You just got promoted into the Executive suites. You’ve been a manager for awhile now, with ever-increasing managerial responsibilities. You know how to manage that smaller group. But now you’re going to be running a full line of business, your own PL. You know how to manage 100. How do you manage 2,000?
Most business books have little to give the new executive other than platitudes that sound good but fall apart like wet toilet paper. They’re worth about as much as what got flushed with it, too. A few are decent (e.g., Bossidy & Charan’s Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done and Kim & Mauborgne’s Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make The Competition Irrelevant) but most simply aren’t talking about management at the Executive level. And those that do are often written by Big Three Consultants who seem deadset on showing how well they can research.
Books by old CEOs seem to be just as braindead. Sure, some of them are good but they seem to be glossing over all the things that they really did for what they want to be remembered for doing. In the dog-eat-dog world of the upper levels today, you need the real deal.
Luckily, Canadian management consultant Nick Forrest has come to your rescue with his short and very readable book, How Dare You Manage?: Seven Principles to Close the Ceo Skill Gap. Forrest (who is no relation to me) isn’t just a management consultant with over 25 years of experience: he started his career as a manager. He knows what the real struggles are like.
Heavily influenced by his long-time association with serial CEO Jos Wintermans, Forrest’s management theory is one where praxis trumps theory but there’s nothing so practical as a good management theory. Some of what he covers isn’t new. It’s been decades since Alfred Chandler told us that “structure follows strategy”. Forrest tells us that there is always a Core line in the business. In some it’s production. In other it may be sales. But whatever it is, everything else serves it. “The Core is King”, he says. Everything else must learn to serve it’s interest, because that’s how you grow shareholder value. It’s a lesson that many executives seem to have never heard: just take a look at almost every IT department.
But it’s in his use of the revolutionary organizational theory developed by fellow Canadian Elliott Jaques that Forrest really brings you the value. In the short How Dare You Manage?, he gives you a solid introduction to the importance of getting the levels of your company right to create a value-creating accountability culture, where managers add value to their subordinate’s work.
It’s a quick read, something that you should be able to digest on a transatlantic flight. The writing is snappy: Nick Forrest is amazingly entertaining in person, and his personality shines through. (If you’ve sat through one of John Cleese’s industrial training films, you’ll know what to expect.) He lays out how to be a successful manager of thousands so handily that you would never know that only a handful have ever done it before.
Nick Forrest’s How Dare You Manage? won’t make you a great executive overnight, but it will help you unlearn what worked before so that you can learn what it takes to be a truly effective executive.
Image credit: Minotaur IV+ lifts-off from the Kodiak Launch Complex. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released).