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A Bias for Action

Sumantra Ghoshal (Author) Heike Bruch (Author)
Synopsis Does your job seem like an endless "to do" list that never gets you - or your company - anywhere? You know what you're supposed to focus on: cutting costs, improving efficiency, encouraging innovation. So why do critical goals consistently get eclipsed by fighting fires, answering e-mails, and other routine "busywork"? In this surprising and frame-changing book, management experts Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal argue that while the usual suspects - overwhelming workloads, tight budgets, and unsupportive bosses - play a role in managerial ineffectiveness, most of the blame lies in how managers approach their jobs. Based on a ten-year study of managerial behavior in industries from banking to software to airlines to consulting. A Bias for Action reveals that only 10 percent of managers work purposefully to get important work done. The other 90 percent squander their potential by procrastinating, detaching from their work or spinning their wheels in a flurry of "active nonaction". Bruch and Ghoshal show that the most effective managers succeed not because they possess unique characteristics or excel at motivating others - but because they harness personal willpower through a potent combination of energy and focus. This willpower is what help productive managers achieve their goals in spite of the inevitable barriers, setbacks, and distractions that are a mainstay of managerial life. Through striking real-life stories, A Bias for Action reveals a range of strategies for harnessing willpower to improve both individual and organizational performance, including how to: Define, visualize, and protect individual goals; Replace counterproductive behaviors; Manage negative emotions and stress; Overcome common obstacles such as conflicting demands and bureaucratic red tape; Move from simply motivating others to fostering willpower in others; Create a culture that enables positive, purposeful, organizational action. Upending conventional thinking about the requirements for effective leadership, this book will help CEOs and frontline managers alike to stop simply doing things - and start getting things done.
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About the authors

Sumantra Ghoshal

Sumantra Ghoshal (d. 2004) was a fellow of the Advanced Institute of Management Research (United Kingdom) and a professor of strategy and international management at London Business School. He was a member of the Committee of Overseers of Harvard Business School and served as the founding dean of the Indian School of Business.

Heike Bruch

Heike Bruch is a Professor and Director at the Institute for Leadership and Human Resources Management at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland). She is also research director of the Organizational Energy Consortium and academic director of the University’s International Study Program. Between 1999 and 2001 she was visiting scholar and senior research fellow at London Business School. During 1996 to 1999 she was research director and assistant professor of the Institute for Leadership and Human Resources Management at the University of St. Gallen and, from 1991 to 1996, lecturer at the University of Hanover (Germany). She earned her Ph.D. in business administration at the University of Hanover (1996) and her master’s (1991) and bachelor’s (1989) degrees in business administration at the Free University of Berlin. Bruch’s research is strongly focused on leadership. She works in close cooperation with international universities both in research and teaching. The focal points of her more recent research work are managers’ emotions, volition action, and leadership in change processes and organizational more than forty articles in journals and books.

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Reviews 5in total
Zakariya Belkhamza - An Important book for every Manager Jan, 01, 1970

Authors Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal describe just such a process for making effective use of time as a resource in A Bias for Action: How Effective Mangers Harness Their Willpower, Achieve Results, and Stop Wasting Time. Without promising a five-minute solution for overcoming time-based challenges to productivity, the book does set out easy-to-follow principles. While an admission to wasting time might require more self-examination than most librarians would initially feel comfortable making, the authors’ systematic approach to identifying ways to become more efficient rests on a philosophical design that bears closer examination. The organizing principles of A Bias for Action center around two different spheres of action. The early chapters focus on the efforts individuals take to harness their own willpower to achieve results. The final chapters focus on an organization’s responsibility to develop purposeful leaders and on a leader’s responsibility to encourage others within his or her organization to act purposefully to shape organizational culture. Throughout the book, case studies based on actions taken by managers of European corporations illustrate the key principles. An appendix describes how Bruch, a professor of leadership at the Swiss University of St. Gallen, and Ghoshal, a professor of strategy and international Management at the London Business School who passed away in 2004, conducted the research that led to the creation of their theories.The book concludes with twenty pages of footnotes, an index, and an authors’ note. To set the stage for their theories, Bruch and Ghoshal define purposeful action as “determined, persistent, and relentless action-taking to achieve a purpose, against all odds.”They do not minimize the difficulty of acting purposefully. From their perspective, people who exhibit purposeful action possess two critical traits: energy and focus.Energy requires the investment of personal involvement and vigorous effort. Giving lip service without giving your heart won’t qualify as an energetic action under their criteria. Focused behavior requires the discipline to avoid distraction, overcome barriers, and resist the urge to be sidetracked when plans do not proceed as expected. Because of these stringent criteria, the authors maintain that only 10% of managers act purposefully.7 They draw clear lines to distinguish action from unfocused busyness. The underlying thesis of A Bias for Action is that every manager,regardless of the inclination to be a procrastinator, over-busy, or detached, possesses the capability to engage his or her willpower.

Bibliographic information

Title A Bias for Action
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2004
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 0670057886
length 212p., Tables; Notes; Appendix; Index; 25cm.