Why This Horse Won't Drink

Matejka, Ken
January 1991
2020 Vision - Business Book Summaries;1991, Vol. 1 Issue 1, p1
Book Summary
Book summary
Matejka’s "you can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink" metaphor throws a different light on management objectives in Why this Horse Won’t Drink. Matejka explicitly states that employee happiness is not the issue, that it is not the manager’s job to make it happen. Management’s function is to set performance at the levels the manager perceives appropriate, and to tie performance to the rewards that the employee deems equitable. This approach goes a long way toward humanizing the management process-pulling it from the abstract context of management guidelines and placing it on par with the individual and his/her practical concerns. In this work, Matejka acknowledges that American organizations are working hard, but not at the right things. He explores some of the areas that executives, managers, and employees are feverishly pursuing instead of managing performance. He details how to increase employee efforts through understanding the proper administering of rewards and disciplines. Matejka addresses the problem people who fall between the cracks. A critical point here is that the average non-performing employee is not the problem and should not be considered such. The author explains how to take what you’ve learned about need fulfillment and combine it with increased involvement and empowerment in order to gain commitment and increase organizational performance. He exhorts us to celebrate our successes, explaining how celebration is key to the process. The horse/trainer metaphor provides an excellent analogy that aptly explains the commitment dilemma faced by managers/employees, and it is completely accessible to those without professional knowledge of horse training. Like many management experts, Matejka bemoans the fact that most of our organizational/management models come from the military. From the practical standpoint, the book’s Action Exercises provide an excellent means of assessing the effectiveness of the reader’s management approach, and excellent direction for the future.


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