The Fusion Manager

Reviewed by: 
Robert Heller
Profile Books
Alistair Schofield, Managing Director, Extensor Limited

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A philosophy central to most business books, whatever it is that the author is espousing, is that their theory or idea is, has been and always will be true.  Unfortunately, in a changing world, reality is not so simple.  This is not to knock the integrity of most authors, I am sure that they act with the best of intentions, but there is a conflict of interest in wishing to keep a book a best seller for as long as possible and in recognising that some approaches have a limited life-span.

I mention this because the central theme of this excellent book is that the world is changing, and with it the approach that managers and leaders have to take to stay on top.  Unfortunately, gone are the days when senior people could reject the opportunity to attend training courses on the grounds that “I did that when I was a rookie manager”.  In today’s environment, the need to learn, change and adapt is a constant. 
The objective of this book is not to offer a new management model, but to illustrate how change is impacting the ways in which managers and leaders need to adapt to cope with and capitalise on change.  To do this, Heller offers numerous examples of how organisations have either succeeded or failed based on their willingness to adapt and be flexible.  Unfortunately, the success stories are vastly outnumbered by the failures as far too many senior leaders are wedded to the idea that there is only one right answer – the one that got us to where we are now!
However, the dilemma for management is that there is no One Right Answer – there are simply options, some of which will prove better than others.  As Heller points out, “…management is above all the art and science of paradox, of learning to live with – and prosper by – contradiction and compromise.”

Dealing with this paradox and coping with the accelerating pace of change requires, what Heller terms, “Fusion Management” – the balancing of long-term objectives with short-term imperatives, driving fundamental change while retaining traditional strengths and values, building new markets while maximising returns from the old, globalism with local marketing, commercialism with humanity and so on.  It’s not easy, but as an ex-boss of mine used to say, “if it were easy, we wouldn’t need you!”

The Fusion Manager is not an easy read, but it is a valuable one for those willing to invest the time and effort.  Through his career as a journalist, editor and author, Heller has enjoyed a privileged insight into the world of business and commerce for more than fifty years.  His knowledge, wisdom and insights are therefore well worth listening to.  Moreover, despite having written more than fifty books, many of which have been best sellers, I know that Heller regards The Fusion Manager as one of his best.

I therefore recommend The Fusion Manager to anyone in a position of influence, who wants to be convinced of the need for change and/or, who is interested in learning the lessons of the recent past.

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