November 10, 2006
F Laws: Management Truths We Wish To Ignore
Russell Ackoff has written a new book called F-Laws. What is an "f-law?" According to Ackoff:
f-LAWS are truths about organizations that we might wish to deny or ignore - simple and more reliable guides to managers' everyday behaviour than the complex truths proposed by scientists, economists, sociologists, politicians and philosophers.Ackoff has published a short version of the book for free, which you can download here. A longer version will be released in 2007. I think my favorite f-law is:
"The less important an issue is, the more time managers will spend discussing it."
Here is a more detailed explanation:
More time is spent on small talk than is spent on large talk. Most talk is about what matters least. What matters least is what most of us know most about. The more something matters, the less we know about it.
Everyone is an expert on trivia. So everyone can discuss trivialities
with equal authority and at great length. This is not true with
important issues on which there are alleged experts. Experts, those who
know a great deal about a subject, tend to limit discussion to what
they know about it. Their authority is vulnerable to new ideas, which,
of course, seldom come from other experts, but from nonexperts whom
experts try to exclude from the discussion.
Experts seldom accept any responsibility for errors resulting from following their advice. However, they accept full responsibility for any successes that result from following their advice, however remote the connection.It would be funny if it weren't so true.
I love it. Fluor requires opening meetings with a safety topic and a value creation topic, so I opened several meetings last week where I was presenting charts on a computer with the f-laws page. I got away with it - still have my job!
As the company charts guy, my favorite is about wanting what you can measure rather than measuring what you want.
I've suggested a law to submission process - "Given two numbers, they will be different". Managers very much overreact to the differences between two numbers (be it this year compared to last year, last quarter, the past 12 month average, whatever). It is always interesting to see the amount of explanation and effort spent on random noise.
Posted by: Steven S Prevette at Nov 20, 2006 10:05:48 PM