Books, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Management

What were they thinking? Book review

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Unconventional wisdom about management

by Jeffrey Pfeffer, 2007

Great title for a book.

It does a good job in explaining and talking through various case studies where managers follow classic behavioural patterns, which achieve counter intuitive results.

Your company is doing badly. So you blame the staff and reduce salaries. Thus driving your best staff away. Those who are most talented and employable will quickly find other jobs somewhere else where they are valued. The remaining, weaker, less productive staff remain, demotivated, spend less time working and more looking for other jobs. Your companies sales continue to fall and you are now in a diminishing cycle of performance. This might seem obvious, but it is a path followed by many companies.

All of the chapters are bite sized in length, under 10 pages long. This works though, because if particular topic holds your interest less, then another one quickly comes along. Despite this slightly episodic nature of the book, it still works well, and is written in an open and accessible way. Unlike a number of social media books from eight years ago and more, a lot of the topics in this book remain relevant and topical when considering management issues today.

There are a lot of good insights into various aspects of management, and how things tend to happen, simply because ‘that’s the way you do things’ rather than because it’s the best thing for your business. He also covers the inflation in executive salaries, especially for CEO’s, which has risen disproportionately faster and higher than for everyone else. Part of this comes from the culture of those appointing the CEO. Who, naturally perhaps, convince themselves that their particular anointed choice, is above average in terms of ability, and therefore also in terms of the financial remuneration offered to them. While this seems plausible, it is impossible for every appointee to be above average. The unfortunate consequence though is CEO salaries continue to spiral, despite underwhelming performance. Similar to the high turnover of football managers in the English premier league, expectations are excessively high, and more money is wasted on hiring and firing in rapid succession.

It’s a useful book to read, and one of many by the author.

His website is a good resource, and there is also a blog, which is a good resource, though with no obvious option to register for email notifications of new posts.




One thought on “What were they thinking? Book review

  1. Pingback: My worst 5 blog posts in 2014 & the reasons why | Sarah Paddle Swim

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