Calling a Halt to Mindless Change; A Plea for Commonsense Management, by British management consultant John Macdonald, is a much more traditional business book (for one thing, it's nonfiction). But it still shares with God Is My Broker a skepticism about business fads and one-stop solutions. Macdonald's beef is with the new-age management movements that have inundated us in recent years. He argues that successful companies are evolutionary, not revolutionary. The good ones don't turn themselves on their heads to re-engineer. They don't hand everything over the self-directed teams or quality circles. These and other management movements certainly have some positives to offer. Macdonald's salient point is that wise managements pick and choose aspects of these trends that seem right for their particular circumstances. They don't buy into a single program as a panacea. In Macdonald's words, companies should adapt, not adopt.
He's particularly down on downsizing. Macdonald writes: "Downsizing is driven by the god of short-term profitability rather than that of process improvement. Its primary focus is on maximum elimination of people rather than long-term delight of customers." So what does Macdonald suggest? Long-tested concepts that align closely with common sense. He says a company's management should really live its mission statement (not just write one). He advocates working in a focused, long-term oriented, ethical way. He wants a management that really listens to its customers, that really trains and empowers employees to make important decisions and one that can see farther than the next quarter's bottom line. These are all noble goals to be sure, but notably easier to agree with than execute in the day-to-day hurly-burly of a large corporation.
Reviewed by Neil Lipschutz.