You may respond to any of the points below or you may take a point from either c

You may respond to any of the points below or you may take a
point from either chapter that caught your attention.
Chapter 1: Liff details the ways that the public sector is different from the private sector with an
emphasis on how those differences make managing in the public sector more difficult than
managing in the private sector. However, he concludes (page 18) that “it is much easier to
manage and deal with government employees than you might think” and “that government
employees will respond to the right kind of leadership.” That often does not happen because “far
too many government supervisors either are unable or unwilling to get things done in
government, and as a result take no action.” This bias toward inactivity is due to a “don’t rock
the boat” attitude, a previous bad experience trying to get things done, fear of “the flak” that
accompanies difficult decisions, bad advice, an unwillingness to devote the necessary time, or
ignorance of the proper approach. How do you respond to these claims?
Chapter 2a: According to Liff, “the bottom line is that each of us must decide what we really
believe about people” (20). There are really two big options. First, there is the cynical view
(page 21) that people are untrustworthy, dangerously self-interested, and averse to work.
Second, there is Liff’s view the people want to work, want to do a good job, and want to be part
of a winning team. The difference is more than academic, for they entail very different
approaches to management and to management systems. So, what is your view? What do you
think of Liff’s argument? What are the implications of your view?
Chapter 2b: Liff gives all sorts of advice that he thinks will result in effective leadership. At
base, he argues that management will get the behavior it encourages (his goal is not merely
compliance, but committed performance), which means that employees do poorly (most of the
time) because management has created a flawed system that encourages the wrong behaviors.
He sums up his approach on page 31: “Top-notch organizations feature systems that complement
each other. They hire excellent employees, invest heavily in their training, and promote people
based on merit. The employees work in first-class space that is designed to promote the flow of
work and build morale. The organizational structure is generally lean, with relatively few layers
of management. Tasks are accomplished in an effective and efficient manner that avoids rework
to the maximum extent possible. Employees are given the requisite tools to do their jobs,
including manuals, computers, job aids, and so on. Information flows smoothly, and decisions
are made at the appropriate levels. Rewards are doled out in a fair and equitable manner and in a
way that promotes the organization’s goals. Lastly, the organization periodically takes a step
back in order to ensure that it is continually learning and renewing itself.” What do you think of
these claims?
11
Chapter 2c: Liff contends that most workforces can be divided into three groups: the top 10%,
the middle 80%, and the bottom 10%. The employees in the bottom 10% are both influential and
difficult and much of the advice Liff offers in the book is intended to help with that group. Here,
he notes that is often not possible to fire them, nor is it appropriate to fire them, nor is it
advisable to ignore them. Instead, a leader’s first approach should be to bring them up, to
rehabilitate them, and to improve their performance. Do you agree with his characterization of
the workforce and with his philosophy for dealing with it?

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