2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
If you have read any of the other David Maister books, do not bother,
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This review is from: First Among Equals: How To Manage A Group Of Professionals (Paperback)
There are two elements to assessing this book - as someone who has not read any previous work of the author, and from the perspective of someone hoping that the book will build upon, rather than just paraphrase what the author has previously published.
I will start with the positive version first - for someone completely new to Daivd Maister's books. What you will get is a fairly general and reasonably comprehensive collection of checklists, with some added detail and some anecdotes peppered in, which should in principle be a helpful guide to managing and / or coaching people, over whom you do not have direct seniority. It applies to leading projects, working in professional service firms or any type of company that uses a matrix structure. If The One Minute Manager - The One Minute Manager is your thing, you are likely to love the style. It will definitely not require you to work at decyphering any elements, uses massive amount of signposting and repetition and is generally written for allowing readers to dive in anywhere (it doesn ot require sequential reading). In this context I can imagine giving the book four stars, as a useful primer for people who never managed anyone before.
If, however you read works by Maister before, this book will probably come as a slight to heavy disappointment. In Managing the Professional Service Firm the author introduces a very apt metaphor - that of a person's personal balance sheet - if you do not continuously invest in your capabilities, building on them and adding new repertoire to what you do, you are likely to go down the short term route of cashing out on your current skills, which lose their relevance or uniqueness with time. What was once leading edge or novel, becomes standard, and then eventually starts lagging behind. Reading this book I have the impression that the author himself definitely fell into the trap he warned against. Large sections are simply excerpts (sometimes not even paraphrased) of his previous books. Possibly this is a David Maister book for people who really have no time to read books - it is certainly very checklist oriented and requires minimal effort. If the repetition was the books only problem I would still find it fair to give the book four stars, with a disclaimer for readers, perhaps.
Unfortunately, I also found the book to lack substance all too often. It is full of blanket statements, and from Chapter 5 onwards suffers from some pretty severe caricaturisation of character types - to the extent that they stop being useful due to their shallowness. I found some of the anecdotes fairly interesting reading but equally found it difficult to put much trust in most of them. After about 8 years of working in a professional service environment much of the language used and many examples given seem tinged with double speak and corporate PR more than reality. People who used to work for the same companies so praised in this book often drew a very different picture of what was reality. I would certainly recommend The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting it Wrong as a useful counterpoint to, or source of a more balanced picture than the rosy one presented here.
To summarize, if you manage in the one minute way, the style of this book will likely appeal. If, however, you want Maister at his more substantial self (and want to learn about more or less the same topic), go for Managing the Professional Service Firm - it is much better.