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Authorative, but such a difficult read...
on 8 August 2012
Having read this and Kew and Steadwick's HR Management in Context text for the namesake exam, I can say that Farnham's text was a difficult read.
A key difference between the two is that where Kew and Stredwick will make a point and then illustrate with a topical example or case study, which works wonders for helping the reader to assimilate the idea, Farnham seems also pathologically opposed to placing any ideas in a real world context and rarely provides examples. I don't know whether this is through laziness or a decision that this text must be "tough" to be considered worthwhile but the reader of Farnham is presented with double page spreads of unbroken text (hardly a treat on the eye). The content is undoubtedly well-researched and authoritative, and shows the author's experience, but ideas are almost impossible to learn without constant rote repetition and even harder to apply. The "in context" claim seems almost disingenuous, when some maddeningly abstract ideas are presented without and full discussion or application (I still don't understand an early chapter's discussion of symbolic and post-modernistic organisations that are discovered through their "texts" - or some such academic babble)
All in all, I'd recommend the much more accessible Kew and Stredwick text, as Farnham is also the chief examiner for the final exam I'd recommend a student needs to have read some of this - particularly the theories of corporate strategy (basically the first half of the book) as past papers have included questions that referred to theories not contained in the Kew and Stredwick text. HOWEVER, this does seem to have been remedied in the June 2012 recent paper, which was friendly to readers of both.
(incidentally, I passed with a distinction. phew)