By Henry Mintzberg (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, $27.95)
This is another jewel from the independent folks at Berrett-Koehler. I admit a hometown bias toward their catalog, but when they can get Henry Mintzberg to write for them that's a good sign in two ways: One, they are attracting brilliant authors; and two, some treats are in store for us.
Though you needn't go back and read Mintzberg's other award-winning works such as The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning (Free Press, 1994), The Nature of Managerial Work (Addison-Wesley, 1973), and his Harvard Business Review pieces prior to picking this one up, it wouldn't hurt. His main assertion here is that there is a built-in overemphasis in business school curricula upon management of a business as a science, when in fact there is more art and craft required for working with people and other resources to achieve desired goals.
No doubt you have found yourself in a project or two where someone with an MBA was in a position of influence and you soon concluded that the individual was incapable of managing his or her way out of a paper bag. In my experience the management skill on display is often in inverse proportion to the prestige level of the business school involved, with all due respect to the challenges and rigor of the school in question.
Mintzberg calls for a new approach, asserting that the wrong people are being trained in the wrong ways, leading to several sets of wrong consequences. It is my hope that deans of the major business schools will read Chapter 9, "Developing Management Education," preferably aloud and together, and that practicing managers will do the same with Chapter 12, "Learning on the Job." Had Mintzberg quit writing after completing only these two extraordinary sections of the book, he would deserve a major book award and the accolades that come with it. When you add in the rest, what you have is easily the greatest work on the studies and practices of management and the development of managers ever written. —S.C.