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Ledyard - When Mayor Fred Allyn formed a new “core group” last week to start discussing next year's budget process, he gave the members more than just a directive to find ways to decrease town spending.
Finance Director Marcia Hancock, Tax Assessor Paul Hopkins, Planner Brian Palaia and Public Works Director Steve Masalin were each promised a copy of John Kotter's “Leading Change,” a 1996 book about the need for bosses to spearhead changes in the workplace.
Allyn assumed his post in December 2007 with various books stacked on his desk, mostly on change in the workplace environment, which he offered to Town Hall employees who asked about them.
He estimates that he has bought 100 copies alone of “Who Moved my Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. Ordered from Amazon.com, that amounts to $1,357 from his own pocket, as the town has no Books to Inspire Employees line item in its budget.
Palaia got his new book the day after their meeting.
”I was up there reviewing my memo with him about the projects we have ongoing, and he just suggested that I might enjoy reading this book,” Palaia said. “Leading Change” is the second book Allyn has given him since he took office.
”He does that,” said Hancock, who was hired over the summer. “He reads a book that he really likes and then he gives copies to other people that he thinks will benefit from it.”
And Allyn liked the message in “Who Moved my Cheese?” which, according to Publisher's Weekly, was the best-selling nonfiction book of 2000. It discusses ways to anticipate and adjust to change, broaching the topic through a tale about mice in a maze whose cheese is suddenly moved.
”I think it's important because change is difficult, and I think that we have to use whatever tools that we can use to encourage the changes that are necessary,” Allyn said. “Everybody's cheese gets moved on occasion.”
Economic Development Commission Chairman Stephen Eichelberg was a “Cheese” recipient.
”It was shortly after he took office, and we were having one of our meetings,” said Eichelberg, who has been on the commission for five years. “Generally, we've held our meetings in the mayor's office. I was talking with him briefly after the meeting, and he said, 'I've got a book for you.' “
Unconventional town management techniques can be useful, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities spokesman Kevin Maloney said.
”Sometimes using a non-traditional approach can get people off the back of their chairs,” Maloney said, though he stressed the importance of monitoring its efficacy.
Other books Allyn shares with staff include “Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results,” by Stephen Lundin; “When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up,” by Michael Sedler; and “A Message to Garcia,” by Elbert Hubbard.
The latter, which Allyn offers to employees as well as to new Eagle Scouts, is a slim volume about a Spanish-American War messenger who selflessly enters a dangerous Cuban jungle to deliver a missive.
”It's not book-learning young men need,” Hubbard wrote in 1899, “nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing - 'Carry a message to Garcia.' “
Allyn reviewed the book on Amazon.com in May.
”I give 'Message to Garcia' to new Management employees of our Town,” he wrote. “The message is 'brief' which I feel is important, and clear. It demonstrates what I expect of our Management Team players.