• Martyn Smith

Break all the rules

Which is the more effective (long-term) management strategy? The lion-tamer approach with cracking whips, or a cheerleader with colourful pom-poms?

With all that's been written on the topic over the past 3 or 4 decades, I wonder if the issue is settled. Or is the answer clear, it's just a question of execution?

In my view, the authoritative text on this topic is, 'First, Break all the Rules' by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman (1999).

Buckingham and Coffman begin by considering two identical organisations (think franchises) in similar locations, but which perform differently. Given that outputs, floor plans and markets are the same, they quickly conclude that the people dimension must be critical. And it makes sense that the differences in financial performance are not driven by business models and physical factors.

Pointing to the locations' senior managers, Buckingham and Coffman paint a clear picture of behaviours that 'break all the rules' and lead to exceptional performance. Great managers recruit staff based on talent (not education or experience) and put them to tasks related to those talents. Great managers evaluate performance based on outcomes, develop team members' strengths and work around their weaknesses.

Great managers also develop workplaces where staff answer positively to the following twelve questions;

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?

2. Do I have the equipment and material I need to do my work right?

3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?

5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?

6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?

8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my work is important?

9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? 10. Do I have a best friend at work?

11. In the last six months, have I talked to someone about my progress?

12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

There. The 'How to' is established.

The problem must be in execution then...

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