I have bought and read a fair few ‘management books’ over the years. Some start off usefully but go on to ‘wind me up’, others are absolute diamonds….and so I had a little think about why this might be.
I realised that, whilst obviously hugely important, the quality of the writer’s prose isn’t the fundamental factor – it comes down to the author’s intent.
In an effort to expand and examine my thinking, I tried to ‘put it down on paper’ – I spewed out a ‘compare and contrast’ table.
…and so, in this post I present a short 2-column table breaking management books into two types (of author, and their intent).
|‘Guru’ book:||‘Educator’ book:|
|Billed as a ‘new’ idea that “changes everything”!||Modestly recognises and builds on what’s already been achieved but, importantly, adding much wisdom.|
|Claimed by the author(s) as (mainly) their own brilliant discovery.||Humble recognition of past giants, and their work.|
|Narrowly drawn – to solve the supposed problem.||Wide, and general – offering self-reflection rather than solutions.|
|A panacea, presented as if some new world order is coming!||Caveats and clarifications, usually relating to systems and people.|
|Presented within a 2 x2 grid (or other such framework) to show that it is all so simple.||Recognition that it is complex and multi-dimensional.|
|The book merely flogs the same material as in the earlier ‘best-selling Harvard Business Review’ (HBR) article (i.e. the same thing, just massively padded out).||There isn’t a separate HBR article and book!
The author’s aim isn’t to top the ‘management books’ hit parade.
|Gives advice on how to implement their solution – perhaps with a step by step plan and/or a self-assessment checklist.||Provides thoughts on further reading, exploration and self-education.|
|Includes chapters on carefully curated ‘Case Studies’ of organisations that have (apparently) magically transformed themselves.||Warts and all consideration of its applicability and usefulness.|
|Does not seek out or, worse, ignores problematic counters to the idea.||Openly explores criticisms and scenarios that don’t appear to fit.|
|…the narrow idea expands into some management methodology and becomes a cult (complete with consultants offering their ‘thought leadership’ services)…for a few years…
…until the next book comes out!
|…requests further work to move ‘our’ combined thinking further.|
…the funny (or sad?) thing is that there is usually much that could be of value within the guru’s idea…but their choice of presentation conceals the kernel from its true long term potential…and can do much harm.
1. I reckon there’s probably a link between the two columns in this post and the three book types in my previous post.
2. Of course the table represents two extreme ends of a spectrum: A given book is likely to tend towards one end…but may not display every ‘quality’ imagined above…blimey – if it DID then it would either be bloody awful or bloody brilliant!
3. A book that, for me, sits in the left hand column (and sits ‘on the surface’ per the last post) is ‘The Balanced Scorecard’…the ink is drying on a post that explains. Watch this space 🙂