on 9 October 2007
I am new to this genre of book - Business Fiction, so I was not sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, as Lencioni tells the story of a retired CEO turned pizza restaurant manager in the most entertaining fashion. You can easily picture the characters he builds up and you can relate to them well (even if you are a manager or not). The book is very easy to read with chapters of just a couple of pages in length, making the lessons and morals easy to digest. The only part I felt that let it down (if anything) was towards the end Lencioni tried to demonstrate the "Three Signs of a Miserable Job" in a different industry (sports shops) - I did not feel this was necessary and it slightly went off track. This book will be a beneficial read for anyone looking to get motivated in their own role and also for managers looking to motivate their team.
on 27 August 2008
Business books take many forms, but seldom are they fables. Patrick Lencioni breaks the mold with this charming book about a manager who turns his workers' miserable jobs into fulfilling ones. He presents the fictional story of Brian Bailey, a big-hearted CEO who gets bought out, finds retirement dull and tries managing a seedy pizza parlor where the employees hate their jobs. Bailey quickly changes everything by the way he treats the shop's people. Later he works his magic as the new CEO of a failing retail sporting-goods company with a ruinously high turnover rate, where his humane techniques turn things around again. Lencioni's book is fun to read; its fable is touching yet credible. He reinforces important lessons all managers should know about getting the best from the people who work for them by providing empathy and recognizing the meaning of their work. If you are up for a parable, getAbstract recommends this engaging book. It spotlights a clear axiom: Treat people humanely and they will do as you wish - a valuable lesson for any manager or, indeed, anyone at all.
According to research conducted by The Gallup organization, only 25% of employees are engaged in their jobs, 55% of them are just going through the motions, and 20% of them are working against their employers' interests. What's going on? In the Introduction to his latest book, Patrick Lencioni acknowledges what he characterizes as "Sunday Blues [:] those awful feelings of dread and depression that many people get toward the end of their weekend as they contemplate going back to work the next day...What was particularly troubling for me then [when he had such feelings] was not just that I dreaded going to work, but that I felt like I should have enjoyed what I was doing...That's when I decided that the Sunday Blues just didn't make any sense" and he resolved to "figure out what [personal fulfillment in work] was so I could help put an end to the senseless tragedy of job misery, both for myself and for others."
In this book, Lencioni shares what he then learned during his journey of discovery.
As is his custom, he uses the business fable genre to introduce and develop his insights. His narrative has a cast of characters, a plot, crisp dialog, various crises and conflicts, and eventually a plausible climax. Here's the situation as the narrative begins. Brian Bailey is the CEO of JMJ Fitness Machines. After fifteen years under his leadership, JMJ has become the number three, at times two "player" in its industry. "With no debt, a well-respected brand, and plenty of cash in the bank, there was no reason to suspect that the privately held company was in danger. And then one day it happened"....
The balance of the book proceeds on two separate but interdependent levels: Brian's personal and professional development after JMJ's acquisition by a competitor, and, the impact of that acquisition on JMJ's culture. Both he and the company proceed through what Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas have characterized as a "crucible": an especially severe trial or ordeal during which those involved experience tremendous pressure that either "makes them" stronger and wiser or "breaks them" in terms of their ability and/or willingness to prevail. The details of Brian's "crucible" as well as those of JMJ's are best revealed within the book's narrative. It would also be a disservice to both Lencioni and to those who read this commentary for me to reveal the meaning and significance of the book's title.
However, I feel comfortable explaining why I think so highly of this book. Here are three of several reasons. First, Lencioni is a master storyteller. He makes brilliant use of the components of the classic fable, in this instance (as in his earlier books) creating a contemporary business situation in which human beings are involved, rather than anthropomorphic animals as George Orwell, E.B. White, and Stephen Denning do. Brian Bailey and others are anchored in sometimes "miserable" real-world situations. Their responses to these situations are portrayed with authentic drama, not with a business theorist's facile didacticism. Second, he achieves his objective of determining (both for himself and for his reader) how personal fulfillment can be achieved in a workplace. There are indeed important lessons to be learned, both by managers and by those for whom they are responsible. Finally, Lencioni entertains his reader with appropriate wit without at any time trivializing the seriousness of the issues he addresses. This is a fable, not a sermon.
Those who share my high regard for Patrick Lencioni's latest book are urged to check out his earlier works as well as The New American Workplace co-authored by James O'Toole and Edward E. Lawler, Paul Spiegelman's Why is Everyone Smiling?: The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity, and Profit, and Michael Lee Stallard's Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team's Passion, Creativity, and Productivity.
Perhaps this wasn't quite what I hope. More of a psychological exploration of a mindset than any practical handbook, the fable is... not transferable. Also, most employee's aren't interested in what they regard as Rich Man's Problems, for they have enough of their own. The real meat and interest of this comes right at the end for me, but I also find that it doesn't engage enough, for I need in my world, a fairly straightforward text that details the many types of employees and people, with their drivers and desires, and how to work well to keep employees engaged, happy, and working well . By that standard, this isn't what I was expecting at all. It's by no means bad, just not what I thought I was getting at all.
on 17 March 2016
Told as a stylised narrative along the lines of a fable this is an intriguing book that looks at the shape of employment in the 21st century. Lencioni has an engaging, often disarming charm in his writing and the methodology behind his work is solid and affecting all the more for this style of presentation. The topic- under-engagement, alienation, cynicism and frustration in the workplace- is a common one now across the employment spectrum I'd say, as late capitalism struggles to control a largely imagined, potentially restive population with a host of non-jobs and the phenomenon now I find, of what is basically part-time work stretched into full-time positions through a misguided belief in the old adage 'if they don't have jobs they'll be reaching for the pitchforks.' One of the shortfalls of this book is that the author avoids facing up to this stark reality- there really are not enough 'proper/traditional' full-time jobs to go round now in advanced, post-industrial societies and we need a new socio-economic construct to deal with that reality- but as Lencioni is a guru for liberal capitalism that's not really surprising. What is interesting though, is that this issue becomes clear throughout the book, it's impossible to suppress, whether the author wanted to actively do that or not.
That aside, this remains a fascinating book that's worth a read, whether from a business management point of view, or from that of a grunt on the office/shop floor. I don't feel the real root causes flagged up on the cover are actually addressed directly although they do, perhaps more by accident than design, eventually shine through.
This book was originally published in 2007 as The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (and Their Employees). Most of the book is a fable, the story of Brian, the retired executive of a large sports equipment company, who, to retain meaning in his life, takes on a management role in a run-down fast-food restaurant. Only the last forty pages of the book are not part of the story, but present a more detailed explanation of the three root causes of job misery that are illustrated throughout the fable.
I’ll be honest. Had I realised this book was mostly a fable, I probably would not have chosen it, being sceptical that such a book would be helpful. The loss would have been mine. For this is an excellent management book.
The fable is presented at an enticingly fast pace, and the chapters are very short which adds to the ease of reading. Lencioni is masterful in presenting the story, and packs the narrative with situations and twists that illuminate his core argument. He also manages to present much actionable advice that you would be able to implement immediately.
The core argument is that poor employee engagement and job dissatisfaction are caused by employees: 1) not being understood or appreciated [anonymity]; 2) not seeing any connection between their work and the satisfaction of another person [irrelevance; 3) not being able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves [immeasurement].
As presented summarised like this, these causes may sound slight and trivial, but Lencioni presents a very convincing case for their importance. In fact, repeatedly whist reading this book I found myself looking back to those jobs during my career that had left me demotivated, and wishing that myself and my managers had read this book many years ago.
Previously published under another title, this book takes a similar approach to "The Goal" in using a simple story to instil some slightly more profound lessons about management. From the get-go though, you need to know who this book is targeted at. Our hero in this story is a successful, privileged white guy who has done incredibly well in his career and after a brief period where he's got more money than time, decides to be the hero and rescue a struggling pizzeria, along the way relearning lessons that it is important to engage with your employees like they're real people (you'll be surprised!), help them find something important to the business that they can measure and improve upon (like Principal Skinner's advice to Bart in an old episode of the Simpsons: "Principle Skinner: Oh, licking envelopes can be fun! All you have to do is make a game of it.
Bart: What kind of game? Principle Skinner: Well, for example, you could see how many you could lick in an hour, then try to break that record. Bart: Sounds like a pretty crappy game to me. Principle Skinner: Yes, well... Get started.) and finally, help them understand what sort of a difference they make to one another.
Well, yes. And in the scenario where you're coming in as the cavalry over the hills with nothing to lose, no stressors, and very little skin in the game, I suppose it must be fascinating to learn that your Latin American potwasher plays soccer on weekends. Just fascinating. But the gulf between the cosy wargame being played out here and typical workplace dynamics is a little too vast for the somewhat simple and self-evident lessons to really find their mark here.
Unless. Unless you're buying this book for your out of touch old white guy boss, who will relate 100% to the star of the book and whisper its lessons as profound life lessons to pass on to his junior staff. In which case, add 2 stars and let me know how it goes in the comments.
This book tells the story about Brian Bailey, the CEO at an exercise equipment manufacturer called JMJ Fitness Machines. He makes significant changes to the company and wins various business accolades such as being named as one of the top 50 medium-sized companies to work for in the USA (rather like the Sunday Times lists of ‘100 Best Companies To Work For’/’100 Best Small Companies To Work For’ awards in the UK – but this book is, of course, a fable).
When Nike enters the market, Brian is forced to sell the company. He retires (aged 53) and moves to Lake Tahoe. Skiing distracts him from business until he has a skiing accident, at which point he starts to think about work again. He – very unusually - buys an interest in a tired Italian restaurant called “Gene & Joe’s” – apparently a world away from his former company but in fact no distance at all because job dissatisfaction can strike any job.
To give you an example, one of the first things that Brian does is to have a chat with Carl, ‘the poster child for apathy at the restaurant’, whose primary job is to take the restaurant’s orders in the drive-through. Carl makes mistakes which ripple through other staff, causing them to slow down. Brian doesn’t berate Carl or crack the whip. He just explains the problem, tells Carl he needs to make his job more *measurable* and ASKS Carl how he can do the latter (he does not take the bad manager’s approach of imposing the measurement on him). They work through a number of possibilities until Carl settles on the number of orders he can take and execute without making any errors.
Carl doesn’t realise that Brian has had this method of measurement in mind the entire time but lets Carl think it is his own idea. Every time Carl hits on an idea that Brian doesn’t like, Brian simply points out why it wouldn’t work, prompting another suggestion. Eventually Carl asks Brian for a suggestion, at which point he suggests this method of measurement.
Brian also explains that Carl needs to measure something else – that he’s dealing with customers in a positive manner (so they will hopefully come back again). Carl can’t think of anything so Brian suggests counting the number of times Brian makes customers smile when they come through the drive-through. Again, note how Brian gives the impression that it is Carl’s idea whereas actually it was Brian’s. It is all very softly-softly.
Who is to do this i.e. count the number of times Carl makes customers smile? Carl. Carl is surprised, asking “How do you know that I won’t cheat?”. Brian’s reply: “Because I don’t think that you’re that kind of person”.
That is just one example.
Because the story is set out in a book, it gives the author time to build characters and the fable. It contrasts with a business book which would cover the topic in one chapter.
The author addresses the three root causes of job misery. He delivers a powerful message to any manager or leader, namely how to foster loyalty and engagement. As side-effect of that is increased profitability and reduced employee turnover.
I have learned from this book. Frankly, if you learn one thing then it is useful.
As a business consultant and University Lecturer in International Business and Global Strategic Management at a University on Sofia, I have read many different books pertaining to business strategies. Many have been good, whilst most have been dull with a minority being almost unreadable. Very often I get the impression that the very complex books are written by people who are theoreticians rather than doers in business. So many ideas I have read, are for the pages of book and debate rather than the practice of business. This book is one of the exceptions, it is very readable and contains good ideas and advice.
The book is written as a story, examining a manager who takes on both a pizza restaurant and then a sporting company who then trys to turn them from making a loss into a profit by engaging with employees and making the work enjoyable.
The author examines what he calls the 3 Truths, 1. Measurement, 2. How Do I Make A Difference and 3. Who Knows Who You Are?
The book examines the Truths and explains that if managers do these 3 things, then employees will feel different and be motivated and so will be far more efficient.e will respond. This is all taught through gentle storytelling. It is quite a short book, but it is well written. There is very little jargon used in the storyline and I think many mangers could learn something from this book.
Whilst this is never going to be a book that sets the world alight, it is nevertheless a good read about employee motivation in the workplace and I am happy to Recommend it.
I first came upon this author by reading his excellent volume 'The Advantage', which was an excellent book. This volume is written as a piece of fiction (a fable) in which the character encounters problems, their solutions and comes up with strategies to deal with those problems which are themselves the learning points for the reader. Whereas this sounds like a cheesy premise, the reality is that it is much more relaxing than a straightforward business book, as it almost feels like you aren't working when you read it. The fable itself also gives you a very clear and practical context for the issues being faced. I have to say that I think this strategy for teaching is very good
This white hardback has an equally white slipcover with a blue title. The 260 pages are printed with black ink on a very white paper in a reasonably large business style font. Layout is excellent and whereas there seem to be plenty of pages you can with some dedication read this in an evening in one go.
The theme of the book is 'a miserable job' and the author pitches three reasons why people are unhappy at work. The author argues for employers to engage in processes that make work less of a drudge and offers clear practical advice and also case studies to take us forward. Employers and employees alike are very busy these days and just get their heads down, but this book encourages us all to look up and engage together in processes that will make work less of a chore. I think this book is a good diversion for employers that will help you consider the needs of staff and also Important for employees also as they must be part of the solution.