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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Hot Groups : Seeding Them, Feeding Them, and Using Them to Ignite Your Organization » User review

Organizational Ignition

  • Feb 1, 2000
In the Preface, the reader is told: "The time is ripe for large, hierarchical, well-ordered organizations to make room for small, egalitarian, disordered hot groups. That is the first thesis of this book....The book's second and ultimately more important thesis is that hot groups are not good just for organizations. They are also good for people. They offer individuals opportunities to find meaning and ennoblement through their work. In our fast and impermanent new organizational world, those who work in organizations -- and that includes most of us -- both expect and deserve such opportunities." Here is how the book is organized:

Part I Hot Groups: What They Are and Why They're Hot

Part II Who Needs Hot Groups? And Who Seeds New Ones?

Part III How Do Hot Groups Operate?

Part IV An Optimistic View of What's Ahead

At this point early in my review, I want to stress that a "hot group" should be the logical, indeed inevitable result of a way at looking at organizational renewal. Think of the "hot group" concept as precisely that: a concept which affirms the value of a process by which individual members of any organization (regardless of its size or nature) can effectively collaborate. These members are "task-obsessed and full of passion." They share a style which is "intense, sharply focused, and full bore." Moreover, members of a "hot group" feel engaged in "an important, even vital and personally ennobling mission"; their task is "dominates all other considerations"; and although a "hot group" tends to remain intact only for a relatively short period of time, it is "remembered nostalgically and in considerable detail by its members."

Such groups require effective leadership. In Chapter 6, Lipman-Blumen and Leavitt address this issue, suggesting a number of specific "options" when "hot group" is assembled and then charged with its mission. For example: "To develop a hot, task-obsessed group, think about people before you begin laying out a flow chart. Bring on the people. Getting the task done is not your solo job. It's the whole group's job." The leader is urged to "recruit wild ducks", then help the group to bring the right people in, to get the wrong people out, and with unexpected departures. According to the authors, there are two kinds of c"wars" and "races." In wars, the goal is to destroy the enemy; in races, the goal is not to destroy but to out-perform others. Also, "at least as much", to have members outperform themselves, to exceed their personal best.

In my opinion, this brilliant book makes two immensely important contributions to our understanding of what it takes to achieve superior organizational performance. First, it explains what the members of a "hot group" can themselves accomplish if given the leadership, freedom, and resources needed. Second, it explains what the positive impact of such a group can have on all others within the same organization. Paradoxically, a "hot group" is most effective within an organization that has stability, solid and enlightened management, and sufficient resources to support the group's efforts. That is certainly true of those associated with Xerox PARC, the Manhattan Project, Lockheed's "Skunk Works", and the Disney studios which produced the first full-length animated films.

If an organization is unwilling and/or unable to tolerate a "small, egalitarian, disordered" but NOT disorganized "hot group", it probably has problems which even the hottest of "hot groups" cannot solve.

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Robert Morris ()
Ranked #168
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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You can't plan for a collection of employees to become a hot group. It's not a committee or a task force. Governments can't legislate them into being. Employers may not even want them around, since they tend to be egalitarian and disordered--the opposite of a hierarchical structure. A group of young computer programmers could get together and work for days at a time, both for the love of computer programming and because they feel they're on the verge of an important moment, and the result could be Microsoft. A collection of writers, producers, directors, actors, and camera operators could get hired to work on a TV show, realize that show has the potential to be something different and special, and end up withHill Street Blues. A team of middle-aged white males in suits and starched military uniforms could gather in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis, ultimately preventing any missiles from being fired.

The authors believe that hot groups are the antidote to lumbering, inflexible organizations, whether they be corporations, military chains of command, or government bureaucracies. They're what gives individuals in those organizations a chance to find meaning and fulfillment in their work, and they're what breaks through logjams and deadlocks and achieves what others had thought to be impossible. Along with lots of examples of hot groups in action, the authors provide concrete steps employers can take to form, manage, and get the most out of them. There's also a valuable ...

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ISBN-10: 0195126866
ISBN-13: 978-0195126860
Author: Jean Lipman-Blumen
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA

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