Business Operating System

Eliminate drama with a BOS (Business Operating System)

business operating systems metronomics Jun 15, 2023

'Eliminate drama with a BOS' or Business Operating System was the subject of an email that landed in my inbox recently. 

The email came from Shannon Susko, a weekly dose of Metronomics I savour alongside my Sunday morning coffee.

Shannon had just watched Air, the origin story of Nike's Air Jordan line. And in her email, she suggests that: if Nike had a BOS in play, the amount of drama would have been reduced, and we wouldn’t have this great movie to watch.

 Which got me thinking...

How much of a difference would a business operating system have had on Nike? Had systems like Metronomics, EOS, and Scaling-Up existed in the '80s, would entrepreneurs and CEOs have implemented them? 

I suspect YES. 


Because Phil Knight was a transformational leader, he inspired his people to rise above their self-interests, and in return, this helped to grow his organization. 

Moreover, there were early signs of an operating system at Nike...

They had a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal):

Crush Adidas...

But Nike's shared sense of purpose began before they set out to crush Adidas. When Knight dropped the bomb that Onitsuka had cut them off, Knight's transparency and ability to turn a negative into a positive gave his team a sense of purpose to rally around.

They had an annual offsite meeting:

The Annual "Buttface" Retreat...

Every year, Nike executives gathered offsite to explore new ideas, develop fresh strategies to keep Nike on its meteoric run and solve the inevitable problems that come with growth. 

Even the name, "Buttfaces", reveals much about Nike's culture and the subtle yet powerful way Knight created a thriving team culture.

Hire the Right People...

Knight’s original team were looking for a meaningful place to work. He hired people from his network of athletes in Oregon. They were misfits in other workplaces, dismissed and shunned by previous bosses, and moulded by their failures. But at Nike, they thrived.

They were the RIGHT people for Nike.

“If you have the right people, then the problem of how to motivate and how to manage people properly goes away”-Jim Collins

“I do not follow conventional wisdom.”

Nike was led by a pack of rebellious misfits, a common characteristic of many successful entrepreneurs—Phil Knight, Richard Branson, and Steve Jobs. I suspect they, and others like them, have the talent and ability to create potent business operating systems.

However, for many entrepreneurs, leadership, systems, and culture don't come naturally. We have to work much harder and find ourselves banging our heads against the glass ceiling of growth.

A BOS creates the systems and structure for leaders to organize and optimize various aspects of their business. While some leaders have a natural talent for balancing the hard (strategy, execution, cash) and soft (people, culture, cohesion) edges of a business to create a powerful growth accelerant, others struggle.

Would Metronomics have accelerated Nike's growth trajectory? 

Yes, without a doubt.

Like most successful entrepreneurs, Phil Knight was hungry for knowledge. While pursuing an MBA, he immersed himself in researching business and is an avid reader.

According to Harvard Business Review: Nike founder Phil Knight so reveres his library that in it you have to take off your shoes and bow

Perhaps the better question is, do you have the time and talent to craft your own system? Or are you a frustrated CEO in dire need of Metronomics?

When you implement a business operating system, here's what you experience:

Increased Efficiency: 

From meetings to outcomes. A BOS sets your team's tempo toward achieving its growth goals. It helps identify and eliminate the inefficiencies within your business, leading to cost savings, improved productivity, and more time for you to focus on the things that matter professionally and privately.

Over time, systems like Metronomics and EOS enable smoother operations, reduce duplication of efforts, and minimize waste of resources. 

Scalability and Growth: 

Scalable businesses are built on a solid foundation. A BOS provides a foundation for scalability. As your business grows, the system ensures that processes remain consistent and adaptable, allowing for a seamless expansion without compromising quality or customer satisfaction. 

Most importantly, it enables you to focus on strategic initiatives rather than getting caught up in day-to-day operations.

Enhanced Decision-Making: 

With a BOS in place, you have access to accurate and timely information about various aspects of your business, such as sales, inventory, and finances. 

This data-driven approach enables informed decision-making, so you can analyze performance metrics, identify trends, and adjust to achieve desired outcomes.

Improved Communication and Collaboration: 

A BOS establishes clear lines of communication and collaboration across different departments and teams within a business. 

It ensures everyone is aligned with the company's goals, shares relevant information, and works together efficiently. This fosters a culture of transparency and teamwork, leading to higher productivity and employee satisfaction.

The long run...

Business Operating Systems have gained momentum over the past few decades, and when implemented correctly, they deliver substantial value. Unfortunately, most business owners only toy with implementing a system. 

Perhaps EOS was raised at your last Vistage meeting, or a peer-recommended you try Scaling Up. You may have even created your first Vision/Traction Organizer... but that's as far as you've gone.

If you want to get the most out of a BOS, you need to be in it for the long run. You must trust the process. And, ideally, enlist the help of a coach.

Just do it!

Photo of the week: 

“Heureka” by Jean Tinguely
The first “purposeless machine” by Jean Tinguely stands on the shore of Lake Zurich and still functions perfectly today (installed at Zürichhorn in 1967).

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