Mintzberg on Management

Our board member David Creelman has written a commentary on Henry Mintzberg’s new book, Managing.  You can find David’s discussion of this book here.  Dr. Mintzberg is a professor at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montreal and a frequent contributor to publications like the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, etc.

David’s comment about the book below really rang a bell for me.  How about the rest of you managers out there?

The crazy world of the manager doing twenty things at once, working off-the-cuff in a situation only half understood is not a flawed system—that’s what management is.

3 thoughts on “Mintzberg on Management

  1. Fine (and fun) perspective here.

    The inverse relationship between knowledge and power — that the further up the management ranks you go, the less you actually know about what’s really going on — is always a source of amusement. But does it really have to be such a conundrum?

    The best (perhaps only) antidote, besides having one’s ego surgically removed, is to get out and talk with customers — a lot.

    The most effective bosses I’ve ever had were the ones who were managed outward largely by listening — to front-line, real people using our products, not just the execs who authorized P.O.s — and brought back what they learned to unsettle the rest of us in the home office.

  2. Mark – thanks for the comment. I think the inverse relationship between knowledge and power may still hold true when it comes to managing people whose technical or functional expertise exceeds your own – a common phenomenon as your responsibilities expand as a manager.

    I’m in full agreement with your recommendation that managers seek understanding of their customers’ points of view. Managers can become rooted in cognitive biases about what customers want that were formed at earlier stages of their careers. By talking to customers directly (ideally) and indirectly (through customer research) managers and organizations are more likely to be successful.

  3. Ah Listening and Leadership!
    How is it done?

    In my 29 years of offering and receiving approaches to this vital area of personal and professional development, here’s what I might offer as a “quick snap shot” to encourage all of us to practice.

    1. The first type of listening is simply “being there” in person, with some eye contact, some nodding, some facial expression that says “yes, I get what you are saying – I’m taking it in without judging you one iota.

    2. The second type of listening reflects back to the listener a respect for clarity and understanding in a tone of voice that is not condescending at all – rather plain and compassionate:
    “I can see how you might feel frustrated, you’re needing to understand why the CEO said that in front of the board and then said the other comments to us here yesterday.” “I’m taking it that you’re wanting some consistency and respect, both for yourself and your team.”

    3. The third type of listening is patient … wait for it … wait for it … shift.
    The pause in the momentum of speaking that gives an “opening to problem solving”.
    This is for me the great artful moment of “leadership” – to lead a person to the expansiveness of possibility. This third type of listening is to the “unspoken moment of “now what?” They now DO feel heard and understood and respected AND now they are ready for suggestions.

    “Is this a good time for me to offer some ideas that you might want to consider?”

    Once you trust the affirmative response, you may begin to offer suggestions.

    Does this make sense?

    Let me know what happens.


    Rob Kanzer
    Life and Business Coach

    Call my cell anytime
    (617) 491-8939 (Greater Boston and North)

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