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Practice What You Preach: What Managers Must Do To Create A High-achievement Culture Kindle Edition
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Putting aside his foolishness in explaining the Goose That Laid The Golden Egg, Mr Toad had got much of what David Maister demonstrates in this book. Taking consistently high performing businesses and using questionnaires/interview Maister has looked for common features across the field. He depends, of course, on his interviewees being sufficiently self-aware to analyse success, but I doubt they can all be similarly deluded.
The result of this study is that one wants a certain kind of team player, and one wants them more than a more talented individual who does not "know the Company Song", disruption is to be feared more than incompetence. The result is the sort of business that I loathe but which does function as a money spinner and I suspect makes its kind of people happier than the more freer environment. This is a world where the team plays and works together, where middle-management service the higher ranks and expects to be obeyed in an inclusive fashion. Yes, oddly enough they do not expect unthinking obedience but thinking obedience. I never quite got this but it is undoubtedly there; the nearest I can get to is the sort of unit loyalty one finds in a regiment.
These managers do not want team members who criticise others; any that do will be... er... criticised and removed. They feel their success comes from (to quote one example) having a free "Down Day" a year, having a day where the family visit to see where you work, a satirical in-house magazine to make sure no-one takes himself seriously (a useful technique in building unit loyalty is removing the sense of the individual and rebuilding as a team), and joint-team attendance at an educational out-of-the-office event.
If this sort of corporate horror is not for you then it's off to self-employment with you (and be strategically ill when your client invites you to the bonding day). If, however, you enjoy this intense team effort, irrespective of whether you can progress up the narrowing pyramid of the hierarchy, then you and your employer are going to have a chance of being in the consistently high performing businesses that Maister interviews.
General Schwartzkopf once said that you should "be the leader you want to have." That's the essence of the message of this book for achieving higher profitability. To make more money in pofessional offices, select and encourage leaders who will set high standards, serve as a good example, police the culture to improve it, and enable people to learn and make progress.
Few works about management and leadership have the superb quantifications involved in this book. The foundation comes in 5589 individual responses (to about 10,000 questionnaires distributed) in 139 offices of 29 firms owned by the same public company. Each office was characterized by four profit tests to establish a profit index. Then differences in employee survey responses were tested against the profit index. Taken in many different cuts, Mr. Maister tells you which questions best correlated statistically with higher profit index numbers for an office. Each key observation is supported by a case example of one office that did well in this dimension. First, he relates what the head of the office said about the office's success and culture. Then he provides a composite interview with the people who work in the office. By comparing the two sets of responses, he then points out the key intersections. It's a fine way of making statistics come to life.
He goes on to use more sophisticated statistical methods to establish which factors together are most significant, and how these factors appear to interact on one another. I was impressed by the quality and thoroughness of this work.
He goes on to drill down to find even more nuances. For example, testing how the youngest employees feel about their work, compensation, and opportunities is the acid test of how well you are doing. As you would expect, cultures usually work better in smaller offices where communication is less likely to become diffused.
The book ends with long lists of practices that seemed to have helped. If you want to know what to do, you should pay the most attention to the summary lessons in chapters 20-25. If you have trouble following all of the statistical analysis early on, just skip back to those sections. Then go back and read the case studies. At that point, you may be ready for the statistical chapters.
The only weakness in the study's design is that it failed to include a comparable set of surveys with clients of the offices. That would have made the richness of the conclusions greater and the persuasive value of the work higher.
How can you set high standards that delight clients and make everyone want to exceed those standards while enabling them to do so? You will find many excellent ideas in this impressive book.
Be the professional service firm you would like to hire!
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