Monday, May 16, 2005

Book — The One Minute Manager — Blanchard & Johnson

Synopsis

Get the best results out of your staff by giving them succinct objectives, and "course corrections" in the form of brief praise or reprimands directed at their actions.

Discussion

This is really management by Skinnerian behaviourism; and as such is an entirely valid technique provided that the objectives are explicit and self-consistent; and that the reinforcing praise or reprimands are given in a consistent fashion, as the psychological experiments indicate. In a situation where the objectives are fluid or unclear, or if the technique is applied unevenly — both entirely plausible situations in the modern agile world of business — the efficacy of the technique will be blunted.

To the more reserved British audience, the touchy-feely approach recommended for both praise and reprimand (in the latter case to reinforce that one “loves the sinner but hates the sin”, to put it into faux-scriptural form) may be uncomfortable for the manager, and may make the proper application of negative reinforcement less effective. This is not necessarily a complete loss, as the positive-reinforcement-only form of operant conditioning is also effective.

Conclusion

A well intentioned formula management book; though possibly best suited to handling self-starting individuals who only need this sort of course-correction on an occasional basis, and if clear and concrete objectives can be agreed.

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