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Kathryn MacNeill

Kairos Coaching & Development


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Book review: Under New Management – How leading organizations are upending business as usual


Burkus is no stranger to controversial approaches to business, having previously penned The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas. It’s one I’ve already added to my Wish List for future reading, based on how engaging I have found his latest work.

Burkus is not a sensationalist. He comes from a perspective of research and reflection, taking subjects of great significance to business today and offering some challenging new perspectives. He dives straight in at chapter one, which is entitled ‘Outlaw Email’. Each chapter presents another equally challenging subject – ‘Lose the Standard Vacation Policy’, ‘Close Open Offices’, ‘Ditch Performance Appraisals’ and ‘Ban Noncompetes’ being just a few of the choice morsels on offer.

How to share something of the incredible ideas this book presents? Maybe a select few quotes will help:

“Interestingly, the effect of limiting email on lowering stress was found to be about as strong as the effects of many common relaxation techniques…”

“Eden McCallum is a consulting firm with no consultants and uses that to its competitive advantage”

“Great leaders don’t innovate the product, they innovate the factory” (quoting Dane Atkinson)

“… there is no vacation policy. Netflix employees take as much time as they feel they need…”

“… during their primary training at Zappos, new employees are offered $4,000 to leave the company right then. They are paid to quit.”

“… the open floor plan is also damaging to employees’ productivity, attention span, satisfaction, and creative thinking because it creates more interruptions, heightens stress, and makes employees less able to concentrate.”

What has struck me throughout my reading is Burkus’ ability to offer grounded alternatives to the status quo without creating any condemnation for those who prefer to maintain their current reality. It is maybe to do with his determination to see a subject from more than one viewpoint.

He represents both those companies for whom the new became the best, and those who rapidly called the retreat when it was clear the plan was a dud. His thoughtful analysis of the outcomes in either situation highlight how the success or fail of a project typically lies in the instigators’ understanding of ‘why’ – why a project could bring benefits, why the workforce may welcome or fear the change, why it might not work in this environment.

For those in small businesses or who are self-employed, it might feel easy to pass this book over. Yet, as a self-employed business owner myself, I thoroughly recommend this book to each of you. The freshness and originality of the ideas Burkus shares and the powerful impact they have had on many organisations is inspiration in itself. It leads me to consider how my world, so very un-corporate as it may seem, could be better shaped to deliver world-class results right here from my home office.

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Kathryn MacNeill


Read more from Kathryn MacNeill

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