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Henry Mintzberg – Simply Managing: What Managers Do – and Can Do Better

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The Essence of Managing

Henry Mintzberg appreciates that managers are busy people. So he has taken his classic book Managing, done some updating, and distilled its essence into a lean 176 pages of text.

The essence of the book remains the same: what Mintzberg learned from observing twenty-nine managers in settings ranging from a refugee camp to a symphony orchestra. Simply Managing considers the intense dynamics of this job as well as its inescapable conundrums, for example:

• How is anyone supposed to think, let alone think ahead, in this frenetic job?
• Are leaders really more important than managers?
• Where has all the judgment gone?
• Is email destroying management practice?
• How can managers connect when their job disconnects them from what they are managing?

If you read only one book about managing, this should be it!



In 2009, Henry Mintzberg’s Managing was named one of the best books of the year by strategy+business and Library Journal magazines, the number two business book of the year by the Toronto Globe and Mail, one of the top ten academic titles by Choice magazine, and the management book of the year in a competition organized by the Chartered Management Institute in association with the British Library.

So this is clearly a book every manager should read. But one of the issues Mintzberg addresses is the frenetic pace and relentless pressures of the job—most managers hardly have time to think. So Mintzberg has done some revising and some updating and has distilled the essence of his original 320-page book into a lean, action-oriented 216 pages.

The core of the book remains the same: Mintzberg’s observations of twenty-nine different managers, from business, government, and nonprofits, working in diverse settings ranging from a refugee camp to a symphony orchestra. What he saw led him to develop a new model of management, one firmly grounded in his conclusion that it is not a profession or a science. “It is a practice,” he writes, “learned primarily through experience and rooted in context.”

But context cannot be seen in the usual way. Factors such as national culture, level in a hierarchy, and even personal style turn out to have a far different influence—sometimes much less—than we have traditionally thought. Mintzberg also offers a compelling discussion of some of the inescapable conundrums of managing. How can you get in deep when there is so much pressure to get it done? How can you manage it when you can’t reliably measure it? How do you balance the need for change with the need for continuity?

He concludes with a provocative look at what being an effective manager really means, which he describes as “engaging management.” This is the most authoritative and revealing book yet written about what managers do, how they do it, and how they can have the greatest impact.



In Chapter 1 of the book, Mintzberg used his observations to debunk the conventional notions of what management is and is not. For all the changes in the professional world of management practice, he concluded that the nature of management has not changed substantially in the 40 years between the publication of The Nature of Managerial Work and Simply Managing. Chapter 2 is a review of myths of managing, which Henry labels as folklore. Chapter 3 presents a model of managing with a thorough explanation. Chapter 4 criticizes views of management that only look at one of or a few of its its many varieties at a time as if the others could be ignored or were less important. Chapter 5, the most important chapter of the book according to Henry, identifies the paradoxes that are inherent in the practice of management. The final chapter, Chapter 6, grants amnesty to imperfect managers doing the best they can despite their flaws. It describes themes of effective management in context, because that is where the real work of management happens according to Mintzberg.

The book is thought provoking and comprehensive, which made for an interesting discussion with the author.

Table of Content :


Welcome to Simply Managing

1 Managing Beyond the Myths
What management is and isn’t
Leadership versus communityship
Management as a practice, not a profession
Managing’s not changing

2 Managing Relentlessly
The pressures of managerial work
The pace, the action, the interruptions
Soft communicating
Managing across, not just “down”
Managing as controlled disorder
Managing the Internet

3 Managing Information, People, Action
A model of managing
Controlling and communicating
Leading and linking
Doing and dealing
Well-rounded managing

4 Managing Every Which Way
The untold varieties of managing
In culture, sector, industry, and organization
At the top, middle, and bottom
As an art, craft, and science
Postures of managing
Managing beyond the manager

5 Managing on Tightropes
The inescapable conundrums of managing
The syndrome of superficiality
The dilemma of delegating
The mysteries of measuring
The clutch of confidence
The ambiguity of acting—and others

6 Managing Effectively
Getting to the essence of managing
The inevitably flawed manager
Happily and unhappily managed organizational families
A framework for effectiveness
Selecting, assessing, and developing effective managers
Managing naturally

About the Author

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