BOOKCASE

Charles Handy: Myself and other more important matters
By: Charles Handy
Publisher: Random House
Price: $37.99

Of all the personal accomplishments credited to Charles Handy, it is his impeccable sense of timing that most impresses me. He knows when the time is right to deliver another profound thought on the evolution of management or, as in the case of his latest book, the evolution of himself.
Now 73, he has published his autobiography providing valuable personal insights into man who saw himself as “social philosopher” rather than “any kind of management expert”. But however you label him, and understand he hates the term management guru, Handy has consistently delivered provocative, enlightened, intelligent and eloquently argued management and social commentary, both philosophical and practical.
Myself and other more important matters is new literary territory for Handy, but it is just as elegantly scripted as any of his management texts. The recounting of his life’s journey is unquestionably personal, but it is also generally relevant.
His journey from Irish vicarage to successful author and thinker is dotted with delightful anecdotes, revealing reminiscences and thoughtful observations on the state of our working world.
Take his jibe at business schools, for example. Despite confession that he “enjoyed his time at business school” they need, he suggests, to be fundamentally restructured. In his opinion, classroom learning leaves students with distorted and narrow view of their responsibilities.
Unlike many management scribes, term chosen in deference to his objection to the label ‘guru’, Handy is refreshingly self effacing. Reflecting on his writings and lectures he says: “If I am strictly honest, few of my ideas are that original. It is the words I use that make the difference.” Perhaps. His choice of words undoubtedly carries his ideas deeper into the mind, but his vision of how things will be has oftentimes been unerringly accurate.
The best management lessons are drawn from life, not case studies according to Handy. In his opinion, most people have fundamental understanding of what makes an organisation work. “They just need to be reminded of it and encouraged to apply their understanding to their own work.”
Handy has written this book because, he says, “I now write to explain things to myself, hoping that might interest some readers as well”. It certainly interested me.

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