Book Reviews

A Bias for Action: How Effective Managers Harness Their Willpower, Achieve Results and Stop Wasting Time

by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal

Reviewed by Art Stellar
Consultant, Docufide, Madison, Wis

A Bias for Action: How Effective Managers Harness Their Willpower, Achieve Results and Stop Wasting Time is based on a 10-year international study of managerial behavior in the fields of banking, air travel and consulting. It carries relevancy for school leaders. But readers would do well to focus on the findings and conclusions and to skip the process details, which will require translation of managerial jargon into educational practice.

The book’s two research-oriented authors, Heike Bruch, a professor of leadership at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, and the late Sumantra Ghoshal, professor of strategic and international management at the London Business School, studied factors related to managerial effectiveness or ineffectiveness. They identified the capacity of an individual manager to draw upon a personal storehouse of incredible willpower as the key to success. In this book, they describe how to tap one's inherent willpower.

The authors conclude that only 10 percent of managers regularly engage in purposeful, important work and bring it to resolution. Purposeful work is defined as "doing the right things right." The other 90 percent, according to the authors, is spent in "busyness." They say 40 percent are “The Frenzied,” active but unfocused; 30 percent are “The Procrastinators,” putting off critical events; 20 percent are “The Detached,”disengaged and apathetic; and 10 percent are “The Purposeful,” who are highly focused, energetic and able to accomplish the task.

A Bias for Action provides a rational approach for achieving the highest priority, most significant endeavors. School leaders will find it thought provoking.

(A Bias for Action: How Effective Managers Harness Their Willpower, Achieve Results and Stop Wasting Time by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Mass., 2004, 212 pp. with index, $29.95 hardcover)