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Roy Lilley. Abingdon, Oxon: Radcliffe Medical Press, 2002. £19.95, 198 pp. ISBN 1 85775953 2
There is a view that good management boils down to good common sense and that management books and courses just make the obvious explicit. It has also been noted that the trouble with common sense is that it is not all that common. Perhaps if it was we would not need management books and courses. At one end of the spectrum management books, particularly the more theoretical, can provide a turgid read or, like this one at the other, are full of practical tips. This book is entertaining and well written in plain English with a light hearted style. It is interactive with quotes and exercises. It is intuitive rather than systematic, well sprinkled with witty insights, and it is certainly not academic, comprehensive, or even evidence based.
Roy Lilley has done many things in his working life and, of these, his spell as Chairman of an NHS trust was the one he found most difficult to get to grips with. He well understands that healthcare management comes top of the list for complexity, difficulty, and frustration potential. He uses the 26 letters of the alphabet to give us his own highly introspective and idiosyncratic take on what he considers to be the 26 most important topics for managers. For example, A is for Assertive, L is for Leadership, and S is for See outside the box. The alphabet format does make the text a bit stilted. For some letters there is a lot of text while, for others, the author seems to have run out of things to say. Between each letter there is a page with a single quote, most of which are about leadership such as “there are no office hours for leaders”—attributed to Cardinal Gibbons. The approach taken is very general, in some places to the point of vagueness and blandness. Curiously, there is virtually nothing very specific about health care itself, despite the title; the NHS is mentioned once or twice only, and it would have been helpful to have had more on healthcare management as there is a lot of specific material that is unique to the dilemmas involved in managing a healthcare system. Some topics are dealt with very briefly—for example, J for Judgement has only one page and basically just says that judgement is the opposite of prejudice, so “don’t be prejudiced” seems to be the message. The section on L for Leadership is good, probably the best bit of the book, and the section on Difficult People and How to Deal with Them is useful and insightful.
This is an enjoyable and entertaining read, with some important messages and absolutely no jargon or “management speak”. There is also plenty of empty space in the book, maybe to scribble your own notes. I recommend it.