F-Laws: Management Truths We Wish To Ignore


Russell Ackoff has written a new book called F-Laws. What is an "f-law?" According to Ackoff:

f-LAWS are truths about organizations that we might wish to deny or ignore – simple and more reliable guides to managers' everyday behaviour than the complex truths proposed by scientists, economists, sociologists, politicians and philosophers.

Ackoff has published a short version of the book for free, which you can download here. A longer version will be released in 2007. I think my favorite f-law is:"The less important an issue is, the more time managers will spend discussing it."Here is a more detailed explanation.

More time is spent on small talk than is spent on large talk. Most talk is about what matters least. What matters least is what most of us know most about. The more something matters, the less we know about it.

Everyone is an expert on trivia. So everyone can discuss trivialities with equal authority and at great length. This is not true with important issues on which there are alleged experts. Experts, those who know a great deal about a subject, tend to limit discussion to what they know about it. Their authority is vulnerable to new ideas, which, of course, seldom come from other experts, but from nonexperts whom experts try to exclude from the discussion.

Experts seldom accept any responsibility for errors resulting from following their advice. However, they accept full responsibility for any successes that result from following their advice, however remote the connection.

It would be funny if it weren't so true.

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  • Rob
    As you said, it would be funny if these weren’t so true. Everyday, I run into managers that exhibit these traits. One I see quite often is “Managers who don’t know how to measure what they want, settle for wanting what they can measure”. A good corollary might be, “Managers who don’t know what needs to be measured settle for what everyone else is measuring.” What scares me most is the adamancy with which managers defend their thoughts and behavior when you suggest a different approach. I guess that falls under “The less sure managers are of their opinions, the more vigorously they defend them.”
    Take care…
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