Richard E. (Dick) Clark
If books on management were judged by a cost-benefit analysis, in my view Guy Wallace’s “The Fifth Management Foci” would take first place, hands down. Readers in a hurry can finish it in less than two hours – or you can dwell on his advice and the piercing questions he asks for weeks or months. I started with the fast read and then went back for a more leisurely and thoughtful stroll – and took away valuable insights from both. Reading requires less time and work because Guy has spent the effort required to boil complex insights down to brief, pity, clear and insightful statements about managing large and small organizations at all levels. My thinking about his ideas was aided by the challenging questions he urges readers to ask at every one of the five stages he describes and the fact that he lets us provide the answers from the prospective of our own organization. He has also designed the book so that the chapters can be read in any order. Most important is that he gives clear directions about what to do at every turn and level of management – but lets us decide how to apply them in our organizations.
Part of the cost-benefit proposition in this book is that it is a twofer – two books in one. A significant chunk of the book provides a structured outline and guide to most of the issues one should consider when designing, assessing and repairing the management and performance of an organization. These are the first four of the “Foci” he describes – key concerns such as Alignment, Processes, Practices and Resources for stakeholders. A shorter but no less fascinating part of the book emphasizes his “Fifth Foci.” In it he uses the management road map he creates to point out the most comprehensive list yet of the unwarranted assumptions, common misconceptions, half-truths and outright lies about management and human performance at work. He calls it the “Foo Foo Focus” and he trains the crosshairs on the snake oil that is sold for each of the other four focus areas. This section alone is worth the price of the book. Readers are cautioned to approach it with an open mind because it is likely that everyone will recognize one or more of the misconceptions he points out as a principle that we hold dear. Yet there is solid evidence to support every one of the Foo Foo strategies he lists.
Most of the recent reviews of research on organizational management have concluded that in general, it is poorly done and in great need of workable solutions. Guy Wallace’s Fifth Management Foci is a significant step in the right direction.
Richard E. Clark, Ph.D.
October 9, 2011
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