Posted by: Bill von Achen | February 25, 2011

Five Great Management Articles from the Harvard Business Review

(Full disclosure:  I derive no benefit, financial or otherwise, if you subscribe to the Harvard Business Review after reading this week’s e-mail.  Whew!!!)

At one point during our Leadership Development workshop last week on Managing Time Effectively, I heard myself say “There’s an article that was published in the Harvard Business Review that discusses that very issue.”  After the workshop, I reflected on how many times over the years that I’ve referenced an article in HBR.  It must be hundreds of times.

I’ve been reading the Harvard Business Review for more than 20 years, and never cease to be amazed at the quality of knowledge and insight contained in a typical issue.  Sure, the articles are long (although they are shorter than they used to be), but being an effective manager requires that you take time to contemplate the business world from a perspective larger than that of your own company.  And reading HBR does that! 

There are literally dozens of HBR articles that are worth recommending, but here’s a brief summary of my five all-time favorite HBR articles:

“Management Time: Whose Got the Monkey”—You know the expression, “the monkey on your back”?   This classic article on delegation and time management can help even the most harried manager.  Key quote:  “In accepting the monkey, the manager has voluntarily assumed a position subordinate to his subordinate.”  The secret?  Make sure that subordinates leave your office with the monkeys that they brought in! 

“Managing Oneself”—This article can provide more clarity than 100 hours working with an executive coach (!).  Written by Peter Drucker, the article walks readers through a self-analysis that reveals just how they can contribute the most to their organizations and achieve professional satisfaction at the same time.  Key quote:  “Do not try to change yourself—you are unlikely to succeed.  Work to improve the way you perform.”    

“The Human Moment at Work”—Written by Boston-area psychologist Edward Hallowell, this article from the late 1990s anticipates the challenges that e-mail overload imposes on organizations, and reemphasizes the critical important of face-to-face contact.  Key quote:  “The absence of the human moment in an organization can wreak havoc.  Good people leave.  Those who remain are unhappy.”

“Beware the Busy Manager”—I talked about this article in last week’s posting, and in our workshop last week.  It dispels the myth that being busy is the same thing as being productive, and argues that focus and energy are the key ingredients for success:  Key quote:  “Fully 90% of managers squander their time in all sorts of ineffective activities…a mere 10% of managers spend their time in a committed, purposeful and reflective manner.” 

“To Build a Winning Team”—An interview from 1992 with the late, great football coach Bill Walsh, who is justly revered for applying a businesslike approach to maximizing the potential of players and coaches (read employees and managers).  Key quote:  “The difference between winning and loosing is the bottom 25% of your people…the last 25% only blossom in the details, in the orchestration of skills, in the way you prepare.” 

You can obtain electronic copies of any of these articles by going to the Harvard Business Review site at  The download cost is about $6 per article (a bargain when you consider the value).  You can also get a free subscription to the daily summary of blogs posted to the HBR Blog Network.  There’s at least one blog posting every day that’s worth the minute or two it takes to read.  I promise! 

If you read HBR, what are your favorite articles?  And what other business magazines have profoundly influenced the way you think about business and leadership?  Share your thoughts and ideas on these questions at  Thanks!

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