SFGate recently reported on the management philosophy of David Sokol, one of Buffett's highly-praised business managers. While noting that details can be found in Sokol's book, Pleased but Not Satisfied, the article itself summarizes a few of the lessons. Regarding minimizing mistakes, for example, it says:
In Sokol's mind, operational excellence consists of paying attention to detail and minimizing the making of mistakes or other small problems that could turn into big issues. For example, some oil companies have been cited numerous times for a lack of attention to seemingly small manners, and that have resulted in oil pipeline leaks or oil well explosions. In many cases, these damaging events might have been less severe, or could even been prevented with attention to seemingly minor maintenance activities. Because of a lack of attention to detail, the last oil company might experience huge declines in its reputation and profits. Openness and candidness are other key ingredients to excellence, according to Sokol. In his words, "the more uncomfortable the situation, the more valuable a candid conversation becomes."There's nothing revolutionary there; it's really just the basics. But actually doing what is "basic" is another story. And Buffett loves those who do the basics well, decade after decade.