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WSJ Essential Guide to Management builds management skills on the cheap – a review

by Mark P. McDonald  |  September 16, 2010  |  Comments Off on WSJ Essential Guide to Management builds management skills on the cheap – a review

Building business skills in IT is a consistent requirement for CIOs and IT leaders.  The term business skills is broad ranging including specifics about your company as well as broader management concepts that shape the executive discussion.  The challenge is one of time and money, as you cannot afford to send IT teams to get an MBA, but you need them to have a better understanding of the way of thinking and language used by management. One answer is to provide them with inexpensive and informative support about the principles, terms and ways of thinking.

The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide to Management is part management overview, personal commentary and case study. The book written by Alan Murray offers an introductory review of key elements of management, leadership, strategy and execution. It is a Management 101 book written in a well paced and easy to read format.  Recommended for those who are new to management or you want to have your team come up to speed with management and executive ideas and terms, then this book is recommended.

This is a primer for people about the major ideas and themes in management. Murray does a good job of going through a combination of thinkers like Porter, Pfeiffer and executives like Bossidy and others to give a landscape overview of the practice.

Murray incorporates stories that help illustrate major ideas and concepts. Students of management will recognize just about all of the stories and some are presented in a rather simplistic but effective way for a first time reader. The book also has a logical order and do cover the essentials of management in the following chapters:

  • Chapter 1 Management
  • Chapter 2 Leadership
  • Chapter 3 Motivation
  • Chapter 4 People
  • Chapter 5 Strategy
  • Chapter 6 Execution
  • Chapter 7 Team
  • Chapter 8 Change
  • Chapter 9 Financial Literacy
  • Chapter 10 Going Global
  • Chapter 11 Ethics
  • Chapter 12 Managing Yourself

The book is challenged in a few areas. The book gives you the impression that technology has little to no role in management  – except as the source of a stock market crash. Given the role of technology in shaping strategy, competition and our future, this is a serious omission. The ideas and strategies in the book are comprehensive up to about the mid 1990’s. While Murray does mention Blue Ocean Strategy and some other more recent thinking, the book largely concentrates on the classical view of strategy rather than the new strategies that are shaping current leadership plans and thinking. A final weakness is Murray’s occasional editorial asides that sometimes muddle the messages.

I recommend as a general introduction (management 101) book to give to people who are interested in coming up to speed on management and strategy. Murray does a good job presenting these materials in an accessible, understandable and helpful way that explains ideas without trivializing them.

It can be a quick and easy way for your teams to come up to speed on ideas that the business bandies about all the time, but you are reluctant to ask what they mean. Reading this book will enable your people to ask follow-up questions and engage the business using a common information and vocabulary.

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Category: book-review  change-on-the-cheap  leadership  strategy  

Tags: business  business-strategy  management  

Mark McDonald
VP Analyst
12 years at Gartner
33 years IT Industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program. Read Full Bio

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