Virtual Learning Resource Centre

Palgrave’s key concepts series

Published by Palgrave Macmillan and reviewed by Edgar Wille in July 2005.

These nine books are called glossaries, but they are nearer to mini-encyclopedias than to dictionaries. They currently cover the following management areas in alphabetic order:

A short guide is given to each one of them below. They all contain 500 to 600 entries, written in an interesting and simple style, without being simplistic or lacking rigour. They are an ideal addition to any personal or institutional library. As we read management literature, journals or business reports of companies or sectors, we are almost certain to come across some term or piece of jargon on which we are not wholly clear. One flick of the pages of the appropriate key concept glossary and we shall find the clarification we need, at a level that will make sense of what we are reading and possibly stimulate us to further and more detailed study.

You can also get much benefit from just thumbing through the volumes and reading what attracts your eye. You will probably find yourself saying “Well I never knew that before”. And often a little serendipity can lead to new insights that you weren't even thinking about before.

Almost every term you are likely to meet in management reading will be in one or more of these volumes, together with a brief word on the main theories, models and frameworks available to help managers in their decision making. The most prominent authors and gurus are also highlighted in separate entries.

The volumes would also be handy when revising for an examination or preparing a presentation.

The authors are Jonathan Sutherland and Diane Cantwell (full time writers, with previous lecturing experience) except for the volume on Information and communication technology which is by Roger I Cartwright (consultant and writer, previously deputy departmental head at a Scottish College).

Key Concepts in Management, 2004

Key Concepts in Management bookcover

This wide ranging volume covers all the main themes of management as well as those less frequently encountered. Thus you can look up benchmarking, cost benefit analysis, total assets turnover ratio, body language, burnout, bureaucracy, competitive advantage, market segmentation, brand loyalty, forecasting, key success factors, a range of leadership issues, lean production, organisational culture, performance appraisal, scenario planning, many forms of power in separate entries, statistical process control and many more.

You can also look up less familiar themes such as work degradation, symbiotic relationship, vertical differentiation, orthogonal arrays, minimum efficient scale, ERG theory, dialectic enquiry. Then almost all of these entries are expanded in the more specific volumes. So you use this volume when you just want a quick definition or guide, moving on to another volume for a more extended description.

Over two hundred writers on management topics are identified and their principal works indicated. Those presented range from the top names like Peter Drucker and Tom Peters to specialists like Terence Deal and Victor Vroom. Again fuller information is given in other volumes.

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Key Concepts in Business Practice, 2004

Key Concepts in Business Practice bookcover

Like all this series it is well illustrated. The topics cover most of the business related disciplines – the administration, the planning, coordination, monitoring and control of a business operation. It takes into account the radical changes in business practice in recent years, “Waves of legislation, improvements in technology, and ever-increasing customer expectations have transformed business discipline.” The book sees every operation, every decision and every idea that an organisation may adopt, as included under the general heading of business practice. This approach makes for a particularly comprehensive glossary.

This book is distinguished from the previous one (BRKey Concepts in Management) by being more concerned with some of the detailed practical activity of a business as well as many of the broader issues. For example whereas the Management book emphasises principles of work, this Business Practice book has entries about work centres, work in progress, work measurement, work sampling, and workforce analytics.

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Key Concepts in Strategic Management, 2004

Key Concepts in Strategic Management bookcover

Another of the Palgrave glossaries, more akin to a book than a dictionary, but it can be referred to for specific terms and saves time in trying to fathom out new ideas. Anything you meet in reading about strategy will be covered here. The coverage of writers on strategy is particularly useful. The book concentrates on the concepts you need to employ in order to take a strategic stance to a business. It encourages a holistic approach to business, so that strategy brings together financial, marketing, operational, human resource and other issues in a total design, without becoming so general as to miss their unique contributions. This is illustrated by the presence of twice as many entries on specific aspects of strategy than there are in the more general book on Management.

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Key Concepts in Marketing, 2004

Key Concepts in Marketing bookcover

There is a wide ranging coverage of marketing issues in the 600 entries. Environmental scanning, franchising, competitive strategy, positioning, green marketing, brand valuation, demographic segmentation, marketing plan, questionnaires – all and many more will leap out at you, even if you are only flicking through. Marketing is defined by the book as seeking to identify, satisfy and supply customers’ expectations, their needs and their wants.

The twenty pages of entries containing the words market or marketing include macro-marketing, market, market challenger, market developer, market follower, market leader, market challenger, market nicher, market orientation, market penetration, market pioneer, market research, market segmentations, market share, marketing audit, marketing communications, marketing philosophy, marketing information systems, marketing mix, marketing myopia, marketing plan, marketing research, marketing strategies. These themes are interestingly though briefly written up. If a newcomer to marketing just read them carefully, he or she would be able to engage in an intelligent discussion of markets and marketing. And that’s only a few pages.

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Key Concepts in Operations Management, 2004

Key Concepts in Operations Management bookcover

It is easy to look up a particular point of interest, but when one does, the explanations are interesting as well as lucid. You can find out about a range of matters. They include such items as activity based costing (ABC), aggregate planning, batch processing, bottlenecks, cause and effect diagrams, critical path method, economic production quantity, job design, just in time systems, material requirements planning (MRP), original equipment manufacturer (OEM), quality function deployment, total quality management (TQM), value chain, value added, and many obscure terms for simple concepts.

Throughout, the authors keep reminding us that Operations must never forget that it is all being done to satisfy a customer. The beginner in operations management could be saved a lot of anxiety with this book in hand, but the experienced manager would be refreshed by the simplicity of the explanations. It could also be used in tandem with a comprehensive book, like Terry Hill’s standard work.

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Key Concepts in Human Resource Management, 2004

Key Concepts in Human Resource Management bookcover

Every entry answers your immediate needs and points you in the right direction. Once “human resource management” took over from “personnel management”, a largely new discipline was born, of greater complexity and strategic significance. This change is apparent from the wide range of entries, which clarify terms, jargon, legislative approaches and procedures.

Do you want to know the sources of information for job analysis? Do you want ideas on disciplinary procedures, experiential learning, fringe benefits, flexitime, job rotation, delegation, employee retention, managing diversity, organisation development, quality of work life, performance management, stress management, team building? Well! there are very readable entries on them all and many more beside. Along with short biographies of key people in the field, past and present, there are useful reading lists. No one concerned about people at work should be without this book.

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Key Concepts in International Business, 2004

Key Concepts in International Business bookcover

Following the same format as the other books in this series, it takes a wider perspective and includes concepts which are specifically international, not only in the 13 pages where the word “International” appears in the phrase being defined. The glossary focuses on the fact that international trade and businesses are no longer restricted by national boundaries. Revolutionary changes in information technology, communication and transport have caused the world to shrink. The book takes note of the fact that the globalisation of business requires a deep understanding of culture, customs, consumers, rules, regulations and policies of an increasing number of countries in which international businesses deal.

Even at first glance, you will spot entries like those about GATT, the Leontief paradox, Toronto terms, the CEOA and be tempted to find out what they are. Then there are a lot of more familiar ones, including eight pages of organisations with the prefix “UN”. Special attention is given to geographical regions, such as USA, Canada, Europe (EU), Asia, Africa, Latin America, the United Nations and the variety of legal and trade issues in all these regions. Someone on a first international assignment would be well advised to pack this book in the luggage.

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Key Concepts in Accounting and Finance

Key Concepts in Accounting and Finance bookcover

All managers need some awareness of finance and accounting. The area is not the preserve of the Accountant and Finance Officer. However many very competent managers do not find financial and accounting terms and concepts are automatically understood as soon as they are mentioned, because they are only part of their horizon. A ready reference guide is therefore especially welcome. Accounting is made simple and the management of money is clarified.

The approach of the book is well expressed in the introduction:

“Accounting provides the primary means of examining, recording, analysing and assessing performance and quantifying the financial data of a business. Finance is a broader church, which addresses issues such as investment, the securities market and currency exchange, which require practitioners to be conversant with financial data and the truths that are hidden in these figures.”

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Key Concepts in Information and Communication Technology, 2005

Key Concepts in Information and Communication Technology  bookcover

In no field of business is jargon so extensive and often used to obscure discussion rather than illuminate it. IT specialists seem often to expect the user to understand their esoteric speech. This book will at least help the non expert user of information and communications technology to have a better idea of what is being discussed when the computer people are urging a change of equipment or system. Thus he or she will be better able to make the technological decisions for the enhancement of business success.

The glossary is comprehensive and doesn’t even assume that you know the meaning in computer terms of words like folder, file, clipboard, domain, network, and similar words.

Then there are less familiar terms to be made sufficiently clear to avoid misunderstandings. So blade servers, POP, LAN, WAN, cookies, UNIX, USB are clearly defined along with even some very remote terms. Terms unintelligible to the user sometimes appear even when the computer is trying to guide you. So you have this book on your desk and many a moment of bewilderment will be avoided.

Positively and negatively this is a splendid book for shining some light in what can be a dark area to the non expert.

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