Posts Tagged ‘Management’

Book Review: The Lords of Strategy

Monday, February 27th, 2012

image courtesy

Kiechel, Walter. The lords of strategy : the secret intellectual history of the new corporate world. Harvard Business Press, 2010.

Our guest reviewer today is Fuqua faculty member Peter Regan, who teaches Decision Models in the Duke MBA Cross Continent Program.  In addition to teaching at Duke, Dartmouth and Cornell, Prof. Regan has worked in biotech, financial services, and consulting firms, and founded his own consulting and technology firm in 1995.

Kiechel surveys the history of strategy based on his years as editor of Fortune and Harvard Business Publishing. The book has the “knew them at the time” feel that Peter Bernstein has about finance in his book, Capital Ideas Evolving.

The story lays out the rise of strategy at BCG, its offshoot Bain, McKinsey, and Michael Porter’s rise at Harvard Business School. The book then follows various tributaries as the strategy marketplace matures amid the growing competition accompanying globalization.

I particularly appreciate the attention given to the “strategy as position” school exemplified by Porter’s Competitive Advantage versus the “strategy as people” school exemplified by Peters and Waterman’s In Search of Excellence.

Keichel borrows from both schools of thought in writing his book. You learn about the major firms and the advantages they have as brands with the ear of executives and the eye of top students. But you also learn about the importance of individuals in developing strategy’s ideas and in guiding the major strategy consulting firms.

Keichel admits a possible Boston-centric criticism and no doubt many will decry various omissions but as a reader I find the lack of encyclopedic coverage to be an asset that keeps the narrative line clear.

The book puts in context my own experiences at a boutique strategy consulting firm and helps me to understand the industry so many of my MBA students aspire to join.

This title is also available as an audiobook.

© Reviewer: Peter Regan & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Strategy from the outside in

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

startegy from the outside in - image courtesy

Day, George S. and Christine Moorman. Strategy from the outside in : profiting from customer value. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2010.

Fuqua faculty member Chris Moorman and co-author George Day argue that, over the long term, the most successful companies focus on creating and keeping their customers. When designing their corporate strategy, the best companies start with the market. All parts of the enterprise are focused on understanding the customer, solving customer problems and seeking out opportunities in the market. Market driven companies work to sustain and improve customer value.

Authors Day and Moorman introduce the concepts of inside-out and outside-in strategies. Many companies employ inside-out strategies, maximizing shareholder value or leveraging competitive advantage. By contrast, the most profitable companies use outside-in strategy, viewing the market through the customer’s eyes. These companies also invest in market intelligence to determine patterns in customer behavior, and to identify market opportunities. They take specific steps to create and reinforce customer value and profitability. These actions distinguish market leaders from ordinary companies and are the focus of the book.

Author Christine Moorman is the T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. Her teaching and research interests include marketing strategy, new products and consumer behavior. For more details, you can visit:

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

Book Reviews: Unconventional Wisdom

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

image courtesy

“It is a little known fact that tea has more caffeine than coffee.” Pound for pound that is true, yet by the brewed cup, coffee has twice the amount of caffeine as tea. So why has this saying been floating around for 30 years? Because it is fun to debunk conventional wisdom.

Three new books in the Ford Library challenge commonly held beliefs about business.

Colvin, Geoffrey. Talent is overrated : what really separates world-class performers from everybody else. Portfolio, 2010. – also in audiobook format

Most people believe that those who are exceptionally talented in fields such as music, chess, sports, public speaking or leadership, have an innate ability, something that they were born with. Yet author Geoff Colvin reports that expert performance is the result of deliberate practice – intense devoted effort for many years, often with a teacher’s help. With focus and concentration over many hours, ordinary people increase their mental capacity or skill level, becoming world class. Employees and organizations can apply the principles of deliberate practice to improve performance at work. This engrossing read was rated as “essential” by Daniel Pink in Drive.


Book Review: Drive

Friday, September 24th, 2010

image courtesy

Pink, Daniel H. Drive : the surprising truth about what motivates us. Riverhead Books, 2009.

Several years ago, in A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink argued that American professions have been dominated by analytical thinkers, but soon these left-brained MBA number crunchers would be replaced by a different kind of worker, the right-brained designer, storyteller and big picture thinker. These new workers would offer a new skill set to their employers — creativity, empathy, joyfulness and meaning.

In his new book, Drive, Pink picks up the related theme of motivation. He argues that the incentive plans used by most organizations do not work. Even worse, there is scientific evidence that money acts as a de-motivator. Pink advises managers to pay people fairly and adequately to take money off the table, but he shows that the most effective reward is intrinsic — performance of the task itself.

Pink describes successful people as hard working and persistent. They possess an internal desire to control their lives, to learn about their world and to accomplish something that endures. They work hard to grow and develop, and to connect to a larger purpose. These workers have higher self-esteem and better interpersonal relationships than those who are extrinsically motivated. Every organization needs to retain and cultivate these creative, problem-solving, big picture people.

This book presents interesting ideas but the treatment is rather surface. In the final pages is a chapter summary, a cocktail party summary, plus a Twitter summary, “Carrots & sticks are so last century”. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery & purpose.

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

Book Review: Managing

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

image courtesy

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.

Resources for Sustainable Development

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

images courtesy

Holliday, Charles O. (“Chad”) Walking the talk : the business case for sustainable development. Greenleaf, 2002.

Kross, Katie. Profession and purpose : a resource guide for MBA careers in sustainability. Greenleaf, 2009.

Seireeni, Richard. The gort cloud : the invisible force powering today’s most visible green brands. Chelsea Green Publishers, 2008.

The authors of these 3 books were the opening Keynote Speaker, Strategy Moderator, and Strategy Panelist at The Duke Conference on Sustainable Business and Social Impact (SBSI), held on February 17, 2010 here at the Fuqua School of Business.

All 3 of the above titles are available for check-out here in Ford Library. Just click a linked title above to request one of the books.

Don’t miss other important titles in Ford Library’s extensive collection of books on sustainable development.

We also encourage Fuqua users to take a look at the “Green Careers” Insider Guide at our affiliate WetFeet Career Resource site. After connecting, click the”Insider Guides” link at the page top, then “Industries & Careers General” at the left.

If you’d like to suggest other books on sustainable development for our collection, please let us know!

Book Review: Supercorp

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

image courtesy

Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. Supercorp : how vanguard companies create innovation, profits, growth, and social good. Crown Business, 2009.

Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter has a response to the greed-is-good argument. Her new book Supercorp shows that in agile and innovative companies, business performance and social good are intimately connected. In vanguard companies, the corporate culture is both high-performing and humanistic, and provides the foundation for sustainable growth, profit and innovation over the long term.

Vanguard companies are successful and prosperous in their own right and use their core business strengths to address significant societal needs. There are numerous examples of this, including IBM’s response to the tsunami in Asia. Social initiatives are usually selected without profit motive but they provide returns by enhancing the innovation process, by providing positive meaning to employees and by building goodwill in the community.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is the author of several ground-breaking and best-selling books, including Men and Women of the Corporation, The Change Masters, and When Giants Learn to Dance.

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

Book Review: How The Mighty Fall

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

image courtesy

Collins, James C. How the mighty fall : and why some companies never give in. Collins Business, 2009.

The author of longtime bestseller Good to Great and co-author of Built to Last, Jim Collins discusses why once-strong companies begin to decline and then die. Using research data from 60 corporations, Collins describes five stages of corporate decline and shows that even the most successful companies are not immune. Interestingly, decline begins long before it become obvious to anyone, even company insiders.

The 5 Stages of Corporate Decline

  • Hubris Born of Success. The first stage of decline begins when company leaders lose sight of the underlying factors that created success in the first place. Instead of creatively renewing the core business, they are distracted by other threats and opportunities.
  • Undisciplined Pursuit of More. In the second stage of decline, management loses discipline and makes leaps into other areas that undermine long-term value. The company grows at a rapid rate. Finding talent for key seats in the organization becomes difficult. The company chokes in pursuit of growth and expansion.
  • Denial of Risk and Peril. Internal warning signs begin to mount but management blames the difficulty on external factors or puts a positive spin on the data.
  • Grasping for Salvation. Decline becomes visible to all. Leadership responds by grasping for a visionary leader or a radical transformation.
  • Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death. In the last stage, management abandons hope of building a great future.

The good news is that companies can recover. Collins’ research indicates that organizational decline is largely self-inflicted and recovery is possible by returning to solid management disciplines.

Eleven companies are profiled, including Circuit City, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Merck, Motorola, Rubbermaid and Zenith, in this interesting and very readable book.

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

Book Review: The Truth About Middle Managers

Monday, August 17th, 2009

images courtesy

Osterman, Paul. The truth about middle managers : who they are, how they work, why they matter. Harvard Business Press, 2008.

In large organizations, senior management sets the strategy — what markets to enter, with whom to merge and how much to invest. Middle managers have little voice regarding strategy, yet they are responsible for interpreting and executing those decisions.

In recent years, corporate restructuring has made middle management careers less secure. Author Paul Osterman from MIT’s Sloan School studied the careers of middle managers to determine what has been happening to middle managers since 2004. He finds that job security in middle management is nonexistent, but the number of middle management positions has increased. The work has gotten more dynamic and managers have more autonomy, keeping morale high despite the lack of job security.

In the end, Osterman concludes that middle managers are committed to their jobs and their immediate colleagues and subordinates, but are critical of their companies and top management. They enjoy what they do and are committed to high quality work. But job paths are unclear and performance is less visible. The criteria for judging who gets ahead are confused. In conclusion, middle managers are loyal to their professions but alienated from the organizations that employ them.

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

Book Review: The Management Gurus

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

images courtesy

Lauer, Chris. The management gurus : lessons from the best management books of all time. Portfolio, 2008.

The senior editor of Soundview Executive Book Summaries compiled 10 to 20 page summaries from 15 management books, half of which were best-sellers in their time. Every valuable book does not become a best seller, yet this reviewer would argue that the books selected for this volume are not the best management books of all time. For example, Topgrading, a book about filling every position in an organization with an A-Player, is not A-list material. And it is odd that the best management books of all time would be largely written since 2005.

The author-gurus included in this volume are well respected writers, educators, executive coaches and consultants. It is interesting to see what authors were selected as “management gurus” and even more interesting to see what authors were not. Charles Handy, Warren Bennis and Don Tapscott are included. Peter Drucker, Michael Porter, Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Tom Peters are not. Surely any serious book on management thinking would include the latter set.

The book summaries included in this volume:

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