Ashridge

Virtual Learning Resource Centre

The Palgrave masters series

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

There are some 76 books in the series of which some 26 could be of direct interest to managers and others employed in the business world. The rest of the books cover a wide range of the humanities and scientific studies.

I have chosen to review briefly 14 books in the management area with wide potential interest, omitting for the present more specialist topics.

The aim of these reviews is to give the reader some idea of the contents to aid decisions on purchase. The books deal with the broad areas indicated by their titles. They do not probe deeply into controversial areas and new concepts, though there is some reference to these in many cases. They act as a compendium of the business area considered, so that those who need to probe more deeply have a sound basic foundation from which to proceed, or to refer back to when engaged in the deeper study.

The books are particularly helpful to those taking professional examinations.

Mastering Basic Management

Mastering Basic Management

By E.C. Eyre and Richard Pettinger, 3rd Ed, 1999.

This book, originally by E.C.Eyre, was first published in 1982. The third edition has been substantially revised and updated by Richard Pettinger. It is a comprehensive survey of all the basic principles and practices of management. The authors first define what they mean by management and its purpose is viewed from a number of perspectives, economic, behavioural and stakeholder. How firms are organised and what is meant by policy is well highlighted. Forecasting and planning are clarified and alternative ways of organising enterprises are presented. Motivation principles and gurus are given good coverage along with the qualities required for leadership. Each function, from Marketing to Human Resource, via Production, Purchasing, Research and Development and Finance, is substantially handled. In fact, it is amazing how much is covered in about 300 pages without becoming superficial.

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Mastering the Business Environment

By Roger Cartwright, 2001.

Mastering the Business Environment

Drawing on contemporary examples from real organisations, this book considers in detail the cultures within which organisations operate. It examines the social, political, economic, cultural, technological, aesthetic, customer, legal, environmental and sectoral factors (represented together by the acronym SPECTACLES) that combine to create the external influences which affect all enterprises. These elements are treated holistically as they interrelate. Each chapter includes a summary and set of revision questions.

PEST or STEP or PESTEL analyses along with the familiar SWOT analyses can be enormously helped by the use of the chapters and lists in this book. The aesthetic analyses cover communications, public relations and the media and their involvement with business. The political analysis chapter looks in detail at British governance approaches and the summary of the effect of the EU on political and business life is especially good.

A wide range of authors is wheeled in to support the text, from Henry Mintzberg to Michael Porter, from Tom Peters to Fons Trompenaars. The book can be read straight through or used for reference. If I could choose only three or four of this series of “Mastering” books, this would be on my list.

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Mastering Strategic Management

By Tim Hannagan, 2002.

Mastering Strategic Management

The author defines strategic management as consisting of “the decisions and actions used to formulate and implement strategies that will provide a competitively superior fit between the organisation and its environment, to enable it to achieve organisational objectives”. The book contains two ongoing case studies of a communications and an engineering company, whose concerns illustrate all the themes tackled in the book.

The book is structured to work through:

  • The meaning of strategy and strategic management, distinguished from strategic planning and day to day management.
  • Strategic analysis and the generation of options from which to choose.
  • Developing strategy in the context of marketing.
  • Meeting customer needs and creating customer benefits, rather than just products or services.
  • Maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage.
  • Ensuring sound leadership and attention to company culture.
  • Embracing change as a continual experience.

Theory and practice are nicely blended throughout the book.

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Mastering the Globalisation of Business

By Roger Cartwright, 2004.

Mastering the globalisation of business

Globalisation is the term used in this book to describe the process by which organisations offer their products and services on a global rather than a local basis and so become part of a global economy. It is a process the effects of which can be avoided by no enterprise and therefore understanding rather than emotional reaction is required, though the book helps one to understand the opposition to globalisation.

The book starts with a short history of globalisation, showing it not to be merely a recent phenomenon, but one that reaches back to the Vikings and Marco Polo, Columbus and the “India” companies. But obviously modern technology advances the impact of age old principles and the world still keeps shrinking. How globalisation affects the various functions is highlighted – customer relationships, marketing, human resource management, finance and information. The diversity of employees and the need to be aware of the distinctive cultures of different parts of the world are considered and the need to be adaptable made clear. The importance of foreign direct investment is exhibited. A debate is initiated as to whether a Japanese car manufactured in the UK is still Japanese. The slogan “Think global; act local” receives prominence.

Towards the end of the book there is an instructive chapter on key thinkers on the theme of globalisation. This is particularly mind broadening as many of them are far from household names and a door is thereby opened to a number of new insights. There are case studies throughout the book and some nuggets of interesting information, such as the fact that Coca Cola turned down the chance to buy Pepsi in 1922!!

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Mastering Organisational Behaviour

By Richard Pettinger, 2000.

Mastering Organisational Behaviour

Many years ago, when I first moved into the world of business education, I used to puzzle over the fact that something called “organisational behaviour” should seem to be all about people behaviour, for example, how as individuals they were motivated. If there had been a book like this in those days then it would have been immediately clear when I read that “Organisational behaviour describes the action and interaction of people in restricted or organised settings”. It is about people at work, the human aspects of an enterprise. This book removes the mystique in which the subject is often shrouded.

The author makes clear that OB, to give its acronym, “involves understanding and predicting the behaviour of people, and the means by which their behaviour is influenced and shaped”. “Organisations are bodies or entities created for a stated purpose. They consist of individuals, groups and relationships.” How the people in the context of organisations behave is of vital concern to those who organise, create, order, direct, manage or supervise the activities of others.

The book may be summed up in the words of its introduction as treating of:

  • the purposes for which organisations are created
  • the behaviour of individuals, and an understanding of the pressures and influences that cause them to act and react in particular ways
  • the qualities which individuals bring to particular situations
  • the creation of groups, collections of people brought together for given purposes
  • the background and context within which activities take place
  • relationships and interactions with the wider environment with other organisations and groups
  • the management and ordering of the whole and its parts into productive and effective work relationships.

It is clear throughout the book that OB is not a discipline in its own right, but that it draws on many disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, ethics, with mathematics and statistics applied to the others. None of these disciplines, except mathematics, have the certainty of pure science. People can’t be pinned down in a laboratory.

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Mastering Management Skills

Mastering Management Skills

By Richard Pettinger, 2001.

This book is about the practical application of management theory. It explores the complex issues, pressures and dilemmas faced by all managers, and sets them in a realistic context. Three main areas are covered: achieving things through people; coping with uncertainty and change; establishing and developing required levels of performance. Specially mentioned are the need to work within resource constraints and the need for a range of personal qualities, such as integrity, motivating others and leadership.

A chapter on integrity includes the need to maintain honesty, visibility and accessibility; demonstration of commitment, enthusiasm and energy; together with sensitivity and empathy. These qualities are seen as capable of development and are placed at the head of management skills, before moving on into the areas that normally are considered under the heading of management skills, such as problem solving, decision making, planning, negotiating etc.

There is a useful chapter on leadership, which in the main considers that leaders are made not born, though they may have some predisposing traits. A warning against following fads is given, though perhaps without sufficient allowance that judicious learning of lessons from flavours of the month may be useful.

This book has the virtue of dealing with skills in a concise manner, which yet gives the reader a start to apply them without being overwhelmed by an excessive amount of advice.

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Mastering Financial Management

By John Whiteley, 2004.

Mastering Financial Management

This book is successful in demystifying the complex language and jargon which often fills financial discussion. The subject is tackled with many down to earth examples.

It can help with teasing out meaning from company accounts; managing budgets and motivating people to achieve targets; controlling working capital, managing relationships with the bank, producing financial reports which make an impact, appraising capital projects and raising long term capital. The difference between accounting and financial management is clear throughout, though the role of the first in the second is not ignored.

Chapter headings illustrate this distinction. Among them are “financial input into management decisions”; “measures of success”; “phases of business life”; “managing bank relations”. The four key measures of success are liquidity – enough readily available money to deal with urgent requirements; profitability, expressed in ways beyond merely the bottom line on the profit and loss account; borrowings, judiciously used and carefully matched to the purpose in hand; cash flow – cash is king!! Equity capital is more clearly expressed in fewer words than is the norm in financial text books.

The need for corporate values is stressed. These are the guiding principles which will never be overlooked for the sake of short term gain.

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Mastering Marketing Management

Mastering Marketing Management

By Roger Cartwright, 2002.

Roger Cartwright has written a book which is a general introduction to all the key areas of Marketing. Written in a straightforward style, it is easy to understand and aimed at practising and potential managers at all levels, because everyone has some responsibility for marketing and satisfying customers. Among the target readership are those interested in gaining qualifications which include a marketing component as well as the general business reader. It contains many short case studies and is well illustrated with charts and diagrams. The use of plenty of headings and a good index make it easy to find your way around, but the book also lends itself to an interesting straight read. The theories and models which can help decision making are all there, clearly described and applied in a practical way. The key idea is to assist the task of actually managing the marketing function or aspects thereof.

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Mastering Customer Relations

Mastering Customer Relations

By Roger Cartwright, 2000.

Another winner by Cartwright. It fully justifies the view of Peter Drucker that “the purpose of a business is to get and keep a customer” – having gained customers, then their loyalty is fundamental to success. This book is easy to read yet leaves out none of the key issues. The difference between customer needs and wants is explained and the implications explored. Segmentation of the market is expressed as a key success factor; so is how to differentiate your offers by growing a close relationship with your customers, in the case of business to business customers helping them to make a profit. How to establish your uniqueness by branding your goods and services is introduced. Turning complaints into advantages is presented as a valuable skill. Public relations are discussed as is body language along with a new concept of organisational body language! There are plenty of examples and case studies. Lewin once said “there is nothing so practical as a good theory”. This book justifies this dictum.

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Mastering Human Resource Management

Mastering Human Resource Management

By Kelvin Cheatle, 2001.

A wide range of “Human Resource Management” issues is covered in an easy to read way. Recruitment, selection and retention of staff are discussed, as are pay and benefits, training and development, redundancy and discipline – in other words, getting people, keeping them, growing them and finally parting with them. Equal opportunities are well handled, as are the maintenance and use of information about staff. Reference is made to British and EU legislation, but the book is useful anywhere in the world as an agenda for issues that need to be considered, such as health and safety of employees, contracts of employment, termination of staff and employment law generally. Where there are no such laws, knowledge of such legislation can become the basis of company policy. This book has many checklists and question and answer sections. It is equally useful as a straight read or as a reference book.

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Mastering Communication

Mastering Communication

By Nicky Stanton, 2004.

The popularity of Nicky Stanton’s book is due partly to her being able to show that whatever advances occur in technology, the basic principles of communicating remain the same. Although these principles come naturally to some people, they can also be learned, and to help this is the aim of this book. Words, written and spoken, are highlighted and the best use of pictures and diagrams is demonstrated. What happens when people listen is covered, with a recommendation that we all become good listeners. Communicating is a two way process. Particular types of communicating each have a chapter – interviewing, being interviewed, group work, meetings, giving a talk, talking on the telephone, reading faster and better, writing business letters, applying for a job, report writing, writing correctly in terms of grammar and clarity. All these are handled in an interesting and challenging way. It was a good book when the first edition came out in 1982, but its value has been greatly enhanced in this fourth edition.

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Mastering Team Leadership

Mastering Team Leadership

By Roger Cartwright, 2002.

The book moves from individual motivation, as expressed by people like Maslow and McGregor, to the way in which such principles undergo modification in a team effort. There can be synergy where the sum of the inputs is greater than any individual contribution. At the opposite end there is groupthink, where people avoid issues because an uncritical collective mind has developed. How teams develop is covered, together with steps which can speed up this process. The role of leadership is to identify the unique contributions of each team member, to encourage them to contribute and weave them together into coherent decisions and plans. Belbin’s team roles are particularly useful here. The cultural environment is discussed along with its impact on the personal relationships between team members. The contribution of a range of thinkers and writers on the philosophy and practice of team activity is well summarised. The inset summaries and questions are most helpful in guiding one through the book.

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Mastering Employee Development

Mastering Employee Development

By Richard Pettinger, 2002.

This book concisely tells you all you absolutely must know about developing employees, and more, without delving too deeply into the underlying philosophy. In its opening chapters it does summarise the concepts behind learning and discusses the way in which training and development are not always taken seriously enough. It then continues in handbook style to deal with the bread and butter of any training manager’s professional activity, eg training needs analysis, core training programmes, on and off the job training, project learning, secondment, mentoring, coaching and so on. These are spelt out in a way that will help any manager (HR, functional or line) to understand what needs to be done and how to do it, if people are to grow in their capacity to serve the organisation. Organisation development and management development have their own fundamental chapters. Some 125 box summaries and numerous diagrams make the book very accessible.

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Mastering Public Relations

Mastering Public Relations

By Anthony Davis, 2004.

The author defines the public relations culture as one which speaks up for the organisation, champions its cause, acts as its external ambassador, looks at the PR implications of every decision and daily affirms the commitment to service of the organisation. He differentiates it from mere “spin” and gives a good account of the origin of “public relations” as a function, charged with developing the reputation of the organisations they serve. How it encourages customers to patronise their firm and support the marketing of products and services is a significant contribution, not however to be confused with marketing as a discipline. Nevertheless, the growth in popularity of a brand owes much to public relations activity. Lobbying to influence legislation and damage limitation in times of crisis is also treated in this book. Many case studies are presented and the layout is very user friendly.

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