Monday, July 7, 2008

Up the Organization Robert Townsend.

New York: Alfred A. Knopf

Why read it? A common-sense (to me) book abut how to help organizations succeed by treating employees as people, not "personnel." Townsend's theme is getting things done through organizations. The best leader is the one who, when people are successful, they say, "We did it" and do not know they have been led. Decisions are made by one person who is in charge, but the leadership can be transferred from one person to another depending on the situation, the types of problems and the decisions that have to be made. The model for organizations is a round table. Stop using the organizational system of the Catholic Church and the Roman legions.

The author seems to stand conventional wisdom on its head. Most organizations don't change. Most organizations go on and on in the same ways, ways that eventually make the organizations no longer effective. CEOs should leave after five or six years because they become stale and ritual believers in their own cliches, even if their ideas in the beginning were revolutionary.

Ideas and quotes for discussion:
"Fear of punishment is not an effective motivator."

"The best objectives are short enough to be memorable and don't have to be written down."

"The best organizations put people in a position to grow."

"Tight budgets may constrain, but they produce creative ways to achieve results."

"You have to give up being an administrator who loves to run others and become a manager who carries water for his people so they can get on with the job."

"People don't hate work. It's as natural as rest or play. They don't have to be forced or threatened. If they commit themselves to mutual objectives, they'll drive themselves more effectively than you can drive them. But they'll commit themselves only to the extent they can see ways of satisfying their egos and development needs."

"People who are good at what they do in the field may not be good managers, a leadership position that involves a different set of skills."

"Admit mistakes openly." The author says that 2/3 of the decisions he made at Avis were mistakes.

"The greatest sin is hubris, becoming overconfident when things are going well."

Two types of meetings: information and problem-solving. End on time or earlier. One-page minutes on the same day of the meeting. Don't announce what you're going to do. Gives people time to build up their resistance. Just do it.

"A good manager doesn't try to eliminate conflict; he tries to keep it from wasting the energies of the people."

Keep copies of the worst letters written by employees and rewrite them. After collecting a dozen or so, talk to your employees about how you improved them. Their letters will get better.

"Ideas are good for a limited time--not forever."

Lao-Tzu: "As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate...."

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