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A LITTLE BOOK OF

f-LAWS
13 common sins of management

RUSSELL L. ACKOFF
& HERBERT J. ADDISON with considered responses by SALLY BIBB

Published in this first edition in 2006 by: Triarchy Press Station Offices Axminster EX13 5PF United Kingdom +44 (0)1297 631456 info@triarchypress .com www.triarchypress .com Copyright © Triarchy Press Limited The right of Russell Ackoff, Herbert Addisonand Sally Bibb to be identified as the authors of this book has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including photocopying, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permissionof the publisher. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN 0-9550081-1-5 978-0-9550081-1-5 Cover design by: Tim Heap – www.logomotion.co.uk Printed by: Creeds the Printers, Broadoak, Dorset – www.creedsprint.com

Frequently Asked Questions What are f-Laws? They're truths about organizations that we might wish to deny or ignore - simple and more reliable guidesto managers' everyday behaviour than the complex truths proposed by scientists, economists and philosophers. How many are there? Over 100. We've selected just 13 from Management fLaws: How organizations really work. This selection is designed to whet your appetite and get you thinking about the often-unacknowledged realities of organizations: what really motivates managers; why are companies runthe way they are; how come they don't work better...? Why the conversation? When American management guru, Russell Ackoff, and his co-author, Herbert Addison showed us their f-Laws, we asked British author, Sally Bibb, to respond in the light of current organizational thinking and best practice. Sally’s is a voice from another generation, another gender and another continent. On every lefthandpage we've printed Ackoff and Addison's f-Law with their commentary. Opposite, you'll find Sally Bibb's reply. In each case, we've retained their spelling, punctuation and 'voice'. What do you mean by 'the best' organizations? Sally looks always at how things can be done better. When she talks about 'the best' organizations, she's talking about ones that strive to be: Collaborative ~ Ethical ~Flexible ~ Innovative ~ Responsible ~ Sustainable ~ Transparent ~ Trustworthy.

a little book of f-Laws

a little book of f-Laws

The lower the rank of managers, the more they know about fewer things. The higher the rank of managers, the less they know about many things
Executives make mountains out of molehills; subordinates make molehills out of mountains. The relationship between executivesand subordinates is complementary: neither knows why the other does what they do, nor cares about it. This leaves a large black hole between them into which most important issues and communications fall, lost and, like Clementine, gone forever.
The reason for this state of affairs is that executives are busy asserting their power and their staff are busy trying to impress. So much energy goes intothe ‘game’. Rarely do bosses and their staff stop and think ‘what is our purpose here?’ If they asked that question, answered it and acted on the answer then the black hole would disappear. Why don’t they do this? On the bosses’ part, it’s fear of losing control. On the subordinates’ part, it’s fear of getting it wrong. The result: ineffectiveness and a stifling of creativity. Antidote: Focus onthe questions: ‘what are we trying to achieve?’ and ‘how can we support each other?’ Easier route: hire confident people (I mean truly confident people not those who wear it as a mask to hide their insecurity) whose disposition is to be collaborative, who don’t need to prove themselves and who are mature enough to say that they don’t know, and so ask for help. The best organizations provide the...
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