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Book Review: The 24 Carrot Manager


Title: The 24-Carrot Manager
Authors: Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
ISBN: 0-470-82163-9
Price: £9.79 (paperback)
Reviewer: Sharon Cooper

This book is subtitled “A remarkable story of how a leader can unleash human potential.” As the word carrot in the title might indicate, it deals with employee motivation and recognition. It is a very easy book to read, short (just over 100 pages) and clearly set out.

The management wisdom is interspersed between chapters of a fable about a commander sent to a distant planet which is covered in dust and full of unmotivated inhabitants. He finds a packet of carrot seeds in the drawer which he plants and uses the carrots as rewards for his staff who have had only packaged food to live on. It’s a kind of “Who moved my cheese” for the space age!

The subjects are covered under chapters with titles such as “Carrots improve your eyesight” (notice and recognise the right behaviours) and “Keep your eye on the harvest” (focus recognition on behaviour that makes the organisation stronger). It may be all a bit twee but it keeps the theme going.

If you are a seasoned HR practitioner, there is nothing in here that you would not already know or which is not blindingly common sense. We know about Maslow and Hertzberg’s motivational theories. This book does not generally, however, draw upon academic research to make its point. Rather, it takes examples from organisations that have been written up for treating their employees well.

There may be some recognition tools that you will not have heard of before but in general we know - for example, that money is not the only motivator and that praise and recognition must be specific to have an impact. On the other hand, you may want the maverick manager in your organisation who prefers the use of the stick to a carrot to read the book. It wouldn’t take him long and it just may give him a different view of life.

My major gripe about this book is that it is too “North American”. There are many ideas that could easily be applied on this side of the Atlantic but equally others that would not translate into a UK workplace. Can you imagine the reaction of your employees if they were asked to gather around a colleague to sing a song such as “You light up my life” to them? Or you organised a departmental water pistol fight in the car park in their honour? You just have to suspend the European cynicism to enjoy this book in the spirit in which it was written.

Review ratings:

  • Overall 3

  • Helpfulness 2

  • Layout 4

  • Value for money 3

  • Suitability for professional level? Junior Managers

  • Would you recommend it? For reading on the train/plane


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