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A Diary of the Journey to Management 3.0
on June 16, 2011
I came to Jurgen's book with the hope of learning something new in the world of management, Management 3.0 (what ever that means).
What I found was a restatement of many tried and true principles. Few new practices, some cleaver pictures, and some misinformed notions around the examples he uses to support his thesis.
First to the thesis, as I can best deduce it. This appears as Jurgen says in the "Story of This Book," to be a personal story, taking ten years to write. A personal set of anecdotes and experiences informed by some references. These references are a source of disappointment. At the bottom of many pages are links to suggested supporting materials. These look like references, they are not. Regarding references, most of the bibliography is solid restatements of the agile thesis, all good stuff. Where Jurgen goes off track is when he tries to connect science to his thesis of management. The science analogies are simple minded and as a biased reader with a physics (practicing for some years) background I wince at the naive approach. Getting past that, I found some of the thoughts compelling.
There is solid evidence that management needs improvement. But there are many advice books already in place. Nearly every chapter starts with a slight put down of what didn't work in the past, then a weakly connected set of references for the 3.0 ideas, which are a re-statements in Jurgen's parlance - of ideas, practices and principles already in print. So the question is "why read this book, when there is really not much new there?"
Well the answer is in the nuggets that can be found sprinkled in the 400 or so pages. And there are some nuggets.
The notion that management is a complex adaptive system is well developed; this is not new of course. What is useful here is the connection of the processes in simple picture. Page 13 starts the process.
But the downside of this approach is that the book does not build on the past, but instead attempts to distance the thesis from the past and replace it with a new paradigm. The 3.0 approach. There no problem in doing that. Many authors do exactly that. Collins, Norton and Kaplan, Osterwalder's Business Modeling. But take a look at Eccles, Beyond the Hype: Rediscovering the Essence of Management. Use that book as a window into any 3.0 suggestion.
What is troubling with Jurgen's approach is that it is essentially a personal narrative of how to improve the management of software development. It reminds me of David Schmaltz's book, "The Blind Men and the Elephant, another personal journey through the domain of management. Entertaining reading perhaps, but unlike David's book, Jurgen's is 400 pages and lists for $45. Not a good return on investment for restating other people references.
In the end there are good things in the book, but you've got to work hard to find them. The writing style didn't resonant with me. It's filled with quips that make no sense except maybe to Jurgen. One of my favorites of about managing the system not the people (page 154). This is around self-organization. Jurgen's reference is Prigogine's discovery, which of course has been hugely expanded since the 1984 publication. This is typical of the references. A seminal work 30 years ago, that obviously influenced the author, but not a lot of follow up on the evolution of those ideas to today's interpretation.
On this page Jurgen states "a football team self-organizes with the boundaries of the playing field and the rules." It dawned on me that the word "football" is not the same word I use for "football." Meaning the American Football, because that football team is not self-organizing on the field and follows a strict play book (expect in the broken play). This became my understanding of Jurgen's approach - it's through his eye, his culture, his experiences. It's a dairy of his journey to "Management 3.0"
So in the end when I discovered the underlying theme - personal experience and narrative - I was able to step back from my hope that the ideas in the book were tested in some way outside that personal experience.
If you're interested in sharing Jurgen's journey this is the book. If you're looking for academically sound, field tested processes this probably isn't it. Collins' Good to Great, Shenhar and Dvir's Reinventing Project Management, and an much more practical book, Goodpasture's Project Management the Agile Way: Making it Work in the Enterprise.
Like many books in the agile domain these days, they are personal anecdotes, because that's what they are intended to be. So I'd recommend the down loaded version (cheaper) and look to Goodpasture as a better source for managing agile projects and read Beyond the Hype to get calibrated.