Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Twenty-five Principles Underlying Good Practice

Two brothers, Kenneth and William Hopper, have written a fantastic and unique business book - The Puritan Gift: Reclaiming The American Dream Amidst Global Financial Chaos (2009). The book is a social history of the United States, which doubles up as a commentary on managerial culture. The book traces the evolution of American society from the 1630s to the present day. The book depicts how America's superb managerial culture, originating in seventeenth-century New England, evolved to make the United States the most powerful nation on earth.

The appendix contains what the authors refer to as "Twenty-five Principles Underlying Good Practice for the Golden Age of Management - all with Puritan Overtones." The list is presented below:

Systems and Routines
  • Principle One - All successful organizations, however simple, consist of systems within a system.
  • Principle Two - All systems are nurtured by routines, which must be regularly reviewed and refreshed.

Structures and Hierarchy

  • Principle Three - The most important sub-system in any organization is the managerial hierarchy, which is likely to be based on some form of line-and-staff.
  • Principle Four - The best type of hierarchy is "bottom-up".
  • Principle Five - Leadership should as far as possible be collective or "collegiate".
  • Principle Six - The middle manager is the keystone of the managerial arch.
  • Principle Seven - "One man, one boss" - which should be re-stated as "one person, one boss".

Decision Making

  • Principle Eight - Meetings are the medium of management work.
  • Principle Nine - Integrated decision making leads to right conclusions.
  • Principle Ten - Planning should be for the short term (say, one to four years), the medium term (say, five to eight years), and the long term (say, nine years up).
  • Principle Eleven - You should make a careful study of the mistakes and successes of the pioneers in your field - and learn from them.
  • Principle Twelve - Excellent internal communications in all directions - but above all upwards - are necessary in any successful organization.
  • Principle Thirteen - The manager must be a leader in both a practical and moral sense.
  • Principle Fourteen - You should use consultants sparingly - and "strategic" consultants never.
  • Principle Fifteen - A manager should be aware of his responsibilities to society as a whole including to his company's employees as human beings.
  • Principle Sixteen - If ain't broke, you should try to make it work better.


  • Principle Seventeen - Avoid debt like the plague - or, if that is impossible, use it sparingly.


  • Principle Eighteen - A manager should possess or acquire what is now known as "domain knowledge" - i.e., a profound understanding of the technology and business of his or her company, which can normally be gained only through a long apprenticeship in that company or in the same industry.
  • Principle Nineteen - The testing and training of managers should be pragmatic and continuous.
  • Principle Twenty - Managers who wish to reach the top should start at or near the bottom.
  • Principle Twenty-One - Job rotation (sometimes known as intra-company mobility) is desirable to create the "rounded" executive.


  • Principle Twenty-Two - Employment should in general be for the long term - by which is meant, at least, eight and, if possible, ten years.
  • Principle Twenty-Three - Complementarity is one of the keys to making appointments.
  • Principle Twenty-Four - The remuneration should promote and reward group effort.
  • Principle Twenty-Five - Avoid ostentation like the plague.

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