Top positive review
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One of the best!
on 8 February 2014
This is a book I keep coming back to - and remembering....
The title is very misleading – this is a book about power which, for me, contains more incendiary material than Marx, Lenin, Che Guevara and Al-Quada rolled together. It is written by an academic who can actually write clearly - and who sees it as his job to interpret for us the significant parts of academic work. Although I have some tough comments, it is one of the best reads!
The book promises much at the start - with iconoclastic attacks on the types of writing about organisations - but left me, at the end, only with the impression sociologists generally do and which indeed the author anticipates half way through in a paragraph entitled - Why are you always carping? "You may well be thinking, he says, something along the lines - will nothing ever satisfy you? Older approaches to organisations have been condemned as dehumanising and degrading. Human-relations-type approaches are manipulative. Culture management is brainwashing. Now we have non-hierarchical, personally-focused and trust-based organisations (he attacks Richard Semmler's writing about Semco) and you are still whinging". Quite!
I know you can't say a great deal about the study of organisations in 180 pages - but the book's de-constructivism is a bit repetitive.
And I was shocked to see no references to those whose study of organisations were practically grounded and focussed - eg those associated with the Tavistock Institute such as Emery and Trist; or Revans (action-learning). No mention of Eliott Jacques who was associated with Glacier Metal. Nor of the OD consultant, Roger Harrison, who worked with Charles Handy (also not mentioned) on the idea of organisational cultures (The Gods of Management). Ronnie Lessem was also a fascinating writer.
One of Grey's central questions is why writing in this field is so boring - but he has missed so many individuals whose writing IS interesting. Perhaps because the focus of his book is on the study of organisations in business schools (about which he has a separate chapter). He does make the point that the guru figures in these schools are American - and most of the names I’ve mentioned are British! And a lot of money and energy is spent on the study of organisations in the public sector - which hardly figures in his book. Granted the models people use for this work draws on the fashions of the private sector - and perhaps it deserves a separate book. But some references would still be appropriate.
Still, in the final analysis, it is superbly written - and thought-provoking. What more can you ask?