The 10 Things Successful Managers Know and Do
by Peter Mills
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Review by: Cynsie Kraines, COO, Levinson and Co., Previously Known as the Levinson Institute; and board member of the Global Organization Design Society
This is an important handbook for consultants and executives seeking to implement the Requisite Organization system of management originated by Dr. Elliot Jaques. Many people have been drawn to Dr. Jaques simple but elegant theories—which conform brilliantly to common sense—only to find the application of the theory to be quite complex. As a practitioner of Elliot Jaques’ Requisite Organization for more than 20 years, I have found the beautifully elaborated methodology created by Barry and Sheila Deane for working inside of organizations to be a logical and powerful addition to this body of knowlede. Peter Mills, their longtime colleague, has crafted a very practical handbook for consultants and managers, based on their work.
The clear language, excellent summaries of key concepts, and tips for getting started make this a must read for those who have been flirting at the edges of transforming managerial hierarchies, leveraging the full potential of their talent, and providing true, value-adding leadership.
Review by: Sheila Deane , Chief of PeopleFit Australasia; and board member of the Global Organization Design Society
In a world where more than 11,000 new business books are written every year, and in the opinion of some critics, are offered to a jaded and disinterested readership, Mills has ventured bravely. He is trying to get the attention of practicing managers for something which he feels is important and badly overlooked; that is, the fundamentals of managerial work.
In a world which could appear to have lost interest in the accountable work of the manager and is fascinated instead with other forms of movers and shakers such as ‘charismatic leaders’, ‘champions’, ‘back belts’, ‘scrum masters’, ‘facilitators’, ‘coaches’, to name a few, this task may be regarded as too basic or even unimportant. Not so.
Mills’ book, could be just one more ‘How To’ guide. But its straightforward, practical content and style are supported by profound theoretical underpinnings.
The Leadership Framework upon which this book is based is a manager-centric framework of definitions, principles and practices to guide effective organization design and managerial work. The Framework in turn draws on the unique body of work known as Requisite Organization*. This is a seminal body of organizational and managerial work with deep scholastic and applied provenance**.
Thus, this seemingly simple ‘How To’ guide is set apart from others. Introducing the Leadership Framework in his opening remarks, Mills says that the Leadership Framework is:
“….a fully integrated model of principles and concepts for managing people.”
This low-key description may not immediately attract the attention that it deserves. “….a fully integrated model….” Really?, you might ask. Many readers, perhaps jaded by the hyperbole common to the management paperback, might read quickly past this sentence. But this is important for CEOs, Boards, business owners, shareholders, and every manager of teams interested in high productivity.
The Leadership Framework comprises three interconnected lenses: Leading the Organization, which is the work of Presidents and executive teams, Leading People, which is the work of all managers in the organization and Leading Yourself, which is the ongoing work of understanding yourself and others.
As a senior executive and Human Resource professional with decades-long experience in large commercial and public organisations, Mills shows a preference to direct his messages to practicing managers and to talk practically to them, in their language. Mills presents the world of work as the everyday world of the manager. In this book, Mills focuses on one lens of the Leadership Framework – Leading People, which is the managerial leadership component of the Framework and provides the clear definitions and language which are necessary requirements to, firstly, set clear, unambiguous expectations of managers and, secondly, to underpin consistency in managerial work throughout an organization.
Mills’ book provides a veritable ‘tick list’ for managerial work. He is also clear about the expectations of employees as part of a successful manager-employee relationship. Mills presents the Framework through his own experience – in my view, a valuable rendering. However, he does not allow himself to drift off the theoretical foundations or to ‘cherry pick’ areas that might be celebrated as today’s fashion. He states that for those being managed, it is either a world of compelling challenge and achievement or a world of crushing boredom and even fear; a world of personal progress, or a world of dispiriting stagnation. Mills works to persuade the reader that organizing and managing employees in a truly productive way, requires a well-founded understanding of human work and what work, or the true nature of motivation, really means to people. His book sets out the building blocks for productive workplaces where employees’ capability is released and the organization’s business objectives are delivered. Importantly, he promises a framework that helps managers diagnose the organization and leadership problems they face every day, thus building managers’ confidence in clear and consistent decision making.
Practicing managers, we are told, are people in roles in which they are to be held accountable, not only for their own effectiveness (as are all employees), but they are also to be held accountable for the work output of their direct reports. The felt weight of this accountability is well known to experienced managers. Ultimately, the test of Mills’ offerings in this book rests upon the judgment of this manager readership.
Throughout the book, Mills makes it clear that provided with effective managerial leadership, based on requisite practices, employees will experience ‘systemic’ trust in the workplace, and will behave productively. On the other hand, poor managerial practices will induce systemic fear rather than trust, and will immediately choke employee discretionary effort in the managed team and ultimately, will produce dysfunctional behaviors. The higher in the organization the particular manager role is, the broader the reach of this impact on productivity and behavior.
Clearly, Mills accepts that the underlying theoretical base is solid. The many, varied and alternative ideas and arguments which management ‘science’ attracts, he simply leaves for others to navigate. He avoids the mud and tangle of the ‘conceptual swamp’ of management science (as Elliott Jaques* once characterized the field) and jumps straight into the things that managers must know and do.
Although there are only ’10 Things…..’ successful managers know and do, in the title of this book, a deeper reading reveals that there is much more to know and do than just 10 things. This is, in my view, is less a weakness in the book and more a strength. The partitioning of the subject seems to be more likely a result of a publisher’s advice in trying to raise the attractiveness of an apparently dry subject in an overfilled market. If the title gets readers to open the book, they will be rewarded by more than the title offers.
Mills takes the reader on a journey through the ten key managerial principles, with supporting practices, necessary to enable each employee to deliver their best work. He maps out the detail of these practices, from understanding the work of a manager, to building great teams, designing clear roles and filling them with capable people, through to the suite of trust inducing performance practices such as assigning clear tasks, coaching and developing to deliver those tasks, recognizing and rewarding, and sustaining the team through accountable implementation of change.
The chapters are set out to be used as independent modules for discussion, with a summary of the principles at the end of each chapter and a link to a website for hands-on tools, checklists and exercises. This is smart and pragmatic, as it is likely to keep the reader connected over time with others interested in probing the field in more depth. I expect that it will also enable Mills to keep the practices updated and current on his related website. This will be most helpful from a practicing manager’s point of view.
Mills’ book could have benefited further from his significant workplace experience by the addition of examples of the many tricky and often sensitive performance issues faced by managers, although the web links contained in the book provide compensation.
Mills has undoubtedly decided that delivering requisite managerial practices is critical to unlocking the organization’s core of building mutual trust. Others working in the Requisite Organization field may have something to say about Mills’ minimalist handling of complexity of work known as Jaques’ Stratified Systems Theory, and the clinical assessment of individual capability to match the complexity of work.
However Mills’ personal experience in working with practicing managers, together with his own experience as a manager, clearly point him to address the pain points experienced by managers. Managers new to the field, and experienced managers needing a whole system approach to making sense of their environment, will find this a useful ready reckoner and guide in their everyday work.
Mills is clear about the organization’s and manager’s contribution to failures in organizations. I believe that he can be judged favorably on providing a concise, workable set of tools to help managers all levels to meet their accountabilities for building valuable workplaces and avoiding such failures. I recommend Leading People to all managers seriously interested in building sustainable workplaces where their employees are free to experience the joy of work.
* ' Requisite Organization 'was the title of a book first published in 1989 by Dr. Elliott Jaques (Cason Hall & Co Publishers Arlington VA). Then in the years since, the phrase, Requisite Organization Has Come to Represent a science-based body of work Which HAD ITS beginnings in the multi-year, work-place based action research Conducted at the Glacier Metals Company (UK). This body of work is Usually Attributed to Both Jaques and his former long-time client and collaborator, Lord Wilfred Brown Who Was, at the time, the Chairman and CEO of Glacier Metals. Further development of the work Took Place During another multi-year project at organizational reform Conzinc Rio Australia under the leadership of CEO STI Then, Sir Roderick Carnegie.
** As a start, see 'Requisite Organization - annotated bibliography' by Ken Craddock at: globalro.org
Review by: Azucena Gorbarán, Managing Director of AMG Consulting, Buenos Aires; and board member of the Global Organization Design Society
Peter Mills succeeded in transmitting the fundamental principles of Requisite Organization in a simple and clear way.
That simplicity reflects an understanding based on experience and a deep understanding of the dynamics of organizations and the factors that affect the loss of differentiation and results.
The framework integrates three dimensions: to lead the organization, to lead the people and to lead oneself. The framework organizes the inherent complexity of leadership for any manager.
The book focuses on the principles and practices included in the last two dimensions having as prinicipal focus the line manager, accountable for executing the strategies defined and assigned by top management
Mills uses the 10 principles to unfold one by one, the requirements and steps leading to successful execution. The principles include creating one's own role, understanding and respecting the roles of others, creating subordinate roles and staffing them with the right capabilities, building teams, building confidence in the manager-subordinate relationship, assigning and evaluating work, providing coaching and managing recognition.
Each of the principles is supported by clearly described concepts with tips for implementation that facilitate action.
Beyond other management books, this framework and its principles are based on a scientific theory that has been researched and tested over time.
Accountability is foundational to good management and the well researched concepts of levels of work complexity and human capability create the order and clarity required for execution: Who is accountable for what?, What level of authority do they have in making decisions?, What is the nature of the vertical and horizontal relationship between roles, assigning and evaluate tasks, developing and rewarding people?
Order and clarity not only facilitates a productive performance but creates equal conditions and confidence for people to deploy their full potential at work.
I would highlight one theme present throughout the book but whose connection is not obvious. This is to uncover and to raise up the ultimate purpose for which the organization exists. This guides creating value for the customer and for all its stakeholders.
Put the manager-employee relationship is fine center from the time that organizations are human and that everything is settled in the interaction, but the offset is necessary to put the servant leadership collective value creation.
Mills stresses the importance of setting context and defining a sense of direction. He encourages you to explain the purpose of the role and its accountabilities and authorities -- all the while helping the subordinate to answer the following four questions.
1. Where are we going?
He emphasizes the importance of recognizing the individual's contribution within a team and the importance of working productively and collaboratively with other roles in the organization to ensure the quality of "delivery".
He defines a manager's indirect responsibility to define and reinforce proper vertical and horizontal role alignment to ensure that collaboration occurs and to create conditions of equality and trust throughout the organization.
In my view the organizing focus for all these principles is the concept of value creation. The manager's meta message in leading is to clearly define the customer as why the organization exists and how it should be organized.
This does not detract one iota from the value of the book, it's just a challenge to encourage continuing work to focus on purpose and customer service.
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