KODIAK, Alaska (Sept. 27, 2011) The Naval Research Laboratory tactical satellite IV (TacSat-4) lifts-off from the Alaskan Aerospace Corporation's Kodiak Launch Complex aboard a Minotaur IV+ launch vehicle. TacSat-4 will have a unique highly elliptical orbit which augments current geosynchronous satellite communications and will support to tactical handhelds. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

#1 Book That New Executives Must Read

Forrest ChristianCareers, Managing, Reviews - Books 4 Comments

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.

Highly recommended.

Image credit: Minotaur IV+ lifts-off from the Kodiak Launch Complex. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released).

Comments 4

  1. “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.”

    The problem with this approach is that it places the corporation into the position of sovereign and reveals the problem inherent in what we call capitalism. Meaning the monomaniacal obsession with “shareholder value”.

    Jermey Grantham has riffed on this recently, with his conceiving of the problem being that our grandchildren have no value.

    You can read his entire report for that quarter if you log into http://www.gmo.com, which I recommend since he’s a fun read. If you like to read the kinds of things he writes, that is.

    I suppose it’s similar to the concept of Modes and Stratums.

    Meaning that the corporate form, as created by the West, essentially would be Level 4, where the entire civilization, for lack of a better word, works at Level 8, resulting in hypertrophy and significant imbalance.

    This is just a general analogy.

    The old “wheels within wheels” motif.

    Sorry. Here’s the Grantham article in Businessweek that I meant to include within my last comment.


  2. Post

    JP, by “core” Nick means only the core operation of the business. There is always a core driver for anything. Think of it as your real reason for existing. Sometimes this changes as the head people change: if I came out of Marketing and now am CEO, marketing is going to be more important than it was when the company was run by an engineer. We see this a lot when CFOs become CEOs: finance becomes king, even though there are few organizations where that makes any sense.

    A simple example: Rob Walling, of Start Small, Stay Small fame, points out rather forcefully that for software entrepreneurs, building software is not the most important activity: marketing is. Having a well-marketed mediocre product will almost always survive longer and make more money than a well-built product with mediocre marketing. In this example, Marketing is the real core, and therefore it is King over software development.

    On the “stratum” of society: you should look at Warren Kinston’s work expanding work levels. He argues for 28 levels, and it makes massively more sense than a simple 7, which was Jaques’s first number. Read about it at http://www.thee-online.com. (There’s still only seven in regular organizations.)

  3. On the comment about marketing, I must agree, but then, I am biased. 🙂 What is marketing really but communication: a translation and correlation of one’s unspoken desires with another’s? It’s a drawing of associative lines between two [even] disparate things, which for me is both the challenge and the draw.

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