The Only Harvard Business Review Article You Need to Read

by cv harquail on January 27, 2009

Harvard Business Review - Current Business Articles and Case Studies_1233072803497 Rarely am I inspired by the Harvard Business Review.

Despite Harvard Business Review’s efforts to revamp their print edition (with a zippier format, hip graphics and bite-size summaries) and to expand their online initiatives, HBR has always felt behind the times. Even when HBR has addressed issues critical to my own research or summarized the research of my friends and colleagues, reading the Harvard Business Review has always left me feeling more anxious than inspired about the future of organizations.

But the February 2009 issue is different.

This month’s issue of the Harvard Business Review contains The Only HBR Article You Need to Read. That article? Gary Hamel’s Moon Shots for Management.

Moon Shots for Management is a Valentine to progressive managers everywhere .

Moon Shots for Management_1233072770518 The article lists 25 challenges that make up the Agenda for Management Innovation, an effort to reinvent management as a concept and practice and to create new ways of mobilizing and organizing our collective activity. The list was culled from conversations among 35 "veteran academics, new-age management thinkers, progressive CEOs, and venture capitalists" at a conference sponsored by MLab , a research/practice institute co-founded by Gary Hamel & Julian Birkinshaw.

[The list is in its own post, after this one.]

MLab_1233071571994 The 25 goals on the list compose "a roster of make-or-break challenges — management moon shots– that should focus the energies of management innovators."

Scanning the list, you’ll note that not a single item is new.

If you track conversations about sustainability , complexity , innovation, social networking , organizational democracy , employee engagement , social responsibility, non-profit for-purpose business , reinventing management education , changing the world, positive organization scholarship , or for that matter any other progressive organizational issue, you’ll see something from your focus area represented in this list.

What is new, though, is that these 25 items are all on an agenda TOGETHER .

Looking at the whole package of challenges encourages us to imagine working on the issues closest to us, those within our span of influence, in ways that allow our focused efforts to generate multiple values streams. That is, working on any one item with the big picture in mind can move forward several goals at once.

Imagine the future of organizations if we saw these items not as a laundry list of things we "ought" to do, but rather as description of what we could do. Talk about Saving the World at Work !!

Wouldn’t it be great to work in organizations where we "Empower the renegades and disarm the reactionaries" ? (#16)

How about working at non-profits and for-profit companies that "Enable communities of passion" ? (# 22)

Even #4, "Eliminate the pathologies of formal hierarchy" looks possible!
(I acknowledge that this one is somewhat ironic, coming as it does from HBR, a bastion of capitalist, "free-market" privilege. But I digress).

Just two things are missing from this article: (1) recommendations for how to put this agenda into action and (2) a concrete invitation to join in the work. But I hope expect that the folks at MLab have a plan. I look forward to seeing the plan unfold and to finding ways to link my work to this agenda.

For starters, we’re all invited to to the HBR site to participate in a survey where we can rate the importance of these 25 items (to our company) and report on any progress our organization has made towards each of these challenges. Then, you might check some of the links in this post to find out more about MLab and read about the progressive organizational movements that have helped to generate and sustain enthusiasm about these challenges.

And, just because this article is The Only HBR Article You Need to Read, don’t imagine that reading it is enough. You should also:

(1) Go to the HBR site (if you can get behind the pay wall),
(2) Print out/download a copy of Moon Shots for Management
(3) Share the article with some colleagues & friends, (or, send them a link to the list, using the ShareThis button)
(4) Talk about it, think about it, and then …

What’s next?


jamie showkeir January 29, 2009 at 3:06 pm

once again you hit the nail on right on the head with the gary hamel article on “moonshots”. hamel has for a long time been one of the good guys who really gets what is going on in american/global business. wonderful article and a great pick up by you.

for over 20 years we have been consulting to organizations that want to create the cultures, structures, practices and policies that he and his “brigade” advocate in the article. thanks for sharing this with the world. i will too.

you and others can visit or to find out more about our practical methods and models.

Jordi February 2, 2009 at 9:05 am

Thanks for posting this. I think I’ll get my students to take the survey.

Jack Martin Leith February 18, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Thanks for a thoughtful and stimulating article.

In an attempt to address the “Yes, but how?” question I’ve started a community website, very rudimentary at the moment, here:

This will track progress, provide a place where network members can share resources, and enable consultants, academics and others to work together and tackle the 25 challenges set out by Hamel and his brigade of renegades.

Please do join the embryonic site if you share my passion for bringing forth a new way of managing organisations.

Thank you again, and hope to see you there.

sol roger February 20, 2009 at 5:58 pm

So what business magazine would you recommend since you are not a big fan of RBR?

CV Harquail February 26, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Hi Sol-
There isn’t a magazine that outdoes HBR at what HBR does… but there are some magazines that I like a lot because they offer some alternative perspectives that I think are worthwhile. IMHO, nobody does data-based, solid articles like Miller-McHune. Always interesting. I also love the business articles in Wired, in part b/c they are usually on tech companies who by default are usually less conventional in their mgmt approaches. McKinsey Quarterly and the Sloan Mgmt Review are less status conscious & less ‘master of the universe’ oriented than HBR. The Rottman School of Mgmt journal has great articles too. It seems that in order to be on top of current management scholarship and application, one should read broadly. HBR’s years as the one stop shopping Readers Digest of business leaders are long over. Let’s hope that they (continue to) remake themselves to stay relevant and to become more provocative.

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