Sunday, March 30, 2008

Book Review: The Managerial Moment of Truth

Robert Fritz and Bruce Bodaken provide a practical guide for handling difficult but necessary interactions in the workplace. The Managerial Moment of Truth, or MMOT, is a four-step process of objectively identifying reality (a missed due date; a drop in sales); objectively determining how the manager in charge came to that point, without blame or criticism; identification of new and improved procedures to do better the next time; and establishment of a feedback system so that the leader and manager can monitor the new process. The goal of this four step process is ultimately to improve the performance of the manager and to thereby improve the performance of the overall organization.

The foundation of the MMOT is Fritz' concept of the creative process, which is built around acknowledging current reality, determining where you want to be, and making what he calls a fundamental choice to arrive there, and thereby taking the necessary steps to create this new reality. This process takes place within the framework of what Fritz calls structural tension, the tension that naturally exists when there is a difference between where we are and where we want to be. By addressing the tension in this way, the participant arrives at his new reality - and creates something new. It avoids the approach of problem solving, because that is an attempt to make something go away, while the creative process is the effort of bringing something new into being. Fritz provides more detail on this in his other works, particularly The Path of Least Resistance, also a great read.

In this work, Fritz and Bodekan address applying this fundamental creative approach to workplace issues. The cornerstone of the MMOT is telling the truth - i.e. acknowledging reality as it is - not sugar-coating it or pretending it does not exist, hoping that things will get better or go away on their own, or resigning oneself to poor performance from your direct reports. The authors acknowledge the challenge in approaching issues this way because, in most organizations, people are not used to dealing head on with reality. They provide excellent case studies, including the transcripts of conversations which show you exactly how to apply the MMOT technique.

As I read the book I became convinced that MMOT also has a place in family relationships, not only between spouses but also between parents and children. Perhaps there is some nuance in how MMOT should be applied in these circumstances, but I believe the general concept applies as well.

I highly recommend this book for anyone managing even one person. If applied correctly and consistently, not only will your direct report's performance improve, but so will yours and that of your entire organization.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Book Review: The Post-Truth Era, by Ralph Keyes

A Pants-on-Fire Epidemic!

This book makes a great case for the fact that lying is getting easier, and people are engaging in it more often, primarily because of mobility and technology, and is tearing away at the fabric of society. To function well, a society needs to have a bias for truth, so that we are fairly confident that most of the time people and institutions are telling us the truth. The alternative, a bias for untruth, leads to mistrust and the inability to function smoothly, and results in both a personal cost to our sense of self and an economic cost in terms of a truth tax that is imposed by protracted negotiations, lawyers, etc.

Keyes covers the many aspects of lying, including how it eventually affects the liar. He also provides a lot of interesting examples of lying in the business world, in literature, in politics and in Hollywood -there are some real eye openers here - as well as an engaging exposition on those who defend lying and why. Keyes concludes convincingly with the need to have a bias for truth, although a reasonable one at that.

Keyes' writing is tight and he skillfully weaves supporting quotes from various sources. The book is a quick read and one that helps you understand the current condition of truthtelling, and its prognosis.