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The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability Paperback – 25 Nov 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; Rev Upd edition (25 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591843480
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591843481
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 1.9 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 136,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

A revised and updated edition of the classic business management handbook suggests a program of personal accountability at each level of an organization and shows how executives can lead by example. 25,000 first printing. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 Sep 2005
Format: Hardcover
In this revised and updated edition, the co-authors share with their reader what they have learned since their book was first published in 1994. Then and now, their objectives are the same: "...to help people become more accountable for their thoughts, feelings, actions, and results; and so that they can move their organizations to even greater heights. And, as they move along this always difficult and often frightening path, we hope that they, like Dorothy and her companions, discover that they really do possess the skills they need to do whatever their hearts desire."

In this volume, Connors, Smith, and Hickman invoke once again a core concept of a "Line" below which many (most?) people live much (most?) of the time. Theirs is the attitude of victimization: They get stuck on a "yellow brick road" by blaming others for their circumstances; they wait for "wizards" to wave their magic wands; and they expect all of their problems to disappear through little (if any) effort of their own.

What to do? Connors, Smith, and Hickman explain (step-by-step) how to Live Above the Line by assuming much greater accountability for whatever results one may desire.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Oct 2004
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for a simple guide to a complex business and career problem, preferably a guide based on children's literature, this is for you. The consultant authors believe that a "victim" culture, consisting mainly of refusal to accept accountability, is one of the gravest problems facing businesses in general and business people in particular. The victim culture stalls organizations and individual careers. Therefore, this book offers a guide to overcoming your personal victim culture through various self-help techniques, and to overcoming organizational victim cultures by related managerial practices. We understand and advocates personal and corporate accountability, the underlying theme of the book. And if the Oz metaphor is, perhaps, a little stretched here, just go with it. The advice is sound enough. Then, like Dorothy, the tin man, the lion and the scarecrow, you, too, can journey down the Yellow Brick Road to a magic kingdom where your every wish will be granted. What more can you ask for in a business book?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kathy T on 21 Jun 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As I was reading this it was quickly obvious how I could use it in my own leadership practice and with clients. Useful, practical and an easily applicable model for challenging yourself about accountability and for helping others to look at these key issues.
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Amazon.com: 123 reviews
77 of 84 people found the following review helpful
Before Adopting This Book For Your Business... 22 Oct 2013
By William A. Reed - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Before adopting this for your business it is worth considering whether it will achieve your goals and if it will have unintended consequences.

One of the first things you may notice in this book is that the authors have trademarked the commercial use of the two phrases "above the line®" and "below the line®". The horizontal "line" separates two types of behavior and attitudes, which represents the OZ principle. This might be some indication of their intentions.

Above the line thinking is about being accountable and below the line thinking is about "the blame game". In other words, the authors posit that we live in a culture of entitlement and pseudo-victimization where we are motivated to avoid accountability and blame others for failure. Consequently, this book (and its associated training courses) is often selected by management to obtain more "accountability" (and less excuses) from their employees.

Such a simplistic formula with a few twists and many anecdotal stories provide the necessary fuel for a highly successful book as well as a robust training and consulting practice. But, the expected results for your organization may not live up to the hype. This should be somewhat obvious on critical reflection, if you believe that people are not nearly as one-dimensional as this approach suggests.

I am all for accountability but have some concerns with this approach. First, its all-encompassing, individually-focused assessment of attitudinal performance is grossly over-simplistic, but interestingly appealing to organizations that are seeking simple solutions to their performance problems. It also appears to satisfy a number of individuals and managers who find solace in uncomplicated prescriptions to guide their staff behaviors. But, if you adopt this approach, be sure your managers don't use it to silence your employees and essentially reduce all problems to a single cause by attributing the accountability to one person.

According to the authors, when individuals are "confused", adopt a "wait and see" position, or try to "cover their tail", they are acting below the line, which comes across as a pejorative if not an accusatory label. This attribution is based on the notion that members do have the power to perform above the line should they so choose. So it is always deemed to be the employee's fault. What is missing here is the possibility that problems might lay elsewhere (such as in processes, coordination, resources, etc.) or result from multiple causes.

Above the line behavior is described as steps to accountability, which include "see it", "own it", "solve it", and "do it". While this is rather basic, it could be valuable training for some, to focus on basic execution rather than being paralyzed by inaction.

More important though is the primary flaw in this theory, which is its failure to deal with the realities of power and control in organizational settings. While there is a brief mention of empowerment (p. 203) the authors imply that this is the fault of employees. "...employees allow themselves to feel like victims of managers, management behaves accordingly, and results get held hostage by indecision and inaction" (p. 204).

In reality, information, connections, and resources are also important keys to empowerment, but somehow employees are accountable for gaining access to these without upsetting existing organizational structures or fearing any potential punishment for coloring outside the lines.

Some readers may be confused about the authors' concept of "accountability" which is the core theme of the book. Managers typically hold employees accountable which is clearly an expression of power. Yet, it is unlikely that employees could be seen as holding their boss accountable, at least with any punitive force.

Consequently, the authors sidestep this issue by redefining the word "accountability" to be "a personal choice to rise above one's circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results" (p. 47).

However, simply redefining the word for their own use and pretending that it will somehow allow individuals to acquire resources and become accountable seems highly dubious. It is more likely that those with powerful positions will retain its pejorative use. In other words accountability is still a one way street in the land of OZ.

At the same time, the authors have a plan to "hold" employees accountable (now reverting to the traditional meaning of the word) by using a three step process (p. 192) that offers praise to employees who achieve specific measurable goals. While the employees may be invited to share in the goal setting, the asymmetrical availability of power and the ability to mete out rewards and punishments still reside with only one party.

Another underlying premise of this book is that individuals (whatever their position) are in complete control of the outcomes of their work. This is a long-held traditional view of organizations based on reductionist logic which has been significantly challenged in the Complexity literature (see my other reviews). In reality, very few substantive problems are the result of single causality.

To the extent that long-term outcomes are reliant on some forces beyond individual control, it is not just unfair to implement the version of accountability described in this book, but also possibly counterproductive. A better approach might be to drop the accountability rhetoric altogether and focus more on encouraging personal mastery, adaptation, and cooperative knowledge sharing. In other words, it is doubtful if the Oz principle is particularly good for accountability, motivation, or outcomes.

If you found this review useful, please click "Yes".
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Good points, but awkward analogy 2 April 2011
By Scott Yanoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This was one of those required reading books from work. The book is densely packed -- the hardcover version I have is 222 pages of average-sized type and little margin space. Each section starts with a blurb from the original text of The Wizard of Oz. Halfway through, I was skipping these hokey introductions. I thought that the idea of an analogy was a good one, but it was oddly executed. I don't know what other well-known book I would have used (although in general, I don't know how popular the book is compared to the movie), but perhaps an analogy is not even needed given their See It - Own It - Solve It - Do It mantra is so prevalent in the book (and trademarked).

The advice in the book is good for the most part. It revolves around accountability and how you can either be "Above The Line" or "Below The Line" with it, along with the mantra listed above.

I especially found the following tips noteworthy:
- Accountability is more than a confession.
- As accountability deepens and people move Above The Line within the organization, a shift occurs from the "tell me what to do," to "here is what I am going to do, what do you think?" -- a truly profound and empowering approach to getting results.
- One company president characterized what joint accountability meant to him this way: "Everyone working together so that we don't drop the ball; but when it does get dropped, everyone dives for the ball to pick it up."
- Owning one's circumstances did not mean accepting the perceptions of one's associates as total truth, but rather acknowledging a connection between one's behavior and their perceptions.

However, what would have pushed this book to receive a higher rating from me would have been fewer examples. The book is probably 95% examples, and while these are an excellent way to convey a point, there were so many that they became diluted. I would have found it more enjoyable to have a few memorable ones that I could look back on or use with my own employees rather than the dozens that repeat the same point continuously.
48 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Revised, Updated, and Invaluable 26 April 2004
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this revised and updated edition, the co-authors share with their reader what they have learned since their book was first published in 1994. Then and now, their objectives are the same: "...to help people become more accountable for their thoughts, feelings, actions, and results; and so that they can move their organizations to even greater heights. And, as they move along this always difficult and often frightening path, we hope that they, like Dorothy and her companions, discover that they really do possess the skills they need to do whatever their hearts desire."
In this volume, Connors, Smith, and Hickman invoke once again a core concept of a "Line" below which many (most?) people live much (most?) of the time. Theirs is the attitude of victimization: They get stuck on a "yellow brick road" by blaming others for their circumstances; they wait for "wizards" to wave their magic wands; and they expect all of their problems to disappear through little (if any) effort of their own.
What to do? Connors, Smith, and Hickman explain (step-by-step) how to Live Above the Line by assuming much greater accountability for whatever results one may desire. This can be achieved through a four-step process:
"See It": Recognize and acknowledge the full reality of a situation
"Own It": Accept full responsibility for one's current experiences and realities as well as others'
"Solve It": Change those realities by finding and implementing solutions to problems (often solutions not previously considered) while avoiding the "trap" of dropping back Below the Line when obstacles present themselves
"Do It": Summon the commitment and courage to follow through with the solutions identified, especially when there is great risk in doing so
How easy it is to summarize this four-step process...and how difficult it is to follow it to a satisfactory conclusion. (When composing brief commentaries such as this, I always fear trivializing important points.) Connors, Smith, and Hickman have absolutely no illusions about the barriers, threats, and challenges which await those who embark on this "journey" to accountability.
As they indicate in this new edition of their book, they have accumulated a wealth of information during the past decade which both illustrates and reconfirms the importance of making a personal choice to rise above one's circumstances and assume the ownership of what is required to achieve desired results. This is precisely what Theodore Roosevelt had in mind when praising "the man in the arena" and what W.E. Henley asserts in the final stanza of "Invictus":
"It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."
Organizations are human communities within which everyone involved must somehow balance personal obligations to themselves with obligations to others. For me, the interdependence of these obligations best illustrates the importance of the Oz Principle: "Accountability for results at the very core of continuous improvement, innovation, customer satisfaction, team performance, talent development and corporate governance movements so popular today." Connors, Smith, and Hickman go on to observe, "Interestingly, the essence of these programs boils down to getting people to rise above their circumstances and do whatever it takes (of course, within the bounds of ethical behavior) to get the results they want," not only for themselves but also for everyone else involved in the given enterprise.
Connors, Smith, and Hickman cite Winston Churchill's admonition, "First we shape our structures, and then our structures shape us." Were the Steps to Accountability easy to take, if everyone lived and labored Above the Line, there would be no need for this book. There is much of value to be learned from L. Frank Baum's account of the perilous journey which Dorothy and her companions share. What they finally realized -- and so must we -- is that, to paraphrase Pogo, "We have met the Wizard and he is us."
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The Book That Destroyed a Company 26 April 2014
By Wavegenerator - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Approximately two years ago the company I have worked at for more than a decade (a retail pharmacy chain beginning with a W) decided to buy this program from the author, and I'd like to report the consequences of adopting the policies outlined here. I'm a pharmacist who previously enjoyed my job, but the company has ground job satisfaction into dust with this book. Suddenly, in a cult-like move, we had a set of "cultural beliefs" and EVERY official email or communication had to quote at least one of them. The buzzwords are "accountability" and "engagement." This book might be useful for people in management, as a kind of chicken soup for the soul for the business-minded folk, but when the same ideas are applied to the employees, it only breeds resentment and hatred. Morale has never been lower, company-wide, yet there is an annual survey of employee happiness which managers are very careful to supervise, because their bonuses depend upon everyone rating everything highly; in other words, not a real survey at all, but one that the employees feel compelled to answer falsely for fear of retribution. If any employee dares to say that the cultural beliefs are fake, or that personal engagement is low, then immediately there are repercussions, the immediate managers are punished for not making the employees believe they are happy, and all hell breaks loose, with vague suggestions of firings and so on. This book tries to mesmerize the employees into believing that the company's goals are their own, which in many situations could indeed be the case, but certainly not at the one I work for. The book fails to acknowledge the power disparity between manager and employee. It urges one to "own it" and assume personal responsibility instead of blaming others, but this assumes that every corporate decision is automatically a good one, because it came from corporate, and if anything goes wrong with it, it is YOUR fault. It's easy to point out the fallacy. I mean, someone can ask me to lift a Mack truck over my head, but obviously that will never happen. Maybe if I could rent a crane... but as an employee, there is no such access to resources that might be available to management, and the book consistently refuses to acknowledge this fact. Whatever corporate decides is automatically right. For all its claims of personal responsibility, the book indirectly makes shifting the blame the ultimate goal. Responsibility for all that goes wrong is shifted from corporate decision makers onto the backs of those employees who have no power to make decisions. This is a very pernicious manual, suitable only for cults and megalomaniacs who would like to exert mind control over large numbers of people in an attempt to convince them that their happiness depends upon fulfilling corporate goals, as if people are completely one dimensional and have no existence outside of the workplace.
72 of 95 people found the following review helpful
Corporate Copyrighting of the Great Western Tradition 26 Oct 2009
By Brent Blackhurst - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Oz Principle chronicles the journey from victimization to accountability, a journey which is desperately needed in the work world today. For this I applaud the authors in their successful endeavors to raise this issue and bring it to light. Self-awareness is the truest path to overcoming. I have been in management for 38 years, and I have seen the victim mentality in others as well as in myself. This slavish mentality is crippling and needs to be transcended.

However, I also have a BA in philosophy, which I received at the young age of 21, and I have continued to study it. The journey of which The Oz Principle speaks is nothing new. This journey inspired and was undertaken by most philosophical, religious, and historical traditions of the West, starting with Abraham when he heard his name called. The road from victimization to emancipation, whether traveled by Moses on the exodus to the Promised Land or by Martin Luther King Jr. on the marches to civil rights, has been one manifestation of this mythical and primordial task. The road from victimization at the hands of the British Crown to political freedom, as witnessed in the writings of Thomas Payne, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, is another. The list goes on: From the victimization of mere opinion to the freedom of knowledge as described by the Allegory of the Cave in Plato's Republic. From being victimized and found guilty by the law to the shattering epiphany of apprehending the original grant, the original gift, the original covenant, as shown in the Epistles of Saint Paul. From being trapped and ruled by hidden memories and fears inside the unconscious to the bright, open expanse of self-awareness uncovered by psychoanalysis, initially heralded by Sigmund Freud. The journey becomes even more crystalized in Aristotle's portrayal of the Magnanimous Man and in Nietzsche's Overman. The Oz Principle cannot hold a candle to these great historical and literary movements.

The best summary of this hero's journey, for it is a hero who makes the leap out of victimization, is Joseph Campbell's "Hero with a Thousand Faces." Campbell breaks down the leap from victimization to authenticity into several stages. Among them are the call to adventure, the refusal of the call, the crossing of the first threshold, the belly of the whale, the road of trials, the ultimate boon, the refusal of the return, the crossing of the return threshold, and the freedom to live.

The greatest difference, however, between The Oz Principle and these other lives and works is that none of these others attempted to copyright this universal experience. I don't recall Martin Luther King Jr. ever trying to copyright the expression "We shall overcome," or "I have a dream today." Yet The Oz Principle is embarrassingly filled with short italicized phrases with a copyright circled "R" after them. Examples are Steps to Accountability, Below the Line, Above the Line, See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It. It's a good thing they didn't put the word "just" in front of "do it," or Nike might be suing them.

Socrates, the greatest thinker of the West and a self proclaimed philosopher, spent inordinate time differentiating himself from the sophists, who were speakers and writers who sold their knowledge for money. The sophists claimed to have the secret to life for a fee. Socrates never took any money, but he liberated many more people, and not just in his own time either. He knew that this universal human journey did not belong to just one man. He never passed the basket around after his sermons.

Returning from my philosophical journey and re-opening my eyes within the shadows of my managerial career, I fully recognize that I live in the 21st Century where capitalism rules, and rules rightfully so. Corporations create efficiencies, and six and a half billion people could not live without those efficiencies. The authors of The Oz Principle have a right to earn a living. So I recommend that you buy the book, if you are in management. In fact, I recommend it even if you are a union worker who believes himself victimized by corporations. I also recommend you attend the authors' seminars. Just remember that their road is only a small part of the human journey, a human journey that shall one day transcend and overcome the 21st Century. If the human journey is an ocean, The Oz Principle rations it with an eye drop.

In his famous play, Shakespeare, through his character Hamlet, asks "whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" (victimization) "or to take arms against a sea of trouble and by opposing end them" (taking control of one's own life). Yet "Hamlet" is a tragedy, which shows what is really at stake in this human journey. Certainly Martin Luther King Jr. did not have a happy ending to his personal life, although his crusade continues to inspire generations. Socrates was sentenced to death by the Athenian democracy who tired of his calling citizens to task and to responsibility. Acknowledging and consenting to one's own death is a necessary part of the hero's journey. This acknowledging and consenting is not possible for a corporation, because it is not flesh and blood. Of all the examples that exist in the history of the West, the authors of this book chose "The Wizard of Oz," a children's fantasy with a happy ending. Choosing fantasy over tragedy is not just a sign of this book. Perhaps it is a sign of our times, and points to our inability to overcome the 21st Century.

With its copyrighting and its seminars, the Oz Principle exemplifies the Wizard, a sophist in his own right, more than it teaches us about Dorothy or any of her friends. The Wizard plays a part but ultimately is a comical figure, trying just to hold on and find a place for himself, much like the rest of us. He refuses to confront his own death, and he refuses to deal with the scariest danger confronting his age and his dominion. He leaves it to those who take a deeper ownership of their lives, an ownership that is not possible through copyrighting.
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