For the Manager on Your Gift List

For the Manager on Your Gift List


f you're looking for a holiday gift for the manager on your list, consult Government Executive's list of recommended books for the giving season.

Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle: A Cubicle's-Eye View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads & Other Workplace Afflictions. New York: Harper Business, 1996, 336 pp., $20.

After six months at the top of The New York Times bestseller list, beleaguered cubicle-dweller Dilbert ranks as the most successful management guru of 1996. Here, he reflects on everything from mission statements to reengineering. A mission statement is a "long awkward sentence that demonstrates management's inability to think clearly," according to Dilbert. All good organizations have one.

Dilbert recommends a job that lets you "analyze" or "evaluate" something. "If you 'do' something, other people get to criticize you." Good advice for managers.

Michael Hammer, Beyond Reengineering: How the Process-Center Organization is Changing Our Work and Our Lives. New York: Harper Business, 1996, 285 pp., $25.

If you want to get or give a "serious" book, Beyond Reengineering is a good bet. Unlike Michael Hammer's two previous books on reengineering (Reengineering the Corporation and The Reengineering Revolution), Beyond Reengineering is not a how-to tome. Instead, Hammer examines the implications of the shift from "task work" to reengineered "process work" for workers, managers, organizations and society. Shifting from the former to the latter, argues Hammer, will dramatically change our organizations in the years ahead.

Andrew Grove, Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company and Career. New York: Doubleday Currency, 1996, 210 pp., $27.50.

If the manager on your shopping list likes to read about the exploits and conquests of business leaders, Andrew Grove is the CEO for this holiday season. Only the Paranoid Survive describes 28 years of ups and downs at the famous computer chip manufacturer Intel.

Grove's central purpose is to explain how organizations can detect and respond to major changes in their industry. Such changes result from what Grove calls "10X" forces, such as the microprocessor, the "talking movie," Wal-Mart, and the breakup of AT&T. The major challenge of any organization, according to Grove, is to determine whether a new force for change is a "10X" factor or just "noise."

Charles Handy, Beyond Certainty: The Changing Worlds of Organizations. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996, 221 pp., $19.95.

Beyond Certainty would be a welcome gift for fans of Charles Handy's previous two books (The Age of Unreason and The Age of Paradox). In 35 essays written during the last five years, Handy's themes remain consistent: changing career patterns and the changing nature of work. Handy was an early student of "virtual" organizations, whose employees do not work together in a single location. He recommends managers respond to the "virtual" trend by cultivating greater trust in their staffers.

Work in the future will resemble concentric circles, writes Handy. The inner ring will consist of a small number of corporate insiders. The outer ring will be the interchangeable workforce consisting of "clerks and laborers." The middle ring will consist of the "portfolio class" who "put their different bits of works into folders, rather as architects do, or journalists, and sell their services through examples of their products," writes Handy. Portfolio workers see themselves somewhat as actors do, looking for good parts in new productions and not expecting or wanting any one part to run forever. Organizations will have to offer a continuing series of good roles to keep their best people.

Art Kleiner, The Age of Heretics: Heroes, Outlaws, and the Forerunners of Corporate Change. New York: Doubleday Currency, 1996, 414 pp., $29.95.

Managers involved in workplace change initiatives have much to learn from The Age of Heretics. In it, Art Kleiner presents the history of efforts to change American corporations during the 1950s and 1960s. Kleiner is working on a second volume on the 1970s and 1980s.

Starting with the history of Kurt Lewin and the National Training Laboratories (NTL), which pioneered sensitivity training, Kleiner traces the evolution of organizational reform.

Today's team building, search conferences, and shared visions are direct descendants of Kurt Lewin and his NTL colleagues. Self-managing work teams stem from the factory-floor innovations of the 1970s. Kleiner concludes that change agents do make a difference, even though some of their initial efforts might fail.