Henry Mintzberg in this interview talks about his latest book, simply called Managing. I think it's his best book ever!
Karl Moore: What is the book 'Managing' about, anyway?
Henry Mintzberg: It's actually about managing.
If I was going to use a subtitle, which we decided we wouldn't, it would be: 'Pure, if not simple'. Know that it's about managing pure, just managing, period. And it's not simple. Managing is not simple, I don't mean the book's not simple. But, obviously, if managing is not simple, then the book can't be that simple. But it's basically about the essence of managing.
It revisits my first book, which was published in 1973, to be exact, so it's been many decades, which was called 'The Nature of Managerial Work'. I wrote the book so I can find out if learned anything in all these years. And I'll let the reader decide that.
So the first chapter is called 'Managing Ahead', which is kind of introducing the idea management as a practice (it's more art and craft than it is science) and it introduces the twenty-nine people who I spend the day observing as kind of examples and stories that are
throughout the book, from a refugee camp survivor to a symphony orchestra conductor - all kinds of people. The next chapter is called 'The dynamics of managing', that's much like my earlier book in the sense that it's about the harassment, the reaction-orientation, the interruptions, the pressures of managing, much like that book except in this section on the internet concludes that the internet does not change management fundamentally, so much as aggravate all these conditions and as a result drives a good deal of managing over the edge, where it just becomes too frenetic and too harassed so people calling meetings at 10:30 Sunday evening for 8:30 Monday morning, as if everybody's got their BlackBerry on all the time, that's Chapter Two.
KM: Okay. What has changed in management over the last thirty years or so you’ve been studying it?
KM: So management's the same as thirty years ago, more or less.
HM: And 100 years ago. What I mean by that is that management's a practice, it's not like medicine when new techniques come along there were new flavours of the month every month but they don't make that much difference ultimately.
Managing is a fundamental human activity, that's my point - it's not some kind of scientific activity that evolves over time - I think management is basic and fundamental, so the third chapter talks about a model of managing, it basically says, managers act through three planes of activity, they act through information, they work through people and they manage action directly and that's always been the case and there are different ways of doing that. Then you look at the next chapter which is called 'The untold varieties of managing' and you look at the varieties among these 29 managers ... in general you conclude that there's such a range of practice that it's not a question of what's wrong, and a lot of myths fall down when you start to look at what managers do.
For example, everybody agrees that senior managers take the long-term perspective and junior, less-senior managers take a short term perspective. Well, why was Norman Inkster, the superintendent of the RCMP, spending a meeting in the morning and looking at clips from last night's television news to head off any embarrassing questions in Parliament that day? Is that a long-term perspective (and nobody would be criticizing Inkster for doing that)?
Okay, so let's go to Gord Irwin who was running the front country so-called at the Banff National Park a good part of his day was worrying about the expansion of a parking lot that was causing a lot of grief among environmentalists about the movement of animals - was that a short-term perspective?
So you've got a guy at the bottom of the so-called silly hierarchy taking an extremely long- term view of the impact on the environment and the and the top of a rather big hierarchy worrying about what's happening in question period in a few hours.
Professor Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University has conducted over three thousand press interviews.
His latest research is on Introverts, Ambiverts and Extroverts in the C-Suite, some of which you can read about in the Globe and Mail:
and in The Economist:
Karl also produces a radio show on the Bell Media network where he interviews CEOs one-on-one for an hour. Past episodes can be found at: