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Henry Mintzberg: An Original Thinker on Management

In his new book Managing, Henry Mintzberg sets out to clarify the essence of managing. Mintzberg has repeatedly told the business community that we know surprisingly little about what management means and, in particular, what it means to managers.

In his book, he tells how to remedy this gap and move understanding further along.

Toward this, Mintzberg observed 29 different managers work in vastly different fields, ranging from a refugee camp to a symphony orchestra. What he observed—the  unrelenting pace of the job, the frequent interruptions, the ever-increasing variety of responsibilities, and the growing e-mail and demand for effective, efficient oral communications—prompted Mintzberg to develop a new model, one grounded in the fact that management is neither a profession nor a science, but a practice.

In the course of focusing on the practice of management—and what managers do, how they can do it, and how they can have the greatest impact—he also answers some of the more provocative questions, like:

• Are leaders more important than managers?
• Is the whole question of “management style” overrated?
• How are managers to connect when the very nature of their job disconnects them from what they are managing?
• Why has all the judgment gone out of management?
• How is anyone in this job to remain confident without becoming arrogant?
• Should managing be restricted to managers?

The most fascinating conclusion from Mintzberg at a time when business journalists repeatedly write about changing times is that the job of managers has not changed. Mintzberg writes, “Managers deal with different issues as times move forward, but not with different managing. Despite the to-do we make about change, the truth is that the basic aspects of human behavior—and thereby the fundamentals of managing and leading—remain stable.”

Mintzberg continues, “Were management a science or a profession, it would change. But the changes we tend to see are fads. And these may actually only reinforce long-standing characteristics of managerial work.”