Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Best Management Book of 2011

The best management book I read in 2011 was Masters of Management: How the Business Gurus and Their Ideas Have Changed The World - For Better and For Worse (2011).  The author is Adrian Wooldridge, who writes the Schumpeter column for the Economist.

Interesting points and ideas in the book included the following:
  • Management still boils down to two conflicting ideas.  Scientific management - - is based on the idea that the average worker is a lazy slob who is redeemed only by greed.  Humanistic management - - is based on the idea that the average worker is a Promethean figure - intelligent, creative, and self-motivating.  The debate has and is between the ideas of "hard" management and "soft" management.
  •  An organization is a human, social, and a moral phenomenon.
  • Respect needs to be instilled in everybody who claims to be a professional.
  • Collaborative production and collaborative consumption are terms we need to keep an eye on.
  • The modern boss is seriously overextended.
  • As companies grow more complex, the job of manager becomes more ill defined.
  • Frugal innovation - - reengineered medical devices could slash health care costs without reducing the quality of care while compact and fuel-efficient cars will allow people to keep driving but cause less damage to the environment.
  • Brainworkers, such as engineers, are far more difficult to manage than manual workers.  They are all ego and self-righteousness.  Apply the bridle too harshly and they are likely to head off in the wrong direction.  Apply the whip too vigorously and they will sit down and refuse to move.
  • Brainworkers, aka clevers - - point them in the right direction and allow them to decide on the route; or, better still, give them the illusion that they are choosing both the direction and the route themselves.  Second - - massage their egos at every possible opportunity.  Always hold out the opportunity for another gold star.
  • Perhaps the key to managing brainworkers and clevers is that, in many ways they are still stuck in kindergarten.  They crave adulation.  They are quick to take a slight and slow to learn how to play with others.  They spend meetings giggling like naughty schoolchildren or ostentatiously reading newspapers.  The secret may just be to treat them like precocious children.
  • The hardest thing for companies to do is also the most important: they need to be able to tolerate failure.
  • The problem of relying on your customers for ideas is that customers are usually conservatives: they want more of the same for less money.
  • The more you listen to your best customers, the more you are deaf to your non-customers.
  • Innovation is coming from ever more places - - the foxes beat the hedgehogs.
  • Corporate planning - - a great deal of corporate planning is the "ritual rain dance."
  • Most successful strategies are usually based on "platforms" rather than products - - Google is about platforms.  Platform leaders are more difficult to dislodge than product leaders.  Managers need to think more about ecosystems than about products.
  • Long-term results cannot be gained by piling short-term results on short-term results.

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