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The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide to Management: Lasting Lessons from the Best Leadership Minds of Our Time Paperback – August 10, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Here's a business book that knows what it is: A beautifully constructed guide for the would-be manager or veteran. Murray, deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal and sophisticated business guru, is remarkably able to engage the reader and clarify subjects that are often discussed but seldom understood. Murray's common sense is easy to absorb. Great leaders "exhibit a paradoxical mix or arrogance and humility"; business survivors are the "ones who kept their heads." With intriguing anecdotal tales of top managers and execs, a focus on the importance of diversity and its impact on global business, the need to speak "truth to power" and maintain across-the-board measurability, Murray's message is an encouraging call for all concerned to realize the essence of strategic thinking. A brief but enlightening chapter deals with business in China; another addresses the basics of financial literacy and begins, "Don't skip this chapter." Other highlights include frequent references to the advice of avowed business experts and helpful "further reading" lists at the end of each chapter. A winner.
The point of this well-written handbook is readily identifiable: how to be a good manager. What is found here are readable ideas from the deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, winner—not surprisingly, once you’ve entered into the book’s pages—of several awards for his own writing. It’s a big topic, obviously, and one that is not easily defined. People are promoted to the managerial level in droves every day, few with any guidance in good management, “as if the airlines chose their pilots from among their passengers.” Where to turn for such help? Hopefully, to this book, wherein Murray lays out in helpful order and understandable prose what he considers the best practices for a good manager to follow; especially instructive are his discussions of “six different styles that leaders use to motivate others.” Not only does his own experience stand behind the book, but he also draws on what he calls the “best from the existing body of knowledge, research, and practice.” For serious consideration for any library business collection. --Brad Hooper
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Readers looking for new ideas concerning these issues will be disappointed as that is not the purpose of this book. It really is a primer for people about the major ideas and themes in management. Murray does a good job of going through a combination of thinkers like Porter, Pfeiffer and executives like Bossidy and others to give a landscape overview of the practice.
Murray incorporates stories that help illustrate major ideas and concepts. Students of management will recognize just about all of the stories and some are presented in a rather simplistic but effective way for a first time reader. The book also has a logical order and do cover the essentials of management in the following chapters:
The book is challenged in a few areas. The book gives you the impression that technology has little to no role in management - except as the source of a stock market crash. Given the role of technology in shaping strategy, competition and our future, this is a serious omission. The ideas and strategies in the book are comprehensive up to about the mid 1990's. While Murray does mention Blue Ocean Strategy and some other more recent thinking, the book largely concentrates on the classical view of strategy rather than the new strategies that are shaping current leadership plans and thinking. A final weakness is Murray's occasional editorial asides that sometimes muddle the messages.
I recommend as a general introduction (management 101) book to give to people who are interested in coming up to speed on management and strategy. Murray does a good job presenting these materials in an accessible, understandable and helpful way that explains ideas without trivializing them. That is what separates it from a `dummies' book.
I bought this book after reading a recent related article by Murray in the WSJ. "Essential Guide to management" reduces a whole library of books into a very quick read by distilling the most important concepts from Peters & Waterman to Michael Porter to Clayton Christensen. Topics covered include everything from Leadership, to Strategy, to Financial Literacy to Managing Yourself. Each chapter is a concise (~10 pg) summary of the essential leading thought on the topic, wrapped up with bullets and recommended reading at the end.
Although I might have summarized a few details on a few topics slightly differently myself, overall the key points are largely bang on with what I also understood to be the original writer's intent. In my opinion, the only thing missing was that the Financial Literacy could have used a dose of Buffet regarding understanding value-based management - something I wish more managers understood.
So, if you don't know what to read on management, read this first, then dig deeper in a reference. If you already know a lot, it's a nice refresher.
I recommend this book as a refresher course for the veteran and as a primer for the neophyte.