The One Minute Manager

The One Minute Manager – Kenneth Blanchard & Spencer Johnson

‘Everyone who worked with him felt secure. .No one felt manipulated or threatened because everyone knew right from the start what he was doing and why.’

2137729430_11b29f9164_zWhen the One Minute Manager was first published in 1981 in brought with it a breath of fresh air in comparison to other management texts that had preceded it which were in simple terms, four times as thick and a lot harder to read. The One Minute Manager on the other hand is written in the more accessible form of a story.  The book tells the tale of a young man searching the world for what he sees as a great manager.  Someone with the effectiveness and results of the disliked hard line leader but with the strong people skills of a manager who is loved by their team.  Our narrator finally hears of someone who fits his description in a local town.  The manager in question is only too happy to talk about his management techniques and the dialogue is how the reader learns about the techniques of the One Minute Manager.

When the book was first published it was well received by those looking for some simple inspiration to improve their management skills.  However the more cynical readers asked was it really to possible to manage human beings with all their complications in instalments of one minute at a time.  As the make believe manager in the book admits this is not literally achievable.  The concept of one minute management is just that, a concept.  The idea being that you don’t need to spend hours deciphering the behaviour of your staff, they can be managed far less complicated way than the thinking of the time would have us believe. There are three key elements to the One Minute manager’s technique:

  1. Agree on goals –

    No more than six to be assigned to each staff member. Each goal is written on a separate piece of paper.  After agreeing the goals the staff member now knows exactly what it takes to perform their role to a satisfactory standard and therefore the communication between manager and subordinate is reduced.


  1. Regular reviewing of goals –

    Employees should read through their goals regularly and analyse their performance in line with the expectations set by the goals.  In this way staff can ensure that they are meeting the standards required.  Not only does this free up the manager’s time it also helps to create a positive and fair working environment.  The workers do not live in fear for their jobs because they have a very clear understanding of whether or not they are performing their roles correctly. The staff members will also provide regular updates to their manager and the manager in turn will offer ‘one minute praisings’ where appropriate.  The One Minute Manager is always on the look out to catch his staff doing something right so he can use the opportunity to praise them, therefore increasing motivation and further driving improved performance.

  2. Should a staff member not be performing their role in line with the goals set it is time for a ‘one minute reprimand.’  This reprimand focuses only on the actions of the individuals, not the person themselves.  The manager will state the fact the work is not up to the staff members normal high standards and finishes by reminding how valued the employee is in the organisation.

Once the reader has been educated on the three elements of the One Minute Manager’s technique the second half of the book focuses on explaining why the One Minute Manager works.  The authors tell us that One Minute Goals setting works because ‘the number one motivator of people is feedback on results.’  The goals help people know how they’re doing and if they are doing well they feel good about themselves, giving them the confidence to drive continued improvement in their performance.

One Minute Praisings work well because they are part of the training process.  Most people in most jobs require training irrelevant of previous experience. The One Minute Manager claims that the best way to train people is to teach them the task and let them practice it.  Once they are practicing it look for any opportunity to catching them doing something right. The more you build their confidence the better they become at the task.  The One Minute manager argues that discipline is not effective when working with people who are not secure in their roles, only a positive, encouraging approach can help develop the self belief and confidence needed to perform the task to a high standard.

One Minute reprimands work because they are fair.  If elements one and two are in place then the staff member should not be surprised to receive a reprimand as they will know that they are not achieving the right level of performance.  The discussion is fair and factual so there is little room for mis-interpretation of the reprimand and the interaction normally ends on a high note.

Ten things you can learn from the One Minute Manager

  1. Managing people can be simple, don’t over think it.
  2. Remember the three key elements of this management technique: Goal setting followed by regular feedback be it praise or a reprimand.
  3. All goals set with employees should be agreed, not simply given to them.
  4. Once goals are set employees are given the responsibility for reporting progress regularly.
  5. Progress is rewarded with praise.
  6. Feedback on performance is the number one motivator of staff members.
  7. Reprimands are factual and should end on an encouraging note.
  8. All staff require training.
  9. Spending the time setting your staff up for success can result in the manager having more time on their hands later on.
  10. The One Minute Manager can be applied in a variety of settings, for example it could take the form of ‘Tough, but nice parenting.’


This book is simple and easy to read but despite that it gets you thinking about the way you manage your staff. The techniques of the One Minute Manager have lasted well and formed the backbone of the management training for many large companies around the word.