Practice What You Preach: What Managers Must Do to Create a High Achievement Culture

Overview

Are employee attitudes correlated with financial success? Unequivocally yes! according to consultant and bestselling author David H. Maister. Based on a worldwide survey of 139 offices in 29 professional service firms in numerous lines of business, Maister proves that companies perceived by their employees to practice what they preach in matters of client commitment, teamwork, high standards, and employee development are more successful than their competitors. Put simply, ...
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Overview

Are employee attitudes correlated with financial success? Unequivocally yes! according to consultant and bestselling author David H. Maister. Based on a worldwide survey of 139 offices in 29 professional service firms in numerous lines of business, Maister proves that companies perceived by their employees to practice what they preach in matters of client commitment, teamwork, high standards, and employee development are more successful than their competitors. Put simply, employee dedication causes improved financial performance.

Through in-depth interviews, Maister explores the crucial role of the individual manager in promoting high morale among employees. Practice What You Preach boasts specific action recommendations from the managers of these "superstar" businesses on how to build an energized workplace, enforce standards of excellence, develop people, and have fun -- all in the name of profit. As a result, Practice What You Preach can help any manager increase profitability, and provides proof that great financial rewards come from living up to the standards that most businesses advocate, but few achieve.

Digging deeper by conducting in-depth interviews with managers and employees of the firms he surveyed, Maister has found that the key to success is not the systems of the firm, but the character and skills of the individual manager.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Instead of being a supportive team, most companies resemble hoards of greedy Survivor contestants, energetic ego-trippers eager to cut temporary alliances for their own future gain. Management consultant David H. Maister knows that any enterprise that rewards superstars rather than effective mentors is planting seeds for its own destruction. Basing his findings on data drawn from thousands of interviews, he explains how firms that respond to nine key "people" issues can help determine their success. An emphatic message, detailed and carefully reasoned.
From the Publisher
James M. Kouzes Co-author of The Leadership Challenge This is a straight-talking, data-based, and energy-infused work of uncompromising scholarship and incomparable practicality.

Lawrence A. Weinbach Chairman and CEO, Unisys Corporation A great "how to succeed" manual for organizations in any field. Maister confirms that success is not about programs and policies but is about the honesty, integrity, and courage of the leader.

Michael Albrecht, Jr. Global Executive, IBM David Maister has, with compelling evidence, blown away the mysteries as to what makes a high-performance team. He offers great insights and definitive actions.

Robert R. Garland National Managing Partner of Assurance and Advisory Services, Deloitte & Touche David Maister has done it again! He has written yet another insight-filled book that will facilitate your growth as a business leader and manager.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Maister, a professional service consultant, surveyed 6,500 employees at 50 worldwide companies to evaluate the relationship between company financial performance and employee satisfaction and loyalty. He found a direct and dramatic correlation. Here, he offers detailed commentary from CEOs, managers and staffers, and analysis of the survey results. Bosses in all kinds of companies will benefit from his solid advice, which should be required reading for executives and upper level managers. (June) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
A financial advisor conducts detailed interviews with managers and employees to determine the connection between employee attitudes and a firm's financial success, finding that high levels of employee commitment and dedication actually cause a demonstrable, measurable improvement in financial performance. He then explains how managers can create a culture in a firm that promotes growth and superior financial returns by rigorously holding themselves up to the highest company standards. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743223201
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 6/24/2003
  • Edition description: First Free Press Trade Paperback Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,308,516
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

David H. Maister, one of the world's leading authorities on the management of professional service firms, is the author of several successful books, including Managing the Professional Service Firm, True Professionalism, and Practice What You Preach, and coauthor of The Trusted Advisor.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: The Survey

To ensure a comprehensive view, four measures of financial performance were obtained for each of the offices in this study:

  • Two-year percentage growth in revenues
  • Two-year percentage growth in profit
  • Profit margin
  • Profit per employee

These were then combined into a single financial performance score by averaging each office's performance on all four measures, giving equal weight to all four measures, and constructing a financial performance index (Appendix 1). Full financial information was available for 96 offices, compared to the 139 offices that completed the employee survey.

The employee survey was a series of 74 questions with which the respondents were invited to agree or disagree. The full results are shown in Appendix 2.

Seventy-four questions are a lot to examine simultaneously. Fortunately, a technique known as factor analysis allows us to group

individual questions into (statistically) related groups or factors.

Applying this technique generated nine groupings or factors (Appendix 3). The nine factors do not include all of the questions, but they are useful as a quick shorthand to look at the results. The nine factors (or question groups) are:

  1. Quality and client relationships
  2. Training and development
  3. Coaching
  4. Commitment, enthusiasm and respect
  5. High standards
  6. Long-term orientation
  7. Empowerment
  8. Fair compensation
  9. Employee satisfaction

The employee responses for each factor are shown using the following scale:

6 = Strongly agree; 5 = Agree; 4 = Somewhat agree; 3 = Somewhat disagree; 2 = Disagree; 1 = Strongly disagree

The message here is clear. The 5,589 respondents in the 139 offices rate quality and client relationships as the area of performance that is currently done best in their office. (Of course, this is what the employees say, not the clients. These results may reflect pride as much as reality.)

They also give high marks for their degree of empowerment, or autonomy (not surprising in a professional environment). It is encouraging to note that they give slightly above average grades to high standards and coaching, although these averages are not high in an absolute sense (4.26, where 4 stands for "somewhat agree.") Employee satisfaction also achieves only modest agreement, overall.

The results for the final four factors are not so encouraging, at least on the surface. Rated lowest of all is training and development. What is immediately apparent is that those things to do with clients are ranked highest, while issues to do with managing people were consistently ranked as being done least well, across offices, across different businesses, across the world.

It is not too surprising that the highest overall average was "only" 4.7. Remember, this is an average across 5,589 individuals in 139 offices. It would take an amazing degree of consensus about true excellence for the average of all these people to be much higher. When it comes to the factor groups, we are also averaging across questions, and hence failing to observe some highs and lows.

On the other hand, when the average is as low as 3.5 on a 6-point scale (halfway between somewhat disagree and somewhat agree), as it is for training and development, you can be pretty sure that the few who are doing this well are swamped by the many who are not.

To validate these responses, I asked an additional question in the survey, giving people ten (traditional) goals of a firm and asked them to evaluate how well they thought their individual office was performing on each goal. The scale was from 6 ("We're superb at this") to 1 ("We're very weak at this").

The lesson is the same. Client-related goals are rated highest, while anything to do with managing people falls to the bottom.

It is intriguing that the employees rate profit and growth in the middle of the pack. Most of these companies are actually very profitable, among the highest in their industry, and growing very fast. So why do the staff think their office is doing them only moderately well?

One theory is that when it comes to financial results in business, management's desire is always for "more, more, more." Any financial accomplishment is immediately reset as the minimum benchmark, and people are left with the impression that what they have achieved financially is insufficient. It is thus not surprising that they feel that they are only doing "reasonably" well on these financial things, and hence they award average ratings.

Are you surprised by all of these results? I am not. While all companies (in every industry) acknowledge their obligations to their three constituencies of clients, shareholders and employees, employees are almost always the third priority on this list.

I have worked extensively not only in the industries covered by this survey, but also in the professions at large, and these results are very familiar. When it comes to meeting its goals for its people, this group of 139 offices is, in my experience, no worse than its competitors (and perhaps, overall, no better).

There is, of course, a troubling paradox here. Many businesses, including professional firms, have nothing to sell except their people. Surely it would be a matter of simple logic (or simple self-preservation) for such firms to excel at energizing their people! But, of course, they don't.

One possible explanation is that many firms assume that people will be self-starting and inherently self-motivating, and therefore don't work very hard, if at all, at managing them. If managing means reaching out to energize, challenge, exhort, inspire and enthuse individuals on a real-time basis, then little managing takes place inside most firms.

Instead, what passes for management in these businesses is a system of strict financial controls, with periodic general meetings to listen to the latest inspirational speech and unfold the latest branding slogan or mission statement poster. This represents a combination of tight administration and weak attempts at visionary leadership. Even when done well, neither of these is managing.

When there are only people at stake, as in a professional firm, interpersonal skills, social interactions, emotional context and personal psychology all play crucial roles. As Charlie Green (my co-author on The Trusted Advisor) points out, people are not just the brains of professional firms, they are the heart, the soul, the guts and the rest of the anatomy as well.

What surprised me, and continues to surprise me, is how many people I meet for whom this is an uncomfortable and, sometimes, unfortunate necessity. Many managers feel most comfortable within the financial, intellectual, rational or artistic boundaries of their field. The realm of dealing with people (yeuch!) and human emotions (horrors!) is something they feel unprepared for and inclined to avoid whenever they can.

I confess to sometimes feeling this way myself. Wouldn't it be nice if, even occasionally, we could just be purely rational and analytical, without having to deal with the sloppy, messy emotions that interactions with human beings require? Yes, it would be great, but it's not an available option for most of us! And certainly not for those charged with managerial responsibilities.

Further, when selecting people to become managers, firms tend to focus on "business skills" (business development or financial management) rather than people skills. The ability to energize others (i.e., manage) is rarely a primary criterion for choosing managers.

Perhaps the most important questions that follow from this are those that this book is devoted to. Does all this matter? Is it of any consequence that the people-related questions were ranked lowest? Should you care if your office's employees give low marks to the level of commitment, enthusiasm and respect? The answer to all these questions, as this book will show, is: Yes, all of this matters a great deal.

Just so you know what's coming, here's an overview of the quantitative analysis, which I present in steps of increasing statistical rigor.

  1. In chapter 3, we look at the most financially successful offices, and see how their scores on the questions differ from all the other offices.
  2. In chapter 5, we examine the "correlation coefficients" between each question and the financial performance index, looking to see which employee attitudes tend to move up and down in synch with the financial index across the entire range of offices.
  3. In chapter 7, we'll look at all the questions simultaneously and analyze which set of questions best predicts financial performance.
  4. Finally, in chapter 9, we'll use an advanced technique to ask which questions (or question groups) can be said to cause financial performance.
  5. Later quantitative chapters will explore the impact of office size, age, and line of business on the results.

Interspersed with the quantitative chapters are case studies of the offices that performed best, both financially and on employee attitudes. We now turn to the first case study, one of the most financially successful offices among all the offices in the database.

Copyright © 2001 by David H. Maister

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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction

How to Use This Book

1. The Survey

Financial performance and employee attitude questions
2. Tramster: A Case Study
Trust, respect and integrity
3. How Successful Offices Did It
Enthusiastic, committed and dedicated people
4. Northport: A Case Study
The right combination of fun and discipline
5. Correlations with Financial Performance
An uncompromising determination to achieve excellence
6. Mustang Communications: A Case Study
Build your people and the rest will come
7. The Predictive Package
Nine attitudes that predict profits
8. Archipelago: A Case Study
The best management is one-on-one
9. The Path to Performance
The factors that cause financial performance
10. Tigrette: A Case Study
Talent doesn't outweigh personality
11. Firm or Office? What's Driving Things?
The individual manager is disproportionately influential
12. Mortimer Ransford: A Case Study
The Culture Cop: non-negotiable cultural minimums
13. The Effects of Office Size
Size makes things harder
14. Bellerephon: A Case Study
You've met Alice, haven't you? Essential human qualities
15. Age Levels
Your younger staff's views predict profits best!
16. Arkwright, Sutton: A Case Study
It's about relationships, stupid! Walk the halls!
17. Additional comparisons
Geography, lines of business and leverage
18. McLeary Advertising: A Case Study
Don't go home if someone else needs help
19. Julie's Perspective
Don't be afraid to live your values
20. Lessons: The Manager
What managers must be, believe and do
21. Lessons: Creating the Success Culture,
Intolerance, requirements and community
22. Lessons: Developing People
Creating an energizing workplace
23. Lessons: Other Topics
Hiring, Training, Rewards and Clients
24. It's Not One or the Other, It's Both!
People development IS business development
25.The Courage to Manage
Strategy versus expediency. Do what you say you'll do.

Appendix One

The Financial Performance Index
Appendix Two
The 74 Questions
Appendix Three
The Factors
Appendix Four
Impact of Improving on Each Question
Appendix Five
How the Top 20 Percent Offices Did It
Appendix Six
Correlations
Appendix Seven
A Note on Structural Equation Modeling
References

Acknowledgments

Index

About the Author

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter One: The Survey

To ensure a comprehensive view, four measures of financial performance were obtained for each of the offices in this study:

  • Two-year percentage growth in revenues
  • Two-year percentage growth in profit
  • Profit margin
  • Profit per employee

These were then combined into a single financial performance score by averaging each office's performance on all four measures, giving equal weight to all four measures, and constructing a financial performance index (Appendix 1). Full financial information was available for 96 offices, compared to the 139 offices that completed the employee survey.

The employee survey was a series of 74 questions with which the respondents were invited to agree or disagree. The full results are shown in Appendix 2.

Seventy-four questions are a lot to examine simultaneously. Fortunately, a technique known as factor analysis allows us to group

individual questions into (statistically) related groups or factors.

Applying this technique generated nine groupings or factors (Appendix 3). The nine factors do not include all of the questions, but they are useful as a quick shorthand to look at the results. The nine factors (or question groups) are:

  1. Quality and client relationships
  2. Training and development
  3. Coaching
  4. Commitment, enthusiasm and respect
  5. High standards
  6. Long-term orientation
  7. Empowerment
  8. Fair compensation
  9. Employee satisfaction

The employee responses for each factor are shown using the following scale:

6 = Strongly agree; 5 = Agree; 4 = Somewhat agree; 3 = Somewhat disagree; 2 = Disagree; 1 = Strongly disagree

The message here is clear. The 5,589 respondents in the 139 offices rate quality and client relationships as the area of performance that is currently done best in their office. (Of course, this is what the employees say, not the clients. These results may reflect pride as much as reality.)

They also give high marks for their degree of empowerment, or autonomy (not surprising in a professional environment). It is encouraging to note that they give slightly above average grades to high standards and coaching, although these averages are not high in an absolute sense (4.26, where 4 stands for "somewhat agree.") Employee satisfaction also achieves only modest agreement, overall.

The results for the final four factors are not so encouraging, at least on the surface. Rated lowest of all is training and development. What is immediately apparent is that those things to do with clients are ranked highest, while issues to do with managing people were consistently ranked as being done least well, across offices, across different businesses, across the world.

It is not too surprising that the highest overall average was "only" 4.7. Remember, this is an average across 5,589 individuals in 139 offices. It would take an amazing degree of consensus about true excellence for the average of all these people to be much higher. When it comes to the factor groups, we are also averaging across questions, and hence failing to observe some highs and lows.

On the other hand, when the average is as low as 3.5 on a 6-point scale (halfway between somewhat disagree and somewhat agree), as it is for training and development, you can be pretty sure that the few who are doing this well are swamped by the many who are not.

To validate these responses, I asked an additional question in the survey, giving people ten (traditional) goals of a firm and asked them to evaluate how well they thought their individual office was performing on each goal. The scale was from 6 ("We're superb at this") to 1 ("We're very weak at this").

The lesson is the same. Client-related goals are rated highest, while anything to do with managing people falls to the bottom.

It is intriguing that the employees rate profit and growth in the middle of the pack. Most of these companies are actually very profitable, among the highest in their industry, and growing very fast. So why do the staff think their office is doing them only moderately well?

One theory is that when it comes to financial results in business, management's desire is always for "more, more, more." Any financial accomplishment is immediately reset as the minimum benchmark, and people are left with the impression that what they have achieved financially is insufficient. It is thus not surprising that they feel that they are only doing "reasonably" well on these financial things, and hence they award average ratings.

Are you surprised by all of these results? I am not. While all companies (in every industry) acknowledge their obligations to their three constituencies of clients, shareholders and employees, employees are almost always the third priority on this list.

I have worked extensively not only in the industries covered by this survey, but also in the professions at large, and these results are very familiar. When it comes to meeting its goals for its people, this group of 139 offices is, in my experience, no worse than its competitors (and perhaps, overall, no better).

There is, of course, a troubling paradox here. Many businesses, including professional firms, have nothing to sell except their people. Surely it would be a matter of simple logic (or simple self-preservation) for such firms to excel at energizing their people! But, of course, they don't.

One possible explanation is that many firms assume that people will be self-starting and inherently self-motivating, and therefore don't work very hard, if at all, at managing them. If managing means reaching out to energize, challenge, exhort, inspire and enthuse individuals on a real-time basis, then little managing takes place inside most firms.

Instead, what passes for management in these businesses is a system of strict financial controls, with periodic general meetings to listen to the latest inspirational speech and unfold the latest branding slogan or mission statement poster. This represents a combination of tight administration and weak attempts at visionary leadership. Even when done well, neither of these is managing.

When there are only people at stake, as in a professional firm, interpersonal skills, social interactions, emotional context and personal psychology all play crucial roles. As Charlie Green (my co-author on The Trusted Advisor) points out, people are not just the brains of professional firms, they are the heart, the soul, the guts and the rest of the anatomy as well.

What surprised me, and continues to surprise me, is how many people I meet for whom this is an uncomfortable and, sometimes, unfortunate necessity. Many managers feel most comfortable within the financial, intellectual, rational or artistic boundaries of their field. The realm of dealing with people (yeuch!) and human emotions (horrors!) is something they feel unprepared for and inclined to avoid whenever they can.

I confess to sometimes feeling this way myself. Wouldn't it be nice if, even occasionally, we could just be purely rational and analytical, without having to deal with the sloppy, messy emotions that interactions with human beings require? Yes, it would be great, but it's not an available option for most of us! And certainly not for those charged with managerial responsibilities.

Further, when selecting people to become managers, firms tend to focus on "business skills" (business development or financial management) rather than people skills. The ability to energize others (i.e., manage) is rarely a primary criterion for choosing managers.

Perhaps the most important questions that follow from this are those that this book is devoted to. Does all this matter? Is it of any consequence that the people-related questions were ranked lowest? Should you care if your office's employees give low marks to the level of commitment, enthusiasm and respect? The answer to all these questions, as this book will show, is: Yes, all of this matters a great deal.

Just so you know what's coming, here's an overview of the quantitative analysis, which I present in steps of increasing statistical rigor.

  1. In chapter 3, we look at the most financially successful offices, and see how their scores on the questions differ from all the other offices.
  2. In chapter 5, we examine the "correlation coefficients" between each question and the financial performance index, looking to see which employee attitudes tend to move up and down in synch with the financial index across the entire range of offices.
  3. In chapter 7, we'll look at all the questions simultaneously and analyze which set of questions best predicts financial performance.
  4. Finally, in chapter 9, we'll use an advanced technique to ask which questions (or question groups) can be said to cause financial performance.
  5. Later quantitative chapters will explore the impact of office size, age, and line of business on the results.

Interspersed with the quantitative chapters are case studies of the offices that performed best, both financially and on employee attitudes. We now turn to the first case study, one of the most financially successful offices among all the offices in the database.

Copyright © 2001 by David H. Maister

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Introduction

Together with many consultants and authors, I have long argued that if you (first) energize and excite your people, they will serve your clients well, and you'll (then) make lots of money. But is there any actual proof that this is the right sequence?

There is some. The Service Profit Chain by Heskett, Sasser and Schlesinger argues the case for this model convincingly. Kotter and Heskett, in Corporate Culture and Performance investigated the relationship between culture and profitability. In First, Break All the Rules, Buckingham and Coffman reported on the behaviors of successful managers in a way that supports the core proposition. In Built to Last, Collins and Porras described the characteristics of successful industrial corporations in detail and arrived at similar conclusions.

I present in this book the results of a study that assembles data and evidence on the factors that drive financial success. Surveying 139 offices of 29 firms in 15 countries in 15 different lines of business, I asked a simple question: are employee attitudes correlated with financial success?

The answer, as this book will show, is an unequivocal "yes!" The most financially successful businesses do better than the rest on virtually every aspect of employee attitudes, and those that do best on employee attitudes are measurably more profitable. What is even more powerful, as the book shows, it is attitudes that drive financial results, and not (predominantly) the other way round.

None of this should be taken to mean that client service, client relations and quality are not crucial. As we shall see, they are. Conventional wisdom is right in saying that quality and great client service gets results. (We will provide proof of that, too.) However, what conventional wisdom forgets is that great client service is itself a product of other things. To get great client service, it turns out, you must first energize your people to deliver it. And that brings us to what may be the prime mover of this entire chain of effects: the skills and behavior of the manager in creating and driving everything else.

Of all the goals that businesses say they have (make money, please clients, attract and develop talented staff), the least well done are those related to managing people. Yet not only are people a key link in the chain of activities that create profits, but we are also living through a war for talent — a people crisis — where every business is short of people. To be weak in this area (as so many firms are) is akin to shooting yourself in the foot.

The study produces very specific (and nontrivial) findings. We shall see that the most financially successful operations share a number of characteristics:

  • Management is seen as operating in accordance with the firm's overall philosophy and values. They practice what they preach, and there are no disconnects between the walk and the talk.
  • Management is trusted by those they manage. Individual managers act in the interests of their group, not just to advance the manager's personal interests.
  • People's personal potential is being fulfilled and realized, according to the people being managed.
  • There is a high degree of loyalty and commitment, again driven by individual managers.
  • Compensation systems are equitably managed.
  • Firms do not compromise their standards in hiring simply to meet a capacity need. People quality is seen as high.

The evidence shows that these are high standards that few managers (or management teams) reach consistently. They are not easy to achieve. They require courage, an ability to confront difficult situations, and an ability to take a long-term perspective when many pressures cry out for much earlier gratification.

The standards are not commonly achieved, but when they are, we can now show that they cause (yes, cause) a demonstrable, measurable improvement in financial performance (including growth rates as well as profits).

The standards are tough. They do not say, gently, "we encourage teamwork." They say things like "we have no room" for individualists. The message is that management must have the guts and courage to enforce the standards they frequently preach.

The list of key profit drivers revealed here represents a balanced package. There is no one secret to success. We shall see that you have to do well on a combination of client relationships, compensation system fairness, skill building, and other factors. Robert Kaplan and David Norton wrote a wonderful book, The Balanced Scorecard, about the importance of paying attention to a well-chosen mix of performance areas. This book can tell you precisely what that balanced scorecard needs to be.

Most of the findings confirm what other writers (and I) have been advocating for years. What's new here is that this study presents substantial evidence.

Some of the conclusions are new. Among the top factors predicting profitability are the issues of trust and respect. These were not introduced by my personal theories. They were the result of cold statistical analysis. The study shows that where trust and respect between management and employees are high, financial performance predictably goes up.

Surprising? Maybe. But we are rarely (if ever) taught how to win, earn, or give trust and respect in our formal education. This book will show you how. It reaffirms the importance of personal character in leading a firm to greatness.

On a related point, the book shows that success in management is less a property of firms (the systems of the business as a whole) but, instead, is mostly about the personality of the individual manager within the operating unit. Success is about personalities, not policies.

In spite of presenting extensive data and statistical analysis, the core of the book is not the numbers. It is the interviews, anecdotes, stories and personal experiences of the managers who got the best results in this survey. I report on who the paragons are that were able to achieve truly stellar financial results, while also energizing, enthusing and exciting their staff. What, precisely, do they do?

Although they asked to remain anonymous (a condition of doing the research), these superstar managers gave permission to reveal their concrete secrets. The findings will challenge you. How well, it will ask, do you pass the tests of trust, respect and integrity? Are you seen as practicing what you preach? I will show that if you can't pass these tests, you will make less money!

The Database

The data used in this book come from a survey of 139 offices in 29 firms owned by the same publicly held marketing communications company. Sixty-eight percent of the offices were in the United States, and 32 percent were in other countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Scotland and Spain.

The businesses covered in this study include advertising, public relations, brand identity consulting, health-care consulting, direct mail, Internet (web) marketing, promotion, public affairs consulting, employee communications and many others.

All the firms have significant autonomy. Each of the firms (indeed, each of the offices) is free to choose its own management style and approach, thus allowing us to examine the implications of differing office cultures and management styles.

The range of firm sizes was from one office to twenty-four offices. The individual offices ranged in size from 10 to 351 employees. The average number of employees in any given office was 43.

The word "employee" in this survey covered everyone working in the firm, from top to bottom, from top managers to mailroom clerks. No distinction was made between partners and nonpartners, owners and employees, managers and staff. Similarly, employees in all roles were surveyed, including both fee-earning staff and those in support roles.

There were a total of 5,589 individual respondents (a 55 percent response rate), after eliminating offices with fewer than ten people and all employees earning less than U.S.$25,000 per year.

How Does All This Apply to You?

If you are not in the marketing communications business, I suspect that, throughout this book, you will ask yourself, "Does any or all of this apply to me?"

Let's start with the obvious: This study does not include accounting, law, architecture, financial services, executive search, engineering or a host of other businesses and professions. So, we don't have direct data here for those (or many other) businesses.

On the other hand, we do have a great deal of diversity here. We have businesses ranging from premium-fee consulting operations to low-fee, high-volume execution-intensive businesses. We have businesses with immensely high leverage and those staffed almost entirely with senior-level counselors. We have businesses that deal only with the client's executive suite, and others that have to work through purchasing directors.

Some of these businesses have ongoing relationships that last for decades, while others have to compete every time for every individual project. Some are large, global operations while still others are tiny, regional operations working far from major financial centers or other big cities. And many national differences are covered in the database.

As a result of all this diversity, any lessons we can glean that seem to apply across all these businesses have a good chance of being lessons that should be taken seriously by businesses not explicitly included here. That's my hypothesis, but you be the judge.

Copyright © 2001 by David H. Maister

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2004

    Highly Recommended!

    Heavy but invaluable reading, this book presents the results of author David H. Maister¿s study of 139 offices of 29 professional service ¿ more specifically, marketing and communications ¿ firms in 15 countries. His objective was to identify the attitudes that correlate most strongly with financial success. He found what¿s been known all along ¿ that financial success correlates very strongly with the perceived good character and integrity of management. When employees believe that management practices what it preaches, they seem to give extra effort and get astonishing results. The idea that character counts as much as, or perhaps more than, structure and corporate policy will be hard for many to accept. It takes courage, commitment, faith and humility to become the kind of person this study recommends. But this information shows us that, to contradict baseball player Leo Durocher, nice guys finish first.

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