LEAN BUT NOT MEAN

by Anil K. Singhal

Verdict: With its well-defended commonsense alternatives to reductive, bottom-line business practices, LEAN BUT NOT MEAN is sure to get tech leaders thinking differently about how to innovate and grow, without alienating their workforce.

IR Rating

 
 

4.5

IR Rating

In this empowering and well-organized leadership primer, dot-com founder Anil K. Singhal sheds light on the corporate philosophy that helped build his company, NetScout, into a resilient multi-billion-dollar enterprise over the last 30-plus years. By making employee satisfaction a priority, owners and their workers gain revenue and peace of mind for the long haul.

Born in India, and running his global tech company from Massachusetts, a great distance from Silicon Valley, Singhal prides himself on being a pioneer and independent thinker. In simple, straightforward language, he communicates the basic principles that sound so diametrically opposed to today’s cutthroat business strategies. Singhal contends that while many companies focus on quarter-to-quarter earnings, to accommodate stockholders, a better path to long-term success is customer satisfaction. The best way to keep customers happy is by developing a culture within the workforce that is loyal, motivated and innovative.

Singhal demonstrates his grasp of business history by rooting his value system in those of predecessors like Hewlett-Packard, whose revolutionary flexible break schedules and casual Fridays forged workplace trust – as well as productivity – through what was known as “The HP Way.” Hiring quality talent, and at the right pace, also is critical. In boom years, companies should show restraint in hiring, so they won’t have to lay off so many workers during leaner times. This trust extends beyond NetScout to other companies, when Singhal negotiates acquisitions, determining which companies would make for a good fit in joining his. Meanwhile, the standard practice of including earn-outs as part of an acquisition, for instance, is cautioned against, because its “bad faith” assumption suggests that the buyer doesn’t trust the assets being acquired, and therefore must subject employees to a “performance test” after the deal is done.

A culture that is “not mean” attracts talented workers who value a fair, humane workplace. They also get room to do their best work, through “lean” management. One memorable theme extended through much of this book is Singhal’s “5 Percent Rule,” which applies to acquisitions, as well as to employee compensation and other big decisions. Leadership gets involved early on, at the beginning stages of a new action, determining goals and metrics of success. Then, they get out of the way and allow their trusted employees to thrive during execution, avoiding frustrating redundancy and wasted labor by pushing decision-making further down the command chain in every department.

With its well-defended commonsense alternatives to reductive, bottom-line business practices, LEAN BUT NOT MEAN is sure to get tech leaders thinking differently about how to innovate and grow, without alienating their workforce.

~Chris Wood for IndieReader

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