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A review of "Results: Keep What’s Good, Fix What’s Wrong, and Unlock Great Performance":

Written by Gary L. Neilson & Bruce A. Pasternack, published by Crown Business, New York ISBN 1400098394 (2005)


Results is another contribution in a crowded field about ideas and prescriptions to create high performance within organizations. The book draws on work of the global firm Booz Allen Hamilton and offers a useful framework to understand how organizations achieve results. The work is based on four building blocks which are described as the organization’s DNA. These building blocks build around the dimensions of how decisions are made and who has those decision roles, the coordination and movement of information in the organization, motivators and incentives that drive peoples behaviors, and the overall structure of the organizational model used to put it together.

The book will be particularly useful for people who are experienced in managing organizations and for practitioners with extensive experience in change management. One of the particularly useful elements of the book was its description of a range of organizational types based on the findings of Booth Alan Hamilton over the years. They propose seven organizational types from the very common passive aggressive culture, in which everyone agrees but nothing changes, through to resilient organizations with a flexible philosophy and that are fun to work in. A range of types sit between.

The particular strength of the book is the descriptors and examples for each of the seven organizational types. Through careful reflection on these descriptors and the narrations surrounding them, readers will be able to identify the elements that are operating in their own organization. In that sense many of the prescriptions for change or ideas for improvement imbedded in the book will make more useful meaning.

One frustration with the book is that it refers readers to a web page with an instrument to help understand their own organization. I found this questionnaire associated with the web page to be inadequate, and over simplified.

That aside, I would feel that most readers would have more than adequate information from within the text to be able to draw some conclusions about their own organizations.

As an offering in a field that has many such pieces of work I find this book to be extremely useful. It is useful in the fact that it starts with the proposition around the four building blocks and then proceeds to describe seven completely different organizations in the context of those building blocks. This is something that many authors often don’t do in this domain. I find that tight connection between the underlying theoretical frameworks and the description of the theory and practice is particularly strong.

The work is also helped by the inclusion of some comment about the research behind the book and the information that has gone into establishing the various organizational profiles proposed.

There is a particularly good chapter in the book describing the journey taken by Caterpillar Inc, a global company known principally for large construction and earth moving, as it moves to create itself as a resilient organization. This chapter alone makes the book worth reading.

“Results” is a very useful contribution to the field and one that should have considerable utility for change practitioners. Experience leaders will be able to use the tools it provides to modify their organization and create sustained change.

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