Image of Scarecrow - Oz Principle Book Review
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5 Takeaways After Reading: The Oz Principle

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you consider reading The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability by Roger Connors, Thomas Smith, and Craig R. Hickman.

Image of The Oz Principle Book


The book is based on the famous Hollywood classic, The Wizard of Oz. It may seem incredible that one of the best books on management and business philosophy is based on what is essentially a children’s movie – but when you read it, you’ll see why the Wizard of Oz metaphor works so well in business.

Authors Hickman, Smith, and Connors make the point that all employees within an organization should take full ownership of their work and be completely accountable for their actions. Indulging in blame games (as humans are known to do) is a self-destructive behavior that puts the future of the organization – and hence the employee’s job – at risk.

The authors talk about always playing above the line and being fully accountable for your actions, much like Dorothy and her friends towards the end of the Wizard of Oz.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the Wizard of Oz, I suggest that you read the classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, on which the movie is based. The book features characters you will never forget, such as the main protagonist, Dorothy, a young girl who is a true leader, and her friends, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion.

Dorthy and Scarecrow - Oz Principle Book Review

At the start of the book, Dorothy and her friends assume that they are victims of circumstance – that they have been plagued by the vagaries of life and that only the mysterious character of the Wizard of Oz can tell them exactly what’s wrong with them and save them from their current predicament.

Many organizations, businesses, and individuals will recognize this predicament.

We live in a culture of victimhood, which has only grown in strength over the last decade and a half. Nothing is ever our fault – someone else is always to blame, whether it’s the economy, globalization, government, a competitor or some other external problem.

It’s common for individuals to suffer from a victim complex, but businesses and organizations are not immune from it. We like to believe that we are victims of our situations or circumstances, and it’s not our fault that things are as they are.

My 5 Takeaways After Reading:  The Oz Principle

1. Accountable for Results

Whether you like it or not, Business Results are necessary, required, and often the benchmark used to define success. It’s your job as a manager to hold your team responsible for them.

Organizations where employees are fully accountable for what they do experience a 200% rise in profit margins, a 900% jump in stock price, a 50% faster customer response, and an 80% reduction in the number of quality-control complaints.

“The leadership challenge lies with defining results vs. goals and aligning the organization around the results that must be accomplished.

Results are defined as 3-5 things that must be accomplished, and nothing can interfere with preventing the team from accomplishing those results.  These are not “hopeful” or “wishful” end results; rather, the results defined are critical to the overall success of the organization.”  Paul Harstrom

2: Joint Accountability

The Oz Principle stresses Joint Accountability (peer-to-peer accountability). Remember, there is no “I” in a team. Companies, where employees are willing to rise over and above their circumstances and strive for the common good, are likely to do much better than those that don’t.

Leaders should encourage their teams to rally together around a common goal, whatever it is, which is different from and higher than individual or personal goals.  This means coming up with an agreement that clearly identifies the results the team’s actions should deliver.

Members of my Truth At Work Louisville Round Tables frequently tell me about the value they receive in having joint accountability to help them maintain a healthy balance in their personal life, faith, and business.

3: Always stay above the line.

Avoid behaviors such as blaming other people or external factors for your problems. Make it clear to your employees that you expect them to take positive and effective action, and not dodge the issue by saying “it’s not my problem” at the slightest hint of a negative outcome.

Graphic to describe Above the Line and Below the Line

4: Involve the Team

Never shy away from asking your team important questions such as:

  • What can you do in the future to reduce or minimize the negative outcomes from a certain action or behavior?
  • What did we do as a team that led to this failure to achieve our desired results as an organization?
  • Did we ignore any facts or read the situation incorrectly – is that what led to the mistake?
  • If we face this problem again, what do you think we should do differently?

Don’t be afraid to ask the most relevant and pertinent questions, ones that cut to the core of the issue and lead to an honest debate to which every member of the team contributes.

5: Feedback is the Life-blood of all Organizations

Employees should not be afraid to seek out feedback and should share their own with others. The employee’s goal should not only be to advance in their personal career but to work for the advancement of the organization as a whole.

Every staff member should cooperate with their peers and help their co-workers improve rather than indulge in one-upmanship and office politics, point fingers and play the blame game whenever the slightest hint of trouble arises. We should avoid defensive responses when we receive critical feedback, and analyze what is said carefully and work out how and what needs to be done to get better.

Acknowledge the reality as it is and accept full accountability for your actions, and identify the right solution and do everything possible to correct the mistake. Get the job done, no matter what. That’s what playing above the line is all about.


Final Thoughts on The Oz Principle

In my opinion, The Oz Principle is a much-needed book for 2020 and the years ahead.  Given the current economic changes ahead of us, Accountability in our homes, in our personal life, with our faith, and at the workplace is critical for accelerated success.



What key-results are you working to accomplish this year?  Do you have a team aligned with those key-results?  Are you struggling with accountability?



About Paul Harstrom

Through a monthly coaching and group round table membership, called Truth At Work Louisville, I help Business Leaders, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, and Executives be the gifted leaders that God has created them to be. I understand discouragement, loneliness, and confusion that grips Christian Business Leaders in the Marketplace. You don’t have to live that way!  Learn more about Truth At Work in Louisville, KY

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