UK: A welcome return to reality IN MANAGEMENT.

UK: A welcome return to reality IN MANAGEMENT. - "Managing Today and Tomorrow" by Rosemary Stewart; Macmillan; 206pp; £20.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

"Managing Today and Tomorrow" by Rosemary Stewart; Macmillan; 206pp; £20.

Review by Rob Goffee.

Rosemary Stewart has written extensively about the theory and practice of management and organisation. Her best known book, The Reality of Management, was published some 30 years ago. Managing Today and Tomorrow is intended as its successor - a revised edition being impossible given the scale of change that's happened since.

The purpose of the book can be simply summarised. It is to consider the ways in which managing is always similar, the ways in which it differs and the ways in which it is changing. As Stewart herself points out, a lot of books look at the first and last of these; few consider all three. But this is only one respect in which Managing Today and Tomorrow differs from the host of "management guides" available.

Although the book is "written for managers", Stewart never makes the mistake of underestimating her readers. She avoids offering "step-by-step solutions" and simplistic panaceas. It's a pity that more management experts don't do the same when they commit themselves to print. But then, I suppose, the airport business bookshelves would be empty.

It's because Stewart treats managers as adults that her book, although intended for practitioners, is likely to appeal to students as well. Certainly, she covers a lot of ground in a relatively short space. Part One considers the common, basic aspects of management, beginning with the manager's job. This is an area in which Stewart has made her own distinctive research contribution. Her model of managerial job demands is full of insight, and will encourage managers to think about their jobs more strategically.

The job is then placed within a wider, interpersonal and organisational context. Here perhaps, the coverage becomes a little too ambitious. A short chapter on Managing Other People, for example, attempts to take in motivation, style, leadership, teams and political behaviour in less than 20 pages. My own experience with executives on management development programmes suggests that every one of these areas is becoming increasingly important within the work organisation. A pity, then, that more space is not given to each.

Part Two examines some often neglected differences in management - relating to function, position in the hierarchy, job complexity, work relationships, time pressures, and so on. Stewart reminds us (usefully) that so-called "general managers" may be more specialised than they realise.

Managerial jobs also differ in their relationships with stakeholders, employees, customers, finance providers, etc. The differences are all the more pronounced when comparison is extended to, for example, business, public sector and voluntary organisations. Finally there are national differences - which paradoxically become increasingly significant as businesses (as well as jobs and careers) become more international. As managerial mobility increases, sensitivity to such differences needs to be sharper.

The final part of the book explores changes - at both organisational and personal levels. The former includes restructuring processes, employment patterns and shifts in the labour market; the latter takes in evolving career orientations and the balance between work and private life.

Managing Today and Tomorrow is a well organised, well informed and concise review of contemporary management issues. It provides a fair and balanced summary of what we know. This may make it a less exciting read than the works of some better known management gurus. Which is a pity because (to quote the original title), Stewart is closer to The Reality of Management than they will ever be.

Rob Goffee is associate professor or Organisational Behaviour at London Business School.

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