‘Smart moves management’ by John Thedford, published by Emerald Book Company

Ben Crowley2 Blogs Leave a Comment

This is another American book that caught my attention and that I felt was worth reading and reviewing. It is in sharp contrast to the more conceptual thinking that comes out of places like Harvard and is a typical example of a successful businessman who wants to pass on his secrets of success to others. Normally I am not impressed by such an approach but in this case I was, maybe because a lot of the advice was counter-intuitive.

The best example of this counter intuitiveness was his early advocacy of a ‘prosperous wage strategy’, paying people more than the market rate in order to achieve his key performance indicator of low labour turnover (he does however distinguish between ‘healthy’ labour turnover – caused by firing low performers – from ‘unhealthy’ turnover which is losing good people). He believes that this high wage strategy will give you better people who will, over the long term deliver greater value, despite their higher cost. He also advocates an element of overstaffing on the basis that understaffing will almost certainly be a value destroyer, particularly in personal service businesses.

He develops this theme further by stressing the importance of continuity of management; that moving managers around adversely impacts relationships and causes dissatisfaction among the managed. ‘People don’t leave companies, they leave poor managers’ is his argument. He believes that keeping the right managers in place is the biggest single driver of growth and profit, maybe something that football league clubs – apart from Manchester United of course – would do well to heed.

Clearly selection of the right people in the first place is key to this strategy and the importance of this process is stressed, as is the need to move people out quickly if the fit to the job is not right. He has a rather questionable black and white view about people’s ability to change – that it is zero – and believes that you must build on the strengths of those who are selected and work round their weaknesses.

All this is rather more interesting than I expected even though, unlike the previous book, there is no research to back up the author’s convictions, just his belief and track record. I don’t agree with everything he says and found his style of structuring his thoughts as 41 ‘smart moves’ to be irritating but I found his willingness to challenge conventional thinking, particularly around people costs, to be refreshing and thought provoking.

Click here to buy the book.

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