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.

Waite, Rob. Lost Art of General Management. Louisville, Kentucky: Rob Waite, 2007. Buy from

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