Book Reviews

Hear What Others Have to Say About the Works of Elliott Jaques

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Quotes – Requisite Organization

“Those rampaging against hierarchies today rarely stop to consider that hierarchy as a form of social organization occurs throughout nature. Instead of throwing rocks at hierarchies, it behooves us to try to understand why hierarchy might actually be important and the principles that might guide leaders in distinguishing functional from dysfunctional hierarchy. No one has done better thinking on this subject than Elliott Jaques. His Requisite Organization should be required reading for all managers genuinely interested in what—rather than simple tradition, established biases, and pure power politics—might truly JUSTIFY hierarchies capable of serving human and organizational goals.”

-Peter M. Senge, Center for Organizational Leadership, MIT

“A critical application of Dr. Jaques’ theories enables today’s CEOs to organize their corporations correctly to utilize each employee’s God given talents, and to promote and develop employees to their maximum potential unencumbered by bureaucracy, personalities and seniority issues. Dr. Jaques’ system, in its eighth year of evolution at Commonweath Aluminum, has allowed our company to run a system based upon a meritocracy where good performance leads to more opportunity and poor performance leads to removal from role. The employees perceive this as a fair system and the company has achieved significantly improved performance.”

-Mark Kaminski, President and CEO, Commonwealth Aluminum

“Using Requisite Organization principles in our management system has brought about a clarity of expectations that has been liberating to individuals and immeasurably beneficial to the company.”

– Dr. W. J. Privott, President and CEO, Novus International, Inc.

“This system is not ‘flavour of the month’! It is a comprehensive, integrated, disciplined and rigorous system for all managers, which, when followed, makes such good sense. For any manager faced with the competing demands of running an organization, especially in times of uncertainty and change, the up-front investment of time and effort pays off—it simply makes life easier!

– Karen Robinson, General Manager, Ontario Hydro, Hydroelectric

“The ‘magic’ in Elliott Jaques’ concepts is simply that they work in the field…I have employed them daily in my work for over 6 years at both the corporate headquarters level of a major global company and, more recently, in its rapidly developing Asia operating region. Whether in ‘Peoria’ or the People’s Republic of China, I wouldn’t leave home without Elliott Jaques!”

– Tom Helton, Vice President, Human Resources, Whirlpool Asia

Reviews from Amazon.com

Requisite Organization | Human Capability | Social Power and the CEO |

Life and Behavior of Living Organisms | Executive Leadership

REQUISITE ORGANIZATION

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FIVE STAR REVIEWS

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:

Pounding insight, September 4, 2004 By therosen “therosen”

This review is from: Requisite Organization: A Total System for Effective Managerial Organization and Managerial Leadership for the 21st Century : Amended (Hardcover)

The Requisite Organization is a text explaining how to organize and properly staff a beaurocracy for maximum effectiveness. Sounds painful and dull, but perhaps beaurocrats get such a bad rap because they are operating ineffectively.

Stratified Systems Theory is a hard-core scientifically derived theory on who has the adequate personal capabilities to be a manager. The key concept is that leaders should be given responsibility based on their ability to think about long term complex problems. All other management competencies (emotional intelligence and other soft skills included) are secondary to this ability. It’s a hard concept to handle, but backed with sufficient data.

Many secondary implications are discussed too. How should one promote individual contributors? What’s the effective span of control a manager can have? How does one handle organizational conflict? Should one override a subordinate in a staffing decision? All these questions are relevant to today’s manager, and it is good to have a theoretical foundation to think about these questions.

There’s two downsides to the book. First, whenever there’s a book stating, “The whole world is wrong and headed to hell in a bucket!” I tend to greet it with skepticism. Secondly, although Jaques has a tremendous amount of impirical work supporting his positions, it is not clear if the ability to think long term is the driving factor of personal performance in today’s world of shifting organizations and personal loyalties.

Even if you disagree with half of what Jaques says, the originality, insight and rigor put into such a soft field makes it well worth the read.

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars – Read this book. Follow its directives, January 19, 2005 By Charles K. Brooks (Atlanta, GA USA)

This review is from: Requisite Organization: A Total System for Effective Managerial Organization and Managerial Leadership for the 21st Century : Amended (Hardcover)

Want to reduce turnover, eliminate micromanaging, improve leadership and staff development, increase productivity, increase employee and managerial satisfaction, achieve organizational goals, and more? Read this book. Follow its directives.

It may take a while to digest the very dense information contained in this book, but for the serious student of organizational effectiveness, it is worth it. Very terse and prescriptive in his style, Jaques’ writing may disenchant some. Yet the wisdom in this, his flagship tome, is immense. It took a while to sink in, and I found that reading several of his other books helped clarify the concepts for me. See for example: Executive Leadership, Social Power and the CEO, Human Capability, and Levels of Abstraction in Logic and Human Action. Requisite Organization, however, is the book to which I return for reference and details; it covers all the important concepts in a single volume. [The other books add detail and emphasize various points, so they have particular value too.] Organizational Design by Rowbottom and Billis helped me too, as did the excellent work by both Mark Van Clieaf at MVC Associates and Gillian Stamp at BIOSS.

I didn’t, at first, fully understand the importance of the information contained in this book, or the solid research foundation that underlies it. A little known fact is that the concepts included in this book provide the foundation for leadership development, talent management, and compensation processes of organizations such as GE and the US Army. Many other authors and consulting organizations touting talent management, leadership pipelines, succession planning and the like derive their approaches directly or indirectly from Jaques – an interesting story in itself. Most give him little or no credit, though Colin Powell, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, honored Jaques with the Joint Staff Certificate of Appreciation for “outstanding contributions in the field of military leadership theory and instruction to all of the service departments of the United States”. And the American Psychological Association honored him with the Harry Levinson Award of the Consulting Psychology Division for “a distinguished career and impressive accomplishments.”

After reading Jaques, all the others seem derivative, shallow, trite, and somewhat off-target. Granted, other authors have something of value to say about organizational structuring, accountability, strategic planning, leadership, selection, mentoring, coaching, compensation, managerial practices, functional alignment, measurement, and the like. But while all the rest are shooting in the dark, Jaques hits center target!

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars The best in linking complexity and human capability, September 29, 2001 By
M. Bruno “marcos bruno” (São Paulo, Brazil)

This review is from: Requisite Organization: A Total System for Effective Managerial Organization and Managerial Leadership for the 21st Century : Amended (Hardcover)

We have many theories on strategy and complexity. But no understadings regards how these links to human capability. Jaques explains and shows how to connect complexity to human work. And his understanding of human work is particular and clarifying – human work has to do with uncertainty. People in a managerial hierarchies has to deal with different degrees of uncertainty and Jaques shows it in a very organized and deep way. I think that there nothing better than this available in all managerial books available. A classic.

FOUR STAR REVIEWS

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-Provoking, October 31, 2004 By Neal J. Pollock (VA USA) (TOP 500 REVIEWER) (VINE VOICE)

This review is from: Requisite Organization: A Total System for Effective Managerial Organization and Managerial Leadership for the 21st Century : Amended (Hardcover)

Elliott Jaques devised a system for analyzing executive ability based upon an individual’s time horizon–the maximum period of time in the future toward which his/her work activities were aimed in their performance. He reached this conclusion during extensive, longitudinal, empirical studies in England (see “The Changing Culture of a Factory” for example). His series of books reflect his elaboration and extension of this finding. He worked, for a time, with Dr. Owen Jacobs of the U.S. Army (and then the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, ICAF). Jaques groundbreaking book, “Requisite Organization” is more pictorial than “Executive Leadership” which followed it or the later “Human Capability”. While the present work may be oriented more towards organizational structure, it is useful to practicing executives. True, it may present an ideal which cannot, at present, be achieved, but as the Cheshire Cat said to Alice, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. I wish more bosses would read Jaques’ works–and carefully at that. I bought and loaned some of them to my boss. This volume is rather pictorial: the charts provided are engaging and thought-provoking. The more extensive, “Executive Leadership” followed this book in sequence–it is a fine sequel.. These books are most strongly recommended for serious students and practitioners of management as well as human resource professionals. They go far in attempting to move management into management science.

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

4.0 out of 5 stars – Outstanding thinking, September 19, 2001 By Daniel LeBoeuf (Lakeland, FL)

This review is from: Requisite Organization: A Total System for Effective Managerial Organization and Managerial Leadership for the 21st Century : Amended (Hardcover)

The only beef I have with this book is the lack of data. Jaques’ thinking is crisp and insightful, and well worth reading whether you decide to use his system or not.

HUMAN CAPABILITY

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5.0 out of 5 stars – Outstanding, intuitive, and well worth reading, October 14, 1999 By Daniel LeBoeuf (Lakeland, FL)

This review is from: Human Capability: A Study of Individual Potential and Its Application (Hardcover)

Dr. Jaques is re-writing our understanding of the human mind and how to use it best. Forget IQ, Meyers-Briggs, and the other flim-flam out there. This book offers us the hope that we can work to our potential without overload, balance our task output and spiritual needs at work, and organize our companies as effectively as possible, without sacrificing our humanity. So far every criticism I’ve seen leveled at Jaques has proven baseless. High level writing may put off some, but this is great research work. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you?

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars – Fine Conclusion of Series, October 31, 2004 By Neal J. Pollock (VA USA) – See all my reviews (TOP 500 REVIEWER) (VINE VOICE)

This review is from: Human Capability: A Study of Individual Potential and Its Application (Hardcover)

Elliott Jaques devised a system for analyzing executive ability based upon an individual’s time horizon–the maximum period of time in the future toward which his/her work activities were aimed in their performance. He reached this conclusion during extensive, longitudinal, empirical studies in England. His series of books reflect his elaboration and extension of this finding. He worked, for a time, with Dr. Owen Jacobs of the U.S. Army (and then the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, ICAF). Jaques prior, groundbreaking book, “Requisite Organization” is more pictorial than “Executive Leadership” or this volume. While the present work may be oriented more towards human resource personnel, it is also useful to practicing executives. After reading it, I bought a copy (and of “Executive Leadership” too) and loaned it to my boss! I wish more bosses would read Jaques’ works–and carefully at that. The charts provided are engaging and thought-provoking. The more extensive, “Executive Leadership” preceded this book in sequence. Jaques wrote “Human Capability” with is wife and publisher: Kathryn Cason. It is a fine sequel to “Executive Leadership”, adding some additional perspectives on the ways people perceive and think and it completes the time-horizon charts that Jaques developed over time and published in this fine series. These books are most strongly recommended for serious students and practitioners of management as well as human resource professionals. They go far in attempting to move management into management science. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you?

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars -Ideal for those concerned with developing human capital., March 24, 1999 By A Customer

This review is from: Human Capability: A Study of Individual Potential and Its Application (Hardcover)

This book presents the results of a three year study by Jaques and Cason, providing a major breakthrough in understanding human capability, intelligence, and development. An outcome of this study is further development of managerial practices to match people with roles and develop training and development programs. This is a highly interesting and informative volume that will be of significant value to all HR professionals whose agenda includes HRD and the cultivation of an organization’s human capital. Reviewed by Gerry Stern, founder, Stern & Associates and HRconsultant.com InfoCenter. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you?

5.0 out of 5 stars – Powerful, unusual, actionable ideas for recognizing talent, October 28, 2010 By Paul Konasewich “see my blog on Social Enterp… (San Mateo, California)

This review is from: Human Capability: A Study of Individual Potential and Its Application (Hardcover)

There is a brilliant central point presented in this book, about how to identify management talent. The idea is that everyone has a natural, built-in growth trajectory for their mind’s ability to process complexity. The more horse-power, the better the ability to project into the future, and thus guide an enterprise. Of course there is more to being a good leader than being a good strategist (such as having people skills) but this ability to handle complexity piece is key. Jacques give a specific model for looking at how to handle this complexity. It considers two scales on how people think about challenges.

They are as follows:

TYPE OF MENTAL PROCESS

1. Declarative (disparate points presented)
2. Cumulative (a collection of related points presented)
3. Serial (a then b then c reasoning)
4. Parallel (systems thinking)

ORDERS OF COMPLEXITY OF INFORMATION PROCESSED

A. Concrete verbal (things)
B. Symbolic verbal (intangibles)
C. Abstract conceptual (ideas)
D. Universals (big picture; applied philosophy)

If you put these two scales together then you get a trajectory. It starts with people starting out at a young age with a Concrete–Declarative approach. Then they would over time develop to Concrete–Cumulative, Concrete–Serial, Concrete–Parallel. The next phase would be Symbolic–Declarative, Symbolic–Cumulative and so on, creating 16 levels.

Here’s the key point: Jacques says that everyone has a life trajectory about how high of a level of complexity that are going to achieve. And he says it’s built-in, thus isn’t much to do to improve that trajectory. So for example if a company identify where someone is on the 16 steps at age 30, they can predict where they’ll be at age 50, and have a sense for their leadership potential.

This are big, bold ideas about the development of leadership skills. Absolutely worth checking out.

5.0 out of 5 stars – A Must For Managers and Educators, September 28, 1997 By A Customer

This review is from: Human Capability: A Study of Individual Potential and Its Application (Hardcover)

The Fundation for understand Mental Processing Capability and Handling Complexity. Very simple and powerfull application in everyday situations. Like ‘THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE’ [Peter M. Senge] this is a great book about HUMAN PRESENT AND FUTURE possibilities … JUST READ THIS!

SOCIAL POWER AND THE CEO

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars – Required reading, November 26, 2007 By Arthur K. Mann Sr. (lancaster PA)

This review is from: Social Power and the CEO: Leadership and Trust in a Sustainable Free Enterprise System (Hardcover)

I sometimes ask my oldest son just what did he learn at Wharton School studying for his MBA? Not much as far as he can tell me. This book should be required reading for anyone who aspires or already is a CEO. Jaques wisdom in this book is worth two years of graduate business study. It should also inspire the reader to read his other works. Perhaps you have wondered where GE found its storied organization and leadership development system. Well, wonder no more. It is all based on Jaques work over the past 60 years. So, why is Jaques such a secret? Because companies using his theories in practice consider it a competitive advantage.

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars – 1st Book a CEO MUST Read, September 20, 2002 By Sergey Ivanov “Sergey” (Ashburn, VA USA)

This review is from: Social Power and the CEO: Leadership and Trust in a Sustainable Free Enterprise System (Hardcover)

If you want to destroy and demolish your company — then you should avoid this book. Otherwise, if you actually care about your people, profits to go up, and a better and more effective business — here is your beginner’s guide to success.

LIFE AND BEHAVIOR OF LIVING ORGANISMS

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars – The life’s work of a true scholar and scientist., January 10, 2006 By Nicholas S. Miceli (Columbus, OH)

This review is from: The Life and Behavior of Living Organisms: A General Theory (Hardcover)

I was fortunate enough to speak with Dr. Jaques on several occasions before his death. He was the kind of faculty member with which everyone studying at the doctoral level should have contact. Even though his level of achievement was far beyond what most people will ever be able to hope to attain, let alone attain, he was approachable, and a humane, compassionate person. He was “the real deal,” in terms of developing and mentoring others. The quality of his book is apparent, from the first page. His work is thoroughly grounded in biological sciences, and the behavioral research he had conducted for nearly 50 years. The writing is so clear, and well organized and supported, that it is very readable, despite the complexity of the issues discussed. The single obstacle to Dr. Jaques’ work, in this, and most of his other writings, is the covert (passive-aggressive, perhaps) and sometimes overt resistance of “mainstream management researchers,” or “present-day alchemists.” If you read this book, the meaning of that reference will become obvious. Much of the resistance comes from the fact that any one of his books contains more well grounded application in a single chapter, than you can typically find in any of the academic management journals (Academy of Management Review; Academy of Management Journal; Journal of Management; et al.). The evidence of the validity of Dr. Jaques’ work is the body of results of organizations applying his methods correctly, starting with Glacier Metals, extending to the present day. In this sense, Dr. Jaques was far more “the real deal,” than many Ph.D.s in the field. While it is true that many of them publish, the criteria of whether their methods actually worked, in the field, is more often lacking than met. Read this book. You will be the better for having done so.

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars – The life & Behaviour of Living Organisms, October 2, 2008 By Robert Lynch

This review is from: The Life and Behavior of Living Organisms: A General Theory (Hardcover)

An excellent book and some very, very valuable insights into human behaviour, either for students or for managers of people.

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars Quantum Leap!, September 20, 2002
By Sergey Ivanov “Sergey” (Ashburn, VA USA)

This review is from: The Life and Behavior of Living Organisms: A General Theory (Hardcover)

Phenomenal — it make take the society another 100 to 500 to grasp the ideas — a quantum leap to a more humane world order if deduced to be applied in structuring the modern society and understanding of man.

EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars – Great Book, October 31, 2004 By Neal J. Pollock (VA USA) – See all my reviews (TOP 500 REVIEWER) (VINE VOICE)

This review is from: Executive Leadership: A Practical Guide to Managing Complexity (Developmental Management) (Paperback)

Elliott Jaques devised a system for analyzing executive ability based upon an individual’s time horizon–the maximum period of time in the future toward which his/her work activities were aimed in their performance. He reached this conclusion during extensive, longitudinal, empirical studies in England. His series of books reflect his elaboration and extension of this finding. He worked, for a time, with Dr. Owen Jacobs of the U.S. Army (and then the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, ICAF). Jaques prior, groundbreaking book, “Requisite Organization” is more pictorial than this volume. The present work is oriented more towards practicing executives. After reading it, I bought a copy and loaned it to my boss! I wish more bosses would read it–and carefully at that. The charts provided are engaging and thought-provoking. A less extensive volume, “Human Capability” follows in sequence. Jaques wrote it with is wife and publisher: Kathryn Cason. It is a fine sequel, adding some additional perspectives and completing the charts that Jaques developed over time. These books are most strongly recommended for serious students and practitioners of management. They go far in attempting to move management into management science.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars Requisite Organization, February 8, 2008 By Eric L. Anderson (Bremerton, WA)

This review is from: Executive Leadership: A Practical Guide to Managing Complexity (Developmental Management) (Paperback)

Elliott Jaques is Canada’s Peter Drucker but as a psychologist gets stuck in creating nomenclature that is difficult to follow. This work has the benefit of wordsmithing by a coauthor (S. Clement)which releases the valuable content to us in clear discussion. And what insight there is when viewing organization and management from this different point of view. Whatever your beliefs are of management and leadership this book will sharpen and deepen your understanding. At the heart of Jaques discovery is that just as we say some people “run deep” he believes they also have differing time horizons in their operating mode. It follows that higher management positions must be able to “see” further ahead if they are to contribute value to their direct reports. Read this book for its uniqueness and intriguing insight.

5.0 out of 5 stars – A whole new view on the topic, June 9, 2010 By Alfonso Castro Ch (Ecuador)

This review is from: Executive Leadership: A Practical Guide to Managing Complexity (Developmental Management) (Paperback)

A total new vision on the matter. Beyond the traditional “do it yourself” and festivalistic view of the topic. It’s hard to think that an author such as Elliot Jacques has not received the attention that, with no doubt, he deserves. Recommend this book to anyone interested in leadership specially if oriented to teaching.

4.0 out of 5 stars – Must to Read, May 23, 2009 By T. Labs “Larry” (Paris, France)

This review is from: Executive Leadership: A Practical Guide to Managing Complexity (Developmental Management) (Paperback)

This book explains how we should work within organizations : any executive, at any management level (Jaques thinks there are just nine complexity levels), should be coached by someone who has been successful at that level and who is allowed to speak rather freely with the people under the executive and his colleagues. The coach is not a judge and his opinions will be used only to help the executive better and quicker solve the problems he discovers at that level of management complexity. The coach job is very difficult and that explains why the Elliott Jaques method is not often implemented. But it should, and companies who could do it would outperform competitors, just because executives will understand and solve problems quicker-better and learn to understand quicker at a given complexity level. Well coached executives will progress quicker up to their personal limit, but also will blunder less often… There are many others counsels in the book which help apply the main element of the method. Must be read.