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Good Advice, but 59 Minutes Too Long
on March 14, 2004
Kenneth Blanchard's "The One Minute Manager" is a short book that should have either been much shorter or much longer. The longer version would have been supported with research and case studies to back up Blanchard's claims that the techniques are effective. For readers who don't need or want the supporting evidence, here is what the shorter version would look like:
1) Good managers are not micromanagers; they expect employees to take initiative and solve their own problems.
2) Good managers set goals for their employees that are brief and have clear performance standards and expectations.
3) Good managers look for opportunities to praise their employees because self-confident employees are happier and more productive. Employees learn to internalize praise.
4) Good managers are also quick and clear in providing feedback when something goes wrong. Reprimands are more effective when it is understood that managers think highly of their employees. (Presumably, if the "One-Minute Reprimands" happen too often, the employee will no longer work for the One-Minute Manager, so that ending reprimands with statements of the employee's value, as suggested, will always be sincere.)
That's about it.
All this is probably good advice. One of the bosses whose management style I most admired and who inspired me to a high level of performance was very much like the One Minute Manager in the book. I rarely saw him, but when I did, it was clear that he had been paying attention and that he valued my work.
But the storytelling format of the book--it's told by a naive young narrator who interviews the one-minute manager and his employees--draws a couple of pages of material out into a hundred page book. That's much less than many management self-help books, to be sure, and one gets the impression the author is trying to walk his talk. To Blanchard, management is more common sense than rocket science, and a long book would be a waste of time.
I like the idea that, in management as as in writing, less is often more. In many workplaces, memos, meetings, and manuals are about ten times as long as they need to be. We are bombarded with so much information that, what my bosses often want and what I appreciate most from my own employees, are good two-paragraph summaries of a week's worth of research. If they are done well, these summaries will take longer to research and write than a ten page report would have, but they save their readers time and actually produce a net gain in information.
But if Blanchard's book wants to be the Strunk and White guide to the boardroom--brevity, brevity, brevity--the book falls short. It took me almost an hour to read, which is 59 more than it should have.