InReview – Issue 77

Breaking the Fear Barrier: How Fear Destroys Companies From the Inside Out, and What to Do About It by Tom Rieger. New York: Gallup Press, 2011. 151 pp.

Tom Rieger is the leader and chief architect of Gallup’s worldwide consulting efforts to indentify and remove barriers.

The thesis of this little book is that fear drives much of the destructive behavior in organizations today. It starts with the fear of losing what an individual is entitled to: salary, corner office, perks, etc. This fear causes a person to carry out the “party line,” to violate his or her own values, and to do what it takes to maintain the position that has been achieved. This individual behavior builds into three kinds of organizational behavior.

  • Parochialism is first. This is the creation of organizations that are so tied to the rules, so stifling in their structure, that nothing can go wrong, preserving the position of the boss. Of course, there is little creativity here, little innovation. This seemingly gives the boss protection from any disruptive thing that could upset the organization.
  • Territorialism is second. This is the organization that puts itself before customers, company objectives, or anything that might interfere with its territory. It’s an organization that doesn’t share resources but hoards them. It creates a “low-grade siege mentality,” focusing more on what nurtures it rather than how the organization can serve.
  • Empire building is the third organizational behavior. Rather than simply protecting its own resources, however, the goal of this organization is to grow at the expense of others. What is best for the company, what is best for a customer, is not a part of the thinking.

The three levels can build off of each other, all rooted in fear of loss, and all creating a toxic environment for the organization as a whole.

Rieger then looks at the costs of these behaviors and at strategies for overcoming them. The solutions are not complete, but the questions are all of the right questions.

I picked up this book at the local bookstore almost on a whim. I had never heard of it or of the author. But as I read it, the famous quote of C.S. Lewis came quickly to mind: “We read to know we are not alone.” The author’s arguments fit the reality of so many organizations I have been in. This would be a great book for discussion within a business, university, or nonprofit organization.

I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Al Erisman

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Drucker’s Lost Art of Management: Peter Drucker’s Timeless Vision for Building Effective Organizations by Joseph A. Maciariello and Karen E. Linkletter. New York: McGraw Hill, 2011. viii, 456 pp.

Joseph Maciariello is the Horton Professor of Management and director of research and academic director, The Drucker Institute, Claremont University. He was a colleague of Peter Drucker for 26 years. Karen Linkletter, a historian, teaches American studies at California State University, Fullerton. She was the first archivist at the Drucker Institute.

Peter Drucker was a management guru. He taught business at Claremont and was an advisor to many companies. He wrote 30 books (which were translated into 50 languages), and numerous articles.

Maciariello and Linkletter went through his writings and drew on their conversations with him to create a picture on his view of the role of management. Is business more than a money-making machine? Is there more to management than meeting or exceeding the numbers? Is there a connection between managing a business and the liberal arts?

The authors found evidence in Drucker’s writings to answer all of these questions positively. In the development, we not only learn about Drucker’s philosophy of management, but we also learn a great deal about who Drucker was and the forces and people who shaped him. The authors paint a clear picture of a man trained in the liberal arts in the devastation of Nazi Germany, and the shaping influences these ideas and events had on his thinking. Drucker became a student of the organization of government, and draws on the tension between federal and local control in application to managing a business. Drucker tended to be private about his religious views, but the authors found that what he said strongly shaped his view of business. His views included the high nature and potential of mankind while also seeing clearly the tendencies for evil. These influences became a fundamental part of how Peter Drucker approached the art of management.

Several of Drucker’s writings hinted at management as a liberal art, but he never developed what he thought this meant. So this became the task of the authors, piecing together the story of what they believe he meant by this phrase.

I give the authors high marks for this thoughtful work. They drew on lots of material to create the case for management as a liberal art. The book is engaging, well illustrated with anecdotes and stories, and makes a powerful point that could transform the way business looks at management. It is worth the time to go through this carefully.

As might be expected from such an expansive work, the writing also raised some questions that might have been better resolved. For example, after discussing the importance of culture and valuing people as a manager, there is a section on management by objectives where Drucker is quoted as saying

“The Responsible Worker is not only a worker who is accountable for specific results, but also who has the authority to do whatever is necessary to produce these results, and who finally is committed to these results as a personal achievement.” p. 172

Unfortunately, it is at this very point that too many managers start to ignore the values and the people in order to achieve the results. Perhaps the authors are arguing that the values need to be incorporated into the specific targets, but it would be good to see some development of how this is done.

Small points aside, this is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Al Erisman