Book Review: Under New Management

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Everyone seems to agree that we’re in the midst of a change in the way we think about and to do management. Articles and books and academic papers have speculated about what might happen and what it might mean. The antidote to purely theoretical speculation about the future of management is David Burkus’s book Under New Management: How Leading Organizations are Upending Business as Usual.

Here’s how David describes what he wanted to accomplish.

“The purpose of this book is to challenge you and your company to ask whether the time has come for you to reexamine some of the most fundamental concepts in management today. Remember, the business of business is all about change and keeping up with the latest trends. Here’s your chance to see for yourself what kinds of management changes you should be considering.”

The book presents several ideas that may be new to you, or novel, or go against the grain, but which are actually working in some places. That’s the key to the value you can get from reading Under New Management

This is not a trendy book about the latest leadership theory. It’s not a book about what might work. It is a book about things which are working in real businesses, today. They’re all interesting, even though they may not be right for you right now.

Some will turn out to be unworkable for your company. In other cases, you can use part of an idea instead of the whole idea. Under New Management gives you an opportunity to look at management practices that just might work for you.

The Contents of the Book

After a brief introduction, David Burkus get right to work, listing “new management” ideas that are already working someplace. Here’s the table of contents for the book.

  • Outlaw email
  • Put customers second
  • Lose the standard vacation policy
  • Pay people to quit
  • Make salaries transparent
  • Ban non-competes
  • Ditch performance appraisals
  • Hire as a team
  • Write the org chart in pencil
  • Close open offices
  • Take sabbaticals
  • Fire the managers
  • Celebrate departures

Things I Liked about the Book

Under New Management is research-based, but there aren’t any tricked-up experiments. You know the ones I mean, those things that academics do where they pay college sophomores to simulate a business situation of one kind or another. This stuff is about what real companies are doing in the real world.

The author also chooses examples of companies and practices that have been around for a while. Too many other books that I’ve read about great “new” practices are written before there’s really been time to test the practice.

Bottom Line

If you want an idea of some things that you might want to adopt in the future, this is the perfect book to buy and read. There will be ideas that simply won’t work where you are. That’s okay. There will be ideas and practices that are perfect to be adopted whole. And there are practices where you may take a portion of what some other company is doing or combine bits of what’s being done in two or three different places.

The strengths of Under New Management are that it is a research-based, real-world collection of ideas that are out there and working some place. Pick the ones you want to try.


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