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Dec 03, 2004

"Up The Organization" by Robert Townsend | review

No matter how many management books I read, Robert Townsend's Up The Organization consistently remains among my favorite two or three.  Maybe it's because it was the first good management book I read.  Or maybe because it's irreverent.  Or maybe it's because it's really easy to read.

But I'd like to think it's because Robert Townsend (who wrote this book in 1970) had the uncommon ability to channel common sense into the executive suite.

The full title of the book is Up the Organization: How to stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits.  Most of Townsend's entries are short.  Here are two I try to remember:


Keep them. If asked when you can deliver something, ask for time to think.  Build in a margin of safety.  Name a date.  Then deliver it earlier than you promised.

The world is divided into two classes of people: the few people who make good on their promises (even if they don't promise as much), and the many who don't.  Get in Column A and stay there.  You'll be very valuable wherever you are.

You might suppose that the higher you go in the ranks of business executives, the more word-keepers you find.  My experience doesn't substantiate this.  I've been welshed on by a big bank president, the number two man of a major finance company and various investment banking house partners.  I only know four people who I'm sure won't break their word at any price.

Compromise and King Solomon

Compromise is usually bad.  It should be a last resort.  If two departments or divisions have a problem they can't solve and it comes up to you, listen to both sides and then, unlike Solomon, pick one or the other.  This places solid accountability on the winner to make it work.

Condition your people to avoid compromise.  Teach them to win some battles, lose others gracefully.  Work on the people who try to win them all.  For the sake of the organization, others must have a fair share of victories.

Whne you give in, give in all the way.  And when you win, try to win all the way so the responsibility to make it work rests squarely on you.

Townsend has much more to say, and you can buy it used on Amazon.com for as little as one cent.  Go.  Buy yourself a piece of the good stuff.  Meanwhile, I'll be working to get myself into Column A.

12:10 AM in Reviews | Permalink