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Will Your Next Mistake Be Fatal?: Avoiding the Chain of Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Organization

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Will Your Next Mistake Be Fatal?: Avoiding the Chain of Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Organization


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  • How a chain of mistakes can lead to disaster if they go unrecognized.
  • How to build internal systems that prevent "failure chains" from spiraling out of control.
  • Practical techniques for avoiding business failures- whether they arise from preparation, strategy, execution, or culture.


  • Copyright 2005
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-191364-6
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-191364-6

What catastrophes have in common -- and how to keep them from happening to you!

Introducing M3: the first systematic approach to

  • Managing mistakes so they don't lead to disaster
  • Building systems that prevent 'failure chains' from spiraling out of control
  • Avoiding failures in preparation, strategy, execution, and culture
  • Reducing the impact and cost of the mistakes you do make
Also includes coverage of the unique 'mistake chains' facing entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Every business disaster has one thing in common: the people in charge never saw it coming. The warnings were there. They didn't have to wreck their companies and their careers. But they let it happen. This book can keep it from happening to you.

You will make mistakes. If you don't, you're not taking enough risk. But you can make fewer of them. You can catch them early. Keep them cheap. Learn from them. Whether you're in a global enterprise or a garage startup, Robert Mittelstaedt shows how. His techniques apply to everything from culture to strategy, customer safety to market share. They won't just help you avoid catastrophe: they'll help you improve profitability and business value, too.

Stay on track. Stay off the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Read this book.

Sample Content

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Avoiding Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Organization

The Power of M3 and the Need to Understand Mistakes

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Table of Contents


1. The Power of M3 and the Need to Understand Mistakes.

    Patterns of Mistakes and Exponential Growth.

    Deadly Business Mistakes–Strategy, Execution, and Culture.

    Can Technology Change the Odds?

    Mental Preparation, Patterns, and Warning Signs.

2. Execution Mistakes.

     “Fly the Airplane”–Christmas Carols in the Everglades.

    Coca-Cola–Don’t Change the Formula, Change the CEO.

    American Express Surprises the Market with Optima–Then Optima Surprises AmEx.

    Failing to Learn–Air Florida Flies North.

    Breaking the Chain with Skill and Extraordinary Luck–The “Gimli Glider”.

    Webvan–Do You Want Someone to Deliver Your Groceries?

    Why Do We Fail to Learn?


3. Execution Mistakes and Successes as Catalysts for Change.

    Intel and the “Father Knows Best” Response.

    Tylenol Relieves a Headache =.

     “We’re Not Going to Make the Airport”–The Case for CRM.

    New Coke–Understanding Customers and Capabilities.

    Insights: Different Products and Services with Similar Lessons for Transformation.

4. Strategy–How Do You Know It’s a Mistake?

    Xerox–No Walk in the PARC.

    Motorola’s Reinventions–Does a Cat Have Nine Lives?

    Kodak–Doing Everything “Right” for 100 Years.

    Recognizing Strategy Mistakes and Competitive Changes.

5. Physical Disasters with Cultural Foundations and Business Implications


    Three Mile Island.

    NASA–Launch Unless Proven Unsafe.

    Common Cultural Issues.


    A Note on Big Ships, Big Planes, and Nuclear Power.

    Business Parallels

6. Cultures that Create “Accidents”.

    Myopia as a Fatal Business Disease.

    Ford/Firestone–When the Rubber Leaves the Road.

    Enron–Living on the Edge and Loving It.

7. Mistakes as Catalysts for Cultural Change.

    Fast Food: Customers Will Have It Their Way–Whether You Want Them to or Not.

    Rapid Culture Change in the U.S. Navy Submarine Force: No Second Chances.

    The Grand Canyon Changes Air Traffic Control

    Flying into the Ground–with Everything Working

    Cultural Success: Working Together to Learn in an Emergency–United 232.

    Marketing Your Culture Change.

    Companies/Industries in Need of Cultural Change–for Different Reasons.

8. Economics at Work: Watching Entire Industries Lose It.

    The World Automobile Industry–Trying to Defy the Laws of Economics.

    Number 1 or 2 in Your Industry–Where Did It Come From?

    Old and New Companies: Convergence, Specialization, and Evolution.

    Economic Business Visioning–the EBV Model.

    Flying High and Broke–Applying EBV in Undifferentiated Cutthroat Competition.

9. Mistakes Aren’t Just for Big Companies–Small Company Chains.

    Choose the Right Idea–Then Change It.

    Planning Your Mistakes–The Business Plan.

    Financing–Choose Your Poison.

    Operations–Implementation Is the Difference.

    Stopping the Mistake Sequence in Smaller Companies.

10. Making M3 Part of Your Culture for Success.

    Learning to Evaluate and Believe Early Warnings.

    Learning to Detect Dangerous Patterns and Strategic Blunders.

    The Need for Mistakes.

Appendix A: Summary of Insights.

    From Part 1:

    From Part 2:

    From Part 3:

    From Part 4:

    From Part 5:

    From Part 6:

    From Part 7:

    From Part 8:

    From Part 9:

    From Part 10:




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