Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job / Edition 1

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PRAISE FOR JOY AT WORK This is not your everyday leadership book about how to survive in the corporate jungle, or how to outfox the competition to build a bigger bank account. Dennis Bakke knows that business is not just about the bottom line. It's about something much more important. "Work," as Bakke explains, "is one of the ways we honor or 'glorify' God." Today, joy and work are rarely used in the same sentence. But God really does intend for us to find joy in our work. Is this possible? Can this be accomplished in a fallen world? Dennis Bakke, a graduate of the Harvard Business School, wrestled with these questions when he cofounded AES, a worldwide energy giant, in 1981. Shaped by his faith, Bakke sets off on a quest to create the most fun workplace ever-using principles established in the Garden. In Joy At Work, Bakke describes how he empowered people to use their God-given talents free of needles bureaucracy, obliterated management, eliminated job descriptions, and pushed decision-making responsibility down to the plant floor. These principles extend beyond the walls of business, and can be applied to nonprofit organizations, churches and even your family. "The idea of creating a workplace in which everyone maximized his or her God-given potential and serves the community is a strong biblical principle. This book provides valuable ideas for leaders who wish to build or strengthen organizations using sound spiritual principles: service, integrity, and social responsibility. Dennis Bakke knows firsthand what it is to put these truths to work." -Chuck Colson, Founder, Prison Fellowship Ministries

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bakke cofounded international energy giant AES in 1981 and was its president and CEO from 1994 to 2002. This memoir-cum-inspirational business book has an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel; in relaxed, roundabout prose, Bakke tells of his first work experience (chasing cows to the barn for milking at age five), his schooling, his friendships and partnerships, and how it all coalesced into a philosophy of work that puts employee satisfaction ahead of profit as a company's goal--a frightening thing for most managers. Bakke believes worker autonomy and self-determination to be the straightest path to success. Most of the book takes AES as a case study; his matter-of-fact descriptions of the Houston power plant's experience with "honeycombing"--or transition to egalitarian, collective self-supervision, including spending--or of humility as a managerial necessity, are genuinely inspiring, though job elimination is involved in the transitions he proposes. Bakke argues that his values and techniques did, in fact, lead to profit (until, he says, the energy industry scandals of the past few years), but that profit is not the point of work. While most managers would not dream of experimenting with Bakke's ideas, they will find it difficult to deny their potential. 22-city author tour. (Mar. 8) FYI: PVG is a Seattle press founded in 2004 by Mark Pearson; Joy at Work is his second title. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Dennis Bakke believes that work should be fun. In Joy at Work, he describes how he took this belief and applied it to the company he co-founded where he was president and CEO for nine years — AES, a company with 40,000 employees and revenues of $8.6 billion. By demonstrating how decisions can be delegated and all employees can be empowered to use their talents without the burden of corporate bureaucracy, Bakke offers leaders a business model that removes labor-management divisions and challenges the business establishment with revolutionary ideas about work and joy. Copyright © 2005 Soundview Executive Book Summaries
From the Publisher

"A timely and inspiring book that challenges us to rethink the purpose of business in society. It is all the more important because Dennis Bakke's personal life mirrors the principles he advocates."
- President Bill Clinton

"A must-read book for anyone who wants to make work fun, fulfilling, and financially rewarding."
- Jack Kemp, former HUD secretary and vice presidential candidate

"Joy at Work is simply the best book I have ever read about integrating human values and economic success. Bakke has changed the nature of the game of business forever. The book is an answer to our cynicism and materialism and to the loss of faith in our leaders. It is required reading for all who are in a leadership position, are studying leadership, or know someone who is doing either."
- Peter Block, author of Stewardship and The Answer to How Is Yes

"Dennis Bakke's book is a 'coaching manual' on how to make fun and success synonymous in the workplace."
- Mike Holmgren, coach of the Seattle Seahawks

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780976268604
  • Publisher: PVG
  • Publication date: 2/21/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 314
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

DENNIS W. BAKKE was raised in Saxon, Washington, and graduated from the University of Puget Sound, Harvard Business School, and the National War College. He co-founded The AES Corporation in 1981 and served as its president and CEO from 1994 to 2002. He is now president and CEO of Imagine Schools, a company that operates elementary and secondary (K-12) charter schools. He and his wife, Eileen, live in Arlington, Virginia.

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First Chapter

Joy at Work

A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job
By Dennis Bakke


Copyright © 2005 Dennis Bakke
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-9762686-04

Chapter One

Dennis Bakke's Top 10

1. When given the opportunity to use our ability to reason, make decisions, and take responsibility for our actions, we experience joy at work.

2. The purpose of business is not to maximize profits for shareholders but should be to steward our resources to serve the world in an economically sustainable way.

3. Attempt to create the most fun workplace in the history of the world.

4. Eliminate management, organization charts, job descriptions, and hourly wages.

5. Fairness means treating everybody differently.

6. Principles and values must guide all decisions.

7. Put other stakeholders (shareholders, customers, suppliers, etc.) equal to or above yourself.

8. Everyone must get advice before making a decision. If you don't seek advice, "you're fired."

9. A "good" decision should make all the stakeholders unhappy because no individual or group got all they wanted.

10. Lead with passion, humility, and love.

Leading to Workplace Joy

If the key to joy at work is the freedom to make decisions that matter to the organization, then the key to good organizational leadership is restraint in makingdecisions of importance. This is easier in theory than in practice. From my early childhood I was encouraged to be decisive. My mother helped me start little businesses that honed my decision-making ability. When I was a quarterback in high school, my coach allowed me to call all my own plays. I held numerous leadership roles during my school years. Then I attended Harvard Business School, where the case method teaches students about decision making. I was good at making decisions, and this ability was affirmed many times at school and at work. I enjoyed taking responsibility and living with the consequences.

Then came AES, an energy company with 40,000 employees in 31 countries and revenues of $8.6 billion, and the realization that this enjoyment should be spread around. I came to understand that as co-founder and later as CEO, I had to adopt a leadership style that left most of the important decisions to others. I tried to make my attitude reflect Max De Pree's admonition that leaders should introduce employees as the "people I serve." I had to find a way to remind myself daily that giving up many of my executive powers was essential to the goal of creating a fun workplace.

My objective is not to explain what it takes to lead people in a positive direction. Scores of books explain it better than I can. My focus is to show how a leader can make principles and values, especially fun or joy, a significant part of an organization's definition of success. My views may not get high marks from many top executives. Few embrace the central organizational principles I advocate, especially giving up power.

One of the most difficult lessons I have had to learn is that leadership is not about managing people. People are not resources or assets to be managed. Nor is leadership about analyzing issues and making big decisions. Leadership is about the leader's character, not his or her skills. Jerry Leachman, a former linebacker for Bear Bryant at Alabama and leader of my men's Bible study group, says, "Good leadership starts with a person's character." The most important character traits of a leader who embraces the principles and values championed in this book are humility; the willingness to give up power; courage; integrity; and love and passion for the people, values, and mission of the organization. Leaders must realize that character is transparent to those around us. People "catch" character, virtue, and values by observing and practicing "right" behaviors and actions, and making them habits. The people who work for us absorb our character in both positive and negative ways. They are not fooled even if we try to cover up our flaws. We are an open book.

Humility and courage in a leader allows for the most important aspect of the leadership style introduced in Joy at Work, letting subordinates make important decisions. The exercise of power validates big titles and high salaries. When executives give power away, they often feel insecure, as if they are not doing their jobs. In fact, they are meeting the highest requirements of their jobs when they delegate decisions to subordinates. Not only are decisions being made by the people who are most familiar with the facts, but the act of making them gives more people a real stake in the organization's performance. People then feel needed and valued because they are needed and valued. When a leader acts in a manner that assumes he is the best decision maker-in other words, the most knowledgeable and responsible member of a group-everyone else feels extraneous. It takes courage for a leader to delegate and free his or her people to act, exercising their natural gifts and fulfilling their potential. These Leaders show passion for their subordinates creating dynamic, rewarding, enjoyable workplaces, by loving people, love spending time with them, and love affirming that they are worthy and important.

Integrity is another important characteristic in building joy at work. Integrity implies a reasonable consistency between beliefs and actions. I once worked with a board member who was very bright, experienced, and dedicated. But he was often dismissed by colleagues because he continually changed his position on important issues for no logically articulated reason. For example, he would make a statement to one person and say something totally different to someone else. Leaders who act in this manner are not trusted. They might be tolerated because of their position, but subordinates will most likely follow out of necessity, not out of respect. It is not a fun way to work.

At AES, we chose "integrity" as one of the company's shared values, but not because it would get us ahead of the competition or improve our image. We chose it simply because it has a moral consistency that carries over to the way we treat our people and operate our businesses. The traits of good leaders-humility, courage, love, passion, and integrity-are essential to the roles they play in the workplace. I believe that leaders have three main roles. They are responsible for interpreting the organization's shared values and principles. They are senior advisers to everyone in the organization. And they are the collective conscience, pushing the organization to reach its goals and live up to its ideals.

The idea that top executives or financial experts should make key decisions is so ingrained in our corporate cultures that it is nearly impossible for leaders to delegate important roles and decisions. Leaders who want to increase joy and success in the workplace must learn to take most of their personal satisfaction from the achievements of the people they lead, not from the power they exercise.


Excerpted from Joy at Work by Dennis Bakke Copyright © 2005 by Dennis Bakke. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2005

    A book that reflects society's self-indulgent mindset

    I have a problem with Bakke¿s idea of ¿fun.¿ Fun, by his definition is a free-for-all. For example, he feels that an organization¿s ¿amount of fun¿ is determined by ¿the number of individuals allowed to make decisions¿ (99). I agree that sharing information ¿reinforces the feeling of community¿ (98), but I don¿t agree with his suggestion that leaders should ¿ask for as much advice as possible before making a decision¿ (88). ¿Sharing information¿ and ¿seeking advice¿ are two different things. Bakke misuses the analogy of a child jumping into the arms of a parent by stating that the same is required of leaders to jump into the arms of the subordinate (103). It is the subordinate who should trust the leader. In one section of the book, he stresses the importance of ¿asking for as much advice as possible before making a decision.¿ But in another section he shares the story of his administrative assistant who ¿routinely checks with the office accountant to see how her decisions would affect the budget, but no higher approval is necessary¿ (apparently no other advice is needed as well) (79). His idea of leadership lacks strength by decentralizing decision-making to others. In his postscript, Bakke discusses Biblical leadership. At first glance, what he writes sounds Biblical¿¿serve the people they lead,¿ and ¿allow followers to use their talents effectively¿ (261), but his overall idea of leadership is not Biblical. For instance, he says, ¿The Creation story does not assign people, even leaders, the responsibility of `managing¿ other people¿ (261)¿ I wonder what he thought God meant in Genesis 3:16 when He told Eve, ¿he will be your master.¿ The Bible doesn¿t use the word, ¿manage,¿ but God entrusted leaders to people throughout the Bible¿that¿s why there were judges in the OT. I don¿t think the Israelites would¿ve left the wilderness if Moses asked ¿as many as possible¿ before making a decision.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2005

    Bakke to Basics

    Joy at Work is a risk-taking, inspirational book that discusses the true purpose of business and demonstrates that empowerment of employees ignites joy and brings success to the workplace. It is a philosophy that should be adopted by all companies and Bakke is a passionate, innovative leader that is revolutionizing the way organizations think.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2005

    Must read book

    I think Dennis seems to have a clear vison which is completely different than most of Corporate America. I wish we all adapt his vision.

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