Managing Hardcover – Aug 15 2009
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One of the most original minds in management. Fast Company Henry Mintzberg's views are a breath of fresh air which can only encourage the good guys. The Observer Over the years I have asked many groups of managers what happened the day they became managers. First I get puzzled looks and then shrugs. Nothing, they report. You are supposed to figure it out like sex, I suppose, usually with the same dire initial consequences. And from there, while we can find plenty of effective managers if we can figure out what that means we see a great deal of dysfunctional and often bizarre managerial behavior too. The costs are immense. Henry Mintzberg"
About the Author
Henry Mintzberg is Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He was selected as Distinguished Scholar for the year 2000 by the Academy of Management and won its George R. Terry Award for the best book of 1995 (The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning). Two of his articles in the Harvard Business Review have won the coveted McKinsey prizes. He has served as President of the Strategic Management Society, is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (the first from a management faculty), and has been named an Officer of the Order of Canada. Mintzberg is the author of fourteen books. He was recently ranked #9 in The Wall Street Journal's Top 20 Business Thinkers and #16 on "The Thinkers 50" -- a list published in the Financial Times of "the world's most important and influential business thinkers".
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Top Customer Reviews
Here's a passage in the first chapter that caught my eye: "It has been fashionable to distinguish leaders from managers...Frankly, I don't understand what this distinction means in the everyday life of organizations. Sure, we can separate leading and managing conceptually. But can we separate them in practice? Or, more to the point, should we even try?" My own opinion is that in the healthiest organizations (whatever their size and nature may be), everyone at all levels and in all areas of operation lead or manage, depending on what is needed in the given situation.Read more ›
The author's beginning point is simple: "We can neither do without managers nor afford to idolize them" (p.148).
His approach outlines a fruitful and novel framework for evaluating and building effective management. Like Drucker, Mintzberg recognizes that general management is a genuinely independent discipline. On the novelty side, he persuasively argues that management is most importantly a PRACTICE which, quite unmetaphorically, has the dimensions of art, craft and science.
In addition to providing a fruitful and practical evaluation framework, this book presents a detailed argument, backed up by useful study cases, designed to show that general management is not reducible neither to a sum of its functional sub-disciplines such as accounting, HR, operations, sales, marketing, project management and technology nor to semi-mystical personal qualities of charisma/leadership beloved by "business gurus" and self-help books industry.
Recommended read for managers, board members and aspiring managers.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I can see how there might be value to a reader who, suffering from the frenetic lifestyle described in the book, seeks a frame of reference to reflect on their circumstances, draw some comfort that they are not alone, and then ultimately embark on their own introspection about how to be better managers. I was hoping for an outcome that was perhaps more assertive in its conclusions. I found what was there to be too obvious ("All too often, when managers don't know what to do, they drive their subordinates to 'perform'") or to be characterized as, "you just have to know" ("Over time managing has to function in a dynamic balance"; "management may not be a science, but it does need some of the order of science, whihle being rooted in the practicality of craft, with some of the zest of art").
It may have some value to a reader as a starting point, but I personally did not come away with a sense of completion. I felt like I was prepared well for a message that never materialized.
After reading Henry Mintzberg's remarkable study into the complex world of "management", I now realize that I may have been good at what I did, but I most certainly could've been a little better. It's a humbling revelation; but I can live with that. The truth is, most hot shot managers (at any level) could stand to read this book---the definitive book on management that I've ever read; from one of the great management gurus to come along since Peter Drucker.
Effective management is a lot more complex than I originally thought; although a lot of the subtle nuances came easily to me; still, I never gave a lot of the skills required much thought, until now. Mintzberg breaks down the process into three distinct categories---information, people & action---and you'd better be on top of your game in all three to be a truly effective head honcho.
I've read hundreds of books on the subject, but this one with the very simple title, is quite possibly the most relevent one of the bunch. For anyone in any management capacity in any field, this is a vital book to digest. It well help you understand what it takes to really know the key ingredients in becoming a successful manager; actually, a highly successful manager.
I will not describe his model in detail here. However it is important to note the model is not simple. It has been my personal experience that people and organizations crave simplifying assumptions to the point they embrace them as the only truths that are needed. So, if you are looking for the "three steps to..." or the "five essential factors..." or the "eight ways to" this book is not for you.
There is nothing inherently wrong with simplifying assumptions as long as we remember circumstances and context are always more complicated than that. Mintzberg correctly points out how a lot of management or leadership books focus on one competency or aspect and what is needed is a balance/blending of many aspects. Specifically he states "...it is time to recognize that managing is neither science nor a profession; it is a practice, learned primarily through experience, and rooted in context."
Therefore, if you are a manager and believe you can always get better at it, this is a book you should read. It provides a context for management. It does not tell you what to do in specific situations. I personally believe that greatness (at anything) is the summation of knowledge of a lot of little things. Everyone can get the basics right but it is the subtleties that result from knowledge and real life experience that result in exceptional levels of performance.
With regard to the book itself the book has key points in bold text and this makes it easy for time constrained readers to quickly scan to items of importance and and then dive in where there is an interest.
Here are ten interesting and/or valuable points I found in the book. There are many more but I will just list these from my perspective:
I. Much of an informed manager's information is not even verbal so much as visceral...seen and felt more than heard.
II. In the leading role managers help to bring out the energy that naturally exists in people.
III. Managers are gatekeepers and buffers in the flow of influence. (Mintzberg's description of 5 ways managers can get this wrong is priceless)
IV. The pressures of managing are not temporary but perpetual.
V. Managing is no job to approach with hesitation: it simply requires too much of the total person.
VI. Successful managers are flawed, we are all flawed, but there particular flaws are not fatal, at least under the circumstances.
VII. Managing contains many inescapable conundrums. (Chapter 5 documents these and is worth the price of the book by itself)
VIII. The self study questions for managers in Chapter 6 are a powerful tool to improve your performance as a manager.
IX. A remarkable number of effective managers are reflective: they know how to learn from their own experience; they explore numerous options; and they back off when one doesn't work to try another.
X. Measure what you can, but then be sure to judge the rest: don't be mesmerized by measurement.
If you are a high level leader this is a book that is worthy of giving to your managers and then scheduling a monthly meeting where a single chapter is reviewed and the important points and take-aways are discussed.
Dr. James T. Brown PMP,PE,CSP
Author, The Handbook of Program Management
Based on business management experiences since 1981 and intensive business management book studies I agree with the following important and interesting parts in "Managing":
- "We should be seeing managers as leaders and leadership as management practiced well" (see P. Drucker).
- "Managing is a practice; learned primarily through experience, and rooted in context" (see P. Drucker).
- "There is no `one best way' to manage; it depends on the situation."
- "National culture has surprisingly little effect on the content of managing" - corporate culture as a glue.
- "The culture of an organization may be rather difficult to establish...rather easy to destroy..."
- "The manager has to practice a well-rounded job instead of lopsided managing" - stakeholder focus.
- "Managing styles as Art, Craft, Science" is an appropriate model for management practices.
- "We can neither do without managers nor afford to idolize them."
- "Strategies can form without being formulated: they can emerge through efforts of informal learning..."
- "The Mysteries of Measuring": importance of "plain old judgment" - I add "sound business judgment".
- "Paradoxes and predicaments, labyrinths and riddles, are built into managerial work."
- "A remarkable number of effective members are reflective, know how to learn, explore, back off, try..."
- "Management Styles" as described by Ichak Adizes, an excellent reference model published in the 70s.
- The author's references to his excellent book "Managers Not MBAs".
I have strong doubts about the practicability of the following parts of "Managing":
watching 29 managers in business, government, health care and social sector on one day is not an appropriate methodology to draw general conclusions about "Managing", maybe it is good enough to confirm Mintzberg's own view developed during decades;
I prefer the new and excellent "St. Galler Management Model" compared to the "general model of managing" in chapter 3;
the model of "controlling through decision making" is no real help for practitioners;
"The Untold Varieties of Managing" in chapter 4 and "The Inescapable Conundrums of Managing" are partly true and partly abstract and misleading;
in chapter 4, pg. 131 Mintzberg raises the question "Is the Manager a Chameleon?" which triggers my impression that the whole book is a kind of chameleon which I would not recommend to newly appointed managers looking for guidance and orientation;
the "postures of managing" represent efforts to rename motherhood activities;
Mintzberg positions the World Wide Web, the Linux Operating System, Wikipedia, the so called open source systems as "Minimal Managing", thus he is totally ignoring and underestimating the management efforts to develop and keep such systems going;
readers interested in "Managing Effectively" (chapter 6) should better read Peter Ducker's "The Practice of Management."
Titling the book "Managing" is inspired. By using a verb, Mintzberg captures the essence of his argument that management is a practice, rather than a title, a role or set of procedures. His presentation of the practice of management gives acknowledgement to the daily, minute-by-minute thoughts and actions, the "doing's" and thinking in the life of any busy manager /leader.
Rather than be miffed by Mintzberg's proposition that all managers are flawed, this book can offer real acknowledgement of the realities of the job: constant interruptions, endless crises, urgency, contradictions and wide ranging demands. Most helpful is his outline of 13 Management Conundrums that sum up common dilemmas faced on the job. One example is "The Syndrome of Superficiality" where managers need to be speedy without becoming superficial. "I don't want it good - I want it Tuesday!" Reading the conundrums was comforting - putting names to the quandaries that come with management territory. It is a tough job.
Change is not constant! Mintzberg also challenges the widespread rhetoric about constant and dramatic change. He reminds us that so much has stayed the same and managers are working in times of "less change than we might think". I have often wondered if constant change is used as an excuse for bad management practice and Mintzberg book would confirm this suspicion.
Those of us trained in therapy or social work will be interested in the recent tendency for management theorists to embrace family therapy models in their work. Mintzberg seems newly aware, using a therapeutic framework to inform his chapter on effective management. Patrick Lencioni (of Dysfunctional Teams fame) is also tipping into writing about families. This can only be a healthy direction for business!
Critics of "Managing" might say that Mintzberg is light on recommendations for managers facing conundrums. But I was happy with his simple, uncomplicated advice: reflection and peer learning! These are of fundamental importance for management and leadership development and often overlooked in favour of MBA type classroom options.
Read the book; feel acknowledged and more accepting of the tough role of managing. And for those very busy managers, be reminded that real managers are doing incredibly well amidst the unrelenting pace. Just make sure to carve out the time to reflect and to connect and learn with your peers. Medals for everyone who is managing!