Getting things done, The Godfather way: Lessons in organization from Don Corleone
I’m a big fan of both The Godfather movie and the Getting Things Done process of personal productivity that David Allen has created. One of the things that Allen says is that GTD is really a combination of techniques we all do to some extent or another, only formalized and systematized. When I recently re-watched The Godfather I noted just how organized Don Vito Corleone was, and how these skills kept his empire going. So here are examples of some of his approaches that I think are equally applicable to getting things done, no matter what your job or business is:
Delegate to people you trust.
“Give this to ah, Clemenza. I want reliable people; people that aren’t gonna be carried away. I’m mean, we’re not murderers, despite of what this undertaker says.”
The Don obviously can’t do everything, so he had built a network of button men and trusted lieutenants to execute his orders. If you don’t have a team of top people you can call upon, start building one – even if they don’t report to you it’s good to have quality people around you when help is needed.
Don’t get sloppy.
We saw the Don got old and started to not pay attention to the details – it almost cost him his life. While you might not have to worry about hit-men around every corner, you do have to worry about the quality of your work and how it is viewed by superiors. In the days of 10% unemployment, it is not what have you done, it’s what have you done for me lately. Keep that quality up – it may help you keep your position.
Have a trusted advisor.
The Don always had a consiglieri, someone who could give him advice on matters both business and personal. This is something we ALL need in life – be it a spouse, a business partner, a friend. Always have someone by your side close enough and honest enough to question what you are doing. It keeps you humble, and helps you make better decisions.
Do your best, but don’t fret if things don’t work out.
The Don actually broke this rule, one he followed throughout his life, towards the end of his days (“Not enough time, Michael. Note enough time.”) But, if things don’t work out the way you expect, don’t linger. There’s plenty of other deals and things to do – don’t get upset if everything doesn’t work out 100% of the time.
Be prepared to say no.
We saw this when Don Vito said not to the Turk about his proposed narcotics deal. Even though Narcotics was a thing of “the future”, he saw more downside than upside to the family business. He said no, and explained his reasons. Which brings us to…
Do what works for you, not someone else.
The Don was a natural leader, and followed his instincts and gut. Can you imagine Vito changing his ways to fit in? Of course not – he lived his life his way, and even said he didn’t want to be “dancing on the string, held by all those big shots.” He had a strong sense of what worked for him and what didn’t. In other words, to thine own self be true.
Don Vito, at the meetings of the Five Families, paid attention to what people said and to body language. This is how he figured out that “Tattaglia’s a pimp — he never’a could’ve outfought Santino. But I didn’t know until this day that it was — Barzini all along…”
Yes, vengeance was taken on the five families, but if you’ll note Don Vito said that the peace he brokered would never be broken “while he was alive.” It was, of course, broken after he passed away. So, even if you ARE planning vengeance… be honest about it… even if you aren’t being completely forthright.
Share the success.
The Don offered favors, but not freely – he always said that such favors may someday need to be returned. This is something that is more of a networking strategy than an organizational strategy, but many times to get things done you need help – having favors that can be called in at a crucial moment is sometimes more valuable than all the gold in the world.