Book Review: Managing

    By: PDMA Headquarters on Oct 04, 2013

    Book Review: Managing     

    By: Henry Mintzberg, San Francisco : Berrett-Koehler, Inc. , 2009 . xii+306 pages.
    Review by: Gerald Mulenburg

    Book ImageThis book is a three-decades-plus follow-up to Mintzberg's 1973 book The Nature of Managerial Work (Mintzberg, 1973). That book, based on his original doctoral dissertation research, plus a 1975 Harvard Business Review article titled, “The Manager's Job: Folklore or Fact” (Mintzberg, 1975), are classics of management literature that keep Mintzberg's name at the forefront of managerial theory and practice. Although much has changed in business practices since his original book, and Mintzberg acknowledges this change, he also defends many of the original ideas from his earlier writings.

    Managing is full of descriptive material about the observations and interpretations the author discovered by spending one day with each of 29 different managers in a variety of fields, observing and learning about how they manage in their particular situations. From that, Mintzberg created a framework for what all managers can do in their own situations. He says, “This is a book about managing, pure if not simple” (p. 2). The general nature of the book focuses on management applied to any field or discipline, and fits a broad audience from neophyte managers to those with much experience in the field. The book is refreshing for its wealth of concrete ideas presented about what management really is, and it goes beyond that to providing the reader with clear techniques of effective management that they can use in their own work in easy-to-understand language. In his review of management research since the 1940s, Mintzberg's position is that there has been less change affecting management than is normally believed: “We risk being mesmerized by the present, and biased by the stories we ‘know’ all too well” (p. 3). Mintzberg claims many of these stories are based only on management research in the United States, about which he comments, “national culture has surprisingly little effect on the content of managing” (p. 13, footnote 10). He expresses a special concern about a growth in emphasis on leadership over management: “The more we obsess about leadership, the less of it we seem to get” (p. 9). He supports this conclusion with the statement that, the “basic aspects of human behavior … remain rather stable” over time (p. 14). He is emphatic that management is a practice versus a science or profession: “[I]t is time to recognize that management … is a practice, learned primarily through experience, and rooted in context” (p. 9). In defining his management-as-practice approach, he recognizes the inherent influence of science on management (the use of analysis and evidence), the influence of art (having vision and creative insights), and the influence of craft (gaining experience and practical learning). Management as practice, he says, involves “a good deal of tacit knowledge,” which is not, he states, “easily accessible [and] has to be learned on the job, through apprenticeship, mentorship, and direct experience” (p. 12). He goes further, saying “There is no ‘one best way’ to manage; it depends on the situation” (p. 10). He continues with this theme stating that, “to be an effective manager … maybe you don't have to be so much as normal, and clearheaded” (p. 16).

    The descriptive material about the author's research for the book, while interesting and informative, is really background information for what I believe is the most valuable contribution of the book to practitioners. In the last chapter, “Managing Effectively,” Mintzberg takes what he discovered in his research for this book, plus his original findings published in his 1973 book, to create a Framework for Effectiveness. This framework is a two-dimensional figure beginning with an arrow coming in from the left that he calls Energetic. The arrow points to a multicycle graphic in the center of the figure he calls Reflective. Reflective then transitions as an arrow emerging out to the right of the Reflective cycle into Integrative. He describes the incoming Energetic arrow as the personal, constructive, and reaching-out demand for energy imposed on effective managers in their work. The Reflective four-part continuous cycle in the center of the model represents how effective managers must learn to think for themselves based on their own experiences in managing. The Reflective cycle begins withAnalytic in the far left position, moves up to the right to Collaborative, then clockwise down from Collaborative to Worldly, then back again to Analytic, beginning a repeat of the cycle. Analytic, Mintzberg says, includes avoiding an over-reliance on analysis, using only what is needed to prevent over-analysis (analysis-paralysis), but includes the analysis necessary to control the work involved. The next phase of Reflective moves clockwise from Analytic up to Collaborative in the center of the cycle. Mintzberg describes Collaborative as managing relationships among the people involved, not to control them, but to allow them to collaborate and bring out their natural energy. The cycle next moves clockwise again down from Collaborative into the next phase, Worldly. He uses the term Worldly as distinctive from “global,” which he says implies homogeneity or conformity. In contrast to the sameness of “global,” he quotes from the Pocket Oxford Dictionary definition of “worldly”: “experienced in life, sophisticated, practical” (p. 212). The final element of the Reflective cycle is Proactive, which overarches the entire cycle of Analytic-Collaborative-Worldly. Proactive, he says, assists the effective manager to control between having too much reflection and not enough action, and to prevent having all action and no reflection. To further clarify the framework, Mintzberg defines reflectiveness as being “largely personal,” and proactiveness as being “fundamentally social” (p. 215). The final output of the Framework for Effectiveness is the Integrative arrow flowing out to the right of the figure. Mintzberg describes Integrative as, “managing means integrating on the run” (p. 217). He concludes that everything culminates with why we manage at all: “A key purpose of managing is to strive for synthesis, continuously, without ever reaching it, or even quite knowing how close one is” (p. 218). In Managing, the author captures the essence of management, not for what it should be, but for what it really is. He encourages the reader not to compare what managers do with what an orchestra conductor does during a performance. He suggests instead to compare a manager to what a conductor does during rehearsal. That is management. It is difficult to disagree with Mintzberg's description of effective management in the book, and for any manager, new to managing or experienced in the field, there are many nuggets of wisdom to apply to your own management situation.

    Released: October 4, 2013, 11:19 am | Updated: November 20, 2013, 10:01 am
    Keywords: PDMA Blog


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