Book Review: The One Minute Manager

Due to various distractions in the real world, the rate at which I’ve been reading through the recommended MBA list has slowed to a crawl; the rate at which I’ve been writing about them is so slow that it is no longer measurable. At this point I have a backlog of books to review, though in order to clear my mind of matters relating to work I’ve started reading fiction again (I recommend the Booker prize nominated “Number9dream” by David Mitchell).

For my return to this weblog, I’m going to review “The one-minute manager” by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. This has got to be the shortest book on Joel’s MBA reading list, weighing in at just over one hundred pages of double-spaced large-font prose. While I’m happy with the lessons learned from the book, this anorexic style isn’t exactly a great deal when it comes to actually paying for it. There are a whole series of “One Minute” books and while I’d happily skim them in a bookstore, I’m not about to hand over my hard-earned money on something so malnourished again.

Ignoring this detail, the book is a nice management lesson phrased as a cute parable. A nice young man goes in search of an effective manager and meets various egomaniacs and sadists until he eventually meets “The One Minute manager”. This manager is a pleasant-but-firm type who takes him through the various aspects of his philosophy. In a nutshell:

  • One Minute Goal Setting
    • Agree on your goals
    • Compare them against “good behaviour”.
    • Write each of the goals down in less then 250 words.
    • Read and re-read each goal, which requires only about a minute each time you do it.
    • Take a minute every once in a while to ensure your performance matches the goal, and adjust yourself accordingly.
  • One Minute Praising
    • Tell people up front that you are going to let them know how they are doing.
    • Praise people immediately, specificially telling them what they did right. Tell them how pleased you are that they did right and how it positively affects the business.
    • Give them a minute of silence to let it sink in, encourage them to do more of the same, and then shake hands or touch them in order to make it clear you support them.
  • The One Minute Reprimand
    • As per the One Minute Praising, you’ve told people beforehand that you’re going to let them know how they’re doing. The reprimand is split into two parts:
    • 1: Reprimand them immediately, tell them specificially what they did wrong and how you feel about it. Emphasise this with a few seconds of uncomfortable silence.
    • 2: Shake hands or touch them to let them know you’re on their side, remind them how valuable they are and that you think well of them but not their performance in this specific situation. Then let them know when the reprimand is over, it’s over.

Refreshing my own memory by reading back on some of these points makes me think it’s a little bit patronising in parts, and some of it borders on David Brent style behaviour. That said, I agree with the authors’ assertion that the cause of failure in most organizations is that employees don’t have specific and measurable goals, and that when they do have goals they are not given enough feedback (positive or negative) to allow them to realise when they are performing well. Overall I believe the lessons are worthwhile, but the book itself wasn’t very good value for money.

[My reading list is empty at the moment, any recommendations would be much appreciated.]

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