Bedtime Stories for Managers | Henry Mintzberg

Summary of: Bedtime Stories for Managers: Farewell, Lofty Leadership . . . Welcome, Engaging Management
By: Henry Mintzberg


Dive into the world of engaged management with Henry Mintzberg’s enlightening book, ‘Bedtime Stories for Managers: Farewell, Lofty Leadership . . . Welcome, Engaging Management’. This summary will provide you with key insights on how effective managers foster a collaborative environment by helping employees excel, working across networks, and embracing organic strategies. Discover the importance of sound judgment and earning respect within an organization, and learn how to avoid the traps of inefficient hierarchy and short-term thinking that plague many modern businesses.

The Importance of Engaged Management

Managers should prioritize engaged leadership and treat their team members with respect to foster growth and success. They should focus on good judgment and working collaboratively rather than expecting blind obedience or relying solely on email communication. Successful management requires stepping down from a place of control and instead engaging with the team as an integral part of it. CEOs should prioritize hiring managers who treat their employees well and foster organic growth.

Strategic Growth in the Company

A top-down approach in strategy formulation may not be effective in the long run. Instead, a company should empower its employees to make better day-to-day decisions that will eventually lead to the development of a fertile ground for effective strategies. The author emphasizes the importance of recognizing success and building upon them to ensure further success. Grounded engagement is crucial in optimizing everyone’s contribution, and good strategies are developed through learning, not planning. It is better to allow strategies to grow at their own pace, like weeds in a garden, and cultivate the successful ones to further their success.

The Cow vs The Chart

In this book, the author challenges traditional notions of leadership and organizational structure. Rather than portraying an organization as a chart with leaders at the top, the author argues that it should be like a cow, with all its parts working together organically. This approach, called “communityship,” deemphasizes the importance of leaders and values the collective efforts of all members of an organization.

The book identifies four organizational personas: the programmed machine, the professional assemblage, the personal enterprise, and the project pioneer. While these categories can be mixed up, they serve as a guide to understanding different organizational structures.

The author suggests that managing an organization should be less about measuring and more about experiencing. Managers should be allowed to operate across the organization’s web and should not be confined to a silo or slab of the typical org chart. Executives should mingle with staff members and seek their opinions, and board members with diverse experience should be hired to learn from the CEO. The author likens a board to a bee buzzing around a CEO, and its sting should be used wisely.

This book provides valuable insights for those leading or working in an organization seeking to evolve beyond traditional hierarchical structures and embrace a more collaborative model.

The Limitations of Hard Data

The significance of measuring efficiency is overemphasized in the corporate world, as hard data is not the sole deciding factor in a company’s performance. A considerable extent of what is crucial to a business is overlooked due to being unquantifiable. The focus on efficiency disregards intangible values. Health care in the United States is a prime example of this. Hard data can be inadequate, misinterpreted, or unreliable. A comprehensive assessment of a manager’s performance can only be based on factors such as their team’s effectiveness and their contribution to the entire organization’s performance. The book raises questions about the excessive use of hard data and encourages readers to critically evaluate its usefulness and limitations.

MBA’s Effect on CEO Performance

Graduates with MBAs from the Harvard Business School have been known to become CEOs of big corporations. However, studies in the 2000s found that these CEOs with MBAs were notably more likely to be involved in short-term strategic expedients that led to long-term declines in their firms’ market value. Such leaders, who change everything all the time, rely only on short-term deals and mergers, get the stock price up, cash in and leave. In David Ewing’s “Inside the Harvard Business School,” he identified 19 graduates as CEO superstars but later observed that almost all of them also failed in some way. The reason for this, according to the author, is that most MBA programs focus too much on case studies and not enough on experience. The fable that leadership is separate from and superior to management has been bad for management and worse for leadership. The study proposes that such MBA programs should focus more on hands-on experience than case studies to enable their graduates to make informed management decisions.

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