BOOKCASE : Organisational Behaviour in New Zealand – Theory and Practice


• G Elkin, B Jackson and K Inkson

• Pearson Education

• RRP $109.99

This book is an excellent undergraduate textbook providing thorough introduction to organisational behaviour (OB). What is OB? Well it’s the study of how and why people behave as they do in organisations, and what can be done to improve overall effectiveness. It covers the classic research and theories of individual, interpersonal, group, intergroup and organisational behaviour. It also touches on culture, power, and organisational change and development.
When I taught the first undergraduate OB course at Auckland University we had to depend on American books which missed the local flavour. But this New Zealand text really focuses on applying the theories of OB to wide variety of local examples. The new edition published this year is fresh and up to date.
One example discussed is that OB theory is largely developed from Western point of view. The rapid changes in cultural and demographic mix in New Zealand mean organisational behaviour books struggle to avoid just teaching Western, and male, perspective. There is real need for the next edition to embrace some additional co-authors to reflect that.
What is really special about this book are the case study vignettes which appear each few pages. Each one brings to life the topic you are reading about, and provides thought-provoking questions ideal for the tutorial group discussion.
These include experiences of the worker – including great story about the young Ed Hillary ‘working too hard’ and upsetting his workmates on hydro construction project at Lake Pukaki.
There are also case study vignettes featuring many of New Zealand’s well known business leaders – including Rod Deane, Theresa Gattung, Gordon Cairns, Rob Fyfe, Stephen Tindall, David Irving, and George Hickton. common theme is the need for self awareness of leaders concerning their style, values, impact on people, and drive to achieve.
The story about Dick Hubbard is really good, simply telling the story of someone who did not start his working life with much in the way of assets, but who has always had absolute determination and doggedness. This shows up equally in such diverse activities as introducing innovation in the breakfast foods market, in leading business for social responsibility, having go at the Auckland mayoralty, and climbing mountains.
Who would enjoy this book? The most obvious person is anyone who is studying management – either via degree, diploma studies, or an advanced management programme. The material is also vitally relevant to every HR and OD manager across New Zealand who really does need to understand these topics in order to do their job. It would be most effectively used in course with ample opportunity to use the cases studies to debate and discuss, and thus apply the learning to real work situations.
However the two-page local leader case studies would also be of interest to more mainstream audience of managers seeking some inspiration to brush up on insights into their own leadership behaviour and ideas for improvement.

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