Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Under New Management How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual


"If human beings could invent the modern industrial organization, then they can reinvest it" - Gary Hamel


I have spent most of my career in the banking world. Professional, rigid, rule abiding, and corporate. I tried to work at smaller banks to avoid the corporate ways and games. Some things have changed over my 20 year banking career – just not enough. Today I work in an open office atmosphere, email rules the day, and there is a bigger focus on team. It just isn’t quite enough.

 Under New Management How Leading Organizations are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus represents my corporate dream. David examines new methods to manage and lead people. He pushes aside the traditional management tools and throws out some innovative ideas that are fresh, new, and probably pretty controversial to conventional managers. The thing is, some companies are very successful using some of the new ideas that Burkus shares. What will it take for more to jump on the bandwagon?

David challenges us reexamine our current ways. As a manager, I ate this book up page by page. I love new styles that focus on people and this book delivers. Life is fast paced today and some managers refuse to be innovative and challenge the status quo. Is that you? Under new Management focuses on 13 chapters each outlining a new idea, concept or way of thinking. Some of them will make you uncomfortable and saying “No Way!” Others may have you ready to jump out of your chair chanting “Yes! Yes!” The old ways of managing just don’t work anymore and it’s time make change and impact the world.

Let’s dive into some new ideas from David Burkus. Here are 13 of them for you to discover in Under New Management.

·         Outlaw Email. The book starts with a shocker. Outlaw email? Email can be very distracting and pulls us away like a delicate piece of chocolate. We hear and see them roll in all day. They interrupt us, stress us out, make us feel like are missing something if we don’t respond immediately. I worked in an office where I swear there was a contest going on as to who answered emails first. I always lost. Emails “pollute” the work environment, keep people from communicating, and freak us out. Some companies are eliminating emails or at least limiting the hours it can be used. Sound radical? It is, but it may just work.
·         Put Customers Second. Wow. I loved this chapter. By putting people first you will have happier customers and improved performance. Invest in what is important (people) and the chips will fall into place. Make managers accountable to your first line people and watch satisfaction and productivity skyrocket.
·         Lose The Standard Vacation Policy. I love this idea because it empowers people and makes them responsible. Companies like Netflix have seen increased freedom and trust which translates into higher productivity. I love this idea for me however, I’m not so sure that all employees are ready for this novel idea.
·         Pay People to Quit. Zappos pays people to quit. Yup, quit. If you hire in and want to leave after 3 weeks you receive $4000 to do so. No strings. In the end this offer keeps great employees who want to be a part of the culture and they are more engaged with a higher self worth. Better to cut sunk costs early rather than later.
·         Make Salaries Transparent. Some companies have instituted policies where everyone knows what their coworkers make. They claim that it is more efficient and actually increases productivity. The secrecy is gone and after awhile people stop being interested in what others make.
·         Ban NonCompetes. So many of us have been hand tied by non compete agreements. They ultimately hamper true competition and fail to motivate people. Clients and employees will follow those that they trust and admire; a non compete won’t stop that process.  
·         Ditch Performance Appraisals. This is one of my favorites. As a manager I have always hated the traditional review process and hate getting them today. They are aged and out of touch, I was cheering for this idea. Let’s have more check ins, more ongoing coaching and development, and bring morale up. Stop rating people on curves and dehumanizing your team.
·         Hire as a Team. I love this idea and have always tried to make hiring decisions based on a team decision process. The team owns their projects and productivity. They need to choose the talent and enhance collaboration.
·         Write the Org Chart in Pencil. This is a novel approach. Rather than building teams in traditional roles, build a team around projects and change things up when a project wraps up. It’s flexible, fluid, and talent is shared. Why not?
·         Open Offices Shut Employees Down. Here! Here! This is another idea that I cheer on. I love hustle and bustle as well as my teammates but open offices are distracting. I don’t want to hear about everyone’s woes or their rough party last night. Studies show that open offices worsen relationships, are too loud and distracting, lower job performance, and plain annoy people. There is a better way and leaders need to own up to change.
·         Take Sabbaticals. This is a refreshing idea. Initially my reaction was negative. It could never work. Then I really thought about what David wrote and changed my mind. Granted sabbaticals won’t work with every industry however, rejuvenation, new ideas, cross training, and less stress won me over.
·         Fire the Managers. Since I am a manager, this wasn’t my favorite idea. However, it grew on me the more that David explained the idea and shared examples where it is effective. This idea is probably best employed in a smaller company and offers more autonomy, better work control, more loyalty, and shared leadership.
·         Celebrate departures. I have always rejoiced for people who left my teams for better opportunities. Good companies do the same and form networks to reunite people and keep alumni ties. I worked for a smaller bank and we have an alumni group with occasional reunions. Although most of us are gone due to a merger, we remain close and will always have a special bond.


Reading Under New Management was a delight and I almost read it without putting it down once. This book fed my management dreams and really convinced me to take a second look at some new ideas that I originally scoffed at. The old ways are hindering our competitiveness and stifling people and innovation. We all have a responsibility to challenge ourselves and our people to do better, be better, and grow better. Happy reading!