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Leading Outside the Lines: How to Mobilize the Informal Organization, Energize Your Team, and Get Better Results Hardcover – April 19, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Those of us who have been writing about leadership and organization for years should heave a deep sigh of relief and wonder to read this book. Leading Outside the Lines forces us to review and rethink all the twisty turns, false dichotomies, paradoxes, fuzzy or over-metricized writings—all the confusions we've been wrestling with for years—and shapes them into a coherent, useful, and wise perspective. I love this book, and so will anyone with a desire and need to understand the requirements for 21st Century leadership.” —Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business, University of Southern California, and author, Still Surprised

"If you want to know how work really gets done, read Leading Outside the Lines! It is the best book I have ever read at explaining the difference between what is supposed to be going on—and what is really going on in organizations."—Marshall Goldsmith, author, What Got You Here Won't Get You There and MOJO

“Katzenbach and Khan’s book is a must-read for leaders who want their teams to shine in terms of performance, innovation, retention, or any other metric of success. I’ve rarely read a book with such an extraordinary collection of fascinating, real-world examples that drive the message home.”Keith Ferrazzi, author, Who’s Got Your Back and Never Eat Alone

“Leading Outside the Lines is a vibrant book with a compelling message that's vital to the success of 21st century organizations—the message that informal human relationships, when effectively integrated with formal structures and systems, can powerfully propel people forward. It's a profoundly important idea that all contemporary leaders must attend to. This book is rich with real life examples of organizational turnaround and culture change — some of the most unique and engaging I've ever read — from actual leaders who tried, failed, learned, and succeeded. John Katzenbach and Zia Khan do a masterful job of weaving together these intriguing case examples with practical applications and useful assessment tools. This is a book about doing great work, making people proud, getting people connected, and living a values-driven life. It's a book you need to savor.”—Jim Kouzes, coauthor, The Leadership Challenge and Dean's Executive Professor of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University

Leading Outside the Lines is a very important and useful book. Katzenbach and Khan make the argument that corporations today need leaders who understand how to harness the power of the informal organization to improve both execution and innovation. Through insightful storytelling and their years of experience, they provide strategic and tactical advice about how the informal organization can transform your organization, whether it grapples with radical changes in the competitive environment or the inevitable growing pains of moving from start-up to established global enterprise.”—Linda A. Hill, Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

“A must read for anyone struggling to adapt their organization to new realities. Filled with keen insight about the formal and informal life of organizations, Katzenbach and Khan offer practical advice on how to blend the two to bring out the best in your organization.”—Ronald A. Williams, Chairman and CEO, Aetna

"The rate of change in our business--and the need to move information at high speed across organizations--necessitated an innovative look at organizational structures and management styles. The ideas in Leading Outside the Lines helped speed and shape our major change implementations successfully."—Stan Glasgow, President and COO, Sony Electronics, Inc.

“Leading Outside the Lines is an incredible gift to leaders in all three sectors—public, private, and socialworking to move beyond the old walls, build the new, flexible, fluid management systems, and develop leaders of the future determined to build the organization of the future. This management guidebook brings the best of formal and informal organizational theory and experience to leaders at every level, across the enterprise.”—Frances Hesselbein, Chairman and Founding President, Leader to Leader Institute, Formerly the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management

“Katzenbach and Khan demonstrate that you don’t have to choose between inspiring employees and getting amazing results—the best organizations do both. With novel perspectives, great stories, and practical advice they show leaders how to get the best of both in ways that can transform organizations. This book belongs in the hands of everyone who refuses to accept business as usual”—Chip Conley, CEO, Joie de Vivre and author,Peak

“Strategy and hierarchy drive how organizations operate, but so too do personal networks and intuitive judgments that define an equally powerful informal world within. Drawing on richly developed illustrations ranging from the Bushmen of southern Africa to eBay, Marine Corps, and Starbucks, Leading Outside the Lines provides a compelling account of how leaders can best capitalize on the hidden drivers of organizational life.”—Michael Useem, Professor of Management, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and author, The Leadership Moment

From the Inside Flap

An all-new approach to understanding and inspiring the (in)formal connections of an organization

In this dynamic work, thought leaders Jon R. Katzenbach, coauthor of the business classic The Wisdom of Teams, and Zia Khan offer an all-new examination of the modern workplace, and how leaders and managers must embrace it for success. Together they reveal how two distinct factions form the bigger picture for how organizations actually work: the more defined and visible "formal organization" of a company—the management structure, performance metrics, and formal strategy—and the "informal organization"—the culture, social networks, and ad hoc communities that spring up naturally and, in an equally vital but different way, can accelerate or hinder an organization's success.

Through compelling case studies from enterprises around the world (in business, government, the nonprofit sector, and academia)Katzenbach and Khan explore how top-level organizations balance the informal and formal elements of organizations to achieve outstanding results. Leading Outside the Lines takes a timeless organizational approach and creates a powerful paradigm-shifting tool set for applying it, showing when you can get the most done by using the informal elements that operate under the radar, and when it is in fact better to use formal processes. Most important, it illustrates how the two can work together to get the best of both. This groundbreaking book also offers self-assessment guidelines for senior leaders, front-line managers, and individual contributors who need to get better performance results.

Insightful leaders and managers at all levels know that to really lead an organization, you cannot rely on formal constructs alone; you have to use the informal elements as well. Using the information and tools outlined in this compelling book, leaders and potential leaders at all levels can tap into the power of the informal to achieve superlative performance and results.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470589027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470589021
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #493,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Mark P. McDonald VINE VOICE on August 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Leading outside the lines from Jon Katzenbach and Zia Khan (K&K) provides a comprehensive guide to current thinking about the operational aspects of culture and informal systems. The book is based on Katzenbach and Khan's personal work and selected published research and case studies. It provides a well written overview of thoughts and practices for working the informal aspects of your organization.

Overall the book is good as it reflects the state of the practice, particularly thinking before 2005 and the advent of social media. The book is recommended for students of social and cultural subjects, so if you like to reach about change management, systems thinning (ala Senge) and the like, then this book would be a welcome addition to your reading. Corporate executives, HR professionals and people who study leadership will also find benefits from this book as it provides a helpful advice that is consistent with their understanding of the enterprise.

Unfortunately, readers looking to understand how to manage the informal systems of the future will find his book limited as it is based on the world prior to social media. That is the reason behind the three star reviews and ultimately why I believe that this book has greater applicability for niche groups rather than general managers.


The book provides clear advice and an explanation of informal systems. It is a practioner's view, rather than a sociologist's view, which is welcome.

The examples and case studies for each of the major points, which help the reader, understand the recommendations in action.

The openness to use research, insights and publications of others like Peter Drucker.
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Format: Hardcover
I recently read Jon Katzenbach and Zia Khan's new book, Leading Outside the Lines. Always slightly skeptical of so-called leadership books, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the wealth of information that the authors provide in their new publication, and appreciated the cheerful, intelligent and not overly academic tone in which the book is written. As a small business owner with a growing team, I appreciate management advice that is actually actionable. I was happy to recognize some aspects of my current management style (i.e. finding "informal" ways for employees to communicate, share perspectives and take joint pride in successes) and found many more that I'll be adding to my managerial toolkit. The authors argue that transformational businesses will leverage the informal organization to outperform those operating merely in the formal realm. Along the way, they managed to inspire me to make my business one of the outperformers. A great read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the crowded space of books about leadership, this one stands out as a wise and clear-eyed collection of insights, all backed by the rich experience of two people who have an unusual degree of empathy. Khan and Katzenbach share a unique ability to sense where the real problem is, to understand where the barriers to change lie, and to gently develop ways to overcome them. They write with humility and respect for the clients from whom they learned.

The primary message of the book--that emotions matter in making lasting change happen--is elegantly argued, and the heroes of mobilizing the 'informal organization' to achieve better results deserve having their song be sung. The examples are excellent, and I found myself trolling around the internet looking for details on each one to learn more.

The secondary message of the book, one that is not pulled into the forefront but is as important as all of the concrete lessons the authors prescribe, is the power of empathy. The authors are highly sensitive to personal and team dynamics, and are therefore able to not only mobilize those powers within a company, but reinforce and unleash them as an engine of productivity.

Since it aims to be a tool-kit and how-to guide, the book does not explore the reasons why people are challenged by practicing empathy, and why it is actually very difficult for many 'leaders' to embrace the openness and democracy of the informal. The creativity and team-energy can seem threatening to some--in its next edition, the authors might elaborate a bit on how to get comfortable in this new territory.

Overall, this is an excellent book for anyone aspiring to lead, create or shape an organization. May the cohort of CEOs who embrace this approach blossom and grow!
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Format: Hardcover
Animal metaphors remain popular among authors of business books. Credit Jon Katzenbach and Zia Khan with taking full advantage of a term they first encountered during a meeting with Mark D. Wallace, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the (George H.W.) Bush administration. "Fast zebras was one of Wallace's favorite metaphors for those people who have the ability to absorb information and adapt to sudden challenges capably and quickly...The fast zebra is, in essence, a person who knows how to draw on both the formal and informal organizations with equal facility."

Especially now during this severe economic depression/recession/whatever, I wholly agree with Katzenbach and Khan that "fast zebras can help the stiff joints of overly formal organizations move smoothly [and expeditiously] again. They help the formal organization get unstuck when surprises come its way, or when it's time to head in a new direction. They have the ability to understand how the organization works, and the street smarts to figure out how to get around stubborn obstacles. They draw on values and personal relationships to help people make choices that align with overall strategy and get around misguided policy. They draw on networks to form teams that collaborate on problems not owned by any formal structure. They tap into different sources of pride to motivate the behaviors ignored by formal reward systems."

Although Dave and Wendy Ulrich do not characterize change agents as "fast zebras," they would agree that leaders such as they are needed to establish and then sustain what the Ulrichs characterize as an "abundant" organization in their new book, The Why of Work. Moreover, Katzenbach and Khan note that "it can be lonely to be the only fast zebra at the watering hole.
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