A New Appreciation for Getting the Right People on the Bus

I have struggled since I first read Good to Great with Jim Collins’ advice to organizations to concentrate on getting the right people on the bus before worrying about what mission or issue you will pursue.  I am finally ready to take the advice.

In a world where issues come and go and even missions are tested by changing conditions, I now can see the wisdom of finding and building relationships with the right people. Certainly you can’t persuade people to get on the bus with you fin the first place unless they agree with the general direction you might travel together.  

Without strong relationships that can be sustained over time, you have very little chance of building a great organization. You might have some significant successes picking up a talented team, but once the issues or the conditions shift, these team members may migrate to the next great thing they perceive to be in their interests.

If you instead focus first on the people and the quality of your relationships together, you are more likely to build the kind of power and learning capacity that will be equal to each new challenge or opportunity. And you are also more likely to attract other capable people and allies who want to travel with you.

I still am not so sold on the importance of getting the right people in the right seats on that bus and prefer a more creative and fluid approach.  I imagine people taking different seats on the bus as they settle in for each leg of the journey. And sometimes we might drop off a few people in new organizations and places knowing we can pick them up later when our mutual interests intersect again.

As that song I used to sing many years ago with my young children went, “the wheels on the bus go round and round” when you have the right people accountable to each other for creating a preferred future--whatever they might encounter and wherever they might travel together.