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Managing for the Short Term: The New Rules for Running a Business in a Day-to-Day World by Chuck Martin


Rating: (Read only if your interest is strong)


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The book jacket of Managing for the Short Term makes promises that author Chuck Martin delivered in ways that drove me crazier as I turned each successive page of this new book. The book jacket named Martin correctly as CEO of the Net Future Institute, and defined that entity as a global think tank of some 3,000 high-level executives at over 1,400 companies. According to the book jacket, “… Martin has interviewed and gathered the insights of thousands of management specialists the world over to discover how companies are successfully zeroing in on improving short-term performance, while still balancing these efforts with long-term strategic goals.” What Martin presents in Managing for the Short Term is a splattering of the information he gathered from these hoards of executives. Far from a think tank, what the Net Future Institute does is send e-mail questions to its members, and this book describes the answers to the questions. Unfortunately, the questions and answers are out of context, incompletely evaluated, and the participants vary with each question asked, so continuity or statistical validity is meaningless. Graphs are presented to create the illusion of fact. All this means that every reader will find something to like and dislike, to agree with and to disagree with on the pages of this book. It also means there’s no possible way a manager can take something from this book and apply it with confidence, knowing that experts have tested or proven its likely effectiveness. To supplement the anonymous e-mail voices, Martin interviews executives who are named with their companies, and strings quotes from them through the book, without much real benefit for readers.

Here’s an excerpt from Martin’s introduction to chapter 5, “It’s All About the Numbers”:

“The Quantification of Business Life
Traditionally, making the numbers has been defined primarily in terms of revenue: keeping a project within budget, making a sales quota, or meeting revenue forecasts. However, today making the numbers has a much broader meaning, and is even more important for both individuals and organizations.
Human relations, capacity planning, performance – in a host of areas, numerical models and standards are replacing anecdotal evidence, intuition, and guesswork. On an individual level, this means getting a performance review that puts an employee within a certain numerical rank; that number can spell the difference between staying employed and getting laid off when times get tough. On a corporate level, it means applying a dollar figure to the lifetime value of a customer, creating mathematical models to gauge the probability of customer actions, prioritizing projects based on numerical grades, or hitting revenue targets not just in an absolute sense but in exactly the way that Wall Street expects.
To ‘make the numbers,’ companies must first establish them. To manage for the short term, everything that can be quantified must be quantified, and activities must be measured in ‘units.’ In today’s fast-paced business environment, with tighter and tighter margins and time frames, having numerical processes in categories across the board enables managers to measure performance and recognize problems quickly. Making the numbers then becomes the foundation for both short- and long-term success.”

That’s one example of the useless drivel in this book: platitudes, obvious things, and bad advice. If everything that can be quantified gets quantified, managers will drown in meaningless numbers. There are some practical tactics, but only those readers will strong interest will be willing to put up with the useless to dig those tactics out of Managing for the Short Term. Next time, we’ll avoid being tempted by what a book jacket says.

Steve Hopkins, July 10, 2002


ã 2002 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the August 2002 issue of Executive Times


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