Great Boss Dead Boss
Another book in my long backlog was Ray Immelman's Great Boss Dead Boss (How to extract the very best performance from your company and not get crucified in the process) from 2003. I finally picked up a copy and thoroughly enjoyed it. As with many good books, the ideas have me looking at the world in a slightly different way. Of course, the book has its own website. (Disclaimer: I know Ray from consulting work he did with my employer around the time he was writing this book and from later interactions in the TOC community.)
I had no real idea of the topic of the book, other than the odd title and the fact that it had been recommended by a number of colleagues over the past few years. I had assumed the book would cover the general topic Theory of Constraints book, but that is not the case. It's about how people interact with one another, specifically around motivation and performance. And it is (another) business novel with a fairly narrow focus on the protagonist and what he learns from his guru and his business.
The general idea beyond the story of the book is that people act in fairly predicable ways around their individual security and value perception - this isn't terribly surprising or new to anyone. The additional piece that Immelman adds to this discussion is that this individual perception is also strongly tied to the association people have with their "tribes" or groups to which they belong. People are members of many different tribes in their lives, from family to neighborhood to school affiliations to professional associations to office cliques to functional silos. And just as people act to protect their personal security and value, they will work together to protect their tribal security and value. And the individual and the tribal interact. If you can understand these things and some version of the 5 Tribal Dimensions and 23 Tribal Attributes discovered in the course of the story, you should be able to act in ways to create a very different kind of organization.
Why does this make me see the world in a different light? It's the way the story developed. Type types of self and group interests and the attributes were illustrated with familiar stories from the business press, and through application by the protagonist. I could see examples in my own history and in thoughts about how things work with our clients. Resistance to change? It's because the way we approach the change is perceived to threaten something in their security or value. Or the change helps a different tribe "win" over "my tribe." Frequently, in management-supported change efforts, it's the workers vs. management tribe - no wonder management initiatives don't get very far.
An element near the end connects back to the ideas of leadership: Along with the familiar discussions of leadership integrity and the like, the leader has to have the psychological "guts" to take the company in the right directions. They can't be perceived as weak along those lines - even if they don't necessarily have all the answers. Another piece of this is that leaders need to have mentors with psychological strength to help them grow even further. I know I have grown and improved much better when I have mentors to help me reach new heights.
Now to ponder how to incorporate these ideas with my ongoing work.
The book went through the familiar process of a business novel: Setup a big problem that the protagonist can't solve, no matter how smart he is (or has been in the past). Discover a guru who has solved the problem and who is willing to help. Grow in understanding as more of the things the guru has been saying are tried and implemented. Succeed beyond your imagination. The progression through the protagonist's education was pretty linear. One thing that might have been interesting would be to have him make mistakes as he went along - not fully understanding what he was learning and applying it "wrong."
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