In this unprecedented study of America's leading executives, John Kotter shatters the popular management notion of the effective "generalist" manager ...Show synopsisIn this unprecedented study of America's leading executives, John Kotter shatters the popular management notion of the effective "generalist" manager who can step into any business or division and run it. Based on his first-hand observations of fifteen top GMs from nine major companies, Kotter persuasively shows that the best manager is actually a specialist who has spent most of his or her career in one industry, learning its intricacies and establishing cooperative working relationships. Acquiring the painstaking knowledge and large, informal networks vital to being a successful manager takes years; outsiders, no matter how talented or well-trained seldom can do as well, this in-depth profile reveals. Much more than a fascinating collective portrait of the day-to-day activities of today's top executives, "The General Managers" provides stimulating new insights into the nature of modern management and the tactics of its most accomplished practitioners.Hide synopsis
General Managers (Free Press) – Trade paperback (1986)
John P Kotter
Trade paperback, Free Press 1986
ISBN: 0029182301 ISBN-13: 9780029182307
Details the essential qualifications of the successful manager in terms of their detailed knowledge of their industry, products, technology, and markets and their cooperative relationships with colleagues.Details the essential qualifications of the successful manager in terms of their detailed knowledge of their industry, products, technology, and markets and their cooperative relationships with colleagues.Hide
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THE GENERAL MANAGERS
By John Kotter (JK)
GENERAL MANAGERS IN ACTION: POLICIES & STRATEGIES
by Francis Aguilar (FA)
While re-sorting/re-organising my personal library recently, these two books happened to pop out right in front of me. I had owned & read them during the mid-eighties when I had just been promoted to General Manager. In fact, they were my constant companions - field guides to be exact - during the nine years when I had held this position with three different firms across three different industries (chemicals manufacturing in Thailand, software development in Singapore, & metals trading in Singapore with manufacturing interests in Indonesia).
Both authors were known to me as I had read John Kotter (JK)'s 'Power & Influence: Beyond Formal Authority' & Francis Aguilar (FA)'s 'Scanning the Business Environment' in earlier years.
While JK's book was more specific in terms of the vital tasks & responsibilities of a GM, particularly from a typical American landscape, FA's book was more broad-based & intellectually more stimulating with an added international flavour. Nevertheless, both books were very well-written & easy to read. Both my own copies were earlier or first editions. I am gratified to know that newer editions of both books are now available from amazon website.
JK's book was based on the author's first-hand observations of fifteen top GMs from nine major companies. He described a typical day in the life of a successful GM. On the basis of his research into the daily behavior of GMs, he identified a dozen of typical patterns, discussed their implications & concluded that it was hard to fit the GM's behavior into categories like planning, organizing, controlling, directing, or staffing.
He argued that, in order to understand the general managers' behavior it is fundamental to recognize the two fundamental challenges & dilemmas in their jobs:
1) Figuring out what to do in the light of uncertainty & information anxiety;
2) Getting things done through a diverse group of people in spite of having little control over them;
Accordingly, GMs used agenda setting & network building to tackle these two challenges. The author further discussed both these tools in detail. He also explained how GMs use their entire networking relationships to implement their agendas.
With the author's fascinating portrait of the day-to-day activities of top GMs, I was really glad that I was able to piece together some workable composite ideas for my own career accomplishments.
There was, however, only one intriguing point from JK's book. He persuasively argued that the best manager was actually a specialist who had spent most of his career in one industry, learning its intricacies & establishing cooperative working relationships.
For readers' convenience, I append below the book's table of contents:
2. THE GENERAL MANAGMENT JOBS: KEYS CHALLENGES & DILEMMAS
3. THE GM: PERSONAL & BACKGROUND CHARACTERISTICS
4. THE GMS IN ACTION PART II: SIMILARITIES IN BEHAVIOUR
5. THE GMS IN ACTIONS PART I: DIFFERENCES IN BEHAVIOUR
6. SUMMARY DISCUSSIONS & IMPLICATIONS FOR INCREASING GM PERFORMANCE
APPENDIX: INTERVIEW GUIDES, QUESTIONNAIRES, RESUMES, APPRAISING GM
As for FA's book, which was originally intended as a case-study book for advanced management courses, I was able to use it as companion reading to JK's book.
Content-wise, it had eighteen classic case studies from a variety of international businesses that illuminate the major decisions of business life & the strategies for dealing with specific situations. The author also painstakingly discussed the critical issues faced by most GMs.
From this book, I had obtained very clear perspectives on the complex issues of strategic management. The chapter on 'Formulating Strategy', in which the author touched on managing the quality of strategic thinking, was my favourite.
For readers' convenience, I append below the table of contents of the book as follows:
PART I: THE GENERAL MANAGER
1. THE GM'S JOB
2. STRATEGY & THE GM
3. FORMULATING STRATEGY
4. IMPLEMENTING STRATEGY
5. THE GM AS LEADER
6. MEETING THE GLOBAL BUSINESS CHALLENGE
7. CORPORATE FINANCE & THE GM
8. CORPORATE GOVERNANCE & THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
PART II: CASES ON GENERAL MANAGEMENT, CORPORATE STRATEGY & BUSINESS POLICY
To conclude this review, I had derived tremendous pleasure from reading both books during the mid-eighties just as they had also provided me with stimulating insights as well as practical guidance about the complexities of general management. That really made my life easier as a GM during those tough nine years.
Although the case studies may be dated in today's context, I believe the strategies & tools for general management as outlined in the two books are still highly relevant & readily applicable.
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