Title: The Simple and Easy Manager: What Managers Need to Know Before They Need to Know It
Author: Ned Parks
This is a short, entertaining read for professionals of all walks of life, whether one is a manager of a company or handles just one’s own “life.” The author uses the fictional story of Quentin Spalding to illustrate a variety of management principles, from discussions of how to make meetings work to creating a welcoming work environment.
The “story” begins with Quentin interviewing and landing a job at Critical Direct, an outstanding company where a range of positive management principles are the “norm.” As Quentin goes through his orientation and begins work, he discovers that the company is just the kind of employment he was looking for—a place to belong, to use his skills, and to develop his own business acumen.
Rather than being threatened by his dream to own his own business, the executives of Critical Direct see it as an asset, as a reason why he’ll come to work motivated and care about their company while he’s with them. And Quentin lives up to their expectations, though he’s hardly perfect. He has his struggles but is dedicated to learning, and so he grows as a manager under the helpful influence of his company.
There were definitely some implausible aspects to the story, as Quentin ends up spending a lot of his time, outside of work, discussing work problems and ways to maximize their management, making one wonder when, or if, he ever has time for his family, but overall, the vignettes worked to show the business principles in action.
The story is more of a means to an end, and thus, the characters are fairly straightforward, used to illustrate concepts more than create a meaningful narrative. The volume is nicely punctuated with quotes from other authors, like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Tom Peters, Thomas Sowell, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, among others.
The book’s layout allows one to jump back to a particular business topic for future reference, as each chapter announces its focus, from “On Boarding” to “Teaching the Boss,” “Ask Your Way to Success,” and “Meetings Suck.” But there is a loose narrative thread going through the entire book, as we see Quentin grow as a manager from his interview to his moving into “The Next Phase” by the end of the book.
The one weakness of the work is its single-mindedness. In these days of diverse employment environments and situations, it might’ve been nice to work in a “Critical Direct Associate Reunion,” where one got to hear how the management skills learned at the company translated to other arenas, whether smaller businesses or niche companies, academics, or working-from-home.
If one is looking to find some simple solutions to management concerns or just want to get a new perspective on the age-old problems of dealing with people, this book is well worth the read. Clever and insightful without being pedantic or dull, The Simple and Easy Manager will appeal to any professional, delivering powerful concepts in the guise of “light reading” or “mild fiction.”
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