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Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits Hardcover – May 25, 2007
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"Townsend shouldn't just be read, he should be memorized."
"The sagest (and even most outrageous) book ever written about how business should be run."
"Bob Townsend's words still ring true, truer than they seemed almost 40 years ago."
"Robert Townsend's book continues to light up the business world with straightforward and practical management advice that is as pertinent today as when originally published. A must-read for all managers!"
—Ray Davis, president and CEO, Umpqua Holdings Corporation
"Townsend proves that the best business wisdom is timeless. In an era filled with business buzzwords and ethical misdirections, Townsend's bluntness makes for refreshing and hilarious reading for the next crop of CEOs."
—Ben Casnocha, chairman, Comcate, Inc., author, My Start-Up Life
From the Inside Flap
Up the Organization
Although it was first published more than thirty-five years ago, Up the Organization continues to top the lists of best business books by groups as diverse as the American Management Association, strategy+business (Booz Allen Hamilton), and The Wharton Center for Leadership and Change Management. 1-800-CEO-READ ranks Townsend's bestseller first among eighty books that "every manager must read."
This commemorative edition offers a new generation the benefit of Robert Townsend's timeless wisdom as well as reflections on his work and life by those who knew and worked with him. This groundbreaking book continues to remind us not to get mired in all those sacred organizational routines that stifle people and strangle both profits and profitability.
In today's climate of seemingly endless incidents of corporate corruption, government fraud, and personal scandals, Up the Organization is more relevant than ever. Many of Townsend's observations are as witty as they are wise. "There's nothing fundamentally wrong with our country except that the leaders of all our major organizations operate under the wrong assumptions." "One of the most important tasks of a manager is to eliminate his people's excuses for failure." "If you have to have a policy manual, publish the Ten Commandments."
In addition to the book's advice that is striking in its candor, spontaneity, and integrity, this new edition includes essays from such leaders as James O'Toole, Bob Davids, and Robert Gottlieb, as well as a never-before-published transcript of Townsend's Conference Board speech: "Townsend's Third Degree in Leadership."
Read Up the Organization and discover why Robert Townsend served as role model for a generation of corporate activists.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is not a sustained treatise on management. It's wide-ranging alphabetically-listed paragraphs and short articles on management topics delighted its readers because they could flip around and find just the sharp pointed thoughts they were looking for. In this edition the extra paragraphs that were included in Further "Up the Organization" are also provided as are Townsend's acknowledgements and an appendix that has an address he delivered to the Conference Board that was printed as an article in the late 1970s. It is called "Townsend's Third Degree in Leadership" and summarizes his views on what it takes to be a leader. The second appendix is a biographical article called "No Reserved Parking".
Obviously, I can't cover all the points he makes in the book, but the kind of radical thinking you will find (and it remains radical) are the notions that leaders have to care for the followers first. He also states that people making more than $40k (or thereabouts in today's dollars) should set their own office hours and vacations. CEO compensation should be a much smaller multiple of average company salary than it is and most of the perks of executive management should be eliminated.
Townsend was a foe of corporate bureaucracy and says that the purchasing, personnel, and marketing departments should all be eliminated and says why. Your receptionist is a more important position than you realize and should be compensated and cared for much better than she (or he) usually is. Townsend is a foe of meetings and only those that result in direct action should be held. He hates executive assistants, nepotism, company planes, and thinks that stockholders worry too much about taking good care of the Board and top management. His cure for this is broad employee ownership of company stock. He also says that CEOs should leave after five or six years or be shown the door.
There is much more in this interesting book. Oh, and he clearly comes down in the camp of personal initiative, free enterprise, and is even less fan of government regulation and handouts than he is of fat cat executives. However, Townsend emphasizes excellence, profit, and fun. Lacking those things he asks why you would want to be in business.
This book deserves its classic status and this is a fine reprint edition. You should have this on your shelf of business classics and refer to it with some regularity just to clear up the bad mental habits that we all let into our heads.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI
My favorite of his tenets is to fire the HR department ("Personnel" when this was written). In all my interviews with HR, it's clear that they are drones - low-level yes-men with little or no sense of what a company actually does or why and who it needs to hire to get the job done. And his "call your own company" has been a staple of my consulting work - much to the chagrin of most clients who discover that their organization is about as friendly as a prison guard wit ha hangover.
Executive compensation? Townsend was and is right on. Much of what is wrong with American business can be traced to the increase in executive pay especially when it is tied to stock price.
This guy should be read by any/every business wanna-be. Too bad that Townsend's ghost isn't out haunting the corridors of every American business.
Whatever the reason, if you've been lucky enough to hear about this book -- and on the off-chance you're checking out what will likely be the lone review of it, way down here at Amazon sales rank 200,000-and-then-some -- DO NOT be lulled into the obvious conclusion, namely, if the book were any good it'd still be readily available.
Though written in an era long gone (late 60s/early 70s) the info here is timeless -- and NO, it's not a bunch of idealistic boomer-inspired BS ("boomer" as in "former hippie," which is what most boomers were when this book came out). While the boomers were still smokin' ganga and sitting in, Townsend had already reversed the fortunes of Avis Rent a Car, in a revolutionary manner that completely eclipsed anything the boomers might have been dreaming about.
Any manager who has not read the chapter "People" is just not qualified to manage them, it's that simple. It, like nearly every other chapter in this book, is the last word in how to begin thinking about business -- and the lessons will work for anybody.
Find this book. Check your local used bookstore, do a search, whatever it takes. But find it, learn from it, and start building the vibrant, meaningful, profitable business you had envisioned when you got started.
Thanks Mr. Townsend -- wherever you are.
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