‘Essentialism – the disciplined pursuit of less’ by Greg McKeown – a book review

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of LessEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Greg McKeown’s easy-to-read tome on ‘Essentialism’ is a field manual – a guide for the busy manager or multi-tasker who is poor at saying no to commitments, and who erroneously believes we can do it all. Reading this book is a valuable use of time for the new manager, or the seasoned leader who finds their success has bred too many different projects.

The overarching frame of reference is that there are two types of managerial and leadership behaviour (the book equivocates management and leadership together) – Essentialist and Non-Essentialist, and that effectiveness is the product only of the former.

The book is well structured and each chapter clearly articulates an aspect of being ‘non-essential’ – illustrating the consequences with (at times, kitsch) anecdotes. The solution is then provided, in the form of take-away behaviours that can be practised over time.

This book would have been improved with the addition of the following artefacts:

– A wall guide or infographic contrasting the ‘Essentialist’ and ‘Non-Essentialist’ behaviours for easy reference and to refer back to

– A maturity model or similar allowing the fledgling leader to self-rate their behaviours

I also found this book lacking in solid empirical research; much of the narrative is fleshed with anecdotal rather than research or evidence-based information, which detracts overall from the credibility of the book.


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