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What Matters Now: How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation Hardcover – Feb 1 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1st Edition edition (Feb. 1 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118120825
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118120828
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.2 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #110,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Feb. 11 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have read and reviewed all of Gary Hamel's previously published books and consider What Matters Now to be his most valuable...thus far. There are specific reasons why he is ranked among the most important business thinkers and all are evident in his latest book: He has an insatiable curiosity to understand what makes an organization successful, what doesn't, and why; he has a passion to share what he has learned with as many business leaders as possible; his material is directly relevant to almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be; and his experience-driven insights invalidate the sacred premises and assumptions of what James O'Toole so aptly characterizes, in Leading Change, as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom."

In the Preface, Hamel urges his reader to ask, "What are the fundamental, make-or-break challenges that will determine whether your organization thrives or dives in the years ahead?" For Hamel, five issues are paramount:

o Values: "Not surprisingly, large corporations are now among society's least trusted institutions...vales now matter more than ever."

o Innovation: "After a decade of [begin italics] talking [end italics] about innovation, it's time to close the gap between rhetoric and reality. To do so, we'll need to recalibrate priorities and retool mindsets."

o Adaptability: "In most organizations, there are too many things that perpetuate the past and too few that encourage proactive change. The `party of the past' is usually more powerful than the `party of the future.'"

o Passion: "The problem is not a lack of competence, but a lack of ardor. In business as in life, the difference between `insipid' and `inspired' is passion.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this premium adventurous book, Gary Hamel---acclaimed business and management thinker, scholar, and strategist at the London Business School and the California-based The Management Lab think-tank---summons us to consider and clarify what really matters to, and in, organizations.The central focus and message of the work is a clear clarion cry for all of us---owners, managers, employees, and customers---to rethink the necessity of, and role for, management in contemporary organizations.
Hamel's plea is to "reinvent" management by rethinking our societal assumptions---and therefore our resultant behaviours---about capitalism, organizations, management, and "life at work". Hamel vigourously argues that we live today in a world of "relentless change, ferocious competition, and unstoppable innovation".
Given the breakneck pace of change today, Hamel asserts that managers and organizations must dance faster to the tune of continuous change. Managers need to increasingly introduce and implement organizational change to keep up with the ever-changing world within which organizations operate. In this regard, Hamel echo's Sir Richard Branson in his insightful book SCREW BUSINESS AS USUAL where he advances that we need to change the way we do business; business as usual isn't working; things have to change; we need to make a difference; we need to do things differently.
Through a series of twenty-five tightly interconnected essays, or chapters, Hamel sees five themes or issues that require immediate attention. Hamel argues that managers need to emphasize values that focus on humanity, morality, creativity, innovation, passion, and a "kinder" form of capitalism.
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Amazon.com: 31 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Freedom and self-determination vs command and control April 20 2012
By Jonathan Gifford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Gary Hamels' latest book, What Matters Now, is pretty much what it says on the dustcover: `an impassioned plea' for the development of both an entirely new way of running organisations and for a new corporate ideology, based on `freedom and self-determination'. Along the way, Hamel calls for a better calibre of stewardship, which puts the long-term interests of corporations and their communities before personal gain, and rewards the organisations' members by contribution rather than power. It's a radical agenda. This is a book that anyone interested in organisational behaviour should (and almost certainly will) read, and the quibbles that I have with it are minor. But I might as well tell you further down the page what those quibbles are.

Following on from the themes that he aired in The Future of Management, Hamel argues again that we are clinging too long to a model of management that was designed for the manufacturing revolution started by people like Henry Ford; a revolution that depended on standardisation, efficiency and control. The problem, argues Hamel, is that the efficiency that these great and hugely successful machines require rubs against the grain of what humans do best. Reminding us of the remarkable fact that in 1890 in America, nine out of ten white males worked for themselves, Hamel points out that the inevitable result of industrialisation was that `unruly and independent-minded farmers, artisans and day-labourers had to be transformed into rule-following, forelock-tugging employees.' And we are still at it today, `working hard to strap rancorous and free-thinking human beings into the straightjacket of corporate obedience, conformity and discipline.'

Hamel sells his point cleverly: it's not that corporations need to give employees a greater degree of freedom because that will be nicer for the employees, it's that rigid, command and control model bureaucracies will inevitably stagnate and die. What matters now, says Hamel, illustrating his point with the incontestable success story of Apple Inc, is innovation and adaptability. The cost of forcing people into the straightjacket of classic hierarchical management structures is the cost of lost ideas, commitment and passion - the very things that organisations most need in order to adapt and survive. Hamel quotes a sad fact revealed by a 2007-08 survey of 90,000 workers in 18 countries which demonstrated that only 21% of these workers were truly engaged with their work, while 38% were mostly or entirely disengaged and the remainder were sort of alright really. Hamel offers his own version of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - a hierarchy of human capabilities at work. From the most important to the least important, Hamel lists Passion, Creativity, Initiative, Expertise, Diligence and, last of all, Obedience. If you work for a large organisation, you may agree with Hamel that the most important three capabilities in this list are the ones that are demanded of you least on the average working day.

The solution, Hamel argues, is to build organisations on entirely different lines, and to put individuals ahead of institutions. His recipe for this, at its most fundamental, is: decentralise; emphasize community not hierarchy; make decision-making transparent; make leaders accountable to the led; align rewards with contribution not position; carry out peer reviews not top-down reviews; encourage self-determination. In a clever and interesting analogy, Hamel urges corporations to embrace the values of the internet, where all ideas compete on an equal footing, resources are attracted not allocated, and tasks are chosen not assigned.

My minor quibble with the book is its determinedly chirpy tone, which runs the risk of trivialising the content. If we are serious students of management and of organisational behaviour then we don't need to be chivvied along with cheery chirpiness, like a bunch of students with low attention spans. My least favourite example of this writing style: `Here, in a pistachio-sized shell, is what we learned.' `Here is what we learned' is fine by me.

My major quibble with the book is that Hamel, as a heavyweight management consultant, should be uniquely well-placed to give us a long list of case studies about companies who are trying to put his principles into practice. We don't really get that. When Hamel talks about Apple, he admits that he has not done any consultancy work for them, so his conclusions as to what they might be doing right are only those of outside observer, albeit a very-well informed observer. Apple are `redefining the basis for competition', `locking up customers with velvet handcuffs' and `extending core competencies into new markets.' Well, yes they are, but Hamel is reduced to introducing this by saying, `Ask an industry analyst or MBA student to deconstruct the company's gravity-defying performance and they would probably point out . . . ` He's not wrong, but one would like some deeper insight based on Hamel's hands-on experience of working with remarkable companies.

My heart also sank when, in the middle of the book, just as the reader is becoming desperate for a real example of how (and if) these radical and exciting ideas really can work in practice, Hamel gives us the example of an Anglican vicar in North London who devolves his church's `management structure' into a number of Mission Shaped Communities, run by his parishioners. It may be my personal problem that I care neither whether nor how any church increases its flock, but my main concern is that most captains of existing industries who are wondering how on earth to begin to turn their own supertankers around would be even less interested or impressed.

Later, however, we get good accounts of both W.L. Gore and Associates, manufacturers of the polymer fabric Gore-Tex, and of the world's largest tomato processor, California's The Morning Star Company: successful organisations built on thoroughly democratic, bottom-up principles. At Gore, colleagues choose which projects they want to work on and make a commitment to what they will deliver. At Morning Star, everyone is self-managing, committing to a personal mission statement of what they will contribute, which is guided by the broad mission statement of the independent business unit in which they work. Business units negotiate with other associates and other business units for what they will deliver and for what they need delivered in their turn. Everyone has the power to spend money to buy what they need to get the job done - but first they have to sell the idea to their peers. There is no management hierarchy to climb as the only means of advancement; career progression and higher rewards come though contributing more: mastering new skills and finding new ways to serve colleagues. In both companies, rewards are determined mainly by peer-based assessments of contribution.

We've already seen the W. L. Gore business model in Hamel's The Future of Management, so Morning Star represents the most significant genuinely new model offered for our consideration. And both of these companies were set up from scratch with their new, revolutionary business models in place from day one which, while still impressive, still feels a lot easier than taking an existing hierarchical organisation and transforming it into a new, self-determining model. We are finally given some insights into such a process via the experiences of the Indian IT service company, HCL Technologies, who have set out to `invert the pyramid' of their management structure and to make management accountable to the people at the front line. It would have been good to see some more examples of such transformations, even if they are only `work in progress.'

Throughout the book, Hamel offers guidelines as to the ways in which the management of organisations run on traditional lines can begin to empower and impassion their workforce, but I do feel that the Chief Executive of a major organisation might feel that he or she has been given an inspirational glimpse of an exciting future, rather than the map that will guide them to the final destination. Hamel's almost final word is a rap on my knuckles for this unworthy thought: `You don't need a detailed change programme to get started. Bus drivers follow maps; pioneers follow polestars.' Ouch. So much for this particular bus driver. Over to you, pioneers - follow that polestar!

Hamel is not wrong in saying that our future depends on us getting this right. I have no doubt whatsoever that the corporate structures that served us well in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries will not deliver prosperity for us in the twenty-first, and that if we do not develop nimble and adaptable organisations that allow individuals to flourish and contribute, then we will fall behind in the race. I also firmly believe that Hamel is right in saying that freedom and self-determination must be the guiding principles for this process. These are the guiding principles of our democracies; it's a bit disturbing that they are not the guiding principles of most of our organisations.
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A thought provoking and thoughtful examination of business that will make you think, then act Feb. 11 2012
By Mark P. McDonald - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gary Hamel's new book What Matters Now is a different type of business, leadership and management book. Where most offer single dimensional prescriptive recipes for success, Hamel has provided a thoughtful, deep and readily accessible look at the current state of business, management, capitalism and society.

What Matters Now treats the reader as an intelligent, concerned and reflective professional rather than a mindless consumer of business advice. The result is a book that is as refreshing as it is provocative.

Highly recommended, not as a path to success, but as a guide for personal reflection on the state of business, leadership and what can be possible if only we decide to make it so.

Hamel covers a wide range of subjects in 25 tightly written chapters from morality of business leaders and their failure in the financial crisis to new views on innovation, management, participation and the impact of technology on the way we work. The book is divided into four sections:

Section 1: Values Matter Now addressing the failure of values and its consequences coming out of the global financial crisis.

Section 2: Innovation Matters Now covering the need for greater innovation, focus on design and recognizing the personal challenges and rewards for innovation. Chapter 2.4 on turning innovation duffers into pros offers the most realistic view on why innovation is hard that I have read in a long time.

Section 3: Adaptability Matters Now provides a view of the nature of change, the forces driving it and the rewards associated with creating more adaptable and engaging organizations.

Section 4: Passion Matters Now contains a sharp and well-constructed analysis of modern accepted forms of management and what is possible if we put a focus back on people and their passions. Chapter 4.3 building communities of passion, which describes how St. Andrew's church created mission-shaped-communities offers an example we can all see personally and think about how to apply professionally.

Section 5: Ideology Matters Now concentrates on the intellectual underpinnings and believes of modern management and challenges leaders to be different. Hamel provides examples of how to work without hierarchies, where employees are treated as adults and people make their own decisions. The result is creativity and success rather than the chaos others would predict.

Hamel illustrates his points with an energetic, engaging and surprisingly personal writing style that not only tells a story but also makes points that make you think. For example, I had no idea that Hamel was a latecomer to the game of golf or how the feeling of a well made shot is similar to the feeling associated with creating a innovation. Many of these stories have been featured on his Wall Street Journal Blog, but taken together each takes on new context and purpose. They constitute a way of thinking about the future that is best contemplated at book length.

It takes one kind of person to `tell' you what you should do in a business book. It takes another, one with deeper insight, concern and interest to tell the truth and trust that the reader can make their own decisions. Hamel writes for that reader, one who will think about what they have read and seek to apply the principles rather than blindly follow a process.


Hamel treats the reader as an adult. He writes to influence the way you think and in a way that is more lively, less academic and provocative than business books that are edited or reviewed by corporate committees. The book gives you a sense of spending the day with Hamel and having a deep and engaging conversation of what it will take to create the type of world we all would be proud to live in and pass onto our children.

The books chapters are clear, concise and focused around a single idea that is well supported by examples and advice provided in terms of things to think about rather than tasks to perform.

The book is filled with rules of thumb; lists and case examples that help the reader distill the message into ideas and actions that they can readily apply in their own situations. This keeps the book actionable and accessible and avoids being a theoretical manifesto.

The book covers topics that are not normally thought of in a business book like culture, ideology, and behavior and applies them to non-traditional situations. For example, Hamel's examination and discussion of the management ethos of modern religions was eye opening and illustrative.


Readers looking for a prescriptive polemic statement of success will find this book frustrating. There is no 12-step process, seven habits, or three things that you need to blindly follow. You need to be prepared to think about the points made in this book.

People entrenched in the power structure will find this book annoying in the sense that it constantly chips away at the notion that the top knows all, controls all and that hierarchy is the natural order of things. Hamel's chipping away at the fundamentals underneath current control obsessed management is significantly more revolutionary than it might appear.

Some may find Hamel's discussion of Values, Innovation, Adaptability, Passion and Ideology too high level, simplistic or cursory. After all, each of these topics is at least a book in its own right, so how could anyone say something important about them. Hamel resolves that dilemma by going to core and central issues in each of these areas and addressing them with pointed and powerful arguments and ideas that make you think.

Overall, highly recommended for people who are willing to consider different arguments, ideas and recommendations. Reading What Matters Now generates contemplation and thought rather than mindless consumption of the latest answer to all questions. The challenges we all face from the crisis of values to the creation of mechanistic organizations require deep thought to address successfully. That is what makes reading What Matters Now well worth your time, attention and passion.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
What does matter now in the world of management? May 10 2013
By Bas Vodde - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"What Matters Now" is the latest (at the time of this review) book from Management Guru Gary Hamel, who authored the excellent The Future of Management. Of course, I wondered whether "What Matters Now" will be as good as his previous Future of Management. Well, in my opinion, it isn't. That doesn't make this a bad book though, it is still excellent and would recommend people (management) to read it.

What matters now consist of 5 chapters about concepts of organizations and management that Gary Hamel feel are under-appreciated and need to get more focus. They are things that matters now. The things that matter now are 1) Values, 2) Innovation, 3) Adaptability, 4) Passion, and 5) Ideology. Each of these have their own chapter in which Gary Hamel rants about the current practices and makes some recommendations about each of these things that matter.

The first chapter covers values and with this Hamel mainly focuses on ethics and contribution to the society. A key point he makes is that capitalism and contribution to society are not contradictions but go hand in hand. The second chapter talks about innovation and how companies that won't continuously innovate will not be able to survive. In innovation he also includes design and spends some time deconstructing Apple. The third chapter cover adaptability, the ability to respond to changes, where he talks about the rapidly changing environment and how companies are structures in a way to actually prevent those changes.

The last two chapters: Passion and Ideology are closer to his previous work on the future of management. Passion talks about how we need to unleash the workforce and stop controlling them but to find and create passion for what they are doing. The last chapter, Ideology, talks about the assumptions behind management and how we'll need to adopt new principles and ideology of management. This also talks about freeing people, creating self-organization, flattening the hierarchy and similar things he also mentions in his previous work on the future of management. In this chapter he gives a lot of case studies: WL Gore, Morningstar, and HCLT. Especially the Morningstar chapter is nice where he expands a bit more on his earlier HBR article "First fire all the managers".

The book, like other books from Gary Hamel, is very well written. Hamel has a strong opinion and knows how to express his opinion, though at times it felt like pure ranting. Also, he knows what he is talking about and comes with interesting examples. All of this makes it an easy and entertaining read. I still prefer his earlier "Future of Management" as I felt that was slightly better structured, but this is definitively an excellent read also. Definitively recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Get Ready To Have Your Thinking Both Challenged and Stimulated March 5 2012
By Bill Wiersma - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book...although I don't think it's for everyone. It's a book that enables senior business leaders and strategists (especially) to reflect on 'what matters now'--at least from Gary's point of view. It's certainly not a 'how-to' book and does get a bit philosophical at times. For those unaware, Gary is on a mission to revamp management as we know it, and that is certainly reflected in this book. For some that will be threatening. So be it.

Gary is a deep thinker and, in my view, a great writer. Unlike others, he doesn't write to a fifth grade reading level. He's trying to raise people's sights, not pander to the lowest common denominator. The ideas in this are both broad and big. They're not all original, although a few are. The real importance is not whether the ideas are original, but rather the framework which Gary places each idea within. The three in-depth examples (starting on page 233) of how companies turned the organizational pyramid on its head are incredibly insightful and very thought-provoking.

This book isn't about incremental change, it's about helping people think through big, thorny issues. To me Gary is one part futurist, one part idealist, and one part pragmatist. This book reflects that.

Bill Wiersma, Author--The Big AHA and The Power of Professionalism (2011)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Now what? Nov. 15 2012
By Steve Gladis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Gary Hamel has written his smart management manifesto for now and the coming years. Gary Hamel is a BIG thinker--one to whom CEOs and leaders at every level should listen and heed his words. Technology and communication have joined together in a "perfect storm" to accelerate change at warp speed. Adapting to change is a fundamental tenet of competition for survival. Hamel has given us the `holy grail' for leadership. Essentially, he's asking us all to rethink the fundamental assumptions and ideas that got us to where we are. He lays out five key areas where companies must challenge previous assumptions to ensure future survival:
1. Values: With all that has happened in business regarding shifting values and standards, Hamel calls for a "moral renaissance" in business.
2. Innovation: Global competition, the Internet, and consumer accessibility to products have all put competition on steroids! Without constant and fundamental innovation embedded in our corporate DNA, success will be as fleeting as yesterday's news. Hamel emphasizes that innovation is everyone's job, not something delegated to a few lofty corporate leaders in the company.
3. Adaptability: We're all familiar with the evolutionary mantra, "adapt or die." It's as true today as at any time in our history. With hyper-accelerated change, any company [or individual] that can't innovate and adjust to the strong winds of change will get blown away.
4. Passion: It's hard to change and adapt without deep passion. Consequently, things become mediocre and finally fall prey to innovative competitors. Unfortunately, many companies are geared to perform the same task over and over, ever more efficiently. It takes passion to ask "Can we do something else?"
5. Ideology: Businesses need not only better, more innovative practices but also better principles--a coherent ideology. Bureaucracies have long held sway, with central control, regulations, and top-down leadership. This model is DEAD! Hamel offers a clear vision of the future of management with in-depth discussions about such new-model leaders as W.L Gore, Morning Star, and HCLT.

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