Book Review - The One Minute Manager

Between 2009 to 2011, I was working at a client location in Bangalore, the IT hub of India. Our client was ANZ Bank, which had its captive IT operations running out from Bangalore. I used to stay in a village called Kagadasapura. ANZ office was at Embassy Golf Links Business Park, a modern IT factory, about 10km away from my residence. I used to travel to office by bus from the CV Raman nagar bus stop. This ensured that I got a seat and it also gave me ample of time, almost 1 hour daily, to read books.

ANZ was, and I believe still is a progressive organization. It used to organize several events to promote different type of awareness among its employees. In one such quality awareness drives, the Quality team had come to our work bay and they conducted a mini quiz. They said, anyone who could answer 3 questions would get a spot prize. I do not remember the questions now, but I eventually won the prize. It was a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate and a small red book titled “The One Minute Manager”. Being a book lover and also a chocolate chaser, I could not have asked for anything more. So, I devoured the Diary Milk Chocolate as soon as the event was over. Then, I took a hard look at the book and read the synopsis on the back cover. It was interesting. It talked about 3 secrets of a One Minute Manager. This piqued my interest to glance at the contents. From the contents, the book seemed very funny. I decided to read it cover to cover once I board the bus, I thought to myself.

The One Minute Manager is a very small book, about 110 pages, written by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. A small book, published first in 1981, you can literally breeze through it quickly and understand the core concepts easily. Before I go to the core concept of the One Minute Manager, let me tell you about the characters in the book.
In this book, there are 2 main characters – The young man & the Old man and 3 supporting characters – the 3 folks who report to the old man.

The scene opens with the following context. A young man is searching for the most effective manager. His search has taken him many places. He interacted with different types of managers. Some of them were ones who got results, but the people under them were not happy. Some were such that the people working with them were very happy, but they did not get results. Finally, he comes to a manager of whom he has heard a lot of good things. He thinks it will be difficult to get an appointment. But he is surprised with the ease with which he is able to meet him.

The Young man spends some time the Old Man, discussing about his management style. He learns various quirks of the old man. The old man commends him for his sincerity to learn the method of management and also rebukes him when the young man asks the old man to repeat something. When the young man asks him what is his management style, the old man says he is the One Minute Manager. Our young man is not able to understand, let alone believe what the old man said. So, the old man asks the Young man to talk to his staff to understand his management style.

Our young man goes and meets the staff members and each one tells him one secret. So, here are the 3 secrets of the One Minute Manager.

  1. One Minute Goal Setting – Set written goals that can be read in 1 minute
  2. One Minute Praise – Praise people doing right thing to encourage that behavior
  3. One Minute reprimands – Reprimand the wrong behavior, not the person

These are 3 simple but effective techniques that the young man learns. The young man also discovers that the operations run by the old man was the best in the organization and the old man was known to be a manager-maker in the organization. After learning these, the young man comes to the one minute manager and has a long discussion with him. He has some doubts in his mind. He asks the following questions:

  •         Why does One minute Goal Setting work?
  •          Why does One minute praise work?
  •          Why does One minute reprimand work?

The old man patiently explains why each of these techniques work. He tells that these are based on psychological principles and concepts. He gives examples from animal world as well as social real world context on how these principles are applied. At the end, the young man is convinced of the effectiveness of these techniques.

Finally, the old man offers a job to the young man. He gladly takes it up and starts practicing the one minute management concepts. He keeps sharing these concepts with others

My observations

This book gives simple, effective and easy to remember management techniques for managers. I loved the simplicity and the reasoning that is given in the book on why these techniques are effective. These techniques can be easily implemented, provided you learn them properly, practice them and get a conducive environment. Being in toastmasters, I could relate how effective these are while providing evaluations. In fact, as an evaluator in one of the toastmaster meeting, I had once used this technique to provide my evaluation to the speaker.

I have few qualms with this technique as well. The first one is, this principle is quite good for managing team members. But, it cannot be used while working with peers or with your supervisors. The second one is that the scenarios described in the books are idealistic. Real world is much more complex. It has various nuances and shades and a direct application of these techniques may not be possible.

Having said that, my verdict is this is a good book. I would advise you to read it, re-read it, understand it and apply it in your professional and personal life.

Good Habits Kill Bad Habits

Can developing good habits kill the bad one's?

The short answer - Yes.

The long answer, well it is a long process and it takes time. But developing certain good habits are known to kill bad habits. Let me give you an example from my own life. 6 years ago, I was a sedentary, lethargic and utterly unfit person. I used to eat all kinds of junk food, smoke almost 8–10 cigarettes a day, sleep late and wake up late. All my vital health parameters like BMI, Blood Pressure, Lipid Profile, Urea, etc had gone over the roof. I knew that all that I used to do like smoking, binge eating, oversleeping etc are bad habits. But I did not know how to get rid of them. In fact, I never tried to shed those habits because I used to enjoy them.

In 2011, I took up running to control my weight. It was a difficult process. It took me several months and a truckload of will power to get into the groove of running. You can read that story here: Couch Potato to Runner - My Story!

In about an years time, the running habit was firmly established. I started calling myself a runner. I did not know that I was setting up a habit that would change my life. I lost the extra weight that I was carrying for most of my life. The health parameters came back to normal. I started taking part in longer runs. This meant I has to eat healthy food. My binge eating stopped. I had to wake up early to go for my daily run. This meant that I had to go to sleep early. My overall lifestyle changed because of the habit of running. In order to run better, I felt like quitting smoking. One fine day, I just stopped. The runs were much more enjoyable and I became faster.

Today, I am a changed person. I have become much disciplined and have incorporated many other practices into my daily life. My life today is 360 degree different from what it was 6 years ago.

So, yes, it is possible. It will take time. But with your will power and patience, a good habit will help you kill bad habits. Such habits are known as key-stone habits. They are the ones that help add more and more good habits in your life and drop the bad ones. Example of keystone habits are running, meditation, tracking your food intake, maintaining a daily to-do list etc.

The Three Bulls

Long ago, in a village, lived a young man. He fell in love with a beautiful young woman. He wanted to marry that woman. So, as was the custom in those days, the young man went to the woman’s father and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

The woman’s father wanted to test the courage of the young man. The father said, “I will give you my daughter in marriage if you are able to pass in a certain test”. He added, “Come to my farm tomorrow morning. I will release three bulls one after the other. All you have to do is to touch the tail of any one of the bulls. Mind you, you have to touch the tail only. You cannot touch any other part of the bull”. The young man agreed.

The next day, the young man reached the farm. He was waiting at the gate of the farm for the bulls to be released. Soon, the gate of the farm was opened. The young man could see a large black bull was stomping inside. It was huge. It was more like a rhino than a bull. As soon as the black bull started running towards him, he felt nervous and queasy. He thought, “This is a large bull. If I try to touch it, it could kick me hard. I would be make pulp out of me. There are two more bulls to come after this. May be I should try the next one”. And he let the large bull get away.

After some time, the young man could see another red bull stomping inside the farm. It was not as large as the previous black bull. But it had two ferocious horns. The red bull was stomping the ground, raising a little storm, all the while tossing its head all around and jumping up and down. It displayed very aggressive behavior. The young man thought, “This bull is smaller that the previous one. So the next bull will be even smaller. Why to take risk of life. I still have one more chance and I will try it.” Thus, when the bull came running towards him, he let it go.

Finally the third bull came around. It was a white bull. It was built small. It had very small horns and looked very docile. The young man thought “This is my chance and I will catch the tail of this bull”. He positioned himself and got ready to catch the tail. The bull came running slowly towards him. Just as the bull reached near him, the young man stepped forward to catch its tail. But, alas, the white bull had no tail!

Thus, the young man could pass the test and could not marry the woman he wanted to.

In life, many times, we also let go of opportunities. Under various pretext and excuses, we forgo opportunities that life gives us. We say, we will take the next opportunity or the next one. But no one knows, whether the next opportunity will be the right one or not.