Beyond the Hype: Rediscovering the Essence of Management Beyond the Hype: Rediscovering the Essence of Management
By Robert G. Eccles and Nitin Nohria
2003/12 - Beard Books
1587982226 - Paperback - Reprint -  292 pp.

Beyond the Hype offers managers an encouraging message that will allow them to get the most from their ideas by focusing on the fundamentals of management.

Publisher Comments

Categories: Banking & Finance

This title is part of the Smart Management list.

Of Interest:

Unique Value: The Secret of All Great Business Strategies

Reengineering…total quality control…core competence. Countless management gurus have proposed these buzzwords that purport to offer the solution to every organization's problems. Beyond the Hype gets past the verbiage to reveal how things actually get done in organizations. Instead of focusing on panaceas for revitalizing companies, the authors concentrate on the very essence of what managers do: initiate action. Rather than prescribe a specific managerial framework, they propose a new way of thinking that emphasizes the judgment of the individual manager in determining what to do.

There are no magic wands, no silver bullets. The authors maintain that good management comes from selecting appropriate actions, communicating them through effective and inspiring rhetoric, i.e. getting a buy-in, and ensuring that they are accomplished.

Review by David Buzzell
Nightingale's Healthcare News, October 2005:

Beyond the Hype grew out of the authors’ research into “knowledge-intensive organizations” that were presumably emerging and being touted in the 1980s and early 1990s. But, in their research of businesses in the fields of biotechnology, consulting, advertising, computers, and entertainment, among others, the authors began to question the assumption held in the business world that a new kind of business organization was emerging. 

Businesspersons, writers, and the media were using terms such as “information technology,” “total quality,” “micromarketing,” “time-based competition,” “restructuring,” “concurrent engineering,” “empowerment,” “intrapreneurs,” “core competence,” and the “learning organization,” to create the belief that a new way of doing business was evolving. But Eccles, Nohria, and Berkley came to see that the host of new words and terms were not really concerned with what was most important to businesses.

The authors do not argue that businesspersons who use these words and terms in contemporary business are going in the wrong direction or are being gulled. But the authors came to realize that many businesspersons are missing something basic in looking only to this host of new words and phrases. The effort to understand what the words are getting at and to assimilate them for professional and competitive reasons is drawing many businesspersons away from more fundamental business considerations, skills, and practices. “Words may come and go, but action [italicized in text] is always the managerial imperative.” 

Eccles and his co-authors caution businesspersons about how they react to, take in, and apply the new words. The words used by managers are especially important because, in most cases, they influence the collective actions of employees and define the business’s operations, image, and direction. The final sentence of this work is “By accepting this responsibility [the long-term health and relevance of a company], you can move beyond contemporary hyperbole and rediscover the essence of what management is all about: the effective use of language to get things done.”

Beyond the Hype is a unique business book for executives, managers, and anyone else in a leadership position. It explains the crucial significance of words in clarifying and thus understanding problems and working toward individual and corporate solutions. The book also suggests alternative language that is both germane and effective. In the authors' view, “hybrid organization,” “mission statements,” “delayering,” and all the other new terminology supposedly applicable to a novel business environment are mostly hype. In reality, these terms deal with change. The challenge lies in understanding the nature of the change and devising and following strategies for responding effectively to it.

The authors urge the use of clear, relevant, and reliable language having an “action perspective which recognizes that the purpose of management is fostering action and then making that action meaningful to people both collectively and individually.” The authors further argue that “without the right words, used in the right way, it is unlikely that the right actions will occur.” The right words used in the right way make all the difference, not only in communication among all parts of a business, but also in “expressing strategic concepts, structural forms, or designs for performance measurement systems.” The authors show how to achieve this useful, productive language by an in-depth, multifaceted analysis of the business’s structure, knowledge system, management, and identity.

Beyond the Hype offers lessons in interpreting hype while not succumbing to it, so to speak. The authors offer a means of analysis that enables decisionmakers, managers, and others to see “beyond the hype.” The words and terms of the hype -- “organizational transformation,” “micromarketing,” and so forth -- are significant and informative as to the nature and specifics of the change affecting such matters as customers, the workforce, and training. But they have limited value as guides for any particular company that seeks to embrace the change, especially without causing disruption and confusion. The authors remedy this by showing how to pay due attention to hype while avoiding its allure to be able to manage and plan effectively in the business environment giving rise to the hype.

A former professor at the Harvard Business School, Robert Eccles is the founder and president of Advisory Capital Partners, a firm that works with medium-sized companies. Nitin Nohria is the Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. When this book was first published in 1992, James D. Berkley worked with the two others as a Harvard Business School research associate.

From Marshall W. Meyer
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Beyond the Hype should be required reading for all managers and aspiring managers.

From Publishers Weekly:

Countering established business planning and design approaches, the authors, faculty members of the Harvard Business School, propose a more "robust," action-oriented manager, characterized as flexible, pragmatic and skilled in the use of language. Research based on wide-ranging, on-site interviews examine, dissect and reconstruct the managerial dynamics in various companies. Although the authors, who use "she" and "her" as general referential pronoun, disclaim academic jargon, their theoretical, clause-ridden syntax often contradicts rather than highlights the book's central call for direct, effective communication. Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Book News, Inc.:

The authors, from Harvard Business School, argue that the basics of effective management are relatively timeless, in contrast to the ever proliferating business buzzwords and models. Using case studies of successful managers and organizations, they advocate an "action perspective" that highlights the judgment of the individual manager in confronting the constant challenges of organizational life. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.

From Ingram:

BEYOND THE HYPE gets past the verbiage to reveal how things actually get done in organizations. Good management, maintain the authors, comes from targeting appropriate action, communicating it through effective and inspiring rhetoric, and then ensuring that it is accomplished. For managers willing to accept the responsibility, they offer an encouraging message.

From Book Info:

Addressed to the thoughtful manager. Puts action back at the center of managerial practice by proposing a way of thinking about management that runs directly counter to most of the frameworks, models, and buzzwords advocated today. DLC: Management.

From Barnes and Noble:

In recent years there has been a plethora of business advice on how to make companies more successful. Unfortunately, magic solutions rarely meet expectations and can actually detract from the real job at hand. Now comes a groundbreaking work that goes beyond the verbiage to reveal how things actually get done in organizations.

From Barnes and Noble:

 Managers today are being bombarded by business buzzwords and new approaches to management that are meant to make them "innovative," "cutting edge," or "excellent." Countless management gurus and consultants have come up with quick-fix advice intended to propel organizations into an anticipated New Age. Unfortunately, these magic solutions rarely deliver as much as they promise, and the pursuit of a holy grail of management is distracting us from the real job at hand. In Beyond the Hype, the authors, all from the Harvard Business School, look beyond the verbiage plaguing today's manager to discover the timeless aspects of effective managerial practice. Instead of focusing on panaceas for revitalizing companies, the authors concentrate on the very essence of what managers do: mobilize action in organizations. Rather than prescribe yet another managerial quick-fix, they offer a fresh way of thinking - an "action perspective" - that highlights the judgment of the individual manager in confronting the constant challenges of organizational life. Beginning with a discussion of how language serves to shape our perception of managerial reality, the authors move on to discuss the conditions for effective individual action and the role that individual and group identities play in today's workplace. They then weave these three themes into eye-popping reassessments of topics ranging from business strategy to the nature of organizational and societal change. Erudite and engaging, Beyond the Hype invites us to transform the way we think about both traditional managerial concepts and some of our most pressing contemporary concerns. Through it all, however, the ultimate lesson is this: that the responsibility lies with the individual manager. There are no magic frameworks, no silver bullets. For those willing to accept his responsibility, Beyond the Hype offers a wealth of insights that will liberate them from "new" ideas and allow them to focus on the real job of managing.

Robert G. Eccles is founder and President of Advisory Capital Partners, Inc., a firm that invests in and advises medium-sized firms. He is also a former professor and chairman of the Organizational Behavior/Human Resource Management area at the Harvard Business School.

Nitin Nohria is the Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration and Chairman of the Organizational Unit at the Harvard Business School. He serves on the advisory boards of several firms. In 1988, Professor Nohria received his Ph.D. in Management from the Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a B. Tech. in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

Preface vii
Acknowledgments xii


1. Getting Beyond Management Hype 1
Part I: Building an Action Perspective
2. Rhetoric: The Work of Words 17
3. Action: The Realities of Managing 39
4. Identity: The Quest for the Particular 59

Part II: Rethinking Management Basics

5. Strategy as a Language Game 87
6. On Structure and Structuring 117
7. Toward Robust Performance Measurement 145

Part III: Lessons for the Present

8. Making the Knowledge System Work 173
9. Putting Change in Perspective 191
10. Coda: Rediscovering Managerial Practice 205
Notes 213
Bibliography 251
Index 271

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