on 20 February 2000
This book draws upon and analyses most modern management theories, and gives Handys well informed perspectives. The work does indeed contain pearls of wisdom, and should be essential reading for any open minded manager. The work is intended as a diagnostic tool, and would be essential for any of us prudent enough to use it as such. It is also well written enough to make a stimulating and interesting read for any intellectual person, something that cannot be said of many management books.
on 27 May 2007
Charles Handy has been very influential shaping my attitudes to work, life styles and the management of organisations. This is a great primer for new students. I also highy recommend reading all his books and listening to his audio recordings.
His later works outline succinctly the demands changing corporations and globalization place on individuals and society. A very inspirational and thought provoking commentator, he positions the world of work in the larger context of ethics and morality. He also explores the human struggle to maintain individuality, spirituality, choice, freedom and dignity
Charles Handy is arguably the UK's top business "guru", but in my opinion this title somewhat diminishes his life's work, which has gone beyond matters of simple business administration into a philosophy of life and work, and is imbued with a spirituality that I find infectious (even though I am not a very spiritual person). This, however, is his seminal management text, and there is but a hint of the philosophical musings of "The Empty Raincoat" and "The Hungry Spirit".
Understanding Organisations was first published in 1976, and my fourth edition (I don't know why Amazon describes this as the third edition - that must be an error) was published in 1993, with a revised introduction in 1999. It cannot claim to be entirely up to date, therefore, but it remains valid both as a commentary on previous work on motivation, roles, leadership, power groups and organisations as well as contributing many of Handy's own ideas on the subject. I think that it was here that he first used analogies with the ancient Greek gods to describe the cultures of organisations, which he later developed in "Gods of Management". I've dipped into this book in the past, and have worked through it systematically recently as one of the key texts for a course on "Organisational Behaviour". My impression is that there are few more recent developments in this field than were taken into account in the writing of the book.
I have few quibbles. Handy's style is scholarly - I had wondered if this was his doctoral thesis but in fact he did not do one (he has an honorary one from Trinity College Dublin). It is accessible - and I do like the dry humour with which he delivers some of his case studies - but it is not as an easy or entertaining a read as some of his subsequent works. This is an excellent book, whether to use as a course text or to dip into as you experience and reflect on "trouble at mill" in your working life.
on 22 January 2011
A comprehensive book on organizations, and how they work. The book has three parts.
Part one, 'The concepts', begins with the first chapter, about this book explaining the utility of organizational theory, the nature and history of organization theory, including a figure showing the relationship between people, power and practicalities. Early motivation theories, the psychological contract, money and summary and implications are useful in the second chapter, On the motivation to work. The third chapter is one of the most useful and introduces roles and interactions including The concepts of role theory and role definitions, role incompatibility, role conflict, role overload and role underload, all useful in understanding roles, as is the explanations on role stress and the implications of stress. Perceiving people and interacting with people deals with the interaction side of roles and overall, the chapter is summarised well.
Chapter 4, of 'On Leadership', including style theories, contingency theories and general conclusion on leadership and lead on well to the next chapter of 'On power and influence', methods of influence relates well to the use of power in organizations and lead on well to the implications of power and influence in organizations. 'On the working of groups' in chapter 6, deals with the purposes of groups including organizational purposes and individual purposes and continues to the determinants of group effectiveness along with a case study of the task, the environment and the intervening factors. Chapter 7, 'On the cultures of organizations' deals with one of the most informative of the book and discusses the different cultures includes, the power culture, task culture, person culture and continues on the influencing factors including size technology, goals and objectives, the environment and the people. Implications for organization design discusses the implication of differentiation, integration and that summarises the chapter well.
Part two of the book deals with 'The concepts in application', and continues to chapter 8, and 'On the people of organizations', and addresses development, including the management of human assets and the development of the individual. 'Design of the structure', including uniformity and diversity including distribution of power, match of culture and structure. The design of the job including job enlargement, participation, delegation and autonomous groups are explained well on chapter 9 of 'Organization and its Design'. The next two chapters, 'On politics and change' and 'On being a manager', were the ones I found Most informative, with competition, conflict, tactics of conflict, strategies for managing conflict and challenging change discussed and explained well from various perspectives in 'On politics and change'. 'On being a manager' looks at the manager's job, the manager as GP, the managerial dilemma and the manager as a person, all explained and discussed well on a topic that many books are written on. The last chapter of the second part of the book looks at the futures of organizations, and looks at topics, assumptions, clues to the future and possibility and problems. This is a rhetorical chapter which may help those who are interested on how organizations may change and what challenges they face.
The third part summarises all the chapters, and gives further references. Overall a good and informative book on the study of organisations.