How Game of Thrones can deliver better business results.

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Surely you’ve heard of Game of Thrones.

Even if you’ve successfully avoided its diabolical gravitational pull, you’ve heard the buzz. As the weather turns, someone close to you will suggest you skip the errands, ship the kids to the grandparents and binge on a few seasons GoT.


Winter is coming…


Afterwards, you’ll feel many emotions: disgust, fear, anxiety, shock and awe. But Game of Thrones can help you and your team on the job.


For example, does your team have their own motto?

A formal, written tagline to guide behavior?

You should.


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The House Stark motto is the aforementioned Winter is coming.

In Westeros, winters can last a decade. If you always believe Winter is coming, that will affect the way you make decisions, regardless of what the weather looks like today.


The House Lannister has an unofficial, yet frequently spoken, motto: A Lannister always pays his debts.

The Lannisters may lie, cheat and murder… and their sibling affection may extend a bit too far, but a Lannister always pay his debts. This famous motto guides the thinking and behavior of Lannisters and non-Lannisters alike. At least in one dimension, you know what you’re getting with the Casterly Rock crew.


Follow the GoT lead and clarify your own House motto. If you don’t, the team will develop an informal one anyway.


In the heady days of 2003-2006 when J.D. Powers was handing out $3K trophies to Home Builders (and training & consulting on how to win J.D. Powers and $3K trophies), the motto was “Customer Delight.”


Whatever the issue, a cost/benefit analysis on Customer Delight was conducted. Among other things, this led to Norah Jones during final walk-throughs (not the real human, as far as I know. Just her voice on CD.), warm cookies at sales centers and very few No answers to homebuyers.


After 2008, the motto transitioned to Reduce house cost.

Whatever the issue, the focus was reducing the cost to build a house.


Challenge: Steel prices are rising.

Answer: Reduce house cost. 

Action Item: Find savings somewhere to offset rising steel prices.


Sometimes these mottos were formal.

Other times not.


If you’d like a shortcut to a great team motto, look to Peter Palchinsky. Palchinsky led his own real-life version of Game of Thrones as an oft-dissenting Russian engineer under Stalin.


Stalin didn’t like dissenters.

Palchinsky was exiled twice and murdered once.


In between exiles, Palchinsky annoyed the Bolsheviks by sharing his views on real-world problems and their complexity. PP argued problems have a human dimension. He emphasized the local dimensions of problem-solving.


Driving Business Performance


Things change fast.

You know this.

Your team does too.

That’s why mottos help guide behavior.


In his solid book, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure, author Tim Harford shares the Peter Palchinsky Principles:

  1. Seek out new ideas and try new things.
  2. When trying new things, do it on a scale where failure is survivable.
  3. Seek out feedback and learn from your mistakes.


The House Palchinksy motto can be shortened:

Try the new, make them survivable, learn from mistakes.

Not a bad starter motto.


Whether or not you formalize your team mottos, they’re there.

They exist. Talk about them with your team.


Amidst all the drama in your business, mottos can help align behavior.

Schedule a Motto Meeting for next week.


Winter is coming…



Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (, a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish (and a bit of Polish…) language gap in the construction industry.    

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Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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2 replies


  1. The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword… « the red angle
  2. No mystery: 3 ways you can improve your jobsite by watching Sherlock. « the red angle

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