Management in 10 Words: A book review by Bob Morris

Management in 10 Words: Practical Advice from the Man Who Created One of the World’s Great Retailers
Terry Leahy
Crown Business (2012)

Whatever the “talk,” it must be “walked” to have any credibility.

The most substantial benefit from this book is derived from what Terry Leahy shares so generously from his personal as well as professional experiences as the former CEO of one of the world’s largest, most successful corporations. Almost immediately, he establishes and then sustains a direct, personal, at times almost confidential rapport with his reader. As he would be the first to point out, no matter what any ten words are selected (including his), they are essentially meaningless in the absence of appropriate behavior.

As for Leahy’s ten words (i.e. truth, loyalty, courage, values, act, balance, simple, lean, compete, and trust), others of comparable meaning and significance (e.g. authenticity and integrity) could probably have served just as well but that’s not the point. Leahy’s key insight is that the values one affirms must be in total alignment with how one behaves, especially in relationships with those for whom one is directly responsible. Long ago, Leahy realized that he could not manage others effectively unless and until he understood how to manage himself.

He devotes a separate chapter to each of his ten core values, introducing each with a brief but remarkably precise explanation of the essence of the given value. For example, for Chapter 3: “Good strategies need to be bold and daring. People need to be stretched as they 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 organization with a choice: have these great ambitions, or remain as you are.” And then for Chapter 7, “Change in any fast-moving, fast-growing 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.”

Here are a few of the several dozen passages that caught my eye:

o  Acting on the truth (Pages 22-40)
o  Acting on your values (124-129)
o  “The Steering Wheel” (138-139 and 184-186)

o  How not to take action (171-176)
Note: Leahy wholly agrees with Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

o  Keeping both feet on the ground (190-193)
o  Simplicity as practice (209-216)
o  The power and impact of “lean thinking” (233-245)
o  Learning from the competition (255-265)
o  Building trust (275-284)

Before concluding his book, Leahy shares his thoughts about the deeply-troubled global business community, one in which many (too many) business leaders have lost their moral compass and led their organizations astray. His focus is on culture: Who a human community really is and what it really values. “More than ever before, organizations need people who are not merely motivated to work hard, but have the freedom and the encouragement to innovate, to think for themselves, and take risks. We need a culture that embraces change, and simple systems that can easily respond to that change. Above all,” and these points are his most important, “companies and other organizations that rely on customer or citizen loyalty must not simply have common values, but live by those values. They need to confront the truth head-on, as loyalty and trust cannot be built on the shifting sand of lies and half-truths.”

Thank you, Terry Leahy, for the keenness of your mind and the pleasure of your company. Above all, thank you for your passion to prove worthy of the respect and trust of those with whom it is your privilege to be associated.

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