Bookcase: Reason and Resource

Business – The Ultimate Resource
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Price: $150

Business is 2172 wafer thin but collectively weighty pages of management intelligence. It features contributions from Bennis to Buffett; Drucker to de Bono; Senge to Sloan – in fact 200 acclaimed management theorists and practitioners alike. Business is, as the sub title explains, simply “the ultimate (management and business) resource”.

The blue chip advisory board and team of contributors have compiled Business to make it as helpful, practical and easy-to-use as possible, its sheer bulk notwithstanding. “The two aims of Business are straightforward ones: to help you become more effective in your job, and to help you get ahead in your career,” say the editors.

And while the wealth of material captured herein would no doubt fit on relatively small computer file, it could never work in quite the same way electronically for me. I can’t image being propped up in bed with this one, but this beautiful, black mine of management information now rests happily and helpfully in easy reaching distance of my desk.

It is all there. Best practice essays by top international business writers; management checklists and actionlists that give step-by-step guides to best results; management library with lessons and tips from 70 of the most influential business books ever written; the key philosophies and strategies of business thinkers and management giants; business dictionary with jargon free definitions of difficult business terms and concepts; quick-reference world business almanac of essential statistics, facts and figures on the global economy and, last but not least, comprehensive list of business information sources including publications, websites and organisations on key management topics.

First Among Equals – How to manage group of professionals
By: Patrick J McKenna and David H Maister
Publisher: Simon & Shuster Free Press
Price: $65

Professional firms and firms of professionals are all turning to it. Professional management I mean. But, as one very good friend who manages professional practice said to me recently: “It’s bit like herding cats.”

Cat herding advisers Patrick McKenna and David Maister believe they know some of the secrets to successfully mustering groups of professionals and they reveal them in their new, jointly-authored book First Among Equals. McKenna used the phrase, “herding cats”, as the title to his 1995 handbook for managing partners and practice leaders so the analogy is internationally commonplace.

It took long time for professional partnerships in particular to recognise they needed good management to be truly effective, at least in New Zealand. And while they might, however reluctantly, now acknowledge the value of the contribution, professional people inside service firms or corporations, are “notoriously averse to being managed”, according to the authors. “They are cynical, savvy and selective.”

Managing groups of professionals will become more, not less, important and widespread. Engineers, software developers, architects, lawyers, accountants and the like are all careers on the increase.

According to McKenna and Maister, the challenge of managing professionals leads many firms and companies to believe that professionals are unmanageable and so they give up trying. But for the authors “the potential power of having well coordinated groups is too great to abandon”. Managing professionals is complex, therefore it requires more management attention not less.

This book provides an introduction to the basics of being group leader in professional setting and not just inside professional firms. It is book “about doing”, say the writers and as such is not concerned with theories, concepts or insights. “It is the book we wish we had read when we were first given the challenge of leading group.”

Practical, easy to read, this is start to finish text, not manual of disconnected chapters. The book is divided into four sections, presented in the order in which practitioners need to think about the issues.

For the growing tribe of managers trying to make professional fist of managing groups of professionals, First Among Equals is great place to start.

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