ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - October 2001


Issue Highlight — A Day in the Life of a Fool
- A Day in the Life of a Fool asks whether
e-government will improve government or make
it more distant from those it is supposed to
serve without actually improving efficiency, as

 In This Issue...
The Big Bang Theory of Teambuilding and Leadership or Listen Up!
Just a Little Suggestion
Highly Satisfied Customers
Gotcha! Office Politics at Work

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change
Brief Cases

Return to NFC Index

    Pageturners        Book Reviews with a Twist

12 Step Wisdom At Work: Transforming Your Life and Your Organization
Edited by William C. Hammond III

The addictive, repetitive behavior characteristic of alcoholism is an extreme example of what many people do to a lesser extent in their organizational lives. Therefore, it is only natural that the process used to help alcoholics would also be useful when organizations become dysfunctional. The 12-step program used to great effectiveness in Alcoholics Anonymous can be adapted to work well in all organizations, including the company you work for. Summed up, the 12 steps basically require that you admit your failures, acknowledge that they are your responsibility and that you are committed to making positive changes. The point of this book is to demonstrate how the adaptation can be done, and at that level the authors have achieved a significant success.

  The best point of the book is: “The bad news is that my life is falling apart. The good news is that my life is falling apart, which means that I now have an opportunity to put it back together again, only better this time.” In a world of enormous opportunity laden with instability and uncertainty, this is the best advice you can receive. The days where a person worked at the same job for years and then retired are gone. Nearly everyone will be “terminated” one or more times during their professional career. Most of the people that I know have been fired at one point in their lives and nearly all say that it was a motivating factor that forced them to reexamine their life. After a short time, their situation was actually better than before.

  In reading journals, another point continues to arise concerning the leaders of businesses faced with a sudden downturn. My favorite quote in the book is, “There’s something in the nature of CEOs—pride, vanity, a primal need for control, an obsession with success, good old-fashioned idealism—that makes smart, well-regarded chief executives into idiots when the world turns against them.” When the tide is rising, it takes no effort to succeed and it is easy to consider success an entitlement. However, reality is what happens when we are making plans, and it is in difficult times where we show our true abilities. The solutions presented to these problems may appear simplistic, but in fact contain a great deal of wisdom.

  1. Retrieve your history. After all, if you were a success in the past, then you have proven that you can do it.
  2. Review these historical insights in view of your stated core values. Determine your best and worst practices.
  3. Re-envision your present. Ask the questions:
    • What has died?
    • What is dying?
    • What is alive and well?
    • What is emerging?

  There are many examples of sound business practices in this book. They apply in good times as well as bad. In good times, study them so you know what to do when they get bad and when they are bad study them so you know how to make them good again.

  Another very powerful point deals with companies that have a strong corporate culture. In the wake of the dot-com disasters, this approach to business is even more significant. The companies that played follow the Internet leader and rushed to move their businesses online have almost universally lost massive amounts of money. However, those that took the time to get it right and integrate their web presence with their offline offerings are generally the ones that are surviving. Their choice to continue to follow their mission plans and consider the Internet to be just another business venue rather than a revolution saved them enormous amounts of money and organizational instability.

12 Step Wisdom At Work: Transforming Your Life and Your Organization, edited by William C. Hammond III, The Hazelden Foundation, 2001. 300 pages. ISBN 0-7494-3440

Reviewed by Charles Ashbacher, Charles Ashbacher Techologies, Hiawatha, Iowa: .

Book Ratings:

***** = Pick it up today
**** = Overnight it
*** = Snail mail it
** = At a library?
* = Never mind

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