What areas/topics would you like to see covered in the book? I can tell you from my standpoint what I think we did to build a successful company, but I’m interested in what you think.

Click on the comments link to share your thoughts.

- Bob


14 Responses to “Week three: What would you like to read in the book?”

  1. 1 Greg Land

    Dr. Beyster,

    First, as a worker bee at SAIC for the last 8 years, thank you for always making us feel appreaciated and important. That is a rare quality in a leader, and you have it in spades. I’d be interested in hearing about your leadership philosophy and the experineces that shaped it into your unique style. You always seem to point back to the people for SAIC’s success, but there was definitly some magic in your leadership.

    Greg

  2. 2 Bill Marlow

    Bob, since we all agree that it was your incredible ability to select the “right people”, I think you should spend sometime discussing the ideas of letting people build Entrepreneurial companies within the bigger structure of THE Entrepreneurial Company of SAIC. We have many examples of how you let this happen – even to the point of putting up some barriers that made us think and rethink our strategies and execution but always within the safety of SAIC. This was a unique strategy for helping people develop and become better and at the same time giving us the opportunity to be successful or fail. “If we do not try, we will not succeed. Failure is teacher not a tombstone.” Bob this is what you told me when we were “fighting” over Global Integrity.

    Best –

    Bill

  3. 3 lloyd burdge

    People, our fellow employees, are important. We hired good people with the intentions of keeping them (keeping them Covered while working good programs) and helping to motivate them through ownership in the company and sharing in the company’s profits.
    The entrepreneural spirit of the company was (is) also important. “If you could find a good program to chase, cultivate, win , and grow/maintain with limited, but required oversight, that is what has made SAIC great”.

  4. 4 Bob Grender

    An atmosphere was provided to each of us that allowed us to feel secure in knowing that we could each make a difference no matter what area of concern in the Company we performed our duties.

  5. 5 Gael Tarleton

    Dr. Beyster – now comes the fun part.

    1. SAIC as an endless experiment. Someone called it a petrie dish once – you were constantly fiddling with the proportions and the ratios (but never the multiplier) to maintain the balance between entrepreneurial behavior and fiscally sound business practices. Maybe you could talk about whether SAIC was truly an ongoing experiment for you.
    2. The Laws of Marketing. What were your laws? The ones I was given were: as long as you are not doing anything illegal, unethical, or committing financial resources without your manager’s approval, you can go for it. Also from Joe Soukup: you need a customer who has money, who actually knows how to spend money, has enough money to make you profitable, and who needs something done that you (or someone you can find at SAIC or hire) know how to do. Great concept. And Bill Layson’s: find the low-hanging fruit – someone with their head in the clouds will have walked right by it (particularly useful for short people like me).
    3. Laws of Entrepreneurs in the SAIC Competitive Internal Market. Bill Layson once said that he’d never known another company that tolerated failure as much as SAIC did. That really made me think. Maybe you could talk about what you thought about when you saw failures in proposals, failures in programs and new research, and failures in breaking into new customers — and what you did with those failures.
    4. The Timesold Culture and the Entrepreneurial Instinct. How did you figure out how to balance these? Rigorous adherence to a timesold philosophy might seem counterintuitive to the risk-taking mindset of an entrepreneur. There must have been a rhyme and reason to how you reconciled these two aspects of SAIC’s “special sauce.”
    5. Hiring the SAI/SAIC type. Once Jasper Welch was talking about this incredibly smart person that BDM or someone had just hired – and he said, “but he’s not the kind of guy I want on my side when a proposal or a deliverable is on the line.” So what WAS that kind of hire you looked for that made you believe you could count on them when a proposal or a deliverable was on the line?
    6. Committees, Decisions, and Innovation/R&D. For a long, long time I’ve been hoping you’d reveal your formula for juggling committees that influence decisions that affect attitudes toward innovation and R&D. Do committees undermine innovative problem-solving? Do they enhance the employee ownership culture and stake in the company? What decisions that needed to be made were never made because they were hung up in committees? How does innovation get protected against the tyranny of committees?
    7. Is ownership a mindset? Did you hope that employee ownership would create a new way of thinking about responsible entrepreneurship? Did you ever think, somewhere in the late 80s or early 90s, that sustaining employee ownership in the midst of massively changing markets was just not going to be worth it or possible?

    I’ll close with one of the most memorable lines for me – from Larry Kull, in 1993 at Meetings Week; the military-industrial complex was in a race to merge and consolidate. The stock price was pretty quiet for awhile (and had just gone through a couple of losing quarters). Larry said,”we don’t know what the industry will look like by 1995, but SAIC will be one of the survivors. It won’t be swallowed.” I started buying as much stock as I could for the next three years, because I figured if you and Larry believed in the company, that was the signal that I better too.

    Thank you for the chance to do a download.

    Gael

  6. 6 Erik King

    Dr. Beyster:

    First let me say that it was a priviledge getting to work with you over the last year you were at SAIC. Our firm’s continued progress in finding new and innovative ways to help our customers take advantage of SOA technology as a new method of distributed computing is essential from both a scientific and business standpoint.

    As an employee approaching 9 years at the firm, i can tell you that the most impressive thing for me that you and the fine folks at SAIC fostered, was the ability to discover employees with creative potential, and business savvy, via a culture that provided the best of both ‘large company’ depth and support, but retain the flexible atmosphere of a small firm. I think a number of factors support this success, including employee ownership and small divisions capable of discovering, capturing and growing new and interesting work. Their is also a constant “joint venture” feel to capturing work that i don’t think larger companies have, yet we do it all the time.

    IMHO, your book should address this concept as it is defintely one of the ingredients of success for SAIC.

    Take care, and thank you for reaching out to me on the distributed computing efforts that you took interest last year.

    Respectfully,

    Erik

  7. 7 Donna Cunningham

    If you are going to discuss innovations at SAIC, you might include the process of the corporate oversight on the contracting process, including the various levels of proposal review based on the size and type of contract. I was fairly low on “the food chain”, but participated in many reviews where project managers had to defend their proposal responses much in the same way that a degree candidate has to defend a thesis. The rigor of having to defend a fixed price contract comes to mind. The more experienced corporate staff who reviewed our proposals saved us from known pitfalls. I also regularly read your “lessons learned” emails. These processes let everyone share in the collective experiences of senior staff, and went far to create the culture of entrepreneurship that made SAIC thrive.

  8. 8 Mike Cook

    Glad to see you have a blog and that you are getting some sailing in…

    You should cover why and how the senior executive within an organization of any size should work closely with technologists at all levels of his or her organization, striving to understand and exploit otherwise landlocked information.

    It was your passion for understanding and willingness to go deep with junior employees that was most striking to me and the thing I miss the most.

  9. 9 Howard Huntley

    Dr. Beyster,

    I was informed about 21 years ago by a former Employee that your Phylosophy was to take care of the workers, They will take care of the Customers, and the bottom line takes care of itself, The things that are important to the CEO become become important to the Company. Many thanks for the Privelige of working for one of the best Companies.

  10. 10 Bob Harris

    Dear Bob,

    It is hard for me to believe that I worked for you so long ago as my first boss right out of grad school at General Atomic in 1968 and then at SAIC from about 1970 to 1980. You were my first boss and you ruined me for all other potential bosses for the next 30 years by feeding me freedom to innovate, with the result that the only person I could really work for was myself. I think the fuel of freedom, which you allowed and encouraged up to a very distant boundary point, was one of the main forces behind SAIC’s success. I believe there is another major force, which Iwill ge to later.

    You probably don’t remember this but my first business development task paid for on overhead at SAI (as it was called then) was to write a simple proposal to DASA (as it was called then) to model the radiation effects of neutrons traveling in air as a theoretical companion to the experiments I was conducting with neutrons traveling in liquid nitrogen (78% if air, and 600 times more dense). I did not really know what overhead was, so instead of using two days to write the simple proposal that was requested, I spent three weeks writing a grand canonical proposal to model all types of radiations in a variety of atmospheric environments. After three weeks, I was soundly educated on the meaning of overhead, which I never forgot.

    My model called, ATR for Air Transport of Radiation, was funded for the first phase only at $50k, and extended to all other phases of my proposal over the next ten years, and was eventually incorporated into the DoD’s primary war gaming model and burned onto a chip for a hand-held digital device (by HTI–you hated it!) after I had left SAIC to persue my own strange canonical interests.

    The lessons: (1) freedom and intiative produced unanticipated sustainable value for SAIC; (2) I learned that I was wired together as a “big picture” problem solver, which has been the foundation of my ever-changing professional career ever since.

    Finally, there is something important that I don’t think you are aware of that is part of the continuing thread that connects me to you and SAIC. It is also the other main reason I see for SAIC’s growth. One of my career adventures was to teach entrepreneurship for two years at George Mason University from 2002 to 2004. I also started a research center at GMU to study Technical Service Organizations, where the first grant I won was from the Kauffman Foundation. The most important grant I DID NOT win was one submitted to the NSF on the development of a fundamentally new way to concieve of business in the 21st century, and to test it by studying SAIC. This was another one of my grand canonical proposals. In a nutshell, I thought that what SAIC had done better than any other company in the last 40 years was to do for the 21st century information age what Ford had done in the 20th century industrial age. Simply put, my thesis is that what drove the industrial age economy could be boiled down to the phrase, “Interchangeable parts (or tangibles), ” and what the information age economy boiled down to was the phrase, “Interconnecting Intangibles.” the intangibles of innovative new ideas connecting at the speed of light and sound via meetings weeks, rapid response to market intelligence, no BS staff meetings, capturing and distributing lessons learned, inteviewing people for your own job, reorganizing every year to optimize the mix of talent and needs, etc. All of this was fueled by freedom and barely contained chaos.

    I think employee ownership was the glue that held the fast moving SAIC ship together,but it was you, Dr. B, who maximized the interconnections of all the intangibles that made SAIC move–probably without ever thinking about the word “intangibles.” I believe that society has been undergoing an accelerating shift from the Ford model to the Beyster model (pretty good company, huh?) since 1970 (when the intangible/tangible mix of our economy was 50/50 growing to 80/20 today) as evidenced by the evolving interest in Knowledge Management, and Social Network Analysis. I would still like to do this study if you can recommend a funding source.

    Keep clicking until the last problem is solved. I will.

    Bob Harris

  11. 11 Chris Smith

    What areas to cover in the book?

    Well, I’m most interested in at least 2 areas:

    1) Why people are so important. Your insights into selecting, motivating, retaining & valuing them. How you instilled an employee ownership mindset & motivational framework.

    2) Your ideas on how to manage the “SAIC Universe” – the planetary system of companies that was a illustrative fixture for so many years. I always internalized this chart/illustration as a “portfolio managment” organizational management approach but I would be very interested to understand how you saw, grew and optimized the inter-relationships between, for instance, NSI and SAIC; or Telcordia and SAIC. Clearly there were some huge winners, some mediocre acquisitions, and a few dogs, but “how did you pick & manage them”.

    Looking forward to the book !!!

  12. 12 Mike Pierce (class '73 to '94)

    Hi, and thanks for all those good years. Sometimes I think this chapter #17 from the Mitchell translation of the Tao te Ching (circa 500 BC) says a little about your management style, especially in my early days there:

    “When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists.
    Next best is the leader who is loved. Next the one who is feared.
    The worst is the one who is despised.

    If you do not trust people, you make them untrustworthy.

    The Master does not talk, he acts. When his work is done, the people
    say ‘Amazing: we Did It, all by ourselves!’”

    I’m looking forward to you book, and even more so the Movie.

    Mike Pierce

  13. 13 Dr. Beyster

    Gael Tarleton: There were no formal laws of marketing – nothing that you could put down on a sheet of paper. It was all common sense. The customer is always right, at least until he’s not. Give him plenty of rope. Regarding committees, no secret formula there – when we felt a committee was needed, we set one up. Regarding employee ownership, I definitely hoped that it would create a new way of thinking in business – it certainly did in our business. I also believed that employee ownership was possible for the long-term future of SAIC. Other companies had done it – why not SAIC?

    Howard Huntley: I think workers ought to take care of customers – the customer comes first. How well that is done is one of the factors on which employees are evaluated. Just taking care of the workers doesn’t make sense by itself.

    Bob Harris: The shift is not happening as fast as I’d like.

    Chris Smith: I think you’ll find that some of your ideas will be covered in the book.

  14. 14 Barry Shillito

    Bob:
    Your writing this book is wonderful. You can surpass Jack Welch in several areas. You have had a significant financial impact on many people and their progeny.
    While I could mention many things that come to mind from my many interesting years on the Board there are two things I believe you are uniquely qualified to write about. 1. How to get the most out of a Board and 2. Succession.
    Re.1. While most CEO’s prefer a curtain between their Board, Senior Mgmt and employees you not only used your Board personally but allowed, in fact urged, that any and all employees have access to Board Members whenever that employee thought that Board Member could help. I have often wandered if even you knew how frequently this took place. It was on going and beneficial. Marketing, Planning, Organiation, People even managing. While some of your Directors sometimes felt “put upon” it paid off. No single CEO I have ever known got more out of his Board.
    Re. 2. You know how I feel about the need for succession planning and for many years You and your Outside Directors religeously covered this. An unfortunate situation caused this to change. In addition I believe you personally could have engineered a better personal succession arrangement. Im inclined to think you agree. Your hindsight thinkings on this very important subject could be useful to others.
    Bob I have read all the comments and they are great. If at any point you want to sit down and talk- Yell. God Bless You and thanks for being you.
    Barry


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