||Feb 15, 2003
The defining book on local government management for students, begining managers and seasoned professionals.
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More than any time in history, local governments need effective leaders to address the problems of a diverse and demanding constituency. The traditional public works, health, and public safety issues still need to be addressed, but added to this is an array of complex environmental, social, and cultural issues that demand innovative and courageous problem-solving approaches. This book is for managerial candidates, fledgling managers, and experienced public administrators who want to take on these challenges and move up the management ladder. The authors, both of whom are seasoned managers, have provided a selection of stories describing some of the day-to-day situations that could have a negative impact on the lives of people if not addressed promptly and effectively. As each tale unfolds, tips are suggested. These tips allow the reader to develop an understanding of the action taken by the manager. At other times, the tips serve to offer an alternative solution. The incidents depicted in Tales from the Trenches are actual occurrences, which have been collected from local government managers throughout the United States. Each incident has been categorized as an achievement, a blunder, or a challenge. The reader quickly comes to realize that there is no one right answer to any of the numerous situations a local government manager faces each day. It also becomes apparent that the selected approach neither totally placates the opposition nor satisfies the supporters of any issue, program, or project. Yet this competitive and adversarial environment, consisting of the many activities a public manager is responsible for providing, makes for an exciting and psychologically fulfilling local government career. Tales from the Trenches can be enjoyed as a recreational read or studied as a serious discourse on pragmatic management. The authors cover city government’s most important topics, including leadership and management style, decision making, effective communications, human resources management, budgeting skills, citizen advisory boards, community relations, relations with elected officials, media relations, ethics, and career issues. After absorbing the contents of Tales from the Trenches, the reader will have a different perspective of local government managers and their indispensable place in the democratic process.
Treat the media as you would any other watchdog. Stay calm, be friendly, let them sniff your hand, and never turn your back.
Amy Sprinkles, Public Information Director, Grand Prairie, Texas
Collaboratively written by former city managers Len Wood and Joe Baker, Tales From The Trenches: Achievements, Blunders And Challenges In Local Government Management is a grand collection of great achievements and ridiculous blunders in local government. Innovations, challenges, and good intentions that went horribly wrong, pack the pages of this involving and highly readable guide which is especially recommended reading for all voters, and which will provide particularly meaningful to those with a personal and/or professional interest in local politics.
Actual On-the-Job Blunders, Bouquets and Suggested Resolutions
If you had to choose one book to learn the do’s and don’ts in the management strata of local government, let this book be it. There is no better teacher in life than actual situations in the work arena where good and bad decisions are made. Authors Len Wood and Joe Baker have aimed Tales from the Trenches to appeal to different segments--from fledgling managers to experienced public administrators to department heads. Wood and Baker, both of whom had many years as managers in local government, had their own share of successes and failures. For the book is made up of situations that actually happened. Wood and Baker interviewed, nationwide, other local government professional who wanted to share their experiences so others would learn.
The book has eleven areas of situations that management usually have to cope with in day-to-day work situations. These include: leadership and management style; decision making; communications; human resources management; budgeting skills; relations with advisory boards; elected officials; the community and the media; ethics and career issues.
Wood and Baker said they wanted to emphasize a common sense approach to management rather than espousing a particular theory--hoping the reader can learn from the mistakes and success of others so as to negotiate the pitfalls.
Whether you are a public administration student, beginning supervisor, middle manager, or seasoned administrator, you will find the case studies and practical advice included in the book helpful. The case studies are short with the scenario, problem and resolution presented. As each case unfolds, the reader is guided to tips in bold print by the icon of a wise owl with a mortarboard and pointer. The tips allow the reader to develop and understanding of the action taken by the manager. At other times, he tips serve as an alternative solution
The Innovation Groups
Stories by Story Tellers
Management methods are traditions. Specifically, they are oral traditions
based on process, progress, testimony, and perspectives, recited and
recorded over time. Storytellers and their stories, then, are essential to
the learning process as they offer unusual keyholes through which to view
the overwhelming problems that face managers daily, and through which
managers learn to apply problem solving skills used in the past to deal with
issues in the present.
After interviewing hundreds of local government managers across the United
States, co-authors Wood and Baker, both former city managers themselves,
have compiled over 60 insightful management tales and offer hundreds of tips on how to handle delicate management issues. While similar books tend to be dry and dogmatic, this one offers innovative and courageous problem solving approaches in a refreshing narrative style.
Divided into eleven chapters, the tales cover some of management’s most
important topics, such as leadership and management style, decision making, effective communication, human resources management, budgeting skills,
citizen advisory boards, community outreach, relations with elected
officials, media relations, ethics, and career issues.
Each chapter opens with a New Yorker style cartoon and a witty quote,
such as Milton Berle’s definition of a committee: "A group of people who
keep minutes and waste hours." Each chapter closes with advice and
guidelines that, if heeded, will help managers avoid falling victim to
similar problems. These include, "The primary function of a manager is to
develop the skills and capabilities of people," and "Don’t let staff
delegate decisions upward."
The tales and incidences are categorized as either an "achievement," a
"blunder," or a "challenge." When offering tales of achievement, the authors
focus on both extraordinary and everyday occurrences, wherein the results of the tales are secondary to the decisions, reasons, and actions of the
managers who make the achievement possible.
Examples of blunders are plentiful, as mistakes make the best teachers. In
the tale "Just One of the Guys," a co-worker is promoted to manager abovehis best friend, and a sensitive issue arises that threatens both of their
jobs. So what does the manager do when their friend brings up "by the way"
work-related items during social events? "Cut them off and suggest that they be taken up at the office." The authors define challenges as tests of one’s abilities and resources in a
demanding but stimulating undertaking, and have included situations to give
a flavor of the challenges, both routine and extraordinary, faced by local
government managers. "The Split Council" and "Dealing with Intimidating
Power Symbols" offer fine examples from which to draw knowledge and
It is precisely the authors’ use of accessible stories and common
words that underscores the common sense approach espoused herein, making this as much a textbook for managers as an enjoyable read for the rest of us.
If Charles de Gaulle's notion that "Politics is too serious a matter to be
left to the politicians," is true, then we’re fortunate that Tales from
the Trenches provides our local government managers with the tools
necessary to keep things moving in positive directions.
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