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Apache: Book Review

Book Review: The Enthusiastic Employee (2nd Edition)

How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want

So I opened my resume and counted how many places I have been since leaving the electronic engineering field. I have had 18 gigs. Most of that time was spent as a consultant in the role of software architect or software process engineer. Most gigs were like building a house. You do the architectural plans, lead the team through development, and you leave. Home builders do not hang around waiting for something to need repaired. They turn the keys over to the owners and move on to the next house.

I have had several 100% work from home jobs, partial work from home jobs, road warrior jobs, jobs with long commutes, and jobs I ride the train to daily.

The point is I have managed a lot of different teams, and have been under a lot of different management styles, in many different environments. Since I am in IT I tend to stick to IT centric management books. Two of my favorites are Managing the Unmanageable and Peopleware. This book definitely belongs on the shelf with them.

The authors of this book have done an awesome job of compiling a ton of great management advice in one place. A few weeks before I planned on reading it, I was very anxious to see what was in it, so I started just opening up different spots in the book. I soon learned that was a trap, because whatever the topic was it sucked me.

The book covers a lot of ground and it covers it in detail. They do not present best practices dreamed up by a bunch of ivory tower managers sitting in a think tank, they present real problems, and real solutions, backed by real data. The book is broken down into five parts. I have listed them below along with the chapters they contain to give you a high level view of the topics covered.

Part I: Worker Motivation, Morale, and Performance
1. What Workers Want—The Big Picture
2. Employee Enthusiasm and Business Success

Part II: Enthusiastic Workforces, Motivated by Fair Treatment
3. Job Security
4. Compensation
5. The Impact of the Great Recession: Flight to Preservation
6. Respect

Part III: Enthusiastic Workforces, Motivated by Achievement
7. Organization Purpose and Principles
8. Job Enablement
9. Job Challenge
10. Feedback, Recognition, and Reward

Part IV: Enthusiastic Workforces, Motivated by Camaraderie
11. Teamwork

Part V: Bringing It All Together: The Culture of Partnership
12. The Culture of Partnership
13. Leadership and the Partnership Culture
14. Translating Partnership Theory into Partnership Practice

Building the People Performance Model in chapter 2 the authors do a great job of showing how important high employee morale is for great customer satisfaction. I have been in plenty of places that don't understand that the only person you really work for is the customer. Not your manager, CIO, team leader, or the president of the company. If they understand they all work for the customer too, then the organization is usually healthy.

I have been several places that have forgotten that customers pays their bills. I know of situations where customers were misled and made to pay for free software. I have seen customers talked into using subpar software because the consulting firm gets a kickback for using it. I have seen a $10K component sold for $300K. I have watch customers be told there was a team ready to go for their project when there was no one on the team at that point.

I have witnessed good IT departments be gutted by newly appointed directors and CIOs that don't feel they have the skill set to continue running it the way it is running, and throw every project to vendors which will cause everything to be built for twice the price. Seeing this kind of stuff is just depressing and immediately removes your trust in the company. If they are willing to do things like this to their customers, they sure as heck are not going to hesitate burning an employee. Chapter 7 goes into what I am speaking about here.

One of my favorite things about the book is they provide data from real companies that back up the advice they are giving in the book. The data is surprising or the opposite of what you would expect sometimes.

Another thing I really like is how current it is. They provide a great deal of advice based on the effect of the 2008 recession. The insight given in that chapter alone is worth buying the book.

They also address the new Yahoo CIO's policy of zero telecommuting. I am not going to give away what they said, but I will say I agreed with everything they had to say on the topic.

One thing I learned a long longtime ago is that there are people who are classified as non-trainable individuals. They ended up in the position they are filling by putting in time-in-service, as the military calls it, or some other means that did not require them to have the skill set to do the job before they got it. You move them to an appropriate position for their skills or you fire them, period. This book does not steer clear of the fire word.

I point that out because one of the biggest flaws with some of the agile management books around today is that they desire a team equally skilled and capable, but on any decent size project, that is practically impossible. A bad seed on an agile team needs to go, and sooner rather than later. Most of the books I am referencing just ignore the subject.

I also liked the three styles of management they put into context and covered. The three styles they cover are autocratic management which is top-down, laissez-faire which is bottom-up, and participative management, where influence goes both up and down. They do a great job in this part of the book of showing the impact a style of management can have.

The author's writing styles make the book an easy read and the stories and statistics keep it very interesting. I found value in every chapter, and I did not leave a chapter feeling like I was short changed.

All in all I highly recommend this book to anyone in management - CIO, Director, CEO, Project Managers, Department Managers, etc. I also recommend this book to anyone who is working anywhere!!! To have an understanding of the way things could be are essential to your survival.



The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want (2nd Edition)

The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want (2nd Edition)

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