Off the Shelf


Flawed Advice and the Management Trap: How Managers Can Know When They're Getting Good Advice and When They're Not By Chris Argyris Oxford University Press, 2000, $27.50 The advice biz is booming. Consultants are the new superstars of corporate America. Management books bow the bookshelves.

And the consultants and books bear the same message: Decentralize decision making. Everyone is a leader and every employee's opinion is valued. If only every business worked this way, America would be a (profitable) worker's paradise.

Of course, it isn't, and Chris Argyris, professor of organizational behavior at Harvard University, knows why. In his excellent Flawed Advice, Argyris explains that this rhetoric ignores three bedrock management mind-sets: Be in control; win, don't lose; suppress negative feelings. In order to change that psychology, it must first be acknowledged, and according to Argyris, most advice professionals can't because they want to be in control; they want to win; they suppress negative feelings by not challenging assumptions.

Argyris's advice is this: Apply the scientific method to the advice you receive. Demand that it be predictive. Demand that it be testable.

Above all, Argyris advocates for honesty in dealing with employees and colleagues. Which is always good advice.

-David Rosenbaum


Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers and Nexters in Your Workplace By Ron Zemke, Claire Raines and Bob Filipczak Amacom Books, 1999, $25 After reading the rigorously analytical Flawed Advice (see above), it's jarring to confront the sweeping generalizations and unverifiable advice handed out in Generations at Work. Is it useful to be told that Nexter music includes the Spice Girls and Puff Daddy, that Boomers can be motivated by perks such as company cars, and that Veterans should be managed by giving them a picture of themselves with the CEO? I think not. -D.R.


5. Butterfly Economics: A New General Theory of Social and Economic Behavior by Paul Ormerod Pantheon Books, 2000 4. Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together: A Pioneering Approach to Communicating in Business and Life by William Isaacs Doubleday, 1999 3. Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee Harper San Francisco, 1999 2. Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy by Carl Shapiro and Hal R. Varian Harvard Business School Press, 1998 1. Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins Little Brown & Co., 1999 Source: January 2000 data, compiled by WordsWorth Books, Cambridge, Mass.

Tell us what you're reading and why at WHAT THEY'RE READING Bud Mathaisel, Corporate Vice President and CIO, Solectron Corp., Milpitas, Calif. Clockspeed: Winning Industry Control in the Age of Temporary Advantage, by Charles H. Fine (Perseus Books, 1998) "Dr. Fine does an excellent job of popularizing theory. Notable is his double helix model for the integration and disintegration of industries."

John Glaser, Vice President and CIO, Partners HealthCare System, Boston Blown to Bits: How the New Economics of Information Transforms Strategy, by Philip Evans and Thomas Wurster (Harvard Business School Press, 1999) "This is an insightful discussion of how information technology, particularly the internet, can be used to recast the relationships between customers and suppliers and the internal structure of organizations."

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