Review of Masters of Disaster

Authors: Christopher Lehane, Mark Fabiani, and Bill Guttentag

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan, originally 2012 (received as part of http://www.librarything.com’s Early Reviewers program in 2014)

 

I apologize to both authors and publisher for being late with this review. This is an excellent book, rife with examples ranging from a charter school affiliated with KIPP that had to close its doors to Major League Baseball (both as an organization and some of its specific players) to politicians such as Al Gore to corporations including Maple Leaf Foods and Murray Enterprises to city departments such as San Francisco’s transportation entity which faced a crisis caused by complaints over the welding of parts for the reconstruction of the Golden Gate Bridge.

What makes the book so excellent is its presentation of both successes AND failures in the ‘crisis management’ of these several entities, and that the authors underscore the differences between the two. Given that in some cases the differences are over a very fine line, I am not persuaded of the viability of ALL of the examples of success compared with failure. But in most cases I was able to pick out WHY one individual or corporation successfully managed its crisis whereas another did not. It has to do with leadership habits which unfortunately are not being given enough play in business programs at universities. In an age where, as the authors say up front, crisis is the norm and is to be expected (in large part because of a paranoid populace), this book is EXTREMELY important.

I docked the book one star for its challenges with prepositions–they seem to have thought it okay to omit them on several dozen occasions, and the editors failed to catch this–and for its failure to update its account of Alex Rodriguez prior to publication, since they cite him as an example of successful crisis management when we know that he has not been. I would have liked to have seen examples of college football coaches–they did include Paterno along with Penn State’s general leadership–and also examples dating somewhat farther back from 1998 or whenever their first example was set, because crisis management has certainly been a factor in organizational success and failure for several centuries. Even an analysis of Louis XVI–or of Andrew Johnson or Samuel Chase–in light of these principles would have been a great addition to a work that is already excellent.

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