Organizational guru Ken Blanchard has long had a knack for writing management books that are easy and fun to read (The One Minute Manager, plus 11 other bestsellers). Now, in his latest, he becomes (with the help of three coauthors) something of a novelist, relating the saga of the Riverbend Warriors, a come-from-behind boys' hockey team, to teach a broader lesson about the importance of, and the key dynamics behind, good teamwork in organizations of every sort.
High Five! starts with otherwise exemplary exec Alan Foster losing his job because--you guessed it--he isn't a team player. Unemployed, bored, and demoralized, he decides to coach his fifth-grade son's failing hockey team into better shape. But it's not until he enlists the help of Miss Weatherby, an aging African-American retired teacher and champion girls' basketball coach that things really start to turn around. As we follow the struggle of the increasingly well-oiled Warriors machine as they drill, strategize, and bond their way through the season, we learn some of the fundamental lessons of what makes good teams--and good team-building by coaches and managers. Among them are "repeated reward and repetition," the guiding notion that "none of us is as smart as all of us," and four key traits that shall here remain undisclosed (hint: their acronym spells PUCK).
As fiction goes, don't expect high literature here. But to its credit, the book's ending isn't 100 percent happy, either. If you worry that the aged but whip-smart Weatherby might die at the end, don't--instead, she becomes perhaps the world's first octogenarian, black female management consultant. As books on teamwork go, Blanchard's latest is on the lighter side, but it still packs a fair share of commonsense wisdom when it comes to putting together, motivating, and sustaining work teams worthy of the Stanley Cup. And it may even have inaugurated a new fiction genre: the organizational tearjerker. --Timothy Murphy [via]