"Smart Moves - Successful Strategies and Tactics for Career Management" by Godfrey Golzen and Andrew Garner (Blackwell, 220 pages, £15.00).
Review by Cary L Cooper.
The authors of this very readable and informative book suggest that executives who make it to the top do not get there by being in the right place at the right time. On the contrary, "what appears to be luck is actually the knack of seeking out appropriate corporate settings for different stages of their careers". The authors' aim is not to produce a manual on "how to get to the top in five easy lessons". Rather it is to help managers plan their career paths without reliance on corporate patronage.
It is certainly true that the old certainties and assumptions of organisational life have vanished under the competitive pressures of our times. The careers of managers are much more vulnerable than in the past, when the corporate motto was to "advance the best" and "promote the good to their proper levels in the hierarchy". This book encourages executives to assess themselves and their organisational cultures, and to evaluate the fit.
The first chapter establishes the context, suggesting that the shift in organisational style from the paternalistic environment means that executives have to manage and develop their own career futures. Chapter two explores some old myths about careers and their current realities. One old myth has it that "growth areas of the economy, or those with skill shortages, are the ones that you can't go wrong with". The new reality is that changes are happening faster.
Chapter three encourages the reader to address his or her own "personal culture" - in other words, how to assess your own personal balance sheet of assets and liabilities. This is followed by a chapter which explores "what drives people to make career decisions about moving on or staying". Here the authors highlight the various quests for autonomy, stability, entrepreneurship, specialisation, and so on. Continuing the theme of self-awareness and career planning, they follow through with an evaluation of various critical points in a manager's life - the roaring 20s, 30-something, "45-55 is a dangerous age", after 55 (or grey power).
The point being here is that "smart moves are those that successfully identify appropriate organisational settings and career choices and align them with lifetime development". This section, which deals with personal considerations in assessing career futures, concludes with an exploration of the characteristics associated with successful top management. So a smart move is to ensure that you possess enough of those characteristics, and choose an organisation which allows you to express them.