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The Management Myth: Debunking Modern Business Philosophy Paperback – August 16, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 343 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (August 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393338525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393338522
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stewart (The Courtier and the Heretic) reflects on his unconventional path to becoming a successful management consultant—despite a complete lack of business knowledge or experience, let alone an MBA. He offers an insider's perspective on the industry, revealing the astonishingly high routine consultant fees and the absurdity of leading firms depending on consultants fresh out of school to tell them how to run their business. Following in the footsteps of shamans, consultants envelop their work with an aura of sacred mystery and outrageously unjustified levels of self-confidence to add to their perceived expertise. Gleefully revealing the magician's tricks, Stewart takes readers on a whirlwind tour of how this industry came to be a powerhouse. Filled with fascinating insider anecdotes and featuring a who's who in the consulting world, including Peter Drucker, Michael Porter and Bruce Henderson, this wry, absorbing book will enlighten executives about the value consultants actually bring to their clients. (Aug.) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Here he [Matthew Stewart] brilliantly sets about unpicking the central tenets of management thinking..." Director "Elegant hatchet job on the management consultancy industry and the damage it's done." CNBC Business "Business Schools turning out MBA graduates are big business, and they are not going to love Stewart, whose thesis is that 'the modern idea of management is right enough to be dangerously wrong'." The Times "...serious and valuable polemic." The Wall Street Journal

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Customer Reviews

The book was enjoyable and entertaining to read.
Stephen C. Long
His views are well researched, so he has a right to criticize "management science" for its lack of a substantial experimental basis.
So you sit there and let the absurdity happen, hoping one day someone will have the guts to tell the truth.
Donald S. Waller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Stephen C. Long on August 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Matthew Stewart takes on three major tasks in this book. He writes an expose of the management consulting industry; an historical account of the development of modern management; and an expose of the fallacious methodology of modern management. All three of these tasks are interspersed with an interesting account of his own personal experience in management consulting.

Stewart came to the management consulting industry straight out of college. Interestingly, his academic work was in philosophy and not management. Needing money, he submitted a resume to a management consulting firm and much to his surprise was hired. As an "outsider", and particularly as a result of his philosophy education, Stewart brings unique insight to this field.

My own undergraduate work was a BBA and in the thirty-some years since then I have kept up with developments in management during the course of a law practice that often involved advising businesses. This book challenges everything I thought I had learned about management.

The book is structured around Stewart's own foray into the management consulting industry. He discloses the way the industry works, the outrageous fees that are charged, and the worthlessness of the advice. I have no experience that would qualify me to evaluate those claims.

The entire "science" of management, according to Stewart, is truly only pseudoscience. Beginning with Frederick Taylor and Elton Mayo and progressing through Peter Drucker and Tom Peters, Stewart reveals in great detail the methodological fallacies of management theory and its shaky foundation in pseudoscience.

Stewart maintains that "management" belongs more properly in the humanities and in particular to the study of philosophy.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Dr. James J. Stewart on November 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
... because if they read it, they may quit your program.

As a university professor guiding MBA and Doctor of Management courses, I encourage only my more capable and thoughtful students to read "The Management Myth." Why?

It is because in this book, Matthew Stewart correctly points out and supports that management is not a science and is too often pursued as a fad. Using many examples, he convinces that a good person educated in almost any subject can be a successful manager in business. Plainly said, Bill Gates, a college dropout, is not an aberration.

What is needed to be a manager, Stewart says astutely, is critical thinking and a propensity to ethical behavior -- not some knowledge of whatever methods are in current vogue at business schools.

If you want to know more of how to achieve success in business and other organizations, and you can accept innovative thinking, read "The Management Myth."
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79 of 96 people found the following review helpful By D. Touey on September 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Save yourself 25 bucks and find Stewart's original article debunking management theory. It was published in 2006--Atlantic, I think--and is online. He gives it away in the opening of the book in the 80-20 rule applied to books like this. No doubt we need critics like Stewart, but the extended tale of his litigation with his firm and not-so-valiant quest to get every penny he could, then his gloat over every penny he got, suggests that he's just another opportunist. For years Stewart by his own admission ripped off his clients by providing them with a "service" they didn't need. He seems to take pride in his own lack of principle--that he knew he was simply a parasite while other, perhaps younger, colleagues actually believed they were doing some good. (If you actually get to the later chapters, you'll see that he quits the consulting life not because of any anguish over being a con man but because he realizes the lifestyle has given him a paunch!) I've looked at Stewart's history of philosophy, so I know he has read Plato, but I don't think he took anything Socrates said to heart. He lived the life of the sophist, gutting the treasuries of as many companies as he could, cashed out, became a philosopher and critic of the profession that made him wealthy. I'm sure there's some more technical term for this within moral philosophy, but amongst hoi polloi it's called "having your cake and eating it too."
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53 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Long on October 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If you love to hate management consultants and newly-minted MBAs, you might enjoy this book. If, however, you are hoping for useful analysis from this philosophy student turned management consultant, you will likely be very disappointed. Stewart consistently overgeneralizes using just enough truth and selected examples to seduce, in a tone that suggests "you and I can see how empty these so-called experts are." His scornful critique of "management science" is interleaved with a "kiss and tell" insider's story of his years as a "good guy" within a corrupt, venal management consulting firm. The firm collapsed soon after forcing Stewart out, but fortunately for him not before he could extract by lawsuit some millions of their ill-gotten gains.

Now, full disclosure: I do have a management degree from one of those prestigious business schools Stewart excoriates, and I was one of those corporate executives that he takes shots at. I'm far from a rah-rah supporter of MBAs and unfettered capitalism, however, and I agree with the starting points of Stewart's criticisms: management is not a science; you can't run a business from a strategic model; management consultants often know less than the people they are advising; and MBAs sometimes overestimate the value of their degree. I do not agree with his conclusion, however, that "business schools as they are presently constituted are at best superfluous", or that there is no value in strategic analysis.

Stewart's chapters on the history of "management science" are both educational and misleading.
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