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The Management Delusion


Loved it! 😍

A book that asks us to fundamentally re-think management and start over with a new system. It just might work.

In The Management Delusion, Matt Casey makes a bold claims about management: We need to scrap our current system and start over. There is no shortage of books about learning to become a better manager –– I've even contributed to one myself –– and yet Casey makes compelling arguments that it's not the people that need changing, but the system itself.

He offers this analogy: If 85% of planes were falling out the sky, we wouldn't blame all the pilots. Rather, we'd inspect what is going wrong with the airlines and provide pilots with better equipment. Casey says that's the situation we find ourselves in, with 85% of employees saying they are disengaged with their work, according to Gallup. Another book about training managers won't help that broken system, Casey says. Instead, we are simply asking managers to do too much with too little as work becomes ever more complex. Managers, he contends, can't be expected to be great at everything from employee development to strategically using limited data, and yet they often create more problems when they're trying their best to handle everything.

Casey's solution is what he calls Minimum Effective Management. Again, he uses a flying analogy: A pilot may be trained to do a lot of things with a plane and be skilled at aerial maneuvers and flying super fast. But the main objective is to get safely from Point A to Point B without crashing - "the optimal point between risk and performance, in such a way that will rarely result in failure but that still gets the job done." Thus is his solution for management - combine strategy and skill to produce the optimal amount of effort that effectively gets the job done.

The bulk of the book is then made up of the tactics and methods that make up this new system, which includes providing more autonomy for employees, making information open, peer evaluations and recognition, communicating and achieving goals, eliminating recurring meetings and other principles.

The systems and strategies that Casey present are straightforward, understandable and written in an informative and entertaining way. (Take this anecdote about the inefficiency of having a file of goals: "A few years ago I wanted a dog. If someone had asked me, “Hey Matt, do you want a dog?”, I wouldn’t have said, “Hold on a moment, let me check the file”. I’d have immediately said, “Yes." I have a dog now.) At the same time, most of the pros and cons of the systems he discusses tends to come from his own firsthand experience, which limits the evidence of their efficacy, even if he makes a good case for them. Note that he is also openly advocating for the software that he sells through his own company, DoThings, so take that for what it's worth.

It's hard to say if this book provides all the definitive answers, but it makes sense to ask the question if management is a delusion -- and invite the reader in to learn more.

Reviewed by

Tim Cigelske draws on his experience as a journalist writing about creative people from all walks of life, including farmer, children’s author, comic book artist and Pixar animator. His writing appears in Runner’s World, Adventure Cyclist and Onion AV Club. Ashton Kutcher called him a "clever punk."


About the author

Matt is the co-founder of DoThings and former Managing Director of After leaving school at 14, he has gone on to manage and train managers at every level of the org chart. Matt lives in London with his dog, Business. view profile

Published on August 11, 2020

60000 words

Genre: Business & Management

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