Book Review – The Outstanding Organisation By Karen Martin

August 25, 2015


During my work with the business owners and directors of small and medium-sized businesses, I regularly come across several common brakes on the business growing faster or being more profitable. I’ll describe these as:

• Not everyone is clear where the business is going;
• There’s too much “making it up as we go along”;
• Regular, repetitive things get done different ways by different people;
• Staff are kept in the dark most of the time and get little chance to influence how things get done.

If any of these brakes strike home, you should read Karen Martin’s The Outstanding Organization.

She starts from a basic principle: chaos is the enemy of business success, so reduce and eliminate chaos wherever possible. I have seen and experienced such chaos and it:

• Stares me in the face with staff always having to go to the boss for decisions;
• Is apparent in more subtle ways such as inconsistent use of technical terms and meanings.

There will be many causes of such chaos, but Karen has put together a structured book full of practical advice that can be applied back in the business. Her approach to dealing with the chaos and achieving organisational excellence is built on four key disciplines: clarity, focus, discipline, and engagement.  These disciplines are what I used to put together the 4 Disciplines Check

There are some really great explanations of thought plus advice on what to do to eliminate chaos.  Her writing style is relatively easy to follow although she does come from a Lean / Kaizen / Toyota viewpoint so beware if those things are new to you. Saying that, the Lean thinking means that the focus on combating chaos, implementing disciplined systems, and achieving results is very sensitive to people and treating people as human beings. For example discipline is not about punishment, rather it refers to creating environments and systems that bring your focus back to essential tasks and purposes.

I recommend The Outstanding Organisation for any boss or leader who wants their profit or non-profit organisation to improve. The principles of clarity, focus, discipline, and engagement are vital. Karen makes them easily understandable and offers a host of practical tools for ensuring that chaos doesn’t keep you from achieving results.

If you would like to hear her speaking about the book, have a listen to this podcast.

I hope you found this review useful.