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Posted May 20, 2001
A Management Process for Overcoming the Peter Principle
What do General Electric, Citigroup, and Marriott International have in common? They have built on the original conceptual work by Walt Mahler at General Electric to establish sustainable methods to developing management breadth and depth. This valuable book outlines the key principles of that current best practice. At a time when more and more companies are relying on headhunters to bring in leaders and management turnover is soaring among young talent, 'growing your own' leaders is about to become a necessary core competence for the future. While almost everyone who is interested in the subject has read glossy articles about what General Electric does at its Crotonville facility, this book provides the core of the broader management process behind those articles. The first part of the book focuses on six key transitions that help a leader develop. The second part shows you how to diagnose how individual leaders are doing, and how to help them make better progress. The six transitions are: from managing yourself to managing others from managing others to managing managers from managing managers to functional managing from functional managing to business managing from business managing to group managing from group managing to enterprise managing. At each transition, what the individual values and focuses on has to change dramatically. In organizations where this transition is not made explicit, you get almost all of the managers in the organization 'stuck' doing things the wrong way, still looking from the perspective of their last job. That's the stuff that Dilbert and the Peter Principle are made of. Although the book takes a large organization's point of view, in various places the points are translated into a small organizational context. Based on my experience with leaders at all these levels, I certainly agree with the authors' points about the key challenges involved. I also think that their diagnostic methods are good. In most cases, the root cause for the problem lies further up in the organization with someone who is not focusing or working on helping managers develop. The key weakness of the book is that in some elements the reader with limited business experience will still not be sure what to do. For example, the step from a functional manager to a business manager requires integrating all of the functions and perspectives in order to be successful. That is an enormous leap in knowledge, expertise, and experience. Although business school cases will help those with that experience, most managers will find it impossible to make the transition unless the business is very undemanding -- something that seldom happens any more. My own experience suggests that basic learning has to be pursued throughout the organization that emphasizes skills like problem solving, locating and implementing the next generation of best practices, and developing a deep understanding of how to create superior business processes as the foundation for this kind of leadership development program. In advanced companies, you can add the concept of having people develop skills for innovating new business models. Then, this leadership development process can become truly powerful. However you decide to go about it, the examples of setbacks and progress outlined in this excellent book will improve your ability to think about improving leadership in your organization. I urge you to read, consider, and apply what you learn. After you have finished thinking about and using the book, I suggest that you also think about where else in your company you do not have a management process to do something important. For example, do you have a management process to keep you aligned with powerful trends beyond your control? Do you have a management process to create superior business models? Be all the leader you can be! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 PerceWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.