A colleague who is also a Facebook friend posted something about The Management Myth recently. My comment I think sums up my opinion of management books and management in general as concisely as I’ve done to date.
Comment #1: I had an epiphany as a young programmer that the best programmers were people who had liberal arts degrees rather than computer science or software engineering degrees. Programmers are supposed to make useful models of the world, and the hardest part turns out not to be the modeling part, but the understanding the world part. When I transitioned into management, I learned the same was true of MBAs.
That said, just like you can get in way over your head in software development if you don’t get some pure engineering training, there really is something to be said for management as an abstract discipline. My gripe with the literature is not so much that it’s all complete hooey, but the books have a very low ratio of valuable insights to hooey, and are very repetitive and information-sparse.
Comment #2: (when I said “the hard part turns out not to be the modeling part” what I mean is that the tools of modeling, the computer languages, the hardware, the infrastructure– those things have reached a state of maturity such that you really don’t have to spend years studying computer science to be able to use them properly).
There’s also one of those great New Yorker reviews-that-is-almost-as-meaty-as-the-book-reviewed here. Which is a pretty interesting history of management consulting going wayyy back to the 19th century.