The creation of the content contained in the site dates back to the spring of 1990. After seventeen years with Motorola, I became a founder of a Motorola and IBM joint venture, ARDIS, that built and operated a nationwide radio-data network designed to serve the needs of corporate clients. Although fully funded and back by two impressive corporate giants, we operated as a startup. With secure funding, a stable product, and highly experienced employees from both companies, we did not face many of the obstacles encountered by typical startups. However, the difference in day-to-day operations was striking.
I began to write down short notes about the differences I observed. Many of those differences involved what we didn’t have that we took for granted in large corporate settings. The first major observation that I made was that my colleagues seemed to be focused on taking risks in order to be successful much more so than my counterparts at Motorola. My new IBM colleagues made the same observation. So, one of my first notes was, “People in startups are focused on winning, while people in large companies are focused on not losing (what they have).” Of course, this generalization like most others that I noted does not apply to all people or situations. However, over the years, I have found it and most other observations to be directionally correct.
My list of observations grew over twenty-seven years to the point that the list currently includes 983 entries! Some are simple while others are more profound. Many of the observations, as anyone who has worked with or for me will attest, capture mistakes that I made. Some are mistakes others have made, but I was certainly the poster child for errors! As is obvious from the small sampling below, some captured items are almost trivial, while others can have a major impact on an organization. Interestingly, the list started out to capture the differences between large companies and startups, but over the years, I have found that the issues are applicable to all size organizations, including new and old, large and small, and for-profit and non-profit organizations as well.
- List the company phone directory by first name to reduce any assumed formalities.
- Show a picture organization chart in the break room with no hierarchical arrangement. Instead of listing titles, list what a person does.
- For entrepreneurs and small business owners, the term CEO means Chief Everything Officer first and “the buck starts here.” The point is that they are responsible for everything, not just the activities that they feel are important or like to do, but everything.
- “You choke to death much faster than you starve to death.” Most new companies pursue the “big order” not realizing that if they get it, they must deliver and meet the demanding expectations of their major customer.
- “Revenue is the wonder drug”; it fixes most everything but must be taken forever.
Once stated, most people agree and even say, “It is obvious,” but I have found companies repeatedly fall into the same old traps.
Armed with this giant list, I began writing a book in 2004, with chapters covering major categories. After writing four chapters that occupied 92 pages, I came to the realization that most people do not read large books anymore except for pleasure. My multiple simple observations got lost in the prose. I put the effort aside for eleven years.
In January 2015, I picked up the task again but with a new strategy. I decided to write a series
of very short, single subject articles that address only one narrowly defined concept. It took weeks to divide the 983 items into logical groups and outline the “book.” The result was the creation of hundreds of short articles that average about 800 words each. Articles average about 1.5 pages each with some much longer but with the majority close to the 800-word average. Assuming each article would start on a new page in the “book,” the page count surpassed 1,000 pages. I knew that length made it a showstopper. So, the CxO-Atlas web site was born!
The collection of articles has been divided into volumes with each volume covering a general operational category. Articles are also assigned to some general business stages. Users can select categories or stages and browse through applicable articles as they so choose. Powerful but simple searching methods also help users to quickly find subjects of interest.
There is no question that this collection is not a complete set of material on any one subject. It would be presumptuous to think I could cover the material that has been so thoroughly documented by so many experts for so long. It is probably better to think of the content in this collection as a practical operational guide written by someone who has done many things wrong and seen many mistakes over the years. Make your own mistakes; don’t repeat mine!