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The Witch Doctors: Making Sense of the Management Gurus Paperback – January 27, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (January 27, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812929888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812929881
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,122,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Management theory is a worldwide growth industry these days. Terrified of falling behind, business executives flock from one management guru to another in search of a competitive edge. Catchwords such as "chaos," "excellence," and "quality" echo in corporate halls and bounce around boardrooms the world over. Which ideas and theories are sound, and which are ultimately useless fads? John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge spent two years answering this question. Their resulting book, The Witch Doctors, separates the management wheat from the chaff. In mercifully jargon-free prose, they look at the promise and problems of what's driving the current management industry explosion. Starting with Peter Drucker and Tom Peters, the authors examine the major ideas and their proponents, focusing not only on corporate implications but on social consequences as well. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a skeptical, entertaining, iconoclastic audit of the management-guru industry, Economist editors Micklethwait and Wooldridge focus primarily on pundits such as Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, James Champy and Michael Hammer, but also puncture the management-theory hype emanating from consultancies and business schools. Much of the advice dispensed by these sources, the authors argue, is faddish, riddled with contradictions and jargon, based on simplistic formulas, no more reliable than tribal witch doctors' medicine. They view the craze of reengineering (organizing a business around processes rather than departments) as, too often, a pretext for downsizing. Along with giving an analysis of Japan's hybrid, flexible managerial practices, they identify the phenomenally successful network of family businesses created by the overseas Chinese as an alternative model for business growth. Micklethwait and Wooldridge have built their fair-minded, balanced critique around hotly debated issues in modern management?a company's optimal size, harnessing knowledge as a resource, leaders' accountability, strategic planning, globalization?making this a useful, thoughtful tool for managers in large or small firms.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Read The Witch Doctors and I promise that you will never read another management book in the same way.
Fernando Beltran
When you enter the pages of this extremely well written oeuvre you're bascially not in Management-haven, Kansas anymore.
Magnus Lindkvist
Every B-School professor should have to teach a course based on this book, and every MBA should have to read it.
S. Roemerman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 28, 1997
Format: Hardcover
For those workers in the trenches who have recently found themselves downsized due to the latest round of "re-engineering,".....

For those frustrated managers who have had just one too many management consultants imposed upon them by paranoid executives.......

For those paranoid executives who feel they need to hire the "latest and greatest" consultants to stay ahead of the competition.......

.....You must read this book.

Written by two staff editors of the economist, this book reveals the charlatanism surrounding the management consultant industry, and how the growth of the industry has led to the imposition of new management techniques which may be entirely irrelevant to the enterprise, its workers, and the shareholders. The prose is what you would expect from The Economist - pragmatic, and easy to read.

The conclusions are straightforward and hard to ignore.

As one of the senior Editors at The Economist warned the authors while they were writing the book: "You know what worries me about your book about management theory: that you'll talk to all the people and read all the books; that you will detail all its incredible effects - the number of jobs lost, the billions of dollars spent, and so on. And you won't say the obvious thing: that it's 99 percent bullshit. And everybody knows that" (from the prologue).

Indeed, if everybody read this book, his statement would ring true
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By piethein coebergh on January 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
Great fun, great wit, great journalism. These guys started off as outsiders but they clearly are top-class journalists: they truly captured all the "strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats" that all the true, semi or fake gurus have produced since Taylor, Sloan and Drucker. A must have!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Buysbrats on July 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Would recommend this book strongly to two sets of people:
1. All those who feel they do not read enough about management
2. My B-school strategy professors that tried to treat books by gurus as bibles
After working in companies that have consistently outperformed the market, my conclusion is that good managements are those that have the ability to learn about the environment all by their own and have the knack to apply it well bt themselves. No consultant or management guru can ever know a company's business better than its employees do. The best the gurus can ever do is mouth generalities. All of management theory is ephemral, transient. It is good to know concepts and use them sparingly and caringly.
This book validates what ive been feeling for a long time.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By James Hunt on November 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book provides a clear-thinking analysis of the wide spectrum of management theories and applications, and points to several very important limitations inherent in the modern management consultancy industry.
In particular, it exposes:
1. the unnecessary promotion of business and management 'jargon'
2. the excessive tendency towards pursuing the latest 'fad'
3. the reluctance to look beneath the surface of ideas or concepts, in order to analyse them critically.
Aptly titled "The Witch Doctors", this book lifts much of the
facade from the management advice industry, providing a reasoned
evaluation of 'the workability factor' underpinning key management theories.
The book contains 14 very interesting chapters, but perhaps the
most insightful are the following four:
Chapter 2: The Management Theory Industry
Chapter 6: Knowledge, Learning and Innovation
Chapter 9: The Future of Work
Chapter 10: What Does Globalisation Mean?
Although written in 1996, this book retains much of its currency and relevancy at the beginning of the 21st century. It won the Global Business Book Award in 1996 for the best book written about strategy and leadership, and received high acclaim from the Journal of Business Strategy, arguing that it was "possibly the best-written business book of (its) decade". Even Harvard Business Review considered it "a worthy contribution" noting that "it is broad in its range of information and insights".
Perhaps its highest endorsement, however, comes from Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor of Management at Harvard Business School, and herself the author of a number of very good management and business books. She says "Read it before buying any other book!
Read more ›
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Magnus Lindkvist on September 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge are to management fads what the little child was to the naked emperor and The Witch Doctors is their manifest. When you enter the pages of this extremely well written oeuvre you're bascially not in Management-haven, Kansas anymore. Where management literature usually dramatizes, Micklethwait and Wooldridge present a sober view and make a point of playing down the actual impact and importance of so-called Gurus. With the stealth and graceful elegance of secret service assassins, the authors meticulously work through thinkers and movements, with chapters divided for pedagogic simplicity into chronological order. Something striking is the high correlation between the chronology and the order of importance; this could be attributed to nostalgia but is more likely a result of the fact that management "thinking" has become unscrupulously popular over the last decade, with everyone from football coaches to Roseanne Barr wanting to share their secrets of success with results that, at best, can be described as mixed. It is therefore no coincidence that the final, and most enjoyable, chapter is entitled "A walk on the wild side" - a reference to the fact that many of the people that get in on the action today bear more than a little resemblance to actual witch doctors with results as often doubtful as they are deceiving. Better then to long for yesteryear when men were men and people like Charles Handy, Michael Porter and, the Godfather of management thinkers, Peter Drucker roamed free. But even in the chapters describing these earlier movements, Micklethwait and Wooldridge employ the dry, sarcastic wit that is so intimately associated with their mother magazine, The Economist.Read more ›
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