Tag Archives: Ackoff

Ackoff’s New Book: Management f-Laws

Russell Ackoff is in London promoting his new book: Management f-Laws (see previous post: Ackoff’s F-laws: Common Sins of Management). A BBC article captures some of some of the great ideas from one of his talks (more articles… by Ackoff). How to avoid the fatal F-Laws by Peter Day:

“Companies and organisations get things wrong most of the time,” he said.

“The average life of a US corporation is only 11-and-a-half years, the rate of bankruptcy is increasing very year. There’s a great deal of evidence that we don’t know how to manage organisations very effectively.

“The F-Laws are simply based on observations over the year about regularities which are destructive to organisations.”

As always he is insightful and not afraid to shake up conventional wisdom.
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Ackoff’s F-laws: Common Sins of Management

Russ Ackoff once again does a great job of providing insight into management. I highly recommend A Little Book of f-Laws [the broken link was removed] where Ackoff, with Herbert Addison and Sally Bibb, present 13 common sins of management, such as:

Managers who don’t know how to measure what they want settle for wanting what they can measure

See: Deming’s thoughts on unknown and unknowable figures. A book with over 80 management flaws (er I mean f-Laws) will be published in January – you can even submit your own [the broken link was removed].

Related: Ackoff articles and booksblog posts on Ackoff’s ideasManagement Advice Failures
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Ackoff, Idealized Design and Bell Labs

Excerpt from Idealized Design: How to Dissolve Tomorrow’s Crisis…Today by Russell L. Ackoff, Jason Magidson and Herbert J. Addison: How Bell Labs Imagined — and Created — the Telephone System of the Future in the 1950s.

Great stuff and another example showing the obsession with “new” ideas is wasteful.

Idealized design is a way of thinking about change that is deceptively simple to state: In solving problems of virtually any kind, the way to get the best outcome is to imagine what the ideal solution would be and then work backward to where you are today. This ensures that you do not erect imaginary obstacles before you even know what the ideal is.

A simple idea, and a powerful one too. Ackoff always presents his ideas very well, in this book, and in many articles by Dr. Ackoff available online. I still remember Dr. Ackoff’s presenting this material at a Hunter conference years ago – great stuff.
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Who Influences Your Thinking?

Comments on Who Influences Your Thinking? [broken link removed] – Survey results [broken link removed]

> 1. Are people getting most of their information
> from other sources?
That would be my guess.

Similar to the phenomenon of “the long tail” which is an interesting topic in its own right. We tend to focus on the popular few (books, musicians, movies, authors, computer programs…) but often the sum of the less popular many is more significant. See:

  • The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson, Wired, Oct 2004 “The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon’s book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are”
  • Continued discussion of the Amazon figures in a Chiris Anderson’s blog. “I’ve now spoken to Jeff Bezos (and others) about this. He doesn’t have a hard figure for the percentage of sales of products not available offline, but reckons that it’s closer to 25-30%.”
  • The long tail – a secret sauce for companies like Amazon.com, Netflix and Apple Computer, Motley Fool, NPR Audio Recording

Getting back to the question raised by the “Who Influences Your Thinking” post; More importantly I believe they (we) are just failing to get all we should.
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Designing a New Organization

re: What about Designing New Organizations?

Guidance for “designing a new organisation and not for analysis of an existing one?” (edited)

I would add Russell Ackoff to the top of the list of those to consult. Start with his book Re-Creating the Corporation and continue to quite a few of his other books. After Ackoff, I would look to Deming and Senge. Other interesting folks would be Dee Hock, Brian Joiner, Peter Scholtes, Robert Rodin…

Few truly think about designing a new organization. Most people are interested in how to improve their existing organization. Therefore, it follows most people interesting in having an effect in the real world have focused on how to help those who are looking to be helped. Ackoff has done a huge amount of work in idealized design and thinking about the big ideas that can drive dramatic change. His ideas are exceptional. He even offers a plan for modeling the idealized organization and then a plan for how to transform the organization based on practical ideas that are feasible in the real world.

Deming’s ideas are very difficult to fit into most existing organizations easily because they require so many changes in the traditional style of management. However in designing a new organization from scratch you can adopt many of the ideas from the beginning. Free, Perfect and Now, by Robert Rodin, is a great book showing the adoption of these ideas by a company. When the leader is convinced it is possible to transform an existing company.

For a manufacturing organization I would look to Lean ideas (Toyota and Womack). Lean thinking is, of course, valuable to any organization but especially so in manufacturing.

You can find more on the ideas of those I list above through the Curious Cat Management Improvement Library.

John Hunter