In theory: The Breakthrough imperative

Emma De Vita's weekly look at management-speak.

Here's a theory with everything going for it: business jargon, powerful promises and an authority that comes from having been written by two eggheads from Bain & Co, one of the most prestigious management consultancies around. If management theory were a comic superhero, this would be the Incredible Hulk.

And so we have The Breakthrough Imperative, a set of ideas espoused by Mark Gottfredson and Steve Schaubert in the book of the same name. Subtitled How the best managers get outstanding results, it gets down to business straightaway, selling ideas by flattering the reader with backhanded compliments and an authoritative use of management-speak that will leave any undervalued manager begging for more.

These guys are on your side from the off. They know that your job is difficult. Greater demands, intense pressure for results and a constantly shifting competitive landscape conspire against even the most talented and innovative manager - which is, of course, what you are. What you really need to do is make a new breakthrough in your organisation's performance, and The Breakthrough Imperative is billed as an essential 'playbook' (anyone for some colouring in?) to help you do that.

Gottfredson and Schaubert reveal four simple but "remarkably powerful" laws that can help a manager achieve results. It is the fourth that is most relevant to charity managers: simplicity gets results. Bizarrely, the authors use King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as an analogy for keeping complexity to a minimum. Like the knights, your employees can't be expected to remember long lists of instructions about what they should and shouldn't do. "A general manager's job is to simplify, simplify, simplify," write the authors.

Gottfredson and Schaubert also point out that it is important to remember that "great managers, like great athletes, don't win all the time". But surely the Hulk, with his rippling green muscles, wins every time?

Emma De Vita is editor of the books pages on Management Today.

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