Management in 10 Words

I read this book after hearing Terry Leahy interviewed on Radio 4. This book is part autobiography of his time at the helm of Tesco’s and part a text on management. Whatever you think about Tescos (and I will admit I avoid shopping in Tesco if I can help it) is that this is a well researched and well written book.

Leahy’s 10 Words are:

  1. Truth – Organisations are terrible at confronting the truth. IT is much easier to define your own version of reality, and  judge success and failure according to that. But my experience is that truth is crucial both to create and to sustain success.
  2. Loyalty – Winning and retaining loyalty is the best objective any business – indeed, any organisation – can have. The search for loyalty has, at its heart, an age-old idea: you reward the behaviour you see from others.
  3. Courage – Good strategies need to be bold and daring. People need to be stretched as tehy can do more than they think Goals have to cause excitement, and perhaps just a little fear. Above all, they need to inspire, and present an organisation with a choice: have these great ambitions, or remain as you are.
  4. Values – Strong values underpin successful businesses. They give managers a sheet anchor, something that holds their position and keeps them from being smashed against the rocks when caught in a storm. Values govern how a business behaves, what it sees as importnat, what it does when faced with a problem.
  5. Act – Intention is never enough. Plans mean nothing if they are not effectively enacted.
  6. Balance – A balanced organisation is one in which everyone moves forward together, steered in the right direction, without being overrun by the juggernaut of bureaucracy.
  7. Simple – Change in any fast moving company is not easy. My solution is quite simple: to make things simple. Simplicity is the knife that cuts through the tangled spaghetti of life’s problems.
  8. Learn – Sustainable consumption depends on desiring goods and services that use fewer natural resources. By thinking lean, we can go green – and do more, for less.
  9. Compete – Competitors – and the act of competition itself – are great competitors to come over the horizon. Seek them out.
  10. Trust – Trust is the bedrock of leadership. When people trust you, they feel safe in your hands, and they have confidence in you vision, ability, judgment, drive and determination to see things through.
There were some points in the book that I noted down that I have shared below:
  • Organisations should not have strategy units; strategy should come from the very top of an organisation and then should not be tinkered with; strategy units allow leaders to abdicate their responsibility.
  • Failure: a word that strikes terror into peoples hearts. However you cannot have success without failure. Those who know the fear of failure and press ahead regardless are courageous .
  • An analogy of using the Tokyo production system was explained; stating that no problem, error or mistake was treated as a one-off. Each occurrence was seen as an event that should be engineered out of the system – interrogating the cause of the fault until the ultimate cause had been identified and fixed. This shows the power of learning from failure.
  • People’s behaviour is swayed more by emotion, their gut reaction, than by reason. Those emotions are often driven and underpinned by values.
  • Some managers are cynical about writing down an organisation’s values. While it may be true that people do share many common values, when you write down what you and your team care most about, you are likely to be creating something unique for your company or organisation.
  • Clear values set a framework for good behaviour, a sense of discipline and an environment in which people feel confident and secure.
  • When drawing up a system a leader must be sure – and needs to check – that there is one person who is responsible for understanding the wood, trees, branches and twigs of the entire system being designed, and that person leads the project.
  • ‘Bureaucratic’ is one of the worst insults you can throw at someone – you’re slow, unresponsive, wedded to rules and regulations. For the humans inside a bureaucratic organisations, work can quickly become a rather confused, isolated, and unsettling experience. They feel trapped in a structure which controls rather than serves them.
  • Processes should be simple. To check whether something is simple use the ABC test. Simple is Acheivable, brings Benefit, and is Clear.
    • Achievable – I can do this new process correctly first time (have the skills and the resources).
    • Benefit – Process helps us achieve our aims, or fix something that is broken.
    • Clear – it was easy to remember and explain to others.

This book is a fairly quick read and I would strongly recommend it to others.