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Books Reviews
Current productivity books, journals and reports

Coaching for Performance
John Whitmore
Nicholas Brealey 12.99
ISBN :

This is a new edition of what has become a classic in the dissemination of the art of coaching. Since first published over a decade ago, this book has sold in excess of 200,000 copies world-wide. This third - expanded - edition brings up to date Whitmore's GROW model and breaks new psychological ground with three new chapters on coaching for personal meaning, purpose at work and on corporate vales and cultures.

The GROW methodology stands for Goals, Reality, Options, Will - steps in generating prompt action and peak performance. It explores the dynamics of team development and positions coaching as the essential team leadership skill. Clear, concise, hands-on and friendly, this is a coaching guide written in a coaching style - this new edition should help in the unlocking of potential performance.

 

Mission to Enernova : Accessing potential and developing performance
Julie Hay and Peter Emery
Gower 175
ISBN : 0 566 08416 3

You are situated on home base, a station in space in a galaxy far from earth, where you work for a space exploration agency. News has come in of a discovery of a new planet, Enernova, where there is a valuable source of powerful new energy that will enable your community to thrive for the next millennium. This is a commercial opportunity for your organisation. However, you have heard that your competitors are also aware of this discovery and are expected to reach Enernova within the next fifty light-years.

This is the opening of the participant brief for the simulation Mission to Enernova. The exercise requires the participants working on their own or in teams, to budget, plan and present their strategy for reaching Enernova safely. The quality of their decisions on which route to follow, which crew members and equipment to take, as well as the levels of fuels, food and stores that they will need, will be put to the test when the simulation itself unfolds.

Mission to Enernova can be used as a team building simulation to explore group dynamics, information handling, planning, decision making, communication and influencing skills, presentation skills, and addresses issues of flexibility, contingency planning, risk management, time management and working under pressure.

The simulation includes full instructions for the team facilitator wishing to use it as a team development exercise.

Though the scenario for this simulation - presumably - is far remote from the everyday working lives of most managers, the processes and skills involved in handling the simulation are those required in everyday working in all organisations.

What is more, the nature of the scenario adds a degree of interest to the simulation that could be missing if it was a "standard" form of management exercise. Whatever else happens, participants are likely to remember the fact that they took part in an exercise which required them to plan a space mission. As such, it will almost certainly be enjoyable. The quality of the brief included - and the material involved mean that it should also be an educational and informative experience, resulting in real learning and real behavioural change.

 

Leading Your Team : How To Involve and Inspire Teams
Andrew Leigh & Michael Maynard
Nicholas Brealey 12.99
ISBN :

Leading Your Team has become a survival kit for team leaders tackling the challenge of harnessing the power and commitment of everyone involved in today's multicultural, multi-disciplinary, self-directed teams. This book gives step-by-step guidance on how to run an inspired team meeting, how to brief teams and set goals together, how to develop your team and review their progress, and how to create self-managing teams.

This new edition has new chapters on the world of virtual teams and a new introduction that shows how successful team leaders can move beyond being merely a player to becoming a creator.

This is a practical, 'nuts and bolts' book with plenty of practical ideas, tips, case studies and examples.

 

Customer Loyalty Programms and Clubs (2nd ed)
Stephen A. Butscher
Gower 49.50
ISBN : 0 566 08451 1

Q. Who are your best customers ? A. Your existing ones! It is usually more cost effective to retain customers than to recruit new ones. Long-term customer loyalty is the most effective protection against competition. Many marketing professionals understand these facts but fail to release that retention is much more than simple offering loyalty discounts. If the overall approach is wrong, you can simply 'discount away' your margins and end up in a price war. This step-by-step guide explains the key issues in identifying and offering the right combination of benefits, both financial and non-financial.

This is a fully updated version of the original version and has two new chapters - Pricing for Customer Loyalty and E-Loyalty: Customer Loyalty on the Internet - as well as new case studies.

Butscher takes the reader through all the necessary steps to research, plan and launch a programme that builds and develops the relationship between the organisation and its customers. He pus special emphasis on value measurement and selection of the right benefits, as well as integration of the loyalty programme into all parts of the organisation.

Case studies include Swatch, Volkkswagen, T-Mobil and Porsche - all companies who have successfully made customer loyalty programmes an essential component of their marketing strategy.

 

THE LEADERSHIP SECRETS OF COLIN POWELL
Oren Harari
McGraw-Hill 16.99
ISBN : 0071388591

Colin Powell rose from military leadership - as General Powell - to government office and a p lace on the international stage - as Secretary of State Powell. As the child of Jamaican immigrants, he joined the US army only a short time after it became racially integrated in 1952. The southern states of the US where he served in the early 1960s were not integrated and yet, despite a background of indignities, he rose to be a four star general: a towering achievement of true merit, rewarded by his current office.

His autobiography My American Journey suggests that Powell is modest and unassuming. It is thus unlikely that hew would have written this book - it has taken Oren Harari, professor of management studies at the University of San Francisco, to take Powell's experiences and use them as the basis of a series of leadership lessons.

Of course, the 'secrets' refereed to in the title are not very well hidden ones - the lessons in this book have been around for some time. This book simply puts a different slant on them - and uses Powell's experiences to illustrate them.

The 18 principles, with an explanation of how they apply to business, were the subject of a magazine article as long ago as 1996. This was reproduced all over the world and today it is still possible to find dozens of references to it on the web. In fact it was the interest that the article caused that led Harari to expand it into this book, and to clarify the relationship to the business world.

It is obvious, and not surprising, that much of Powell's thinking is conditioned by his army background. This makes the 'translation' from this background to one of business an important consideration in deciding whether the 'secrets' here are truly generic.

The military is a strict and regular hierarchy. This mirrors a number of business structures - though business has become less hierarchical over the last decade - and certainly less overtly structured and formal. However, the US army is a massive 'business' - its 'turnover' will be in the region of $400billion this year - and there must be - indeed are - lessons that can be transferred from one 'system' to the other.

This book is not authorised by Colin Powell. Harari has researched Powell's speeches and comments to draw out the leadership lessons. One of Powell's principles is: 'Let leaders lead: don't become over reliant on experts and elitists.' In the wake of the Enron debacle, this looks like sound advice! Similarly: 'Untidy truth is better than smooth lies.'

This book offers more such common-sense - though revealing advice - presented in ways which clearly explain the 'lesson' or 'the secret'.

 

HOW DID THEY MANAGE?
Daniel Diehl and Mark Donnelly
Spiro Press 10.99
ISBN : 1904298079

The discipline of leadership is back in vogue. Politicians are now popular if they are perceived to be 'strong' and 'tough'. This book taps into what should be a ready market by selecting words of wisdom form a range of legendary philosophers, statesmen and business moguls. Using 'teachers' from Confucius to Henry Heinz, the authors have constructed a manual for modern-day business leadership. They point out that 'there is no such thing as a "new" or "modern" management technique' but they use lessons from the past to guide today's managers and leaders through the very real trials of modern business life.

Of course, you need to accept that there are real parallels between the worlds in which some of these leaders operated, and today's business world. The authors suggest, for example, that "By comparing how men and women in the past dealt with their own circumstances… you should be able to deal more effectively with the sages and barbarians, warriors and conspirators, courtiers and power brokers that pass through your own life." The book neatly draws out the parallels by translating the works of the historical figures into modern-day situations. As a result, this book contains an interesting commentary by Niccolo Machiavelli on 'middle management'.

Sometimes these parallels seem a little too forced. The Chinese military philosopher Sun Tsu wrote that "the skilled warrior subdues the enemy without battle". There are some reasonably obvious lessons that could be drawn from that but the authors suggest that this can mean that one should 'salvage as much of the competition as possible and make them a profitable part of your own company'. This 'stretching' goes even further when 18th-century pirate codes are used to provide insights into 'Management and Worker Rights and Responsibilities'.

There are areas where the lessons drawn from history are inappropriate or simply illogical. Not surprisingly, the more modern 'teachers' offer the closest parallels and the most interesting material. Heinz, for example, offers interesting and useful insights into early 20th-century attitudes to management, beating off the competition and firing old friends.

This is a brave attempt and follows on from similar attempts, using the works of Shakespeare, for example. However, the analogies are often too weak, and the parallels too poorly drawn to make this a 'must read'.

 

The End Of Management
Kenneth Cloke & Joan Goldsmith
Jossey-Bass Wiley 20.50
ISBN : 078795912X

When Kofi Annan spoke at the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UN, he suggested that the previous century had taught that centralised planning does not work. The downfall of communism suggests we have learned that lesson at the nation level, yet many commercial organisations are still highly centralised, planned economies. The authors of this book maintain that 'management' is an idea whose time is up. The concept was based on an earlier time when serfs and slaves had to be controlled.

Why have we persevered so long with a system that treats people either as idiots or as untrustworthy slaves, instead of as responsible, rational and sensible individuals. Why have we created systems that separate employees from responsibility, decision-making, ownership and commitment? Employees are no longer the simple and passive agents they perhaps once were. The days of military command structures in which orders are announced by CEO generals and barked by mid-level sergeant-managers to docile privates who blindly obey should be over. This is because the speed of current day change and innovation is forcing organisations to abandon such top-down processes, at a time when new information channels and technologies allow this to happen.

Decisions can now be taken - on sound information - wherever it is most appropriate; whereas once the decision had to be passed 'up' to where the information resided. This means, say the authors, that businesses can - and should - become 'strategic associations of self-managing employee teams' who collaborate as members of complex networks. Having established this point of view, the authors then go on to explain how these teams and networks actually operate. Unless we change to this new approach, we are depriving individuals of the chance to develop themselves to their full potential, and depriving the organisation of the talent and productive capacity of these employees if their commitment is unleashed. Organisations that do not recognise this need within individuals, and thus the need to share power and responsibility with their workers will lose those workers (or at least the better ones). Though the views in this book can be regarded as idealistic, they do remind us that the world is changing ands we must adapt - our organisation structures and our attitude to our employees - if we are to survive and prosper.

 

The Wealth Of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital And The 21st Century Organisation
Thomas A Stewart
Nicholas Brealey Publishing 19.99
ISBN : 1857882873

We all know that "knowledge is power" but few of us act as if we really believe it. Thomas Stewart does; he published his first major work on "intellectual capital" four years ago, and has now followed it up with The Wealth of Knowledge. In the earlier work, he suggested that a company's intellectual capital is the sum of its human capital (talent), structural capital (intellectual property, methodologies, software, documents, and other knowledge artefacts), and customer capital (client relationships). Knowledge, captured and exploited properly, is at the heart of any business process that can truly be said to "add value". However, 'knowledge management' has proved to be an elusive goal.

This book re-engages with the debate on knowledge and "the information age", and once more stresses the importance of knowledge as an organisational resource. Quoting Peter Drucker, Stewart goes back to work study basics by reminding us that the knowledge economy forces us to ask basic questions of our businesses: "What should we be doing?" "What is the valuable knowledge we uniquely possess?" "How do we develop and exploit knowledge assets?" "How do we improve the efficiency of our knowledge work and knowledge workers?"

This book is written in an accessible and witty style and this makes some of the facts and issues easier to engage with. Stewart suggests, for example, that "Approximately 610 billion e-mails are sent per year, of which at least one third are cc'd to me". He also concedes that "knowledge management" has become one of the new management fads, and a source of continuing revenue for third rate consultants. This is definitely worth a read; it should persuade you that the concepts of intellectual capital management can be used to manage knowledge assets and so gain competitive advantage. It might just open your eyes (and your brain) to some important ideas - ideas which you will have to think through on your own after Stewarts prompting. Now, that can't be bad, can it?

 

Managing The Unexpected : Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity
Karl E Weick and Kathleen M Sutcliffe
Jossey-Bass 17.05
ISBN 0-7879-5627-9

High Reliability Organisations (HROs) manage the unexpected through five processes:

1. Preoccupation with failures rather than successes
2. Reluctance to simplify interpretations
3. Sensitivity to operations
4. Commitment to resilience
5. Deference to expertise, as exhibited by encouragement of a fluid decision-making system

Taken together these five processes produce a collective state of 'mindfulness'. This state combines a rich awareness of discriminatory detail and an enhanced ability to discover and correct errors before they escalate into potential - or actual - crises.

The authors offer a basic, though useful, questionnaire to identify the state of each process within your own organisation. Each Chapter ends with a valuable summary of the main points. The final chapter attempts to 'move things on' by providing a number of relevant ideas "to build competence to contain or bounce back from inevitable problems once they become evident". Such ideas include the notions that : ambivalence builds resilience; use rich media and encourage people to listen; be mindful publicly; enlarge competencies and response repertoires; build excess capacity; create flexible decision structures; accelerate feedback; balance centralisation with decentralisation; reinforce perishable values and mitigate complacency. The presentation might be more suitable for those used to academic texts but this is worth reading by a wider audience.

 

PEAK PERFORMANCE Business Lessons from the World's Top Sports Organizations
Clive Gibson, Mike Pratt, Kevin Roberts and Ed Weymes
Harper Collins 8.99
ISBN 0-00-653185-7

The authors start from the premise that sports organisations have clearly defined targets and that performance against these targets can be easily measured to identify the top performers. The book then builds on this assumption. Although the basis is the sports industry, this is not just another book on team-building; it concentrates on the strategic approaches necessary to develop and maintain a successful (business) organisation and is an exploration of sustained success.

The authors set off on a sports fan's dream journey around the world, amassing hard evidence and interviewing key inspirational players both on and off the field. Normally inaccessible icons such as Michael Jordan, Frank Williams, Franz Beckenbauer, Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Peter Blake and Jonah Lomu are among the many figures who assisted them in their search for the secrets of excellence. The result is the elite theory of Peak Performing Organizations (PPO). By studying the teams' very different organizational stories, the authors have identified consistent practices for nurturing sustained peak performance and the key techniques which will unlock effectiveness - lessons which can be applied to all businesses to achieve sustainable success.

 

The Company of the Future
Frances Cairncross
Profile Books 17.99
ISBN : 1 86197 405 1

In her previous work, The Death of Distance, Cairncross (management editor on The Economist) provided a useful summary of the many possibilities offered up by technological advance. This new book takes up the challenge of managing in the wired (or wireless) age.

This book is unfortunately timed - some of the analysis looks a little strained after the great technology downturn of last year and, though Cairncross cannot be blamed here, the events of September 11. Luckily, Cairncross offers a long-term perspective on her subject and this might show that in the long run she will be proved more right than wrong. It also means that she sees through some of the 'cooler', techno-wizardry and realises that low-tech is often the appropriate solution to a problem. She points out, for example, that the standard three-drawer filing cabinet is still around today - after more than 100 years. It has not yet been replaced by the computer.

She also recognises that many technological solutions require people and process solutions first - or at least alongside the technology. In fact, she has a refreshing confidence in humanity, pointing out, for example, that even the best search engine may not easily deliver the serendipity that comes from browsing through a newspaper of from hunting through the mess on one's own desk.

Cairncross examines the key elements of any corporation - organisational structure, culture, human resources, knowledge management, purchasing, supply chain, customer relationships - and how the way in which they operate and are managed will be affected by the changes taking place. She then outlines the key skills that managers must develop in order to manage successfully the company of the future. In doing this, she delivers a number of lessons for managing in the technology era - many of them are not revolutionary - or even new - but they do serve to remind us of some of the well-established 'truths'. She caps this by adding - in true management guru style - her 'ten rules for survival'. She adds a useful chapter on 'communities and corporate culture' which puts some of the previous chapters in real focus - and would have benefited from some further elaboration.

 

Work Naked : Eight Essential Principles for Peak Performance in the Virtual Workplace
Cynthia C Froggatt
Jossey-Bass 17.95
ISBN 0-7879-5390-3

This book suggests that traditional - and typical - organisational structures and working practices actively prevent staff from giving of their best. The author argues that staff should be liberated from the burdens and overheads of standard hierarchies and, instead, supported in their endeavours by flexible working. Eight chapters build an argument around eight key principles: initiative, trust, joy, individuality, equality, dialogue, connectivity and workplace options. This is not an academic book - and it fails to acknowledge or draw upon (explicitly) the work that has gone on in this area in the past - by both academics and practitioners. Since it is not academic, it is a little disappointing not to have more in the way of practical case examples to underline the essential message. The arguments in the book are interesting - and there is a kind of 'instinctive truth' in much that is contained here. Thus, this book may best be regarded as a contribution to a general 'movement' rather than as a definitive statement. This is not to belittle the book - it is always interesting, and that in itself makes it commendable!

 

Six Sigma: SPC And TQM In Manufacturing And Services
Geoff Tennant
Gower 47.50
ISBN : 0 566 083744

This book explores one of the most successful quality and management programmes, upon which companies such as Motorola and GE base their success - Six Sigma. This has been clearly demonstrated in such organisations as being an excellent vehicle for developing corporate strategy in relation to customer quality.

In a normal statistical distribution, approximately 68% of all measurements fall within one sigma either side of the mean. This is both mathematically proven and a practically experienced result. In fact, if you take all measurements that fall within three sigma of the mean - that is between (mean + 3 sigma) to (mean - 3 sigma), you will have 99.74% of all outcomes. If we aim to have all of our product quality measurements within 3 sigma of the target measure, 99.74% of our manufactured parts would meet the specification. Six sigma goes further - and suggests that 6 sigma should be the goal.

In this book, the author, who helped implement a program for GE Capital, investigates the relationships among Six Sigma, quality, customer satisfaction, business processes, organisational structure, statistics, analysis, and process improvement methodologies. After the statistical and conceptual bases of the program are outlined, practical steps for implementation are presented and explained. The author was directly involved in implementing Six Sigma quality principles and practices into a European division of GE Capital. Drawing on his experience, Geoff Tennant develops a reasoned exploration of the benefits that Six Sigma offers to any organisation. He investigates the relationship between Six Sigma and quality, customer satisfaction, business processes and organisational structure, statistics and analysis and process improvement methodologies.

 

The Power of Six Sigma
Subir Chowdhury
Financial Times/Prentice Hall 12.99
ISBN 0-273-65621-X

The book is another in the recent spate of books based around a narrative - used to address 'lessons to be learned'. The approach can be useful in addressing a complex subject - and can make a dull, though very worthy, subject more interesting. This one is based around the story of a manager who is rejected by a failing organisation that is itself trapped by its traditional managerial culture. The author illustrates an alternative way of working which could have prevented the problems underlying the failure.

The concept of six sigma - though essentially very simple (see above) - can be daunting to comprehend 'at first pass' and this book does provide a way of 'sneaking up' on the concept, and of explaining its application. Some of the narrative takes almost the form of a frequently asked questions list - using one of the characters to ask the questions that readers are most likely to want to ask themselves. The six sigma approach is essentially one of continuous improvement based on solid measured evidence. This evidence is used to identify the source of under-performance, to measure 'where the organisation is' and 'where it wants to be'. The organisation then plots a course from one to the other - simple, really! From this book, there is a clear lesson that 'fancy' techniques achieve nothing if they are not applied with commitment, with consistency and with backing from the leadership at the top of the organisation. The style of this book makes it easily digestible - but the concept of six sigma, and this underlying message about its application, comes through clearly.

 

The Warren Buffet CEO
Robert Miles
John Wiley Publishing 17.95
ISBN 0 47144 2593

This book suggests that Warren Buffet is a rare talent spotter. Buffet's empire stretches across a whole range of companies and this book profiles nearly two dozen of them. The author was allowed access to the empire and has interviewed these CEOs to arrive at these profiles.

So, what makes someone able enough to run a Buffet company?

Well, there is no great secret. Though these individuals are talented, it is clear that they work very hard and are totally committed to what they do. There is a range of industries represented - from insurance through executive jets and furniture to jewellery. In most cases, Buffet bought the company because he liked and approved of it - and then he let the existing management team continue to run it. He is thus investing in that management team as much as in the company; and Buffet selects enthusiastic, hard-working people who love their job and are good communicators and people managers.

Buffet particularly likes owner-managers who are so well off that they don't need to work but continue to do well past retirement age because they love what they do - and are running 'their baby'. Buffet himself has said that : 'In our search for new companies in which to invest, we adopt the same attitude one might find appropriate in looking for a spouse: it pays to be active, interested and open minded, but it does not pay to be in a hurry.'

The admiration of Buffet for his CEOs is mirrored by their admiration for him as a mentor and guide. They invariably praise the way in which they were approached and the transfer was handled. Buffet, it seems, is up-front, open and honest. When the deal is done, Buffet shows his admiration and trust by letting them get on with it - running the company they know in the way that has proved successful.

When the 'dot.com' revolution took hold, some thought that Buffet was behind the times, that he had missed out on great opportunities. Now, his caution looks like wisdom. He has continued to tell his investors that he will stick to what he knows about. 'Try to contain your excitement' was his most appropriate quote. Buffett's simple approach, his virtues and values have stood the test of time, and so have these CEOs. This is a testament to them - and to him.

 

Project Management For Successful Product Innovation
Alan Webb
Gower 75
ISBN : 0 566 082624

This comprehensive book provides a complete guide to managing projects involving the development of new products. It is arranged in a logical sequence covering the development of project management, project management structures, aspects of planning, monitoring and control, economics and value management, design management, intellectual property issues and production start-up. Particular emphasis is given to risk management, a difficult subject that is of growing importance to today's project manager, especially in product innovation. It gives the practising project manager an insight into the many processes that are involved in handling one of the most complex of industrial activities.

 

 

 

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