Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them Hardcover – 18 August 2020
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Named one of the "Best books of 2020: Critics' Picks" by the Financial Times
Named one of the "Best Business Books 2020: Strategy" by strategy+business
Named one of 16 New Business Books You Need to Read in 2020 by Inc. magazine
"…Messrs Hamel and Zanini may be onto something. Too many people feel dissatisfied with their jobs. A Gallup survey of American employees in 2019 found that less than a quarter said they were expected to be innovative in their job; only one in five felt their opinions mattered at work. Unleash their creativity, and productivity will improve, job satisfaction will increase and workers in supposedly "low-skilled" jobs will be free to demonstrate their abilities. If so, the future of work needn't be gloomy after all." ― The Economist
"The authors present a fascinating new blueprint for organizational design that captures the few necessary benefits of bureaucracy, while avoiding the penalties. They also take readers inside exemplary businesses that have managed to upend the traditional bureaucratic model. This well-reasoned concept is fully developed around the authors' principles of humanocracy, and includes practical details on how to achieve revolutionary goals with evolutionary means." ― Library Journal
Advance Praise for Humanocracy:
"Rarely has the case for dismantling bureaucracy been made as effectively, passionately, and comprehensively. The time to start is now, and the book to read is Humanocracy, Hamel and Zanini's practical guide to creating work environments that give everyone the opportunity to flourish. This is essential to revitalizing our organizations and reinvigorating our economies." ― Bengt Holmstrom, Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; 2016 Nobel laureate in Economics
"Hamel and Zanini have achieved two remarkable feats. They've produced one of the most cogent critiques of bureaucracy that I've ever read—explaining the many ways that bureaucratic organizations undermine human autonomy, resilience, and creativity. And they've issued a stirring call to do better―to build organizations that liberate the everyday genius of the people inside them. Packed with keen insights and practical guidance, Humanocracy is an essential book." ― Daniel H. Pink, #1 New York Times bestselling author, Drive and To Sell Is Human
"Humanocracy provides the reader with a road map to helping organizations unleash creativity, energy, and resiliency through leveraging the core of every organization—humans." ― Gen. Stanley McChrystal, US Army, Ret.; New York Times bestselling author, Team of Teams
"Humanocracy is the most important management book I have read in a very long time. This is not just another book about the power of purpose or the joys of empowerment. Rather, it's a detailed, well-researched, data-driven, compellingly argued expose on the massive costs of bureaucracy in society. Hamel and Zanini offer an equally compelling argument for why it doesn't have to be this way, complete with a practical guide for creating organizations that really work." ― Amy Edmondson, professor, Harvard Business School; author, The Fearless Organization
"If an organization has ever crushed your hopes and dreams, this book just might help to rejuvenate you. It's hard to imagine a better guide to busting bureaucracies and building workplaces that live up to the potential of the people inside them." ― Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author, Originals and Give and Take; host, TED WorkLife podcast
"Humanocracy makes the case for replacing chain of command with chain of trust and radical transparency. It's a prescription for unlocking game-changing innovation and the value of every individual." ― Marc Benioff, founder, Chairman, and Co-CEO, Salesforce; New York Times bestselling author, Trailblazer
"Humanocracy is a must-read to survive and prosper in the future. The book is a tour de force." ― Vijay Govindarajan, Coxe Distinguished Professor, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth; author, The Three-Box Solution
"Humanocracy thoughtfully outlines why the time has come for organizations to abandon their bureaucratic ways and bring humanity back into the workplace. I found myself nodding throughout the book and thinking 'YES! This is it. This is the new management paradigm we've been needing for decades. Hamel and Zanini have done it!'" ― Jim Whitehurst, President, IBM; author, The Open Organization
"Humanocracy is the most insightful, instructive book for this new, purpose-driven decade and should be mandatory reading for all organizations seeking to thrive, survive, and, more importantly, make the human impact their teams long for." ― Angela Ahrendts, former CEO, Burberry; former Senior Vice President, Apple
About the Author
Gary Hamel is on the faculty of the London Business School and is a cofounder of the Management Lab, an organization that builds technology and tools to support breakthrough management innovation. Professor Hamel has been hailed by the Wall Street Journal as the world's most influential business thinker, and his landmark books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages. They include The Future of Management and What Matters Now.
Michele Zanini is a cofounder of the Management Lab, where he helps large organizations become more adaptable, innovative, and engaging places to work. Zanini is an alumnus of McKinsey & Company and the RAND Corporation and holds degrees from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the Pardee RAND Graduate School.
Visit humanocracy.com to learn more.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
"For the first time since the dawning of the industrial age, the only way to build a company that's fit for the future is to build one that's fit for human beings as well."
That was the challenge in 2007. It's still the challenge. The only change is that Professor Hamel now has identified the reason that we must do more than reform management. We must get rid of bureaucracy, as well.
If You're in Business, You Should Read This Book
There are two reasons you should read Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as The People Inside Them. First, it will give you ways to observe your organization and come up with new ideas to try. You should also read this book because other people will be talking about it and writing about it. You will get more from your reading or discussions if you read this book.
There's a lot of value here, but there are dangers as well. So, read the book, but keep your eyes and your mind open.
There are four reasons to be wary of what you read about in Humanocracy.
Don't Swallow All the Hype About "Bottom Up"
There's a lot of talk in the book about change from the bottom up. That sounds great until you realize that the examples don't support the bottom-up statements.
Several of the companies that are held up as humanocracy paragons were founded that way. Two examples are W.L. Gore and Morningstar Tomatoes. They didn't have to change anything, only evolve.
The rest started as bureaucratic hierarchies. Then a particularly effective and insightful CEO drove change. For examples, there's Haier, NUCOR, and Handelsbank.
The idea that powerful change can bubble up from the bottom of a bureaucratic organization is a compelling vision. But the examples in Humanocracy don't support it. The only example I recall is Helen Bevan and the National Health Service of Britain. In the other cases, the founder or CEO was the driving force behind the change.
Professor Hamel Says You Need Courage to Create the Change to Humanocracy
There are several times in the book where Professor Hamel talks about the need for courage. That sounds noble. And, of course, it's easy to urge someone else to be courageous.
But beware. You don't need courage unless what you’re doing is dangerous.
Pay attention to everything the author says about the power of an entrenched bureaucracy to defend itself. Then, decide if you want to put your skin in the game. It will be courageous, but is it worth it for you? Only you can decide.
Rose Colored Spectacles
This book is unreservedly optimistic. There’s no discussion of things that might go wrong, either with the revolution or the humanocracy model. What happens when someone in a humanocracy does something that loses a lot of money or endangers the company?
My Biggest Worry
Humanocracy is riddled with the idea that we can create workplaces where hierarchy will not matter. That seems to me like asking human nature to change.
To be fair, the authors have several points where they say they’re not opposed to all hierarchy, only fixed, bureaucratic hierarchy. They also suggest that multiple, dynamic hierarchies should replace fixed hierarchies. That’s good, but not sufficient. I don’t think readers who walk away from the book will remember the distinctions and hierarchy is a powerful thing.
Hierarchy is something human beings crave naturally. It’s hardwired into us. Jordan Peterson puts it this way in 12 Rules for Life.
“The part of our brain that keeps track of our position in the dominance hierarchy is therefore exceptionally ancient and fundamental. It is a master control system, modulating our perceptions, values, emotions, thoughts and actions.”
All our basic organizational models have some form of hierarchy. Watch the way people in a group filing into a meeting room take seats around the table. They leave the spot at the head free for the most important person at the meeting.
Need for hierarchy is human nature. Need for bureaucracy is not. The trick for most reformers will be to use the natural awareness of hierarchy to dismantle bureaucracy.
In A Nutshell
Humanocracy is superbly researched and well-written. Read it for good ideas and thought starters. But there are some dangerous assumptions in Humanocracy.
It's not clear that much change of the organizational structure can bubble up from the bottom of a bureaucratic organization. Professor Hamel calls for lots of radical change and urges you to be courageous. That's because it's dangerous, but the dangers aren’t discussed. Finally, the book implies we can change the natural human need for hierarchy.
The third part is centered around a set of principles for organizations that want to become human-centric. The fourth part is about creating the human-centric organization, with a nice case study from Michelin. But the last part I found a bit disappointing in that it gives a couple of sunshine stories about how to go about organizing hackathons and workshops to spread Humanocracy in the organization. It feels like the type of cases a management consultant would put on his resumé, claiming to have fixed the problem with a few clever hacks, while in reality things started changing back to the normal state of affairs as soon as the consultant stepped out of the door.
All in all it is an aspirational and inspirational read for people that want to upgrade their organizations to a human-centric paradigm. And when it comes to toolboxes there are a plethora of those for free online, like liberating structures and tools hero.
This is recommended reading for everyone from the frontline person to the senior exec. Humanocracy is particularly relevant now as organizations seek to be more resiliant, agile, adaptive, innovative, customer centric etc. Leaders are looking for ways to create this change in their organizations and will seek to install systems to make this happen.
Read this book before putting those programs into place, otherwise you will just replace one form of bureaucratic control with another. You cannot achieve and sustain the benefits of resilience, agility etc without creating a more human organization.
A Humanocracy is defined as the design of an organization to maximize human contribution. It is based on seven core tenets to bring this about: ownership, markets, meritocracy, community, openness, experimentation and paradox. The book does a great job detailing these tenets and how they have transformed different companies.
Now before you think that this is just another book about creating 'a great place to work', think again. Humanocracy is a full scale analysis and takedown of the limitations of power and position based bureaucracy. This book does so much more than traditional great place books and that makes it a must read for every executive. Those things include:
- a spirited discussion of the corrosive impacts of the current state of bureaucracy present in most of our organizations. This makes the book fast paced and interested to read. When was the last time you read an organization design book and could not put it down?
- a fact based discussion of research done by others that demonstrate both those impacts and the business case for change. The data and insight of multiple studies proves that this is real and potentially transformative.
- detailed and descriptive case studies of companies that have already made the move to a Humanocracy, in some cases more than 20 years ago. This is real, not a fad or a way for HR to get money and its sustainable over time.
Overall, this SHOULD BE one of the most influential books of the decade. A suggestion is to read this book, share it with your peers, consider what it would mean to your organization and then invite HR into the discussion. Its everyone's responsibility to make their organizations more human and this book gives you the encouragement to do so.
Its time for a human revolution and this explains its goals.