The book didn't start promisingly. In the third sentence that I read, the book says: "Instead, its a multi-faceted agenda." The book used "its" instead of of "it's". The book also used "breech" as a verb rather than "breach". On another page, a sentence reads: "The assumption: people want to do the right thing, but need a lot information" - missing out "a lot OF information". I could go on.
I know that may seem picky, but I found it intensely irritating and distracting that the book had so many typos and grammatical errors in it! I hope the editor of the book reads this review and takes action!
Onto the content of the book though, I found Hamel's arguments well-made. He argues that organisations need to be more ethical (putting more emphasis on values), need to innovate more, need to be more adaptable, need to encourage employees to be more passionate about their work, and need to rely less on top-down command-and-control styles of management. All of these arguments make sense and Hamel gives examples of organisations where this has happened and helped those organisations to also do better than their competitors.
The book is quite dense and full of management language so I didn't find it easy to read in one sitting. However, I'm glad I read it as it has given me a lot of food for thought in how I can run my team more effectively.
I would say that this book is aimed squarely at fairly senior managers within organisations if not the CEO and other executives. The book isn't of much help to people who don't have a lot of sway and influence within their organisations.
on 14 November 2012
As always Gary Hamel is enjoyable and inspiring to read. What Matters Now is a logical extension of his earlier books, especially The Future of Management. He believes that innovation, flexibility, and purpose are hallmarks of Future Enterprise Inc., which is probably not altogether surprising coming from someone aspiring to be thought leader in management. No empirical evidence is, however, given, only a few well-known exemplars. I loved reading the book but find it difficult to remember or even to speak about, because its style is rather loose and anecdotal. The lack of graphic models - block models, flow models e.g. - also makes it different to capture and remember the crucial wholeness. If such a thing is in the book.
Gary Hamels' latest book, What Matters Now, is pretty much what it says on the dustcover: `an impassioned plea' for the development of both an entirely new way of running organisations and for a new corporate ideology, based on `freedom and self-determination'. Along the way, Hamel calls for a better calibre of stewardship, which puts the long-term interests of corporations and their communities before personal gain, and rewards the organisations' members by contribution rather than power. It's a radical agenda. This is a book that anyone interested in organisational behaviour should (and almost certainly will) read, and the quibbles that I have with it are minor. But I might as well tell you further down the page what those quibbles are.
Following on from the themes that he aired in The Future of Management, Hamel argues again that we are clinging too long to a model of management that was designed for the manufacturing revolution started by people like Henry Ford; a revolution that depended on standardisation, efficiency and control. The problem, argues Hamel, is that the efficiency that these great and hugely successful machines require rubs against the grain of what humans do best. Reminding us of the remarkable fact that in 1890 in America, nine out of ten white males worked for themselves, Hamel points out that the inevitable result of industrialisation was that `unruly and independent-minded farmers, artisans and day-labourers had to be transformed into rule-following, forelock-tugging employees.' And we are still at it today, `working hard to strap rancorous and free-thinking human beings into the straightjacket of corporate obedience, conformity and discipline.'
Hamel sells his point cleverly: it's not that corporations need to give employees a greater degree of freedom because that will be nicer for the employees, it's that rigid, command and control model bureaucracies will inevitably stagnate and die. What matters now, says Hamel, illustrating his point with the incontestable success story of Apple Inc, is innovation and adaptability. The cost of forcing people into the straightjacket of classic hierarchical management structures is the cost of lost ideas, commitment and passion - the very things that organisations most need in order to adapt and survive. Hamel quotes a sad fact revealed by a 2007-08 survey of 90,000 workers in 18 countries which demonstrated that only 21% of these workers were truly engaged with their work, while 38% were mostly or entirely disengaged and the remainder were sort of alright really. Hamel offers his own version of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - a hierarchy of human capabilities at work. From the most important to the least important, Hamel lists Passion, Creativity, Initiative, Expertise, Diligence and, last of all, Obedience. If you work for a large organisation, you may agree with Hamel that the most important three capabilities in this list are the ones that are demanded of you least on the average working day.
The solution, Hamel argues, is to build organisations on entirely different lines, and to put individuals ahead of institutions. His recipe for this, at its most fundamental, is: decentralise; emphasize community not hierarchy; make decision-making transparent; make leaders accountable to the led; align rewards with contribution not position; carry out peer reviews not top-down reviews; encourage self-determination. In a clever and interesting analogy, Hamel urges corporations to embrace the values of the internet, where all ideas compete on an equal footing, resources are attracted not allocated, and task are chosen not assigned.
My minor quibble with the book is its determinedly chirpy tone, which runs the risk of trivialising the content. If we are serious students of management and of organisational behaviour then we don't need to be chivvied along with cheery chirpiness, like a bunch of students with low attention spans. My least favourite example of this writing style: `Here, in a pistachio-sized shell, is what we learned.' `Here is what we learned' is fine by me.
My major quibble with the book is that Hamel, as a heavyweight management consultant, should be uniquely well-placed to give us a long list of case studies about companies who are trying to put his principles into practice. We don't really get that. When Hamel talks about Apple, he admits that he has not done any consultancy work for them, so his conclusions as to what they might be doing right are only those of outside observer, albeit a very-well informed observer. Apple are `redefining the basis for competition', `locking up customers with velvet handcuffs' and `extending core competencies into new markets.' Well, yes they are, but Hamel is reduced to introducing this by saying, `Ask an industry analyst or MBA student to deconstruct the company's gravity-defying performance and they would probably point out . . . ` He's not wrong, but one would like some deeper insight based on Hamel's hands-on experience of working with remarkable companies.
My heart also sank when, in the middle of the book, just as the reader is becoming desperate for a real example of how (and if) these radical and exciting ideas really can work in practice, Hamel gives us the example of an Anglican vicar in North London who devolves his church's `management structure' into a number of Mission Shaped Communities, run by his parishioners. It may be my personal problem that I care neither whether nor how any church increases its flock, but my main concern is that most captains of existing industries who are wondering how on earth to begin to turn their own supertankers around would be even less interested or impressed.
Later, however, we get good accounts of both W.L. Gore and Associates, manufacturers of the polymer fabric Gore-Tex, and of the world's largest tomato processor, California's The Morning Star Company: successful organisations built on thoroughly democratic, bottom-up principles. At Gore, colleagues choose which projects they want to work on and make a commitment to what they will deliver. At Morning Star, everyone is self-managing, committing to a personal mission statement of what they will contribute, which is guided by the broad mission statement of the independent business unit in which they work. Business units negotiate with other associates and other business units for what they will deliver and for what they need delivered in their turn. Everyone has the power to spend money to buy what they need to get the job done - but first they have to sell the idea to their peers. There is no management hierarchy to climb as the only means of advancement; career progression and higher rewards come though contributing more: mastering new skills and finding new ways to serve colleagues. In both companies, rewards are determined mainly by peer-based assessments of contribution.
We've already seen the W. L. Gore business model in Hamel's The Future of Management, so Morning Star represents the most significant genuinely new model offered for our consideration. And both of these companies were set up from scratch with their new, revolutionary business models in place from day one which, while still impressive, still feels a lot easier than taking an existing hierarchical organisation and transforming it into a new, self-determining model. We are finally given some insights into such a process via the experiences of the Indian IT service company, HCL Technologies, who have set out to `invert the pyramid' of their management structure and to make management accountable to the people at the front line. It would have been good to see some more examples of such transformations, even if they are only `work in progress.'
Throughout the book, Hamel offers guidelines as to the ways in which the management of organisations run on traditional lines can begin to empower and impassion their workforce, but I do feel that the Chief Executive of a major organisation might feel that he or she has been given an inspirational glimpse of an exciting future, rather than the map that will guide them to the final destination. Hamel's almost final word is a rap on my knuckles for this unworthy thought: `You don't need a detailed change programme to get started. Bus drivers follow maps; pioneers follow polestars.' Ouch. So much for this particular bus driver. Over to you, pioneers - follow that polestar!
Hamel is not wrong in saying that our future depends on us getting this right. I have no doubt whatsoever that the corporate structures that served us well in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries will not deliver prosperity for us in the twenty-first, and that if we do not develop nimble and adaptable organisations that allow individuals to flourish and contribute, then we will fall behind in the race. I also firmly believe that Hamel is right in saying that freedom and self-determination must be the guiding principles for this process. These are the guiding principles of our democracies; it's a bit disturbing that they are not the guiding principles of most of our organisations.
For those unaware, Gary Hamel is on a mission to overhaul management as we know it, and that is certainly mirrored in this book. For some in Management and Human Resource Management will see it as a threat to established structure. So be it.
As a prescription for change, Gary Hamel advocates small, low cost experimentation around themes he calls `moonshots'. The language used throughout the book is almost therapeutic equivalence in his narrative. This book is probably not for the lay person rather for people in HRM and the broader management structure.
All in all an easy read, pleasant casual style, invoking more thought on higher purpose, values, and passion in the subject at hand.
I have read and reviewed all of Gary Hamel's previously published books and consider What Matters Now to be his most valuable...thus far. There are specific reasons why he is ranked among the most important business thinkers and all are evident in his latest book: He has an insatiable curiosity to understand what makes an organization successful, what doesn't, and why; he has a passion to share what he has learned with as many business leaders as possible; his material is directly relevant to almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be; and his experience-driven insights invalidate the sacred premises and assumptions of what James O'Toole so aptly characterizes, in Leading Change, as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom."
In the Preface, Hamel urges his reader to ask, "What are the fundamental, make-or-break challenges that will determine whether your organization thrives or dives in the years ahead?" For Hamel, five issues are paramount:
o Values: "Not surprisingly, large corporations are now among society's least trusted institutions...vales now matter more than ever."
o Innovation: "After a decade of [begin italics] talking [end italics] about innovation, it's time to close the gap between rhetoric and reality. To do so, we'll need to recalibrate priorities and retool mindsets."
o Adaptability: "In most organizations, there are too many things that perpetuate the past and too few that encourage proactive change. The `party of the past' is usually more powerful than the `party of the future.'"
o Passion: "The problem is not a lack of competence, but a lack of ardor. In business as in life, the difference between `insipid' and `inspired' is passion."
o Ideology: "Better business processes and better business models are not enough - we need better principles. That's why ideology matters now more than ever."
Hamel devotes a separate Section (consisting of five chapters) to each of these five challenges in which he explains how leaders can ensure that their companies "win in a world of relentless change, ferocious competition, and unstoppable innovation." As I worked my way through his lively and eloquent narrative, I was reminded of one of Marshall Goldsmith's books whose title asserts, "what got you here won't get you there." In response, I presume to suggest, Hamel would assert, "what you do NOW and how you do it will determine whether or not there is a `there.'"
In the concluding chapter, he shares a roster of 25 make-or-break management "moonshots" that are intended to inspire business innovators everywhere, compiled by 36 management experts (the "Renegade Brigade") after lengthy discussion during a conference. (Note: Some of this material previously appeared in an HBR article, February 2009.) He hopes that one or more of these moonshots will inspire his reader to become a management innovator. More specifically, "to question your assumptions, surrender your conceits, rethink your principles, and raise your sights - and that you challenge otters to do the same. We know broadly what must be done to create organizations that are fit for the future. The only question is, `Who's going to lead and who's going to follow?' How you answer [begin italics] that [end italics] question matters most of all."
If not now, when?
on 18 April 2014
A lot of good sense in Gary's personal take, based on the wealth of experience and knowledge he's gained in his day job, and then backed up with supporting material and the thoughts, views and experiences of others. It's a challenging read, if approached openly. I'm sure many will think "nice ideas, but they won't work" and actually that's his point in some places - that's the very reason why many of us remain stuck where we are. I'm going to sit on a plane for 8 hours now and when I land I'm going to have decided which moonshot to go for and then I'm going park my reasons why not to and give it a go. Everything better has to start somewhere. This book doesn't provide an answer on a plate, because no book can, but there are plenty of words, ideas, thoughts and challenges (from Gary and others who HAVE done it) in this book to help the start. It's worked for me, now comes the fun bit...
What a refreshing style of writing for a leadership book. Besides being eminently readable, this is full of real examples taken from the most esoteric to the banal. There is a reality in this book which drives a coach an horses through the high thinking of some well-known tomes.
Especially interesting is the example of a large church in England and the lessons in restructuring the organisation, its function and leadership - this was both eye-opening and inspiring!
Who would have thought about using an example from a church? But what an example!
Hamel is no fly-by-night writer - almost 30 years at the London Business School and also founder of the California based `management lab' make him a credible voice with the right sort of experience.
You should give this one a go!
I am a serial entrepreneur, a University lecturer in both Russia and the USA and an international business and peak performance consultant. As such I am used to reading a plethora of business, motivational, peak performance, coaching, team building psychology type of books. In fact I have enough books at home, on these subjects, to sink several ships. So my comments on this poor book are based upon real and theoretical business experience.
This is quite a thick tomb and in my experience this does not necessarily result in great content. The author, Gary Hamel puts forward his ideas on how businesses can win in a World of Relentless Change. He looks at core areas such as how to be more ethical, the need to innovate, how to be more adaptable, the need to engage and empower employees, so becoming more passionate about their work and the TQM idea of less top-down pyramid management structure. The author examines numerous real life examples of how his ideas have been implemented to help the reader to assimilate the ideas into practical steps.
The ideas put forward are nothing new. There is no "revolutionary approach" that cannot be found in other books. Having read the book, the best I can say about it is this, the ideas and premise put forward are solid and if implemented will help an organisation to WIN. The issue I have is this, if you already practice TQM, you already have empowerment structures in place that work, if you already implement KAIZEN....then you will find very little in this book that you are not already doing. This does not make it a bad book, but there is very little new information in this book that cannot be gained elsewhere in an easier to understand form.
The book has solid information and uses good examples, but there is very little new or cutting edge type of analysis in it. This is not a bad book, but it is a far cry from a blaze trailing management book. Many companies will already have parts of what he suggests in place, so for many there little or nothing new in this book. It's worth reading just for the examples, but it is a thick book and in places a complex read. I do feel there are better books on the market.
What matters according to Hamel are: values, innovation, adaptability, passion and ideology. Hamel considers each of these in a separate section of his book. Hamel is not the first to consider these (for example Michael H. Hugos (Business Agility: Sustainable Prosperity in a Relentlessly Competitive World (Microsoft Executive Leadership Series)) and the late CK Prahalad (The New Age of Innovation: Driving Cocreated Value Through Global Networks) have both written books arguing that innovation matters more as efficiency and supply chains become less of a differentiator). However, Hamel has done a fine job of integrating these key ideas into one book.
What Matters Now is very motivating and thought provoking, and there is much to admire and be inspired by. However, there are a few niggles with this book, and I nearly cast it aside a few times - but on reflection I'm very glad I didn't. For me, Hamel's passion sometimes comes across as a tirade rather than a rational assessment of evidence. There are a few case studies, but not nearly enough, and Hamel only offers scarce consideration of other authors and published research that supports his ideas. Also, Hamel's passion shines thorough, but sometimes at the expense of reasoned argument. For example, citing support for his observation that people are happiest when innovating, he states: "From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to Tal Ben-Shahar, the experts agree...", which, no matter how you slice it, is just a listing of two. One final criticism, Hamel sometimes sounds like he is trying too hard to be hip, which grated after a while -- for example the book is scattered with sentences that begin "Kinda like" or "Problem is".
These minor criticisms aside, I found this to be a very good book that puts forward inspiring ideas for managers. Definitely one I would recommend.
The modern world is (in our eyes at least) very different from any time in written history. Governments have gone bankrupt before. Paradigms have changed before. Fashions for clothes, ways of working, culture have all changed before. But never (so far as we are aware) so fast, so all-at-the-same-time, so globally.
Gary Hamel jumps into the middle of all of this upheaval with "What Matters Now". It's about recognising what is going, what's coming, and what's a priority. It's about putting aside assumptions - we may have always done that, but it may be about to disappear, to stop being relevant.
At a personal level: What about my life is worth keeping, and what about my life is not a priority and I should be prepared to discard?
My career - hmm, I used to have one, and now I'm only as good as the last thing I do. My family - they are with me for life, so why do I neglect them.
At a corporate level: what makes us stand out from the crowd? Is it something we are proud of? What's the best way to do it, regardless of how we've done it so far? What aren't we the best at? And who can we work with, where we might have been sworn enemies before?
At a national level: what makes a British person British? And what is just ritual, not important to being British?
You'd be forgiven for thinking you could use this as a minute by minute guide to decision-making. It is a book about principles, about ways to approach the opportunity of modern life, not a guide or checklists. And I love it!