Book Review: Who's in the Room?
I read a lot of very good books on leadership and management.
Who's in the Room? How Great Leaders Structure and Manage the Teams Around Them by Bob Frisch falls in the great category. That rating is due to the book's ability to jar your perspective of how teams do and should operate. I found myself wondering why I had overlooked - or failed to pursue - some of the items cited. That feeling was interspersed with admiration for Frisch's recommendations on how to escape the bondage of the organization chart.
Rather than denouncing "kitchen cabinets," Frisch shows how to make them work more effectively. [Keep them informal, he cautions, and don't announce their membership lest a line of wannabes form outside your door.]
Frisch jabs at the common practice of expecting holistic thinking from senior management team members who have gotten to the big table through their knowledge of various specialties. That may cause many of us to wince because, I would wager, most of us have fallen into that trap. What we've failed to appreciate is how much constructive speech we've chilled by demanding a holistic view that should largely come from the leader/CEO.
Frisch prescribes a portfolio of teams for various projects; an adroit combination of permanent and ad hoc groups that permits a nimble response to the organization's needs. He is rightly suspicious of standing committees and recommends a review to justify their existence.
His book goes from macro to micro. For example, he notes the execution problems that arise when senior management teams fail to identify internal resource constraints ("rub points") that will erode the organization's ability to achieve its goals and wisely observes that such points are usually addressed only after a project has gotten into trouble.
Bob Frisch has done an excellent job of spotting and explaining decision making problems that are created by the very structures we embrace, even while we grumble at bureaucracy. [Throughout the book, I kept thinking of Dwight Eisenhower's response when he was president of Columbia University and the staff wanted him to crack down on students who refused to use the sidewalks: "Build sidewalks where the paths are."]
Bob Frisch has a similar mindset. His book has my highest recommendation.