The good business book guide
Robert Heller reviews the latest business books
Giant Killers: 34 Cutting Edge Management Strategies from the World's Leading High-tech Companies
by Geoffrey James
Orion Business Books £20
Management theories have generally preceded practice. Today this is changing. There has been a great theoretical shift that has developed independently from, but in parallel with, enormously successful practice in one industry: microelectronics. Geoffrey James aptly summarises the shift: 'Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield; the corporation is a community, not a machine; management is service, not control; employees are peers, not children; motivate with vision, not fear; change is growth, not pain.' His case studies of huge successes probably don't require the usual health warning - that excellent results may not truly reflect excellent management which can serve as a model for others. Electronics perforce responded early to pressures that have become universal. The speeding-up of change everywhere demands management that is anti-corpocratic, freestyle, collegiate, fast-moving, people-based and change-driven. The book's lucidly expounded lessons are for everybody.
Weinstock: The Life and Times of Britain's Premier Industrialist
by Alex Brummer & Roger Cowe
This first-class portrait sets in context Arnold Weinstock's fascinating rise from Stoke Newington orphan to industrial overlord. In the 1960s, Weinstock brilliantly showed backward managements the way forward, merging and managing GEC, AEI and English Electric by novel, forceful means. Thereafter, the authors argue, while his methods still spawned expansion, cash and profits, Weinstock's dominating management style, very far from people-based, became obsolescent in a world of under-exploited growth opportunities.
The master 'must be judged to have achieved great things in his early career but to have allowed these achievements to wither'. A harsh verdict on a wonderful career: but for other top managers, this is a cautionary tale.
The Power Principle: Influence with Honour
by Blaine Lee
Simon & Schuster $25
Power is basic to management. Managers can consequently learn some truths from this odd book, which argues for 'principle-centred power', based on 'honour', as opposed to power based on coercion or wheeling and dealing.
Today's management consensus certainly calls for 'persuasion, patience, gentleness, teachability, acceptance, kindness, knowledge, discipline, consistency, integrity'. But it's hard work extracting useful 'how to' advice from this overlong self-help text, built too much round the author's personal and family experiences.