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The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work Hardcover – July 19, 2011
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In The Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have provided an inspiring combination of solid scientific research and management insight. They have succeeded in bringing to life a new paradigm in management, fully supported and elegantly presented.” Research-Technology Management
This practical orientation for managers makes the book an important resource for organizations experiencing a decline in productivity and employee engagement.” CHOICE Magazine
Filled with honest, real-life examples, compelling insights, and practical advice, The Progress Principle equips aspiring and seasoned leaders alike with the guidance they need to maximize people’s performance.” - Innovation Watch
"The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer is a masterpiece of evidence-based managementthe strongest argument I know that "the big things are the little things." A masterpiece every manager should have...I believe it is one of the most important business books ever written." Bob Sutton
The book...is one of the best business books I’ve read in many years.” Daniel Pink
But in singling out one book that offers the most important message for managers this year, I recommend The Progress Principle. The breakthrough in knowledge it provides makes it my choice as best business book of the year. This a pioneering work on employee engagement, with lots of memorable examples culled from those in-the-trenches diary entries.” The Globe and Mail
You will never return to the older and outmoded theories of employee motivation again.” Blog Business World
When Bob Sutton, a leading management professor at Stanford University, says a new book just might be the most important business book I’ve ever read,” the rest of us should take notice. Sutton is right. The Progress Principle is...fantastic. I am a big fan of this book, and I have decided to make it one of the alternate end-of-semester book assignments for the master’s students in my introductory public management course this fall.” Steve Kelman, Federal Computer Week
This is the roadmap to how to create progress, even baby steps through small wins, and therefore create a culture that supports a meaningful and joyful inner work life”, which is the secret to great leadership and harnessing the best of employee psychology.” Innovative Influence (Suzi Pomerantz's Blog)
Those who appreciate the work of people like Dan Pink (Drive), Chip Conley (Peak) should seriously consider adding The Progress Principle as the third member of a very compelling trio of books offering just about everything you need to know about tapping the deepest wells of human creative performance.” Matthew E. May, Guru Forum (American Express)
the authors have done a good job in reminding us all that "it’s people, stupid" who lie at the heart of successful organisations.” Nita Clarke, People Management Magazine (UK)
This book is a must read for those wants to be good leaders (or those wishing they worked for one).” - LeaderLab
It’s a clear guide that can help managers with a potentially challenging and frustrating task.”- 800CEOREAD
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1. While most management books are based on anecdotes, the biased recollections of some famous executives, or on research that is presented as rigorous (but are not... Good to Great is a perfect example), the Progress Principle is based on the most rigorous field study ever done of creative work. And it draws on other rigorous work as well. As a result, the overall advice about the importance of small wins may be known to many people, but once you start digging into the smaller bits of advice about how to keep work moving along, the evidence behind those is very strong. In my view, the Progress Principle is the best example of an evidence-based management book I have ever seen.
2. The authors didn't drown in their rigor and the details of their work. They worked absurdly hard to write a book that is quite engaging to read and chock full with one implication after another about what you can do right now to do more effective work and to motivate it in the people around you.
3. Finally, the main point of this book may seem obvious to some readers, but if you listen to most management gurus and fancy consulting firms, the approach that the authors suggest is actually radically different. The broad sweep of strategy and radical change and big hairy goals is where much of modern management advice focuses, yet the finding from this book that it is relentless attention to the little things and the seemingly trivial moments in organizational life that real makes for greatness is not something that most leaders and their advisers get, yet it is the hallmark of our most creative companies like Pixar, Apple, Google, IDEO and the like. The implication of The Progress Principle, for example, that management training should focus on how to deal with the little interactions and smallest decisions -- and that is what makes for great leaders and organizations -- would, if taken seriously, mean completely revamping the way that management is taught throughout the world.
This book isn't a bag of breathless hype, it doesn't make grand and shocking claims, and it doesn't promise instant results. But it is fun and easy to read, it is as strongly grounded in evidence as any business book ever written, and it is relentlessly useful because it points to little things that managers, team members, and everyone else can do day after day to spark creativity and well-being. And it shows how those little things add-up to big victories in the end. I believe it is one of the most important business books ever written.
In the name of full disclosure, I am friends with the authors and did endorse the book. But I am friends with a lot of authors, but when they write bad books, I decline endorsement requests, and as I did very recently, let them know that I think their books aren't very good. Yes, I am biased, but I believe that this book deserves to be a #1 bestseller.
The authors conducted a rigorous analysis of nearly 12,000 daily diary entries provided by 200+ employees in 7 companies. They found that the best managers create a high quality of "inner work life" for their employees. Inner work life is about favorable and unfavorable perceptions employees have about their managers, the organization, the team, the work and even oneself. A positive inner work life determines whether the employee has the motivation to their best work - it determines their attention to tasks, the level of their engagement and their intention to deliver their best work.
The authors found that there are 3 types of events that are particularly important in creating a positive inner work life:
1) Progress in meaningful work (e.g. small wins, breakthroughs, forward movement, goal completion),
2) Catalysts that directly help work (setting clear goals, allowing autonomy, providing resources, providing sufficient time, helping with the work, learning from problems and successes, allows ideas to flow),
3) Nourishers/interpersonal events (e.g. respect, encouragement, emotional support, affiliation/bonds of mutual trust & appreciation) that uplift people doing the work.
Research found that #1, progress in meaningful work, was the most important event in creating a positive inner work life.
People's inner work lives seemed to lift or drag depending on whether or not their projects moved forward, even by small increments. Small wins often had a surprisingly strong positive effect, and small losses a surprisingly negative one. So, small actions to try to reduce daily hassles can make a big difference for inner work life and for overall performance.
It's also important to note that small losses or setbacks were found to overwhelm small wins. Small everyday hassles hold more sway than small everyday supporting activities.
Be sure that you are not the source of the obstacles. Negative team leader behaviors affect inner work life more broadly than positive team leader behaviors. And employees recall more negative team leader actions than positive events and do so more intensely and in more detail.
Chapter 8 includes a Daily Progress Checklist which is worth the price of the book. A self assessment asking questions on Catalysts/Inhibitors, Nourishers/Toxins, the state of the Inner Work lives of your team and Action steps. e.g., Did the team have clear short term and long term goals for meaningful work or was there confusion? Did I give help when they needed it or did I fail to provide help? Did I show respect to team recognizing their contributions to progress or did I disrespect any team members? Did I encourage team members who have difficult challenges or discourage a member of the team in any way?)
Bottom line, to harness the powerful force of the quality of your employees' inner work lives, you must ensure that consistent forward movement in meaningful work is a regular occurrence in your employees ` work lives, despite the inevitable setbacks.
The book was laborious to wade through but it has important findings, conclusions and recommendations which merit it being required reading for managers at all levels.