BOOKCASE Management in Action

A Bias for Action
By: Heike Bruch & Sumantra Ghoshal
Publisher: Harvard Business School Press
Price: $54.95

“A manager’s job leaves little room for reflection.” If the observation is universally true, it is doubly so in New Zealand. The smallness of our enterprises means flat management structures where managers muck in.
The result of this reality however, is that managers tend to ignore or postpone dealing with their organisation’s most crucial issues. Instead, all but 10 percent of managers, are hooked on “busy idleness” as the Roman philosopher Seneca called the phenomenon couple of thousand years ago.
Busy idleness is, according to the authors of this delightfully helpful book, “a disease that affects everybody and pervades every aspect of life”.
Bruch and Ghoshal’s conclusions and solutions for managers who get captured by the process of “spinning their wheels” are based on decade-long study of executives at dozen companies. They reached, what they call, the disturbing conclusion that despite all their activity, only small fraction of managers actually get something done that really matters or moves their organisation forward in any “meaningful way”.
They identify four types of managerial behaviour. They are the frenzied, into which 40 percent of managers who are distracted by the myriad tasks that they juggle each day fall; the procrastinators, who make up another 30 percent; the detached 20 percent who are disengaged from their work altogether; and the remaining 10 percent who are purposeful and get the job done.
Frenzied managers are both the most common and the most hazardous to themselves and their organisation. These overly busy people are usually highly motivated and well intentioned. The culture of speed and unreflective activity that now dominates most organisations encourages “mindless busyness” but the cost is high.
The authors argue that while overwhelming workloads, tight budgets and unsupportive bosses play part in managerial ineffectiveness, most of the blame for busy idleness lies in how managers approach their jobs. They show that the most effective managers succeed because they harness personal willpower through combination of energy and focus.
Willpower goes “decisive step further” than motivation. “Our research indicates that leaders need more than motivation to spur people to purposeful action,” say the authors, who then turn the pages of the book over to explaining how, by harnessing personal willpower, managers can achieve results.
They use fascinating and relevant real-life stories to also suggest approaches to cultivating company of action-takers. Leaders who seriously foster managerial willpower craft three critical conditions in their organisations. They create space for autonomous action; they build processes for providing professional, social and emotional support; and they develop culture that celebrates the exercise of responsible willpower.
There won’t be manager, or indeed an individual, who picks up this book who won’t relate to this universal and enduring problem of busy idleness. What they might get from it is some practical and down-to-earth advice on how to develop bias for action.
A thoroughly thoughtful and easy-to-read book that travels well across both organisational culture and size.

A Manager’s Guide to Leadership
By: Mike Pedler, John Burgoyne & Tom Boydell
Publisher: McGraw Hill Business
Price: $59.95

This is another practical book. It is, as the authors say at the beginning, “an active guide to leadership rather than stock of knowledge”. That means, I think, that the authors are concerned with explaining leadership by doing, rather than offering guide to leadership theories – and thank goodness for that.
The authors begin with the obvious, that leadership and management overlap, but are distinct concepts. To become part of the leadership in your organisation they suggest you identify the most significant challenges facing the enterprise, work out what needs to be done about them and then “do something that leads to useful outcome”.
The book is based on the assumption that “leadership is about recognising and responding to challenges” facing individuals in their organisations and communities. The authors identify 21 challenges – actually 14 challenges and seven practices – as vehicles for teaching and learning that emphasise the importance of developing individual ability to recognise and respond to challenges.
The 21 challenges are divided into “inners” and “outers”. The chief inner challenge – leading yourself – is at the centre of their model, leading to the other core leadership practices and on to the outer or organisational challenges. Inner challenges include living with risk, facilitation and networking. Outer challenges include organisational structure, work process, social responsibility and major change.
The authors have done good job identifying the oh so many challenges we face in everyday organisation management. Managers moving into strategic leadership will find this useful introduction to the personal and organisational issues they will encounter.

Visited 6 times, 1 visit(s) today

Business benefits of privacy

Privacy Week (13-17 May) is a great time to consider the importance of privacy and to help ensure you and your company have good privacy practices in place, writes Privacy

Read More »
Close Search Window