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When corporate renegade Townsend, ex of Avis, decried low American productivity and denounced business rigidity in Up the Organization in 1970, he made news as well as the best-seller charts. His strictures, amplified and updated, still make sense. As a prophet and a guru, he's a short-entry Peter Drucker--timeless because so is human organizational behavior. As of 1970, Townsend was advising caution on computers. After the micro-chip revolution, he's counseling unfazed involvement--via a brief list of the steps he's taken. Expecting change (""by the time you get your computer out of the box and plugged in, it'll be out of date and overpriced""), he's unperturbed and undogmatic. Townsend's chief pitch in 1970--""participative management, or Theory Y"" became 1980's yawn. He still sounds convincing, though--all the more so in the wake of One Minute Management: ""You can't motivate people. That door is locked from the inside. You can create a climate in which most of your people will motivate themselves to help the company reach its objectives."" Or, in the wake of B-school and anti-B-school tracts: ""If you have to have a policy manual, publish the Ten Commandments."" Predictably, he favors in-house promotion, and doesn't think much of consultants or PR-people, in-house or out. (How? Designate the top ten, and the telephone operators, as the P.R. department.) His advice to small business: ""Stay as small as you can. Work out of your home as long as you can. Then your garage."" Specifically: ""Try to find a young able lawyer and a young able accountant who like your business idea and will give you services in return for stock."" Along with the maxims, then, there are concretions. Along with the general precepts, examples--of bad and good acquisitions, for instance--with names. As useful an hour, still, as anything in the business line.

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 1983
Publisher: Knopf