Managing Whole People

by Mark F. Herbert
ISBN: 978-0-9799394-2-6, Publisher: Real House Press, San Diego, California 2008

Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

This is an interesting little book, written entirely in the first person. The narrative traces the life and learnings of an HR practitioner; a sort of Pilgrim’s Progress for an HR believer. It is a great book for people who like autobiographies and hate textbooks.

The best aspect of this book is its total lack of pretension. It has no dry academic language and no newly coined words; the quotes are simple and memorable. My favourites were “when you are up to your ass in alligators don’t be afraid to beg for help” and ‘culture eats strategy every time’. Both are very true (at least if my experience is to be trusted), easily understood even by those with no experience, and usefully memorable.

Following a career that meanders from an outback mine in Arizona through a high tech start-up and on to a large manufacturing company before the inevitable emancipation into consulting, the reader shares the experiences that underpin Mark’s theory.

Mark’s passion and enthusiasm shine through the prose. The development of the theory over time apace with the author’s career advancement helps the reader to grasp the fundamentals behind the theory. This is not a book about a flash of insight but a tale of steadily dawning comprehension correlated with situations, characters and facts.

HR practitioners and line managers seeking to motivate their own staff, in their own way, based upon the judgement they have developed in their own careers, will find the book a useful prompt for their own thinking. Impatient souls, looking for simple concepts that should work when applied, and regardless of who they are applied to, may find the whole autobiographical development a bit esoteric.

So, did it teach me the trick of developing commitment? Probably not. It did, however, deal with characters and situations similar to ones I have encountered and I enjoyed reading what Mark did in those circumstances. This is a book for a long plane journey where you may have time to think about and enjoy Mark’s career as much as he himself appears to have done.  


 * Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director and an AICD NSW Councillor. She is the author of “All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector”, the ‘Director’s Dilemma’ newsletter and numerous articles on corporate governance and strategy.  



Julie Garland McLellan to judge 2011 Global eBook Awards