The Book of Management Wisdom
Edited by Peter Krass, published by John Wiley & Son
The list of contributors to the Book of Management Wisdom reads like a who's who of management gurus from the last two centuries, writes Paul Donovan.
In order to create this extensive management resource, editor Peter Krass has stitched together short articles gathered from a wide array of management talent.
In the section on hiring and firing, for instance, readers can learn from such teachers as Henry Ford and Mark McCormack; while on the evolution of organisation there are contributions from the likes of Charles Babbage, Andrew Carnegie and former Citibank chief, Walter Wriston.
Leafing through this excellent work, one is struck by the timelessness of genuine thought leadership. Submissions by the likes of Babbage and Carnegie date back to the 18th century, yet still hold enduring value for contemporary management practice.
All facets of the management skills portfolio are covered, from productivity, empowerment and conflict management to globalisation, and from re-engineering and transformation to "bashing bureaucracy". This last section includes an engaging piece from Jan Carlzone on flattening the management pyramid, and one from Patrick McGovern on why small is best when it comes to company size.
Naturally, IT professionals will want to turn straight to the section entitled The Power of Technology, which includes contributions from the likes of Michael Dell, Jim Barksdale and Charles B Wang.
Dell's contribution is little more than an extended piece of corporate puff for his own organisation, complete with hollow soundbytes such as "If you want people to think big you need to act big". Pass over it and turn instead to the piece by Wang, who addresses the crucial relationship between the chief information and chief executive officers on matters regarding IT.
Wang estimates that $1 in every $3 spent in the US on IT over the past decade has been wasted, and that communications breakdowns at senior management level have played their part in this worrying statistic.
"Remember, either your company will use IT, or IT will use your company. You are responsible to make the call," he warns.
From his premise that the chief executive officer (CEO) and the chief information officer (CIO) all too often speak different languages, Wang proceeds to offer tips on establishing a management lingua franca which ensures that CIOs address business issues, not just technological ones, and that CEOs are better equipped to take a proactive role in IT decision-making.
More sound advice flows from the pen of James D Robinson, the former CEO of American Express. He addresses the crucial area of "managing technology through people".
Robinson highlights how the productivity of a company is likely to hinge on how well it eases employee fears about new technologies and the dislocations that this can bring to the workplace. He suggests that employees need to be involved in the design of new systems that will effect them, that care must be taken during the presentation of new technologies, and that adequate training and retraining must be forthcoming.
The Book of Management Wisdom provides an accessible round up of management thought. The self-contained nature of its different sections makes it a flexible friend for IT heads who need answers at speed.