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David Lee King

Which Side of the Bus are You On?



Just a thought from Jim Collins‘ book Good to Great. In that book, Jim writes this: “to build a successful organization and team you must get the right people on the bus.”

The “bus” is the company, the mission, the strategic plan. The “right people” are the ones that can do the work of the organization. The “wrong people” are the ones that don’t fit, that always cause problems, etc. Jim suggests “removing” those people from the bus, because they’re hindering the organization.

I was thinking about that bus metaphor awhile back. Besides managers, who are thinking about how to get the right people on the bus, who else should be thinking about that bus? Everyone should be.

There are at least five places you can be in relation to that ever-moving bus:

  • In front of the bus. Standing in front of a moving bus is generally NOT a good place to be. You’re going to get hurt. Get run over. There will be damage – to you, and maybe to the bus. These people didn’t plan, didn’t look at the roadmap of the organization, and now they’re standing in the way.
  • On the bus. This is the best place to be. That is, if you are a good fit for the organization, support where the organization is going, and can help get it there.
  • Behind the bus. Better than in front of the bus, but still not a good place to be. These people didn’t leave the organization, but also don’t like where it’s going. So they are being dragged along behind the bus. Maybe slowing the bus down, but not stopping it (because you can’t stop a moving bus).
  • Kicked off the bus. This is what Jim Collins talked about. These people didn’t fit in, and were asked to leave. Probably better to have not gotten on the bus in the first place, or maybe gotten off the bus when you noticed it was going somewhere you didn’t want to go.
  • Pushing the bus. OK. Sometimes, most staff realize the bus should be going somewhere, but the “driver” is snoozing at the wheel. Or driving the wrong way. Or driving too slow (that can be dangerous, right?). So these people are helping the bus along the best they can. There are probably better ways to get the bus moving (Get a new driver? Find a new bus? Wake the driver up? Call the dispatcher? Hmm…).

Where are you? On the bus? Behind the bus? Pushing the bus? Not interested in busses?

Bus photo by Gerard Stolk

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Michael Perkins

    I like being on the bus (especially if the seats recline). I think all of these are better than being thrown under the bus – no analogy just an early morning thought. Sometimes I wonder if an organization can have too many destinations and it becomes confusing for the passengers which direction they really are headed. Also I would imagine at times you have the right people on the bus but the bus driver has either the wrong map, not licensed to drive the vehicle, asleep at the wheel, or have other impairments that causes it to crash or break down. Wow… deep coming from me on a Thursday.