Episode 14

Simply Managing (2013), with Henry Mintzberg


Henry Mintzberg is an internationally renowned academic and a prolific business and management author. He is currently the Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at the Desautels Faculty of Management of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Much of Henry's work is concerned with developing new approaches to management education and reflecting on the actual managerial practices and organization of work. He has published around 170 articles, 17 books (all available for reference on his website), and holds a great number of significant honours and awards. Henry will be well-known to virtually any management scholar, not least on account of his 1973 seminal work - The Nature of Managerial Work -  which began a decades-long research programme that dispelled a view of managers as scientifically rational controllers and coordinators.

The book we analyzed in this episode, Simply Managing (2013), is an updated study of managers conducted by Henry Mintzberg based on observing 29 managers at all levels of organizations across a range of industries and organizational structures: business, government, healthcare, and pluralistic organizations such as museums and NGO’s. It is condensed version of his earlier book - Managing, which was published in 2009. Both books address management as it is actually practiced, which Henry found to be quite different from how management scholars write about it. Simply Managing is designed to be of greatest use to practitioners, with an entertaining style and lots of boldface type to emphasize key points clearly.

In Chapter 1 of the book, Mintzberg used his observations to debunk the conventional notions of what management is and is not. For all the changes in the professional world of management practice, he concluded that the nature of management has not changed substantially in the 40 years between the publication of The Nature of Managerial Work and Simply Managing. Chapter 2 is a review of myths of managing, which Henry labels as folklore. Chapter 3 presents a model of managing with a thorough explanation. Chapter 4 criticizes views of management that only look at one of or a few of its its many varieties at a time as if the others could be ignored or were less important. Chapter 5, the most important chapter of the book according to Henry, identifies the paradoxes that are inherent in the practice of management. The final chapter, Chapter 6, grants amnesty to imperfect managers doing the best they can despite their flaws. It describes themes of effective management in context, because that is where the real work of management happens according to Mintzberg.

The book is thought provoking and comprehensive, which made for an interesting discussion with the author. Listen to the podcast and decide for yourself. Recognize, however, that Simply Managing is a lively and engaging book, so we highly recommend that you enjoy the Episode in addition to reading it, rather than instead of it!



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