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Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat: How to Win in the Information Age

by lin0 (Curate)
on Dec 29, 2006 at 11:13 UTC ( #592204=bookreview: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??
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Item Description: Guidelines for advancing in the technological hierarchy of modern organizations

Review Synopsis: humorous at times, cynical at times, this book is a must read for those interested in understanding how some technocrats got up in technological hierarchies


Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat: How to Win in the Information Age is a book that tells the success story of Dr. I.M. Sharp. While telling the story of Dr. Sharp, Archibalt Putt, using a language that is both humorous and cynical, gives us a set of guidelines on how to climb the technological hierarchy ladder regardless of the technical merits one could have. It is important to note that the guidelines are for the success of persons instead of Organizations. As you will notice while reading the book, the success of Dr. Sharp came with the nearly bankruptcy of the company he used to work for.

The book is divided into five parts. Part One, “Putt's Primer,” is an introduction to the guidelines to succeed in technological hierarchies. The key Law of the book (Putt's Law) is presented here: “technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand”. This Law has many implications, maybe the most important is that according to Putt: to successfully manage a technological project there is no need to know all the details of the technology. However, this Law alone will not take you very far in the technological hierarchy, this is why Putt presents a key advice: to go up the hierarchy, one should avoid the “creative incompetence”. As Putt explains: creative incompetence involves “developing a high level of incompetence in some area that does not affect present performance, but does assure that there will be no further offers of promotions.” Creative incompetence is typical in Science and Technology organizations where many employees prefer working in solving “interesting” problems than managing people.

Part Two, “The Successful Technocrat,” consists of eleven chapters that present the success story of I.M. Sharp, who went from being an average High School student to being a powerful technocrat in the US Government. This part begins with the description of what makes a successful technocrat: “A successful technocrat must be known as a person of great knowledge and as an innovative leader”. The author, then, presents a series of guidelines to succeed in a technological hierarchy. As an example, the author shows how to transform a project failure into personal success for a technocrat. The author also stresses that “a successful technocrat must concentrate on progress not on problems,” even if doing so would be costly for the organization.

Part Three, “Basic Putt,” consists of seven chapters that focus on the building blocks of a successful career in a technological hierarchy. First, Putt stresses the importance of adapting the organization's objectives in response to changes in the market and/or the research results. The author presents, then, the Laws of Advice. These Laws emphasize the fact that the best advice is simple and revealed by the structure of the organization, not by the structure of the technology. Regarding the decision-making process, Putt says that you should always utter your decisions with a high degree of conviction and when presenting technical solutions, make sure to always leave decisions for management to make. For those interested in consulting jobs, the author notes that successful consultants never give as much information to the clients as they get in return. This part ends with the Laws of Communication (that stress the importance of the way in which the information is presented), Laws of the Information Age (indicating that “change is the status quo” and that adding people to a late project only makes it later), and Information Technology Laws (related to actual and virtual reality and the survival on the Internet).

Part Four, “Advanced Topics,” consists of six chapters that explain how to select projects, evaluate ideas, and thrive in a technological organization. To select a project, you must pay attention to its progress. The best point of entry to the project is after the rate of increase of progress is quite noticeable but before the project is considered a success. To evaluate ideas, you must note that “the value of an idea in an organization is equal to the sum of the authority levels of its supporters”. Finally, to thrive in a technological organization, you must remember that to survive in hard times the best strategy is risk reduction.

Part Five, “Putt's Cannon,” consists of three chapters that provide easy access to the discussed laws (42), corollaries (9), rules (5), and additional guidelines (3).

The book has some strong points: it is easy to read, the examples facilitate the understanding of the key points covered, and the summary presented in Part Five is excellent for reinforcing the learning. In summary, Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat is a good reference for those interested in moving up in the hierarchy of technology-driven organizations.

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Re: Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat: How to Win in the Information Age
by webfiend (Vicar) on Dec 29, 2006 at 23:09 UTC

    After the cold chill I got from reading your earlier post on the book, I'm grateful to see that Putt was being irreverent. Too many terrible authors are out there presenting ideas like these with a straight face!

      Hi webfiend,

      If you have a chance, I recommend you to read the book. It is really entertaining :-). About Putt being irreverent, that is completely true. I guess that because of that Putt did not use his real name when writing the book.


Re: Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat: How to Win in the Information Age
by TStanley (Canon) on Jan 01, 2007 at 01:39 UTC
    While reading this book, I saw a few of the things that I do myself, as well as seeing some of these traits in those who I report to. Very scary

    War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that “nothing is worth war” is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. -- John Stuart Mill
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