The Three Laws of Performance

The Three Laws of Performance:  Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life (2009)
Authors:  Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan

Reviewer: Bob Moore, CMC


I happened to discover this unique book on a colleague’s book shelf and was intrigued by the title, The Three Laws of Performance:  Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life.  I knew it was a must read when I saw it was a Warren Bennis book, a collection of books devoted exclusively to new and exemplary contributions to management thought and practice.  The books in this series are addressed to thoughtful leaders, executives, and managers of all organizations who are struggling with and committed to responsible change.

I consider Peter Drucker the father of management and Warren Bennis the father of leadership.  Bennis had this to say about his collection, “My hope and goal is to spark new intellectual capital by sharing ideas positioned at an angle to conventional thought—in short, to publish books that disturb the present in the service of a better future.”  In the Editor’s Notes, Bennis said, “As we move into the 21st century, it’s time for business leaders to ask what impact they want their career and their entire organization to make.”

The Three Laws of Performance outlines a process for engaging all employees to buy-in to an improved vision of an organization’s new and improved future.  This is a must read if you are a CEO or managing teams of people in this economy.  I recommend not only reading this book, but sharing it with your management team and having conversations around some of the stories and case studies and see what transformations you create in your future.

The authors are Steve Zaffron, who has been called the “Zen master in a business suit” and Dave Logan, who earned the nickname “Dr. Phil to the Fortune 500.”   Their approach to leadership is to turn conversations upside down and dig beyond the words that are said to get to what’s really going on.

The Three Laws of Performance are:

  1. How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them.
    What we do makes complete sense to us. Yet, we often question what others do as not making any sense.  To become a more effective leader, we must come to understand that situations occur differently to each person. The authors advise us to notice the connection between performance and how situations occur for people. When people’s actions make no sense to you, ask them mostly open-ended questions which will provide insights into how those situations are occurring to them.
  2. How a situation occurs, arises in language.
    The authors provide five specifics actions leaders can take to tap into the power of The Second Law of Performance, including communicating what you discover to others in your work and life.  Many people find that this action has a dramatic impact on performance.
  3. Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people.
    This principle creates the distinction between describing what’s there and what that means. This is language that generates something new – a new future – a different experience. The authors provide six specific actions leaders can take to construct a future that causes them and others to live into; one of which is to keep working until people align – when they say “This speaks to me!” and they commit to it.

See what I mean?  This is serious stuff! 

And this is only Part One.  Part Two takes the Three Laws into leadership:  leading others and turning entire organizations into global leaders.  Then, there is Part Three, Mastering the Game of Performance, and the final chapter, Breaking the Performance Barrier, which includes Seven Commitments the authors recommend as a guide for the conversations you will have with others.

What makes the book ultimately useful and readable is that Zaffron and Logan provide many true stories where they applied these principles and changed lives and futures like Northrup Grumman, BHP-Billiton, Reebok, Harvard Business School, and many others.

Click here to order The Three Laws of Performance:  Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life (220 pages, hardback currently $21.49/also available in paperback) from Amazon.


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