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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Under New Management

Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as UsualUnder New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been on both sides of the management coin. I've been in management, and I've been managed. I have an idea of what works for me and what doesn't. In this book, David Burkus shows that many of the management practices that were developed in the early 20th century to manage line workers don't work today. Even some that have evolved over time need to change. He identifies 13 items that need to change. They are:
1. Outlaw Email
2. Put Customers Second
3. Lose the Standard Vacation Policy
4. Pay People to Quit
5. Make Salaries Transparent
6. Ban Noncompetes
7. Ditch Performance Appraisals
8. Hire as a Team
9. Write the Org Chart in Pencil
10. Close Open Offices
11. Take Sabbaticals
12. Fire the Managers
13. Celebrate Departures.

Some of these sound counterintuitive at first glance, but he makes the case, with examples of companies that have tried them, that they can actually work. Some of this is not new. For example, the idea of scrapping the standard vacation policy was explored in Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. They argued, as does David Burkus, that as long as the work is done accurately and on time, it shouldn't matter if you're at your desk for a certain time each day. There is some freshness to this book, though, from the use of real world examples. Some of them are modified from what he thinks. For example, the chapter on outlaw e-mail could be retitled outlaw internal e-mail. If a client is emailing you something important, you'd better be ready to take it. Space alone prohibits me from going into detail about every chapter.

One thing I wish the book had done more of is to show instances where the item in the chapter title was tried, and it didn't work. There is some of this, but there could be more. In the chapter on salaries, he discusses a company called SumAll, which has fixed, but transparent, salaries. You're assigned to a salary level, and there is apparently no negotiation. When I saw that, I thought of Ellen Pao, former CEO at Reddit. Ms Pao came to Reddit after losing a discrimination suit against her former employer, an investment firm. The jury returned the verdict in favor of the firm. Ms Pao then instituted a no negotiation policy for salaries at Reddit. This was your salary, take it or leave it. It was supposed to take the pressure off people who didn't feel comfortable negotiating, which some studies have shown many women are. Ms Pao may still have been reeling from her loss in court. At any rate, the policy was universally panned, not just at Reddit, but on other social media and the regular media. It probably led to her exit from Reddit. I believe the policy has since been rescinded. I'm not sure if salaries at Reddit were disclosed within the company or not. This would have been a good example for the book.

The author does emphasize flexibility. There is no one size fits all solution. For example, I'm a CPA who does taxes. The policy on vacations would have to be modified. January 1-April 15, no extended vacations other than medical or death in the family. The rest of the year, the schedule is much more flexible. That's what I like about this book. It doesn't attempt to impose a solution. it suggests a solution, and leaves it to the individual companies to implement it, realizing that it may not work for everyone. All in all, a good book.

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