Kilts helps make success easier
November 15, 2007
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Jim Kilts is one of
the most successful corporate CEOs of our time.
His new book
Doing What Matters: How to Get Results That Make a Difference
-- The Revolutionary Old-School Approach (Crown Business, $27.50,
318 pages) was born on Chicago's South Side on the Hyde Park campus
of the University of Chicago.
title and origin, Kilts' book is not for eggheads or revolutionaries,
and it's not stuffy. It's an insightful account of how to manage
in today's global business.
Matters is a must read for anyone who wants to achieve in business.
Students seeking a business career should devour it. Young managers
should take it to heart. Mid-level and senior executives should
use it to benchmark their own performance.
career was nearly stillborn when as a young Chicago-based materials
manager he failed to order enough cartons to keep the Kool-Aid
plant running. A quick call from the plant manager to Kilts' mother
who called Kilts to warn, "I think you're going to get fired,"
saved the day.
what mattered. He called his supplier, rolled up his sleeves,
and unloaded a truck of cartons that night. The line kept running,
and Kilts kept his job. Kilts didn't shy away from responsibility,
try to pass the buck, or point fingers.
on to an illustrious career as a top corporate executive, turnaround
specialist and deal maker. He rose to EVP of the $27 billion Worldwide
Food group at Philip Morris responsible for Kraft and General
Foods. In 1998 he became CEO of troubled Nabisco Co., revitalizing
the business and selling it to Philip Morris (now Altria) for
$14.9 billion in December 2000.
Buffett and the board of Gillette recruited Kilts to turnaround
the ailing razor blade maker. Under Kilts' management approach,
Gillette sales increased, costs were reduced, and the stock price
soared. In a move to diversify, Kilts and his management team
approached Procter & Gamble and in October 2005 completed
a $54 billion merger.
Matters was inspired by Kilts' experience as an executive in residence
at the University of Chicago where he earned his MBA and where
he endowed the Kilts Center for Marketing.
office hours and saw a lot of students. They wanted to come in
and talk. They wanted unvarnished advice," Kilts said. "In
business, you need to think practically about how to prioritize.
There is so much information." Kilts decided to write a book
to show how to sort through the data, prioritize, and drive an
agenda to get the important work done.
In Doing What
Matters Kilts outlines a three-pronged approach to running a business:
working on growth and innovation, productivity and costs, and
developing a high-performing organization.
Matters chronicles the success Kilts and his team created at Kraft,
Nabisco and Gillette. But it is not a corporate history. It is
a manager's guide and inside look at what it takes to achieve
success in today's complex and competitive business environment.
there are a set of core principles and frameworks that lead to
business success. He sees himself as fortunate, but he added,
"The harder you work, the luckier you get."
to Kilts, "Success requires intellectual integrity, and figuring
out what is really going on in the business. It takes enthusiasm
to convince the organization that change is warranted. You need
an action orientation. The final thing is just the love of consumers.
Those are the things that helped me to be successful. I talk about
each in the book," Kilts added.
Matters isn't perfect. At times the narrative is tedious, and
Kilts' focus on consumer products might put off readers in other
industries. My advice is to persevere. The chronicle and the content
are worth the effort.
Krauss is president of Market Strategy Group, based in Chicago.