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September 22, 1997updated 03 Sep 2016 2:25pm

MANAGEMENT BIBLES THAT AREN’T QUITE GOSPEL STILL MAKE MONEY

By CBR Staff Writer

From Computer Business Review, a sister publication.

Books are pleasantly lucrative, concedes Geoffrey Moore, renowned technology guru and author of technology management bibles Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado, but more importantly they are the marketing message. Authoring a business best seller has become akin to a ‘gurudom’ initiation ceremony, and the rewards for success are substantial, encompassing lecture tours (worth upwards of $20,000 a day), video presentations, consulting projects and, in the case of Tom Peters, even board games. To keep pushing up the appearance prices, however, gurus have to constantly extend and refresh the formula. Chasm, Moore’s first book, has sold 120,000 copies to date, while its follow up, Tornado, has sold 80,000. In 1999 he is scheduled to bring out the third book in the Chasm series, Living on the Fault Line – managing on the shifting ground of high-tech. In the interim, early next year Moore will release The Gorilla Game, a guide to high-tech stocks for private investors. James Martin, meanwhile, the longest-serving technology guru has penned more than 100 books and admits to be constantly researching new topics. The importance of making those books ‘best sellers’ cannot be understated and, in August 1995, a storm of controversy erupted over an alleged scam concerning Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema, authors of The Discipline of Market Leaders. Business Week alleged that Treacy and Wiersema, in a bid to boost their personal status and to bring in a raft of new consulting projects for their employer, CSC Index, had mounted a campaign to get their book onto the New York Times best-seller list by placing secret, bulk orders (to the tune of 50,000 copies) with book stores known to report to the Times database. Although both Treacy and Wiersema denied the claim, within a number of weeks Wiersema had taken an unpaid leave of absence from CSC Index to write another book. Treacy, whose company Treacy & Co had been based at CSC, moved out a few weeks later.

Fatally flawed

But it is not only the practice of manipulating book sales that has come in for flak. The content of the books has also been brought into question, with some business pundits claiming that authors oversimplify – or overstate – their messages in order to garner widespread appeal, even if it is to the detriment of the book’s overall value. CSC Index became one of the fastest growing consulting firms in the world on the back of the success of Reengineering the Corporation, co-authored by two of its consultants Michael Hammer and James Champy. The book’s theory, however, was fatally flawed, a point conceded by Hammer in an interview last year. I was reflecting my engineering background and was insufficiently appreciative of the human dimension. I’ve learned that is critical, he said. A survey by the American Management Association found fewer than half of the companies that had downsized since 1990 recorded higher profits in the following years and even fewer recorded higher productivity. Nevertheless, two years after its publication, Re-engineering the Corporation is still on the business paperback best seller list, and both Hammer can Champy are enjoying success with their BPR sequels, The Reengineering Revolution and Reengineering Management, pointing out where the first book went wrong. Failure is clearly a transient thing.

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