Friday, January 16, 2009

Dropping Almonds - please read this book!

I’ve just read "Dropping Almonds" by Bach Anon, a fabulous short book. It is only 106 pages and I read it in a long afternoon.

It is described on the website as "not your traditional business book" and I agree with that. I very much welcome its style.

Anyone wanting to see more ethical behaviour from managers and leaders in business will love it.

The book is a damning personal statement about poor leadership and management in the US business world. It catalogues the lack of honesty and integrity of top management, particularly in times of change, and how leadership and management are completely disconnected with people doing the work.

The author, who has been at the top of organisations and so speaks from an authoritative position, explains very powerfully what it feels like to be caught up in this type of situation where people at the front line are being told one thing whilst senior management are going in a completely opposite direction.

It is not however a depressing book – far from it – it is written from the heart and packed with emotion. It illustrates the importance of integrity and having some sort of ethical framework for managers to work within.

Is there any wonder front line employees are cynical and disbelieving of management when this sort of practice goes on?

Although the book is about a company in the US I see many parallels in my career back home here in the UK.

Management that does not work in an ethical framework might as well pack up and go home now as far as I am concerned.
Anyone working for management like that described in Dropping Almonds is best advised to just leave and find someone to work for where honesty and integrity mean more than words on a glossy mission statement. I know that is easy for me to say when bills have to be paid. And of course we don't always know what sort of dishonesty and lack of integrity exists at the top end of companies.

I love Tom Peters expression "Life is too short to work with jerks."

If you know the top management and leadership in the company lacks honesty and integrity I would say you are damaging yourself and you are in the wrong place in your career. It could even be argued that, by staying in such a scenario, you are actually complicit in the lack of integrity.

To see more details of the book and how to order click here


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the very thorough and insightful book review. While your American blog fans are separated (physically) by a great deal of water and an interpretation (subjective) of football as a sport in our countries, you do a wonderful job of bringing issues of the book to England.

We all share very similar stories with regard to poor management, leadership, and complexities of today's corporate environment. However, as you reference in your summary, we must become focused on what we can do to retain our dignity in the workplace...that was for you Mark.

And while I enjoy Tom Peters and several of his blogs, I believe your spot is more relevant today than countless other business lessons that are long in the tooth and short in substance.

To takeaway some of the ideas I've learned from Tom, and his countless (too many in my opinion) lessons that are so eloquently numbered on his blogspot, the reality you describe can be narrowed down to four lessons...

Lesson #1: Be honest and treat others as you care to be treated.

Lesson #2: See lesson #1

Lesson #3: If you can't successfully apply the lessons of #1 & #2, you fail.

Lesson #4: If you've successfully applied the lessons of #1 & #2, check out the Simplicity Blog, Tom Peters' Blog, and several other helpful management blogs across the world.

Without honesty and integrity first, business lessons will only be used as fodder for bad leaders. Being honest is the most simple form of leadership...your consistency in message will amaze employees and clients alike.

Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing your review!!!!!

I know that you're not an almond dropper, but there may be hundreds/thousands of surfers that may look to your simplicity to help them overcome their own almonds!

Keep it simple!

Anonymous said...

In regards to Scott's comment, as someone on the employee side I believe you can just go with #1 and dispense with the rest. Management can be honest, but they often forget to treat others how they would like to be treated. Why do they demand that we do more with less staff while administration at my hospital remains top heavy with executives? Our budget gets cut while theirs remains the same. To me as an employee, there's something wrong with that picture. Just my take on things.


Anonymous said...


I was chatting with some fellow employees the other day and we had a good laugh. Management had communicated their goals of cutting expenses and "going without" on several expense lines. One of the lines happened to be for a labeler that was used to tag products coming out of production. Management had determined replacing the printer cartridge was too expensive and they weren't going to label the pieces anymore (maybe a $500 expense to replace).

Clients began to have issues with the unlabeled products and made assumptions, in many cases, about which direction the products should face and how the parts = sum. Because of the clients' frustration, and several of them installing the products wrong, backcharges began to mount at a rapid pace and repair bills began to pile up.

The $500 reduction in expense ended up costing the plant more than $10,000 in time and repairs and likely costing relationships down the road.

To speak to your point, companies cut in the wrong direction (much like Trevor has written about in previous blogs) and the front lines are massacred to try and cut expenses. The problem with this philosophy, much like you're well aware of, is that clients and patients become frustrated by lower levels of service and a diminished quality to boot!

Think about how many employees can be retained and service levels maintained if corporations looked at higher level/middle managers first for cuts. The problem with my logic is that wage earners don't have opportunities to play golf with executives (in most cases), or share dinner with executives families, or better yet, work high level managers. Executives and middle managers will save their bacon and friends first and refer to the wage earners as numbers. Think about how many low level employees need to be cut to make up the salary of a director or Vice President.

Getting back to the labeler that cost the production outfit 10s of thousands of dollars. When speaking with my fellow coworkers, I developed an analogy for the expense reductions taking place:

We can't afford the condom, so let's just go ahead and have a kid.

How responsible is that? You've hit the nail on the head.

Trevor Gay said...

John – I recognise your frustration about cuts in front line staff in healthcare whilst management posts increase. This was one of my greatest frustration in my long career in healthcare her in the UK.

It is always brilliant to hear on this Blog from people who are actually working at the front line – that is where my greatest learning had always come from. Great management and leadership will always recognise that where customers meet employees –i.e. the front line is where most value-added comes from.

Trevor Gay said...

Scott – it is a great pleasure for me to have this Blog. Through it I get to exchange thoughts with great folks from all over the world. It is a wonderful learning environment. Your exceptional comments are always inspiring to me.

Keeping things simple has always been my motto and it is always good to find people like you who feel the same and ‘get it’.

I hope Dropping Almonds become a best seller!

Unknown said...

Looks like a great book - I'll have to pick it up (and not drop it, right?). :)

Thanks for the recommendation, Trevor!

Trevor Gay said...

Happy New Year Dan! - hope you are well - you will not regret buying the book - it will make you smile and make you cry!

Stay well my friend