Robert Heller

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Robert Heller (June 10, 1932August 28, 2012) was a British management journalist, management consultant, author of a series of management books, and the founding editor of Management Today.


  • Managers are to information as alcoholics are to booze. They consume enormous amounts, constantly crave more, but have great difficulty in digesting their existing intake.
    • Robert Heller (1975) "Research in light of a dark tunnel" Audit AGB research. London, Spring 1973: Cited in Peter M. Chisnall (1977) Effective industrial marketing. p. 91
  • The difference between management and administration (which is what the bureaucrats used to do exclusively)... is the difference... between choice and rigidity.
    • Robert Heller, cited in: Director Vol 35 (1982). p. 88
  • The first myth of management is that it exists. The second myth of management is that success equals skill.
    • Robert Heller cited in : Jonathon Green (1984) The Cynic's Lexicon: A Dictionary of Amoral Advice. p. 92
  • CEO of General Electric for 30 years, Jack Welch was declared the greatest manager of the 20th century. Focusing firmly on results, he revolutionized management to achieve phenomenal growth for his company.
    • Robert Heller (2001) Jack Welch Dorling Kindersley Pub.
  • Although he reputedly hated the label of ‘guru’, Peter Drucker was, by any standards, the greatest management guru the world has yet seen. In 1996, the McKinsey Quarterly journal described him as the ‘the one guru to whom other gurus kowtow’ and Robert Heller described him as ‘the greatest man in the history of management’, praise indeed for a man who described himself as ‘just an old journalist’.
  • Never ignore a gut feeling, but never believe that's enough.
    • Robert Heller; cited in: Hubert J. M. Hermans (2012) Between Dreaming and Recognition Seeking. p. 107

The Naked Manager (1972)


Robert Heller, The Naked Manager (1972)

  • Management is a far more homely business than its would be scientists suggest, more closely allied to cookery than any other human activity. Like cooking, it rests on a degree of organisation and on adequate resources. But just as no two chefs run their kitchens the same way, so no two managements are the same.
    • p. 12
  • What goes wrong [in long-range planning] is that sensible anticipation gets converted into foolish numbers: and their validity always hinges on large loose assumptions.
    • Cited in: Michael Armstrong, Tina Stephens (2005) A Handbook Of Management And Leadership. p. 71

The supermanagers: Managing for Success, the Movers and the Doers, the Reasons Why (1984)

  • Never ignore a gut feeling: but never believe that it's enough on its own
    • p. 87
  • Effective management always means asking the right question.
    • p. 304; As cited in: Paul Pryor (2000) Marketing Construction Services. p. 100

The Pocket Manager, (1987)

  • Decisions should be pushed down as far as possible, to the level of competence. This allows senior managers more time for making decisions of a more complex nature
    • p. 72
  • Decision tree - The most picturesque of all the allegedly scientific aids to making decisions. The analyst charts all the possible outcomes of different options, and charts all the latters' outcomes, too. This produces a series of stems and branches (hence the tree). Each of the chains of events is given a probability and a monetary value.
    • p. 73
  • Management — The definition that includes all the other definitions in this book and which, because of that, is the most general and least precise. Its concrete, people meaning — the board of directors and all executives with the power to make decisions — is no problem, except for the not-so-little matter of where to draw the line between managers who are part of "the management" and managers who are not.
    • p. 161

The Decision makers (1989)

Robert Heller (1989) The Decision Makers.
  • Letting I dare not wait upon I would is a mug's game, and those who play it usually get mugged.
    • Ch. 3. The Truth About Decisions
  • No decision in business provides greater potential for the creation of wealth (or its destruction, come to think of it) than the choice of which innovation to back.
    • Ch. 5. The Innovators’
  • All businesses operate below their true potential. That is unavoidable, given the fallibility of human beings.
    • Ch. 10. The Competitors

Making Decisions, (1998)

Robert Heller (1998/2009) Making Decisions. Dorling Kindersley Limited,
  • Common sense suggests that some factors in a [risk management] process are more important than others — and analysis supports this. In reality, only 20 percent of activities. In reality, only 20 percent of activities may account for up to 80 percent of results. This is known as Pareto's law, the “80/20 rule”...Pareto's law concentrates on the significant 20 percent and gives the less important 80 percent lower priority.
    • as cited in: William G. Ramroth, Jr. (2007) Risk Management for Design Professionals. p. 53

Interview: Robert Heller (2006)

Interview: Robert Heller: Alistair Schofield speaks to Robert Heller, journalist, commentator and the author of more than 50 books on management and business strategy. (2006), online
  • When I left university I had two objectives; I wanted to write and I wanted to get married. The only way I could afford both was to get a job as a journalist. At that time, the National Union of Journalists was very powerful and would not allow the direct recruitment of journalists from college except under special circumstances. The Financial Times was deemed special and duly recruited a cadre of very bright young people. I joined the FT as part of that now celebrated intake and, as a result, found myself working on a business newspaper.
  • My first book “The Naked Manager”, a big success in 1971, had been followed by many others, and I wanted to write still more. Writing books is very interesting as each new project takes you in a different direction. You learn a lot – especially about what you yourself really think.
  • Two of my favourite current management writers are Americans – Clayton Christensen and Peter Senge. My all-time favourite gurus are Peter Drucker, who became a greatly admired friend, and W. Edwards Deming. The thing that set these people apart from many other business commentators is that they didn’t propose any all - encompassing theories, they simply told it like it is.
    The fact is that life cannot be summarised as a simple set of rules; it’s far too complicated for that and it’s always changing. Unfortunately, all-encompassing panaceas do seem to be popular and certainly sell books, which is why I so value the objectivity of thought that each of these people brought to the debate.

Quotes about Robert Heller

  • Robert Heller can rightly be credited with promoting "management" as a skill that could be learned and perfected – and written about.
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