Friday Book Review! Time, Talent, Energy by Michael C. Mankins & Eric Garton

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“Too many companies are living in yesterday’s world. They are seeking competitive advantage through traditional methods, and they aren’t finding it. And they are missing their main opportunity for boosting performance and outstripping competitors. Let us explain what we mean.”

With these opening words of their new book, Time, Talent, Energy, Bain consultants Michael Mankins and Eric Garton launch a combination manifesto and manual urging companies to stop focusing on acquiring and managing the principal scarce resource of the past — capital — and instead focus on acquiring and managing the scarce resources that truly make a competitive difference today: the time, talent and energy of your best people.

Confronting the Productivity Killer

Unlike capital, which is easier to locate and access than ever before, the authors’ research shows that the time, talent and energy of leaders and employees are becoming more and more scarce. To be successful, the authors write, companies must ensure that their employees are the most productive they can be — that is, that they use their time productively and that they pour their talent and their energy into their work.


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Most productivity books are focused on the individual. However, Mankins and Garton have a different message: “It’s not your employees’ fault that they are not as productive as they could or should be; it’s your organization’s fault.”

Most organizations are undermining their employees’ productivity with roadblocks and obstacles. The authors call these organizational obstacles “organizational drag.” “Organizational drag slows things down, decreasing output and raising costs,” they explain. “Organizational drag saps energy and drains the human spirit. Organizational drag interferes with the most capable executive’s and employee’s efforts, encouraging a ‘What’s the use?’ attitude… It’s time for companies to confront this productivity killer head on.”

The authors’ analysis of the time budgets of 17 large corporations indicates that time is still a scarce resource that is being squandered. Some of the culprits are well known, including a tidal wave of e-communications and meeting time that, according to the study, has skyrocketed. In addition, real collaboration is limited: most meetings, the authors write, are within departments, not between functions or business units.

Unfortunately, there are few controls and few consequences for time-wasting processes…(click here to continue reading)

Review: How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb

When someone would tell comedian George Carlin to “have a nice day,” Carlin would react angrily: “What if I don’t want to have a nice day?” Unlike Carlin, most of us would prefer to have nice days, but in our overworked, over-stressed and overbooked lives, it is not always easy. A new book by former McKinsey consultant Caroline Webb promises to come to our rescue. Entitled How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, it uses the advances in behavioral science, psychology and neuroscience to help us overcome or mitigate all of the stresses, setbacks and mishaps that create the many bad days or bad moments we endure.

The Essential Sciences

Webb begins her book with a quick look at three scientific advances that are key to understanding how we will be able to create a good day:
• The two-system brain. Our brains run two opposing systems in parallel, she explains. The deliberate system is our conscious thinking, slow and rational. The automatic system is subconscious, fast and instinctive. The deliberate system calculates a 15 percent tip; the automatic system makes us jump back before we are hit by a car.
• The mind-body loop. The mind and body are interconnected in ways we never realized. We knew happiness leads to a smile, but we did not know smiling (no matter how we feel) will make us happier.
• The discover-defend axis. We are constantly moving along an axis, anchored on one end by a defensive outlook, expecting attack at any moment, while anchored on the other end by a discovery mood, seeking out rewarding experiences.

 

Having laid the scientific groundwork,Webb then covers her seven building blocks of a good day:

Priorities: setting the intentional direction of the day.
Productivity: making the most of the hours of the day. Relationships: having positive, productive interactions.
Thinking: making wise choices, being creative and smart. Influence: maximizing the impact of what we say and do.
Resilience: overcoming setbacks and annoyances.
Energy: boosting enthusiasm and enjoyment.

Webb offers clear guidelines for each of the building blocks. Thus, for example, the section of the book on productivity includes chapters on single-tasking, planning deliberate down time, overcoming overload and beating procrastination. The chapters related to influence cover getting through their filters, making things happen and conveying confidence. Throughout the book, Webb carefully links the science introduced at the beginning to her directives. Down time increases productivity, for example, not only because a brain needs to rest but also because neuroscientists have discovered that the subconscious brain keeps working even when the conscious brain is at rest.

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