Managing change from top to bottom

INSIDE BUSINESS

MOST management books are messianic. "Do as described here," goes the message, "and you will succeed beyond your wildest dreams." The approach adopted by George Binney and Colin Williams, though, is about as far removed from this as it is possible to get.

Instead this pair of polymaths, based at Ashridge Management College in Hertfordshire, nod in the direction of the "May we spare a few moments of your time to put our point of view?" school.

There are no rigid prescriptions, although they do make extensive use of earlier work looking at management in the new-style National Health Service, but their book is probably no less persuasive for that.

The basic idea behind Leaning into the Future is that "change programmes" are not working because those responsible for them either concentrate too much on driving them from the top down or set too much store by the liberal-sounding bottom-up approach. The authors' belief is that neither is right, with the result that there needs to be greater emphasis on combining the two.

It sounds like a classic British compromise. But if one considers that many people involved with management are taking the view that there is no longer any one answer to a particular problem, it makes more than a little sense.

This hybrid is the Leaning into the Future of the title. It is a combination of the leading that is central to the top-down approach and the learning that is involved in the bottom-up route. "Successful leaders in change combine leading and learning: they lead in such a way that teaming is encouraged; they learn in a way that informs and guides those who seek to lead," write Binney and Williams.

So much for the basic tenet; it is difficult to tell if it has any more validity than the single-minded approaches its proponents seek to have it replace.

Where the authors will score with the more cynical is in jousting with some of today's received wisdom.

Such as why it is that every generation believes it is coping with unprecedented levels of change; such as the notion of "managing change" that this belief has spawned, and which has itself given rise to a sub-profession of "change managers". But this willingness to challenge a few principles is not the only point of departure for Binney and Williams. In this context, it is tempting to see the length of the book (a mere 175 pages, including the index) as a deliberate counterbalance to the much weightier tomes that float in increasing numbers across the Atlantic.

And let us not forget the tone. When was the last time a management book's conclusion contained such sentiments as the following: "We have no wish to foist our ideas on others, nor to pretend that they are THE answer to change."

Or, "We offer Leaning into the Future not as a unique solution but as one way of understanding change in organisations. It is a perspective that makes sense of our experience and guides the way we go about our work. We hope it helps you too."

q 'Leaning into the Future' is published by Nicholas Brealey at pounds 16.99.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Administrator

£13000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about custom...

Recruitment Genius: Dialler Administrator

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Main purpose: Under the directi...

Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City of London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen