Book 15 of 52: "The One Minute Manager" by Kenneth Blanchard & Spencer Johnson

What a weird, curious, short little book.

“The One Minute Manager” is one of those management books told as a parable, where we follow an unnamed main character as he meets a magical, mystical manager figure that somehow does everything right, where others fail.  In this book, that character is named, aptly enough, the One Minute Manager.

As our little straw man narrator/main character has discussions with the great One Minute Manager, as well as his adoring underlings, we get a picture of how, at least in this idealized world, managers are supposed to act in order to succeed.

In this perfect little world, the One Minute Manager sets clear, short, simple goals for his employees that they both agree on.  They meet each week to discuss progress on these goals, and the employees receive immediate and direct praise for things done well, and immediate scoldings for things done wrong.  These scoldings never attack the employee directly, but they do include praise as well, to encourage the employee to do better next time.

And that’s it.  That’s all the One Minute Manager does.

Oooh, magic.

Of course, this is all very well and good in the parable world.  But that’s not always the same as in the real world.  What do you do when the real world takes an unexpected turn that isn’t mentioned in our happy little artificial parable world?

For example, what happens when an employee simply isn’t motivated?  One minute a week isn’t enough to keep them believing that they should care about their assignment, especially if they’re salaried.  Or what if an employee has multiple projects – how does the manager decide which are most important?  How does the manager even make these decisions, aside from perhaps relying far too much on his own gut?

In all of these areas, “The One Minute Manager” is conspicuously silent.  Perhaps the strategy works in Parable World, but in the real world, I suspect it’s merely a reminder for managers to not micromanage or be too controlling or demanding on their employees.  And despite its short and easily readable form, this book really is just too simplified for most modern workers.

Time to read: 20 minutes.  Seriously, it’s only 100 pages, and only has about 50 words per page.

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