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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
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“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 social—working 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 companythe management structure, performance metrics, and formal strategyand 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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Katzenbach and Khan urge leaders to keep and strengthen their formal managerial approaches to their business i.e., strategy, structures, processes and procedures, programs and initiatives, and performance goals and metrics. These formal building blocks bring precision and permanence to the organization. At the same time, the authors encourage leaders to recognize the limitations of these formal mechanisms in their pursuit of superior performance. Leaders also have to identify and cultivate the informal building blocks of their organization. These informal (outside the lines) building blocks regroup shared value, informal networks, communities, and pride.
The identification and cultivation of the formal and informal elements of an organization is also important to all employees. The most effective employees in any organization learn quickly how an organization actually works instead of relying exclusively on the formal mechanisms that indicate how the organization is supposed to work.
The balance between the formal and informal elements of an organization evolves over the life cycle of the organization. As a young organization grows, the formal building blocks that bring it precision and permanence will gain in importance. However, the leadership has to be careful not to alienate powerful informal elements of the organization that can reject new formal initiatives in which they do not buy in. Imbalances resulting from a lack of integration of the two types of elements tend to appear either during periods of significant growth or significant declines in growth.
Katzenbach and Khan convincingly demonstrate that the mobilization of the informal elements of an organization is of particular importance to strategic planning, innovation, cost-cutting, culture change, or customer service. Whoever has worked in a turnaround environment will feel at home while reading the authors' coverage of mutating companies such as Bell Canada, Aetna, or The Home Depot.
In summary, Katzenbach and Khan invite leaders to mobilize the informal to solve performance challenges. Relying exclusively on the formal elements of an organization to achieve the desired performance will often lead to disappointing results.
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. This gives the book a solid research base and helps the reader understand the state of the practice.
The book does a good job of avoiding becoming a commercial for the author's consulting organization and practice.
Although published in 2010, the book discusses a world before the adoption and application of social media to informal structures. This limits the book's support for people looking to use informal/social technologies to support social systems. This is a significant challenge.
The book is repetitive about the differences between the formal and informal and a bit dogmatic regarding the weaknesses and limitations of formal organizations. It is understandable that the authors would downplay formal systems, but the treatment and sometime dismissal of formal systems limits the applicability of the advice in the book.
The examples and advice, while helpful, have an unusual bias - the proactive actions of leaders and their use of top-down authority to influence informal systems. The authors seem to imply, but never state that top-down activities - a formal system - can manage the informal system. This may be due in part of the term 'leadership' in the title, but their is a undercurrent throughout the book that informal systems are uninformed, lack direction and are just waiting to be led by someone in a position of authority.
Some of the advice is more common knowledge than interesting insight. The case examples involve insights such as asking for volunteers, clear communication, active participation, etc. These are things that leaders know and have traditionally associated with formal systems. So not much new news here.
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!