The pressures of management described

Review of: Simply Managing
Product by:
Henry Mintzberg

Reviewed by:
On 8 August, 2013
Last modified:16 August, 2013


Managing is a busy job. This book describes what managers do, but largely avoids telling you how you can do better.

Effective managing requires some blend of art, craft and science, whether in the person of the manager alone, or else in a management team that works together, according to Henry Mintzberg in his book Simply Managing: What Managers Do – and Can Do Better. The book is described as a condensed version of the author’s earlier book Managing, streamlined for busy managers.

The author expresses a number of controversial views about managing, including:

  • Management is not something different from leadership
  • Management is a practice, not a profession or a science
  • The practice of management is not undergoing change
  • Managers have to become proficient at being superficial
  • Managers in jobs where they have little to do cause trouble
  • There is no such thing as a professional manager – who can effectively manage anything –  because the abilities required of a manager depend on the job context

Throughout the book, the author insists that management cannot be taught in a classroom; it can only be learned on the job. Presumably, then, management cannot be learned by reading a book either, so what is the value in reading this book, and does it help you to become a better manager? According to the author, his objective is to help the reader to understand managing better, so the book focuses on describing management rather than explaining how to do it. The author describes chapter 5 as the most important, dealing with conundrums faced by managers, including:

  • Pressures to get things done inevitably prevent managers from addressing problems at a deep level
  • Pressures to get things done also mean there is inadequate time for planning, and strategic planning is rarely effective
  • It is very difficult to see the big picture and the little details all at the same time
  • The manager is supposed to stay in touch, but the very nature of managing causes disconnection
  • Managers have difficulty delegating because they are better informed than the people to whom they have to delegate
  • The quality of data on which the manager has to rely is never as good as could be desired
  • Managers try to bring order, but the practice of management is inherently chaotic
  • Managers need to be confident but not arrogant, and the borderline between the two is often difficult to find

If you are the type of manager who derives comfort from discovering that a management expert agrees that the difficulties you face in your daily job are indeed difficulties, then this is the book for you.

Managing is a busy job. This book describes what managers do, but largely avoids telling you how you can do better.

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