Book Review | Bedtime Stories for Managers

publication date: Oct 29, 2019
author/source: Reviewed by Mo Waja
This book review originally appeared in the CSP Book Blog on Oct 25, 2019. We thank them for permission to re-run the review.
Bedtime Stories for Managers is an enjoyable collection of insights and anecdotes from Henry Mintzberg, a clear thought leader from the get-go. With a refreshingly conversational tone, Mintzberg tackles the idea of management with a metaphorical lens that brings to mind Aesop’s Fables… with a corporate twist.

Mintzberg uses short, pointed stories to drive home realities of the nature of management that too many experience, and far too few question, in a work that approaches the concept of ‘Management’ with an ironic humour that, at times, tastes a little more bitter than sweet.

Although there can be no doubt that Bedtime Stories for Managers successfully covers what management is functionally, emotionally, and even psychologically – both for the employee and the manager – where the work runs into challenges is in its applicability.

Without a doubt Bedtime Stories for Managers is a storybook in everything except the opening line of “Once upon a time…” yet in its metaphorical approach to organizing like a cow or the board as a bee, the work perhaps loses some of the practical application of the dos and don’ts of management that a clear approach from a tenured professional in the space (which Mintzberg certainly is) might achieve.

That said, this is not necessarily a bad thing – if approached from the right perspective.

To maximize value, Mintzberg’s work demands a reader who is prepared to absorb but also interpret, analyze, and apply to the context of their own career.

This is a piece intentionally designed to give no easy answers, but instead demands of the reader to mine insights using the pickaxe of their own lived experience. That means, intriguingly, that the readership experience of each individual consuming this work is likely to be different, depending on their organizational experience, tenure, and position as a higher tier manager, mid-level manager, or employee growing in their managerial experience.

We would be remiss not to note, however, that the scope of this work goes beyond the leader/manager or manager-in-training. This book can serve as bible and confessional (perhaps more formally known as ‘professional development’) to the employee struggling with their own manager and even a path to manage that manager.

The ideal reader for this work is the professional (at any level) who has experienced poor management at some point in their career and who is looking for a way to avoid and/or better it – both within their organization and within themselves. That is to say, the ideal reader for this work is everyone who has ever worked in any workplace.

Bedtime Stories for Managers by Henry Mintzberg, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, February 5, 2019, 200 pp. $21.78

Mo Waja is a nonprofit storytelling expert, a professional speaker, marketer, author, podcaster, an Account Manager at Blakely and Co-Host and Producer of Fifteen-Minute-Fundraising. @iammowaja

Want more charity and business sector book reviews? Subscribe to the CSP Book Blog for big idea books for the charity sector, editor extraordinaire Gail Picco.

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