One of my favourite books for managing people is "The One Minute Manager" by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson (see my One Minute Manager Review) but I am aware that some people are critical of the approach.
As I am currently updating my notes and training on Pillar 7 of the Eight Pillars of Business Prosperity which focuses on leading your team, it makes sense to take a critical look at the One Minute Manager and see whether the criticisms are valid.
I thought I would first list the criticisms and then look at whether I believe each is valid in turn.
- The writing style in the One Minute Manager is based on telling a glib parable is preaching basic common sense dressed up as management theory.
- It manipulates the emotions of employees
- The one minute manager is isolated and distant from the staff
- It takes a too simple approach to the complex art of managing people. There is much more to management than the one minute manager.
- The one minute manager approach is destructive to employee morale.
- It is not possible to do it consistently in one minute.
- It works on a top down, the management know best approach.
- You can't learn to manage people by reading a book.
Interesting comments but first let's review the problem the One Minute Manager was written to solve.
The Key Messages Of The One Minute Manager
Too many organisations leave employees uncertain over what is expected of them and provide little feedback until the annual review. At that time a series of criticisms are laid out with smatterings of praise but neither the manager or employee can remember the details.
At other times, managers are quick to blame employees for things going wrong and will criticise in a way that leaves the employee resenting the way he or she has been treated by the manager.
The One Minute Manager boils management down to three actions - goal setting, praisings and reprimands on the basis that clear objectives and quick, accurate feedback are the basis for improved performance.
The Writing Style Of The One MInute Manager
The book tells the story of a manager who wants to discover the secrets of one minute management by talking to the employees of the One Minute Manager.
Personally I feel the book is very readable and much more accessible than many heavy texts on managing people.
Yes those of an academic preference will find the book light and fluffy but I see the story format as a powerful way to get the message across.
The One Minute Manager Manipulates Employees
I see this manipulation issue a lot in the sales and marketing books, either positively (do this and you can get what you want) or defensively.
Techniques are neutral. It is the way that the techniques are used that can be manipulated based on the objectives of the person.
Goals that don't fit in with the company's goals but suit the manager's personal goals are manipulative.
Praisings that are not sincere are manipulative.
Reprimands that are unfair and seek to crush the spirit of the employee are manipulative.
But good, honest, specific feedback on a well defined objective that is consistent with the company's overall purpose isn't manipulative. It's called managing.
The One Minute Manager Puts Distance Between Managers And Staff
As I write mainly for owners of small businesses, I see this as a good thing as I want the entrepreneurs to build a business that does not rely on them at every step of the way.
Micro-managing when the manager keeps interfering is extremely destructive while the One Minute Manager recommends trying to catch people doing things right.
If there is a problem, the employee, thanks to the clear goals should recognise it and can seek the help of the manager to reconfirm the objectives and to receive coaching.
The One Minute Manager Is Too Simple
Dealing with people is complex but I believe it helps to have a few simple rules or principles to fall back on.
The more complexity you add, the more difficult it is for people to understand and implement.
The One Minute Manager doesn't pretend to be the complete answer to managing people and leading an organisation. It is not sold as "the only three secrets you will ever need to manage people".
In fact there are a series of One Minute Manager books which extend the ideas (affiliate links through to Amazon.com).
The One Minute Manager Is Destructive To Morale
I don't get this. Praise and recognition for a job well done are accepted as some of the best motivators and the focus of the One Minute Manager is on providing regular positive reinforcement.
Any damaging impact on morale will be due to bad practice of the one minute manager ideas.
In particular, praise when it is not merited or sincerely given and criticism when it is not fair, either because the person is still a learner or because the facts were misunderstood.
It Is Not Possible To Do One Minute Management In One Minute
That's taking the title of the book rather too literally.
The premise of the One Minute Manager is that managing people does not need to be enormously time consuming. In my experience, I much prefer short concise chats than long rambles that confuse more than they clarify. Time is precious so use it well.
Goal setting in one minute and refining it down to a 250 word statement including a performance standard isn't usually possible and especially if there is some involvement in the goal setting. Praisings can often be given quickly and still give the employee a high. Reprimands may take longer although the time would be spent in establishing the true facts. The actual reprimand shouldn't be long.
One Minute Manager Is A Top Down Approach
I want managers to manage rather than to be managed so I tend not to take this criticism too seriously.
I accept that the One Minute Manager doesn't go into the aspect of pushing for continual process improvement and ways to get the employees involved in the improvement process but goals can be set through a participative approach or negotiation.
Afterwards, employees are encouraged to create their own feedback systems so that they can give their own praisings and reprimands if their performance falls below standard. That's how I believe top performers work and have always thought that an employee's standards should be higher than their manager's - mind you I do have a reputation for being a bit of a perfectionist.
You Can't Learn To Manage People By Reading The One Minute Manager Book
Just like selling, dating and parenting, the real world and the unpredictable responses of the person you are talking to make managing a practised art of ebb and flow.
That does not invalidate The One Minute Manager any more than any other "how to" book.
Because the One Minute Manager is so quick to read and the ideas are so simple, you can start experimenting immediately.
You may not get it right but you will find a system which suits you, how you want to work and the individual employee.
The One Minute Manager formula doesn't have to be rigidly applied. You adapt it but the basics of goal setting, praisings and reprimands remain very valid.
What Do You Think About The One Minute Manager?
Do you agree with the criticisms of the One Minute Manager or do you have other criticisms to add?
If you have been on the receiving end and had a bad time, do you think that it is the concept that is wrong or the manager who made a hash of implementing it?
Or do you agree with me that the One Minute Manager approach is a core for effectively managing employees?
Disclosure - I am an affiliate for Amazon and if you buy after clicking through on my links, I will be paid a small commission.