Sunday, October 26, 2008

Stop Reading Management Books

Stop reading management books
At least that is the message that first came to me as I was reading Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense by Jeffery Pfeffer & Robery I. Sutton.

Of course that is not the purpose of the book. It puts forward yet another 'paradigm' - Evidence Based Management. But read through the book and you will see management myths exploding.

The premises of Hard Facts ... is quite simple - every best practice is context based. It is necessary to study the context before application. Use commonsense. But do you think management best seller would say this.

Hard fact ... discusses some well-known management practices in a very balanced manner. The positives and the negatives are discussed and then the authors offer their understanding.

Here are some of the excerpts from the book ... I bet the first thing you would do after reading the excerpts is to buy the book.

The excerpts ...

"Take incentives, the cornerstone of so many celebrated management practices. Do you always need money and other bribes to get people to act the right way? Are people who get more of these goodies always the best human beings? These two beliefs are rarely questioned when applied to work settings."

"... for most jobs in most organizations, assessing talent and ability is fraught with error and bias. Most dimensions of work performance are not as objective as how well someone can pitch, hit a ball, or throw a discuss."

"Variable Pay = Pay Dispersion = Lower Performance"

"Attributing Intel's success to its own strategic decisions is, however, partly incorrect. ... Intel was given the chance to move into microprocessors largely as a result of a strategic decision by IBM to outsource the manufacture of microprocessors for IBM PC, a lucky break that Intel was smart enough to capitalize on but that had little to do with any planning, rational analysis, or strategy formation by Intel's senior team."

By the way, the authors are professors at Stanford. They also authored The Knowing-Doing Gap.

Note: This is the second time I am using A. Kratzenberg's picture. See the gallery for more photographs.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Anonymous said...


I felt the same way as you, when I red "Hard Facts". It's true that managers ignore the science of business at their folly; but it's also true that it's hard for practitioners to know all the latest that the various organizational sciences have to offer (e.g. Organizational Psychology, All the engineerings; Finance, Computer Science). It's just too much for one pragmatic manager to know. The good news is that, as long as they're humble and respect uncertainty, they can tap into employees with this expertise, consultants, or use the scientific method in their own operation (e.g. Lean Six Sigma) to harvest knowledge.

Matt "Bengali-in-training" Barney

Amitabh Mukherjee said...

Wow Matt!
Your greeting just blew me away.
I am pleased you agree. Thanks for the comment.
I visited your blog. I have a lot to learn!

My Library