Book Review Foreword


Who should read The Focused Organization?

This book should be a must read for anybody hoping to cope in this competitive world. From individuals to heads of large organizations and those in between need to learn how to become focused in order to be able to reach their strategic objectives.

A focused approach enables organizations to navigate through their collection of projects, programs and strategic initiatives in order to better select which initiatives are worth investing their energies in and which to discontinue.

The very same process is invaluable to individuals too who might spend their days playing on Facebook while ignoring important goals they may have set themselves.

If your focus is on achieving strategic objectives, motivating yourself and others/staff, working towards a profitable organization and you understand that project management could be vital to this process then this book is for you.

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Of immense value to businesses

The Focused Organization offers enterprises a unique approach to creating, leading and transforming business by focusing on project management. Reading this book will help the people working in organizations concentrate their focus on identifying the most important projects and moving them to successful completion.

The entire organization benefits from this project management led process. The business becomes more profitable, staff more productive and motivated and the organization is able to be more innovative and competitive.

Whether a CEO or line manager, assistants or support staff, business or graduate  school students, this book will be a valuable read.

Concepts are easy to understand

The concepts discussed in the book are simple and easy to understand. However, implementation does involve a radical change in the way the organizations select and manage projects. In fact it will require the creation of an entire culture.

As with most important changes in any organization, the full involvement of the CEO will be a requirement to ensure these changes are implemented in the organization. Although there is a growth in the uptake of a more project management approach to managing companies,  changes are being implemented too slowly. A more aggressive approach, endorsed by the C-levels in organizations need to be adopted.

The topic is increasing in importance

An alarming fact has revealed that although the project load is increasing in enterprises, no matter their size, the uptake of project management as a discipline lags far behind. In fact it is not perceived by business leaders or the academic community to be a priority.

Yet in both private and public organizations as well as the growing non-profit environment the number of projects are growing quickly. Organizations take on projects in the hope of remaining competitive in the global business environment. Without proper project management this may become counterproductive.

The importance of project management to the well-being of modern organizations will become evident when reading The Focused Organization.


To assist in understanding the characteristics comprising a focused organization the word can also be thought of as representing an acronym which covers the concepts of:

F for fewer projects, rather than many. The O stands for Organized staff. C for Competitive mindset, U for Urgency, S for Strategic alignment, E for Excellence and D for Discipline.

The approach

The book discusses how organizations go through different maturity levels to reach the state of FOCUSED. Each level comprises of four different components, which the book will help an organization assess and improve.

The components are the Culture/People of the enterprise, the Methods/Processes and Organizational Structures and finally deals with Systems and Tools.

The benefits of a focused organization

The benefits of becoming a focused organization are significant. They include an organization being able to achieve strategic goals. It allows an enterprise to become a high performing organization by achieving strategic objectives.

A focused organization is able to develop a culture of getting things done through effective motivation of staff and it delivers on the objective of building a profitable organization.


‘These days, for most companies the strategic objective of their CEOs and senior executives is to achieve sustainable growth in the market place and do it cost effectively. In this book, Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez advocates a policy of being singularly focused on the projects that will make the biggest contribution to the organization’s vision, strategy and purpose. He examines the conflict between “run-the-business” (operations) and “change-the-business” (projects), the optimum balance of resources between the two, and how best to move forward. The key is in adopting “FOCUSED” as an acronym for: F-Fewer projects, rather than many; O-Organized staff; C-Competitive mind set; U-Urgency; S-Strategic alignment; E-Excellence; and D-Discipline. Adoption of this paradigm shift is not a guarantee of success, but it will certainly reduce the chances of failure.

Max Wideman, P.Eng., FICE, FEIC, FCSCE, FPMI, MCMI


‘The world is awash with business ideas and tools. But what really matters to business leaders is making things happen, execution. That is what they are measured on and what really turns them on. Based on research and extensive experience, The Focused Organization provides new, compelling and highly practical insights into the reality of execution.’

Stuart Crainer, editor, Business Strategy Review, co-creator Thinkers500


‘This book fills a long-standing need in the management literature by presenting, as it does, sound and proven concepts, principles, and practices for translating strategies into results. Nieto-Rodriguez clearly describes the reasons behind the widespread corporate failure to successfully execute strategies, and presents a practical approach for companies and agencies to become his vision of The Focused Organization.’

Russell D. Archibald, Honorary Fellow APM/IPMA, PMI Fellow, PMP and author of Managing High-Technology Programs and Project


‘In his new book, The Focused Organization, Antonio Nietro-Rodriguez brilliantly describes some significant problems in many organizations today and offers a simple yet profound solution – increased focus on those few projects that are most important. He explains how this can be accomplished, using clear examples and practical steps. This is a powerful book that will help many executives and businesses. Outstanding!’

David Pells, Managing Editor, Project Management World


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By Greg Balestrero


When I reflect back on 2011, I will probably remember it as a year like any other year: big news, small news, and no news, all wrapped into 12 months. October 12th, at first, seemed like it was no different than any other morning. I woke up that morning, like every morning since, before dawn to see the sun rise, and breathe in the new day. I follow a routine of coffee and news. However, what made that morning different was that the press was full of information about Apple®. Steve Jobs had recently died, and every publication from The Economist, to local tabloids had obituaries and tributes to this great genius of the technology world. But amid all the tributes was the buzz about his loss to Apple®: could Apple® survive without him? Was it his genius that made things happen? Did he direct the company and oversee every single major product launch? His funeral had just been held, and the press was on the attack.

It seemed that the press was wrong; it had to be. You see, on that day, the tributes were printed side-by-side with the news of the new iPhone 4s. Only 6 days after Jobs death, Apple® launched the iPhone 4s…and sold 4.5 million units in the first weekend. Even with the press pining away that it was not the “5,” initial sales were nearly double the number of iPhone 4 models in its first weekend of sales. WOW! Now, you would think that the markets would be excited about this great news, and that the stock would soar. But the opposite occurred. The stock value had steadily fallen since Jobs’ death, with confidence in the company on the decline. That “buzz” I mentioned earlier was not just idle chat. It went to the heart of Apple’s® ability to survive without ONE man…their “genius.” Only time will tell what is to become of APPLE without Jobs at the helm.

It made me think about all of the companies and executives that I have met around the globe over the last 2 decades. The truth is that the really successful companies, and they were a minority, were driven through strategy; they incorporated strong, powerful teams to drive strategic change, whether it was opening into a new market, introducing a new product or product line, or restructuring an organization. It was never about one man….it was about one focus, and that focus was strategic change. I have too many stories of highly-successful government and business leaders alike confirming with me that the truly successful shift occurring in organizations today was a focus on specific results, with the assets of the organizations being aligned to achieve strategic change. Those organizations that did not focus on strategic results struggled, and in many cases failed. Those that did focus on strategic results survived, and in most cases excelled.

This trend wasn’t minor; it is happening across the globe. Nor was it limited to the manufacturing sector. For example, the widening of the Panama Canal is an extraordinary of how the country of Panama has maintained the budget and schedule of one of the most complex projects in the world, in preparation for its grand opening on 2014. Panama recognized that the Canal was its greatest source of revenue and one of the most critical links in the global supply chain. Panama did this through world-class project and program management. In less than four years BMW redesigned all of its car and motorcycle models, introducing new engines, new technologies, opening new plants to produce them. They did all of this while dramatically increasing stock value and sales. Were these achievements about the work of one man, one man directing an entire organization? Hardly! In every case it was all about strategic focus and disciplined project, program and portfolio management.

These organizations were structured and focused along strategic lines. Their resources and human capital were aligned with a clear sense of mission and a sense of urgency that is not lost on any day in any week. And this is what breeds success…when everyone in the organization is focused on success. I wish I could say that these successful organizations were universal, that the status of all organizations across the globe were focused only on strategic results and maintained project, program and portfolio management as a core, strategic competency. Unfortunately, I can’t say that. Yes it is a trend; that I can confirm. But too much work is left to be done. The university system globally has been slow to respond, and companies have been cautious of major change. But the trends are there, and a set of new strategic management tools need to be continually added to the corporate tool box to help companies excel.

Books are one of these tools. I have been asked to read and comment on many books. And I do this with an eagerness and enjoyment, since I learn and grow by reading and seeing the work of the creative people in the project management community. When Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez asked me to review his book, though hesitant, I was again eager to see if I could learn from him. I not only learned, but resonated on the framework he has built in his book. He shares his experience and research on the FOCUSED organization; it mirrors what I have seen.

His book actually takes two paths. Upfront, he outlines the dilemma of why he feels organizations have not adopted these principles quickly enough. He shares his own experiences and research. And then he takes us on a journey of discovery, where he explains in detail, how successful companies have been winning the competitive battle through intentional strategic planning and change. He brings us through a step-wise analysis from reorganizing and refocusing projects (“less is more”…fewer projects, driven out of strategy); aligning staff and resources along strategic rather than operational lines; maintaining a sense of urgency while never losing sight of the competition; and always holding the organization accountable for success and performance excellence.

Yes, Antonio is on to something. Personally, I think we have no choice but to read this book and respond to it. Whether you agree to his approach or not is not the issue. You don’t really have time to stay within your own world to address today’s challenges. Is it a cliché to say that the world is changing in a radically different way, faster and more unpredictably than before? And that we must act more quickly to change? Hardly…the truth is, we must respond, we must act, and we must act now.

Take a look at the differences that separate our world today from our past. Let’s start with delivering value and impact in the highest state of uncertainty since the industrial revolution. The latest global census reminds us that population growth was understated and the planet will reach 10 billion in population by 2050, a planet that cannot deliver the food, water and energy to support its current population. Today, across the globe, our “new demographic” of early 20 year olds are facing the highest unemployment rate of any similar demographic in the last century, with a fragile, fickled global economy that seems on the brink of disaster every day . Organizational leaders are expected to have impact in a world of paradoxes…turn on a dime, but do it with fiscal discipline; deliver on the needs before they materialize, but do it with predictable processes; and if it fails, don’t take much time to do forensics, but yet be transparent and accountable.

Is this an environment when we should be cautious and hesitant? Or is it time to seek out new ideas, robust ideas, and consider new ways of structuring for success. I, like Antonio, think it is time to change so that we can succeed in a radically different world. The pace is breathtaking, so read, consider, and learn; but above all, we all must ACT, and we must ACT Now.

Order the book: The Focused Organization

Benny’s Tale


The year was 1913, and the global economy had begun to recover after a more than decade-long economic crisis. The public sector was pumping money into the economy like never before. Spare Parts Benny, Inc., a spare parts production company founded three years prior by Benny White, with loans of $600, was booming.

Benny started his business in an old hut close to his home, with a team of five workers and one machine that produced spare parts – cylinders and valve gears – for the assembly of trains in the southwestern United States. Because the company was the first in the area to specialize in spare parts, Benny benefited from first-mover advantage. Benny was extremely focused on his business, determined to make it a success. He received many orders very quickly, as there was a huge demand to reconstruct the country’s infrastructure.

After only two years in the business, Spare Parts Benny, Inc. had more than 200 employees and five production machines. Concurrently, Benny began producing special parts for cars, at that time a new gadget for Americans. The first such vehicle, introduced by the Ford Motor Company on 1 October 1908, was called the Model T.

In the early 1910s, Benny White was one of the most successful businessmen in the United States. Not only had he established six factories throughout the country, employing more than 3,000 people, he was also selling his quality products to customers both in his country and abroad. His turnover had multiplied by 20 since he started his business, with consistent double-growth digits year after year. Benny’s ambition was to become one of the largest spare parts producers in the world, a goal that was already within reach …

Read the whole of Benny’s Tale and trace the ideas developed in The Focused Organization through the story of The Evolution of Spare Parts Benny, Inc. on pages 169–208.

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