June 29, 2011

News & Opinion: The Bear Basics

By: Sally Haldorson @ 2:14 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Of all childhood characters, Winnie-the-Pooh has always been a favorite. The best banana bread recipe I make is straight out of one of the many collectible Pooh books I once owned: Winnie-the-Pooh's Teatime Cookbook. The first storybook I bought my son was The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. Despite my Pooh fandom, I was hesitant to crack open Winnie-the-Pooh on Management, by Roger E. Allen because Pooh and management seem like odd bedfellows.

Allen agrees with me, saying in his Introduction: " At first it might seem odd to combine a children's classic with management. The purpose of doing so is to explore the six functions [that a manager should master] in an unfamiliar context, which will allow us to think about them in a new way and make the basics of a manager's job clear and understandable."

And yet, we know Pooh to be a singular kind of deep thinker--his friends too!--, so there is something to this paperback release (the hardcover originally released in 1994.)

Amid Allen's parable-of-sorts (his tale has a guru and an animal--they just happen to be the very same Bear!) are placed bits of A.A. Milne's original text that exemplify the six functions of a manager. For example, the very familiar quest of Pooh's in which he pursues honey from a honey tree explains Function #1: ESTABLISHING OBJECTIVES. Just as Pooh sees a honey tree and decides that he wants honey. How he goes about preparing to get the honey is #2: ORGANIZING. #3 MOTIVATING might be convincing Christopher Robin to help Pooh accomplish the goal. Then, Christopher Robin will need direction for just how to march about, saying, "Tut tut, it looks like rain" in order to distract the bees while Pooh gets the honey (#4 DEVELOPING PEOPLE.) Alerting Christopher Robin about the suspicious bees is good COMMUNICATING (#5) and assessing the situation is MEASUREMENT AND ANALYSIS (#6.)

If the six functions are the "whats," then the rest of the book discusses the "hows" of management. As Pooh says, "How is difficult,"..."If you ask Eeyore how he is, he almost always says, 'Not very how.' Everyone has trouble with 'How.'" These 'hows' might include: delegating, scheduling, setting priorities, and not micromanaging ("I sat on Piglet once," said Pooh. "By accident. He didn't much care for it." "Few do," said Owl.")

In a nutshell, this visit with Pooh and the subject of management is an excellent tool for regrounding yourself in the "whats" and "hows" of being a manager. It's the gift Pooh has given all of us over the years: a way of looking at complicated things (life, management) simply.


About Sally Haldorson

Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.