'Robert Townsend's Up the Organisation is the book that has influenced me most in my working life. It was published in 1970 following his amazing transformation of Avis in a few short years and is full of very uncommon sense. It is a wonderfully easy read: it's guttable in an hour, yet can be revisited many times over. The sacred cows of standard organisational practice are culled, persuasively and wittily, on every page. Townsend must have been fun to work with.
The theme is indicated by the book's subtitle: 'How to stop the company stifling people and strangling profits'. Boards of directors, chief executive egos, bureaucratic nonsense, hierarchical behaviour and Harvard Business School are all scathingly targeted.
Townsend has boundless faith in what can be achieved if people are led and trusted, rather than administered. He has a glorious hatred of institutions and their practices. His own 'books that shook' are Peter Drucker's Managing for Results and Douglas McGregor's The Human Side of Enterprise. You can't do better than that - unless you read Townsend himself.'
Sir Christopher Hogg is chairman of Reuters.