Marty Jacobs consults in the areas of strategic planning, board governance, leadership development, and community engagement.
The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, Peter Drucker, 2008. These five questions are essentially an organizational assessment, and although they are directed toward nonprofits, they can be used in any type of organization. The five questions are:
1. What is our mission?
2. Who is our customer?
3. What does the customer value?
4. What are our results?
5. What is our plan?
These five questions weave together a process of reflection an organization can undertake to determine its current reality and chart a future course. For those interested in further inquiry, Drucker lists a number of additional questions for additional exploration.
Although this book is specifically about sustainability, in a broader sense it is really about how to bring systems thinking into our institutions and into our global society. The revolution that the authors refer to is twofold: it is focused on our global environmental impact, and it is focused on the change in thinking that needs to take place in order to minimize that impact. Three key behaviors will create this shift in thinking: seeing systems, collaborating across boundaries, and moving from a problem solving mindset to one of creating the future. The book offers some great examples of how we got into our current predicament and companies that are starting to apply systems thinking to help move "beyond the bubble," as it is referred to in the book. Scattered throughout the book are sections called "Toolbox," which offer a number of exercises and activities that organizations can undertake to begin to address the issue of sustainability. This book is a great resource for any organization looking to do more than pick the low hanging fruit when it comes to sustainability.
This book is based on research about organizations that do well despite a constantly changing environment. Since that latter phrase applies to all of us, there is something for everyone in this book. It’s chock of ideas for how organizations and their leaders can ride the wave of uncertainty that seems to be the only constant in organizational life these days. All these ideas come together in what is referred to in the Art of Hosting as “the chaordic path” – the path between chaos and order. An organization that can effectively navigate that path will develop strength and clarity, and the successful journey requires a leader (or leaders) who can discern the nuances between how much order and how much chaos will illuminate the path. It’s a tricky process, and this book highlights this.
That said, I have one caveat to throw in. This book was written by men about men, so it did not always resonate with me. In particular, when the authors describe the characteristics of 10xers, the term they use to describe leaders of these successful organizations, I had to ask, “Whose definition of success? Do these guys have a life?” It seemed to me that the only measurement of success was the bottom line. In this day and age, I truly believe that a more accurate measure of success is the triple bottom line. Organizations can no longer focus solely on profit to the exclusion of social and environmental impact.
Insightfulness: 4/5 stars.
Poor research and full-on-inaccuracies: -2/5 stars.
Reading this book is like listening to your mechanic say:
"People don't like horse manure, that's why the automobile succeeded in replacing the horse-drawn carriage." and: "Having a car allows you to get places faster. So without a car, you can’t get anywhere on time.”
And then, the mechanic follows that up with very useful advice on how to maintain your car. You appreciate the useful advice, but you are blown away by some of the other comments. Oh, and the mechanic happens to be the friendliest person you know!
The author comes across as an extremely kindhearted person, and so it pains me to write anything but the loveliest review. However, it also pains me to hear the author say:
"A company is a culture. A group of people brought together around a common set of values and beliefs." Certainly, each person in the group has a reason (a “Why” as the author calls it) for being a part of the group, but those reasons are not necessarily *shared* amongst the group.
The author makes a multitude of social, anthropological, technological and historical claims many of which are, to varying degrees, inaccurate and poorly researched. Other claims simply seem naïve of the author to make (eg. what were the Wright Brothers’ and Steve Jobs’ *true,* *deep-down internal* thought processes and motivations driving their achievements). And often times, the author exemplifies a misunderstanding of causality (akin to the horse manure/automobile logic above).
Ironically, the skewed-logic and faulty claims are invoked to support what are otherwise insightful conclusions. (eg, it is beneficial to employees/ers to choose their respective association with each other based on a common set of values and beliefs).
If you can make it through the frustrating distractions of repetitiveness and inaccuracies, this book does have useful tidbits.
(he does do a good job with narration)