I-I-I-I LIKE this book! As I wrote earlier in the introduction to part one of the author’s interview I liked it for all the usual reasons a book should be liked:
- excellent, crisp writing
- an interesting backstory
- timely topic
- problem and solution clearly articulated
- doable solutions, too.
But what sets it apart from all the other business books about team-building, culture, employee engagement, organizational development, is what the authors left out:
- terms that will be added to future editions of business buzzword bingo. These are common everyday words strangled into unrecognizable buzzwords that normal people would never use. Digression: The funny part about this habit of academics and experts and their groupies is that in their minds this somehow identifies them as superior when in my bald-headed mind it brings to doubt their priorities in how they spend their time. Digression over.
- promises of overnight success,
- whiz-bang schemas and org charts that could never exist anywhere else but in a book.
- magic exercises that if you only do them today you’ll live your dreams and your organization will fly with eagles. (It’s not to say the authors haven’t helped organizations bring dramatic changes. That would be untrue. Their career successes grant them the right to author such a book.)
- no finger-pointing, no demonizing, no us vs them perspective
From the introduction:
Simple Sabotage is about the day-to-day routine interactions and processes we rely on as we work that are undermined by unintentional sabotage. By identifying and removing the hundreds or even thousands of small, barely perceptible irritants - the “sand” that clogs the machinery - you will transform your workplace …
See? Simple, honest, clear.
The word “unintentional” caught my eye. It shares the responsibility for these behaviors as it does the power to change. It saves the psychology, keeps the mind and heart open for changing attitudes and behaviors. It creates a receptive culture in the mind of the reader to acknowledge the pattern and help change that pattern.
These behaviors arise in all of us. Doesn’t make us bad people. Sometimes we fall into bad habits. For a week, I’ll eat a slice of coffee cake everyday. I’ll rationalize it each bite. Then I feel the first signs of Donelap’s Disease. You know it’s when your belly has done lapped over your belt. If someone pointed out to me on the 2nd or 3rd day of this quarterly indulgence I could save money, save my psychology and save my waistline.
We just have to pay attention, help each other pay attention and see the signs of sabotage creeping into our habits. This book offers a simple path to do just that for the most corrosive behaviors in an organization.
Digression: I’m bet sabotage behaviors rise as people work longer hours, under higher levels of stress. Spur for another study.
What’s that do?
By changing the conversation from Us vs them - so common in the "employee engagement" world - to Us with Us. That builds engagement.
It’s also how obedience serves us and not the other way around because as the authors point out: Obedience becomes Sabotage by Obedience - instantly - when it prevents personal judgment from overriding processes that for whatever reason are not working at that moment.
Simple Sabotage empowers us all to use our personal judgement to override processes that are not working at that moment. And replace them with ones that do work, stir and repeat, over and over. And do it in such a way that we’re helping, learning, listening with each other.
A culture of learners is a culture of leaders, says Gary Harpst author of Six Disciplines of Excellence: Building Organizations That Learn, Lead and Last. He’s right. With Simple Sabotage you learn, you help others in your organization learn as well. You'll lead, you'll last.
What’s not to like about that?
Nothing. Go get it, read it, and root out the saboteurs even if it's you so you can lead and last.