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How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking the 8 Hidden Barriers that Plague Even the Best Businesses

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  105 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
Companies make headline news all the time for decisions that make many of us scratch our heads in wonder, even those companies that are smart and successful. Here, New York Times bestselling author Neil Smith, with more than 20 years of experience leading large-scale performance improvements, reveals the hidden barriers that cause excellent companies to do dumb things and ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 24th 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published May 22nd 2012)
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May 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Neil Smith's book, How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking the 8 Hidden Barriers that Plague Even the Best Businesses, is a tricky book. Why? Because the author is a consultant who works with companies in performance improvement and thus a good amount of the book is about his personal experiences. Though this can be a good thing (and Smith does an excellent job of illustrating his ideas using real-world examples), it also me
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Encouraging and implementing ideas in businesses can lead to all kinds of good changes, such as increasing simplicity, efficiency, and profitability or decreasing wastes of time, funds and products. So how come all businesses aren’t constantly churning out ideas for improvements and eagerly implementing these ideas? Neil Smith’s book explores the structural and behavioral barriers that stifle the idea generation and implementation process, leaving businesses to stagnate instead of thrive.

Rob Slaven
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
As usual I received this book for free in exchange for a review. This time it was from LibraryThing but I will give my scrupulously honest review below.

The nutshell view of this book is pretty simple. It outlines 8 ways that companies screw up and cost themselves money. Each of the sections is laid out in more or less this format:

1. Some personal anecdote from the author about this problem as he's seen it in the field.

2. Examples of the problem at companies the author has worked for.

3. Specifics
Shelly Donaghey
Dec 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
If you are reading this review there is every chance in the world that you have, either at home or at work, shelves stocked with books that cover every aspect of management; how to do it, how to do it correctly, cost effectiveness, supervising personnel, and the list goes on. Every bookstore has a broad selection of titles on the topic and looking at them can cause glassy-eye syndrome and the need for excessive amounts of caffeine.
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I find it would be a helpful premise and guide to businesses. I believe it is lacking in exactly the greatest details to deliver, and like any sales-pitch book, its overly preachy and "my way is perfect"; when nothign is, and most likely not even fantastic.

The fact that he goes to an elaborate way of removing likenesses to companies with his examples, and then gives a list of companies he's done this project with in the back is a bit odd as well.

I definitely felt like there could be a lot more
Johanna Panko
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have to say I liked the authors approach in this book. I have read a lot of safety books that deal with people based safety in the workplace and I found that this approached another subject in the workplace that needs exposing. Hidden barriers, and in lean times like the ones we are experiencing now, it goes to show that we need to be educated on how to help the company as much as possible. I'm not talking about eliminating jobs but there are things we can do as workers to help the company gro ...more
Zachary Roner
Jan 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book for free from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

In this book the author attempts to explain eight barriers that are keeping companies from succeeding as much as they could. In reading this book I could see a clear pattern. The author would share an anecdote from his life. Next he would talk about examples he has seen in different businesses of the particular barrier. After that there would be a brief section on the psychology behind the barrier and lastly he would show how th
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
First thing I did when I got the book was quickly skim through it to find the "8 hidden barriers that plague even the best businesses". After finding them I was disappointed. They seemed so obvious, almost felt like a scam, but i had committed to reading the book so I pushed through and did. And it turned out to be a case of something that is right in front of you may be the hardest to see.

I really like the book. The barriers the Smith talks about are insightful. They are presented and supporte
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things is an excellent book! Smith & O'Connell discuss the eight barriers that prevent companies from executing good ideas and improving performance. These eight barriers include: avoiding controversy, poor use of time, reluctance to change, organizational silos, management blockers, incorrect information and bad assumptions, size matters, and existing processes. This book provides insightful examples to help organizations prevent repeating the same mistake ...more
Dec 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I won this book from goodreads giveaways and I was pleasantly surprised that even though the topics in this book seem pretty basic and it seems that everyone should already know them, we either don't know them or we don't think that it is worth our time to do them. It was a very quick read and gave some really good insights about things we all can do to better our companies and make them more efficient. I recommend this book to anyone who would like to improve their business, job or organization ...more
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

"Business nerds" like me will appreciate this book. It points out some of the most common sources of bureaucracy and bad business practices, shedding light on how these develop. It is easy to understand and gives a lot of case studies and examples from businesses that Neil Smith has worked with as a consultant. He lays out his entire process for transforming businesses, so theoretically executives could follow these steps themselves, but it see
Sarah Pantoja
Jan 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book lays out eight barriers that commonly plague businesses and then proceeds to explain how to bar and to break each barrier. It also includes a 100 day plan for implementing change within companies. The first eight chapters are very interesting and include real examples from work that the author has done with actual companies that achieved positive results. The barriers could occur in companies of any size and the suggested solutions could be modified to fit any organization. Many of the ...more
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
The book gives eight problems that businesses encounter and eight sincere solutions to disentangle businesses and help companies reach their peaks. The book goes straight into describing why companies stagnate and see lukewarm results. Then, the barriers are explained with vivid examples and author's firsthand experiences. Lastly, the solutions to breaking the barriers are given. This was an easy-read and an interesting one, and it didn't get bogged down with statistics and hard-to-measure claim ...more
Heather Berkowitz
Mar 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
I got this book for free as a Goodreads First reads giveaway...

...and absolutely loved it! I have an MA in Integrated Marketing Communication and have taken a good handful of management classes, and this is the best one of the group. Amazing how simply by changing the way you think and approach things, you can change the way your company - and thus, your employees - perform. Would recommend this to anyone in the field!
Apr 15, 2014 rated it liked it
We know that change is good, but it’s not always clear as to how we can successfully implement it. As a result, things continue on as usual, and our businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations – and yes, that includes churches – continue to waste resources, miss grand opportunities, and struggle to build a lasting, effective community. Where do we continually go wrong?

Neil Smith, CEO of Promontory Growth and Innovation (PGI), and Patricia O'Connell, former Management Editor at
Jan 26, 2014 rated it liked it
I got this book in the mail today from Goodreads. Since it's a Friday, I found some time to read it after class.

I've taken several economics and business courses at UC Berkeley, and I like how this book expands what I've already learned in college. While textbooks will only tell you the facts, How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things offers you real advice.

However, that said, maybe a reader would also like to read this book after they've taken an introductory business textbook. While it
Jap Hengky
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-the-shelf
Might want to pick up this later again, it has good advices.
Juergen John Roscher
I received this book from a Goodreads’ Giveaway Program. As in all of my reviews, I rate a book according to its information, relevancy, and quality for non-fiction and interest, entertainment and quality for fiction, regardless of how I obtained the book. Thank you to the author and Goodreads for giving me this book.

I thought this book could help me in my position at work, since I am in a position that I could be called upon, at any time, to address some of my company’s barriers to further suc
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: CEOs of a large company
Full Disclosure - I received this book via a First Reads Giveaway.

This book does a good job of pointing out barriers to improvement in companies. However, I feel the benefit ends there for most of us. The tips on how to overcame those barriers are minimal, at best and not extremely helpful.
This book describes a process that can be used to implement the changes recommended. My problem with it is that you need to be an executive (or possibly even the CEO) of a large (thousands of employees) compan
Mar 09, 2014 rated it liked it
I received this book for free via Goodreads First Reads.

I enjoyed this book. Many of the topics discussed I was already familiar with via business school. Everything was simple and easy to understand.

The book would have benefited from including examples to which we can identify the protagonist or company involved. A lot of examples used in the book follow the format of "a company I once worked for" or "a leader in the banking industry." Smith includes a list of all companies to which he has wor
Mar 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
In a way, this book tells you things that are just common sense, yet business owners make the same mistakes all the time. The difference in this book is that it uses examples of real mistakes companies make, using a real situation. This kind of gives it a gossipy feel, which is good because it makes it more of a fun read instead of feeling like a textbook. The only thing I wonder about is that we know this stuff is true, for instance, that we shouldn't hire somebody because their reputation out- ...more
Mar 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Based on 20 years of research, the author highlights 8 barriers to progressive change that many companies suffer from. He classifies the barriers as Avoiding controversy, Poor use of time, Reluctance to change, Organizational silos, Management blockers, Incorrect information and bad assumptions, Size matters and Existing processes. He provides examples of these barriers from use cases in addition to psychological explanations for some of these behaviors by Dr Richard Levak.

Identifying barriers
Apr 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This is really two books in one.

The first, as per the title, talks about barriers that exist in all companies. Nothing groundbreaking here, but it's packaged well and sprinkled with some examples.

The second part is about the process that the author uses when he consults with companies. This part was difficult to follow (a lot of abbreviations and jargon) and suffers from being too abstract to understand well. A case study would help here.

Sprinkled throughout are some sidebars by a psychologis
Mark Whitson
Mar 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I thought the author's strategy made sense, but it just didn't seem feasible. The strategy seemed like it could only be implemented by top management. As someone far from the top of my organization, the book was almost frustrating because although I agreed with many of the author's points, I could also see that the changes could be very difficult to implement in most organizations, including the one I am a part of.

The book reads like a step-by-step approach to the author's consulting strategy. A
Jan 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads FirstReads giveaway. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, which talked about barriers that prevent companies from making good decisions and how to break these barriers. I enjoyed the real life examples that were given, but wish they had a little more robustness to them. The second part of the book talked about how to implement the author's process, which seemed like a sales pitch instead of giving enough details of how to implement it at one's o ...more
Jan 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

I agree with several of the other reviewers in that this book lacks depth and definitely has a sales pitch quality to it in that the author is also a conultant discussing his change management process he sells to and facilitates for organizations.

However, the book does a good job of spelling out barriers to change. As a leader, I especially enjoyed that the author includes the psychology behind the behavioral barriers and reward/punis
Mar 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: give-a-way-win
Having read a fair share of business books required for college credit this one was just slightly better than average. Basically the book takes what you would learn in some intro level classes and presents the material in a slightly more readable format. There are some good real life examples of the principles the book is trying to illustrate. I would say not a stand-out of the crowd for any new or innovative ideas but rather a good tried and true formula that has made businesses successful in t ...more
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I receive this book as part of Goodreads First Reads

I am not in business or do I usually reads this types of books, but since I got it as an advance read I decided to give it a try. The book was easy to understand even to someone like me, who as I previously stated does not have understanding of the Business world. I enjoyed it and was able to keep up with the author. Overall an interesting and informative read.
Jan 29, 2014 rated it liked it
I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

This was a reasonably good book. Similar to most books in this genre, there is information that is worthwhile, information that you kind of roll your eyes at, a lot of "my way is best" rhetoric, and lots of feel good stories of successes.

I think there's some valuable information in this book, but I'm not sure I would spend a lot of money on it. Maybe more a library read.
Exapno Mapcase
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lter
Probably the best thing about this book is what it is not. Smith provides something more than just a written infomercial for his company, he lays out 8 different barriers that can happen and have happened in business, with plenty of real-life examples in the companies he worked with. Even if you don’t own a business or have a high level position, you can learn valuable processes to help your company do better.

Free review copy.
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Several different Neils Smiths tend to collect here.

For the linguist, see Neilson Voyne Smith
More about Neil Smith...

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