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The Leader's Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century

ISBN: 978-0-470-54868-4
336 pages
October 2010, Jossey-Bass
The Leader


A radical new management model for twenty-first century leaders

Organizations today face a crisis. The crisis is of long standing and its signs are widespread. Most proposals for improving management address one element of the crisis at the expense of the others. The principles described by award-winning author Stephen Denning simultaneously inspire high productivity, continuous innovation, deep job satisfaction and client delight. Denning puts forward a fundamentally different approach to management, with seven inter-locking principles of continuous innovation: focusing the entire organization on delighting clients; working in self-organizing teams; operating in client-driven iterations; delivering value to clients with each iteration; fostering radical transparency; nurturing continuous self-improvement and communicating interactively. In sum, the principles comprise a new mental model of management.

  • Author outlines the basic seven principles of continuous innovation
  • The book describes more than seventy supporting practices
  • Denning offers a rethinking of management from first principles

This book is written by the author of The Secret Language of Leadership—a Financial Times Selection in Best Books of 2007.

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Table of Contents



1 Management Today.

2 A Brief History of Management.

3 What Radical Management Means.

Part One: The Seven Principles Continuous Innovation.

4 Principle #1: Delighting Clients.

5 Principle #2: Self-Organizing Teams.

6 Principle #3: Client-Driven Iterations.

7 Principle #4: Delivering Value to Clients in Each Iteration.

8 Principle #5: Radical Transparency.

9 Principle #6: Continuous Self-Improvement.

10 Principle #7: Interactive Communication.

Part Two: Implementation.

11 A River of Cascading Conversations.

12 Epilogue.

Appendix: Summary of Radical Management Practices



About the Author.


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Author Information

Stephen Denning is a leading writer who consults with organizations in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Australia on leadership, management, innovation, and business narrative. In 2009, he was a visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford University, U.K. He is the author of The Secret Language of Leadership—a Financial Times selection in Best Books of 2007, and a 800-CEO-READ selection as the best book on leadership in 2007.

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“Denning has written an original and brilliant book which transforms ‘radical management’ into doable and, more important, indispensable management. Also an indispensable read!”
—Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business, University of Southern California & author of the just published: Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership

“Denning goes to the root of the management issues confronting companies today. Focusing on seven core principles, he lays out a pragmatic roadmap for shifting the corporation from a focus on scalable efficiency to a focus on delighting the customer and each other, while achieving even higher levels of productivity. In the process, he creates a space where we all can more fully achieve our potential.”
— John Hagel, Co-Chairman, Deloitte Center for the Edge

The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management delivers. It delivers insight into why today’s broken institutions don’t work. It delivers the principles and practices that can reinvent them. It delivers powerful examples of organizations that are doing it —and some that aren’t — and it delivers the tools to help you start digging a new foundation.”
—Jim Kouzes, award-winning coauthor of the bestselling The Leadership Challenge and The Truth About Leadership; Dean’s Executive Professor of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University

“To reinvent America and the world, we desperately need radical, new leadership and management. Stephen shows the way.”
—Mark Victor Hansen, Co-creator of the series Chicken Soup for the Soul®

The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management is the paradigm shift we have been looking for to guide us as we evolve.  This is the first book that focuses on what is truly important to being successful.”
—Matt Hlavin, President, Thogus Products Company

The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management reframes the way we think about management in a practical, application-driven way. A must-read for anyone in a management position!”
—Ed Scanlan,CEO, Total Attorneys

“This book contributes with principles on radical management and continuous innovation to support an Agile mindset in your entire organization.”
—Michael Holm, CEO, Systematic Software

“I’ve spent the last 35 years of my professional life bushwhacking my way towards what I now know, thanks to Steve Denning, is the nirvana called Radical Management. It is a place where delighting customers is the religion and creativity, passion and learning are revered. Denning’s Radical Management is the antidote to the greatest disease in the workplace today, mental resignation due to lack of purpose.  Radical Management should be required reading for anyone entering the work force or looking to reignite their inner bushwhacker!”
—Sam Bayer, CEO, b2b2dot0

The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management accomplishes what no leadership book has been able to do in recent times. It delivers clear insights on the impediments keeping most institutions today from success. Beyond that though it provide tools and means of overcoming these barriers in novel and often counter-intuitive ways. A must read for leaders attempting to move to the next level of performance.”
—Rob Cross, Professor, University of Virginia

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Press Release

September 07, 2010
The Leader's Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century

“This masterful book is a delight to read—articulate, provocative and illuminating. It isn’t merely radical, it’s revolutionary!”

Peter Guber
CEO, Mandalay Entertainment Group

How can established organizations become as good at game-changing innovation as they have been at disciplined execution? Instead of innovation being the responsibility of a few courageous individuals or departments, how can innovation become an organization-wide capability – a part of the firm’s DNA?

In THE LEADER’S GUIDE TO RADICAL MANAGEMENT (Jossey-Bass; hardcover; November 2010), award-winning author Stephen Denning shows that meeting these challenges requires a radically different kind of management. The workplace needs more than tweaking. Rather, management needs to be re-invented. Managers must change how they think, speak and act in the workplace. Denning calls it radical management, because it goes to the root of what’s involved in getting things done in today’s workplace.

The need is urgent. The rate of return on assets for US firms is one-quarter of 1965 levels. Customers are frustrated. Brands are unraveling. Executive turnover is accelerating. Workers are disgruntled. The workplace often resembles a Dilbert cartoon.

As Denning sees it, four major changes have contributed to the crisis:

  • Work has shifted from semiskilled to knowledge work
  • The organization needs the commitment (engagement) of the workforce
  • The customer takes charge – they know they have choices now, and we as companies should delight them
  • The system has stopped delivering

 Most suggestions for improving management enhance one facet of the organization at the expense of others. In this book, Denning, who has authored seven previous books including the award-winning The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling (Jossey-Bass, 2005) and The Secret Language of Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2007), describes an emerging way of managing that simultaneously creates a positive culture of challenge and achievement for workers, delight for the customers and a steady growth in profit and revenue. Work becomes both productive and fun.

Radical management is comprised of seven key principles:

  • Focus work on delighting the client
  • Do work through self-organizing teams
  • Do work in client-driven iterations
  • Deliver value to clients with each iteration
  • Be totally open about impediments to improvement
  • Create a context for continuous self-improvement by the team
  • Communicate interactively with stories, questions and conversations

THE LEADER’S GUIDE TO RADICAL MANAGEMENT also elaborates more than 70 practices that support the seven guiding principles.

This is not another book about teams, or innovation or even leadership storytelling for which Denning is best-known. Radical management is a fundamental re-think of what’s involved in creating a workplace where those doing the work are enabled to contribute their best on a daily basis so as to add a stream of continuous new value for clients.

A long time executive at World Bank, Denning now works with Fortune 500 companies in the US, Europe, Asia and his native Australia on leadership, innovation, storytelling and organizational change.  

THE LEADER’S GUIDE TO RADICAL MANAGEMENT is a practical primer that offers prescriptive advice and compelling insight to help today’s leaders meet the challenges of the 21st century.

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