I’ve read through your responses to my secret sauce posting (Week 2), and I’m not surprised to see that many of you also agree that the people part of the business is key. I think now might be a good time for you to have a look at the current working outline for the book:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: The Result: A $7 Billion Business Success
  • Chapter 2: The Vision: Freedom (with Strings Attached)
  • Chapter 3: The Mission: From Science to Solution
  • Chapter 4: The Model: Planetary Model
  • Chapter 5: The Glue: Employee Ownership
  • Chapter 6: The Culture: People First
  • Chapter 7: The System: Participation in Decision Making
  • Chapter 8: The Plan: No Grand Plan
  • Chapter 9: The Pitch: Everyone a Salesperson
  • Chapter 10: The Loop: Feedback and Lessons Learned
  • Chapter 11: The Wild Card: Experiment Constantly
  • Chapter 12: The Reality: A Darwinian Culture
  • Chapter 13: The Bottom Line: Money Isn’t Everything
  • Chapter 14: The Challenge: Governance
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix: My Life Before SAIC

What do you think?

Click on the comments link to share your thoughts.

- Bob


19 Responses to “Week four: What do you think about the book outline?”

  1. 1 Patti Williams

    Dr. B, I am very glad to see this book-in-progress but wanted to comment on the “secret sauce” — I believe (and I’ve been with SAIC nine years now) that YOU provided and continually reinforced the ethical and person-centered context which permeates our endeavors, without which this company would not have endured or been as successful. Your presence was pervasive — and still is!

    Best regards,
    Patti Williams

  2. 2 Dave Cox

    Bob

    I don’t know the format that you plan to use in telling the story, but to me it would be interesting to hear from people about specific examples that illustrate each of the points. The feedback would not be so much the chronology of a specific event, rather it would talk about the feelings and motivations that were flowing through the people telling the story. For example when you look at CHCS there was a feeling from the people on the project that they were going to change the way medicine was practiced and that they had the freedom to be the change agents. This motivation drove them to innovate, create and in many cases to spend as many hours of uncomped overtime as they spent on regular time. This sense of mission was unique when compared to the other companies that competed for the business. While this sense of independence caused its own set of management problems – these problems were high class problems compared to those of the losers of the competition – all of whom went out of the healthcare information business within 3 years.

    Another dynamic that has always fascinated me was the view of the world from different levels of management. For example you wouldn’t allow anyone to have an exclusive territory or franchise which drove a lot of people crazy, including the customer at times. From the view point of the division manager that was fine because they could go every where to find business. From the view of the group or sector manager it was terrible because they wanted to build a critical mass of capability in there targeted markets. From the view of corporate it was fine because we got more contracts with five or ten divisions competing for contracts in a specific area then if we had let one group have the domain to themselves. In the event the customer got upset it was easy to resolve by asking the customer which group he wanted to support him and let him self select the winner. The dynamic tension that resulted from all of this eliminated complacency and helped grow the company in many unexpected ways. It would be interesting to hear the views about a specific subject from different levels within the company and juxtapose them with the view from the top to give the reader a sense of the multi-dimensional aspect of managing in a free form environment like ours.

    Dave

  3. 3 David Ball

    I like it Dr. B. Looks like you hit all the important points. I especially like, and look forward to reading, Chapters 2, 4, 5 & 6. I’m very happy for you, and us, that you decied to write this book.

    Stay healthy……………….David

  4. 4 Bill Proffer

    Dr. Beyster:

    This is certainly an interesting model for writing a book – a new collaborative one in some sense. It should be your book, as that is what all of us want to read, however you are certainly breaking new ground in inviting those associated with SAIC over the years to “comment on the fly” as you write it. It will be interesting to see how this works out. One thing that is interesting is that it will probably be difficult for anyone to say that they will be surprised by the contents – but perhaps you should retain a few “juicy nuggets”!

    Looking at the table of contents, I suspect Chapter 12 is appropriately named, but perhaps you should allow for the possibility of “Intelligent Design” also.

    When people ask me about SAIC, I often relate a personal story which I relate in summary below, which perhaps in some way reflects some of the ways in which SAIC has affected literally well, well over 100,000 people.

    In 1979, after deciding I simply didn’t want to spend any more weekends grading undergraduate homework in my Ph.D. program instead of writing my thesis, I applied to multiple local and other companies for a real job. Among others, SAIC and S-Cubed replied and made wonderful offers. At the time, both were doing really interesting things and were populated by really excellent and intelligent people. Both also had the benefit of being near the beach and good surfing spots also. But S-Cubed had a nice big, free parking lot and SAIC was in the bank building in La Jolla with really limited free parking.

    I made the decision at the time to work at S-Cubed based on things which were important to me at the time, and that was a very satisfying tenure before joining SAIC in 1994, but I have occasionally at times of SAIC stock pricing gotten out the SAIC offer letter and looked at the number of option grants contained therein and do a mental calculation and shake my head.

    Perhaps some of us get a second chance at evolution, if perhaps not intelligence.

    Parking is still a challenge at times. At least the beach is still close.

  5. 5 James Panico

    Dr. Beyster:

    How wonderful to see you looking so well! We miss you here at SAIC.

    I have been an employee since 1979 (with a couple of detours), and while the question of what made this company great does not have a single or simple answer, I would like to contribute a thought or two (since you asked):

    1. Vision: a lot of people talk about vision, but you are the only corporate leader in my personal acquaintance that actually had/has it & did something about it. You put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, by openly sharing this company with the rest of us, making us believe and feel that we are part of it, have a stake and share in the ownership.

    2. Meritocracy: the motto, “none of us is as smart as all of us” was the foundation for the meritocracy. If people were smart enough to share in finding and working solutions to problems (large or small), then people excelled in SAIC when we were provided the opportunity to contribute, ratehr than just being told what to do.

    3. People felt valued, like their voice would be heard. People were our capital.

    Thanks for the opportunity, once again, to be heard.

    Take care-

    James Panico

  6. 6 Gary Bell

    Dr. Beyster: I am sure somewhere is this outline is included the “Risk/Reward concept” that I always believed applied in SAIC. I always believed that I could make an honest mistake and not get crucified but more importantly I knew that there was recognition for taking calculated risks and making them successful. Those rewards came in the form of simple recognition and future opportunities, as well as monetary.

    I witnessed this by losing a contract. The organization for which I was responsible was dependent upon a single Army contract and we had lost it. You asked what I was going to do and I told you that I was going to keep a good share of the ultimate customers. You questioned me about it and then said “Won’t that make the guys at Fort Huachuca mad”. I said probably and you said “How can I help”. We were help to keep about 60% of those customers and went from a 2% profitability to 9% +. I seemed to have gained in credibility with that effort and you later selected me to be a Group Manager.

    This is the example of the “Risk/Reward concept” that I believe made SAIC special.

  7. 7 Paul Levi

    wow, what a great outline, I will be in line at “Waricks” for the book signing on your SD tour.

  8. 8 Carl Albero

    Bob-I really like the outline!It should be a best seller.As you have probably heard-I was forced to step down due to age.Still have fire in my belly and I intend to climb some new hills.It was a great run and I thank you for the opportunity and your support in allowing me to grow AMSEC.You challenged me to diversify the business base and AMSEC is now only 35 percent blue collar and running at an annual rate of 500 million.Still think if we had a few more years together-it would be at 750 million heading for a billion!!Next time I get out west-I will look you up!Good luck with the book and glad to hear your health is good.You will always be my idol!!

  9. 9 Steve Rizzi

    Bob:

    I like the outline. I would suggestion that you make sure that somewhere you talk about the kinds of people that we were trying to attract – entrepreneurs that would have otherwise started their own company (I think Gail touched on this).

    That “dating game” of attracting these rain makers had to do with the right mix of (some people span a couple categories): rolodex people, idea people, and executers. These people generally are all pretty “high maintenance” which meant that they had to feel that what they were doing was important to the company and to you. I know that for me, there was tremendous appeal that you appeared to know what was going on and you were engaged in the things my folks were doing. The little things… like the lunches, the faxes, etc, made the company still seem small while it was $B+.

    Also, one of the “tricks” that you haven’t covered explicitly in the outline was how we were able to bring the company together on big procurements (maybe that’s under Chapter 14). With so many strong willed people, it took you to step in and ask… “Have you talked to Fred about this… he’s doing X and Y that apply to this.” People understood that meant that Fred was going to be involved…

    Your CEO “methods” need to get captured here — the means that you had to collect and remember what the key people in the company are doing at any particular time… the little pads of paper, discussions during your runs around town, how the folks on your staff would collect data, and the independent communications paths that you had to the key staff (skip echelon) to find out what is really happening…

    Rizzi

  10. 10 Kay Johnson

    The outline for the book looks interesting but I can’t judge the degrees of emphasis of the ideas from the outline. A couple of the brief chapter descriptors make me a little nervous because they might be taken to imply a “pie-in-the-sky” people orientation regardless of performance and money. That certainly wasn’t the case with SAIC. Performance measures such as timesold, sales volume, profit, overhead generation and marketing targets were key to every operation. Good people were (and are) key to performance but, as implied in the Chapter 2 note, “strings were attached” to provide business boundaries, objectives and accountability.

    I don’t see what I think is a primary attribute of SAIC’s success–decentralized authority. SAIC granted decentralized authority and empowerment of people within a culture of ownership that promoted common goals/objectives and social trust. This trust became the bond between SAICers that facilitated interaction, empowered individual creativity and merited collective action. Decentralized authority, within this cultural and business context, enabled expanded business development and intensified customer focus, provided for organizational and individual recognition and satisfaction, and ensured SAIC’s growth and success.

  11. 11 Peter R. Ward

    Bob,

    The book outline looks very interesting. I hope you plan on sharing with your readers your personal desires, how they changed with time, and how they translated into the birth and growth of SAIC. What were your greatest personal challenges as you guided SAIC, and what personal sacrifices did you make to achieve your goals? What gave you the most pleasure and satisfaction at SAIC as you look back on your years at the helm?

    And, what about your regrets? What would you do differently in regards to SAIC if you could re-live that time? When you left the helm, was SAIC the company you wanted it to be? I’m really interested in your perspective and insights into the reasons why SAIC changed in ways that you did not like, if any.

    And lastly, suppose you could do it all over again in the current economic, scientific, social and political climate. What would you have to change about your approach to create another SAIC; or, do you think that the window of opportunity in industry for a
    SAIC-like company has passed?

    Pete Ward

  12. 12 Dr. Beyster

    Patti Williams: I think the secret of success goes much deeper than just attributing it to me. I will do my best to show what the fact of the matter is in the book.

    Dave Cox: Most people believe that if given a chance, their research will pay off for their customers. CHCS was clearly an example where that occurred. Flagging other instances where this has happened will be our objective as we are writing the book. Your specific example – as well as others – would be very much appreciated. Regarding your comment on differing views of the world, it’s a question of balance. If you don’t allow people to go out and talk freely, you miss a lot of valuable interaction. If you do let them go out, you run a risk. So managers must be on their toes to spot abuses. Don’t cut off the interactions with customers and even competitors, but watch it closely.

    Bill Proffer: The point you make is a good one. Many people mistakenly choose a new job based on rather trivial considerations, like convenient parking and so forth, rather than making the selection based on more meaningful analysis, such as the fact that employee ownership was paying off at SAIC – both financially, and in the availability of career opportunities. And don’t worry – I’ve got plenty of “juicy nuggets.”

    James Panico: I have no regrets about sharing my vision and sharing my equity with the employees of the company. If anything, I did not promote the sharing approach as much as I could have since it seems to me that every time we shared the wealth in the company, it was more than justified based on performance of the company.

    Gary Bell: Not firing people who stick their necks out when the company has learned a key lesson has been an important part of the SAIC culture from the beginning.

    Steve Rizzi: I like your suggestion about working to make the company appear small while it was growing larger. It’s impossible to always do that. We took every opportunity we could to provide personal contact in an effort to help. It encouraged cooperation on big procurements and on smaller projects. One technique I learned was to talk openly with other people – when I was running, sailing, or just generally participating in events in the company – to get their advice and opinions about how to respond to new opportunities. I think your point is a good one about recording important information. It was a big challenge for me to keep track of what key people were doing in the company. I always felt it was worthwhile. I learned early in the game that I needed to record important information, otherwise it would be lost. In addition, telling other people what you’re learning so they can be thinking about their own ideas and improving and critiquing these ideas works well.

    Kay Johnson: Good idea – I could use help from you and others in flagging specific examples.

  13. 13 George Heilmeier

    Bob, I think you should cover the “lessons learned” from your Telcordia experience.

    George Heilmeier

  14. 14 Kristy Leavitt

    Dr. Beyster-
    I have wanted to say thank you for many years, but never found the right venue. You gave me a great opportunity, strong ethics, and training I couldn’t get in school anywhere. After 22 years, I just left the company. Even though I’d never worked outside your company, I left with confidence that SAIC did everything the right way, I was right. I grew from the ground up and learned everything in between. I started as a Word Processor in the proposal center and finished SAIC as a Senior Contracting Rep. Every company I interviewed with said they wanted to emulate SAIC, and liked that I was tought by one of the best.

    Thank you , Dr. Beyser for giving my direction for my future.

    Sincerely,
    Kristy

  15. 15 Tom Albert

    Bob-

    I’m joining this discussion late, thanks to a recent conversation with Bill Hagan.

    I think one ingredient of the sauce that I don’t see explicitly addressed in your outline is the role that internal competition played in the growth of the company. especially the early years of the company. I think the balance that was achieved in encouraging scientists and engineers to aggressively pursue business opportunities yet maintaining a culture where we really believed that “all of us are better than any of us” was important to the success of the company.

    Furthermore I believe that Employee Ownership was the reason that this balance could be achieved. That is, in the absence of Employee Ownership, a more heirarchal organization would have been necessary.

  16. 16 Gael Tarleton

    Dr. B – May I react 4 weeks later to the outline (I was traveling and went silent)? I hope the “Planetary Model” chapter addresses how you made the decision to establish the first international subsidiary (was it Saudi SAI?). The “internationalization” of SAIC starting in the 1970s was another revolutionary move. In that era, only the big multinational corporations had international subsidiaries – not small “niche market” firms. Could you talk about what going international felt like in the 1970s compared to the 1990s, as the internet, collapse of the Soviet Union, and free trade made international markets accessible?

    Also, Steve Rizzi and Dave Cox touch on something that had the most phenomenal impact on me: how to think about customers and what they need – not only what the customer needs from SAIC, but what the customer needs to make an impact in his/her own organization and career. I know you let me do business in Russia not because you wanted me or SAIC there, but because SAIC’s customers needed us there. And because you allowed us to help our customers in these complex markets, our customers were able to make significant breakthroughs for US national interests. Hope you are loving the writing.

    Gael

  17. 17 Don Peat

    Comment relative to the appendix: My employment at GA overlapped with your career from February 1957 untill your departure. I was shop foreman of an electronics support and labor pool group which also supplied people and services to the LINAC group. You were already a legend in the early 60′s for getting people to work hard, red eyes and black fingernails. Nobody worked a 40 hour week, and when the boss stacked lead bricks or moved equipment, your subordinates tried to work harder.
    I have never heard it said, although I believe it, that charisma and mutual respect were crucial aspects of the creation that became SAIC.

  18. 18 Kent Gladstone

    What a great blog, and great comments. I just happened to have been sent this link by very indirect means. Anyway, a know of another company that was formed from previous SAICer’s (all in the satellite business) called STF, and based, I believe, out of Fredericksburg, Virginia. I know at least one person in the company…Chuck Pitts. Here is their link
    http://www.stf-ltd.com/pages/1/index.htm
    On a personal note, I love employee ownership. I’ll never forget a blue team meeting when one of the technicians commented “and what is that going to do to the stock price?”.

  19. 19 Hemmo Alting-Mees

    As one of the key players in the development of the Hubble Space Telescope digicons I hope you might refer to this group (Electronic Vision Div) in your book. I worked in the imaging device business for thirty six years and the six years I spent at SAIC were the most rewarding.
    Everyone working there had to understand that unless product was produced and new contracts were won job security was low.
    I still remember you visiting our lab in the 70′s and shaking our hands!
    I always refer to SAIC and Tektronix as the best examples of an incentivised employee working environment. Hemmo.


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