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Primal Management: Unraveling the Secrets of Human Nature to Drive High Performance Hardcover – April 15, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
It's pure myth that human beings are fundamentally rational creatures—we are sublimely emotional at heart and work best when treated as such, argues consultant Herr, who contends that companies need to take a hard-science approach to the soft side of the business if they want to maximize their gains. He explores the human social appetites—innovation, skill mastery and deployment, goal attainment, cooperation and self-protection—maintaining that these drives are as integral to our biology as our need for food, sex and love. People want to excel at work, and companies that encourage that desire bring out the best in their employees. Arguing against a hyper-rational, bureaucratic management, Herr advocates a tribal connected workforce, a corporate superorganism composed of individual human beings who strive toward the same goal. Some fairly heavy theory is backed up with solid practical advice for leaders, including a methodology to create a high-performance workplace. The biological approach lends a fresh aspect to the subject of employee performance enhancement, and the well-researched, entertaining presentation should make this an appealing reference for progressive business leaders. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"The biological approach lends a fresh aspect to the subject of employee performance enhancement, and the well-researched, entertaining presentation should make this is an appealing reference for progressive business leaders."
-- Publishers Weekly
"“This is a great book for any leader to read. Should be required reading for all CEOs.”
“Primal Management is an important book for managers at any level.”
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Top Customer Reviews
Since the World War II era, management theory has kept coming back to the ideals of rational management, command and control, and carrots and sticks. This is not just a hyper-rationalist and Skinnerian prejudice, there are some good technical reasons for it as well. Organizations of more than a couple of hundred people generally cannot maintain a close cooperative social network naturally without some sort of structure and control, and "soft" motivations are difficult to track. Still, as Primal Management points out at length, a close cooperative social network is how we function at our best collectively. This is the principle of the "tribe" and we have not made very good use of it in most companies. This book offers procedures for making better use of it.
Primal Management takes this idea of maintaining a well functioning social network and applies basic command and control to that, with a new twist. The idea is to frequently and anonymously survey employees to determine how they feel about their work, and to plot the total on a control chart. This keeps the company leadship informed of how well they are motivating employees and the same data can also be used to determine what specific areas they should focus on to better motivate people.
The idea is not entirely new, but it has a good feel to it and there are some unique new twists. The catch is that the science behind this is very speculative. Scientific theories of motivation have been widely varied and as a result lack a detailed yet general enough basis to use this sort of motivational control system. So the author has come up with his own 5 scales of human social needs, based loosely on evolutionary psychology but mostly on the author's own reasoning about what it should take for a tribe to survive.
The overall approach seems like a very good idea, but the proof of the pudding will be empirical. Can companies actually use these scales to measure the meaningful motivation of their employees? Do these particular scales really carve employee motivation at the right places to allow fine tuning of employer incentives? The author suggests that seeing the organization as an extended tribe makes it possible to understand how to motivate them.
I like this approach, with four hesitations:
(1) The neuroscience is weak here, the author makes the seemingly obligatory mention of various brain areas and neurotransmitters in various places and then refers to Antonio Damasios work for more details, an exercise for the reader. So there isn't any real integration of neurology or cognitive neuroscience data into the theory at all. That's perhaps deliberate, since the author seems to be trying to step outside the existing models in order to provide some general guidance for organizations in an area where there is as yet no single consensus scientific theory.
(2) The overall theory appears to borrow freely from concepts used in evolutionary psychology nd anthropology, but it doesn't really cover the concepts themselves or their controversies very well. The "tribe" in this book is used in a way that assumes we all agree that human beings evolved to live in tight social networks. But this idea taken for granted here is really an endpoint of a long line of theorizing and data analysis in anthropology and human evolutionary studies, and there remain important onctroversies regarding the details.
(3) It isn't quite clear from the book how well the author has validated these scales. There are some basic techniques that are needed simply to determine whether the scales are reliably measuring something stable, regardless of what that something might be. These techniques for scale reliability are theory-agnostic, they simply tell you whether you are measuring *something* or just getting artbitrary numbers that vary in some unspecified complex way. As an employer, or a consultant to an employer, my first step would be to make sure I was reliably measuring something and not just mining data out of anonymous employee surveys.
(4) It isn't entirely clear how this theory gets around the natural limitations of human social networks, believed to be rooted in the limits of human working memory, in order to build a motivated cooperative group out of more than a couple hundred people. How exactly does a "tribe" get extended indefinitely to form an equally well functioning corporation of several thousand people? How would you prevent them from forming into multiple warring tribes? That this extension can be done to create a single extended tribe is a central assumption of Primal Management, but the details are very sketchy and mostly based on the existence of a couple of companies that seem to have managed it. It isn't clear to me whether Primal Management has really captured what makes those companies different organizationally, although the book's focus on employee intrinsic social motivations may well be a very good start.
So overall, I recommend this book as a fresh way to look at management that potentially makes much better use of real human motivations than we have traditionally done. Some of the details make need to be reviewed and altered, but it seems like a very good start.
For the first time ever, the secrets to what really motivates employees in any company, anywhere in the world, are revealed. What?
Sure, there have been many, many books, chapters of books, articles on the subject of "employee motivation" written; and if you're in business, the subject has undoubtedly come up a few hundred times in various meetings, to the point of "motivating" the meeting participants to doze off, wander off for another cup of coffee, or remain seated with that glazed look on their blank faces, pretending to be listening.
Paul Herr finally gets it right, because he had the audacity to "prove it" after three decades of research. Corporate America should be glad he was so persistent, because his findings will revolutionize the way Corporate America will be managing its employees, which so far, has been lousy. But we already knew that.
The beauty of Herr's findings, is its simplicity (yet why did it take us so long to figure it out?). Just like humans need food, clothing, shelter, and the desire to procreate (you know), they have an equally predictable "social appetite" which makes up the five components of employee motivation, which I'm going to quote, verbatim from a nice chart you'll find on page 27 of his book:
1) Cooperation (warm family feel)
2) Competency (self-esteem)
3) Skill deployment (elation experienced with a win)
4) Innovation (curiosity and the eureka pleasure)
5) Self-Protection (feelings of security)
These days, if you're the CEO of a company which has successfully avoided laying off any of its employees, chances are, you're already using the model, but didn't even know it.
Congratulations for using simple common sense. "Common semse" still lives in certain segements of society, and that's worth an exclamation point!
The fact of the matter (according to the Gallup Organization), only 31% of employees truly care about their work, meaning the other 69% don't care. So they prove it by doing a lousy job in whatever capicity of their organization they're screwing up.
This leads to the obvious conclusion: The reason Corporate America is failing and is begging the government for "bail-out money", is they stink at managing their employees! They thought they had to act like a "corporate hierarchy" in order to rule their empire, but that approach is antiquated and should suffer the same fate as the dinosaur---become extinct.
The new and improved Corporate America, by reading this book, and implementing its simple strategy, will have motivated, happy, and productive employees generating a great deal more profit for Corporate America. The Stimulis Package would never have been an issue, which in turn means that huge budget deficit we're facing wouldn't be such a problem.
Here's what got me so excited about "Primal Management". Herr's fairly conservative estimate of what this increased productivity would do for the economy: Add somewhere between one and two trillion dollars to Corporate America's bottom line! That wasn't a typographical error, and neither was that exclamation point I used in the prior sentence.
But when you're talking about that sort of impact on an economy which is currently on life support, it bears repeating: "Primal Management" has unlocked the secret to generating another one or two trillion dollars of revenue for this country. And I'm sure Wall Street wouldn't mind that at all. Can you say, "Bull Market"?
So yes, I recommend this book. Now go buy it!