Unshrink - Max McKeown and Philip Whiteley
This is a short book, but one with some stark and profound messages for both people and organisations.

The title captures the essence of the key idea that so much of what we believe and allow to impact on our lives serves to shrink what we can become and achieve. The book outlines that the problem we face as people and organisations, is not how to grow, but how to remove what limits and prevents our inherent ability for growth.

The book deals with these constraints described as seven major myths, that when taken as facts constrain our behaviours and shrink our potential. Examples are given, drawn from a wide range of backgrounds, of the impact and support shown for these myths in spite of little evidence of their truth, and in many cases strong evidence for the opposite.

‘Rules are often built up as scar tissue resulting from an injury.’

At its heart the book proposes as an antidote, a series of principles, in doing so making the case that a key feature of unshrinking is the freedom from rules and in their place a set of principles.

‘Principles can be ‘one size fits all’ in a way that rules can not’.

These myths and principles are presented as complimentary pairs which, through a very broad range of powerful examples, allow the reader to challenge what may unwittingly be strongly held preconceptions and explore how liberating the removal of the myth may be. In addition the book provides a number of practical suggestions for consideration in putting the principles to work.

As a taster the myths and principles outlined are:-

  • You are what you do You are what you can become
  • Work comes first Life always comes first
  • The boss is superhuman We are all human
  • The plan must be secret Only the goal unifies
  • People obey orders Only good change is good
  • Organisations are machines The organisation is a community
  • All change is good People do what they want.
  • This is a small book that can be read in three hours, but may provide insights that may permanently change your thinking and attitudes and maybe the direction you chose to follow.

I highly recommend it.

‘Organisation doesn’t accomplish anything, plans don’t accomplish anything either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavours succeed or fail because of the people involved.’
Colin Powell, US Secretary of State.

Steve Unwin
July 11 2005.