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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
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
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
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!"
To the ordinary reader looking to gain relevant insights into the world of management thought, this book is an ideal tool. It is written in an easily accessible style, and doesn't necessarily require the reader to absorb it from cover to cover. Genuine insights can be gained by reviewing individual chapters in isolation.
Along with "Dangerous Company" by O'Shea & Madigan, and "The Lexus & the Olive Tree" by Tom Friedman, "The Witch Doctors" is arguably one of the most insightful business books to be released in the past 20 years.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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. It is not that they're so much angry or accusatory as genuinely professional journalists and in era when the borders between the editorial and the commercial interests are constantly blurred, this is the least one could ask for. You may be one of those people who prefer to immerse yourself in an experience, such as watching the parade of a naked emperor or gawking at a "truly amazing behind-the-scenes look at a new movie" which is often what management seminars are all about from a metaphorical perspective. But if you don't mind, or perhaps even prefer, a tell-it-like-it-is perspective even though it may ruin your temporary immersion in something, The Witch Doctors is a rare gem. Why not test yourself; are you a channel 7-action news kind of a person or someone who takes the time to read through a daily newspaper? Do you see management seminars as a source of knowledge or as one of entertainment? And finally, do you prefer to look away when you catch an accidental glance at Mickey Mouse stripping off his costume at Disneyland to keep the illusion real or do you revel in the fact that Disneyworld is just one more commercial attraction like many others and one that, in purpose, is no different from the K-Mart down the street? If you preferred the former in each of these questions, congratulations to you and the management literature industry since Amazon and its competitors will always have rows of titles uncovering corporate "secrets", seven "brilliant" thoughts on nothing in particular and countless case studies about companies you've never heard of or will never have much in common with. If you, on the other hand, preferred the latter, The Witch Doctors is a valuable and helpful delight to read. Trivializing -sure, but not if you compare it to the way that three centuries of literature is compressed into vulgar travesties like "Chicken Soup for the fain-hearted" in this day and age.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 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. It is not that they're so much angry or accusatory as genuinely professional journalists and in era when the borders between the editorial and the commercial interests are constantly blurred, this is the least one could ask for. You may be one of those people who prefer to immerse yourself in an experience, such as watching the parade of a naked emperor or gawking at a "truly amazing behind-the-scenes look at a new movie" which is often what management seminars are all about from a metaphorical perspective. But if you don't mind, or perhaps even prefer, a tell-it-like-it-is perspective even though it may ruin your temporary immersion in something, The Witch Doctors is a rare gem. Why not test yourself; are you a channel 7-action news kind of a person or someone who takes the time to read through a daily newspaper? Do you see management seminars as a source of knowledge or as one of entertainment? And finally, do you prefer to look away when you catch an accidental glance at Mickey Mouse stripping off his costume at Disneyland to keep the illusion real or do you revel in the fact that Disneyworld is just one more commercial attraction like many others and one that, in purpose, is no different from the K-Mart down the street? If you preferred the former in each of these questions, congratulations to you and the management literature industry since Amazon and its competitors will always have rows of titles uncovering corporate "secrets", seven "brilliant" thoughts on nothing in particular and countless case studies about companies you've never heard of or will never have much in common with. If you, on the other hand, preferred the latter, The Witch Doctors is a valuable and helpful delight to read. Trivializing -sure, but not if you compare it to the way that three centuries of literature is compressed into vulgar travesties like "Chicken Soup for the faint-hearted" in this day and age.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
The most important things I have learned from this book are:
- Writing management books is a "business" (and a very lucrative one). In most cases the main driver for writing management books is not a contribution to the discipline of management but making tons of money, either by generating additional consulting revenue (in the case of consultancies), improving the school's curriculum, or making someone rich by charging exorbitant fees for lectures and workshops around the world.
- These gurus have made significant contributions to the discipline of management but in many occasions, their ideas have led to huge failures at corporations that blindly trusted them and tried to implement their new paradigms. Don't take their work for granted and look for contradictory evidence in older books or articles of the same author.
- Businesses around the world have benefited tremendously of management practices, old and new, but there is also overwhelming evidence that many companies around the world and notable business leaders have thrived without following the latest management fads
The book also gives a very good overview of the management trends and theories of the last few decades and their proponents. It would be nice to see an updated edition of this book covering the new generation of "gurus/e-gurus" (Goleman, Moore, etc.), as well as a new chapter on E-Business, E-Government and other emerging trends.
Read The Witch Doctors and I promise that you will never read another management book in the same way.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 1997
Format: Hardcover
The authors, being young and obviously sacrilegious, provide a rich, encompassing overview of the management guru industry. Being in the aerospace industry, I can attest to the faddishness and harm propagated by these Witch Doctors, especially Michael Hammer and his Re-engineering schemes (which have left him rich and his victim companies totally demoralized). Having survived numerous plant closures, downsizings, re-orgs, etc., while miraculously keeping my senior management rank and pay (more through the kind of tactics described by Sun Tzu in the Art of War than anything else, since skills, credentials, and knowledge are given mostly lip service by many executives and the gurus -- with the exception of the Drucker School), the contents of this book have clear meaning to me, as it would to other business middle and senior managers. I now use it as a reference to gain focus, insight, and further readings on the endless initiatives and "sage wisdom" proffered by the ilk of McKinsey, D&T, Andersen, et al. I recommend the book to others who actually have worked their way up to management status and are continually being threatened with extinction.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
Mervin L. Grant
Micklewait, John., Wooldridge, Adrian., The Witch Doctors:Making sense of Management Gurus,. Times Books.
Micklewait and Wooldridge took an indept look at management theory and found almost Dilbrtian flaws and fulfillment in wahat they saw. The Gurus of management with their unique and seperate theories: Peter Drucker, Robert Waterman, W.Edward, Tom Peters, John Naisbitt, Kenichi Ohmae, Peter Senge, Charles Handy and Rosabeth Moss Kanter, to name a few, have sold themselves to the world as having the magic potions for their managerial maladies. In this uncertain and complex flexible global economy, some companies may seek help from outside management consultancies--here enter the Gurus of management theory. The impact of these business "charlatans" have been so great that millions of employees have felt the executioner's axe of these "Corporate Kllers". They promote "orporate Anorexia" with their crazy fadish jargon, as CEOs salaries baloon and companies share price soar and employees hesds roll. This cycle of "orporate greed" has almost devastated the work ethic and promted disloyalty, apathy and mistrust of employers from "Ohio to Oslo." "Management theorists like Peter Drucker, Kenichi Ohmae and Tom Peters are laying down the law, reshapihg institutions, refashioning the language, and above all, reorginizing peoples lives. Indeed, at its most extreme fringe where management theory merges with the self-help industry, Gurus are actually ordering peoples minds, teaching them how to think about everything from organizing their desks to reassessing their love of life." Anthony Robins and Sephen Covey, business motivation Gurus encouragng clients to "unleash the power within" and "synergize" and potentialize--build "--"take responsibility for their own actions, not blame them on others;" develop "emotional bank accounts," from Utah to Osaka. Ever since the "reengineering" craze swept the world, this "corporate blood-letting" fad has not abated wuch. Thanks to management theorists James Champy's and Michael Hammer's "reengineering books of the 90s, their doctrine circled the globe. But now the reengineering revisionists are questioning the wisdom of these theories because they are so easy to impliment and negate the virtues of "growth", "trust" and "loyalty." "Interest in management theory skyrocketed" in the 1980s; thanks to managements Tom Peters and Robert Waterman 1982 publishing of "In search of Excellence"; the Guru industry has boomed since. The thirst for managerial solutions goes unquenched as companies seek to cut corporate fat but stay competitive and profitable. The Gurus extoll the virtues of "tacit knowledge", "lean manufacturing and production," "managing by objectives", managing by walking around(MBWA)" among others.
The Guru industry with its expertise and personalitiesthrives on itself and hav spawned world-wide consultancies,produced books, audio and video tapes, seminars and conferences which have changed the thought processes of business and institutional management. In so doing they have built up tremendous reputation and personal wealth at the expense of 43 million fired or laid-off workers between 1979-1985. Blue collar workers as well as managerswere victims. Their actions have introduced new words and actions to our vernacular, such as: "downsizing," "delayering", "reengineering", "Theories X,Y,Z",outsourcing noncore functions", negotiating performance measures", "just-in-time(JIT)" "total quality management(TQM)" and so on; terrible euphemisms to workers but music to CEOs ears. Even armed services generalds and administrators are caught "downsizing their human resources" and "benchmarking" their competition". The gurus of management theory are here to stay even if they have to generate their own survival strategies. This book should be read by business professionals, business and graduate school and other public interests.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 1997
Format: Hardcover
John and Adrian are two smart cookies. Not only have they identified a trend in corporate management functioning, but they have inadvertently identified a trend in social
identification. As life in the United States gets exponentially more complicated it appears we are searching for shamans to facilitate our decision making.
Thousands of thousands of management books are printed each year. How many people read them and take them seriously is another matter. These authors have taken the task to classify the management gurus and offer their sensemaking of the mystical
position often taken.
"Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of mankind." This quote of Shelly is used to allude that management theorists have usurped the poets' role. The need for more than one decision maker was first expressed by "in a multitude of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs)
By typing the word "consultant" or the words, "management consultant" into the World Wide Web, we get "Found 16 Category and 3419 Site Matches for consultant."
and "Found 2 Category and 478 Site Matches" for management consultant. (Yahoo! Browser.) The plethora of potential solutions for unnamed management problems seems to be a phenomenon of the times. The authors call it the Age of Anxiety. (9)
The culpability of management consultants into creating anxiety by encouraging
"downsizing" or firings, (with increased dependency upon consultancy) is explored in the book. They call it the "management theory paradox." They also cite the famous Peter Drucker, who may be more responsible for all of this than any other person as saying, that "guru" is used because people are too polite to say "charlatan."
While Micklethwait and Woodridge are having fun poking fun at "gurus" they also acknowledge the size and impact of the industry. It appears that the industry is not going to close up because of their book. They acknowledge that new ideas, change and theorizing is basically healthy for business, which needs to be dynamic in order to survive.
It is precisely because EDS spends one billion dollars on keeping up with the Joneses,
(Gateses?) that it may be successful. What they rightfully poke fun at is:
"For every theory dragging companies one way, there are two other theories dragging it another." (15)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Every B-School professor should have to teach a course based on this book, and every MBA should have to read it. This debunks many of the gurus and wonderkids that have offered magic wands.

Even real, valid management principles and techniques are hard to employ (hint - that's why they call it "work"), so any kind of quick fix should be guilty until proven innocent. This book shows why.

I once ran a management mentoring program for a major corporation, and I noticed that most people don't really read management books. In some cases, that's a good thing. But some, like Drucker's books, and this one need to be read and understood - otherwise people are just playing at management.
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