Principles of Management – Open Textbook Library


Reviewed by Brian Richardson, Adjunct Faculty, University of Hawaii at Manoa on 8/21/16

Comprehensiveness
rating:
3
see less

In the introduction to Principles of Management, the authors state that there are three themes in the book: strategic thinking, entrepreneurial thinking, and active management. The entrepreneurial theme is not as prevalent as their introduction would suggest. There is some discussion of creativity, although references to writers and books beyond the single book by Edward De Bono would have enhanced the section.
Sections that stand out as useful include the discussions of fairness, groupthink, employee performance review, and predictors of job performance. Some sub-sections and minor topics should have been separate sections with more details, such as the discussion of meetings, of interviewing, and of HR rules and policies. Finally, sections that would have useful additions to the textbook include how to write a good survey, how to deal with very difficult employees, and how to improve morale, which was referenced superficially but not focused on.
The selection of management writers and level of detail provided for their positions is uneven. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is given three pages while Collins’ discussion of changing good companies into great ones has two passing references and a short summary of the idea of a BAHG (big, hairy, audacious goal). Some thinkers were left out or not considered. Senge is not mentioned, even in the short section on “Learning Organizations”. Likewise, academic writers and many historical thinkers, such as Max Weber, are not mentioned at all.
Also lacking was a sense of how these different thinkers or ideas might disagree with each other or people outside of the management field. Instead, the text offers a series of disconnected concepts and models, which likely improved the modularity of the overall book, but at the cost of limiting the interactions between the topics and positions. As a result, there was little logical or conceptual analysis and the book relied on exposition.

Content Accuracy
rating:
4

Much of the textbook is made up of summaries of different concepts and models connected to management, with an emphasis on contemporary writers and psychosocial theories. There were no obvious inaccuracies in the summaries of the concepts and thinkers, although some sections could be criticized as limited, vague, superficial, or uncritical.

Relevance/Longevity
rating:
3

A textbook on management principles will become less relevant over time as updated information becomes available and new thinkers offer different concepts and models. One reference that stood out was the quote that “According to one source, there will be 11.5 million more jobs than workers in the United States by 2010.” Given that this is a book last updated in 2015, the data should have been updated as well, especially given how wrong it turned out to be. Interestingly, this source is a Wired magazine article from 2007, published just before the economic crash.
The examples and illustrations may become dated fairly quickly. References to specific CEOs and other leaders, for instance, will become less relevant over time. In this edition, there is a reference to and picture of Condoleeza Rice but no mention of Obama, for instance. Obama only occurs as a marginal participant in a group shot of world leaders

Clarity
rating:
3

The clarity of the discussion is generally good, although there is some room for improvement. The photographs, for instance, do not support the text very well. A glossary would have been useful for clarifying all of terms used while an index would have helped readers access specific sections more effectively.
The choice of examples is sometimes not clear. For instance, the examples used to illustrate organizations dealing with uncertain conditions, and thus needing flexible strategies were “a gang of car thieves or a construction company located in the Gaza Strip” (page 182). Both of these examples are strange and much better examples taken from businesses could have been provided and then discussed in some detail. Likewise, the example that they give of resistance to change was that people have been unwilling to adopt Dvorak keyboard and have stuck with the QWERT keyboard, despite the obvious efficiency of the Dvorak system (page 281). This is a great example of resistance to change, but one wonders why the authors could not find an example from business, such as how the railroads ignored the rise of the airplane.

Consistency
rating:
4

While the book is generally consistent overall, it book sometimes strays from a discussion of the “principles” of management and does not adopt a consistent idea of what kinds of businesses are being talked about. The book would have been clearer if the authors had started with a classification of types of business that they are talking about (manufacturing, marketing, services, non-profits, perhaps) and be clear about what they were not covering (like government bureaucracies). For instance, I was thinking of using this textbook to support a course in Library management, and while some of it was useful, much of it would have been irrelevant or confusing. Had the book been clearer on how the different topics connected to different types of organizations, it would have been clearer which topics were relevant to specific readers or situations

Modularity
rating:
4

The textbook is very modular, although there are times when this modularity breaks down. For instance, the discussion of data in the early part of the book was useful, but it would have been more appropriately connected to the discussion of budgeting, which occurs much later in the section on control. Another example is the discussion of globalization and intercultural issues, which occurs sporadically throughout the book and is never really brought into focus.

Organization/Structure/Flow
rating:
3

The overall structure of the textbook follows Fayol’s POLC model of management (Planning, Organizing, Leading, and Controlling) with the overall narrative following the different stages in the process.
Each section includes learning objectives, key takeaways, and discussion questions. These parts are very good at focusing the conversation in the larger sections. However, these additional parts are sometimes longer than the main text for that section and seem unnecessarily repetitive.
The shift between institutional management and personal management is a bit strained at times, making it unclear whether the focus of the book is management or the personal growth of the manager.
Each section included a list of references. In one section, there is simply a reference to the Columbia Encyclopedia, which was not helpful. Typically, however, there are a lot of references in each section. In fact, there are too many references that have minimal value. With some exceptions, the references are to short articles that could easily be retrieved by a Google search. Given that this is an introductory textbook, it would have been better to have an annotated “Further Reading” section that could lead readers to important writings and videos that expend on the different modules.

Interface
rating:
3

The layout of the textbook follows standard page layout formatting. There are some things that could be improved. First, some of the text, such as some paragraph headers and keywords, are blue, which suggests that it is hyperlinked (as are the captions for pictures), but this is not the case. The full URLs in the text, also blue, are the only hyperlinks in the textbook. Another feature that could be improved is the way that the text, at least in the PDF version, has line breaks at the end of each line, which means that copying text leads to broken paragraphs that require additional editing if they are copied to another document or web page.
The greatest issue with the interface, however, is the amount of white space that is included in the text. Given how short the different sections are and the way that the layout is organized, there is likely 100 pages worth of unnecessary white space in the text, which turns a 500-odd page book into over 600 pages. Added to this that the pictures and list of references are not that relevant, and the book appears to be laid out very inefficiently.

Grammatical Errors
rating:
4

Beyond a few minor typos, the book was clearly written. The prose was a straightforward expository style, although at times it could have been more concise. The writers would often begin their paragraphs with rhetorical questions and then answer them right away, which did not help clarify the prose and typically made the writing more verbose.
On page 279, the caption and the picture do not match.

Cultural Relevance
rating:
3

The book is focused on ideas and problems connected to American private-sector management. As a result, it is largely uncritical of large-scale organizations. Non-profits are discussed on a single page in the context of internal controls. Bureaucracy, as a term with negative connotations, is only mentioned in passing as an example of mechanistic structures, which are seen as an exception. Discrimination, likewise, is mentioned in passing three times, once in terms of how issues of discrimination have become a broader concern for “diversity management”. Finally, unions are mentioned a few times in a long list of stakeholders (pages 150 and 151), even though the sample table for tracking stakeholders (page 148) does not mention them. Unions are seen as a punishment for businesses that appear to be unjust (page 529). At-will employment, on the other hand, is discussed in a focused paragraph in a way that does not consider the debate between union and at-will employment. For a textbook on industrial-focused management, the relative silence to the contrast between union and at-will employment conditions is unfortunate.
When the book discusses global trends, it tends to be simplistic, taking trends such as “becoming more connected” as more important than such things as economic inequality, resource depletion, surveillance, war and terrorism, or social instability. In that sense, the book would not be very useful to people outside of the United States or to those who were actively engaged in intercultural management. At best, the book points to some of the problems that could be faced.

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