My Collaboration with Jerry Zimmerman on "Relentless"

Our collaboration began in the fall of 1997 when Daniel Forrester entered the MBA program at the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business where took courses from Jerold Zimmerman. Upon graduation, Daniel went on to a successful consulting career specializing in corporate culture and founding THRUUE, Inc. Decades later, Forrester reached out to Zimmerman for some expert feedback on a challenging consulting case. Zimmerman helped Daniel reformulate the problem from multiple dimensions. At the end of the call, Zimmerman mentioned a manuscript that he was working on that explored a unique set of atypical organizations that would outlast Goldman Sachs and Google. Forrester was immediately interested. Aft er reading early chapters of what became Relentless, the two went back and forth on emails and phone calls for the better part of a year. Much of the book's content on culture is the direct result of Daniel's expertise and practical experience in helping clients understand and improve their corporate culture.



The Forensics of Mobsters’ Business Practices



Every day, iconic brands like J.C. Penny, Sears, Kodak, and Blockbuster vanish. Jeff Bezos himself predicts that Amazon will eventually go bankrupt.1 While once exemplary lawful firms fail, El Chapo Guzmán, convicted head of the Sinaloa Cartel, and his wife launch their high-profile “El Chapo 701” fashion clothing line. Managers in lawful companies face disruptive technologies, groundbreaking new products, and competition from entrants that challenge their survival. Every organization must manage its way through a rapidly changing environment. Yet some organized crime syndicates endure decades despite massive law enforcement efforts and rival gangs dedicated to their daily demise..

Using rigorous economic analysis, we analyze how these criminal organizations survive, and even thrive, whereas legal companies that play by the rules falter and often fail.


Relentless offers the first economics-based forensic investigation of the corporate governance practices that contribute to the persistence and success of organized crime. We draw on seventy-five years of Nobel-prize-winning economics research that teaches what all organizations, both lawful and unlawful, must do to survive.2 They must have leaders who think carefully about how to align the organization’s business strategy and employee empowerment, incentives, and corporate culture. This means addressing the following questions:

All organizations must have four, economics-based, coordinated administrative systems that (1) delegate specific tasks to individuals or teams (empowerment), (2) measure the performance of those assigned the tasks, (3) reward/punish these individuals, and (4) create a corporate culture that supports the strategy. We refer to these four key systems as an organization’s Four Pillars. Every building serves a unique purpose. A factory, a skyscraper, a hotel, and a home requires underlying pillars to support the edifice. Structural engineers design the pillars based on the unique characteristics of the building. So too do law-abiding leaders. They develop unique strategies that encapsulate their organization’s core competencies and market opportunities. Given their one-of-a-kind strategy, they must construct Four Pillars to execute the strategy.

Relentless ’ forensics uncovers the Four Pillars deployed by four criminal organizations: the American Mafia (dating back to the 1920s), the Sinaloa Cartel (dating back to the 1920s), the Hells Angels (founded in the 1950s), and the Crips and the Bloods (founded in the 1960s). Collectively, we have eighty years of research and interactions analyzing the Four Pillars of hundreds of lawful companies. We utilize the same methodology to reveal the Four Pillars of mobsters using their personal biographies, numerous organized crime books, academic studies of crime syndicates, media stories, and personal interviews with prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys.

Our economic biopsy of the four crime syndicates finds that mobsters’ Four Pillars, while unique in many ways, have produced durable organizations. Surprisingly, all four syndicates attracted the right people—those committed to their principles and practices—to create resourceful, market-obsessed, and relentless, high-performance teams. These teams built strong and lasting brands and formed persistent corporate cultures with unique norms, values, and behaviors.

Leaders in all environments must develop distinctive corporate strategies and then choose the level of empowerment, incentives, and corporate culture to achieve their missions.

Why Mobsters?

Although lawful and unlawful businesses differ in important ways, both must carefully design Four Pillars matched to their strategies. Criminals deploy far more than violence to achieve their ends. Successful crime leaders must think carefully about aligning their strategies with best practices. They devise elaborate written codes of conduct that delineate and enforce acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. They establish intricate initiation rituals to instill desirable, if immoral, values and cull unwanted members. Others devise well-defined succession plans to ensure continued leadership if bosses are killed or imprisoned. Many display unrelenting resourcefulness in finding new, lucrative illicit rackets.

Our forensic study of surviving criminal organizations offers vivid examples of the importance of aligning strategy and the Four Pillars. Getting this alignment right often means the difference among success, failure, and survival. The four organized crime syndicates represent gripping examples of how mobsters create cultures that take a long-term view, thereby promoting the syndicate’s survival. We seek to make two essential points for lawful managers. First, an organization’s Four Pillars drive its success and survivability. Second, lawful managers must design the Four Pillars that uniquely and jointly execute their strategy. Although criminals and lawful managers deploy very different sets of Four Pillars, both must follow the same economic principles in designing them. Relentless expounds these general economic principles in the context of mobsters.

Unique Features of Relentless

Available for Purchase January 2021


"In war, the better led, more effectively run team wins, regardless of moral right or wrong. In Relentless, we get a fascinating window into the murky world of organized crime – from the Mafia to Drug Cartels – and find that the same hold true. As mundane as it sounds, the frightening bosses who orchestrate the wrongdoing that simultaneously terrifies and mesmerizes us are, in the end, talented leaders and managers. There’s much we can learn from them."

General Stanley McChrystal
Former commander of US and International Security Assistance Forces Afghanistan and the former commander of Joint Special Operations Command

"This intriguing and thoughtful book illustrates the power of sound economic thinking in understanding organizations. It takes the concepts that help us understand successful business enterprises and shows that the same concepts are at work in successful criminal enterprises. In so doing it validates the power of the underlying economic concepts while offering a fascinating window into some of the most long-lived criminal organizations."

Charles Plosser
Former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

"Drawing on insights from perhaps the most unlikely of sources—organized crime—Jerold Zimmerman, the co-architect of organizational architecture theory, and Daniel Forrester, CEO of THRUUE Inc. provide unique insights of how effective leaders rely on both incentives and values/culture to build successful organizations. Because mobs must overcome so many challenges in order to succeed, Relentless provides especially compelling illumination of the Zimmerman-Forrester valuable leadership model."

Mark Zupan
Alfred University

"Focusing on what make mobster enterprises successful and what leads to their failures, Zimmerman and Forrester provide an intriguing economic analysis of organized crime enterprises and derive corporate governance lessons that are applicable to legitimate enterprises."

Thomas Z. Lys
Eric L. Kohler Professor Emeritus
Kellogg School of Management
Northwestern University

"Relentless provides a vivid reminder that long-term survival of any business, legitimate or illegitimate, requires creative thinking and adherence to key business principles."

Cliff Owens
Vice President (retired)

"Relentless deploys the novel device of comparing subjects that on the surface seem to have little in common—lawful and unlawful organizations— to identify important management principles while educating the reader about life and leadership in the criminal underworld. In this regard, Zimmerman and Forrester have really hit the mark. And they do all of this in a highly entertaining manner. Well done."

Graham McDonald
Senior Vice President (Retired)
Great-West Financial

"Relentless is thought provoking and very enlightening in terms of driving managers of lawful organizations to really understand the essential elements of management and leadership and how they must be tailored to their unique circumstances."

Jay Busch
Former President
Triax Telecommunications

2 The economics research and conceptual framework underpinning Relentless is based on J. Brickley, C. Smith, and J. Zimmerman, Managerial Economics and Organizational Architecture (7th ed.; New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2020).


Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization



“STOP, THINK, AND DON’T DO SOMETHING STUPID!” This is the warning Dr. Robert Bea drills into his Civil and Environmental Engineering students at the University of California in Berkeley. Bea wants to dramatize what he terms the inevitable “oh shit” moments that present themselves-before an actual engineering calamity like the Deepwater Horizon/BP disaster happens.

There’s an intangible and invisible marketplace within our lives today where the products traded are four fold: attention, distraction, data and meaning. The stories and examples within Consider demonstrate that the best decisions, insights, ideas and outcomes result when we take sufficient time to think and reflect. While technology allows us to act and react more quickly than ever before, we are taking increasingly less time to consider our decisions before we make them.

Reflection supplies an arsenal of ideas and solutions to the right problems. Including interviews with leaders such as General David Petraeus, attorney Brooksley Born and global investor Kyle Bass, Forrester shows us that taking time and giving ourselves the mental space for reflection can mean the difference between total success and total failure.


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A Potent Remedy for "Data Mania"
By Russell Piersonon March 4, 2012


“With lucid, relevant examples snatched from the headlines, Forrester makes the compelling case that as the speed and volume of data has increased in the Internet Age, our bias toward action has led to colossal oversights, from the global economic crisis to the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf. He further offers practical ways to integrate small bits of time for reflection....” Read More

Thinking DOES have value!
By GCMJon February 28, 2011


“As one who consults frequently in the corporate world, I found this book important for a
few reasons. Today's corporate environment has become dominated by perception. The idea that your superior's and peer's perception of you is what determines your status and future earnings
potential within the organization....” Read More

In Pursuit of Excellence
By Matton February 4, 2011


“In 'Consider', Daniel does an amazing job of establishing the importance of think-time. Many of us strive to be excellent in both our professional and personal lives. As Daniel points out, excellence is extremely difficult if we allow ourselves to be governed by busyness.....” Read More

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