Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Interview with Glenn Bassett, author of The Manager's Craft

Title: The Manager's Craft
Author: Glenn Bassett
Publisher: Organization Diagnostics
Pages: 216
Genre: Business
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Almost any job or profession you can think of has a set of specific requirements for knowledge and skill that must be mastered. Managing and supervising the work of others is an exception. In part that is because the job of managing requires a range of social and technical skills that can vary widely depending on business circumstance. An infinite diversity of technologies, materials, markets and work skills can figure into the mix of the manager’s job. The manager may be asked to coordinate technically skilled team players, or, alternatively, may need to discipline the application of basic skills to achievement of production goals. Materials may be common or exotic. Customers may have influence over or little concern for product quality and design. Work skills may be common or rare. Technology may be critical or peripheral.

Some central managerial skills like accounting and finance can be trained. Mostly, they are dealt with as competences that are best left to specialists. Highly technical problems that demand specific training are, in general, treated as staff support jobs. The part of the job that always stays with the manager is that of working with and through other people to achieve cost-effective productivity using formal authority, personal influence, economic incentives and an understanding of organizing processes. As skill sets, these are very difficult to define. They blend and merge to become a personal suite of action strategies that are put to use as needed. Formal education and training can provide a summary focus, but only practice and experience can make them effective working tools. Much of managing and supervising is thus learned from experience on the job. The manager’s challenge is to find a mentor who can guide him/her past the most critical traps and blunders.

Much that passes for management training is, unfortunately, superficial or just wrong. Economic incentives are clearly basic but always insufficient. Application of authority is indispensable but can backfire or fail. Motivational programs can turn out to be all PR and noise. Workers may be satisfied and unproductive. Cost control measures can gut the core of product quality. Balancing it all can be a juggling act that daunts average intellectual and social skill. Managing and supervising skills can be learned on the job if failure is tolerated. Only limited trial and error can be accepted. The best available advice and mentoring is required for survival over the long course. The chapters of this book will provide the working manager with the knowledge necessary to accelerate learning and skill mastery. When put together in a coherent, working package through experience, that mastery rises to the professional level.

The author, Dr. Glenn Bassett, applies his unusual range of practical and professional experience to defining and clarifying the requisite skill and knowledge. From his background as a working personnel executive, professor of management, GE corporate staffer, social science researcher, consultant and business school dean he critically and synergistically sorts out the realities of sound management practice. He deals with issues of authority and discipline rationally and realistically, disposing summarily of nearly all standard motivational theory. He challenges commonly offered “principles” of management showing that many are misleading or illusory. He lays out the principles of worker productivity that a manager must grasp to control cost and quality. What emerges is a description of the Manager’s Craft that summarizes the knowledge and skill required of the working manager who must exercise control in the workplace, build commitment among colleagues, and sustain high quality, cost-effective productivity. This is an intellectually rigorous analysis applied to achievement of practical managerial results. This is The Manager’s Craft.

For More Information

  • The Manager's Craft is available at Amazon.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?  I have a wonderful wife, four great kids and a beautiful home built for us by our son.  What more could anyone ask?
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?  I grew up in a very safe, supportive community with excellent schools.  Family turmoil through divorce when I was a pre-teen created in me a need to better understand why people behave as they do.  The human condition is of great interest to me.  Writing about it follows naturally.
When and why did you begin writing?  In my first semester as an undergraduate at Cal Berkeley I realized that hand written papers were hard work for me and a turn-off for professors.  With the acquisition of a portable typewriter I discovered that the words flowed from my fingers fluently, almost magically.  I found great satisfaction from expressing my insights clearly and articulately.  That satisfaction continues to the present day.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?  I discovered that when I typed my thoughts onto paper, people gave attention to what I was saying.  A brief professional essay about the personnel selection process written during my first personnel assignment got instant attention from the editors of a business journal.  I have continued to write for publication continually since.
When did you first know you could be a writer?  Probably when my first article was accepted for publication.  After about the third article submission, it was suggested that I try writing a book on the subject.  I accepted the challenge, wrote it and it was published.
What inspires you to write and why?  Emergence of insights into human behavior and the human condition demand to be shared.  The writing process helps clarify and refine them into a clearly articulated statement.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?  Applied Social Science is my domain.  I am at core a realist and a pragmatist.  I want to know how social processes and human relations work so that I can understand and deal with them competently.
What inspired you to write your first book?  The invitation to make the attempt and the opportunity to examine processes I was intensely involved in were quite sufficient inspiration.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?  I discovered that writing and being published gave me a significant edge over peers and competitors.  That plus the personal satisfaction from developing and expressing my thinking articulately were powerful incentives.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?  I have considered doing a novel, but can’t get into it because I overelaborate roles and excessively complicate plots.  My interest in roles and complicated relationships resides in grasping  those I encounter in the real world.  I have the patience to study and research issues of interest and go to the core of them.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?  I had to delve deeply into neuropsychology, cultural anthropology, the history of philosophy and a variety of emerging new psychological constructs to set the foundation for writing this book.  It was a major voyage of discovery.
Do you intend to make writing a career?  Writing is the complement to my current career which is publishing.  It already is my career.
Have you developed a specific writing style?  I detest wordiness and excessive verbal flourishes.  I want to solidly grasp and clearly express my subject.  I strive for clarity and parsimony in my writing.  I would never be able to write the typical college text book, partly because I would offend too many of my colleagues with tough critiques of their theories, partly because of the excess wordiness most text book publishers seem to expect.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?  I have great depth of practice and experience and a willingness to sit at the keyboard as long as it takes to make the message work. 
What is your favorite quality about yourself?  I am a no-nonsense realist with little patience for vague concepts or poorly defined abstractions.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?  I am probably confident to a fault.  I know and manage most of my weaknesses.  That can be a turnoff to  some people.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?  That would be FDR’s classic statement “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Fearlessness can be foolish, but fear can disable one from living the best life he/she can.  In the face of one of the most disabling diseases that one can endure, FDR persisted and gave the best he had to a troubled world in need of courageous leadership.  Those of us without such impediment should surely give as much.

Dr. Glenn Bassett is Professor Emeritus of Management and former Dean of Business at the University of Bridgeport.  A graduate of Berkeley and Yale, as well as a former corporate staffer at General Electric, Dr. Bassett’s career has focused on applied Social Psychology.  WordPlay is the result of exended research into the science of psycholinguistics. He is the author of numerous articles and published books, including The Managers Craft. For More Information

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