From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Emperor's Teacher (2)—Talking Points-b

I am devoting 2012 to one of the projects closest to my heart/mind (心). It is called The Emperor's Teacher, and deals with lessons that need to be understood by managers all over the world. "Managers?," I hear you ask? But I am a parent, a teacher, an employee, and, at home, a busy cook, bookkeeper, and sometime voter. I'm not a manager.                            Yes, you are. 
[b] Window RF
We are all managers, and we would do well to learn abiding lessons of how to make managing work. Some people in our midst (and in human history) have spent inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out how we might manage ourselves (since if you can't get your self right, you'll have a hard time with anything bigger...right?), our families (since a family is a whole bunch of interrelated selves in social communion), and the whole enchilada...all under heaven (天下). The latter term was used traditionally in China to refer to running the empire, but it had both moral and governmental innuendo that we would do well to consider in our own lives today. All three ideas (oneself, one's family, and all under heaven) are versatile enough to be read in secular or sacred terms, and, indeed, early Chinese cosmology had a plethora of ways of interpreting such matters. Interpret away. The concepts are big enough for all of us, as even Dong Zhongshu might have agreed.

My book, The Emperor's Teacher, introduces the greatest management book of all time (Sima Guang's Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Ruling), and then explains its key teachings to readers in the twenty-first century. This is challenging stuff for readers today (in East Asia and the West, I might add), just as it was ten centuries ago. No book is deeper or richer with lessons you need to learn to manage your career, your family, your football team... 
...or the corporation you lead. We all need it. My book takes you through the lessons found in a thousand year-old text. The "Talking Points" that follow in the next few posts will give a sense of the book as a whole. Close readers of Round and Square will know that I have already posted all of chapters one and two, and the first parts of chapters three on this blog (look for them below). I will post the entire "blog draft" on Round and Square in 2012. 
Front Matter:
Talking Points-a          Talking Points-b          Talking Points-c          Talking Points-d          Talking Points-e  
Table of Contents-a                                        Table of Contents-b                                        Table of Contents-c

The Emperor’s Teacher
Life Lessons from Chinese History
“Talking Points"—B

The Scene
“Author” runs into “manager” in the grocery store, and the conversation turns toward the question of “why the manager should read The Emperor’s Teacher, since she has already read several “Chinese wisdom” books, such as the Art of War and Classic of the Way and Virtue.  The manager enjoyed these books, but still yearns for something more. 

I run a small business, and I need results—things I can use.  I have read Chinese management texts, and they all flit like a butterfly here and there, without any specific information about what I should do. I want to manage.  Can your book really help?  The Art of War provides perspective, and I like to think in strategic terms.  But I still need to make concrete decisions about hiring, retention, and long-term planning.  I need specifics, not just strategies. 
[c] Long view RF

You have only read the “little” books of ancient Chinese philosophy.  They are wonderful and insightful—beautiful works of insight into the human condition.  But Chinese business managers would just chuckle if they thought that you were actually using them (alone) to run an organization—without reading the real management books that every administrator has read (up to now, in Chinese) for a thousand years.  The books that you have read help to think in broad, new ways, but they do not provide guidance for the specific kinds of decisions that you must make as a capable manager.  They provide a brilliant foundation, and they are great preparation for the next step in management thought. 

What do you mean? I have read everything on the shelf at Barnes & Noble®. I have read The Art of War, the Book of Changes, the Classic of Virtue and the Way (Daodejing/Tao-te ching), and Confucius’s Analects.  I thought Chinese “business books” were all the same—brief, exotic, and a little strange (at least when I think of working with employees in my division or my bosses several floors up). 

With all due respect, you have only read some of the brief, ancient works (wonderful and rich as they are) that have been translated tens—even hundreds—of times. You may even have read books by some Western authors who have only read English translations of these ancient texts and then written their own interpretations, without knowing a word of Chinese.  You probably haven’t even heard of the books that Chinese administrators and managers studied in depth for years and years before they were truly capable of exercising leadership.  Those works used the texts you have studied as their foundation, but took management thinking to an entirely new level with what might be called the first “case studies” the world has ever known.  Almost a thousand years before the Harvard Business School opened its doors, Chinese writers were creating case studies as a management teaching tool. 

I don’t know what to say.  I take my business reading seriously, and I devote at least ten hours a week to it.  I have studied everything on the bookshelf, from the One Minute Manager and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to From Good to Great and The Fifth Discipline.  I have bought and read every book on Chinese management that I can find.  What do you mean? How can it be that I have never even heard of the books that have been used in China for over a thousand years? 
[d] Highest steps RF

It is time for the next step.  It is time for you to see how management really worked in the Chinese empire in practice.  It is time for you to see how the Art of War and its wonderful lessons lead into the complex structures of the greatest empire the world ever knew until recent times.  Even Chinese readers dread the challenging language of the original texts, but they all know how important they are.  Every ruler (and manager below him…or her, if you want the truth) studied the lessons I am going to teach you.  What I am about to give you is the highest step ever taken in the management of people and organizations. 

Have you read the Art of War? Have you thought deeply about management? 

Are you ready? 
***  *** 
You need this book.  The other management books have prepared you for this moment, but the Comprehensive Mirror addresses all of the important management issues, and in a way that is strikingly new. 

*Do you want to attract talented people and retain them? 

*Do you want to get the most out of all of your employees—and not just the most motivated of them (or those in the best-rewarded positions)? 

*Would you like to have high morale even among middle managers, instead of people who are “just phoning it in?”  Would you like to get the most out of your work force? 

*Have you been frustrated that no matter how much diverse talent you hire, board meetings stay the same—with few people willing to share ideas? 
[e] Reflection RF

*Do you want to move your company from “good enough” to truly the highest level (the Tang dynasty at its height, so to speak) in every respect?  Do you want to lead employees who want to be at work and who truly care about the products they develop and sell?

The Comprehensive Mirror has taught these lessons for more than nine hundred years, and you have the opportunity to learn from its wisdom.  You have read the Art of War.  You have already learned from great Chinese management literature.  Are you ready for the next step? 
Are you ready?
Front Matter:
Talking Points-a          Talking Points-b          Talking Points-c          Talking Points-d          Talking Points-e  
Table of Contents-a                                        Table of Contents-b                                        Table of Contents-c

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