How to accelerate “the relentless pursuit of excellence” and do so with people power
Ron Clark’s use of an extended metaphor (i.e. a bus) may result in some of the same confusion as did Jim Collins’ use of the same metaphor in Good to Great (2001). Both discuss passengers but classify them differently. Collins urges companies to get “the right people” on the bus and get “the wrong people” off whereas Clark differentiates people as follows:
o Former Runners are burned out and coasting.
o Walkers want to run but are exhausted.
o Potential Runners have a career that is blocked by an unappreciative boss who prefers to walk.
o Riders want to be better but have no idea how to begin to walk, much less run.
o Runners look around and realize that there is a new generation of Runners “who seem to be accelerating with turbo boosters that make [their] run look like a trot.
o Others have had all manner of serious professioinal and personal problems and feel that they now lack the will and energy to run.
o Still others “may even feel that [they] have fallen off the bus and have been run over by it.
These comprise the “cast of characters” in Clark’s parable: Rufus the Runner, Joan the Jogger, Wanda the Walker, Ridley the Rider, and Drew the Driver. It is important to keep in mind that the term “bus” could refer to all of an organization and even a country or federation of countries (e.g. United Nations); to a part of an organization such as a division, department, committee, o0r even a brand; and also to a movement to make a vision a reality (e.g. securing independence for India within the United Kingdom).
As Clark explains, “Remember, the bus represents your goals and achievements as an organization, which could be anything from your business to your family unit to the committee you chair for your neighborhood association. And don’t forget that the bus has no gas tank and is therefore not self-propelled — you’re going to pull it along solely with people power.”
Although the primary purpose of much of the information, insights, and counsel in this book is to help his readers accelerate “the relentless pursuit of excellence” and do so with people power, he also observes in the Epilogue: “With all the talk of making the bus run, I felt the need to mention that sometimes it’s necessary to stop the bus completely, for the right reason.” (This is what happens in Toyota’s factories whenever someone detects a flaw or problem of some kind. They can stop the production line by pushing a big red button.) All organizations have Runners, Joggers, Walkers, Riders, and Drivers. Many of them also have one or more Saboteurs.
As I worked my way through this book, I was again reminded of two quotations that seem especially relevant to Ron Clark’s compelling vision of what can be accomplished. First, an African proverb: “If you want to go fast…go alone. If you want to go far…go together.” Also this observation by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”