Thursday, January 22, 2009

Getting Things Done When You Are Not In Charge by Geoffrey M. Bellman

Getting Things Done When You Are Not In Charge by Geoffrey M. Bellman

This book is about how to bring change and lead from the middle of an organization. It talks about informal networks of power and politics inside organizations. The book focuses on support, professional, and administrative positions. There is a focus on identifying peoples wants, creating incremental goals, and moving from what is to what you want the organization to be.

Everyone wants something at work. It often makes things easier if you can help them get it. It can be as simple as a new coffee pot to as hard as a whole series of new safety procedures. Fulfilling peoples wants increases cooperation. I wish more people understood this in workplaces. Throughout the book there are numbered lists with suggestions on how to improve your lot in the workplace. There is a very nice list on how to identify what people want in this book.

In change you look at what is currently happening, then where you want to be. This is not easy at all. Resistance to change is often about personal power and a sense of being respected as well as fear of being taken advantage of. Any kind of change is naturally uncomfortable, but often inevitable. We have a new director at our job, she has been here for a little over a year and has brought quite a bit of change.

Sometimes it is better to do things in a systematic incremental manner to reach your goals. Even if you don't fulfill the main objectives, you end up finishing a number of smaller goals along the way. Sometimes, larger goals seem unattainable. Systematically completing small projects gives enough confidence in your work for you to get larger projects. For example, I started ordering computer books, then I asked to have more money to build out a larger computer books collection because I thought we needed it.

I liked the reminder about your position in an organization being what you make of it. When I first started, I was in charge of making sure the reference books were in order and the law collection. Now, I am a bit overextended. I am currently in charge of ordering adult graphic novels, business books, job information center books, social science books, ereference, some programming, and law books.

There is a nice chapter on cross functional teams. It is a reminder that it is often easier to get things done in teams than as departments. We started a team for Bridges Out of Poverty at our work. During the last month we had sixteen different service agencies come to a meeting, and created a new services brochure. I don't think this would have been possible outside of a team.

This book is very useful if you to expand your role and responsibilities in a support position and bring about incremental systematic change. The book is not a book of theory, it is a book of practice. There are numerous lists of specific actions which you can take. The book has an index and bibliography. It was written in 1992, but almost everything still feels very relevant. There was a second edition printed in 2001. It was based on an earlier title, The Quest For Staff Leadership I would call this a classic of business writing.

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