What is your organization’s success formula? Can you describe it clearly to others? If you can’t, you aren’t alone. While many organizations have developed practices that have sustained them for years, most have not developed a clear success formula. Great companies have a formula and know how to tweak it when they need to.

In Part 1 of this Blog post, I introduced you to the SMaC formula developed by Collins and Hansen in their book Great by Choice. I also shared with you Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, which was a terrific example of how a coach built and sustained a basketball team using a human development formula. They won 10 national championships in 11 years, so the formula was very effective.

SMaC Success Formula. In Great by Choice, Collins and Hansen found that all great companies that thrived during chaos had their own success formulas that sustained them. The authors suggest we refer to our success formula as the acronym SMaC. SMaC stands for “Specific, Methodical and Consistent.”

An organization’s SMaC should be a formula that contains eight to 12 specific methodologies that are consistently practiced and stand-up to the test of time and are only modestly changed over the decades.

They also found that a great organization with an established SMaC doesn’t overreact to every external force or change. They understand this will only incapacitate the business and can be very distracting. Most external changes are just “noise.” Knowing the difference and then making small changes within your SMaC are the key to sustained, long-term success.

Southwest Airlines Example. To give us an example, the authors refer to Southwest Airlines, which emerged in the 1970s with a success formula that has only been tweaked slightly since it was developed. According to George Putnam, who was the Southwest CEO in 1979, their success formula had 10 key ingredients. Here they are:

  1. Remain a short-haul carrier; flights under two-hours.
  2. Utilize the 737 as primary aircraft.
  3. Continuous high aircraft utilization and quick turns; 10-15 minutes between flights.
  4. The passenger is our #1 product, no freight or mail. Small, easy-to-handle, profitable packages are okay.
  5. Low fares and high frequency of flights.
  6. Stay out of food services.
  7. No interlining/avoid large airports.
  8. Retain Texas and only go interstate if high-density, short-haul markets are available and underserved.
  9. Keep a family and people feeling in our service and create a fun atmosphere aloft. Show pride in our employees.
  10. Keep the business model simple. For example, no seat selection in advance; and have aircraft and crews leave and return to their home airport every day.

When we read this SMaC formula we realize that the formula is nearly the same today as it was in 1979. It is “specific, methodical, and consistent.”

How to Develop Your SMaC – Success Formula. Collins and Hansen suggest if organizations want to develop their own SMaC they need to spend time understanding this one question – “What durable and specific practices best drive results?” To get to the answers they suggest organizations work through these seven steps/questions:

  1. Make a list of successes your enterprise has achieved.
  2. Make a list of disappointments your enterprise has achieved.
  3. What specific practices correlate with the successes but not the disappointments.
  4. What specific practices correlate with the disappointments but not the successes.
  5. Which of these practices can last perhaps 10 to 30 years and apply across a wide range of circumstances.
  6. Why do these practices work?
  7. Based on the above, what SMaC recipe, consisting of eight to 12 points that reinforce each other as a coherent system, best drives your results?

After you work through and develop your SMaC formula, you will probably wonder what small changes or tweaks you should make. To do this, just keep in mind the question Andy Grove of Intel likes to ask, “If we were replaced and new management came in, what changes or tweaks would they make?”

A great question to ponder, isn’t it?