Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Loose-Tight Controls for Business Success

37827-watches_teaserI recently presented several workshops for client company with an absolutely brilliant CEO, among the best I’ve ever met. He was a new to the organization and had been brought in to turn around the company, which was facing very severe financial troubles. This was very bureaucratic organization whose main customer was the government. They were slow to make decisions, reluctant to take any risks, complacent in their attempt to grow their business and keep margins strong, which landed them to more than billion dollars in debt. The CEO gave an impassioned speech about the need to be more entrepreneurial, while still having a culture of disciplined execution around the core strategies. He described it, much like Tom Peters did in his wonderful book In Search of Excellence, saying that the company needed to have “loose-tight controls.” They need to have elements of loose  control around entrepreneurship, innovation and prudent risk-taking, while maintaining areas tight of control around their values, strategy, alignment and accountability for positive business results. He told them that in order to be successful they would have to balance a strong entrepreneurial ethic while still embracing a focused culture of discipline – and summarized his idea in the graph below.

So, where does your company sit in this matrix?

Best Managed Companies graphic


  1. Barry Hall says:

    Hi John,
    food for thought as usual. I don’t know if you have come across or read a book called Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman I am reading this at the moment and is very interesting with regards to turning companies around caring for the workers and treating them like family. I would recommend it to you.

  2. John,

    Great post as usual, thank you!


  3. Love this one. I just updated some of my recruiting documents to reflect “entrepreneurial work ethic.” Thank you for these blogs. They are very impactful and motivating.