A Bias for Action: How Effective Managers Harness Their Willpower, Achieve Results, and Stop Wasting Time Hardcover – May 14 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
"By its very nature, a managers job leaves little room for reflection," Bruch and Ghoshal contend, "and as a result managers tend to ignore or postpone dealing with the organizations most crucial issues." How can managers overcome this problem and learn to take "purposeful action" rather than drowning in the day-to-day deluge of email, phone calls and meetings? Thats the question the authors answer in this practical and motivating, if somewhat academic, self-help business book. Focusing on the productive minority, Bruch, a professor of leadership at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), and Ghoshal, a professor of strategic and international management at London Business School, conducted a 10-year study to learn how effective managers overcome the "traps" of overwhelming demands, unbearable constraints and unexplored choices. Their findings were numerous, but above all, they highlight the importance of willpower: productive managers want to produce, and they make an internal, emotional investment toward getting the job done. Along with a plethora of case studies and charts, the authors provide a six-step program for helping managers imbed such will and commitment within themselves. Just as importantly, they provide guidance on how organizations can rearrange themselves to accommodate and foster such willful leaders, since "to exercise their willpower, managers must first have sufficient freedom to act." An excellent choice for managers struggling with days of "mindless busyness," this book teaches its readers how to identify their goals and reach them.
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Number 7 On Harvey Schacter's Column: "Pick Up the Feiner Points in Best of Year's Top 10 Books" column. -- Globe and Mail, December 15, 2004See all Product Description
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Funny how many of their titles are written by Harvard Business School professors. Basically, the professors -- Olympian guardians of all management ideas and "know-how" -- are writing books telling practicing managers (middle to senior level) how to maximize their leadership styles and their corporate profits.
Anyhow, I believe that HBSP has recently released a rather improved book, "A Bias for Action," written by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal. It strives to explain the idea that effective managers aren't necessarily busy managers. Busy managers being those who find comfort in just being active, without a vision or long-term goal for their group or team. It asks the question: what can we do as a managerial class to become more effective and focused?
What really shines through (and caught my attention) is the book's underlying theme that willpower is a major force for success. Willpower, to the authors, is a combination of energy and focus. There are several traps/pitfalls that are outlined:<ul><li>Trap of overwhelming demands
<li>Trap of unbearable constraints
<li>Trap of unexplored choices
</ul>What I've found most favorable is the authors' strategy of finding a goal and protecting your intentions. Inevitable setbacks will occur. Great managers and leaders know how to deflect that and concentrate on the positive energy by thinking about past successes, envisioning the goal, controlling your confidence, or talking with a mentor.
The latter half of the book deals with CEO-level management and how they can program their organizations to exhibit the environment that enable managers to become "purpose-driven." Depending on your role in the organization, this half may not be too useful.
A few things changed, however. I found myself needing to motivate personnel after several missed deadlines, and high absenteeism; including among them lead programmers and team champions. Despite my experience in project management and a background in counselling, I was floundering for a while - seeking carrots and sticks, and unsure of how to get the best out of my people. Then I read Peters' and Waterman's "In Search of Excellence", Collins' and Porras' "Built to Last" and Roberts' "The Modern Firm." (the last of these being the best of this genre; very strongly recommended).
Finally I returned to "A Bias for Action" and this time the big picture presented by the book and the recommendations for managerial action (checklists of questions, for example) made complete sense. I realized that this was anything but another collection cliched motivational slogans. This book is based on empirical research, and that makes the difference.
When you come to it as a manager facing motivational problems among your senior staff, you will discover here the solutions to the problems you face; not in a cook-book fashion, but rather the big picture and with broad principles. And among them you will find specific schemes for re-thinking the motivational dynamics in your firm and implementing constructive change.
Using this book, with several others on coaching adults, I am putting together a coaching programme for my staff. The material in "A Bias For Action" has already provided valuable material for this programmme. I shall not characterize this book as a must-read for every manager; but it is a very useful addition to the reading list for managers who are confronting motivational problems among senior staff.
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