Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The One Minute Manager

Hey, I know what you might be thinking. Another book review? Is he out of gas already?

Well no, but books have always been very important and some books are just so good that I have to talk about them.

So today, let's talk about "The One Minute Manager" series, by Ph.D. Kenneth Blanchard, and M.D. Spencer Johnson, ISBN-13: 978-0688014292.

Actually, the One Minute Manager is a book, but it is also a series. In this post, I'm going to talk about two books, "The One Minute Manager" and "The One Minute Manager builds effective teams". I think that it also applies to all the books in the series. They are all built on the same structure, and they are all equally good from what I heard.

Like in my review of "Managing Humans", I am not going to tell you exactly what's inside. In fact, since I read it a while ago, I don't really remember in detail. I'm more going to tell you about the long term impression it made on me, wich is the most important when reading this kind of book in my opinion.

The first important thing about the series is that it's not written as a course on management. It's more of a novel, or, as the authors put it, an allegory. You follow a young manager that finds a manager that seems pretty exceptional in his new firm (the One minute manager of the title), and seeks his mentoring. The One Minute manager then sends him to various people in the firm, to figure out a part of his style of management through observing and talking to people. They then have a chat about what the young man saw, defining and clarifying the ideas the young man already got.

This approach is nothing short of brilliant. I think it is one of the best way to teach stuff: you put people on a path, let them work and think, and when they come back and they already understood the point by themselves, you clarify their thinking and add some icing on the cake. It reminds of the master-disciple in martial arts: your master puts you on a path. You then have to walk it, you have to understand yourself in your guts by doing or it doesn't work. When you finally understand, your master confirms what you already knows and clarifies it, takes it to the next level.

In some ways, it is one of the qualities of this series by the way. You probably already know most of the principles presented, but they may be not well defined or very clear in your head. This books will make them crystal clear and take your knowledge to a next level. One example of this is the "lifecycle of a team": It is broken down into four stages. I had a vague idea beforehand that teams evolve and all have common stages of development, but never had such a precise idea of what they were. More importantly, the book pointed out to me that any team goes back and forth between the stages. I had of vague sense of that before reading, but the book made it crystal clear.

And with this structure, YOU are the young manager. While you follow him in his errands, you get to understand by yourself what is going on, and the OMM then confirms and clarifies your ideas. This allegory format makes the reading very active, as opposed to the passive reading of the scholar approach of reading a management manual.

The OMM book primarily focuses on how to manage individuals. The "OMM builds effective teams" takes the principles defined in the first book and applies them to managing a team. It's another quality of the series. We are talking universal principles here. As you can guess from this post, this is something I like a lot. You know, I'm pretty thick, I can't have more than five things in my head at the same time and two spots are already taken (lemme guess... Food and my wife :-) ) so I need that. Joking aside, the principles here are going to apply to any team, and probably other areas of your life too, which is great.

I can't finish without presenting the philosophy that underlies the series: "It's not about catching people doing something wrong, it's about catching them doing something right".

Thanks to Eric for making me read this book.

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