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Tuesday, November 20, 2012







Book Review/Introducing

Understanding Organisations

by Charles Handy



Charles Handy is one of Britain's management gurus. This original edition of this book was written while he was professor at the London Business School. Although this book is not simple to read and is very comprehensive, it is an excellent introduction to understanding organisations (yes, just like the title). 

The book consists of three parts. 

Part I - introduces a set of models/frameworks, for better understanding of people and organisations. Handy selected six themes common to organisations - motivation, roles and interactions, leadership, power and influence, workings of groups, and cultures of organisations. Each of these themes receives an excellent, extremely in-depth literature review, which all have been updated in this 4th edition to include the latest literature and trends. Handy looks at each of these themes from various angles and does not really push the reader into any dominant one; "This book is eclectic. ... It is wise to be eclectic, to pick from each anything that helps, to compile the sort of personal anthology which is what book aims to be." In addition, Handy uses a large number of quotes from other academics to explain his comments. 

In Part II, Handy looks at each of the themes introduced in Part I and their impact on organisations. This part is a lot less academic and Handy tries to apply the models/framework introduced in Part I into practice. "One bookcase for the theorectical models, another for the tips and hints on current practice. The discussion in this part is not intended to be a review of best current practice but rather an interpretation, often a provocative one, of the implications of some of the theories that we say we all subscribe to." Handy applies it to people of organisations and their development, the work of the organisation - and its design, politics and change, being a manager, and the future of organisations. 

In Part III, Handy provides a brief overview of the relevant field of theory, makes suggestions on useful sources and gives references to the major studies mentioned in the text. "Part Three is for those who wonder about the sources of my ideas, concepts, and theories, or for those who wish to pursue any topic in greater depth." Handy does this on a chapter-by-chapter basis, which is very useful for any MBA-student or researcher. 

This book is a comprehensive piece of work into organisations. It certainly helps you understand organisations better, but do not take this book too lightly as it is not for the fainthearted. It is so extremely comprehensive that I do not see anybody read this book in one go. On the other hand, I must stress that the literature reviewed and covered is spectacular and done fantastically. Handy's ability to bring this into perspective with practice is also very strong. A MUST for MBA-students and all other people interested in organisational studies.

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