In Book Review, Management on May 22, 2013 at 10:47 am
The Lost Art of General Management
by Rob Waite
In The Lost Art of General Management, Rob Waite shares practical insights from his career as a hands-on general manager for various building materials manufacturers in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and Europe. Like a good executive communicator, he gets straight to the point.
Waite contends today’s managers have become functionally myopic. A general manager needs to take a broader view, while understanding how the company makes its money and how its customers make money.
The book covers a range of management topics including financial analysis, marketing, crisis management, and managing people. The importance of communication is stressed, as are honesty and integrity: “If people don’t trust you, how can you lead?”
Waite prefers the term number munching rather than number crunching. Munching implies a more nuanced exercise, “digesting the numbers and looking for hidden messages.”
The author includes many “real world stories.” One story is about his assignment to manage an unprofitable joint venture in England. His board thought the unit was performing poorly due to bad implementation of their strategy, but he determined the strategy itself was flawed. The business was a mediocre competitor in too many market segments. He convinced them to focus on excelling at one. “We actually proposed shrinking the top line to grow the bottom line.” It worked, and the JV became profitable within three months of making the change. They later expanded into the other segments through acquisitions.
In Book Review, Management on May 15, 2013 at 5:00 pm
How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything…in Business (and in Life)
by Dov Seidman
The book is about ethics and reputation, value-based cultures vs. rule-based cultures, and as the author likes to say, “getting your hows right.” There are some valuable messages in the book.
For example, the University of Michigan Hospital and Health System experienced a 50% reduction in malpractice lawsuits after encouraging doctors to apologize to patients and admit when mistakes are made. The author also cites an academic study which found “the least trusted buyer incurred procurement costs six times higher than the most trusted.” These examples are powerful evidence that behaving responsibly is good for the bottom line.
This book would have much more impact if it was distilled to half its length. An important message is buried by painfully verbose writing. I read the first edition, published in 2007. There’s a newer 384-page “Expanded Edition” published in 2011. I am reminded of the expression, “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time.”
In Book Review, General on May 14, 2013 at 10:57 am
The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need
by Daniel. H. Pink
The Adventures of Johnny Bunko is a short graphic novel about a young accountant who hates his job. In the story, a supernatural career advisor presents six guiding principles:
- There is no plan.
- Think strengths, not weaknesses.
- It’s not about you.
- Persistence trumps talent.
- Make excellent mistakes.
- Leave an imprint.
“The key to success is to steer around your weaknesses and focus on your strengths. Successful people don’t try too hard to improve what they’re bad at. They capitalize on what they’re good at.”
“It’s about your customer. It’s about your client. Use your strengths, yes. But remember… you’re here to serve–not to self-actualize… The most successful people improve their own lives by improving others’ lives. They help their customer solve its problem. They give their client something it didn’t know it was missing. That’s where they focus their energy, talent, and brainpower… The most valuable people in any job bring out the best in others. They make their boss look good. They help their teammates succeed.”
An excellent mistake is defined as one in which the benefits of what you’ve learned exceed the costs of the screw-up.
This is excellent advice for people starting their careers, but the subtitle is overstated.