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The Most Effective Organization in the U.S.: Leadership Secrets of the Salvation Army Hardcover – November 6, 2001

4.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Most of us know the Salvation Army from its fundraising efforts and philanthropic programs, but the $2 billion-a-year transcontinental institution, now serving more than 30 million people with a vastly underpaid and overworked staff, is also a model business structure. Under a title taken from the description applied to it by management guru Peter Drucker, The Most Effective Organization in the U.S. outlines the fundamental tenets that the group has prospered under since its founding in the mid- to late 1800s. Written by former National Commander Robert A. Watson and freelancer Ben Brown, the book details eight principles that allow the Army to do so much with so little: focus on "a purpose that transcends quarterly earnings"; make "what you do serve human needs"; stay publicly accountable to visible standards; encourage feedback and act upon it; "invest real power and real responsibility" in top personnel; "accept the inevitability of change"; take calculated risks; and motivate employees by ensuring their jobs are both valuable and enjoyable. Some readers may not be comfortable with the organization's overt ties to Christian teachings, but few can argue with the success it consistently enjoys. --Howard Rothman

From Publishers Weekly

A clear mission, innovative techniques, commitment, efficiency and visible outcomes are the name of the business game, and also happen to be exemplified by the Salvation Army. In "The Most Effective Organization in the U.S.": Leadership Secrets of the Salvation Army, Robert A. Watson, an officer in the Salvation Army for 44 years, and freelance writer Ben Brown mine the organizational riches of this familiar group and present them as a model for others in the nonprofit and for-profit worlds. Watson, who as a child was clothed, fed and kept busy by the Salvation Army, reveals the skills and principles he learned as an officer of a company that completes projects from top to bottom from conceiving an idea and building a site to designing the financial plan and hiring, training and inspiring employees. The organization famous for its big heart also has plenty of sense. Proceeds go to the Salvation Army.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1st edition (November 6, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 060960869X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609608692
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #705,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Disclaimer: I was a civilian employee of The Salvation Army (i.e., I am not an officer or a Salvationist) for five-and-a-half years, and I am an academic sociologist by training.

This book is not a cookbook for effective leadership. You can't read this book, apply a couple of techniques, and expect to be as effective as The Salvation Army is at raising funds, running programs, and improving communities.

If you are interested in effective leadership and you're willing to reflect on your practices and, more importantly, the principles underlying your business and/or management style, this is a book you should consider reading. If you're looking for some sort of quick-fix to improve your own management, look elsewhere.

Instead, this book provides several general guidelines with supporting commentary drawn largely from Watson's experience as an officer with (and ultimately the National Commander, or Commissioner, of) The Salvation Army. According to Watson, the central tenet of The Salvation Army's leadership effectiveness is to, "engage the spirit."

The remainder of the book elaborates on this point with other related ideas (i.e., put people in your purpose; embody the brand; lead by listening; spread the responsibility, share the profits; organize to improvise; act with audacity; and make joy count). Watson and Brown don't tell you specifically *how* to do these things, but provide examples of how The Salvation Army and, in some cases, other companies and executives accomplish these things.

To be clear, the book isn't about The Salvation Army itself or its operations. You can gain insight into some of The Army's programs, but they vary too much from one community to the next to get a sense of the massive scope of what they do.
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Format: Hardcover
The Salvation Army's role and effectiveness may be the best-kept secret that is out in the open for all to see.
Reading this book is a deeply moving spiritual experience. " . . . [T]he real secret of our success is getting them [those the Salvation Army serves] to accept responsibility for integrating their hearts, their minds, their souls with transcendent purpose."
In grading this book, I was most heavily influenced by how much it added to my knowledge of the Salvation Army (clearly a five star operation) as an organization, and its key leadership and management principles. Like most people, I mainly know about the Salvation Army through tiny glimpses of its work as seen in good neighborhoods (while most of the work takes place in more challenging environments) . . . rather than as a case history in organizational effectiveness. Now, as a result of reading this book, I can see the whole a little and see it as being much more than the sum of the pieces.
Compared to the potential to tell the Salvation Army's story, however, you may find that this book could be improved upon. I certainly did. The examples from businesses, sports, and music as well as the many references to famous management books usually just stole space, in my judgment, from telling more about the Salvation Army. A more useful counterpoint in the book would have been to explain how for-profit organizations fare in performing many of the same tasks that the Salvation Army does.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Salvation Army is a very effective organization. It is interesting to see the author compare it to for-profit businesses and explain why it is well managed. This group provides basic necessities for those who are most in need and they put their hearts into their work. I'm proud to volunteer with them.
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Format: Hardcover
In my consulting practice--and in my management workshops--I sometimes hear the protest, "But you don't understand! We're just a small ministry. We couldn't possibly implement the best practices of those much larger organizations."

Hopefully, my response is gracious--but direct. "Is God leading you to be small for the next 10 years? Is your mission about reaching and serving more people, or less people? Do you need a workshop on how to stay small or how to shrink further? Probably not! So what should you do?"

I recommend that organizations create a rolling three-year strategic plan. Build an annual planning cycle that ruthlessly evaluates the last year and then adds one more year onto the rolling three-year forecast. And...face the growth question with courage, time-on-your-knees and outside wisdom. Part of that outside wisdom is looking at the big boys. How did they grow? How do they innovate? How do they build in capacity and sustainability?

One excellent and very unique model is The Salvation Army, the second largest nonprofit charity in the United States (according to the annual Philanthropy 400 list published by the "Chronicle of Philanthropy"). According to their 2009 annual report (now published only online along with a video report), they spent $3.05 billion serving people in 2008. Wow.

They are evangelical Christian in beliefs--yet coalesce wider public involvement and support in meeting human needs. Their crystal clear mission statement (on their website home page) is unequivocal: "The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God.
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