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.

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