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Management stripped bare – review

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Title: Management stripped bare
Author: Jo Owen
Publisher: Kogan Page Limited 2002
ISBN 0 7494 3697 2
Price: £14.99

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Jo Owen starts out by proposing to not offer the reader a grand theory of management. In doing so he takes the reader through the very material that they not only don’t teach you at business school but can’t teach you – common sense borne out of experience.

Owen takes an A-Z approach to dissecting a wide range of management topics in a refreshingly down-to-earth way. With twenty years experience of organisations running from AIG to ZFS his exposure to the blue chip brigade shines through. So, plenty of observations on headhunters, multinationals, expatriates and consultants but that’s not at the expense of more universal topics such as committees, meetings, the art of reading and writing skills. The resultant unevenness is perhaps predictable – there’s always going to be particular topics that an individual will identify with more than others. Yet Owen makes unfamiliar areas interesting whilst making valued contributions to well-worn topics (the section on meetings deserves the widest audience).

Each topic is tackled in no more than a couple of pages, making it ideal to dip into rather than read straight through. That was certainly the case in my office as the review copy became well thumbed by managers looking up their particular pet hate before walking away, muttering "he’s absolutely right…".

The danger with this kind of book is that the author can give in to cynicism. Given that management theory is such a bloated target such an approach would be more than understandable. But Owen strikes a balance – it’s not anti-management or indeed anti management-school. Inside many theories and fads there’s a kernel of practicality waiting to get out – and Owen’s great at shelling through to find it.

Although the ‘what they don’t teach you at business school’ approach isn’t new, it’s a tale worth re-telling – especially as so many managers are seemingly reluctant to take such a message on board.

Business schools seem loath to lecture on common sense. After all, if management were that easy, why have business schools? Owen goes someway towards addressing the vagaries of management and this book is a valuable counterpoint to any ‘required reading’ list.

If all managers followed his advice from the summary – “ do not trust or follow one simplistic management theory” – we may spend more time and energy applying common sense and concern ourselves less about the Next Big Thing. With a decreasing market for drivel, fewer professors and consultants would write overarching theory books and I’d have fewer books to review. But if the remainder were as enjoyable and provoking as Owen’s, I wouldn’t be complaining.

Simon H Johnson
Liaison Manager
Babington Business College

Website - www.babington.co.uk
E-mail – [email protected]

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