Tag Archives: Books

Maslow on Dealing with Authoritarians

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is well known as a fundamental principle of human psychology. Maslow also said: “It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Maslow on Management is a great book I was referred to by Kelly Allan. The following quote, from page 92, is quite dramatic and showed an understanding that some people (many CEOs) will just take what isn’t theirs, if others don’t stand up to them.

The correct thing to do with authoritarians is to take them realistically for the bastards that they are and then behave toward them as if they are bastards. That is the only realistic way to treat bastards. If one smiles and assumes that trusting them and giving them the key to the pantry is going to reform them suddenly, then all that will happen is the silver will get stolen, and, also, they will become contemptuous of the “weak” Americans whom they see as spineless, stupid, unmasculine sheep to be taken advantage of… only then… could I teach them… that it is possible for a boss, a strong man, a man with a fist, to be kind, gentle, permissive, trusting, and so on.

Strong language, but what those authoritarians do when they rip apart companies and people lives to serve their own vanity deserves strong words. And unfortunately we have far too few people willing to stand up to the bullies ripping apart our companies. Respect for people, doesn’t mean letting people get away with bad behavior.

Related: How Private Equity Strangled MervynsExecutives Again Treating Corporate Treasuries as Their Money (it isn’t)Five Managerial Fallacies Concerning LayoffsPreaching False Ideas to Men Known to be Idiots

Best Selling Books In the Curious Cat Bookstore

The most popular books in July at Curious Cat Books were, Statistics for Experiments (1st edition), followed by Statistics for Experiments (2nd edition) and the Leader’s Handbook by Peter Scholtes. These books are great, I am happy others have been finding them and reading them. Statistics for Experimenters is co-authored by my father.

Top sellers so far this year (adding together all editions, including Kindle):
1) The Leader’s Handbook
2) Statistics for Experimenters
3) New Economics
4) Abolishing Performance Appraisals
5) The Team Handbook
6) Out of the Crisis

The Leader’s Handbook is far away in the lead. The order of popularity on Amazon overall: 1) Out of the Crisis, 2) New Economics, 3) The Team Handbook, 4) Abolishing Performance Appraisals, 5) Statistics for Experimenters and 6) The Leader’s Handbook. The only thing that surprises me with the overall numbers is the Leader’s Handbook. The Amazon rankings are hugely biased by recent activity (it isn’t close to a ranking of sales this year). Still I expected the Leader’s Handbook would rank very well. It is the first book I recommend for almost any situation (the only exceptions are if there is a very specific need – for example Statistics for Experimenters for multi-factorial designed experiments or The Improvement Guide for working on the process of improvement.

My guess is Curious Cat site users (and I am sure a fair number of people sent by search engines) are much more likely to buy those books I recommend over and over. Still many books I don’t promote are bought and some books I recommend consistently don’t rack up many sales through Curious Cat.

I started this as a simple Google+ update but then found it interesting enough to expand to a full post. Hopefully others find it interesting also.

Related: Using Books to Ignite ImprovementWorkplace Management by Taiichi OhnoProblems with Management and Business BooksManagement Improvement Books (2005)

The aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men

The aim of leadership should be to improve the performance of man and machine, to improve quality, to increase output, and simultaneously to bring pride of workmanship to people. Put in a negative way, the aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men, but to remove the causes of failure: to help people to do a better job with less effort.

W. Edwards Deming, page 248, Out of the Crisis

This is a great quote, from Deming’s classic Out of the Crisis. He continues with the following lines:

Actually, most of this book is involved with leadership. Nearly every page heretofore and hereafter states a principles of good leadership of man and machine or shows an example of good or bad leadership.

I recommend Out of the Crisis for those that are serious about improving management. The book isn’t as easy to read as some management books, but the value within its covers is enormous. Deming’s 14 points for management are meant to help tie together various ideas (they not meant to be complete as a stand alone list). The 14 points were included in Out of the Crisis. He evolved to explaining his management ideas using the system of profound knowledge as a better way to capture the systemic nature of the management system. Dr. Deming’s point number 7 (in his 14 points) was to “Adopt and institute leadership for the management of people, recognizing their different abilities, capabilities, and aspiration.” His quote above explains that leadership was not some idea of being charismatic or commanding or the like but leading a system of people using all the ideas laid out in Out of the Crisis (many of which people don’t usually think of when thinking of leadership – such as using control charts).

Far too many leaders think their role is to hold people accountable. Such thinking shows much that is wrong with those that seek simple answers instead of improvement.

Related: Management and Leadership quotes by Dr. Deming The Best Leadership Is Good ManagementProblems with Management and Business BooksLeadership is the act of making others effective in achieving an aim.The Leader’s Handbook

Problems with Management and Business Books

We really need to change how we improve the practice of management. Far too often management strategies are just the latest fad from some new book that successfully marketed an idea. The marketing effectiveness of a book, or consultant, has very limited correlation to their ability to improve management, in my experience. It is often true that they make very good keynote speakers, however. So if you want an entertaining keynote speaker looking at the authors of the best selling business books may make sense. But if you want to improve management, I don’t see much value in doing so.

Year after year we have the same basic business books repackaged and marketed. They present a magic bullet to solve all your problems. Except their bullet is far from magic. Usually it does more harm than good.

They amazingly oversimplify things to make their bullet seem magic. This also fails miserably in practice. There are usually not good management options that are simple and easy. Usually the answers for what should be done is a lot of “it depends,” which people don’t seem to like.

Authors fail to place their book (or their trademarked strategy they hope turns into a movement/fad) in the appropriate context. Most books just take a few good ideas from decades old practices add a new name and leave off all references to the deep meaning that originally was there. I guess quite often the authors don’t even know enough about management history to know this is the case; I guess they really think their minor tweak to a portion of business process re-engineering is actually new. This also would make it hard for them to place their ideas within a management philosophy.

On a related note, I find it interesting how different the lean manufacturing and six sigma communities are online (and this has been going on for more than a decade). One of the problems with six sigma is there is so little open, building on the practices of six sigma. Everyone is so concerned with their marketing gimmick for six sigma that that don’t move forward a common body of work. This is a serious problem for six sigma. Lean manufacturing benefits hugely from the huge community of those building openly on the body of knowledge and practice of lean. You can find 10 great lean manufacturing blogs without trouble. You will have difficulty finding 3 good six sigma blogs (and even those spend most of the time on other areas – often lean thinking).
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The Achilles’ Heel of Agile

Guest post by Jurgen Appelo

When I wrote this, I was working in a big open office space in the Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam (see photo). About 100 people work in an office that was the first of its kind in Europe, when it was built in 1929. And more than 80 years later, architecture lovers from all over the world still come to admire it, take pictures, and make drawings. I sometimes waved at them.

photo of open office style at Van Nelle Office
Van Nelle office, reprinted by permission of Stephan Meijer

A big open office space has advantages and disadvantages. Advantages are flexibility and easy communication. The main disadvantage is that it is a shared resource for all who work there. Climate, sound, and light are hard to manage in a space like that, and the optimal configuration for the whole is never optimal for all. But our office manager did the best she could in trying to maximize pleasant working conditions, while maintaining tight rules to keep things under control. A shared open office is not the ideal environment to give people full responsibility over their own working space.

Self-organization is usually promoted in agile software development. But when shared resources are not managed by a central authority, self-organization often results in the Tragedy of the Commons. The name refers to a situation in which multiple self-organizing systems, all acting in their own self-interest, overexploit a shared limited resource, even when they all know it is not in anyone’s interest for this to happen. The impact that humanity has on CO2 levels in the air, trees in the forests, and fish in the sea, is right now the most debated and intensively researched case of the Tragedy of the Commons. Organizations also have shared resources, like budgets, office space, and system administrators. We could see them as the business-equivalent of the air we breathe, the landscape we change, and the fish we eat.

Research indicates that four ingredients (called the four I’s) are needed for sustainability of shared resources [Van Vugt 2009:42]:

  • Institutions [managers] who work on building trusting relationships between competing systems [teams] in order to increase acceptance of common rules;
  • Information that increases understanding of the physical and social environment, in order to reduce uncertainty (because uncertainty results in bias towards self-interest);
  • Identity, or a need for a social “belonging” that encompasses all participants, to improve and broaden one’s sense of community and reduce competition between teams;
  • Incentives that address the need to improve oneself, while punishing overuse and rewarding responsible use.

Research shows that it is imperative that there is some form of management (or governance) to protect these shared resources by working on these four I’s. (I realize that most modern day governments are not setting a good example of how to do that.) In the case of shared resources, whether it concerns money, space, or system administrators, someone outside of the development teams must keep an eye on long-term sustainability instead of short-term gains by individual teams.

The Tragedy of the Commons is the Achilles’ heel of Agile. It takes management to protect that heel, in order to prevent teams from depleting resources, and crippling the organization.

This article is an adaptation from Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders, by Jurgen Appelo. The book will be published by Addison-Wesley, in Mike Cohn’s Signature Series.

Related: Embrace Diversity, Erase Uniformitymanagement 3.0agile software development booksVW Phaeton assembly plant

Get Rid of the Performance Review

How Much Do You Hate Performance Reviews? by Bob Sutton

Deming emphasized that forced rankings and other merit ratings that breed internal competition are bad management because they undermine motivation and breed contempt for management among people who, at least at first, were doing good work.

If you want to read the most compelling and complete case against the traditional performance evaluation, however,I suggest that you pre-order UCLA Professor Sam Culbert’s new book Get Rid of the Performance Review. He first made this argument in the Wall Street Journal, but the book digs into this argument in far more detail and offers solutions for managers and companies who want to replace the traditional review — or at least reduce the damage that they do. To help spread the word about the book, and to find out if as many people despise the performance review as Sam (and I) believe, he has — a bit like the ARSE — designed a ten-item test called How Much Do You Hate Performance Reviews? I just took it and scored a 36, which means I really hate them.

Related: The Trouble with Performance Reviews by Jeffrey PfefferDeming and Performance AppraisalPerformance Appraisals, Good Execution is not the Solution?

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Creativity, Fulfillment and Flow

“After a certain basic point, which translates, more or less, to just a few thousand dollars above the minimum poverty level, increases in material well being don’t see to affect how happy people are.”

The speech includes, the first purpose of incorporation at Sony:

To establish a place of work where engineers can feel the joy of technological innovation, be aware of their mission to society, and work to their heart’s content.

Excellent books by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1991. People enter a flow state when they are fully absorbed in activity during which they lose their sense of time and have feelings of great satisfaction.
Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning.
Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1997. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with exceptional people, from biologists and physicists to politicians and business leaders to poets and artists, the author uses his famous “flow” theory to explain the creative process.

Related: Extrinsic Incentives Kill Creativityposts on psychology Interviews with InnovatorsInnovation StrategyThe Purpose of an OrganizationFlow

The Best Leadership Is Good Management

The Best Leadership Is Good Management by Henry Mintzberg

Let me suggest that you should, because what we’ve been calling a financial crisis is actually one of management. Corporate America has had too much of fancy leadership disconnected from plain old management.

How did this happen? It became fashionable some years ago to separate “leaders” from “managers”—you know, distinguishing those who “do the right things” from those who “do things right.” It sounds good. But think about how this separation works in practice. U.S. businesses now have too many leaders who are detached from the messy process of managing. So they don’t know what’s going on.

We’re overled and undermanaged. As someone who teaches, writes, and advises about management, I hear stories about this every day: about CEOs who don’t manage so much as deem—pronouncing performance targets, for instance, that are supposed to be met by whoever is doing the real managing.

Instead of distinguishing leaders from managers, we should encourage all managers to be leaders. And we should define “leadership” as management practiced well.

Very well said. I have never been comfortable with the attempts to separate leadership from managing. Normally the tone is that leadership is what matters and managing is just then carrying out what leaders have determined and allowed.

I understand why we focus some areas of management as in the area of leadership: it is hard to understand the whole all at once. We can make sense of things more easily by breaking them down (analysis) and speaking of aspects as within the realm of leadership is part of this. We can discuss certain traits as leadership-related. And we can discuss the difference between leadership and power based on position: so leaders within an organization separate from those with authority shown on the organizational chart. But I do not see management and leadership as separate things.

Books by Henry Mintzberg: Managing (2009)Managers Not MBAsThe Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning

Related: Akio Toyoda’s Message Shows Real LeadershipSeven Leadership Leverage PointsIf Your Staff Doesn’t Bring You Problems That is a Bad SignManagement Improvement Leaders
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In-N-Out Burger’s Six Secrets for Success

image of In-N-Out Burger book cover

In-N-Out Burger’s six secrets for out-and-out success

Listen to Your Customers — One of the company’s mottos is “Our customer is everything.” Applying that belief led to the company policy of preparing burgers just the way customers asked for them. Some of the customer favorites became popular and were eventually adopted as the restaurant chain’s “secret menu.” By listening to their customers, In-N-Out created menu choices other stores couldn’t duplicate.

Treat Employees Well — The Snyders always held their employees in high esteem, paying them higher wages than competitors and calling them associates to make them feel more connected to the franchise.

“They believed in sharing their success with their employees,” says Perman, noting that In-N-Out associates make $10 an hour working part-time and starting store managers make $100,000, plus bonuses tied to store performance. The company benefits package is also generous. Such treatment engenders loyalty from workers.

“They have the lowest turnover rate in the fast food industry, which is notorious for turnover,” says Perman. “They say that the average manager’s tenure is 14 years, but they have managers who have been there 30 or 40 years.”

Keep Things Simple and Consistent

The fundamental idea of respecting people is something most executives seem to have no interest in. Treating employees as the critical partners in organizational success is just something that doesn’t leap out at you based on the actions of most managers, unfortunately. And that poor management damages the performance of the organization.

Read more about In-N-Out Burger management practices in Stacy Perman’s new book In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules.

Related: Respect for Workers at In-N-Out Burger (Nov 2006)Building a Great WorkforceAnother Year of CEO’s Taking Hugely Excessive PayRespect for People, Understanding PsychologyPeople are Our Most Important Asset

Knowledge, Imagination, Innovation and Risk

A consumer can seldom say today what new product or new service would be desirable and useful to him three years from now, or a decade from now. New product and new types of service are generated, not by asking the consumer, but by knowledge, imagination, innovation, risk, trial and error on the part of the producer, backed by enough capital to develop the product or service and to stay in business during the lean months of introduction.

W. Edwards Deming
Page 182, Out of the Crisis
More of Deming on Innovation

Related: Innovation Thinking with Clayton ChristensenEngineering InnovationManaging InnovationGary Hamel on Management Innovation