University of Southern California

Rewrite the Future, Change the System, Outperform the Competition
Logan’s Book Focuses on How Individuals, Organizations can Increase Performance
February 9, 2009 • by News at Marshall

USC Marshall professor Dave Logan’s book, The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life, explores the ways leaders can create systematic change, rather than focusing on solving a single problem, in order to turn around their organizations, or take them to the next level.

“The key to transformation is designing a future that creates a systematic change that impacts everyone,” says Logan. “Leading an organization involves knowing about finance accounting marketing IT and strategy – it’s not a field that lends itself to simplistic solutions. Essentially, a good leader comes in and manages the future rather than letting it happen. Future management, that’s what great leaders do.”

Logan and his co-author Steve Zaffron spent eight years researching and writing the book, looking at language theory, neuroscience and psychology

among other disciplines to craft their laws of performance, essentially laws that govern human behavior. Each is illustrated with concrete examples from companies the two have worked with.

Using the book’s “three laws” and the leadership corollaries, Logan shows how the CEO of a New Zealand steelmaking company turned around his business and made it an industry leader in just one year; how the head of a U.S. athletic shoe manufacturer led a 500-member team in transforming the company and eventually sold it for $3.78 billion; how Brazil’s largest petroleum company overcame negativity to achieve the biggest process integration success in history; how a major Japanese real estate and construction company learned to thrive after losing its founder and how a south African platinum mine improved its safety performance by 57 percent in one year.

The essence of the book is that there is a factor separating the facts of a business situation and our performance. That factor is how the facts “occur” to people. “There are really two recessions,” Logan notes as an example, “One is the recession we read about in the paper—lost jobs, tight credit, falling consumer credit. The second is how those facts occur to people. Many chief executives I speak with are paralyzed by fear, seeing a crisis that will not end, a depression that will rob them of their security and over which they have no control.”

Logan adds that other chief executives he interviewed, seeing the same facts, come away with a different view. “They say, ‘This is our opportunity to grab market share, shed parts of the business that haven’t pulled their weight, and come out the dominant player in the market. These two CEOs will behave differently, not because of the facts, but because how the facts “occur to them,” he says.

The book gives the laws that underlie this process, and steps leaders can take the shift a workforce into high performance.

Ultimately, says Logan, putting the three laws into action moves an organization and its individuals to optimal performance. It also opens the possibility of creating what Logan calls a self-led organization – one that sees itself as acting consciously and with a conscience.

“Once the future runs the show, it becomes the leader of the company and the leader loses the right to act arbitrarily. Our hypothesis is that there are companies that will find that future and it will lead the organization,” Logan says. “We’ve seen it in moments – it’s a sweet spot and it’s hard to maintain. These companies are innovative, they don’t have labor problems and scandals are unheard of.”

Dave Logan is a Lecturer in the Management & Organization department of the USC Marshall School of Business. From 2001-2004 he served as Associate Dean / Executive Director of Executive Education. He has written four books including Tribal Leadership, which was released in 2008. “The Three Laws of Performance” is forthcoming from Jossey-Bass. It is a Warren Bennis Book, part of a collection of books devoted to new and exemplary contributions to management thought and practice.


About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.