Book Review: Managing

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Mintzberg, Henry. Managing. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009.

Henry Mintzberg’s first book, The Nature of Managerial Work, was assigned reading for MBA students at Indiana Univ. in the 1970’s. Mintzberg observed five senior managers for a week and described the true practice of management. At the time, Mintzberg concluded that managers worked long hours at a demanding pace. The work was fragmented and varied with little pattern. Interruptions were continuous. Managers preferred verbal communication over written reports and relationships with peers, clients and associates were critical to success.

Thirty years later, Mintzberg revisited the subject of managerial work, this time observing 29 managers for a day. In Managing, he reports that little has changed. Managers work at a hectic pace in an environment that is often chaotic. The work is fragmented and discontinuous, with frequent interruptions. Managers tend to be action-oriented, high-energy people, who respond to situations more than initiate them. Even at the senior management level, the manager is not sitting at a desk, planning strategy and envisioning the future. Managing is “one damn thing after another.”

According to Mintzberg, the practice of management cannot be taught. Managers learn primarily through their own efforts and through experience on the job. Success depends on the context — company, the culture, the industry, the job level, the work itself. A successful manager is an emotionally healthy person with good judgment in the right job.

The newly published Managing is far easier and more enjoyable to read than his earlier work. I might have been a better student (and manager) if this book had been published in the 70’s.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.


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