Thomas H. Davenport & Brook Manville

ISBN: 978-1-4221-5811-1

Published by Harvard Business Review Press

266 Pages USD 30.00

This is a powerful book.  Its’ theme is the way in which major organizations – threatening situations can be resolved successfully by mobilising and using the talents of team members, and the staff to a much higher degree than is usual.

The writers have examined the way in which twelve important decisions were taken successfully as the result of a team effort.  Their book is in four parts where they tell in some detail how those decisions were made.

The first part of the book is concerned with increasing participation in the process of making decisions.  They show how it can be improved by going direct to those who are in the closest touch with the issues and the facts rather than the facts being filtered through several higher levels of management becoming distorted and delayed in the process.

 The second part stresses the importance of taking the opportunities of new technology and also the need to cut through commonly held beliefs by thorough and careful analysis.  They show how those beliefs and the causes of poor results must be tested, and can lead to much more effective ways of getting results.

The third part is concerned with the power of the culture of an organization or a society.  They show how that culture can enable organizations to achieve what others believe would be impossible, but they also show how an able leader can use this culture.  One example is drawn from ancient history and the ability of Athens, a tiny state in 5th Century BC, to stand against a vastly more powerful Persian Empire.  They do not however mention that a strong and widely held culture under a strong leader can be used for evil purposes and eventually lead to disaster as happened in Europe under National Socialism.

Their fourth part is concerned with the importance of leaders setting the right context and shaping the way members think issues and of exploring the way the organization works and how it works better.  As in the other parts they back up their views with examples.

I have read many books on managing major changes in business – this is the best by far.

Those who have the opportunity to re-shape any organization of any size, the way it works and develops, and the way people lead and can be led more effectively will find great ideas and encouragement.  It is worth regular reading and re-reading.

 John Pope

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