Monday, November 2, 2009

Up the Organization - by Charles Townsend...

"Solution Two is non violent guerilla warfare: start dismantling our organizations where we’re serving them, leaving only the parts they are serving us. It will take millions of such subversives to make much difference.

This book is about solution two. It’s for those who have the courage, the humor, and the energy to make a non monster company, or a non monster piece of a monster company, operate as if people were human.

All you need is talent spotting the idiocies now built into the system. But you’ll have to give up being an administrator who loves to run others and become a manager who carries water for his people so they can get on with the job. You’ll have to give substance to such tired rituals as the office party. And you’ll have to recognize, once you get a hunk of your company’s stock, that you aren’t the last man who might enjoy the benefits of shareholding. The elegant simplicities require a sense of justice that won’t be easy to hang on to…"

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the above paragraph in the book ‘Up the Organization’ by Charles Townsend (CT). For a book written in 1970, I feel that this is quite radical and a few more passages confirmed the fact. So I read the book completely. It is an easy read, with each topic not beyond half a page, with rarely a few topics going beyond a couple of pages. Some of the content is dated, but as CT himself says at the start of the book (page xxvi), one needs to adapt what is written (to the personality of the reader), to make it practicable. So one can always leave those dated ones aside and concentrate on the important stuff...
Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits (J-B Warren Bennis Series)
I usually underline the important passages in the books I read (note: only the books I buy). For this one, if I were to do that, I would end up underlining all through the book. It is so good and it is not an understatement when I say that I was completely blown away by what Townsend has written.

"No reserved parking spaces, no org. charts, no job descriptions, no short term pandering to the wall street, no company planes, no golf club memberships. On the positive side, stock options for everyone, honesty as the best policy, reinvestment for the long haul, rewards for performance, commitment to product (service) quality, true delegation, encouragement of healthy dissent, and above all, the insistence on putting customers first. "

Here we are in 2009, with people talking about putting a curb on executive compensation, other such similar things and there lived a person who just didn't talk but also practiced it in 1960s. That sure is to make me depressed and excited at the same time.  Depressed because some one talked about it even before i was born and not much has happened about it and excited because people who think differently may be in the minority but have always had/have some company and that is inspiration enough...

A few more random samples from the book to give you more taste of what the book is all about.

All decisions should be made as low as possible in the organization. The charge of the light brigade was ordered by an officer who wasn’t there looking at the territory. (page 22)

Excellence or what the hell are you doing here? If you don’t do it excellently, don’t do it at all. Because, if it’s not excellent it won’t be profitable or fun, and if you are not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing here? (page 32)

Admit your mistakes openly, may be even joyfully. Encourage your associates to do likewise by commisserating with them (page 77)

If you are going to function effectively in our organizational society, it is important that you have a healthy contempt for our major institutions, public and private - and especially for their leaders. (page 147)

A good manager doesn't try to elimnate conflict; he tries to keep it from wasting the energies of his people ( page 17)

Ask yourself two questions every morning:
Who do I least want to see today?
What do I least want to do today?
Chances are they’ll be your top priority for the day. (page 141)

I can go on, but I will end up giving the whole book here. My sincere recommendation for all managers/leaders is to get hold of the book and read it end to end.

If possible, people should buy their own copy and keep it with themselves all the time. It is light enough to carry around, but heavy enough to keep people grounded.

BTW, the full title is "Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits"  :-)

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