We really need to change how we improve the practice of management. Far too often management strategies are just the latest fad from some new book that successfully marketed an idea. The marketing effectiveness of a book, or consultant, has very limited correlation to their ability to improve management, in my experience. It is often true that they make very good keynote speakers, however. So if you want an entertaining keynote speaker looking at the authors of the best selling business books may make sense. But if you want to improve management, I don’t see much value in doing so.
Year after year we have the same basic business books repackaged and marketed. They present a magic bullet to solve all your problems. Except their bullet is far from magic. Usually it does more harm than good.
They amazingly oversimplify things to make their bullet seem magic. This also fails miserably in practice. There are usually not good management options that are simple and easy. Usually the answers for what should be done is a lot of “it depends,” which people don’t seem to like.
Authors fail to place their book (or their trademarked strategy they hope turns into a movement/fad) in the appropriate context. Most books just take a few good ideas from decades old practices add a new name and leave off all references to the deep meaning that originally was there. I guess quite often the authors don’t even know enough about management history to know this is the case; I guess they really think their minor tweak to a portion of business process re-engineering is actually new. This also would make it hard for them to place their ideas within a management philosophy.
On a related note, I find it interesting how different the lean manufacturing and six sigma communities are online (and this has been going on for more than a decade). One of the problems with six sigma is there is so little open, building on the practices of six sigma. Everyone is so concerned with their marketing gimmick for six sigma that that don’t move forward a common body of work. This is a serious problem for six sigma. Lean manufacturing benefits hugely from the huge community of those building openly on the body of knowledge and practice of lean. You can find 10 great lean manufacturing blogs without trouble. You will have difficulty finding 3 good six sigma blogs (and even those spend most of the time on other areas – often lean thinking).
Books would be much better off building on existing management thought, for example: lean manufacturing, Deming, six sigma or agile software development. Their are huge benefits to be made by doing this. All of those have room for plenty of others to contribute.
Yes, I believe the benefit to managers will be from those participating with a community instead of trying to stake their claim to new land. But frankly for every one book that actually provides new ideas (say Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma) we have many years of not a single book that attempts to be the new new thing that is of any value. Thankfully in the last few years there have been quite a few great books building on lean thinking.
If you are an author, please build on some of these strong management philosophies. I know your marketers want you to differentiate yourself. I know it is hard to actually build up your knowledge of some long practiced management philosophy. It is easier to find the latest boom and write (and market) how this new idea is the key that changes everything. But it is harming the practice of management that so much effort is put into marketing the new new thing and so little into actually improving the practice of management.
Also, if you are writing an article, don’t do it for a closed journal – publish openly.