Nearly four years after, In Search of Excellence clones continue to crowd into the marketplace. This sketchy, generalized...



Nearly four years after, In Search of Excellence clones continue to crowd into the marketplace. This sketchy, generalized variation on that overrated best seller's main themes from a lecturer at Stanford's Graduate School of Business is remarkable chiefly for bafflegab and buzzwords. Without bothering to provide even anecdotal documentation for his thesis, Brandt argues that new imperatives are overtaking corporate America's authoritarian (""top-down"") management. Organizational order, he charges, is the principal priority of too many latter-day executives. Following this brief windup, the author makes a lengthy pitch for trendy, if derivative, antidotes to presumptively basic problems--notably, a dearth of innovation and widespread lack of responsiveness--created by traditional practices. Among other prescriptions, Brandt commends planning that involves a large number of staff members and catalysts, ""managers who see releasing energy as a vital part of their jobs."" He also advises ""resizing"" (a process that involves making companies appreciably less hierarchical) and ""decoupling systems from structure"" (with the aim of ""encouraging radical ideas rather than simplifying administration""). The author offers corollary counsel as well, e.g., scrap all efforts to minimize mistakes, which will come as old news to devotees of excellence theory. Familiar too are Brandt's suggestions for generating so-called frontier thinking; included are such oxymoronic techniques as leading from behind and management with surprises, an activist approach that looks to be the moral equivalent of MBWA, i.e., managing by wandering around. A paucity of detail, though, will make it difficult for even entrepreneurial executives to heed the author's injunction to ""tap deeper into, rather than screen out, the human factor in corporate life."" To cite but one example, his resource-sharing directives nowhere offer guidelines for distinguishing probable wasters of time and money from prospective contributors. There's a lengthy five-part appendix that includes cautionary articles from Harvard Business Review (e.g., ""Managing Our Way to Economic Mediocrity""), a case study (on Great Britain's Marks & Spencer Ltd.), and related material of frequently greater interest than the text. While some of what Brandt has to say about the importance of fostering a corporate culture in which new ideas can ""bubble up"" is plausible, his neological presentation is inordinately abstract and fundamentally unoriginal.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1985


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dow Jones-Irwin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1985