Cover image for
Powerhouse : insider accounts into the world's top high-performance organizations / Brian MacNeice and James Bowen.
MacNeice, Brian, author.
London ; Philadelphia : Kogan Page, 2016.
xvi, 262 pages ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Other Authors:
Bowen, James, 1967- author.
0749478314 (alk. paper)

9780749478315 (alk. paper)


Material Type
Call Number
Book HD58.9.M169

On Order



DISTINGUISHED FAVOURITE: Independent Press Awards 2017

Why are the New Zealand All Blacks the best rugby team in the world? How does the Kirov Ballet produce generation after generation of exceptional ballerinas? How did Southwest Airlines evolve from being an idiosyncratic Texan airline to become one of the most successful businesses internationally? How does the Finnish School Education System deliver great results by breaking conventions? Powerhouse uncovers the performance secrets of some of the most impressive organizations around the world and reveals the key principles they have in common to enable any business to raise their own bar.

To understand what makes these organizations great, MacNeice and Bowen have conducted immersive and personal research; investigating their culture, interviewing their leaders and observing their everyday practice. Despite this diverse range of seemingly contrasting industries - business, sport, technology, finance, the arts - each of these successful institutions share a common bond: they are world-class industry leaders and have repeatedly outperformed their competition. Powerhouse explores what lessons can be learnt from these organizations to provide a unique and in-depth analysis of how enduring high performance can be developed.

Author Notes

Brian MacNeice is an expert in high performance and is a regular speaker on the topic. He has advised many blue-chip companies across a diverse range of industry sectors, in a career spanning almost 20 years. Brian is Managing Director of Kotinos Partners, a consultancy that focuses on helping CEOs and leadership teams deliver sustained high performance.
James Bowen is an expert in strategy and organizational design and is a performance consultant with 20 years of advisory experience. James has worked with executive teams of blue-chip companies with the goal of step-change performance improvement. James is also Managing Director of Kotinos Partners.

Table of Contents

About the authorsp. xiii
Acknowledgementsp. xv
01 Introductionp. 1
Building lives through lendingp. 1
Educating a nationp. 2
A search for insightsp. 3
Background to our projectp. 4
Cutting to the chase - the 'what' and the 'how' of enduring high performancep. 5
Making the best use of this bookp. 11
Notep. 12
02 Grameen Bank: The bank of the villagesp. 13
What makes Grameen Bank a performance powerhouse?p. 13
Grameen Bank powerhousep. 15
The poor professors of Jobrap. 15
US$27 that changed the lives of 100 million familiesp. 16
'Everything they do, we do the opposite'p. 17
Grameen is still a bankp. 18
The '16 Decisions'p. 19
Branch number 23760207p. 19
Sustainable from the startp. 22
The five-star branchp. 22
No one stands alonep. 23
The four principlesp. 24
Never standing still - Grameen IIp. 24
'We are not job seekers, we are job creators'p. 25
The Museum of Povertyp. 27
Powerhouse Principle 1: ambitionp. 27
Notesp. 29
03 Médecins Sans Frontières: Témoignage - bearing witness to conflict and disasterp. 31
What makes Médecins Sans Frontières a performance powerhouse?p. 31
The Medecins Sans Frontières powerhousep. 33
Go where the patients arep. 33
The MSF charter - more than rhetoricp. 34
Serving those in most needp. 36
Empowered to impactp. 38
Earning their MSF T-shirtp. 39
MSF mission in Haitip. 40
MSF - a high-performance organizationp. 47
Powerhouse Principle 2: purposep. 50
Notesp. 52
04 Southwest Airlines: Without a heart, it's just a machinep. 53
What makes Southwest Airlines a performance powerhouse?p. 53
The Southwest Airlines powerhousep. 55
Flying across Texasp. 55
LUV is all aroundp. 56
Fixing the 'what', 'why' and - most importantly - the 'how'p. 57
Enabling the 'how' by finding and engaging the right peoplep. 59
Mobilizing employees around the 'measures that matter'p. 62
Building understanding and ownership of metricsp. 62
Aligning employee and airline interestsp. 63
Act like ownersp. 63
Modelling and managing employee performancep. 64
Managing performance and making it consequentialp. 65
Motivating innovation and rapid continuous improvementp. 66
Innovation in actionp. 67
Driving better decisionsp. 68
Building customer insight and intimacyp. 70
Without a heart, it is just a machinep. 71
Powerhouse Principle 3: measuresp. 72
Notesp. 74
05 US Marine Corps: Semper fidelis - always faithfulp. 75
What makes the US Marine Corps a performance powerhouse?p. 75
The US Marine Corps powerhousep. 77
Becoming a Marine - Parris Island graduation dayp. 77
The role of the Marines - where they fitp. 78
Marine Corps recruit training, Parris Islandp. 79
Clarity of direction, aligning institutional and individual aspirationsp. 80
Relentlessly high standards - embedded in the culturep. 83
Marine Corps standards - anchored in valuesp. 83
How high standards are achieved - creating a culturep. 84
Delegated, effective decision making - close to the actionp. 88
Commander's intentp. 88
You don't join the Marines, you become onep. 90
Powerhouse Principle 4: standardsp. 92
Notesp. 94
06 Curtis Institute of Musicp. 96
What makes the Curtis Institute of Music a performance powerhouse?p. 96
The Curtis Institute powerhousep. 96
An inspirational settingp. 96
The birth of a great institutionp. 98
Free-tuition policyp. 99
Petri dish of talentp. 100
High entry standardsp. 100
Uniquely low student-faculty ratiop. 101
Advocates for the art formp. 102
Interesting people make interesting artistsp. 103
Learn by doingp. 103
No hiding placep. 104
Performance focusp. 105
The art of practicep. 108
Strong work ethicp. 109
Never standing stillp. 110
Cherishing Curtis Institute of Music's heritagep. 111
Powerhouse Principle 5: gapp. 112
Notesp. 114
07 The Finnish state school education system: Candles of the nationp. 115
What makes the Finnish state school education system a performance powerhouse?p. 115
The Finnish education powerhousep. 117
'Peruskouiu' - the big dreamp. 117
'Kansan kynttila' - candles of the nationp. 119
Feedback-rich culture despite limited 'formal' testingp. 120
Give good people autonomy to make decisionsp. 121
Freedom to innovatep. 123
Special needs: the norm not the exceptionp. 125
Continual teacher educationp. 126
Results achieved with modest investmentp. 128
The tradition of penkkaritp. 128
Powerhouse Principle 6: decisionsp. 129
Notep. 132
08 Tata Group: Nation buildersp. 133
What makes the Tata Group a performance powerhouse?p. 133
The Tata Group powerhousep. 135
Tata - a corporation with a differencep. 135
A value-centred corporationp. 135
Integrity in action - 100 per cent or 0 per cent!p. 136
Understanding - building a city not just a companyp. 138
Excellence - swimming with the big fishp. 141
Unity - powering global expansionp. 147
Responsibility - nation buildersp. 149
Powerhouse Principle 7: codep. 151
Notesp. 153
09 St Louis Cardinals: The birds on the batp. 154
What makes the St Louis Cardinals a performance powerhouse?p. 154
The St Louis Cardinals powerhousep. 156
Steady hand on the tillerp. 156
The 'Cardinal Way' - there is no secret saucep. 158
The name on the front of the jerseyp. 159
Player characterp. 160
The city and its teamp. 160
Working in partnershipp. 164
Everyone owns the performancep. 166
We are in the memory businessp. 167
The best of the best in making connections to fansp. 168
Powerhouse Principle 8: engagementp. 168
Notesp. 170
10 Inside the Mariinsky - the Kirovp. 171
What makes the Mariinsky Theatre a performance powerhouse?p. 171
The Mariinsky (Kirov) powerhousep. 173
Jewel in the crown of the arts worldp. 173
Teaching the world to dancep. 174
The long journey that takes 40 stepsp. 174
The Mariinsky can never become like a museump. 175
Feeding off the environmentp. 177
It is all about performancep. 178
Keeping the flame litp. 181
Attention to detailp. 182
Passing on the torchp. 183
Poetry in motionp. 184
Music is our one and true monarchp. 185
Resiliencep. 185
Stronger than everp. 186
Powerhouse Principle 9: resiliencep. 186
Notesp. 190
11 New Zealand rugby: Better people make better All Blacksp. 191
What makes the New Zealand All Blacks a performance powerhouse?p. 191
The New Zealand All Blacks powerhousep. 194
'Unify and inspire New Zealanders'p. 194
Leave the jersey in a better placep. 195
The standard of 'okay' is not okay!p. 196
There is always someone else to take your placep. 198
The role of standard-settersp. 198
Better people make better All Blacksp. 199
Dual leadership modelp. 202
Process, process, processp. 203
When the clouds lift, the sun comes outp. 204
Feedback-rich culturep. 205
'The Invincibles'p. 206
Powerhouse Principle 10: feedbackp. 207
Notesp. 209
12 Mayo Clinic: The three shields of healthp. 210
What makes Mayo Clinic a performance powerhouse?p. 210
The Mayo Clinic powerhousep. 213
The union of the doctor and the sisterp. 213
The needs of the patient come firstp. 214
The Mayo Clinic Model of Carep. 216
The Surgeons Clubp. 218
Rapid diffusion of best practicep. 219
Disciplined approach to work practicesp. 219
Making the right thing to do the easy thing to dop. 220
Standardized adoption of best practicep. 221
The collective expertise of Mayop. 222
Commitment to research and educationp. 226
Physician-led leadershipp. 227
My best day's workp. 229
The patient experiencep. 229
Destination medicinep. 230
Innovation by designp. 230
The three shields of healthp. 231
Powerhouse Principle 11: teamworkp. 232
Notesp. 234
13 Toyota Motor Corporation: Everybody winsp. 236
What makes Toyota a performance powerhouse?p. 236
The Toyota Motor Corporation powerhousep. 236
Making cars Motomachi-stylep. 236
Kaizen in actionp. 239
Toyota as a high-performance case studyp. 240
Vision and challenge - stretched and made realp. 241
Performance through problem solvingp. 242
Continuous dynamic, broad-based, synchronized improvementp. 245
Teams of people, driving and owning performancep. 247
Ever better carsp. 249
Powerhouse Principle 12: improvementp. 250
Notep. 252
14 Conclusion: Becoming a performance powerhousep. 253
Enduring high performance - from the 'what' to the 'how'p. 254
Notep. 258
Indexp. 259