Book Review: The Secrets of Happy Families

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Feiler, Bruce S. The secrets of happy families : improve your mornings, rethink family dinner, fight smarter, go out and play, and much more. William Morrow, 2013.

One of the library’s most popular business books of all time is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, published in 1989.  Author Steven Covey was a Harvard MBA and in his work as a management consultant, he often asked his clients to describe their company’s essential purpose and its primary strategy for achieving it.  Executives at the same organization often provided completely different answers.  Creating a unified statement was often a transforming event for the company.  In 1997, Covey applied the same business analysis to families to create a clear vision of the family that was shared by all.

Journalist Bruce Feiler took it a step further.  He and his wife created their own family brand, with a family mission statement, a list of shared values and a logo.  In The Secrets of Happy Families, Feiler explains that the brand was designed to improve family life.

Feiler begins his book by discussing the basic ideas behind agile development, a management technique used in the software industry.  By accepting that disorder exists and by addressing problems, the system (family) learns to operate successfully.  He dissolves his top-down parenting style and empowers the children to help manage themselves.  Everyone stays committed to trying new solutions to solve family conflicts.

Throughout his book, Feiler applies business analysis to daily problems of family life, including parenting, managing money and sharing housework.  He draws on the work of management gurus familiar to Fuqua students, applying their concepts to typical family issues.  He interviews Jim Collins (Good to Great) on ways to make a family an “enduring, great human entity.”  He interviews William Ury (Getting to Yes) about how to negotiate disagreement.  And he interviews Sheila Heen (Difficult Conversations) about how to resolve conflict through discussion.

While not a deep or insightful work, this book has an amusing breezy style that is entertaining.  This easy read is recommended for students and younger members of the staff who are parents.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

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