Russ Ackoff: The Greatest Management Thinker You’ve Never Heard Of?

Russ AckoffRuss Ackoff has died, aged 90. The FT has a great obituary/eulogy which has some fascinating quotes and insight.

On internal change:

Do not wait for others in the business to start changing things. Go and do it yourself. But more importantly: never forget that everyone in the business is interconnected, that they are all operating as part of a system, that tinkering with one part of the company is never really enough, and may even make things worse. You need to see the business as a whole, as a complete system, if you want to make lasting improvements to it.

On strategy and direction:

All of our problems arise out of doing the wrong thing righter. The more efficient you are at doing the wrong thing, the wronger you become. It is much better to do the right thing wronger than the wrong thing righter. If you do the right thing wrong and correct it, you get better.

On being, what we at Veritas call, an “orange sheep”:

An organisation that cannot accommodate nonconformity will not be able to retain creative people.

On failure (this applies to people and organizations: see Gretzky, Wayne):

Organisations fail more often because of what they have not done than because of what they have done.

Finally, on people management:

The less managers expect of their subordinates, the less they get.

I’ve never heard of Ackoff before and I’ll certainly be checking out more of his stuff now I’ve been introduced to him. / Columnists / Stefan Stern – Fond farewell to a brilliant thinker.

EDIT: thoughts from one of Ackoff’s last graduates on Harvard Business.


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