“Under New Management” [Author Interview]

David Burkus is the author of the new book, Under New Management. He is host of the Radio Free Leader podcast and associate professor of management at Oral Roberts University. Please visit his website at www.davidburkus.com.


(JLH) One of my personal heroes is Peter F. Drucker, the man whom Businessweek called the “Father of Modern Management”. How, if at all, do you see Drucker’s teaching on management by objectives, executive effectiveness, building on strengths, and reducing the salary compensation of C-level leaders down to a more reasonable and fair amount, related to the techniques you discuss in Under New Management?

(DB) I see a pretty big connection. Drucker was a visionary who coined the shift from industrial to knowledge work and predicts it scaling. There’s a reason we call him the father of “modern” management. In contrast, Fredrick Taylor being the father of scientific management. That older thinking is really what I take aim at in my book. We made the shift from industrial to knowledge but we took Taylor’s management with us. Drucker laid a foundation for modern management, executives and entrepreneurial leaders started to experiment with new ideas, researchers also experimented with organizational psychologies principles. The hope is that Under New Management summarizes and blends a lot of the wisdom from all of these pioneers.


(JLH) You have achieved a great deal of recognition for your contribution to management, including writing for the Harvard Business Review and Forbes, and being listed on the “On the Radar” category of the 2016 Thinkers50. What do you attribute your earned success and notoriety too?

(DB) You know, Drucker loved the phrase “opportunity favors the prepared mind.” We’re in the midst of a huge shift in connectivity for the whole world and it’s giving voice to a lot of people. I’m grateful to be one of them and I’m hoping to do my part to continue to invite others into the conversation.


(JLH) You’re an associate professor of management at Oral Roberts University, an interdenominational Christian school, that while recognized in 2012 by the Princeton Review as one of 123 institutions in the ‘Best in the West” regional ranking, isn’t necessarily known for its business college, like say Sloan at MIT, Ross at Michigan, Wharton at Pennsylvania, or Tuck at Dartmouth. Yet, you are a best-selling author and award-winning podcaster. Is it your personal platform, your work in the classroom, or some combination of both, that has helped you reach a broader audience than just at ORU?

(DB) I think it’s again part of that shift. I’m proud of my work with ORU and, while it’s not a “brand name” school I think that forced me to thinking differently about how to get a message heard…and that led me to the aforementioned shift.


(JLH) What advice would you have for graduate students, or millennial leaders considering transitioning into a business or managerial professorship?

(DB) I’d say build a platform independent of your university, whether you’re a doctoral student or already in a faculty role. Your research is important, absolutely, but it’s also about what managers can do with your research. That part likely won’t be covered by the journal you publish in, so it’s on you to write about how leaders can use what you’ve researched.


(JLH) How important is it for an author to begin building their own platform?

(DB) I’m not a big fan of the term “platform” because people aren’t planks. You build an audience by sharing and giving. The larger that audience the more they can help you share your message (providing you’re giving valuable content). I don’t know that I would try and launch a book without one, so I’d look to blogs, podcasts, or other publications you can write for to refine your craft but also to build an audience.


(JLH) How did you work your way into being a contributor for HBR and Forbes?

(DB) I wrote…a lot. I made friends with people who wrote. Eventually they noticed.


(JLH) Of the best-practices you take aim at in Under New Management, which one or ones were you most surprised by in your research?

(DB) Salary transparency. I expected to research it and come down in favor or privacy and transparency. But the research was overwhelming. Salary secrecy hurts employees and does productivity damage to the organization. It’s not worth it. Sure, it feels uncomfortable sharing what you get paid, but it’s a lot more uncomfortable to wonder if you’re being discriminated against, or compensated fairly, or even appreciated for your contribution.


(JLH) Where do you see management’s next uncharted territory?

(DB) I’m looking into the larger ecosystem. Every company exists in a larger network of vendors, suppliers, customers, and competitors and where you embed yourself in that ecosystem and how you move through it dramatically effects the business. I’m interested in looking more into that.


(JLH) You teach courses on strategic leadership at Oral Roberts. What is the biggest issue(s) CEO’s need to be aware of, or at least consider in today’s tumultuous business environment?

(DB) “Great leaders don’t innovate the product, they innovate the factory.” This was true when Fredrick Taylor started reinventing physical factories. It was true when Peter Drucker started describe the shift from factory to office. And it’s true now. Leaders need to take a deep look at their organization and how they can better design it to give their people the autonomy and resources they need to bring value to the organization. Innovative products and services always follow innovative management. That’s the core idea of Under New Management.



Is Your Workforce Engaged? [Guest Post]

According to a recent Gallup study, a mere 30 percent of the workforce is engaged. So if 30 percent of employees are engaged, 70 percent are disengaged. Additional research by Gallup reveals that engaged workers are the most innovative.

As if motivating employees weren’t enough of a challenge, today’s workforce dynamics are more complex than ever before. Five generations are represented in most organizations, with Baby Boomers and Millennials comprising the two largest in number. Many Boomers have delayed their retirements because they cannot afford to stop working or because they prefer to work. These difficult decisions affect their career goals and the organization’s succession planning goals, too. And Millennials as a whole have introduced additional nuances to the world of work, including a desire for greater work-life balance and flexibility, technology savvy, and a more collaborative work style.

How can you engage employees who have very personal and unique motivation factors? How do you communicate your organization’s vision effectively and gain buy-in from such a diverse workforce?

As you may know too well, if you don’t engage them, you won’t keep them. Employee retention is another challenge leaders are dealing with today, especially as younger generations of employees are more inclined to move on from an organization after only several years on the job, in search of more challenging or meaningful work.

CTDO magazine understands the complexities of the workforce challenges you face as a leader. This free, quarterly, digital magazine is dedicated to addressing these big-picture issues and their underlying causes and providing practical, solutions-based content for you. Read more in the Spring 2016 CTDO.


Ann Parker is manager of the Human Capital Community of Practice and the Senior Leaders & Executives Community of Practice at ATD. Prior to this position, she worked at ATD for five years in an editorial capacity, primarily for TD magazine, and most recently as a senior writer and editor. In this role, Ann had the privilege to talk to many training and development practitioners, hear from a variety of prominent industry thought leaders, and develop a rich understanding of the profession’s content. Visit Chief Talent Development Officer Magazine.

CTDO magazine

Desks on Wheels: How Valve Software’s Manager-less Structure Creates Productivity [Guest Post]

This original post was inspired by concepts from chapter twelve of Under New Management. A company with no managers or job descriptions. It sounds like a recipe for chaos, but Valve Software has used this fluid structure to become immensely successful, relying on the strength of its people and their own sense of accountability to maximize productivity and create growth.

Desks on Wheels: How Valve Software’s Manager-less Structure Creates Productivity

To most business professionals, the idea of firing your managers doesn’t sound counterintuitive, it sounds insane. However some of the most successful companies do in fact run manager-less, while others have found ways to push some of the management function down to the level of those who are being managed. In either case, more and more leaders are discovering that employees are most productive and engaged when they control their own destiny.

Employees at Valve Software don’t have to take orders from ‘the boss.’

That’s because, at the Bellevue, Washington–based company, there are no bosses to give orders.

Valve is a company with no managers. They don’t believe in managers, or job descriptions. When new people join the company, they rotate around on various projects, talk to lots of people, and then decide which project (or projects) to jump into full-time.

“My observation is that it takes new hires about six months before they fully accept that no one is going to tell them what to do, that no manager is going to give them a review, that there is no such thing as a promotion or a job title or even a fixed role,” wrote Valve employee Michael Abrash on the company’s blog. “That it is their responsibility, and theirs alone, to allocate the most valuable resource in the company — their time — by figuring out what it is that they can do that is most valuable for the company, and then to go do it.”

Valve isn’t just a small handful of programmers working in a garage either. The company was founded in 1996 by Mike Harrington and Gabe Newell. Both were former Microsoft employees who decided to partner together. The company grew organically and quickly based on the success of its critically acclaimed game series Half-Life, a six-game series that made a significant impact on the industry and won more than fifty game-of-the-year awards.

That success was followed up by other successful franchises and the release of Steam, an online distribution portal for video games that accounts for an estimated 70 percent of all video home sales worldwide. The company has grown dramatically from the original partnership to more than 400 people.

Ordinarily, that type of growth would require a fairly rigid hierarchy to manage everyone and keep them working in the right direction. But Harrington and Newell don’t see it that way. “We thought about what the company needed to be good at,” Newell said. “We realized that here, our job was to create things that hadn’t existed before. Managers are good at institutionalizing procedures, but in our line of work, that’s not always good.”

So Harrington and Newell chose to ignore the traditional structure and to build something that would allow innovative and talented people to thrive. According to Valve’s employee handbook:

<>When you’re an entertainment company that’s spent the last decade going out of its way to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value. We want innovators, and that means maintaining an environment where they’ll flourish.<>

In fact, what Valve employees work on changes so much each day that every employee’s desk is equipped with wheels and organized such that only two cords need to be unplugged before it can be rolled to wherever it’s needed in the shop. “The mobility within the corporation is a great asset, and everybody recognizes that,” said Yanis Varoufakis, an economist from the University of Athens who used to work as Valve’s economist-in-residence.

There are lots of people, however, to tell them what they could do. Since Valve has no managers, all projects are started by an individual employee or a group pitching an idea and then recruiting a team. If enough people join the group, the project starts. Sometimes an individual employee is referred to as the ‘leader’ for a project, but everyone knows that this simply means that this person is keeping track of all of the information and organizing what’s being done — not giving orders.

There are also lots of people to tell employees how they’re doing. Valve may not have managers, but it does have a performance management system in place. Just like the work itself, the system works on a peer basis. A designated set of employees interview everyone in the company and ask who they’ve worked with since the last peer review session. They ask about their experiences working with each person. That feedback is collected and anonymized, and then every employee is given a report on their peers’ experiences working with them.

A similar, but separate, system is also used to determine compensation. Each project group is asked to rank the members of the group based on four factors: skill level, productivity, group contribution, and product contribution. Once all that information is collected, Valve applies a series of calculations that place each employee in a compensation bracket.

Valve also empowers all of its employees to make hiring decisions, which it describes as “the most important thing in the universe.” Valve attributes the success of its organizational design to hiring the smartest, most innovative, and most talented people it can find. Making sure that it continues to hire only high-caliber people is vital to keeping the system working. The company’s handbook reminds employees, “Any time you interview a potential hire, you need to ask yourself not only if they’re talented or collaborative but also if they’re capable of literally running this company, because they will be.”

The leaders of companies like Valve have discovered something that researchers have known for decades: when individuals feel free to determine what they’re working on or how they work, they’re more motivated, more loyal and more productive. While Valve’s almost free-form structure may not be ideal for every company, the lessons learned here about improved productivity and engagement are of use to all.


David Burkus is the author of the forthcoming Under New Management. He is host of the Radio Free Leader podcast and associate professor of management at Oral Roberts University. Please visit his website at www.davidburkus.com.

leaders factors over products_UNM Burkus

Does Your Business Model Need to Make a Shift In Its Management? [Book Review]


under new management

Author David Burkus is a rising star in a new generation of management guru’s. He is a best-selling author, an award-winning podcaster, and an associate professor of management at Oral Roberts University. He is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review and Forbes, and a consultant to all kinds of organizations, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Additionally, Burkus is also listed on the 2016 “On the Radar” category for the Thinkers50 global ranking of management thinkers.

In his new book Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual, Burkus tackles long held assumptions of the marketplace and explains what really works for getting the right thigs done in this new information age. Beginning with an introduction, that mentions Frederick Taylor’s scientific management, a system of thought that dominated the industrial revolution, Burkus goes on to explain how business, along with the rest of the world, has experienced rapid change at all levels of commerce and the marketplace.

Using corporate examples such as Carnegie Steel, Whole Foods, Zappos, and Netflix among others, Burkus presents a new way of thinking that is much more representative of the globally interconnected, technology driven, and creatively unique style of business in our current modern age.

Targeting assumed “best-practices” related to email, hiring, performance appraisals, teamwork, and professional burnout amid other highly relevant topics, Burkus turns traditional wisdom on its head, and offers a new, and in many ways, artistic style of business and leadership for the 21st Century.

Throughout his book, Burkus quotes various research, shares personal observations, and mentions the ideas of management icons like Gary Hamel, Howard Shultz, Herb Kelleher, and my personal hero, Peter Drucker, known as the “Father of Modern Management” –a very different, yet related, form of the “new” management that Burkus describes.

Additionally the author shows his cultural awareness by referencing as diverse examples as former megachurch pastor, Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill church in Seattle, Washington, to the TED movement, consulting giant, McKinsey & Company, Stanford Business School, the Gallup research organization, and Microsoft.

Two of my favorite chapters, include, Chapter 4: Pay People to Quit. Where the concept of paying recruits and new hires to leave the company, an innovate practice made popular by Zappos and adopted by other companies, illustrates the priority of creating the right culture for Zappos, a personal mission, and perhaps borderline paranoia, of CEO Tony Hsieh.

The other insight comes from Chapter 12: Fire the Managers, in which the thesis is that “Managerless Means Everyone is a Manager”. I especially enjoyed this axiom because it highlights the need for empowerment and cultivating employee responsibility. When everyone is a “manager”, team members have instilled within them a special kind of ownership for their work that is reflected in a true commitment to each other as well as an understanding of how their activities contribute to the organization’s overall purpose, thus eliminating the micromanager or business dictator boss we all hate.

Other paradigm busting insights include prioritizing employees over customers, eliminating time wasters and redundant maintenance, and being open about salary information.

For readers who are sick and tired of the traditional command and control mantra of old management and resonate with the collaborative and culturally creative style of teaching, similar to authors and thought leaders like Dan Ariely, Adam Grant, and Dan Pink, then Under New Management will be right up their alley. An insightful and engaging book, which I can’t recommend highly enough.

adam grant endorsement, Under New Man.

A Life Plan to Keep You Moving Forward [Book Review]

I have been a longtime fan of both Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy for some time now. Michael, the former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, is the guru of gurus for productivity hacking, permission marketing, and building an online platform, a reference to the title of his most recent book, which was a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller. His blog is one of the most visited in the world, ranked by Google as in the top one-half percent across the internet. Through his podcast, “This is Your Life”, Michael regularly shares life changing content with his listeners. Daniel Harkavy, Michael’s long-time friend and coach, is the founder and CEO of Building Champions, a premier executive coaching firm he started in 1996. His previous book Becoming a Coaching Leader provided an exceptionally practical and paradigm shifting model for coaching, that I greatly benefited from.

In the duo’s new book, Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want (Baker Books, 2016), the two authors combine their vast array of experience to offer readers a step-by-step action plan for turning their dreams into reality. With endorsements from fellow peak performance and productivity coaches like Tony Robbins, David Allen, Darren Hardy, and Dan Miller, as well as thought leaders like John Maxwell, Seth Godin, Andy Andrews, Dave Ramsey, Henry Cloud, and Max Lucado, the professional praise runs deep for this new roadmap, or a compass if you will, for planning not just your career, but offering a holistic and practical plan for creating the life you truly want.

In addition to the proprietary material shared, the authors also make reference to Benjamin Franklin’s historically famous “Thirteen Essential Virtues”, which includes topics like frugality, sincerity, and tranquility, as well as the work of previous life plan and S.W.O.T. systems, to show the effectiveness of how having a thought-out process for establishing and reaching goals, can lead to both success and significance.

The “Three Powerful Questions” asked as a way to structure the book’s content, include the personal inquiries:

How do I want to be remembered?

What matters most?

How can I get from here to where I want to be?

These questions help the reader to, as the late Stephen Covey made popular, “begin with the end in mind”, thus keeping the theme of legacy at the forefront.

Additionally, an opening metaphor of how a personal GPS can turn good intention into right action, with passionate conviction and encouraging motivation, sets the stage for the remaining chapters, and sheds personal insights to the lives and struggles of the authors.

Furthermore, each chapter begins with an inspiring quote by well-known success stories such as J.P. Morgan, Thomas Carlyle, King Solomon, and Andy Warhol. The quotes themselves reflect a critical piece of the Life Plan process. Setting S.M.A.R.T goals, defined as specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound, are another major part of the Life Plan procedure.

In particular, I especially enjoyed the Nine Basic Life Accounts, categorized by The Circle of Being, listing the spiritual, physical, and intellectual self; The Circle of Relating, where interpersonal connections like marital, parental, and social relationships exist; and The Circle of Doing: where we live out our vocation, avocational hobbies, and see financial returns. The authors recommend a writing a short Life Plan for each of the nine accounts described and provide a number of real-life examples to help illustrate the final outcome.

Finally, I think perhaps the most valuable piece of the book for me, was Hyatt and Harkavy’s description of the Life Assessment Profile TM. Lift, Drift, Shift, and Gift: the four quadrants that run along the “passion” vertical alignment and the “progress” horizontal axis, provide the reader with a visual for understanding where they currently are. The key Hyatt and Harkavy state, is to live in the “Gift” zone. This is the upper-right hand corner of the quadrant, where both passion and progress are high. In the Gift zone, the emotional feelings are satisfaction and gratitude. This is where life is both meaningful and enjoyable.

Beneficial for people at every life stage, including business leaders stuck in “half-time”, second career professionals in transition, or college graduates just beginning their journey into the “real world”, if read and applied, Living Forward has the potential to make sure you are staying true to your due north and allows the reader grace and practicality for making course corrections along the way.

Truly raising the bar and setting a new standard in the field of self-help and personal growth literature, Living Forward is one of the best books I have read that can actually help people get from where they are, to where they want to be.


Living Forward