Book Review | Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers

Way back a few months ago, my mom suggested I borrow a book she had purchased. Its taken me a while to read and finish mostly because I didnt really pick it from a shelf myself. I used to have this wonderful routine of layovers that included a visit to Starbucks and bookstores but thats in the past lol. May I add of course, that I usually have tons of things to do in one day which never leaves me much time to just sit and focus on an actual book. So just this weekend I was done with it and I felt the need to share… as I have been reading throughout these past months/weeks, I learned so much about business and even myself that there are some really valuable lessons that I wanted to get out there.

The title of this book is “Sacred cows make the best burgers – developing change-ready people and organizations”; yes, you read right, sacred cows. Funny enough, I had heard this term sometime before without realizing the whole meaning and thought behind those two funny words.

So what is a sacred cow?

Sacred cow \´kau\n, plural sacred cows
1. A plodding, bovine mammal of numerous stomachs and dubious intelligence regarded in some climes as holy in origin and therefore immune from ordinary treatment.
2. Business: a. An outmoded belief, assumption, practice, policy, system or strategy, generally invisible, that inhibits change and prevents responsiveness to new opportunities.

So basically, according to David Brandt, author of this book, in our business world, sacred cows are those people who are grazing on our profits and chocking off our productivity. They are those who sit next to us or work for us who have old and obsolete ideas that no longer work in todays changing world. They are far from being cutting-edge, imaginative and creative. Do you know any of those? I bet you do! Take a look back at your job three years ago, things have changed huh! Customers are becoming more and more sophisticated by the day and we wont even begin to mention all the technological changes.

Now this book isnt only about pin-pointing and finding all these “sacred cows”, its about creating change and giving us the tools to become successful on a day-to-day basis, in our life, our job, our company and even our relationships. I sure do not want to become a “sacred cow”, although I think some of us have been wired differently and this is why I decided to share my insight on this book. According to David Brandt, there are 14 different types of sacred cows, just by reading their names, it can pretty much give you a good idea of why they have been labeled this way. There is the paper cow, the meeting cow, the speed cow, the expert cow, the cash cow, the competitive cow, the customer cow, the low price cow, the quick-reactor cow, the no-mistakes cow, the downsizing cow, the technocow, the team cow and finally, the work-till-you-drop cow (guilty!)

The Paper Cow is very obvious and I think a lot of companies fall into this very big mistake. Today we are deep into the information age, giving us great advantages when it comes to how we handle our office. A lot of us are very guilty of printing everything, from e-mails to reports, proposals, projections and so many things that just end up wasting time and money, not to mention useless additions to the avalanche of paperwork on your desk which eventually ends up in the trash. Think of it, does this really provide any value in terms of improving your day, the quality of what you do or even your service? And of course, does anybody even read the darn stuff? If paper is not increasing your productivity, not to mention that its adding to global warming, you might need to take a closer look at the heard in your office.

I always had this idea that meetings are very necessary in the work place, and I still feel the same when it comes to dealing with certain issues. A meeting gives you the time-out to focus on a subject when you need to get an important point across with someone or a group of people. The Meeting Cow section of this book really got me thinking, constant meetings or even brainstorming meetings can really be a waste of time. How many of us really do our best thinking at work to get our creative juices flowing? Big decision making or even brainstorming meetings usually have a very negative response and I never really thought about this. My best ideas just pop in my head either when Im driving or sleeping, rarely very rarely in a room full of people just staring at each other.

Now, the Expert Cow, I think we have all met many of those, they have been around a looong time, they are never wrong and claim to have the voice of experience. According to David Brandt, the key to keeping ahead in this changing environment is to think not like an expert, but like a beginner. We need open minds with”fresh eyes”, people that are free of preconceived notions. I guess this means that we have to be smart and ask all the stupid questions, I mean, after all, even the experts sometimes get it wrong, probably as many times as they do get it right.

I think now a days every niche has become a competitive one, no matter what your business is there will always be someone else stepping on your heels or taking a lead. We constantly need to be reviewing how we do business in order to stay competitive and ahead of the game. This is where we arrive at the Customer Cow. Customer service has always been about satisfying your customer but apparently this is not true anymore, and it totally makes sense. Everybody is out there working hard and laying on the ground for their customers, when instead we should be surprising them and giving them something they do not expect. Satisfying a customer is a sacred cow, we need to stop, listen to what they say, pay attention to their needs and lead them, not follow them.

Again, we have always been about trying to figure out what our customer needs, be it a product or a service, we work so hard at always trying to give them the best price. Mooooo!! were turning into Low Price Cows, price is no longer king, value is. Customers are no longer into inexpensive products and services, they want whats right, service, convenience and quality. It takes a little give and take, of course, we dont want to loose customers by raising our prices, but apparently if we sell cheap, thats what people will think of us.

So lets say our business niche is changing, rapidly, which usually is the case no matter what. What do we do? We stop and u-turn quickly in order to not stay behind. Quick response to change is sacred cow belief. According to this book, todays marketplace is a turbulent ocean, and to stay ahead we need to think as a surfer, focus on the horizon and start changing before we get hit by the wave.

Were not all perfect, nobody is, no matter how hard we try! and this can apply to any part of our life, be it personal or on the job. The No-Mistake Cow gets it right all the time but that is not how life works, turns out that those people who are afraid of making mistakes are also afraid of making decisions. As Coca Cola CEO Roberto Goizueta once said, “You can stumble only if youre moving”. I also learned that Bill Gates goes out of his way to hire people who have made mistakes. “It shows that they take risks,” he said. “The way people deal with things that go wrong is an indicator of how they deal with change.”

So moving onto another cow, this one is a big subject in todays marketplace. Internet has changed our lives, the way we live, the way we learn, the way we search and especially the way we work. Whether its telecommuting or teleconferencing, virtual teams or virtual offices, home shopping or even hoteling, the technological revolution is changing our way of life and our work style. Long ago the status symbol at work was the corner office with the window and your name on the door. This is not true anymore, all of this has been replaced by no office at all! With all the new technology, people can stay in touch from anywhere, this is where the Technocow is born. High-tech also needs high-touch, a bigger problem has been arising, and this is the loss of personal one-to-one contact. Once you are out of sight, you are out of mind; people begin to forget about you and you loose touch. This is where I believe on a personal level, that balance is something that must be achieved.

And now we hit the jackpot, the Work-till-You-Drop Cow. I myself am very guilty of this one, I look back and realize that as days go buy, I consume myself more and more into my job. Here is where I have possibly learned the biggest lesson from this book, overwork doesnt work. According to author David Brandt, the idea is not to work harder than anyone else but to create strategy. Our life may become a success, but we will also not have a personal life and we will probably burn out in five years. It is said that six million single mothers leave their kids to go to work, I myself am a single mom and it is the largest source of guilt in my life. Most people do not realize that on average we work about 44 hours a week and need to add an extra 31 that we have to spend on family responsibilities. We must learn to pack it in when we are tired and just get back to it early the next morning, we all know that we work faster when were fresh and manage to think more creatively. This also has a great effect on our attitude and our overall mood.

And this is where the hunting begins, the cow hunting of course! Once you have read through all these cows it becomes clear that there must be change, which is never an easy task. This book focuses on the many strategies, dos and donts that can get you there, too many to describe in this review. I honestly think that technicalities are not always what create change, its the mentality and the people skills. Sometimes in our businesses we tend to forget that we deal with people, not with robots. Making others feel you care about them is a “core skill” of running a business, it is an essential part of being an owner or manager, just make people feel that they are considered meaningful. It is simple, employees will never cooperate with change if they do not feel cared about.

Other than caring, I think there are other key issues when it comes to a business and implementing change. I was quite relieved to read that my way of thinking was kinda on the right track. Respect, acknowledgement and empathy are important when it comes to dealing with the people in your workplace, not only with the sacred cows but just in general. In the sacred cow world, managers are more likely to take time to criticize other than praise. If an employee has made a mistake, he is punished for it instead of being congratulated for trying. If the only feedback we get is when we mess up, it will only take a toll over time.

Change just means more effort, from everybody, we all need to move out of our comfort zone and overcome our ways of thinking and doing. I like this thought, I think it can pretty much apply to just anything in our lives. If you manage to clean out your heard and implement changes, it is always important to lay out clearly the rationale for decisions taken, listen and communicate; again, something we can also apply to life. So lets get motivated, change cannot be implemented without the right motivation, real motivation. People get inspired when, in some way, they feel they are making the world or their community a better place.

Once you manage the motivation, reward. Sometime back years ago I read the famous book1000 Ways to Reward Employees and the same ideas still apply today. People do things not just to get an object or the cash to buy things, they are also motivated by such intangibles such as recognition, fairness, flexibility, creativity, meaningfulness and freedom. This certainly has a greater impact on readiness for change than the traditional extrinsic rewards do.

All in all, I personally think that managing change or just managing in general takes a lot of common sense. In order to hunt and weed sacred cows in our business, we first need to be open to change, all the rest can be learned. According to David Brandt, “the seven traits are passion, resourcefulness, optimism, adventurousness, adaptability, confidence and tolerance for ambiguity. It is about growing, learning and living life to the fullest; tapping into skills, strengths and resources you never knew you had. When you are change-ready, you will do more than you thought you could and be more than you thought you were.”

This to me sums it all up, a great book and many good lessons to be learned and shared.

Happy cow hunting!!