Emma De Vita reviews Henry Mintzberg's book

If there is one guru whose name is synonymous with managing, then it's Henry Mintzberg. Although he sounds as though he should be a movie mogul or Wall Street banker, he is in fact a veteran business academic, who first came to fame with his book The Nature of Managerial Work, which was published 36 years ago.

His latest book, simply called Managing, has been nearly a decade in the making. In it, he follows 29 managers from the third, public and private sectors in an attempt to fathom just what managing is all about.

His key finding will be familiar to any manager in a charity - that managing is all about cutting a path through a chaotic jungle of everyday tasks and headaches.

Take any manager's working day and what you will find is a string of interruptions, ranging from emails from the chief executive to the petty concerns of the office troublemaker.

The best managers are the ones who are able to rise above the jungle, make accurate, clear-headed assessments about which tasks or decisions really matter and then prioritise accordingly.

And guess what? They actually enjoy what they do. Perhaps that's far too radical a concept for most of us to grasp.

- Emma De Vita is books editor of Management Today

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