The Witch Doctors: What Management Gurus are Saying, Why it Matters and How to Make Sense of it Paperback – 6 Nov 1997
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A critique of management theory and the gurus who promote it. The authors, who spent two years travelling through Britain, the USA and the Far East, studying companies as they struggled to manage themselves, sort through the muddle of modern management theory and aim to explain it in plain English.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I purchased this "used", and the chapter on Globalism was bookmarked with a corner fold, which I found rather timely, and helpful!
This is no "easy read", no short-flight page turner on Southwest Airlines. It is detailed, and I found it very informative, well researched and very well-written! I bought this as a gift for a colleague who was (past tense) considering a promotion to manager in his current job, and I advised him AGAINST this idea, that he is no "manager", especially after he complained of the weird "manager cult" that infests all workplaces in America today. I knew there was "something" about the managing of companies, but I could not quite put my finger on it. Something that is indescribable, almost as if managers all came from Mars, and were inhuman clones. They just were.. well, weird! This book I think explains it.
The fact this book was written some time ago, it may or may not touch upon the Communitarianism that is part and parcel of the Globalism trend in management- namely, the BIG ONE: "Leadership Training"- the TQM- er, "Total Quality Management" cult. I have NOT READ the entire book- I hope it is in the book, as it is the WORST evil to infest companies and this country in the workplace ever. TQM is evil. Even RN's need to pass a class on TQM, what on Earth does it have to do with medical care?? Bizarre, I know.
This does not disappoint and even offers funny yet true insights. For example, you would think that managers are the safest position in a company but the reality is that with the changing times managers are actually the least safe position. They are under constant pressure to deliver with almost unrealistic expectations and that's where the management consultant comes in. You might be thinking why don't the managers figure out the solutions themselves and the answer is they are too busy managing "messes" to take a step back to see where the problems are and how to resolve them.
I highly recommend this book for the "real world" view of the management consultant field!
Robert B. Cialdini wrote in "Influence" when explaining the concept of social proof that "...one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct." This can have perverse outcomes and lead to unintended consequences like "group think," a "herd mentality" and apparently business best sellers. Micklethwait and Wooldridge look at the creators of these management ideas, the domino effect of social proof that fuels their success and the art of management in general in this information-packed book.
Some of the facts they share are telling: $750 million worth of business books sold in America alone (undoubtedly higher now as this book was published in the late '90's), American firms spending $20 billion a year on outside advice, and what I found to be the most interesting fact - managers fail to finish four in every five business books they buy. This all combines to create an industry based on star-power, ideas and a constant churning of theories that can leave any manager's head spinning.
The authors spare no guru from the focus of their analysis - Drucker, the aforementioned Peters, Peter Senge, Michael Porter and a special chapter entitled "A Walk on the Wild Side" that examines Covey, Robbins, Toffler and others. I found the book to be even-handed and to clearly spell out the deficiencies of management theory and practice. They examine the gurus' effect on many areas of management, including: the idea of the company itself, innovation, globalization and the public sector, and explain why so much of the guru's advice is contradictory, more flavor of the month than steeped in solid research and laughable in many instances.
One tidbit I found the most interesting, and summed up the book in general, was that of the 43 companies celebrated as "Excellent" in Tom Peter's seminal work "In Search of Excellence", 2/3 ceased being excellent within 5 years of publication of the book.
It boils down to us the consumer being informed and educated and the authors achieve both those tasks with this must read. Emerson said it best, "Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." The gurus have made it a science telling us what path to go down and luckily for us we have books like "The Witch Doctors" to help us discern the path of hyperbole from the path of wisdom.