SPECIAL SECTION: The Top 50 "Have-Yous"
While waiting in the Albany airport to board a Southwest Airlines flight to Reagan one morning, I
happened across the latest Harvard Business Review, on the cover of which was a bright yellow
"lead article" sticker. On it were the words "Mapping your competitive position." It triggered a
furious negative "Tom reaction," as my wife calls it. Of course I believe you should worry about
your "competitive position." But instead of obsessing on competitive position and other
abstractions, as the B.Schools and consultants would invariably have us do, I instead wondered
about some "practical stuff," which I believe is far, far more important to the short- and long-
term "strategic" health of the enterprise, tiny or enormous. Hence, rather than an emphasis on
competitive maps or looking for a "blue ocean" (empty space, per the popular book Blue Ocean
Strategy), I urge you to pay attention to my Top 50 "Have Yous." The underlying hypothesis, of
course, is that if you proactively do the "small" stuff below, your "competitive position" will
improve so much that mapping will become a secondary issue!
1. Have you in the last 10 days ... visited a customer?
2. Have you called a customer ... TODAY?
3. Have you in the last 60-90 days ... had a seminar in which several folks from the customer's
operation (different levels, different functions) interacted, via facilitator, with various of your
4. Have you thanked a front-line employee for a small act of helpfulness ... in the last three days?
5. Have you thanked a front-line employee for a small act of helpfulness ... in the
last three hours?
6. Have you thanked a frontline employee for carrying around a great attitude ... today?
7. Have you in the last week recognized—publicly—one of your folks for a small act of cross-
8. Have you in the last week recognized—publicly—one of "their" folks (another function) for a
small act of cross-functional co-operation?
9. Have you invited in the last month a leader of another function to your weekly team priorities
10. Have you personally in the last week-month called-visited an internal or external customer to
sort out, inquire, or apologize for some little or big thing that went awry?
11. Have you in the last two days had a chat with someone (a couple of levels down?) about
specific deadlines concerning a project's next steps?
12. Have you in the last two days had a chat with someone (a couple of levels down?) about
specific deadlines concerning a project's next steps ... and what specifically you can do to remove
a hurdle? ("Ninety percent of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people
to get things done."—Peter Drucker.)
13. Have you celebrated in the last week a "small" (or large!) milestone reached? (I.e., are you a
14. Have you in the last week or month revised some estimate in the "wrong" direction and
apologized for making a lousy estimate? (Somehow you must publicly reward the telling/tellers
of difficult truths.)
15. Have you installed in your tenure a very comprehensive customer satisfaction scheme for all
internal customers? (With major consequences for hitting or missing the mark.)
16. Have you in the last six months had a week-long, visible, very intensive visit-"tour" of
17. Have you in the last 60 days called an abrupt halt to a meeting and "ordered" everyone to get
out of the office, and "into the field" and in the next eight hours, after asking those involved,
fixed (f-i-x-e-d!) a nagging "small" problem through practical action?
18. Have you in the last week had a rather thorough discussion of a "cool design thing" someone
has come across—away from your industry or function—at a Web site, in a product or its
19. Have you in the last two weeks had an informal meeting—at least an hour long—with a
frontline employee to discuss "things we do right," "things we do wrong"—and what it would
take to meet their mid- to long-term aspirations?
20. Have you had in the last 60 days had a general meeting to discuss "things we do wrong" ...
that we can fix in the next fourteen days?
21. Have you had in the last year a one-day, intense offsite with each of your internal
customers—followed by a big celebration of "things gone right"?
22. Have you in the last week pushed someone to do some family thing that you fear might be
overwhelmed by deadline pressure?
23. Have you learned the names of the children of everyone who reports to you? (If not, you have
60 days to fix it.)
24. Have you taken in the last month/2-weeks an interesting-weird outsider to lunch?
25. Have you in the last month invited an interesting-weird outsider to sit in on an
26. Have you in the last three days discussed something interesting, beyond your industry, that
you ran across in a meeting, reading, etc?
27. Have you in the last 24 hours injected into a meeting "I ran across this interesting idea in
28. Have you in the last two weeks asked someone to report on something, anything, that
constitutes an act of brilliant service rendered in a "trivial" situation—restaurant, car wash, etc?
(And then discussed the relevance to your work.)
29. Have you in the last 30 days examined in detail (hour by hour) your calendar to evaluate the
degree "time actually spent" mirrors your "espoused priorities"?
30. Have you in the last two months had a presentation to the group by a "weird" outsider?
31. Have you in the last two months had a presentation to the group by a customer, internal
customer, vendor featuring "working folks" 3 or 4 levels down in the vendor organization?
32. Have you in the last two months had a presentation to the group of a cool, beyond-our-
industry ideas by two of your folks?
33. Have you at every meeting today (and forever more) re-directed the conversation to the
practicalities of implementation concerning some issue before the group?
34. Have you at every meeting today (and forever more) had an end-of-meeting discussion on
"action items to be dealt with in the next 4, 48 hours"? (And then made this list public—and
followed up in 48 hours.) And made sure everyone has at least one such item.)
35. Have you had a discussion in the last six months about what it would take to get recognition
in local-regional-national poll of "best places to work"?
36. Have you in the last month approved a cool-different training course for one of your folks?
37. Have you in the last month taught a front-line training course?
38. Have you in the last week discussed the idea of Excellence? (What it means, how to get
39. Have you in the last week discussed the idea of "Wow"? (What it means, how to inject it into
an ongoing "routine" project.)
40. Have you in the last 45 days assessed some major process in terms of the details of the
"experience," as well as results, it provides to its external or internal customers?
41. Have you in the last month had one of your folks attend a meeting you were supposed to go to
which gives them unusual exposure to senior folks?
42. Have you in the last 60 (30?) days sat with a trusted friend or "coach" to discuss your
"management style"—and its long- and short-term impact on the group?
43. Have you in the last three days considered a professional relationship that was a little rocky
and made a call to the person involved to discuss issues and smooth the waters? (Taking the
"blame," fully deserved or not, for letting the thing-issue fester.)
44. Have you in the last ... two hours ... stopped by someone's (two-levels "down") office-
workspace for 5 minutes to ask "What do you think?" about an issue that arose at a more or less
just completed meeting? (And then stuck around for 10 or so minutes to listen while visibly
45. Have you ... in the last day ... looked around you to assess whether the diversity pretty
accurately maps the diversity of the market being served? (And ...)
46. Have you in the last day at some meeting gone out of your way to make sure that a normally
reticent person was engaged in a conversation—and then thanked him or her, perhaps privately,
for their contribution?
47. Have you during your tenure instituted very public (visible) presentations of unit
48. Have you in the last four months had a session specifically aimed at checking on the
"corporate culture" and the degree we are true to it—with all presentations by relatively junior
folks, including front-line folks? (And with a determined effort to keep the conversation restricted
to "real world" "small" cases—not theory.)
49. Have you in the last six months talked about the Internal Brand Promise?
50. Have you in the last year had a full-day off site to talk about individual (and group)
This document is #41 in a series of 48 highlights from Tom Peters' The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue
Excellence (HarperStudio, 2010). For more information, visit tompeters.com.