21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Author Wooldridge, editor at the Economist, profiles a number of management thinkers and wonders whether the variation between their thinking is a sign of management theory's 'immaturity.' Eventually, however, he concludes that this variation is a sign of 'the profession's vitality' and openness to outside ideas. He should have stuck with his first inclination - as a result, he unwittingly ends up adding to the pile of management theory sophistry that confuses readers and that he previously decried in 'The Witch Doctors.'
I seriously began studying management theory in the early 1970s at Arizona State University (ASU) - an entity unfortunately trapped in the 1930s and the 'Human Relations' school of thought. (Remember the experiments at Western Electric's plant - varying lighting, etc., and observing the impact on productivity? Surprisingly, productivity continually rose - hence, the conclusion that interest in workers was the key. It was named the 'Hawthorne Effect.') While ASU (and presumably others) pursued this and other 'warm feelings,' Japan instead developed 'The Toyota Production System' that simultaneously provided significant and sustained improvements in quality, productivity, and response time, and used it to decimate first American auto firms, then steel producers, etc. Amazingly, at the same time Toyota was also successfully pursuing Christensen's 'Disruptive Innovation' theory - again, a key development that management theorists at ASU were also oblivious to, and probably prior to even Harvard Business School even having recognized what was occuring.
Meanwhile, more and more books were also published that summarized 'leadership/management' secrets of successful sports coaches - the most prominent being John Wooden, head basketball coach at UCLA. However, anyone with a warm body should have immediately wondered about the relevance between motivating/leading young men 'working' unpaid 3-5 years in pursuit of a lucrative NBA career to managing career scientists, sewer-cleaners, hospital-workers, etc.
The REAL REASONS for inconsistencies in 'management theories' are several: 1)Incompetent commentators - Malcolm Gladwell's name immediately comes to mind, and was referenced by Wooldridge. He and others maximize the extrapolation of conclusions from minimal, uncontrolled, and often self-selected data. Richard Florida and Stephen Covey are others guilty of the same, and referenced by Wooldridge as well. (Wooldridge, however, seems oblivious to this.) 2)Varying organizational situations - leading a firm away from near bankruptcy in a near commodity marketplace requires much different skills than leading a firm into successful innovation that avoids intense cost pressures. Steve Jobs, in his second-coming at Apple, displayed both skill sets, and is one of the few able to do so. In fact, you can almost guarantee that skills that birth a successful new firm will eventually become a hindrance after the pace of innovation slows and competition focuses more on costs. 3)Varying economic situations - decades ago jobs were easy to obtain and cost competition was minimal - managers needed to focus on pacifying workers. Hence, the automakers' and airlines' bloated labor contracts. Today, its the opposite, and new hard-nosed managment skills are required - eg. union-busting via bankruptcy and outsourcing. Again, Wooldridge fails to clearly see the issue and offer a framework. 4)Varying personnel situations - obviously one does not manage M.D.s the same way as truck drivers. Abraham Maslow's 'Needs Hierarchy' provides a good structure for understanding why. 5)Important 'other' factors such as strategy (good or bad), use of financial and operational leverage, and over-emphasis on volume instead of market share,
Wooldridge also waffles on the credibility of economic theorists - incredible, given their failure to forecast the 'Great Recession' and the outcome of minimal government regulation of the finance industry. In fact, some of these 'great economists' help create the problem - eg. the Black-Scholes model for bond pricing, and Long Term Capital Management - a highly-leveraged trading system. Both incorporated strong Nobel prize-winning individuals.
My suggestion - instead read materials by Larry Bossidy (former Allied-Signal CEO), Michael Porter (Harvard professor of strategy), Tachii Ohno and Shigeo Shingo (developers of the Toyota Production System), Clayton Christensen (Harvard professor), and Louis Gerstner (former IBM CEO). Shorter, but equally valuable, inputs can be obtained from C. Northcotte Parkinson (Parkinson's Law), and Edwin Locke (professor of psychology at Univ. of Md.).
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2012
Business books are published at such a pace that it's impossible to keep
up with the latest ideas trumpeted by multitudes of gurus, professors,
and CEOs all contradicting each other and all insisting their one idea
is the only one you'll ever need. Different business schools embrace
different experts, preferably those on staff. Walk into any manager's
office and scan the bookshelves. You'll find more books on business than
Amazon has on advice for personal relationships. How can you find your
way through the maze of advice?
Easy--Adrian Wooldridge's book Masters of Management is a guide through
every aspect of management theories, strategies, gurus' credibility, and
CEO reminiscences. He has the uncanny ability to bring clarity to the
ideas floating in the vast ocean of business ideas, advice, and their
history, and future. The book contains more useful information than most
MBA programs, albeit in bite-sized pieces. Bibliographies for each
chapter refer you to more detailed information about the topics covered.
The Masters of Management is dense with information. Complex topics are
broken into two to four main points, making it easy to manage the load.
Ideas like globalization, business process redesign, or frugal
innovation are explained as inevitable, a fad, or a brilliant concept.
As the CEO of a start-up, all the information is timely and helpful.
Ideas that we are not ready to implement provide food for thought; his
opinions on globalization and Corporate Social Responsibility help us
with our current direction.
Wooldridge writes for The Economist, a periodical that produces the best
English-language journalism in the world. It shows. I found it impossible to scan
or dip because as soon as I start reading, I'm lost in interesting
tales, superbly written with clarity and wit. For example, this quote
creates very entertaining mental visions: "Christians and Hindus might
worship different gods, but they still have to wash their hair."
It's rare to find a book so comprehensive and useful. If you buy one
business book this year, you'll be doing yourself a favor by making it
Adrian Wooldridge's Masters of Management.
Priscilla Burgess is CEO, Co-founder, and Co-inventor of Bellwether Materials, an award-winning, triple-bottom line company that manufactures deep green building insulation made from an agricultural by-product.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2013
"Masters of Management" is "a revised and expanded edition of the witch doctors" (1996). In his "Acknowledgements" the author confirms "my debt to the dozens of people whose brains I have picked during the writing of this book". Comment: of these 37 people only Rosabeth Moss Kanter and C.K. Prahalad belong to the "Best Business Books" community.
John Micklewait (co-author of The Witch Doctors) quotes in his Foreword Jeff Skilling as Enron's CEO. Kenneth Lay was the CEO and chairman of Enron from 1985 until his resignation on January 23, 2002, except for a few months in 2000 when he was chairman and Jeffrey Skilling was CEO. Jeff Skilling was Enron's President and COO; Skilling was CEO in the period of February to August 2001. Lay deceased in 2006, Skilling went to jail in 2006 scheduled for release in February 2028. Yesterday his sentence has been reduced to 14 years only. Micklewait closes his Foreword: "But if you don't like what is written here, complain to Adrian, not me. It is now his book. And I think it is a good one."
In his Introduction (26 pages!) the author claims: "The rise of management theory is one of the most striking-and one of the least analyzed-developments of the past hundred years (Pg.3). ... The problem is that in order to extract that nugget, you have to dig through an enormous amount of waffle. This book is an attempt to extract those nuggets. ... I try to separate the good (or, at any rate, the influential) from the bad and the irrelevant. ... If ideas or thinkers fail the test completely, I have usually left them out, rather than wasting ink on people who have already spilt too much of it. Pg. 23) My aim has been to challenge the specialist readers without confusing generalists." (Pg. 26)
The following sources are very good benchmarks to demonstrate that the author failed meeting his goals and that the book is NOT a good one:
Urwick and Wolf: The Golden Book of Management, New and expanded edition (1956, 1984);
Henry M. Strage (editor): Milestones in Management - an essential reader (1992);
Hermann Simon: Hidden Champions (1997)
Wolfgang H. Staehle: Management, 8. Auflage, 1098 pages (1999);
Daniel A. Wren: The History of Management Thought, 5th edition (2005);
Bloomsbury (publisher): BUSINESS - The Ultimate Resource, 43 main contributors, 2172 pages (2002);
Bloomsbury (publisher): The 100 most influential management books you'll never have time to read 202 pages (2003); as well as all these 100 most influential management books;
Campus Verlag(publisher): Management (German version of "BUSINESS..."), 2160 pages, (2003),
Rüegg-Stürm: Das neue St. Galler Management-Modell, 103 pages (2003);
Carol Kennedy: Guide to the Management Gurus, 340 pages (2007);
Hermann Simon: Hidden Champions of the 21st Century (2009);
Jack Covert, Todd Sattersten: The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, 335 pages (2009); as well as many of these books;
A & C Black Publishers Ltd. (publisher): BUSINESS - The Ultimate Resource, 3rd edition, contributors include 25 famous management experts, 1607 pages (2011);
Basic Books (publisher): The Best Business Books Ever, 269 pages (2011); as well as most of these books;
Müller-Stewens, Lechner: Strategisches Management, 4. Auflage, 692 pages (2011);
all books of Peter Drucker starting with "The End of Economic Man" (1939) to "Management - Revised and updated" by Joseph A. Maciariello (published in 2008 after Ducker's decease in 2005);
all important essays of Peter Drucker and all important books about him;
The following definition of "management theory" from a business dictionary: "A collection of ideas which set forth general rules on how to manage a business or organization. Management theory addresses how managers and supervisors relate to their organizations in the knowledge of its goals, the implementation of effective means to get the goals accomplished and how to motivate employees to perform to the highest standard" [...]
Applying my benchmarks "Masters of Management" deserves one star. A lot of analyses exist; the author failed to extract the positive nuggets; his overall focus - with a few exceptions - is bashing of what he considers as "management theory" without providing a clear definition of the subject; he sheepishly equals it with what he calls "management industry" consisting of "consultancies, business schools and management gurus".
He ignores Peter Ducker's view of "Management as a Practice" (1954) as well as many of the important books of entrepreneurs and top executives representing the community of practitioners and doers e.g. Fayol, Carnegie, Flint, Cyrus McCormick (about the reaper), Watson Sen., Watson Jr., Sloan, Kroc, Getty, Bower, Townsend, Grove, Morita, Carlzon, Hawken, Matsushita, Walton, Packard, Inamori, Mohn, Schultz, Marriott, Iverson, Würth, Plattner, Piech, Bossidy, Bill George, Porsche, Hayek, Wozniak, Maucher, O'Kelly, Turner etc.).
In his effort to challenge the specialist without confusing the generalist he fails. His book is misleading and confusing.
Masters of Management has no bibliography (The Witch Doctors had one), which makes it very difficult to keep an overview of his sources; many books mentioned in the text are not referenced in detail in the Notes section, which comprises 240 sources out of which only 25 are ranked in the more than 150 books identified as "Best Business Books", 83 books in Notes are less or not important, 72 notes are reports in media publications, 60 Notes are references to these same sources, which does not speak for a high quality of his efforts to find the nuggets. The index is a name dropping box without covering all references in the text. I do not know why he does not mention anywhere the oldest Noble Prize Winner alive - Coase - with his very important contribution "The Nature of the Firm" (1937).
Chapter 1: Fad in Progress: From Reengineering to CSR
The author qualifies reengineering as a fad without explaining that economics and information technology triggered the efforts; he does not explain that despite of all the troubles with reengineering, downsizing, rightsizing etc. all corporations since the 90s until today have been transformed from functionally structured into process structured operations. Reengineering was the concept to execute this unavoidable transformation (Japanese competition - see "the Machine that changed the world"). Reengineering processes will stay with us combined with technological changes and requirements.
He does not explain correctly the instrument "Balanced Scorecard".
He criticizes the Shareholder Value approach as well as Corporate Social Responsibility which is in fact a Stakeholder approach and as such not new. What does he want? Criticizing whatever it is!
Chapter 2: Management Theory Industry (an oxymoron - how can a theory be an industry?)
He writes "some 98 percent of corporate employers report that they are satisfied with their MBA hires, a figure that has not changed since 1998" ... followed by "The schools have proved strikingly adept at adjusting to criticism ... from the business world about the practical relevance of their courses." (Pg. 61). On page 70 he calls Kenichi Ohmae and Rosabeth Moss Kanter snake charmers (compare with Kanter in his acknowledgements which I do not take serious).
Chapter 3: Peter Drucker: The Guru's Guru
in his introduction on page 9 the author quotes the well-known phrase of the late Peter Drucker who liked to quip that people use the word "guru" only because they cannot spell "charlatan". Now he calls him the Guru's Guru, the alpha male of the management world.
On Page 78 he writes "Taylor was as starry-eyed about mangers as he was cynical about workers."
Taylor's first sentence in Chapter 1 (Fundamentals of Scientific Management): "The principal object of management should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for each employee." (1911).
Drucker about Taylor: It is fashionable today to look down on Taylor and to decry his outmoded psychology, but Taylor was the first man in the known history of mankind who did not take work for granted, but looked at it and studied it. ....On Taylor's `scientific management' rests, above all, the tremendous surge of affluence in the last seventy-five years which has lifted the working masses in the developed countries well above any level recorded before, even for the well-to-do...Not much has been added to them since - even though he has been dead all of sixty years." (1975).
On Page 81 the author argues "The Concept of the Corporation ... immediately became a best-seller, in Japan as well as in America and has been in print ever since." Peter Drucker in his preface to the 1983 edition: "But it has not become a `classic' - that is, a book of which everybody knows but which no one reads. ... When this book first appeared reviewers did not know what to make of it."
On page 92: "Arguably, Drucker was not a management theorist at all, but a cosmopolitan intellectual in the great European tradition." Then on page 94 he writes "Moss Kanter classifies Drucker as `a management utopian.' Perhaps he is, but then there are worse sorts of dreamers." He should have better quoted Gary Hamel in "The Best Business Books ever" (2003): "I'd like to set a challenge for would-be management gurus: try to find something to say that Peter Drucker has not said first, and has not said well. This high hurdle should substantially reduce the number of business books clogging the bookshelves of booksellers, and offer managers the hope of gaining some truly fresh insights."
Chapter 4: Tom Peters: Management for the Masses
the author does not quote Tom Peter's True Confessions about "In Search of Excellence" published in November 2001 which clarifies much more than is written in this book.
Chapter 5: Flat Worlds, Tipping Points, and Long Tails
The author is no match for Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat). The Tipping Points by Gladwell is ranked as a Best Business Book (2011) but it does not fit well into this category.
Chapter 6: Rethinking the Company
subchapter "the End of certainty": there was never such a thing. Subchapter "Who killed Sloan?": I refer to Bill Gates ("I think Alfred Sloan's My Years with General Motors is probably the best book to read if you want to read only one book about business.") and Peter Drucker ("Why My Years with General Motors is Must Reading: It is, I still maintain, the best management book.") in the 1990 edition.
Chapter 7: Entrepreneurs Unbound
"Jesus Christ tried 12," Macrae argued in one of the telltale phrases that made his work so readable, "and that proved one too many". This is a total misunderstanding of the New Testament, without the one too many Jesus would not have achieved his mission! Page 173 subchapter The United States of Entrepreneurs: the figures are contradicting with those on page 39 which are wrong. The reference to the annual World Bank Report Doing Business is interesting and positive. In the subchapter The Secrets of Success the author attributes animal spirits to entrepreneurs.
Chapter 8: The World Turned Upside Down
as mentioned before, I recommend to read Friedman's The World is Flat.
Chapter 9: Knowledge, Learning, and Innovation
According to the author the field is a magnet for airheads. I recommend reading "The Knowledge Creating Company" by Nonaka and Takeuchi and the books of Clayton M. Christensen about Innovation.
Chapter 10: Lords of Strategy
Mintzberg's Strategy Safari and "Strategisches Management" by Müller-Stewens and Lechner are excellent and serious sources. In the subchapter "Importance of Science Fiction" Herbert von Karajan is compared with Charlie Parker. No comment. The author repeats the wrong quotation by journalists of Gerstner's statement about "vision". His book "Who says Elephants Can't Dance" is a true Best Business Book.
Chapter 11: What Does Globalization Mean? Again, I prefer Friedman's The World is Flat.
Chapter 12: Storm in the Boardroom: if you want entertainment read it, if you want to learn skip it.
Lou Gerstner explains it much better!
Chapter 13: Managing Leviathan:
I recommend this chapter if you are interested in warnings about the dangers of employing management consultants.
Chapter 14: The Common Toad:
The author quotes The Communist Manifesto, "Marx and Engels envisioned Communist society as one where you can go hunting in the morning and be a literary critic in the afternoon." Obviously he forgot to quote them completely: "But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons - the modern working class - the proletarians." He is jumping from topic to topic like a nervous bumble bee providing rather small talk information than nuggets of "management theories" qualified to be presented in various management philosophy forums to entertain the audience paying substantial fees for such events.
Chapter 15: The Battle for Brainpower
the author introduces Malcolm Gladwell as one of the most successful management gurus. Gladwell especially with his book "Outliers" could be considered in the segment "manage oneself" and not in the area of business management as such. I recommend "Coming Jobs War" by Jim Clifton (2011).
Chapter 16: Managing yourself:
I agree with the author about the quality of Peter Drucker and Clayton Christensen.
Conclusion: Mastering Management
Subchapter "A Bizarre Industry": from his perspective he is right, I consider his book as very bizarre; it is entertaining for those who like his style, it is not very helpful for those seeking know how and usable methods and tools. Therefore I call it a pain in the brain, knowing that from a medical point of view there is no such pain in brains as Friedman knows and admits that the World is NOT flat, it is only a metaphor.