Great People Decisions

Review :

There were a number of things that impressed me about this book. Starting with the author: He is one of the top executives at one of the best worldwide executive search firms, an in demand lecturer, and an accomplished writer with famous articles in Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review (directly on the subject of people decisions). So he has an impressive resume, but the book makes clear that he has spent the last 20 years dedicated to becoming a world-class expert in this area. The book is backed up with many references and summaries to the best academic and industry studies, this is not just one man's war stories (although there are interesting stories to back up points) but it is instead a carefully thought out and researched framework utilizing his own extensive expertise but also that of other experts in the field. He is successful at taking a very fuzzy subject and organizing it, simplifying it, making it understandable and actionable, and even providing key "watch outs" based on his experience.

It is interesting reading with a number of interesting points made along the way. Some of my favorites include a description of how dramatic an impact a good vs. bad CEO can make on a company's performance, and as a side note he remarks that this may justify relatively high CEO pay (although he is careful to point out that it does not justify some of the outlandish packages that have been in the press in recent years). My other personal favorite was a comparison of the disciplines of personnel decisions and advertising, the later of which decades ago was also thought of as purely an "art" but over time has become more and more based on "science", and his prediction that personnel decisions will also bend to science over time. Certainly this book helps push that process along significantly.

It's hard to find any significant faults with the book. It is mostly illustrated with examples from upper management and the discussion is also focused on upper management but the author acknowledges this focus and suggests that many of the same principles apply to lower level management. The author lets slip that English is not his first language, but there is no way to tell that from his writing, which is fluent, clear, and very well organized.


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