What is the summary of chapter one of the book The Oz Principle?

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The first chapter of the book “The OZ Principle” talks about the culture of victimization that is common in present-day America. Quoting from a variety of sources, it analyzes this culture and its effects on Americans. Victimization is defined as a “responsibility avoiding” syndrome in which participants strive for exposure even as they find people or objects to blame for their difficulties. The Oz Principle is a panacea to most of the victimization problems experienced by the corporate world. It states that “the power to rise above victimizing circumstances and obtain desired results lies within oneself”. The chapter serves as an introduction to the rest of the book, by explaining the ordering of later chapters. It states that the book aims to look at corporate success, and what it takes to achieve it, through a variety of “stories and experiences” of a diverse group of people and organizations.

Two concepts core to the concept of victimization are presented: below the line victimization, and above the line accountability. One represents failure, and the other represents success so that it could be said that “a thin line separates success and failure”. "Below the line victimization" is characterized by “an attitude of helplessness”, blame games and excuses, while "above the line accountability" is characterized by “a sense of reality” and a proactive approach to problem-solving.

In order for organizations or individuals to achieve "above the line accountability", they must “climb the steps to accountability” by taking up the following attitudes:

See it

This step involves identifying and accepting the reality of a situation.

Own it

This involves accepting responsibility for realities created for oneself and others.

Solve it

This step involves changing one’s reality through the implementation of unique solutions to problems without falling back into a “victimized” position when the going gets tough.

Do it

This is the final step and involves fearlessly following through the solutions identified in the “Solve it” step.

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There are many interesting details in Chapter 1 of The Oz Principle, but a summary is best served by focusing on the main messages of this introductory chapter:

  1. the potentially global repercussions of rejecting accountability in business
  2. characteristics of accountability
  3. definition of victimization
  4. introductory preliminaries presented in a "you will hear" section highlighting case histories formatted to illustrate points
  5. differences between victimization (blaming externals) and accountability (facing hard facts of failures)
  6. citing Charles Sykes' book A Nation of Victims as authority for victimization versus accountability approach
  7. presenting Above the Line Accountability (hard work) versus Below the Line Victimization (blaming, excusing)

Using well known business failures, such as Lucent, Enron and AT&T, and successes, such as Nortel and Intel (fewer successes are named) Connors, Hickman and Smith illustrate how a corporate failure can impact the global economy. Intel and Enron being good examples of good impact on global economy and bad impact, respectively. In conjunction with these examples, they present the characteristics of accountability and the definition of victimization:

  • Accountability: Face bad news head on; don't pass blame onto external economic or other conditions; don't be enamored of a love affair with favorable Wall Street analyst reports; do the hard work of finding solutions, as Intel did.
  • Victimization: I am, and the company is, the victim of external circumstances; I am not the cause of failures around me and within the company, as the CEO of Xerox said.

After cautioning against the "magic" of fads and management "wizards," they present scenarios of personal failure and success stories that will ripen their message of accountability, not victimization: "you will hear" about an executive "fighting for the life" of his company, about the General Electric CEO who took responsibility for failures, about "low level" employees facing genuine performance obstacles and many other personal experiences that convince of the magnitude of accountability.

The chapter culminates with a contrast between accountability and victimization, remarks on A Nation of Victims and the explanation of their theory of Above the Line Accountability and Below the Line Victimization. This introductory chapter aims to enliven energetic interest in the pursuit of accountability: an approach that changes results though accountable thinking.

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