Simply Managing | Henry Mintzberg

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


Embark on a compelling journey exploring the intertwined worlds of management and leadership in Henry Mintzberg’s book, ‘Simply Managing: What Managers Do – and Can Do Better’. Discover the indispensable nature of both roles and how they can be utilized harmoniously, in a hands-on manner that encourages engagement and collaboration. Throughout the summary, you’ll learn about the various planes a manager operates in such as ‘information’, ‘people’, and ‘action’. Delve into the diverse management styles and uncover the secrets to successfully navigating the intricate tapestry of managing with ‘art’, ‘craft’, and ‘science’. Glean invaluable advice on effective decision-making, delegation, and recruitment for managerial roles.

Managing vs. Leading

In today’s business environment, where companies are “overled” and “undermanaged,” the roles of leaders and managers work separately in tandem. Management is often overlooked, but it is where the work gets done. Unlike leadership, management is not a science or profession that can be taught; it is a practice that involves art, craft, and science. Successful managers aim to “bring out the best in other people” by building “communities of engagement” through mutual respect. This approach fosters cooperation and encourages individuals to learn, decide, and act. However, the excessive promotion of leadership demotes everyone else and creates followers who need to be driven to perform. By observing 29 successful managers in action, it is evident that managers do not have to know everything, do all the work, or make all the decisions. Instead, their primary goal is to support their firm’s work and “nourish” communities of engagement. To learn how to manage, you must practice managing with a blend of art, craft, and science.

The Three Planes of Management

Managing is a chaotic and high-energy role that involves communication, leadership, and action. A manager’s day is fragmented, filled with interruptions, and follows no explicit process. To understand this chaos systematically, everything a manager does can be organized into one of three planes: the information plane, the people plane, and the action plane. Communication is the center of the information plane, and framing issues and purpose is crucial. The people plane involves leading people, teams, organizations, and linking with those outside your department. Energizing instead of empowering employees and building cooperative teams are also essential. On the action plane, managers engage in hands-on work to handle crises, gain information and credibility, and deal with the outside world. By understanding and effectively utilizing these three planes, managers can navigate the frenetic pace of their job and drive behavior towards success.

The Art, Craft, and Science of Effective Management

Managers come in different styles and can achieve success in various ways. However, observing managers in action suggests that being proactive, avoiding a hierarchical view, and practicing a blend of art, craft, and science can deepen their impact. To be proactive means using formal and informal authority to bring about a particular outcome. Being part of the interactive network within the company rather than at the top of a hierarchy and binding colleagues and associates are crucial factors in effective management. The best managers combine the art of vision and ideas, the craft of engagement through experience, and the science of data analysis. A proper balance of the three sides of the triangle creates connected and effective management while unbalanced management results in disorganization, dispiritedness, and disconnection. Remember that management is just as much about lateral relationships among colleagues and associates as it is about hierarchical relationships.

Mastering Management Paradoxes

Learn techniques to overcome common management paradoxes such as superficiality, delegating, confidence, and ambiguity.

As a manager, reconciling contradictions and competing imperatives can be daunting. The author of the book shares insights on how to master four common management paradoxes.

The first paradox is the “syndrome of superficiality.” Managers must find a way to engage in thoughtful reflection amid the frantic pace of management. The author suggests carving complex issues into smaller decisions and learning from the example of great athletes who slow down time, even amid great pressure, to make the most effective, thoughtful move.

The second paradox is the “dilemma of delegating.” Managers often feel like they know too much to delegate. To solve this paradox, they should share information with a deputy as often as possible and teach them what they know. The deputy can then deal with delegation, and the manager only has to check in with a single subordinate to know how a delegated project is proceeding.

The third paradox is the “clutch of confidence.” As a manager, it’s essential to exude confidence but never arrogance. Sometimes managers need to display confidence even when they’re not sure of the path. The author recommends recruiting a group of candid friends and advisers to help during crises and remaining modest enough to listen to them.

Finally, the fourth paradox is the “ambiguity of acting.” Managers must learn how to move decisively in a nuanced environment full of uncertainty. The author suggests breaking the decision into “chunks,” so managers can act on one piece of the problem at a time, with space for feedback, waiting, reassessment, and action, between the steps.

This book provides techniques and ideas to help managers overcome the common management paradoxes. It teaches them how to slow down, delegate effectively, remain confident yet modest, and act decisively in an uncertain environment.

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