The Manager’s Bookshelf Term Paper 7 pages

Management and Business

Management Theories and Principles of Each Reading

The Fifth Discipline forces managers to look at the way in which learning disabilities which are common to organizations can actually stunt their growth and progress. The author targets several common learning disabilities which can riddle even powerful organizations, they are: identifying with only one position, external enemies, the illusion of taking charge, fixation on events, the parable of the boiled frog, the delusion of learning from experience, the myth of the boiled frog and others (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). These examples serve to demonstrate how common misconceptions can act as shackles towards growth in even a promising company or firm. This chapter highlights the laws of the fifth discipline as well, demonstrating important lessons such as how the cure can be worse than the disease and other true facts of engaging in business (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010).

The section on competitive advantage asks directly how a firm can create and sustain an actual competitive advantage over its opponents. “The answer lies in an understanding of industries, the five forces that drive competition in an industry, and three generic strategies that a firm can use to protect itself against these forces” (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). But first, one must fully understand the five force which directly impact competition in the industry, they are: fighting for a position on behalf of the actual competitors in a given field; the possibility of new competitors entering the industry; the danger of substitutes for an industry product or a service rendered; the economic control that those who provider raw materials to a given field and the bargaining power one has over consumers (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). Having a full and nuanced understanding of how these forces work and learning how to aptly manipulate them can only assist one in gaining a competitive advantage over others.

When it comes to determining what truly impacts and shapes great managing and great leading, the answer actually isn’t all that intricate. Research conducted to identify the best explanation for each of these is based on examining greatness in each area. Greatness is not accomplished by avoiding what causes failure, or by doing the opposite of what causes failure, but by following a distinct set of behaviors that specifically define greatness” (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). To many people working in areas of leadership or management of an organization, this comes as a complete surprise and seems almost counter-intuitive. Failure, as so many leaders intimately know, is a part of success. Rather, this chapter looks at all the defining and preeminent aspects of success and seeks to determine how one can summarize successful leadership or management. In a word, experts found that, “A key theme running through all three controlling insights is intentional imbalance. Great managers do not try to ‘do it all,’ but instead focus on their employees and what makes them unique contributors to the company” Likewise a great leader has is able to convey the clarity that is needed while allowing individuals to focus on the task at hand (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010).

The chapter, Big Winners and Big Losers, seeks to determine a greater level of clarity on how these distinctions exist in markets and what we can learn from them. One of the most valuable aspects of this chapter was that it was able to determine the three defining traits of winners. These traits were: agility discipline and focus as factors which winners definitely had and which helped them achieve and maintain success (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010).

The following reading on managing teams looks at the phenomenon of collaborative work systems and explains their clear benefits to organizations. Collaborative works systems, or teams, offer a clear dynamic to firms, allowing them to work beyond barriers and obstacles, often creating more dynamic solutions. “Collaborative work systems are a key strategy for achieving superior business results. While employees create value through collaborative practices, their ability to perform and to be highly productive is often limited by the barriers the organization creates” (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). The best run teams possess the following qualities: focus on success and goals, promotion of ownership, articulation or rules, divergence and convergence, trade-offs and others.

The following reading looks at something which is known as the strategy paradox. The idea behind the strategy paradox is “that the commitments required to achieve breakthrough success make it difficult to adapt when the future turns out differently than expected. Resolving the strategy paradox requires a new approach to strategy, and to the uncertainty that shrouds the future. The two tools for implementing that approach are requisite uncertainty and strategic flexibility” (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). These are elements which can be rectified only be being addressed directly.

The reading on responsible restricting addresses the fact that restricting in general often has a negative connotation, as people often think of unfair downsizing and other negative elements which can have a bad impact on an organization. Ideally, this dynamic should consist of successfully achieving restructuring but not budget slashing as a means of reacting to competitive challenges to create long-term solutions; this can also help an organization to gain more rewards of higher customer satisfaction with the ability to respond faster and more successful to later challenges (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). It can also help an organization to more effective recruit and retain members of staff (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). Part of this method involves effective communication.

Application of Principles to My Organization

The application of these principles to my organization is actually a simple process. The bulk of these principles really do revolve around commonsense. The common sense principles presented here truly do revolve around the ideas that people want to be treated well, along with the fact that people need clear and established boundaries and expectations; the principles also negate commonly held beliefs which can shackle and stunt the growth of an organization.

I found that many of the readings promoted commonsense ideas of leadership, structure and culture which were important to an organization’s success. For instance, one of the pillars of strong leadership was” “strengthening management’s relationships with people at all levels of the organization… Focusing management on spotting opportunities and problems early; encouraging managers to anticipate change rather than dealing only with immediate difficulties” (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). Pushing board members to take a more participatory role can also have a positive impact in this regard (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). Compensating team members accordingly can also make them feel more invested in the company and can cause them to take a more active role. More than anything, I’ve found that the culture of the workplace is integral to its success and that the culture can inform how well and how hard employees will work on behalf of the organization. Structure is important, as I have found. My organization has worked hard to create a clear structure so that employees not only know where they stand but feel like they know where the road will take them.

More than anything, the culture of a company directly impacts the success of the company, just as the text dictates. Employees need to be inspired to work hard through the creation and support of a culture that holds them directly accountable for the success of the company, giving them the autonomy to make decisions that can benefit the company and add to its success (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). This is something that we have tried very hard to do at my organization: by showing our employees that we trust their judgments and opinions, they feel more invested in the fate of the organization. Furthermore, we actively seek to praise our employees while constantly lifting our expectations: “Once a winning organization achieves ‘best in class’ performance, it ratchets the goal up to ‘best in show'” (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). While this is true, there can be an inherent danger to this technique. It’s too dangerous for employees to feel like they’re never good enough or that their work is never good enough and that the bar is constantly being raised; this can lead to frustrations and disillusionment. That is where praise comes in and is so important. Employees need to know that their work is good and is appreciated; praise can help convey such ideas.

Moreover, one of the most commonsense principles that we seek to employ on a proactive daily basis is the creation of “an environment that is challenging, satisfying, and fun: Winners stay on the right side of the fine line between a high-performance environment and a high-anxiety environment” (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). Clearly, the employee who likes going to work and likes being at work is going to be a more loyal and more successful employee. Lastly, our corporate values must be unquestioned; this can only occur by the creation of set company values that can be demonstrated to employees through their living and through all forms of communication. Companies need the values to be clear and to embody them in word and deed. For example, at my organization, we do a ton of outreach with the community. We do this without press there and without photographers. We do this because caring about the community that we reside in has always been important to us and always will. Actions like these let employees know that our values are not full of hot air and that employees are expected to participate as well.

Compare and Contrast

The reading on teams was extremely informative, but I found some of the pillars which it highlighted as being part of effective collaboration or teamwork to be unrealistic. There’s a certain element of teamwork which is frankly, easy to pinpoint and to analyze and other aspects which are more nebulous and organic. For instance, the notion of treating collaboration as a disciplined process might sound good in theory, but doesn’t always pan out in reality. “This principle means that CWS organizations must recognize and support the principles as a strategy for goal accomplishment. Making collaboration a disciplined process requires the skills, knowledge, and training of a critical mass of participants that can pass on their expertise in successfully conducting collaborative processes” (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). This might mean that organizations appear more competent at collaboration, but this is just in theory. Collaboration needs to be striven for and actively sought after, but it also needs room to breathe and it often needs to be treated as the organic and sometimes more unpredictable experience that it is (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010).

On the other hand, the chapter which deconstructed big winners and big losers was more apt at realistically pinpointing the elements and consistent factors which separate winners from losers. For instance, it’s true and clear that losers often lack the qualities that winners have and which winners capitalize on. The clearest example of this is a lack of focus (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). “Lack of clear strategic direction meant that activities of both existing and newly acquired business units failed to coalesce around common goals or to exploit synergies among them” (Pierce & Newstrom, 2010). This chapter was able to articulate in reality and practice some of the more elusive dynamics that the reading on teamwork was only able to approach in a mild fashion. This chapter was also able to provide hard, consistent examples to support each claim.

Evaluate My Organization

As alluded to earlier, my organization already implements many of the ideas and theories presented in the readings. However, my organization does them from a stance of commonsense or a sense of “this is a good idea” or “this is what good companies do.” For instance, the clearest examples of this has been our desire and commitment to creating a fun, supportive and challenging work environment for our employees so that they’ll be inspired to do their best. What we need to work on are the aspects of the readings that we’re not aware of and that we don’t have an innate instinct for. For instance, the reading which covered the paradox of strategy represents a range of ideas which we’ve truly never thought about and which we haven’t even begun to consider. Theories like these which force us to think of the long-range impact of our actions are precisely where we need to spend more time thinking about. Furthermore, we need to become more adept at identifying the best tried and true practices while pinpointing the ones which only appear beneficial but are actually something which will stunt the growth and development of our organization.IN a word, we need to become better at strategic and critical thinking.


Pierce, J., & Newstrom, J. (2010). The Manager’s Bookshelf: A Mosaic of Contemporary Views. Prentice Hall.

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