The Future of Management by Gary Hamel and Bill Breen

The Gary Hamel fan club is disappointed. I have been sucking up every word of Gary since I first heard him in 1991. Peter Day interviewed Gary about the book on BBC GlobalBiz some weeks ago. My expectations on the new book rose even more. But now I think that the podcast was better and I am still trying to figure out what happened.

A lot of critics have been castigating Hamel for being so positive to Enron in ”Leading the Revolution”. I thought that was a ggod book, although it at parts seemed to be written by his associates rather than by himself. The book introduced a new concept for business planning, which I still think is great. And who could foresee that behind the slitzy facade of Enron were such devious fraudsters?

This book has been written ”with Bill Breen”, which I guess that Bill did most of the writing. Bill is a former editor at Fast Company. At times the books reads more like an extended FC article than a book coauthored by Hamel. Some critics say that after the Enron ”fiasco” Hamel does not dare to be as prescriptive again. The book is full of questions for the manager to consider himself.

I do think that we need to see a change in management from old-fashioned command and control to something else. Partly because of the knowledge economy, but also new generations grow up in a more open and democratic society they will not accept autocratic management.

Hamel and Breen make a fairly good case for the need for change. They then roll out ”the usual suspects”, Google, Semco and Gore to prove that new forms of management do exist. As little has been written about Gore I lapped up all about them.

They give the reason for change, they give us the exemplary cases and all the questions for the manager to think about hid/her own company. It is a bit like paint by numbers. Here are the tubs of paint, these are some ready pictures, fill in the gaps yourself.

I doubt that we are likely to see radical management innovation in the large traditional industries. There are umpteen difficulties in the transition and at least as many excuses for not making any significant change. But the book did get me thinking about how the transition might be made and I will share my thoughts in this blog.

My rating:
3 stars

One of the most important strategy books of the decade

”The Strategy Paradox” is one of the most interesting books on strategy for about 10 years. I have worked with strategy and planning issues in a managerial role with large international companies and as a consultant. I plow through reams of books every year. Most of them disappointing with the occasional nugget hidden in an overflow of business speak muzak. Many have tales about how the CEO made an early commitment to what turned out to be a successful strategy. Rarely a word about the corpses, of failed commitments, in the ditches along the road.

In ”The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning” Mintzberg virtually demolished the concept of strategic planning, stating that strategic thought, does not necessarily occur in a planning process. He also stated that most CEO stories on how they and their company successfully achieved their strategies are flawed as they are written with hindsight and does not show how strategic thought developed.

Raynors book ain’t your standard recipe book on how to create instant strategies. For those who seek instant gratification on how to find the great strategy and how to commit and persevere, this is not the right book.

Edison is quoted as saying “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls, and looks like work.”. Unfortunately he is right. Raynors main point is how to cope with uncertainty and the multitude of possible outcomes. Instead of stubbornly committing to one set of strategies, win or lose, he suggests working more by handling a portfolio of strategic options.

After Shell’s success with scenario planning in the 70’s many have tried to emulate the method. Several failed as they picked the scenario that they liked best and did not bother about the rest. Raynor positions options theory as what to do when you have done the scenarios. Shell used scenarios to build general awareness among managers about multiple future directions. Raynor suggests building strategies around each scenario and treating them as options to “cash in”, as appropriate futures emerges.

I often think that “uncertainty” seems like a dirty word in our hero worship, macho, management culture. Strong commitment and focus on “execution” is what counts. Raynor suggests that the higher corporate management have to cope with uncertainty in time perspectives of 5-20 years. It is their job to make sure that the company is viable in that time frame.

Handling long time uncertainty does in no way clash with commitment in time frames shorter than 3-5 years. Raynor points out that if each level in the organization does their work, then divisions and operational units will have more flexibility in how to succeed with their commitments than if corporate HQ keep detailed control all the time.

Raynor attempts to move “uncertainty” from something abhorrent to being what corporate management actually should be working with. He gives a framework for how to position useful methods in doing this. His book is definitely one of my best reads for a long time.

My rating:
5 stars

Harnessing your networks

Just back from listening to Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, author of many books on networking. He says that his advice is all common sense, but unfortunately common sense in uncommon in reality. His advice:

  • Diversify your networks. Belong to and participate in several different kinds of networks, both professional and private. We usually cluster with people who are like ourselves, reducing our outreach. If we only start conversing with people who we believe will contribute with new business, we will not get much.
  • Determine your contact spheres. Which clusters do you move in? Make yourself a systematic overview.
  • Discover incentives for giving you referrals. Find and maintain touch points – how do you stay in contact with people you know, keep in touch, thank for referrals …
  • Work your network. Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and six degrees of separation are all urban myths. Of the successful degrees of separation experiments people got in touch through 4-5 intermediaries. But over 70% never got in contact. The difference lies in how we work on and maintain our networks.
  • Developing relations. Networking is more about farming than hunting. It is not what you know. It is not who you know. It is about how you know them. The relation moves through three steps: Visibility -> Credibility ->Profitability. You would probably never give your house key to a total stranger. Neither would you hand the key to one of your most important customers to a stranger. It is all about trust.

Can’t wait to get his books!