I owe a debt of gratitude to long-time pricing expert, author, speaker, and podcast host, Ron Baker. On the Soul of Enterprise podcast, Ron and his co-host Ed Kless mentioned Matthew Stewart and his book, The Management Myth. I immediately listened to it and then read it (and a few more times since). I require every consultant I coach and mentor to read it.
Matthew Stewart’s Article in The Atlantic Jumpstarted His Book, The Management Myth
I did not realize that Matthew already had a version of his book before it appeared in The Atlantic. But here’s the bigger story – The Atlantic did not follow-up with him until about one year or more after he submitted his story to that publication.
During our conversation, we discussed some of the key points in that article:
- Management theory is sub-genre of self-help books
- While management frameworks can be helpful, they are just heuristics or mental models that do not cause workers to think
- philosophers are better at knowing what they don’t know
What is the management myth?
According to Matthew Stewart, “We think management is a certain kind of thing. We think management is a technology or a certain way of doing things that you can learn in the same way that you would learn to bake a cake. That’s a fundamental mistake. That’s the myth. The reality is that management is a very human practice and it’s a form of ethical life.”
What Makes The Management Myth Great Reading?
- it’s part personal
- it’s part philosophical
- it’s part literary
- it’s part history
- it’s also funny, sarcastic, and extremely honest in its portrayal of management acting as a science
A Philosopher Turned Consultant
- Matthew considered himself an outsider when he joined a management consulting after working on his doctorate in philosophy
- Matthew explains the way he brushed up on business before starting his consulting career (which is absolutely hilarious)
- Stayed longer in his job than he planned to
- Wound up helping to start a new firm
The Flawed Management Gurus of The Past
- Frederick Winslow Taylor
- Elton Mayo
- Peter Drucker
I also asked Matthew if he would enjoy having coffee with Tom Peters. His answer may surprise you.
Why Do We Buy-In to the Management Gurus?
People are looking for an answer. It’s like religion. They are looking for something. So our love of the gurus is driven by demand.Matthew Stewart
Other Big Ideas in the Conversation with Matthew Stewart
- the value of an MBA
- the drive for credentialing
- the flaw of strategic planning
- CEOs are not necessarily reading the gurus
- philosophy books worth reading
- the need (or lack of need) for strategic consultants