Robert Wingfield - Management Book Reviews

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Curation (Michael Bhaskar)

The Art of IT Management cover ‘Curation’ is the ‘filtered presentation of data’, the art of a skilled practitioner providing value to the viewer by presenting a selective subset from a myriad of options.
The sheer volume of material available in advanced societies gives us a bewildering choice. We live in a world of over-production, from the myriad of almost identical offerings by Amazon to the deluge of inane babblings on Twitter. We are swamped with information.
The ‘curator’ steps in and tries to make sense of this: presenting less, and thus allowing us better choices. Our most familiar instance is a museum, showing a selection of the total inventory, but curation happens everywhere, from the book website that filters their readers a selection of the best novels, to you, ‘unfollowing’ Facebook friends who post nothing but inspirational claptrap and food pictures.
There are many examples and observations of curation in the book, the author himself becoming a curator, presenting his extensive research in a fascinating study.
You will not find any specific management techniques here, but for general awareness of the problems of choice facing everyone, it is second to none. It may even help you make better sense of your life.

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The Art of IT Management (Robina Chatham)

The Art of IT Management cover There are many books on different components of management, but what if you could have them all concisely in a single volume? ‘Impossible,’ you might say: but be amazed. ‘The Art of IT Management’ covers every aspect the new manager needs to hit the working atmosphere with all engines firing, right from the start summarising the agreed essential characteristics of a good all-round manager.
Each of the chapters covers a different aspect of management, opening by saying why this particular aspect is important, briefly expanding on the subject and then providing practical tips to tackle the matter successfully. There are adequate case studies, and every facet of management is reasoned and covered logically. You will find straightforward quadrant diagrams and a neat process for quantifying a health check on your department: one which alone makes the book worth buying.
Finally, there is an appendix to guide you through the first 90 days of your new role, and recommended further reading for each characteristic. Don’t be put off by ‘IT’ in the title. I would fully endorse this book to any new manager as the concise handbook to get you started on the rocky road to being a great leader.

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The Future of (Almost) Everything (Patrick Dixon)

The Future of almost Everything cover Leaders, would being able to see the future help you plan more effectively?
In Business, you might be focused on profit, but why can it be such a struggle? The unknown is the problem. How do you know what people will want in the next year, or in five years, or fifty? Supposing I gave you a manual that would tell you what to expect?
If you haven’t heard of him, shame on you. Patrick Dixon is described as a ‘Futurist’, has written more than a dozen books, and is known as one of the most influential and inspired business thinkers of modern times.
The book is split into six parts (illustrated by faces of a die), each looking at a different facet of the future, and each delivering a wealth of information and indexed evidence pointing at the trends and where they have to lead. These aspects are:
Fast – many things are changing rapidly
Urban – demographics, migration, life expectancy
Tribal – groups of people, from nations to teams to brands
Universal – global implications
Radical – nothing is static
Ethical – doing the right (not just legal) thing
Anyone in business (and perhaps daily life) needs to appreciate all six sides of the die. Everyone has the potential to alter the future. You don’t make changes by following the trends, you make them by foreseeing the trends and adapting your strategy to suit.
You won’t find the panacea to all your business problems, what appliances to make, how many to sell and to whom, but if you read through and comprehend Patrick’s predictions, you will stand some chance of keeping your business thriving into the future.
All too often, a book with such a bold title would turn out to be a let-down. Not here, not by a long stylus!

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The Digital Renaissance of Work (Paul Miller and Elizabeth Marsh)

Implementing World Class IT Strategy coverThe Digital Renaissance is a new Industrial Revolution. Our job environment is changing more rapidly than many business leaders can understand, with advances such as social networking and anywhere-anytime access to data. The move to digital environments is not just a nice to have, but essential for survival and employee job satisfaction. We are not there yet - only 13% of workers are currently ‘engaged’ - but things are changing rapidly.
In this easy to read book, the authors present many insightful examples of advanced and traditional businesses, and explore how they are moving through the new information age. The first half covers case-studies, references and instances of how some organisations have advanced and others not, and highlights such time-bombs as the ‘education gap’, where schools are apparently teaching obsolete skills. The remainder provides simple steps in locating your company’s position in the new landscape and develops succinct guidelines to take advantage, providing cost savings, worker engagement and in some cases, survival.
This book is an essential read for any business leader (not ‘manager’; the term has become obsolete in the modern world). Ignore the Digital Renaissance at your peril. This book will tell you how to survive.

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Implementing World Class IT Strategy (Peter A High)

All too often I read management books with bold promises in the title only to find that the basic premise is never achieved.
I was pleasantly surprised; this work delivers exactly what it says. If you are the leader of a separate Information Technology (IT) function then the process here will help to turn your ‘necessary evil’ into the linchpin of the organisation.Implementing World Class IT Strategy cover
Frequently treated as a mere support function, many fail to realise that IT extends into all aspects of the business and can make or break the organisation. This myth is reinforced by the attitude of the leader of technology (usually called the chief information officer, CIO) seeing the function as a supplier to the other groups. The reality is that IT is a partner in the business and part of it. Once this is accepted, in conjunction with the other parts of the organisation, the CIO can develop strategies to help the business as a whole, in many cases leading and guiding those strategies.
Here we have a complete handbook on pushing IT to the forefront, calling on recognisable concepts such as enterprise architecture, SWOT, RAG and many others. There are acronyms by the bucket-load, but each is explained and referenced as introduced; the only improvement I could suggest is that there could be a list of these with brief explanations at the end. There is however a comprehensive index, and references and interviews with IT leaders of successful companies to back up the methods detailed.
There is no ground-breaking panacea to turn your IT function into the savior of the company, and the author acknowledges it is a lot of hard work, but the book is everything you need in one place to achieve the promise on the cover.

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Managing the Matrix (Dawn Metcalfe)

Here we have a refreshing new outlook for a management guide. Rather than being a straight instruction book, a developing narrative describes the problems facing a worker locked into a matrix organisatio. Before you, dear reader, switch off, consider that most. Before you, dear reader, switch off, consider that most. Before you, dear reader, switch off, consider that most organisationsave some form of matrix structure with formal and informal reporting lines.have some form of matrix structure with formal and informal reporting lines.
The title of the book suggests that it is targeted at an individual, but there are lessons here to be learned by all levels of management. The core principles are only threefold: emotional intelligence (EI), culture and coaching. With these soft skills addressed, an organisation of any complexity can improve effectiveness, employee job satisfaction and of course profitability.
The author points out there are many courses and books aimed at developing EI, but observes that these are of varying usefulness and all are wasted if the rest of the organisation is not committed and developed accordingly.
There is 15 point rule-set for you to practice to improve your EI. As you develop, you will find other people responding more favourably, be able to avoid some of the politics and better concentrate on doing a good job.
There are only a small number of references, but there are learning point summaries where required as the author draws extensively on her experiences with performance development in six different cultures. The information provided is necessary, simple and easy to digest at all levels.
The author points out that the ‘fish rots from the head’, meaning that if top management are not committed to developing their own EI, then the rest of the organisation is never going to make it. Take note you leaders of industry; these revelations could change your life.

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The Ultimate Guide to Writing and Marketing a Best Selling Book (Dee Blick)

I was slightly put off by the title of what looked at first glance like a book focusing on ‘marketing’, however what we have here instead is a valuable reference for generating and promoting any book. The phrase ‘ultimate guide’ is possibly overused these days, but with this on one’s shelf, I doubt whether you would need any other. The Ultimate Guide to Writing and Marketing cover
Part 1 concentrates on business textbooks, but the following chapters include fiction writing, albeit with a lean towards industry. The use of a copy editor, generating a catchy title, ensuring the cover is professional and poignant, making sure you have your book in the right categories, layout, publishing and pricing are all included in the first half.
Dee follows on by giving guidelines on public speaking and how to run an exhibition stand, and then settles into details of promoting the book through networking, social media and blogs. There is emphasis on the current importance of ‘Twitter’ and growing a following. Finally, after the ‘perfect book launch’, there are details on how to get your book reviewed by professional and enthusiastic reviewers.
In places, the amount of work required to keep the book in the charts is daunting, but Dee acknowledges this; she observes that it is easier to write the book than to promote it. No gain without pain, Mr Arkwright; writing is a career, a full time job!
A major strength is the summary at the end of each chapter which allows the reader to pick it up and use for ongoing reference.

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In the Shower with Picasso (Christian Stadil and Lene Tanggaard)

The authors are Danish and they have interviewed 91 creative Danish people with a view to finding out what makes them tick. The results are various, but the general feeling is thatIn the Shower with Picasso - cover art creativity is not the tired cliché of ‘thinking outside the box’, but more ‘thinking along the edge of the box’. By this we understand that to sell a new idea or product to people, it has to be familiar in a new way. To produce something that is totally different will never work. One example not cited was Alan Sugar, who was running Amstrad, making computers and suddenly produced the C5, a strange small electric car. This was totally outside his normal remit and went down like a lead zeppelin. I contrast this with James Dyson, who came up with the familiar vacuum cleaner, only with an innovative way of dealing with dust. His trials in getting the device to market are echoed in the interviewees’ comments; they say you need passion, persistence and hard work. You also need help from others. Dyson took over 10 years to develop the cleaner, and was partially supported by his wife and an extensive TV advertising campaign before he was able to bring his product to mass market.

  • In business, creativity doesn’t just happen. The fundamental requirement is that management have to facilitate the processes, setting up frameworks, limits and a disciplined work practice. After this there are other necessities to assist:
  • A flat organisation so that the decision makers are close to the employees.
  • An informal culture so that is natural for people to express personal opinions without redress.
  • Management should be close and present. The employees should have the freedom to define and prioritise work assignments.
  • ‘Group think’ should be annihilated; if people are getting locked into one idea, the session leader should interrupt and actually prevent consensus.
  • The creativity group should consist of a mixture of skills, with no more than 10 members.
  • Good ideas should be seen to be acted upon and rewarded accordingly.
  • The final thought from the book is that creativity simply for the sake of being creative is disruptive and possibly worse than no creativity at all. All in all, there are some excellent ideas discussed with the interviewees, but apart from brief summaries at the end of some chapters, there is no universal panacea in this work; you won’t be able to finish reading it and go and create something new and profitable. What you might be able to do however is understand the processes behind the creative mind and start looking at your world in a slightly different light.
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Enterprise Rules (Don Young)

If you have only one management book on your shelf, it should be this one. It is well presented, easy to read and can be applied to all enterprise in any form. To me it holdsEnterprise Rules - cover art everything needed to develop or rescue a business. The first three chapters at least should be essential reading for everyone, from the lowest grade shop-worker to the highest leader. Other chapters include techniques and workbooks to develop the business and manage change. The work sets about explaining why some businesses succeed and others fail, and above all, how to be a successful and long lived organisation. Don turns the whole paradigm of business being run by the bean-counters on its head, focusing instead on what I call ‘the Triangle of Humanities’, Economic, Psychological and Political drivers for a successful business. The book includes tools for assessing a business, to identify its strengths and weaknesses, and provides strategies for the competent manager to deal with the changes required. As evidence, there are many references and case studies from successful businesses still profitable today.

The points Don makes extremely well: The cornerstones of a successful business are Staff Well-being, Customer Value and Strong Ethics. Notice that Shareholders, Financial Returns and all the other measures a business is usually obsessed with do not get a look in. Management should not be treated as a formula. Numerics, although vital in reporting a snapshot of the current state of the business, should not be allowed to dictate strategy. The social sciences hold the key. Management is becoming an art! All businesses are in a perpetual state of change. Longevity is down to the development of social capital; the people and the knowledge built up over the years.

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© Copyright 2018 Robert Wingfield - Updated 26 February 2018
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