The Management Myth (Matthew Stewart)

The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting It Wrong: Matthew Stewart

In this book, the author, Matthew Stewart, interlaces accounts of his life as a consultant with a critique of current consultant and management thought. His overall view is that consultants and management thinkers have made business, management and leadership thought too complex. In the book he gives some simplified views on management.

Critique of Consulting

  1. Consultants all play the whale game, reeling in big clients by promoting the Pareto 80 – 20 rule (80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers) and promoting their unique tools to measure and analyze the golden 20% and better service them
  2. Consultants are overwhelming in their pursuit of measuring and analyzing
    1. The consultant’s motto might be: “If you cannot manage it, measure it.”
    2. However, pure analysis tends to be conservative rather than creative.
      1. It implicitly favors optimizing the existing business rather than building a new one.
      2. It is biased toward shrinking the business, for the simple reason that figuring out how to cut costs is easier than thinking up new ways to generate revenue.


Critique of Management Gurus

  1. Analyze all the management gurus and you generally have the same story line:
    1. The world is as bad and difficult as it has ever been
    2. Bureaucracy is killing us
    3. There is hope
    4. Each of you have the power to make changes
    5. Look at what I (the guru) have done to make a change
  2. Consider for a moment the popularity of the management gurus and their success ratio in transforming people and their organizations. It is easy to conclude that they are not being successful, except for themselves


Vision of Competitive Advantage

  1. For years, business leaders have used Michael Porter’s five forces as a tool to understand their competitive position and seek competitive advantage
    1. The Five Forces Model has merit
  2. But, companies should go further and seek out ways to avoid a competitive disadvantage. That is to say:
    1. Avoid mistakes
    2. Get the fundamentals right
    3. Make sure everything and everyone is in line.


Vision of Business Strategy

  1. Strategic thought requires that you always keep an eye on the big picture
  2. Strategic process
    1. Establish objectives
    2. Estimate the gap between the current position of the firm and the objectives
    3. Propose one or more courses of action (strategies)
    4. Test for the gap-reducing properties of the strategy
    5. Follow the strategy
    6. See if it closes the gap
    7. If it does not, try a new strategy
  3. In short, just think very carefully about what you want to do; then do it
  4. As above, you want to focus on competitive advantage. To take one step further, this can mean to focus on not going where you have a competitive disadvantage


What Makes a Good Manager?

  1. Ability to analyze situations
  2. Great talent at synthesis with an eye for both the details and for the one big thing that really matters
    1. Finding simplicity among all the complexity
  3. Able to reflect on facts in an unbiased way
  4. Always dissatisfied with pat answers and the conventional wisdom
  5. Has a wide knowledge of the world
  6. Has an even better knowledge of the way people work
  7. Someone who treats people with respect
  8. Someone with honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, and the other things that make up character
  9. Someone who understands oneself and the world around us well enough to know how to make it better
  10. In short, a good manager is nothing more or less than a good and well educated person.


Other Thoughts

  1. Many people work much harder than they need to. Would we all get much more done if we stopped working all the time?
  2. Being a top manager is all about taking responsibility for the results of your organization
    1. As Peter Drucker said: “the man who stresses his downward authority is a subordinate no matter how exalted his title and rank. But, the man who takes responsibility for results, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the phrase, ‘top management'”.


About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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