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November 22, 2001

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - The Most Effective Organization

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 7:55 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The Most Effective Organization in the U.S.: Leadership Secrets of the Salvation Army by Robert A. Watson & Ben Brown, Crown Business, 220 Pages, $25.00 Hardcover, November 2001, ISBN 060960869X
This emphatic title comes from the following Peter Drucker quote: The Salvation Army is by far the most effective organization in the U.S. No one even comes close to it with respect to clarity of mission, ability to innovate, measurable results, dedication, and putting money to maximum use. If you wont take Druckers word for it, listen to some of these statistics about the Salvation Army: They have 9,500 centers of operation, $2 billion in annual revenues, and 32 million clients served in every zip code in America. Those are some pretty amazing stats.
When I first got this book, I was skeptical because we have seen Leadership Secrets/Lessons of everybody from Attila the Hun to Jack Welch with a bit of Shakespeare thrown in. Just what we need, another one, right? Well, before my cynical alter ego could completely take over, my sensible side realized how on target this book probably was. Robert Watson is the retired National Commander and commissioned officer who has served forty-four years in the Army. As evidenced by the aforementioned stats and the Salvation Armys successful brand, Watson has been a very successful leader. And, of course, we, as leaders, need to succeed where the Army has had proven success: we need to increase revenue, supply a sense of mission, serve our clients, and build a brand. That is what the Salvation Army has been doing in America since 1880.
I am not a fan of heartwarming stories as the foundation for a business book (the realities of business are rarely warm & fuzzy), but this book is an exception. The stories here are not only heartwarming, but also inspirational. For example, in Las Vegas, the Army created a caf, and with all the hotels and restaurants in town, the demand for staff is always high. The Army worked with the local college and used the caf to train and hire students to assist them in finding a job after graduation. While the students were in class, the Army cooked for a homeless food program that feeds 1,000 to 2,000 people per day. Later, they opened the sit-down caf for anyone with a $2 token. That token was available for purchase, but residents and area businesses also purchased the tokens in bulk and gave them to the homeless knowing that they would receive a healthy meal.
As we all have to re-gear after the tragedies of 9-11, and after reading this book I can think of no better organization to try to emulate them this organization.