Book Review - Manager Redefined

“Effective supervisors are indeed environmental engineers, constructing the organisational landscape to create a fertile ecosystem in which employees can flourish.” Thomas Davenport and Stephen Harding propose that supervisors and managers are a powerful source of competitive advantage if their role allows people to do their best work. Data on the business impact of employee engagement and managers' role in engendering that engagement is compelling.

The authors' model of management emphasises managers’ roles in four areas. Firstly, executing tasks including planning, structuring tasks and monitoring performance. Next, developing people by allowing them to carry out their jobs and achieve their goals. Then, delivering the deal or reward and recognition in exchange for employees’ investment of time and skills. Finally, energising change to plan for, influence and create the future. All four elements are crucially underpinned by authenticity and resulting trust.

There is great depth to the discussion and model presented. Their model is based on the authors’ experience in the San Francisco and London offices of human resources consulting firm Towers Watson, and in particular on data from that firm’s significant 2010 global workforce study. Arguments are reinforced with consultancy case studies and statistics as well as academic and business research. However, at times the detailed data impedes the flow of the text, particularly in the first two sections. Likewise, boxed sections which touch on related ideas are distracting. The chapter summaries are therefore useful to clarify key points. Section three succeeds in drawing the main points together in a succinct and readable way. This section also explicitly recognises what the authors have not attempted to achieve which resolved many of the frustrations of the earlier chapters.

The book is primarily written for those in supervisory and management roles but is more broadly relevant. Summaries of the key points and their implementation are written for executives and HR practitioners who will find echos of Dave and Wendy Ulrich's recent book The Why of Work with its emphasis on authenticity and engagement.

Manager Redefined synthesises important and current concepts including motivation, engagement, leadership and resilience while focusing on a function which is under researched and arguably undervalued. Any model is somewhat simplistic, but this book is a useful rethinking of the managers' role.

first published in HR Monthly, December 2011/ January 2012

Published on Friday, April 12 2013 by RS5059-GANDI