The Coach's Corner

Archive for February, 2016

Pixar’s Braintrust

February 22nd, 2016 // Tom Doescher //
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

In Ed Catmull’s book Creativity, Inc., he describes the “Braintrust,” which he says is one of the most important traditions at Pixar. For those of you who may not know, Pixar made the first computer-animated movie, “Toy Story”— and it took Catmull, John Lasseter and Steve Jobs 20 years to accomplish that task (I’ll save that story for another blog).

Catmull describes Pixar’s Braintrust as follows:

  1. It was a group of executives who met every few months to assess movies.
  2. The group would provide candid feedback on developing movies. According to Catmull, “Candor is forthrightness or frankness — not so different from honesty, really. And yet, in common usage, the word communicates not just truth-telling, but a lack of reserve.”
  3. Members of the group were funny, focused, smart and relentlessly candid with each other.
  4. Catmull says the group went against common boardroom principles. “Societal conditioning discourages telling the truth to those perceived to be in higher positions,” he says.
  5. I know nothing about making movies, but Catmull has this to say about the profession: “Candor could not be more crucial to our creative process. Why? Because early on, all of our movies suck.”

I’ve talked about this before (Do you have a way to get the truth?).

Can you imagine how crushed a director/producer would be if, after all their time and effort, they discovered their creation completely missed the mark?

Many industrial and service businesses have experienced the same result, and it is called FAILURE.

Do you have a Braintrust?

As a Leader, Do You Feel All Alone? That’s How I Felt.

February 8th, 2016 // Tom Doescher //
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

I must admit that I stumbled into the use of a leadership team (LT). I wish I could tell you that I followed a more thoughtful, strategic process, but that wouldn’t be the truth. (If you want more details, let me know.)

That being said, the result turned out to be more — and even better — than I anticipated. Take a look at our Doescher Advisors Leadership Team Checklist PDF. The checklist was created for our clients who are setting up leadership teams. I won’t take the time here to summarize everything that’s on this comprehensive list, but I will point out a few items and offer some editorial comments:

  1. I find that LT meetings, if properly organized (i.e. the right agenda), provide practical, relevant “leadership development” for everyone involved (senior and junior executives).
  2. If you have the right LT and you behave (i.e., you keep your mouth shut and listen), you’ll get immediate feedback on the decisions or initiatives that you’re considering.
  3. I felt like I wasn’t all alone because others had skin in the game. Communications regarding new initiatives or significant decisions came from the LT, rather than me (although, obviously, there are times they should come from the leader).
  4. It’s a great way to find out if there’s an issue that needs attention.
  5. In between meetings, you have others who are looking at the big picture of the organization.
  6. I would evaluate the LT based on the number of contrarian views expressed (you want to avoid groupthink).

I would strongly recommend that most companies take the time and effort to put a LT in place. I’m so passionate about it, in fact, that I would be happy to discuss the value of leadership teams with you, at no cost.

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Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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