A 12-volume books series of how to run any human endeavour successfully with an emphasis on business and written directly for CEOs and business owners, yet readable by anyone interested in making things work.

Volume I – The Best Dam Business Book in the World

– William Caswell (89 pages)

An allegory of a family of beavers as it sets out to build a great dam discloses lessons learned along the way about group endeavors. As clever as humans think they are, The Best Dam Business Book in the World humorously discloses that beavers have mastered many of the difficulties attributed uniquely to humans. Parallels are drawn with the beavers who ensure the necessary cooperation to build great dams, form large lakes, create a food supply, construct multi-level lodges, erect secondary dams and fell 200 trees each per year. This cartoon-illustrated summary of business operations puts human achievements in perspective.

Volume II – The Climb to Excellence

– William Caswell (191 pages)
The message contained in The Climb to Excellence is that there is a workable answer to the question of how to run an enterprise well. Being successful is predictably possible, but it is hard work. And there is no short cut. Success is having a group of people achieve amazing things, enjoy achieving amazing things and enjoy each other while achieving amazing things. Last, but not least, success includes sustaining that degree of accomplishment over the long haul. For a corporation, this means not only achieving the goals before it, but also having a good scorecard (profits), having fun coupled with low staff turnover, generating sustainable growth and finally, gaining peer recognition as acknowledgement from an outside world. It is called Excellence; getting there is called The Climb to Excellence.

Volume III – The Evolution Pyramid (Saving the Enterprise)

– William Caswell (358 pages)

There is a simple common denominator for companies that die with ignominy after having succeeded brilliantly. Their insidious collapses are not a mystery; they are totally predictable. This volume explains what the predictive death knell is all about. It shows the complete evolution of the enterprise from conception to destruction and how all the stages in between are inevitable – or are they? More to the point, it shows predictive difficulties along the way. It identifies those difficulties that are natural to humans and that can be handled in their stride and those that are life threatening. The Evolution Pyramid (Saving the Enterprise) not only describes how to thwart your firm’s early demise, but also provides an overview of how you can get to Excellence – and stay there as long as you want.

Volume IV – Setting the Agenda for Change

– William Caswell (275 pages)

To achieve a level of consistent success something has to change within the enterprise. To bring about that change there must be a dramatic event that sets an agenda for change – one that captures the imagination and hence the buy-in of all key staff members. Setting the Agenda for Change is a detailed account and how-to instructions for the CEO to bring about that change with a 3-day Strategic Alignment Retreat.

The book begins by showing the CEO how to prepare for the event, how to get the staff ready and what to anticipate will take place – before, during and after. Checklists encompass the instructions to facilitate the participants putting the processes into place. An explanation for the CEO of the logic behind the methods intended to ease the leader’s mind and reinforce the reasons for the CEO’s commitment to the process.

Then day-by-day, session-by-session, the CEO and the participating team are instructed on how to take an honest, in-depth and systematic look at their own enterprise to see what is there. Theories of management are introduced as much as they impact on the change process itself.

With the mirror before them of the state of the enterprise, the book leads the often overwhelmed group to set about to systematically organize and analyze that information and draw conclusions of what lies before them – what has to be changed.

Finally a timetable is established to begin the implementation of the change process for the company with contributions from everyone present. The die is cast for a significantly improved future enterprise and individual performance within that enterprise.

Volume V – Solving the Impossible Problem

– William Caswell (233 pages)

Resolving issues that could not be solved before, or that were being ignored, becomes uplifting for everyone in the enterprise. If a company’s problems have been allowed to sit and fester for years, they will continue to sit and fester for more years unless something different happens within the organization. In this book, the process for problem solving is introduced, including a measure of the effectiveness of solving each problem. A process for automatically reviewing priorities takes place, making allowances for new problems that inevitably arise in any dynamic organization. Since problems affect people in the company at all levels, staff of all ranks must participate in their solutions. It is through this need for solutions that teamwork spanning the entire enterprise really starts to happen. The company groups also develop the skill of becoming proactive regarding problems, solving them as soon as they come in the door. These problems, are constantly impeding progress in a company. The problems prevent the company being able to introduce real improvements. Organizational improvements are doomed to failure until the problems that pervade the enterprise are permanently eradicated. Only then can the company commence the climb to Excellence. New roles have to be learned – each critical to ensuring every problem-solving meeting is time well invested. If you want to learn how to solve problems – every time – this is the step. If the problems and concerns are out of the way, once and for all, then you can get on with building a great company.

Volume VI – The Pause Before the Climb

– William Caswell (138 pages)

Undoubtedly, with the yoke of unwanted problems off the company’s back, the team is prepared and wants to begin the ascent up the pyramid that achieves the level of Excellence.

By this stage, all the participants will have invested great energy just getting to such a point. The past will be viewed as a series of hard-won battles, but worth every skirmish along the way. The participants will look back at how they were before both the alignment and the resulting problem solving; they will quite admire their own progress – as measured by any standard. And well they should.

However, to begin the assault to the peak there has to be preparation. The climb to Excellence is even more difficult than the major work already accomplished; the group wants to be ready. A brief pause is needed to plan the mechanics of the assault to get the final parts of the plan in place. A quick look back is required to see if there are still any unwanted problems left – there usually are – and set up an apparatus to deal with them.

Even with a seasoned group, a refresher on behavioral dynamics is not only needed, but with the experience to date, it will now be better understood and appreciated. Here the team learns how to diffuse unstable emotions – discovering that most humans, as it happens, wrestle with unstable emotions – learning to take the bad stuff in their stride. This is indeed preparation for the fine-tuning of the enterprise to become unified at Excellence.

Volume VII – Crafting the Mission

– William Caswell (137 pages)

“A company aligned with a common mission is truly and awesome force” – Peter Senge The Fifth Discipline, New York, Currency Doubleday, 1990

The young staff members, assisting for the first time in the project to build a great company, want to know why the company is being built this way, and to serve whom. Mature staff member that have been building it for years unquestioningly, discover that they don’t really know either and are thankful for the inquisitiveness of youth.

The first tangible step towards Excellence for employees is the understanding of the reason the company exists and how it fits in with their own reasons and values. Proceeding from there, the Mission, is comprised of three parts: purpose, vision and values. A mission is a reflection of all the people in the company – not just a chosen few. To obtain everyone’s contribution in a controlled and participatory fashion is critical to ensure buy-in company-wide. The final product is not only a mission statement, but also an unequivocal statement of “who we all are and what we all stand for”. It pervades the enterprise and becomes obvious everywhere via such communicators as the company’s web page, sales literature and, most importantly, people’s day-to-day behavior. The Mission is crafted with all stakeholders in mind – including clients. Staff members become aligned to the company purpose, thereby easily avoiding temptations to wander into outside domains. They all have a clear vision of where the company wants to be – the best widget maker in the world by 2005. And they know they can fall back on their core values in tight decision-making situations.

Volume VIII – Planning, Strategy and Structure

– William Caswell (230 pages)

No group can afford the luxury of not planning! In this competitive world, the entire staff of a company must be focused on the same objectives and not be scattered in their individual goals and implementation patterns. Otherwise the goals will never become realized. Planning is a means to avoid the discretionary over-spending, wasting syndrome. The company must create a comprehensive annual plan that includes give-and-take exchanges to determine priorities, steps for planning in future years and month-by-month budgeting, establishing its competitive advantage and setting stretch goals. It entails getting full company buy-in to the plan – that is, everyone’s participation in the planning process before and after. And it creates action lists with follow-up processes.

The strategy for the company over the next short term of one or two years would be in place by common design. Strategy evolves not only from the planning exercise but also from the Mission discovery process and, iteratively, by inputs from the Board of Directors or a distant headquarters.

With a plan laid out and a strategy for moving forward, it now behooves the organization to create the structure that will implement that strategic plan, yet offers the fewest layers of management possible. The structural elements must be designed to assure that the common causes of typical organizational failure are overcome. They must allow visioning and innovation to be encouraged, must ensure delegation is moved down to the lowest levels of the enterprise and must make certain that administrative bureaucracy is kept in check. The structure must ensure that balances are in place such as the balance between efficiency and effectiveness as well as the balance between short-term and long-term aspirations. Out of proper planning, strategy and structural design will fall the first steps towards consistent profits.

Volume IX – Feeding or Starving the Organization

– William Caswell (279 pages)

Once the organizational structure is conceived and put into place, it must be fed in order to be fully supportive of the enterprise and the plans for which it is designed. Unfortunately it is often starved.

Specifically all people in a company have to know what their jobs are, what the measure of good performance is, how it fits into the whole and how they can be personally rewarded for outstanding effort in order to feel good about their contribution to the cause and their own life in general.

This bottom-up approach takes the job measurements, accountability measures, information flow and reward system concepts for individuals, and then transfers them to business units throughout the enterprise. Categories of profitable, break-even and support units are assigned according to the strategic purpose of the units. Thus, an integrated company-wide accountability pattern is established with financial responsibility matching authority so that results clearly tie to persons responsible for them, at all levels. Also, fairness of reward must be considered across the enterprise, so that rewarding one group does not become a disincentive for the others, that rewarding for the short term must not jeopardize the long term.

Volume X – Great Companies Never Rest

– William Caswell (170 pages)

No company at Excellence can rest on its laurels. To ensure the company will stay at Excellence, and not be allowed to silently slide into other inferior stages, managers must focus on defeating the twin demons of complacency and arrogance that usually accompany success. A program focused on maintaining Excellence has to be installed for the perpetuity of an enterprise that is already doing very well – enjoying its great position. Power corrupts. Simply put, humans are prepared to be overly self-congratulatory, which leads to the downfall of great enterprises and great nations that we all can predict so easily. To prevent the company following that unnecessary trend requires a program of vigilance. The organization must maintain an open mind and an open door to new ideas. Questions have to be encouraged from the lowest levels. And its top people must listen. They have to continuously be humble. Past records mean almost nothing; it is the future that means so much.

Volume XI – Blasting into Business

– William Caswell (145 pages)

What does a new company have to do in order to survive and thus, subsequently move itself to Excellence? Volumes I to X of this series, while generally applicable to all human endeavours, begin by assuming that:

  • The company has enough staff and can afford the time for problem solving
  • That cash flow while, not necessarily positive, is not draining
  • A crisis is not about to bring the enterprise down

But a start-up or very young company does not enjoy the above situations. Thus, the question has to be rephrased to: What does a new company do to last long enough to survive? What other skills does a young enterprise has to master in order to reach a point at which it can stand on its own two feet? Since it can only get to by learning to stand first, the focus of the new enterprise must be on getting to that stability stage.

The answer is provided in Blasting into Business, which talks about how people create an enterprise and builds it up to achieve the stability that leads to growth. Because this book comes at the end of the series, it encourages the aspiring entrepreneur to appreciate not only the requirements of starting but also the fundamentals of all business levels including the difficulties that a CEO can expect to face down the road.

Volume XII – Series Reference Summary

– William Caswell (324 pages)

Volume XII has a rigorous alphabetical index, table of contents, glossary and bibliography of the twelve-volume series so that the ‘search and find’ of information in the entire series is facilitated.

As well, this last book of the series provides information asserting enterprise unity – ensuring that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, because now that the main job is done, you want to reaffirm it and make sure it can endure across the whole enterprise. Lastly the book contains, an information packet consisting of a potpourri of articles to help guide an enterprise in carrying out some of the business tasks before it.