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The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting it Wrong

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  775 ratings  ·  104 reviews
Don’t go to business school. Study philosophy.

Fresh from Oxford with a degree in philosophy & no particular interest in business, Matthew Stewart might not have seemed a likely candidate to become a consultant. But soon he was telling veteran managers how to run their companies. Striking fear into the hearts of clients with his sharp analytical tools, Stewart lived in hot
Hardcover, 343 pages
Published August 10th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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The Ideology of Corporate Power

A sentimental aphorism has it that we’re all unique. Not so. Among the almost 8 billion people in the world, the chances that there is someone else who looks like you, talks like you, and even thinks like you if fairly high. There just aren’t that many genetic and cultural variables to ensure the reality of a conceit like uniqueness. But actually meeting a physical or psychological twin is another matter in which the 8 billion works against ever encountering him. U
Oct 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A highly entertaining read where Matthew Stewart dismantles the Management Consulting industry. For you with experience in consulting, parts of this are hilarious as Stewart chronicles both the imploding of the consultancy he helped create, and the overall history of the industry.

One by one, he tears apart Fredrick Taylor (the father of "scientific management"), Elton Mayo (of the "famous" Hawthorn Effect), Management Consultants, Strategy (as a science), popular Management Gurus, and offers a
Apr 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, audiobook
Years ago I had read Tom Peters' "In Search of Excellence". At the time, I thought it was a great book--because it has such a populist slant. Matthew Stewart has lots of things to say about Peters, his books and seminars. Mostly, Stewart claims that "In Search of Excellence" is not based on good research, but instead is based on gut instinct. Much of what Peters claimed--"good" vs. "bad" companies, has turned out to be completely wrong. Another very interesting topic is the value of an MBA degre ...more
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For people of a certain age (people about 10 years older than me and younger than me, born between the end of the 70s and the present) business consulting has been mystified into the ultimate prestige job. It turns out that it's a hoax. We should not feel bad about ourselves for not getting that job when we left college. We should feel relieved to have been unscathed by its Faustian logic and parasitic relationship with not only businesses but with our whole modern project of quantification and ...more
Chris Shemes
Oct 12, 2010 rated it liked it
A good but not a great book that is mildly entertaining because of Stewart's personal experiences in the consulting industry. This book hopefully will persuade some managers and C levels to think twice about paying for consulting "experts" when they could employ their own experts - if they don't already. It was educational and a good review of the theory of management. I do agree that any well educated person has the potential to be a good manager but his assessment of smashing MBAs and their ed ...more
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: business people
Shelves: nonfiction
I really enjoyed this book. The author explores the history and claims of management consulting. He exposes many of the professions most well-loved stories and gurus, including Frederick Taylor, Peter Drucker, and Tom Peters. He criticizes the pseudo-science used to "prove" the worth of management theory and the lack of real research from business schools. The arguments are fairly dense, but persuasive, and alternate with his own experiences as a management consultant, which are dishy and fun to ...more
Greg Linster
Nov 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Is there anything more absurd than trying to measure something that can’t be measured? In my opinion, most performance reviews are an utter waste of time because they try to measure things that can’t or shouldn’t be measured. The most important aspects of many jobs can’t be measured, but managers (usually armed with an M.B.A.) delude themselves into thinking that scientific performance reviews measure an employee’s worth. How dare a manager acknowledge that someone is doing a good job without an ...more
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Obviously some feelings to be worked out from his corporate dealings, a deal and a book where names are not named.
It details his experiences of working in a consultancy - predominantly ex-McKinsey consultants (it seems).

Good overview of Taylorism in the 'cold' - flawed and influential. Not sure how it works as an explanation or argument toward the flawed origins of management, or specifically scientific management, management as a science.

In service based economies, it is clear that this kind of
Leif Denti
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
As a management scholar who teaches this stuff I find this book to be highly refreshing. A harsh take on the management consulting industry, the philospher and ex-consultant Matthew Stewart guides us through the many myths that keep the industry going. Stewart deconstructs the modern day gurus like Michael Porter, Tom Peters and Jim Collins showing that in principle their advice is banal at best (e.g., "Gather the best team" - Jim Collins in Good To Great), nonsensical at worst (e.g., "Be a 'Lev ...more
Piinhuann Chew
Sep 21, 2018 rated it liked it
In an imperfectly knowable world, there is a latent irrationality in ALL metrics.

For any given metric, there will always arise instances when maximising the metric is at odds with advancing the goals that the metric was designed to serve (in the first place)

Their specialty, at the end of the day, is not the management of business, but the business of management

There are no facts. There are only interpretations.

tedious work of testing hypotheses against controlled observations
Ralph Quirequire
This is an insightful and entertaining take-down of more than a century of management nonsense shoved down the throats of millions of unquestioning business students (which I once was) and armies of business decision makers (which I don't want to be). ...more
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book on (strategic) management, as it shows that all theories from Taylor to Mayo to Drucker to contemporary fads only serve their own biases and the wallets of (management) consultants. Truly enlightening. Referred to by Taleb in Antifragile.
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Exceptionally interesting reading for everyone studying management and organizational behavior.
Nick Short
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
A central theme in this book stems from the poignant observation that it's easiest to claim false expertise-or simply to get by without expertise-in subjects where it is difficult to define exactly what comprises expertise.

Author Matthew Stewart earned a doctorate at Oxford in philosophy and then began work as a management consultant at Mckinsey-eventually quitting to work part-time and write 'irrevant' philosophical works but then reentered his consulting world fulltime as a partner at a compet
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Part history (and critique) of the most influential management theories of the past century, part autobiography of life as a management consultant from the perspective of an outsider. The book challenges the view of management as a science, the role of business schools, and many other existing management dogmas. Overall, one of the most valuable and thought-provoking books on the topic I've read so far. ...more
"Imagine a world without business schools"
Chapter 28
Fraser Morant
Jun 02, 2019 rated it liked it
The story of Matthew navigating through the world of management consultancy makes for an interesting read. What wasn’t perhaps so page turning was the covering of core management concepts.
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I don't know who you are, but if you live in the business world, you should read this book.

I have worked with many MBAs and people who read books like In Search of Excellence, From Good to Great, Competitive Strategy . . . and take all that stuff uncritically.

And I've worked with other business people who are effective because they are, at bottom, intelligent analyzers and synthesizers of what they read and learn from others. Must of these folks are simply good people who have been well-educated
Dec 16, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's fascinating the disconnect in ratings between the book and audiobook versions. I listened to the audiobook, and unless the book itself was written differently or had a better editor, I don't understand the chasm.

I don't believe I have ever rated a book so low. But the reality is this book is an exercise in self-aggrandizement.

The author explores the idea of a "management myth" through his own N of 1 experience as a management consultant. Doing so he manages to come across as both pompous an
Mario Sailer
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: management
After having read the book, I ask myself which modern business philosophy has been debunked in the book. It is more or less an overall attack on (some) management theories and it is a very poor one. There is a lot of smattering, half knowledge and one-sided presentation about the facts.

The book has a storyline that is Matthew Stewards personal experience as an management/strategy consultant. This part of the book is quite interesting, it gives some insights and it sheds some light on at least a
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
This book also comes with the subtitle, "Why the Experts Keep Getting It Wrong." The author, Matthew Stewart, claims a philosophical background and uses it effectively to destroy the scientific pretensions of management gurus from Frederick W. Taylor to Tom Peters. He shows the reader the lack of any solid research behind the pronouncements of the early management experts of the twentieth century, such as Taylor and Mayo, who respectively stand for scientific management and human relations. This ...more
Ryan Judd
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm a big fan of Matthew Stewart. His writing is always a pleasure and his research is always meticulous and excellently presented. This book offers us both his personal history with consulting, which is highly entertaining while providing insider insight into the industry, and a generalist overview of the "study" of management and a crash course in the history of business education in the U.S.

He does a phenomenal job of breaking up the longer, more technical informational and historical chapte
Apr 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Management Myth has been on my list since I read the rave WSJ and New Yorker reviews this past fall. It’s a brilliant history of management thought dating back to Taylor and scientific management. It is also a highly critical take-down of the management consulting industry that relies on hilarious anecdotes from the author’s career in management consulting.

My favorite quote: “What makes for a good manager? If we
Alessandro Veneri
The book is, in my modest opinion, a good map of the status of management.
The chief author's aim is to repeatedly demonstrate, how management can't be attached with the "scientific" label, rather to be considered a modern branch of the philosophical thought.
"Scientific" is a tag that management couldn't earn, due to the impracticality of its "theories" - a word that is explicitly deserved by thought systems which prove themselves to be predictive, rather than descriptive. Management literature u
Jan 06, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everybody in the business world, finance, management, organizational leadership,
etc., should read this book.
It is a broad history of 'modern business philosophy' and a damning exposee of
the consulting world as it (apparently still) operates today.

The book helps situate theoretical approaches to business - whether economic,
managerial or whatever - within the project of modernity, with its typical reductionistic
understanding of human beings and the 'science' of their behavior.

Many of the les
Joel Ungar
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
Stewart skewers management thought and consulting, intermixing his own career as a consultant, in a very readable book (although I had to go use a few times for some of his adjectives).

Who does he skewer - Taylor, famous for his stop watch, Elton Mayo, who I hadn't heard of before, Drucker (not that badly), Boston Consulting Group, Tom Peters and some others. He does a particularly good job taking apart the famous 4 square grid that gave us cash cows, dogs, stars, etc. as a mechan
Frans Saxén
Matthew Stewart's book provides a well written critique of strategy consulting, and the superstars of strategy, like Peter Drucker and others. The author, a PhD in philosophy, who all of a sudden finds himself a strategy consultant earning a high salary for telling business people with 30 years of experience how to run their businesses has plenty of insights to share with the reader. The book alternates between the recounting the author's own somewhat absurd experiences from consulting, and a ge ...more
Jun 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Very interesting, and easy to read.

The author's politics strike me as being conservative in a sense that we don't often hear these days. The book argues again and again that managers are rising as a "class" with power in our society, and the author seems to waver on whether this is a good or bad thing. What he is certain about, is that the MBA programs are broken. The conclusion seems to be that prospective managers should get arts degrees, and that universities should stop trying to become tech
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, business
The Management Myth (2009) by Matthew Stewart is an excellent piece of nonfiction that skewers much of management ‘science’ and also tells an entertaining inside story of working in high end management consulting.
Stewart has a degree from Princeton that included Physics and a PhD from Oxford and with this he is able to understand science and logically work his way through thought very systematically. In addition he writes well.
The book has a narrative like much of the best nonfiction and it al
Jun 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interleaving chapters about the history of business education and the "discipline" of business strategy with the author's own story of his time as a management consultant, this was an entertaining read that calls into question whole genres of popular business books. Built on the shaky foundations* of Frederick Taylor and expanded on by a series of professors and self-styled 'gurus' that are more interested in selectively choosing case studies that fit into their favorite frameworks than applying ...more
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50 likes · 13 comments
“The simplest answer is that scientific management fulfilled too many hopes and prayers to be ignored merely on account of its logical and factual deficiencies.” 2 likes
“The Soviet five-year planning process—surely the ultimate management challenge—took its inspiration directly from the work of one of Taylor’s most successful disciples, Henry L. Gantt.” 0 likes
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