21 Ideas for Managers: Practical Wisdom for Managing Your Company and Yourself
by Charles Handy
In book after book, Charles Handy – the former oil executive turned consultant, broadcaster and author – stretches the field of management theory so that it becomes a philosophy of life in the workplace, at home and in society. 21 Ideas for Managers is similar in format to Waiting for the Mountain to Move: short essays that offer Handy’s quiet wisdom on a variety of topics.
In one chapter, for example, Handy instructs his readers to take an imaginary doughnut, fill in the hole in the middle and leave the space on the outside. This is Handy’s metaphor for today’s job. (He quickly adds a second metaphor to the mix: a fried egg, the white of the egg surrounding the yolk in the centre.)
In most jobs, there is a core of tasks, roles or objectives that must be accomplished. Failure to accomplish these tasks may be trivial and obvious (no food for the restaurant, no gate to receive the incoming aircraft, no editorial for tomorrow’s paper) or crucial and less immediate (top management fails to invest in some new technology and the competition leaves the firm in the dust), but they are clear failures nevertheless.
But the real difference is in the space outside the doughnut hole (or in the white of the egg). It is in this space that people can make a difference, that they can grow and learn, and take responsibility and initiative. The best organisations, writes Handy, practise “doughnut management”. They give people large spaces around the core of the job and then encourage and enable employees to make the most of these spaces.
Doughnut management is just one idea. There are 24 more in the book, ranging from how to release excitement and energy in the organisation to how to recognise the parent, child and adult in every employee and manager. Each chapter/idea ends with a section titled “some questions for thinking and talking about” which expertly transforms theory into applicable advice. This is vintage Handy: insightful thinking in a pleasure-to-read package.