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Welcome to my selection of recent published material 

I'm using this space to record my thoughts on interesting books, articles, papers and other material I've read to update readers on issues raised in the book. Please feel free to make suggestions/additions.

For a more interactive space and notification of recent research, blogs, links, etc., please visit my blog at Graeme's HR blog I've recently made a video introduction to the book if you feel the need.

 

July 16th, 2008

Guest, D. E. & Clinton, M. (2007) Human resource management and university performance. Research and Development Series, London: Leadership Foundation for Higher Education

For anyone interested in HR in the university sector, here's an excellent piece of work.  It is an initial but thorough insighful analysis of the nature of HR in a knowledge-intensive industry, dominated by public sector bureaucracies.  The paper shows the problems that HR has in becoming credible in sectors that have a history of strong professional automony and identities.  As such it has important lessons for HR in healthcare, professional services and the science-based industries.

June 26th, 2008

I've had very little time to put in entries over the past few months, but haven't stopped reading.  Here are a few books and articles I thoroughly recommend on topics relevant to the book.

Gospel, H. & Pendelton, A., Eds (2005) Corporate governance and labour management: An international comparison. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

This is an excellent account of the relationship between people management and one of the most important of topics in management today- corporate governance.  The books has some excellent introductory chapters, which map out the territory and show the links between HR, industrial relations and corporate governance.  These are followed by chapters on governance in the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Japan.

Febuary 21st, 2008, An Excellent Review of Corporate Governance

Clarke, T. (2007) International Corporate Goverance: A Comparative Approach, London: Routledge

Again, when I come to revise this book, one of the areas in chapter 6 on which I need I need to do more work is the emerging field of corporate governance.  One of the best reviews of the field I have come across is by Thomas Clarke, who heads up the Centre for Corporate Goverance at UTS in Australia.  Sir Adrian Cadbury, one of the leading experts in corporate goverance, has written the foreward, claiming this is the best account of corporate goverance he has read, and if you take the time to work through the book you will see why.  Thomas has described this work as the culmination of years of study in this field across a wide range of international contexts, including the USA, Europe, UK, Asia and Australia.  The opening chapters, in which he maps out the field, definitions and the main issues, are as clear a introduction to corporate governance as you are likely to find.  He then discusses governance regimes and issues in the major countries and regions in the world, comparing and contrasting them in an intelligent and insighful way that is helpful to academics and practitioners alike.  From a students' point of view, however, perhaps the most interesting section of the book are the cases at the end, which provide an excellent grounding the theory, issues and international differences in a manner that makes this book different from the other accounts I have read.  At Glasgow, we are beginning to give corporate governance prominence on our advanced masters programmes, and this book will be one of the core texts for sometime to come.

January, 21st, 2008.  One of the Best Books of 2007.

Khurana, R. (2007)From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession, Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press.

This book deserves all of the plaudits and airtime is has received.  Along with his ealrier book on the Irrational Search for the Charismatic Corporate Savior, this work is scholarship of the highest order addressing highly relevant issues in a well written fashion.  These are probably the reasons the book was one of the Economist books of the year and also provoked a major debate in HBR Working knowledge.  His thesis is too complicated to do justice in a few words, but has been summarised well in the link to the HBR Working Knowledge link.  Here's an extract from the article by Jim Heskett:

'Khurana traces the development of business schools from their early days in a small number of "elite" institutions (his word) where the ideal or goal was that of creating a field of management that would qualify as a "profession," combining "mastery of specific knowledge with adherence to certain formal or informal codes of conduct and, even more fundamental, to an ideal of service." Graduates often sought long-term employment as managers in a wide range of large, established, highly-regarded business firms.

Khurana then proceeds to outline significant events that led to the dilution and destruction of this ideal, to the replacement of "managerial capitalism" by "shareholder capitalism.'

Read on by visiting Khurana's blogSerious students of management and business school deans should take the time to go through this book

December 12th The 'Great Divide' between HR academics and practitioners

See Rynes, S.L., Gulak, T.L. & Brown, K. (2007) The very separate worlds of academic and practitioner periodicals in human resource management: Implications for evidence-based management, Academy of Management Journal, 50, 987-1008.

The Academy of Management Journal's most recent edition has an excellent series of articles on the gap between academics and practitioners and what to do about it, provoked by a piece of research by US scholar Sara Rynes and two colleagues.  Building on earlier work, they discover that three top practitioner-oriented periodicals, HR magazine, Human Resource Management and the HBR, carried almost no articles over the last five years on findings by academics that they regarded as having a widespread recognition among academics as strongly evidence-based.  These are intelligence as a good predictor of performance, the 'big five' personality factors as a good predictor of performance, and the effectiveness of goal setting in performance improvement.  Moreover, they found that when they were covered, these journals did so inconsistently with the research findings.  What did get coverage, however, was evidence from managers experience, firms' experiences, consulting research and professional association pronouncements, especially in the most practitioner-oriented of the three - HR magazine.  As pointed out by a series of responses to the Rynes et al, article by people such as Wayne Cascio, David Guest, Ed Lawler and Denise Rousseau among others, maybe HR academics are studying the wrong things in the wrong ways and also failing to engage and communicated with practitioners.  As a recent Academy of Management survey showed (by these authors) the five questions that HR researchers have failed to answer are: how can HR systems be aligned with strategy and made internally consistent, Ho do HR practices affect firm performance (processes and causal directions), what the the most important contingencies/contextual influences on the HR strategy/practice/performance relationship, what are the trade-offs in various policy decisions, and why does HR have such low status and what can be done about it?  Students and HR academics take note; also take note of the need to write in practitioners-friendly ways and outlets, and the need to establish collaborative relationships among practitioners, academics and consultants, which was one of the other big recommendations of this excellent conversation.

The Future of Management and the Innovation Agenda: Two different but related perspectives.

Hamel, G. (2007) The future of management, Boston: Harvard Business School Press

Bryan, L.L. & Joyce, C.I (2007) Mobilizing minds: Creating wealth from talent in the 21st-century organization. New York: McGraw Hill

The two books written by well-known gurus provide a connected but different route to greater innovation in organizations.  The first by Hamel seeks to provide a road map to greater innovation in management models, drawing on some exhortation and cases. The exhortation is on being bold and asking big questions or organizations, focusing on tomorrow's problems that need to be answered today, tackling the balancing acts in organizations and those areas where there is a gap between rhetoric and reality.  He also recommends making innovation part of everyone's jobs, creating companies as nimble as the change agenda itself and creating a highly engaged workforce that want to innovate.  The cases are a mixture of old and new saws - WL Gore, Wholefoods and Google.  This book is certainly worth reading, not because it says much that is new but because it says it in a practitioners friendly way and deals with a big issue (see the article and responses above by Rynes et al).

The book by McKinsey consultants, Bryan and Joyce, is in many ways a more interesting and practical text, though based on some assumptions that are difficult to swallow, which are that centralisation is the best way forward for complex organizations - the corporate agenda to take great precedence over the local.  It is work reading to HR and people management professionals because it deals with the talent management agenda directly and because it is rooted in some sounds theoretical discussion on agency theory.  This book shows what good consulting is capable of in publications-based marketing, good ideas based on large datasets and vast experience of dealing with companies.

A very useful discussion between Hamel and Bryan on the future of management, talent and innovation can be found here.

November 4th.  An excellent HR text for HR strategists

Storey, J. (Ed.) (2007) Human resource management: a critical text (3rd edition), London: Thomson

This new edition of a well known text has been substantially updated and improved to reflect many of the current issues facing HR managers.  Like any reader, some parts are better than others; moreover, what readers will find interesting will depend on their reasons for picking up such a text.  So my selection is inevitably partial.   Given my interest in the field of strategic HR and in re-writing the managing people book next year, I was very impressed by the Chapter by John Storey on Strategic HR, which anyone working or studying this topic would find valuable. Storey has undergone a slow change from being long on criticism and short on practical help in his early days to providing some well-crafted insights for managers in his most recent writing.  Two further chapters that have something original to say are the ones by Lee Dyer and Jeff Ericksen on the role of HR in creating dynamic organizations, and the one by Keith Sisson on the role of HR in governance.  Both of these chapters deal with key issues in strategy - Dyer and Ericksen broach the concept of HR's role in creating innovation, one of the most relevant of topics for practitioners in the public as well as private sectors, while Sisson takes up an issue we raised in our corporate reputations and HR book - how does HR increase the legitimacy base of modern organizations.

Most of the other chapters are also very well written and highly topical, for example, Raymond Caldwell's chapter in the HR function, Paul Iles on talent management and two chapters by Chris Brewster, and Dave Collings and Hugh Scullion on international HR.  So this book, together with the new edition of Boxall and Purcell's strategic HR text (due out in shortly) will form the basis of my course in strategic HR - along with our own, more modest, contributions to this field.

 October 13th One for the critics of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Reich, R. (2007) Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy and Everyday Life, New York: Alfred A. Knopf

There have been a number of books and articles questioning the capability and motivations of what big business claims to be a farsighted policy of creating public value - doing well by doing good. Critics from both the far right � Milton Friedman - and the far left � Joel Bakan - have variously claimed it is neither the responsibility of business to follow interests other than those of shareholders, enshrined in corporate law, nor will increasingly competitive markets allow them to do so in the long run. Yet this has not stopped companies such as GE and BP embarking on new strategies that have created lots of noise about CSR; indeed it has become de rigeur in many boardrooms to espouse their desire and credentials for being better corporate citizens. So it is still something of a surprise to come across a strident but, well argued and highly accessible book written by one of the previous advocates of liberal thinking and CSR, former Labor Secretary to Bill Clinton, Robert Reich, now Professor of Public Policy at Berkley. In this book, Reich takes a tour through the recent history of corporatist America and, to a lesser extent, Europe, arguing that the previous benign form of 'corporatist' capitalism has been replaced by a new supercapitalism, made possible by significant technological, transport and international developments since the 1970s. The key features of this new business and political system are that the interests of investors and consumers dominate those of citizens in a way they never did before and that the weakness of democracy, often influenced by business interests, has become largely incapable of regulating in the interests of public value.   As the Economist claims, he now �believes that companies �cannot be socially responsible, at least not to any significant extent�, and that CSR activists are being diverted from the more realistic and important task of getting governments to solve social problems�

Taking apart many of the claims of companies to exercise anything other than self-interested and typically marginal steps to be socially responsible, Reich also criticises these firms and their lobbyists for behaviour which belies their claims to act ethically. This is a powerful argument and one that gets to the heart to CSR, yet critics will claim that Reich�s arguments are largely academic, that the arguments for CSR are largely won� business can do well by doing good � and that significant reforms can come from citizens and politicans working together to make business act in the interests of public as well as shareholder value. I�m inclined to agree with Reich � up to a point. Given a sufficient head of steam among reforming companies, more informed  citizens and a world less dominated by the American Business System, there is the possibility of a return to a form of stakeholder capitalism that will produce even greater innovation than that created by supercapitalism, but with less inequality and healthier and socially wealthier lifestyles.

Oct 9th  One for those interested in the links between people strategies and innovation
Gratton, L. (2007) Hotspots: why some companies buzz with energy and others don�tHarlow: Financial Times/Prentice Hall

Linda Gratton has long been a guru for firms in the field of HR with some novel ideas and an ability to communicate which is second to none.  More recently, she has added a hard, evidence based edge to her work, widening it out beyond HR into field of innovation.  This book is further evidence of all three qualities being applied to innovative organizations.  Evidence-based, well written and novel in many respects, she has developed a model based on some well-known ideas on human, social and organizational capital, and how these lead to hotspots of energy and innovation.  Yes, there is evidence of re-labelling and she may well be skewered by people like Phil Rosnezweig for some of the evidence she uses, but  I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater: there are lots of excellent ideas and useful frameworks that will resonate with any practitioner on how to create innovative organizations and I'm certainly going to borrow some of them.


Oct 9th.  The Exceptional Manager 

Delbridge, R., Gratton, L., Johnson, G. and the AIM Fellows (2006) The exceptional manager: Making the difference. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This is an exceptional book that has come out in paperback recently, making it accessible to a wider audience.  It has been written by a number of very well known academics who are senior fellows of the Advanced Institute of Management and all of whom have something very useful to say about creating high performing managers and organizations.  I shall draw on many of the chapters in this book in teaching, research and in updating Managing People.  For me, the most interesting are chapters on transforming strategy, innovating beyond the steady state, adopting promising practices, learning in organizations and cooperating across boundaries, all of which are manage to pick out the bones of the literature in these fields and provide practical examples.  These chapters are aimed at reflective practitioners who want to become more effective and I'm sure a reading of this book will help them achieve that laudible aim.

September 21st Executive Education in Toil

The current edition of the Academy of Management Learning & Education (Volume 6 no. 3) is based on a series of articles on executive education.  Two of the best papers in this special edition are Tushman, O' Reilly and Fenellosa et al's work on 'Relevance and Rigor...' and Harrison, Leitch and Chia's work on 'Developing Paradigmatic Awareness...' for quite different reasons.  The paper by Tushman and his colleagues at Harvard is a well-argued piece of applied theory showing how action learning based programmes of executive development are more effective than typical schooled learning approaches for both individuals and organizations.  They also argue that such programmes have a major payoff for academics - by getting close to senior practitioners they are able to help their research jump the double hurdles of rigor and relevance.  These are the reasons we have spent quite a bit of time recently in Glasgow developing action-based advanced practitioner masters degrees.  However, there is also a great deal to be said for Richard Harrison's position that universities should not pander to simplistic calls for relevance: by playing to their traditional strengths of intellectual exchange and interdisciplinary research, university business schools are often able to extend managers' horizons and give them and education (mind-broadening) experience rather than a training (mind narrowing).

August 21st: Talent Wars in Asia, Economist, 18th August, pps58-60.

Following on from the excellent piece on the global talent wars last year in the Economist, another excellent piece has just been compliled on Asia and is one to read for all of the Chinese and Indian readers in particular.  Drawing on Economist Intelligence Unit Corporate Network data, the article points out that the shortage of skilled staff is the number one concern of senior business leaders in China and is likely to become even more acute.  Bureaucracy and staff turnover were the second and third concerns, again revealing the people management and change management issues facing China.  The headline statistics show just how acute is the shortage of doctors, accountants, lawyers and managers, which are worsening because of the brain drain from China and India and because of the poor education systems in both countries.  The study also shows the success rates of the HR initiatives designed to cope with these problems, with training, mentoring and personal development plans coming top of the list; pay and benefits, on the other hand, are seen to be much less effective.

August 8th:  Three Excellent Academy of Management Symposia in Philadelphia and One Not-so-Excellent (but Relevant)

This year�s AOM annual conference was disappointing compared to others, especially the paper tracks that I attended. However, with a little archeology it was possible to dig out a four relevant symposia to the Managing People book topics and to management and managers more generally. Readers may want to look up some of the names mentioned in the following paragraphs on Google to follow up any material that might be of interest; most people are quite accommodating in sending you their papers if you can�t get them off the websites.

 The first relevant all academy symposium was �Doing Well by Doing Good in the Employee-Organization Relationship: Current Knowledge, Future Promise�. This session has given me some further thoughts about organizing and extending the material in Chapter 3 of the book....(click for seven page report)

July 12th Using Web 2.0 in Management

I've been using many of the elements of what has come to be known as Web 2.0 for some years in my teaching, writing and other work.  This refers to the interactive parts of the web that I discussed in teaching the virtual generation below and also is a feature of John Seely Brown's video in Chapter 8 of this website.  Just how important these web-based features have become in business is the subject of a recent McKinsey Report, which can be accessed at http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/article_abstract.aspx?ar=1913&l2=16&l3=16&srid=27&gp=0  and a Knowledge at Wharton podcast.  Web 2.0 refers to online services such as web services (software systems for making different systems communicate with each other), blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds, collective intelligence, mash-ups (content aggregations from different online services), peer-to-peer networking, wikis (collaborative publishing) and social networking.  Interest in these technologies is becoming high, especially in India and the Asia-Pacific region and in industries such as retailing, high tech and telecommunications.  Businesses are using them to communicate with business partners, integrate with suppliers, and to network to create and manage knowledge internally, especially bringing together remote sites and staff.  Web services are the most widely used at present, but firms are focusing on using collective intelligence and social networking.  My feeling has been for some time that these latter uses are the most potent in knowledge creation, transfer and organizational learning, and will become more important as time progresses and as new generations of employees enter the labour market.  These two resources provide some early indications of just har far Web 2.0 has penetrated management practice.

July 7th Models of Economic Performance and Management

In Chapter 1 of the book I've tried to explain how models of management have been linked to the economic performance of nation states, including the dominance of the American business model for much of the last fifty years, the rise of the Japanese business model during the 1980s and the 'days in the sun' of the German and Swedish models for a small part of the last 20-30 years.  I did so without much hard evidence, only observation over the last thirty-odd years of reading management and economic texts, watching news media, etc.  Recently, however, an excellent book has been published by some leading economists, who have attempted to explain the underlying structures that give rise to different forms of capitalism and move the debate on from a focus on competing national models.  Baumol, W. J., Litan, R. E. & Schramm, C. J. (2007) Good capitalism, bad capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity, Yale University Press sorts out different strands of capitalism into four distinct forms.  State guided capitalism tries to shape markets by backing certain industries that are expected to become winners - Scotland is going through such a phase just now, as is Taiwan.  Oligarchic capitalism rests of power and wealth being concentrated in the hands of a small number of individuals, groups or families, for example, as is the case in Russia.  Big-firm capitalism is based on wealth creation through huge enterprises, which is partly the basis of the success of the USA, Japan and Europe over the last century, while entrpreneurial capitalism is based on success through many small but innovative firms.  As you might guess, there is no single model of success, nor does any country that relies on only one of these forms of capitalism; most countries are a blend of at least two. Moreover, situations change over time, calling forth different solutions to different problems.  The authors, however, contend that a mixture of big-firm capitalism and entreprenurial capitalism is what has allowed America to dominate for much of recent economic history, especially in nuturing innovative firms to deliver the US 'economic miracle' since the early 1990s.  Inevitably, these models reflect managerial models and help explain why much of the literature and knowledge about management remains a US preserve.

June 30th.  On the Future of HR.

One book that is definitely worth reading for HR practitioners is Boudreau, J.W. & Ramstad, P. M. (2007) Beyond HR: The new science of human capital, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.  This work attempts to map out future for HR which is based on human capital management and the notion of 'talentship', a rather inelegant term but a useful one.  These authors have rebirthed some well known economic concepts such as investing in assets with increasing marginal returns to good effect to create their HC BRidge model, which will appeal to practitioners willing to spend time getting to grips with it.  Much of the argument is reminscent of the recent book by Mark Huselid on segmentation of talent markets, an idea that is beginning to catch on in some sections of industry in the USA and UK.  This book, while based on some good ideas and evidence, is a little difficult to understand, but sticking with it will help practitioners think more lucidly about their HR strategies.

Another contribution that will inevitably draw much attention and crticism is Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank's new competence framework for HR.  Though this is not yet out in book form, there is a good summary to be found at http://www.shrm.org/hrmagazine/articles/0607/0607grossman.asp.  I'm guessing this framework will have a big impact on HR practice, and probably rightly so.  It doesn't break much new ground, is rooted in some simple ideas, but seems to be to be part of an answer, as least, to helping senior HR practitioners become more like strategic leaders (see presentation on page 18 of this website on strategic HR leadership.

June 15th One for the OD Specialists

Gallos, J. (Ed.) (2006) Organizational Development: A Josey-Bass Reader. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass.  This collection of readngs of more than a thousand pages (I haven't read them all) is a treasure trove of old and new material on organizational development, internal consulting, leadership and change management.  It features contributions from nearly all of the main figures in the development of OD, including Richard Beckhard and Warner Burke, who have good pieces on its history; Kurt Lewin, Chris Argyris and David Cooperrider on understanding and managing planned change; Chris Argyris and Ed Schein on the OD process and diagnosis; Roger Schwarz on OD consulting; Bolman and Deal and John Kotter on leadership; Ed Lawler, Jay Galbraith and Ed Schein on organizatonal intervention targets; Peter Senge and David Nadler on learning; and Warner Burke, Rosabeth Kanter and Peter Drucker on the future of OD.  In addition, there are many other contributions from lesser known names.  What you will get out of this book depends on your interests - for me, Chris Argysis's lesson on 'Teaching smart people how to learn' and Ed Schein's classic on 'So how do you assess your corporate culture' are always worth revisiting for my work.  I'm sure anyone interested in the field will find this an excellent resource for practical work as well as academic work, though it might be a little heavy to carry around!

May 20th Two from the recent edition of the Academy of Management Learning and Education Journal, Volume 6, Number 1, 2007.

In the book I've talked a lot of the need for evidence in management practice, referring to a number of recent books that have called for managers to base their work on facts rather than 'dangerous half-truths'.  What does this actually mean and how do we educate managers from an evidence base? Denise Rousseau, one of the leading lights in the Academy, has provided some answers with her colleague Sharon McCarthy in a paper entitled 'Educating managers from an evidence-base'.  In the paper, they outline the features of evidence-based management, which they argue, are to focus on principles where the science is clear, make decisions clear in the sense that all decision points provide an opportunity to apply evidence rather than hunch or untested assumptions, diagnose the underlying causes in the same way that doctors are supposed to - what causes what and why?, contextualise knowledge in the sense, will it work in this context?, develop evidence-based supports, such as checklists, questionnaires, etc., and prepare to update and access new knowledge all of the time.

'Teaching the virtual generation' by Proserpio and Gioia is one of the best pieces of advice I have read for those management tutors engaged in e-learning.  They argue that there is a real need for teachers to get beyond the equivalent of the 'sage on the stage' (content generators) and 'facilitator' (using Web 2.0 to facilitate interaction among participants) roles.  Given the v-generation's way of learning through googling, virtual social connections and problem solving, tutors have to help them make the best of these qualities by becoming an 'intelligent search bot - one who serves as a guide for teaching ways to search for and recombine information' to help them make better use of how to make links and to evaluate what is good and bad content.  They also need to master the use of gaming technologies and online simulations to teach the v-generation the kinds of problem solving they have mastered in their life outside of work.  This use of simulations brings some of us back to where we were 10-15 years ago, reminding us of what was exciting about running classroom 'games' as a way of learning.  I'm hoping this website is an attempt to act as an intelligent bot for my own students, but what I really need to master is how to teach them to do it for themselves. 

May 18th, Martin, G., Reddington, M. & Alexander, H. (forthcoming) Technology, Outsourcing and HR Transformation. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann.

I've mentioned in Chapter 8 on the technology context that we were producing an edited book on this topic.  Here's some advanced notice of what the book will look like.  This opening chapter sets the scene and tells you a little about the contrubutions of colleagues from the Netherlands, USA, Australia, Italy, France and Germany as well as others from the UK.

May 15th. Prusak, L. & Matson, E. (Eds.) (2006). Knowledge management and Organizational Learning: a Reader. New York: Oxford University Press.

In the Managing People book I have attempted a review of the field of knowledge management and organizational learning in Chapter 7, so any reader that purports to cover the topic is naturally of interest to me.  I'm really pleased I have been given this book to review because it does a splendid job of helping my practitioner students get a more detailed and insightful account than I can provide them with in my more general text.  The Prusak and Matson reader is also of relevance to my current research interests in human capital investment and organizational innovation.

The book deals with many of the issues with which organizational development, HR and knowledge managers are taxed in the strategic aspects of their roles.  It begins with a set of readings on the strategic importance of knowledge and learning, and then discusses the relationship between individual learning and organizational knowledge, knowledge retention and organizational memories, knowledge transfer and dissemination, and the social construction of knowledge.  The final section deals with the future directions of the subject, including managing knowledge workers and working with knowledge networks.  Many of the chapters are by well-known names in the field and most have a practical focus, though this should not put off academics interested in some of the more critical concerns of knowledge management.

Any reader will have some chapters of more interest than others depending on one's perspective and interests.  Other chapters just grab your attention because of the authors ability to master their subject and because of their ability to write in plain English.  In this latter category are chapters by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid on 'how to capture knowledge without killing it', by Wenger and Snyder on communities of practice, by Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap on 'generating creative options' and by the editors themselves on 'the performance variability dimension'.  In the former category, I have to single out Atul Gawande's vivid and insighful account of 'the learning curve', which is one of the best cases I have ever read on how apprentices become masters in very dangerous circumstances - learning how to become a surgeon - and the life-threatening tensions and dilemmas involved in learning through practice.  It was also gratifying to see an ex-colleague of mine have a chapter selected, along with the aforementioned 'big hitters' in this field, on how to develop intellectual capital and organization memory - well done Russell Williams (and Arnold Kransdorff).

From my perspective, however, there are two shortcomings.  The first is the preponderance of selected chapters written some time ago.  While classics are important, there have been quite a number of important developments in the field.  Second, and related to the first criticism, ist that  some topics aren't dealt with in the depth one might expect.  For example, I would have expected some attention given to absortive capacity, a notion that has lots of empirical support and practical value, and which has been the subject of a great deal of recent dicussion in Academy of Management Journals, etc.  I would also have liked to have seen some chapters on the idea of value creation and measurement issues.  I appreciate the authors have acknowledged this problem, referring readers to more specialist texts on this topic, but the notion of assessing and measuring the effective of investment in human capital on intellectual capital and organizational learning is so important, any reader purporting to cover the field is obliged to confront this issue.  That said, this is a splendid book with great value for practitioners and academics, and one on which I shall continuously draw upon for insights into my own research and practice.

April 28th Charles Fishman (2006) The Wal-Mart Effect: How an Out-of-Town Superstore became a Superpower, Allen Lane

One of the most popular cases in the book with the students I teach is the failure of Wal-Mart in Germany.  This book put that failure into context by providing an illuminating analysis of, arguably, the largest company in the world, depending on what measures are used.  Wal-Mart failed in Germany but dominates retailing in the USA and is making serious inroads into retailing in a number of other parts of the world including China, Brazil, the UK (through the acquisition of ASDA), India and a number of Eastern European countries.  Wal-Mart's success is based on its low price offer to customers everywhere, but this is only made possible by by rigorous management of logistics, pressure on suppliers to simultaneously cut costs and innovate, and devotion to opening new stores.  It is also one of the most secretive of organizations, made possible because it is privately owned.  However, Fishburn, an investigative journalist, has managed to collect data from many interviews with Wal-Mart employees, managers, suppliers and customers to produce a highly-informed and accessible account of the postive and negative power of a company that had a track devoted to it at the Academy of Management in Atlanta in 2006.  It was through attending this track that I came across Fishburn, whose work occupied the centre stage supported by a cast of impressive academics attempting to answer the questions he raised in the book about the power of Wal-Mart to influence consumer choice and working conditions for millions of employees throughout the world, reminscent of the debate over Fordism in manufacturing during the 1980s and 1990s. The same tensions attributed to the Ford Motor Company during the early decades of the 20th century -an organization which liberated many ordinary Americans by dominated those who worked for it - are a feature of Fishburn's analysis. For anyone with an interest in these tensions, this is certainly a worthwhile read.

April 20th.  Organizational Identities and Employer Branding

The March edition (Volume 18, Special Issue) of the British Journal of Management is given over to a special edition on organizational and corporate identities, part of the subject matter of Chapter 6.  The opening paper is especially useful in mapping out the different traditions and perspectives on these increasingly important topics.  However, from the perspective of HR research, one of the most useful papers is by Lievens, Van Hoye and Anseel on 'Organizational identity and employer image: Towards a unifying framework' (S45-S60).  This is one of the few academic papers that deals with the popular issue of employer branding.  This study of the effectiveness of employer branding in the Belgian Army brings togther organizational identity scholarship and the consulting literature on employer branding to produce a framework for analysing the impact of employer brands on employees organizational identification and potential applicants attraction to organizational attributes.The results show, among other things, that employees attach importance to outsiders' views of the organization.  This is a good starting point for research in this field not only because of the useful references but also because it has moved the theory on by linking two independent bodies of work.

March 27th Two quite different books dealing with America's reputation overseas, those of its companies and the source of such reputations.

I begin chapter 6 of the book with a case on America's poor reputation abroad, so when I picked up Dick Martin's (2007) book entitled 'Rebuilding Brand America: What we must do to Restore our Reputation and Safeguard the Future of American Business Abroad' (American Management Association), I was intrigued and a little worried (that it would be a tub-thumping piece of patriotism.  No problems: although the author does have a mission, this book is a serious and balanced study written in a seriously effective manner.  The writer seems to have insight into the corridors of power in the US establishment and uses these to good effect to produce evidence on the complicated picture of America's reputation abroad - what you see, depends on where you stand and what you value, at least to a certain extent.  However, the overwhelming picture he paints is of a declining national reputation, which is having and will continue to have a negative impact on American brands.  Martin points out that the role of communications and spin has been limited in terms of impact and may have worsened the US reputation.  Instead he points to a number of American companies that are doing well by doing good (the CSR agenda) and by sinking roots by going local. These include McDonalds and even Wal-Mart, both having had problems of doing business abroad.  This book is definitely worth reading for America watchers and for a greater insight into the factors influencing America's reputation and that of its companies.

Robert Kagan (2006) Dangerous nation: America's place in the world from its earliest days to the dawn of the 20th century, New York: Alfred Knopf.

Although not a business book, this very good history of America is highly relevant to chapters 1, 5 and 6 in the book in charting and analysing the origins of the American dream and the universalist mission of the US.  Kagan argues that even by 1776 Americans harboured dreams of being a global power to match their economic power, seeking to export their national identity as the paragon of liberal republicanism to the rest of the world.  Uniquely among nations, the founding fathers and American intellectuals of the day believed in basing their society on the universalist values of natural rights of liberty and reason, 'granted by God and enjoyed by all men, regardless of nationality, culture and history'.  Though unable to live out such ideals internally for many years because of the political realities of mainly southern landowners and their attachment to black slaves, such ideas came to be rapidly incorporated into their foreign policies.

It is against such a background that the attitudes and practices of American businesses and managers may have to be understood when analysing international business issues involving US firms and the export of American management techniques.  This version of 'manifest destiny' may also help explain why attempts to change the high levels of ethnocentrism among American managers and business students through international management courses may fail.  Two hundred and thirty years of belief in their own superiority may explain why Jack Welch, the ex-CEO of GE, could say, without batting an eye, if it was good enough for his company ir was good enough for the rest of the world

March 15th The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig

I've just finished reading this excellent book.  It thoroughly deserves the plaudits it has received and should be read by every manager (and business school academic) interested in understanding some of the issues concerning factors that contribute to business performance.   It is supported by an excellent website and blog.  Here's his summary of the book and links to articles and further resources.

March 4th, 2007

Management and Leadership Education and the Role of Business Schools

I'm currently doing some research on executive education and the future of the business schools, which is relevant to chapters one and two.  I have to revise a paper for a journal and have been doing an updated literature search. Two of the best sources I'm come across are:

Armbr�ster, T. (2006) The Economics and Sociology of Management Consulting, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, and

Wensley, R. (2007) Beyond rigour and relevance: the underlying nature of both the business schools and management research, AIM Research Working Paper Series - 051-January-2007, Advanced Institute of Management (available online http://www.aimresearch.org/051wp.html, accessed 2nd, March 2007).

Wensley's paper tackles the age old discussion regarding the mission of business schools and the research they produce.  His central thesis is...(click to read more )>

Thomas Armbr�ster's excellent book has some important lessons for business schools from the management consulting industry, which is very well analysed by Thomas Armbr�ster.  I have attempted to draw some parallels from his analysis of the management consulting industry to the market for executive education, an important source of income and ideas for research for the business schools.  Here's my thoughts which are heavily influenced by Armbruster's analysis and theoretical framework (click to read on)>