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Mon, Oct 8, 2012, 01:00

Business thinking between the covers

Managing Uncertainty

by Michael Syrett and Marion Devine

The Economist €18.99

The financial crisis has ushered in unprecedented uncertainty with economic unknowns augmented by political and social unknowns arising from the likes of the Arab spring, and anti-capitalist and anti-austerity protests in a number of developed countries. That’s the premise for this book which aims to provide strategies for surviving turbulent times.

The reaction by many businesses of cutting costs and hunkering down for a short recession is no longer appropriate as uncertainty is here to stay.

The authors have identified six critical characteristics that firms need to display to be ready for sudden threats and opportunities. These are: strategic anticipation and flexibility; strong navigational leadership; predictive learning; resilience; agility; and collaborative partnerships. The book contains a wide variety of case studies and interviews with senior executives of major companies. It explores what agility and resilience – essential capabilities in managing uncertainty – mean in practice.

One of its main conclusions is that managing uncertainty effectively is not about senior managers adopting a set of distinctive management skills but it’s about inculcating a number of important organisation-wide capabilities that will contribute to the firm’s strategic readiness.

Wait

by Frank Partnoy

Profile Books €18.99

This thought-provoking book is about the value of slowing down and taking your time over important decisions. Partnoy’s thesis is that decisions of all kinds, including business decisions, benefit from being made at the last possible moment. The fast-paced times we live in encourage us to make snap judgments and we often get things wrong as a result.

Partnoy has a fast-paced background as a former trader for Morgan Stanley and is now professor of law and finance at the University of San Diego. However, he describes himself as a classic procrastinator. He looks at the decision-making habits of a range of prominent people and reflects on the approach to decision-making taken by the investment community in recent years, which he says is increasingly short-term and misguided.

Heavy on the science aspects of how we make decisions, he argues that knowing how long you can afford to delay before committing is at the heart of many great decisions, be it a corporate takeover or a marriage proposal. He says that the ability to wait is crucial to getting the right answer and that our gut instincts are often wrong in fact. A wise decision requires reflection and reflection requires a pause. Our lives will improve greatly if we train our brains to wait, he argues.

Becoming a Manager

by Patrick Cunneen

Oak Tree Press €4.99

Cunneen has interviewed highly experienced and successful managers in the US, UK, Ireland and Asia, who shared their insights in this self-help book aimed at newly promoted managers.

As Cunneen notes, the responsibility of management is different to excelling at your previous job and involves a range of roles – adviser, leader, HR guru, strategist, as well as managing yourself, sometimes the hardest task new managers face.

It explores the transition from being an individual contributor and team player focused on your own work to becoming a manager focused on the work of others. It highlights important skills in managing people and provides a tool kit to support managers on their journey of continuous learning and personal growth.

The first section of the book focuses on the early days in a new role and contains advice on delegation and empowerment and the importance of listening and maintaining good relationships with former peers. The second section provides advice on how to manage yourself in terms of time and delegation. There’s also pointers on addressing performance and giving feedback.

The book should be of interest to HR departments as they seek to attract, develop and retain management talent.

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