursuit is about the ongoing dynamic change to continually push the edge of collective vision. An underlying concept is also that a value-adding process must be steady-state to evolve, or in the negative – an organization can go into turmoil as complexities of growth work are added.

2. Growth should be a vehicle for differentiating the product offering of each value adding process, implying that each value adding process should be distinctively able to support particular market spaces or segments. This is tough work. All too often the commodity effect settles into a organization pattern to “maintain” and “be cheap enough” and “just good enough”. Bring forth a new “distinctive” and organizing to be “differentiating” requires critical thinking about evolving both value adding processes and the people that execute those processes. Distinctive is about bringing forth an offering value that is differentiable from current and future competitive offerings and that will be of a higher order in that marketplace. Often the work of growth is about redefining the market space (aka segment) and driving for deep customer understanding in order to reposition a current offering or pursue a new offering.


3. When thinking about growth an important critical thinking shift is “better” over “bigger”. Healthy margin growth is a function of clearly being better driving BOTH margin and growth.

How? Perhaps through focusing on:

  • a more perfect product (perfecting ahead of the competition vs waiting for the absolute perfect product);
  • a product that integrates more effectively with the value adding processes of the customer and industry;
  • a product the BEST matches the discriminating judgments applied by the decision makers and stakeholders in the market space you are targeting;
  • a product that establishes the best harmony with what the stakeholders are seeking to accomplish.

Each of the four points is an imaginary growth level to cross… the more perfect offering; that better integrates with the customer’s value adding process; that creates distinction within the marketplace; and wins superior approval and acceptance from all stakeholders.

Think about how Apple responded when there were stakeholder concerns about the quality of life issues from society stakeholders regarding their contract Chinese labor practices. The reason that Apple could respond with credibility is the the other three levels were “crossed”.

4. Creative thinking about growth involves creating a vision of an offering and/or its value adding process that has greater potential. Then execute that vision by translating it back into virtues and qualities that need to be brought forth; implications to changes in your value adding processes and those of your customers; and implications in “being” and changes in “being”. Most of this reverse engineering is the hard work – making the possibility real – and requires a different mental energy from the day-to-day organization. “Being” and changes in “being” relate to the spirit and level of energy from your stakeholders – and while concepts of branding and marketing can enable the perception escalation in that regard – the “core” of offering, value adding process, and most importantly – the people executing to deliver that new offering and process need to be choreographed

All this is leading to expand my thinking from customer experience as a singular pathway to growth to thinking more broadly in the context of stakeholder engagement.

Ready to grow?



PS.  Charlie – we miss you!

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