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Change Management Toolbook

All book reviews from the Change Management Monitor

For years, Bill Godfrey ran an excellent site – “The Change Management Monitor” – that offered insightful reviews of books related to change management.  Running a site such as this at the level of quality that Bill maintained is clearly a demanding endeavour, and some years ago Bill decided that he wanted to focus on other things and very graciously allowed the change-management-toolbook.com to act as custodians of his excellent content.

Below you will find the full text of all of Bill’s original change management book reviews over the years – a very valuable overview of hundreds of change-related books. (You will find our frequently updated selection of “must read” change management books in the Recommended Change Management Books blog category.

Should you use any of the review content in your own work, please remember to acknowledge Bill as the source.

 

10 Minute guide to Planning.

Author: Bobrow, Edwin

Short Review:

A short, easy to use guide to the basics of business planning. Useful for beginners and also as a reminder to practitioners on basic steps and techniques, particularly in small businesses. Faulty perception is however a bigger problem than technique – see Shapiro’s Seven Deadly Sins.

Publisher: Macmillan Spectrum/Alpha Books
Year Published: 1998
Country: USA
ISBN: 0-02-861818-1
Date Reviewed: 1999-04-01
Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0028618181/bookwatccomau

17 Lies That are Holding You Back and the Truth That Will Set You Free.

Author: Chandler, Steve

Short Review:

A personal development/personal mastery book that identifies and works through 17 ways in which we lie to ourselves and thus limit our potential, and what to do about it. Simply and directly written. Directed to the individual rather than specifically to business, but relevant to a business context.

Full Review:

There is a wealth of books on various aspects of self-development. This one is in two parts. The first identifies 17 common ways in which we lie to ourselves and suggests ways of dealing with each. The second consists of four relatively short essays on aspects of being in control of your own life. What distinguishes this from many others in the genre is that it is relatively brief, very clear and direct, has cogent examples and is easy to read or to browse.The lies dealt with include:

  • I’m too old for that
  • There’s nothing I can do
  • Winning the lottery would solve everything
  • What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger

and so on. Just find what resonates with you and it will be helpful if you are ready to make changes in your thinking.

Of course, if you suffer from any of these self-limitations, just reading about it won’t fix it (there must be half a dozen books on Yoga in our house and the lotus position remains at best a distant ambition).

Publisher: Renaissance Books
Year Published: 2000-01-01
Country: USA
ISBN: 1580631304
Date Reviewed: 2000-10-01 Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1580631304/bookwatccomau

2

20/20 Foresight: Crafting Strategy in an Uncertain World.

Author: Courtney, Hugh

Short Review:

Argues that traditional approaches to strategy take a binary view of uncertainty in a world in which levels of uncertainty vary greatly between issues. The author proposes four levels of ‘residual uncertainty’ – that which remains after careful analysis – and offers strategic options and tools for dealing with each level. Adds another dimension of analytical rigour and discusses the role of five tools, including scenario planning, systems dynamics and game theory.

Full Review:

In essence, what the author has done is to frame a set of known tools and principles within McKinsey’s preferred structure of analytical rigour. If you still believe that ‘classical’ strategic planning round the business case is the only way to approach strategy, the book may help widen your options. If you are already familiar with the various tools offered, the main benefit of the book will be to provide a useful reminder that levels of uncertainty differ and a framework for thinking about your own situation and response to it.Perhaps the most important message in the book is not to assume uncertainty until you have carried out the analysis needed to separate the knowable from the truly uncertain. ‘If you want to make better strategy choices under uncertainty, then you have to understand the uncertainty you are facing…you must embrace uncertainty…get to know it.’ This is the basic thesis of the book, which suggests that:

  • for any decision, a manager must first identify the variables and time frame that matter in crafting the right strategy. the variables typically include customer demand, drivers of cost, technology, competitor behaviour and others.
  • the manager must then ask what is and can be known about these key variables
  • there are four basic levels of ‘residual uncertainty’, which the author defines as ‘the uncertainty left after the best available analysis to separate the unknown from the unknowable’, each of which requires a different strategic response.

The levels are:

level 1 uncertainty provides a clear, single view of the future,

level 2 involves a limited range of outcomes, one of which will occur,

level 3 involves a wider range of possible outcomes and

level 4 a limitless range of possible outcomes in which the range of outcomes is unknown and unknowable. There is a fairly detailed discussion of each of these, with examples, with the key message being to get the analysis of which level is applicable right.

  • strategy under uncertainty requires arriving at the best possible answers to five basic questions:
  1. shape or adapt (eg seek to shape a market or adapt to an existing market)
  2. now or later
  3. focus or diversify – for example a strategic portfolio
  4. should we use new tools and Frameworks – the author explores scenarios, game theory and systems dynamics among others
  5. new strategic planning and decision making processes – should we challenge a traditional planning cycle or set of decision processes?
  • management should operate with a four step process:
  1. Define the strategic issue and the level of residual uncertainty
  2. Frame possible solutions
  3. Analyze possible solutions and make strategy choices
  4. Monitor and update strategy choices over time
  • the appropriate approach is issue related, not organization related. Organizations in stable environments may encounter major strategic issues involving high residual uncertainty, while those in very dynamic environments may have issues involving low uncertainty. The strategic process must be appropriate to the situation.

The book is a detailed exploration of these variables, starting with a detailed examination of the ‘four levels of residual uncertainty’. The rather extravagant title is meant to signify, not perfect strategies, but the best available in the context of the level of uncertainty being confronted. Most of the rest of the book is concerned with how to answer the five basic questions above in the context of each level of uncertainty, and which tools are most appropriate for guiding the decision process. The tools discussed in the Appendix ‘The Uncertainty Toolkit’ are:

  • scenario planning
  • game theory
  • decision analysis
  • systems dynamics models
  • management flight simulators.

Publisher: HBS Press
Year Published: 2001-01-01
Country: USA
ISBN: 1578512662
Date Reviewed: 2002-04-01
Comments: A very usable book, although it needs condensation for principles.
Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1578512662%0D/bookwatccomau

A

A Brief History of Everything.

Author: Wilber, Ken

Short Review:

A brilliant and wide ranging analysis of the nature and causes of the changes with which we are dealing and the possible future shape of our society and world view. From a manager’s point of view contains some very useful frameworks for thinking.

Full Review:

It is said that if we, who are concerned with managing change, are to be successful we must ourselves ‘learn to see the world anew’. Ken Wilber is one of a handful of authors who can help us to learn. Seen from a manager’s perspective, this book is therefore included for those who are interested in looking more widely at the nature and causes of the changes with which we are dealing and the possible future shape of our society and world view.Ken Wilber is an extraordinary writer who works to synthesise material from science, philosophy, psychology, sociology and eastern and western spiritual traditions into a comprehensive diagnosis of the western condition and the nature of the challenges which face us. Having said that, a fuller review of what is also a powerful polemical attack on the inadequacies of modernist and postmodernist philosophy belongs in another forum.

This commentary is simply an attempt to explain why the book merits inclusion in a manager’s reading list. Astonishingly, he achieves his synthesis in a way which is, in general, very readable and which clarifies a lot of concepts and ideas which, for me as a non-specialist in the field, have been pretty unapproachable. In particular, I have a much clearer idea of the content of ‘modernism’ and ‘post modernism’ and why it is important to understand something of that debate.

Perhaps most valuable of all, for people who are concerned with organisations and organisational change, is his framework of analysis, based on ‘holons’ and ‘holarchies’ and on four quadrants for consideration of the properties of holarchies. [A holon is simply an entity which is both complete in itself (e.g. an atom) and a part of a larger complete entity (e.g. a molecule), with the essential characteristic that more complex units in the holarchy (e.g. particle, atom, molecule,cell, etc.) have properties which can not be found in a simple aggregate of the separate holons of which they are composed.] Each of these has an exterior (i.e. susceptible to scientific examination, like the structure of the brain) and an interior (i.e. not susceptible to such examination, like my train of thought) aspect and an individual and a collective aspect.

Wilber develops the thesis that each aspect has to be dealt with on its own terms – the attempt to subject interior aspects to exterior or ‘scientific’ examination leads to gross distortions. He sums this up in the phrase ‘surfaces can be seen, but depths [i.e. interior aspects] must be interpreted.’ Equally, no consideration is complete without taking account of both individual and collective aspects. With these tools, Wilber enters into an exploration of the four aspects of holarchies, which is very revealing, even if there is a stage beyond which the reader, like myself, can no longer confidently follow him and even if the reader is uncomfortable with Wilber’s conception of Spirit.

Publisher: Hill of Content
Year Published: 1996-01-01
Country: Australia
ISBN: 0 85572 270 3
Date Reviewed: 1996-05-01
Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1570627401/bookwatccomau

A Genie’s Wisdom: A Fable of How a CEO Learned to be a Marketing Genius.

Author: Trout, Jack

Short Review:

A short outline of the simple basics of marketing, that claims to be written for CEOs with no background in marketing. The principles are sound and the coverage is reasonably thorough. The style and presentation are a bit ‘folksy’ for my taste.

Publisher: John Wiley
Year Published: 2003
Country: USA
ISBN: 047123608X
Date Reviewed: 2003-07-01
Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/047123608X/bookwatccomau

A Peacock in the Land of Penguins: A Tale of Diversity and Discovery.

Author: Hately, B.J. and Schmidt, W.H.

Short Review:

An immensely popular fable on the pressures of conformity and the value of diversity. The latest edition provides strategies for people with various preferences. Stronger on exhortation than on organisational solutions.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler
Year Published: 1997
Country: USA
ISBN: 1-57675-010-8
Date Reviewed: 1997-10-01
Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576750108/bookwatccomau

A Simpler Way.

Author: Wheatley, M. & Kellner-Rogers, M.

Short Review:

A beautifully written and passionate affirmation of life and organisation as a self organising system. A prose poem, expressing complex ideas in simple terms, and inviting reflection and dialogue. It will be influential in the ferment of ideas now becoming ‘discussable’.

Full Review:Margaret Wheatley’s first book, Leadership and the New Science was essentially an enquiry round the questions:

* ‘Is there a better way to organise?

* Is control the only way to achieve the results we want?

* Can we learn from observation and emulation of the apparent economy with which natural systems, even those which appear chaotic, organise themselves?

The book suggested that these ideas are worth exploring and experimentation and that such a world view fits far better with human aspiration than the high control model. A Simpler Way is a passionate affirmation that our world is indeed self organising and that the life force is an exploratory, playful, cooperative thrusting reality which is continually exploring and seeking out new places and new directions for life.

The opening invitation introduces the themes and the central question: ‘How could we organize human endeavor if we developed different understandings of how life organizes itself?’ In the same invitation, the authors summarise their beliefs, which are worth quoting in full:

‘The universe is a living, creative, experimenting experience of discovering what’s possible at all levels of scale, from microbe to cosmos Life’s natural tendency is to organise. Life organizes into greater levels of complexity to support more diversity and greater sustainability Life organizes around a self. Organizing is always an act of creating an identity Life self-organizes. Networks, patterns and structures emerge without external imposition or direction. Organization wants to happen People are intelligent, creative, adaptive, self-organizing and meaning seeking Organizations are living systems. They too are intelligent, creative, adaptive, self organizing, meaning seeking’

It is, in every way, a beautiful and affirming book, even in its production. As a reviewer, most books I handle are marked with highlighters, littered with stickies, even dog-eared. With its wonderful photo essays, clarity of layout and somehow the ‘feel’ of a leather bound classic, my copy is still carefully unmarked. I read it in two entranced sittings and have put it aside for much more leisurely and reflective rereading. I have no doubt that it will become a classic. The ideal use for it is as the basis for reflective dialogue, so that readers may share and explore the reflections triggered by the book as a whole and the many ideas and themes contained within it. The structure encourages its use in dialogue as it deals with themes at the level of life and evolution itself, the self, the organisation, the phenomenon of emergence. It expresses the application of ideas contained in quantum thinking, complex adaptive systems and autopoiesis (self-producing) to human affairs and our relationship to the world, without ever lapsing into jargon or unnecessary complexity. Proper consideration of its message requires dialogue. As I read it, my heart was saying ‘yes’, ‘that’s right’ at the same time that the ‘rational’ analytical side of me was saying ‘but what about …’, ‘how could this approach apply to…’? I can think of few more productive uses of time for a new team seeking to achieve some useful goal than to undertake reflective dialogue using the themes in this book as a starting point. It is likely to trigger creative and possibly quite unexpected ideas about how to work together.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler
Year Published: 1996-01-01
Country: USA
ISBN: 1-881052-95-8
Date Reviewed: 1996-09-01
Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1881052958/bookwatccomau

A Strategic Approach to Corporate Governance.

Author: Davies, Adrian

Short Review:

A two part manual on governance, Part 1 setting out the principles, while Part 2 consists of case studies. Seeks to link governance to strategic direction setting. Somewhat discursive, covering history as well as issues, but covers the main issues systematically.

Full Review:The theme of the book is that governance is not simply a set of rules that have to be followed, but that good governance is an aid to effectiveness and can contribute to building sustainable competitive advantage.

‘Governance’, says the author, ‘may be seen as a process for reconciling the ambitions of the individual with the need to preserve and develop the ‘common weal’, which binds individuals through shared interests.’ Good governance is essentially strategic in its scope, in that its aim is to create a balance in which all stakeholders (owners, customers, employees, suppliers, and others) are able to see sustainable benefits from maintaining the relationship and are therefore committed to its continuance. As Sir Adrian Cadbury points out in the Foreword, transparency is the key to governance of any organisation and checks and balances are needed to ensure that too much power is not concentrated in one person or group.

The author’s historical perspective is useful in bringing out the key historical issues and in demonstrating that many of the traditional mechanisms in governance reach back to the 19th century and are in need of change. As the author remarks, new structures are needed to reflect new and more complex relationships. It is also useful in demonstrating that similar considerations apply to all organisations, not only companies.

The case studies that make up the second half of the book are useful in illustrating the range of issues, with most of the cases being UK based, but also some of them covering global organisations. On the other hand, it is frustrating for those who simply want a guide for action.

The coverage of the issues is complete, but it is surrounded with a good deal of discussion, in which the key points are not always clearly flagged. As a general overview of the issues, it is useful. For me it fails to get to grips in a clear and easily referenced way with the key issues of changing power relationships between stakeholders – for example the growth of environmentalism, the issue of equal alliances between companies and the question for global companies of reconciling differing governance rules around the world.

Publisher: Gower
Year Published: 1999-01-01
Country: UK & USA
ISBN: 0566 08074 5
Date Reviewed: 2000-07-01
Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566080745/bookwatccomau

Absolute Honesty: Building a Corporate culture that Values Straight Talk and Rewards Integrity.

Author: Johnson, L. and Phillips, B.

Short Review:

This is a simple (possibly over-simple) but well structured overview of the attitudes an actions needed to ensure integrity of operation within an organisation. It is built around ‘six laws’, all of them fairly obvious but not necessarily easy to embed in an organization, with chapters giving advice on each. There is also a chapter on building an ethical infrastructure. It may be useful to those who want a check list of points to include in a program to overcome cultural problems within an organisation.

Publisher: Amacom
Year Published: 2003
Country: USA
ISBN: 0814407811
Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30 Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814407811/bookwatccomau

Achieving Post-Merger Success: A Stakeholder’s Guide to Cultural Due Diligence, Assessment, and Integration

Author: Carleton and Lineberry

Short Review:

“The failure rate of mergers and acquisitions is unreasonable, unacceptable, and unnecessary”. Offers a process for increasing the success rate.

Publisher: Pfeiffer
Year Published: 2004
ISBN: 0-7879-6490-5
Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Ackoff’s Best: His classic writings on management.

Author: Ackoff, Russell

Short Review:

Ackoff is one of our leading and most original management thinkers and a pioneer in the application of systems thinking. This is an author-chosen selection from his writings, arranged thematically. It shows both the originality of his thought and his pungency of expression. Very valuable.

Full Review:This collection brings together some of the most enduring work of this wide ranging and often controversial management thinker. The inclusion of substantial extracts from his 1981 ‘Creating the Corporate Future’ and the 1974 article ‘Towards a System of Systems Concepts’ helps to demonstrate how far ahead of his time he has been (they still read freshly and are still very relevant to today’s issues). The inclusion of various of Ackoff’s Fables 1991 illustrate his irreverence towards sacred cows that need to be removed.

The extracts are arranged in four parts: Systems; Planning; Applications; and Science.

The section on planning includes short extracts which cover the nature of planning, the concept of ‘mess management’ (which is one of his great gifts to planners), ends planning (which is another term for the design of preferred futures) and a longer article on creativity and constraints which demonstrates the way in which our own mind sets and authority limit our creativity and our solutions.

The section on applications includes case studies covering issues as diverse as education, crime and why people drink. Ackoff is one of a small group of thinkers who have had a profound influence on how we conceive the management task and in promoting the principles of systems thinking.

The book brings together his profound and his more frivolous ideas and is well designed both for reference (I still refer to Creating the Corporate Future when systemically complex planning issues arise) and for browsing.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Year Published: 1999-01-01
Country: USA
ISBN: 0471316342
Date Reviewed: 2000-06-01
Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471316342/bookwatccomau

Ackoff’s Fables: Irreverent Reflections on Business and Bureaucracy.

Author: Ackoff, Russell L.

Short Review:

Good, irreverent but very pointed light reading. Some of the fables and ‘morals’ carry a real punch. Chapter 2 on the distinction between growth and development is particularly relevant to our growth obsessed age.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Year Published: 1991
ISBN: 0-471-53194-4
Date Reviewed: 1993-01-01
Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471531944/bookwatccomau

Action Learning: A Practical Guide.

Author: Weinstein, Krystyna

Short Review:

A detailed step by step guide to one of the approaches to ‘action learning’. It is clearly set out, well organised and thorough, covering both theory and practice. Makes a good bridge between traditional training and fully integrated organisational learning.

Full Review:’Action learning’ is a term that has many meanings for different people. The term is applied to initiatives ranging from the DotlichAction Learning approach in which natural teams, with high level management sponsorship, undertake major development projects of strategic significance to the organisation, through to cosmetic additions to conventional classroom training. Weinstein’s approach, which is based very explicitly on the pioneering work of Reg Revans, falls between these two. Like classroom training, it is provided for selected groups of trainees working in ‘sets’ (not quite a team, but selected for complementary characteristics), but it is based on selected projects of real significance carried out over fairly extensive time period.

For me, the Weinstein approach is a sort of halfway house between traditional training and true workplace based organisational learning, which has a real place both for specific developmental strategies (such as induction of new staff) and as a stepping stone for organisations that want to move towards true organisational learning (of the sort advocated by DixonThe Organization Learning Cycle and Leonard-BartonThe Well-Springs of Knowledge).

The book is a very well organised step by step guide to both the principles and the practice and much of its content is directly useful whatever strategies you may use for development of the skills and capacities of staff. The language is direct and simple and the layout is helpful. The author makes some very useful distinctions, for example:

  • between a puzzle and a problem. A puzzle is something to which a unique answer is known, but not to the person being trained, while a problem is an issue to which neither the expert not the trainee have an answer and which may be open to lateral solutions. Problems, says the author are suitable for action learning, while puzzles are not.
  • A ‘set adviser’ (the name applied to the facilitator or catalyst for the learning group) has a quite different role from a trainer, with a particular concern with the process by which members of the set interact, rather than being the ‘expert’ on the selected problem.

While Weinstein’s Action Learning is very different from conventional training, it shares several of its assumptions and structures:

  • It is undertaken with a group of (typically) 5 or 6 people who are selected for development.
  • The action learning projects, though real, are developed or selected for the purpose of the program rather than arising naturally out of the core work of the organisation.
  • The time spent on the project is ‘budgeted development time’ rather than ordinary work time and may be away from the normal workplace of those engaged in it.

This is substantially different from the Dotlich approach or from organisational learning as it is advocated and practised in a small but growing number of places. It may be a very useful staging post towards true organisational learning, by helping to instill the skills and attitudes necessary to organisational learning, particularly in a culture that is used to conventional training as the main formal vehicle for development.

The author advocates the use of diaries or logs both as a means of recording progress and to encourage reflection on the process as it goes forward. It is a pity that she does not seem to be aware of the Roth/Kleiner approach to preparing learning histories (Learning History Home Page, which is a valuable and powerful tool, combining elements of diary and self-evaluation. Whether or not you use the particular approach that Weinstein advocates, anyone who is concerned with learning and development of individuals and groups will find much of value in this book.

Publisher: Gower
Year Published: 1999-01-01
Country: UK and USA
ISBN: 0 566 08097 4
Date Reviewed: 1999-06-01
Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566080974/bookwatccomau

Activity Based Management: Improving Processes and Profitability.

Author: Plowman, Brian

Short Review:

A detailed description of how to measure product and customer profitability. Appears well set out and useful.

Publisher: Gower
Year Published: 2001
Country: UK & USA
ISBN: 0566081458
Date Reviewed: 2004-08-26
Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566081458/bookwatccomau

Adaptive Enterprise: Creating and Leading Sense-and-respond Organizations.

Author: Haeckel, Stephan

Short Review:

Accepts unpredictability as a given, and the need for a strategy to become adaptive, and offers technology and structural solutions to preserve command-and-control management. The author’s ‘sense-and-respond’ prescription is one formulation of the learning cycle.

Full Review:

If you are ready to accept the notion that complexity governs your external markets, but are not yet ready to accept that the same rules may apply inside your organisation, you may find comfort in this prescription. It purports to be about the distinction between a ‘make-and-sell’ organisation and a ‘sense-and-respond’ organisation. The first is production efficiency focused and second is focused on customer satisfaction. (What the author calls ‘sense-and-respond’ is in fact an unacknowledged version of the Kolb cycle or cycle of organisational learning cycle, so well examined by Nancy Dixon. It is essential to all forms of learning, whether that is applied to providing customer satisfaction or to playing a musical instrument.)

Overtly he argues that the shift from a make-and-sell orientation to a sense-and-respond orientation is a major piece of unfinished business for organisations. The reason that he can argue this is that he ‘bundles’ the issue of customer responsiveness with the much wider issue of complexity and unpredictability in the environment – in other words, he argues that it is not possible to be truly customer responsive if you do not also recognise complexity in markets. Beneath this surface argument that the new complexity requires new approaches and its characterisation as a move to ‘sense-and-respond’, lies the real issue, which is the defence of command-and-control from devolution of control, which the author characterises dismissively as ‘communicate-and-hope’.

The author develops a framework which is designed to retain the essential features of command-and -control, while building flexibility and responsiveness. He argues that forms of governance that challenge command-and-control have only been effective in smaller and simpler organisations than the giants with which he is primarily concerned. By extension, he argues that they can not work in such organisations. The core of his prescription is the ability of central management to provide central direction to the organisation by the use of an analogy to ‘fly by wire’ technology. In other words, he advocates the use of modern technology to keep central management informed of unpredictable change so fast that they can respond appropriately within tight time deadlines. When a ‘modular’ approach to structuring organisations is added, he argues that they can respond effectively not only to the generality of customers but to particular customers. However, the question of relationships with internal stakeholders – employees – does not figure in his schematic, nor does the issue of external alliances and partnerships. Both (separately and together) challenge the capacity of command and control: it is not just customers and markets.

Just before it was finally admitted that the sun did not rotate round the earth, the most marvellous theories were developed that explained the movement of the planets by means of elaborate ‘epicycles’ in order to reconcile observation with the dominant theory. There are overtones of the same desperate cleverness in this book. It is an interesting combination of recognition of the need for flexibility and adaptability with an attempt to preserve the ‘old order’. Its apparent success depends on rigid exclusion of all the messy and human elements that make business and organisation what it is.

Comparing this book with Dee Hock’s The Birth of the Chaordic Age is not fair because they are such different books. Hock is passionate, personal and visionary, Haeckel is detached and analytical. But it is tempting to compare them, because their underlying diagnosis is essentially similar. Both assert that organisations and their markets are systems and need to be considered systemically or holistically, including their place in the wider system of which they are part. Both believe they are complex systems and therefore have emergent (unpredictable) properties. The crucial difference is clearly stated on pp 42-43 of Adaptive Enterprise, where Haeckel gives an (in my view somewhat biased) explanation of the views of proponents of emergent strategies.

Briefly his rebuttal rests on the fact that organisations are social systems in which individuals (elements within the system) can change the rules of the system. Coherence of strategy depends on coherence of intent. Haeckel does not believe that the necessary coherence can be achieved within a quasi-’democratic’ system. Hock does. Their prescription differs because Hock pins his faith on the capacity of ‘ordinary people to do extraordinary things’, while Haeckel pins his on the capacity of technology to convey information ‘up the line’ and decisions ‘down the line’ and the capacity of top leadership to explain or enforce them. Both, naturally, can point to successes of their preferred model and failures of the other. Even with this dramatic difference in faith, the differences in their view of purpose, processes, and leadership are (important ) variations in ‘flavour’ rather than differences in principle. What you see in the comparison is two totally different mind-sets, one a humanist, the other a ‘technocrat’, applied to the same basic evidence. The final placings in the race are not in, but my money is on the humanist.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 87584 874 5

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875848745/bookwatccomau

Against the Dead Hand: The Uncertain Struggle for Global Capitalism.

Author: Lindsey, Brink

Short Review:

Lindsey is a neo-conservative and this book represents a wide-ranging but finally unsatisfactory addition to the non-debate about globalisation. It divides the world into two groups – the free marketers, who are good and the collectivists, who are anti-modern and the cause of most if not all the failings of the current highly imperfect free markets. Anyone who can lump George Soros’ concept of the Open Society with collectivisim, really has a bad dose of the current tendency to declare ‘if you are not with us, you are against us’. Read the book for a sometimes fascinating excursion into history, politics, the informal economy, the failings of collectivism and state control (but not the failings of the market), but do not expect to have much light cast on the underlying issues of wealth and poverty, sustainability and the proper place of money in judging the progress of society. Equally, do not expect to see useful engagement with the issue of the role of great international economic agencies (WTO, IMF, World Bank) and the processes by which nations, corporates and the common people influence their decisions.

Publisher: John Wiley

Year Published: 2002

Country: USA

ISBN: 0471442771

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30 Book

URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471442771/bookwatccomau

Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk.

Author: Bernstein, Peter L.

Short Review:

A fascinating and useful history of the development of our thinking about risk and tools for managing it. Engagingly written, it argues that our evolving understanding of risk has been at the centre of many of the advances made over the last 450 years.

Full Review:

This is a highly readable, and wide ranging history of risk – our perceptions of risk, the growth of mathematical theories and tools for managing it and the (huge) impact on today’s business, finance and society. In style it fits nearer to ‘non-fiction’ than to ‘business’ and it will appeal both to managers seeking to learn more about risk and its management and to people with a more general interest in stocks, gambling or simply the subject of chance and probability.

The book is arranged historically, so a reader who is primarily interested in present day applications can reasonably start about halfway through – at 1900. It is a book that can be read for enjoyment, with the added charm of the knowledge that you are learning something really useful while enjoying yourself. Both experts and neophytes in financial markets are likely to benefit substantially from the author’s urbane and straightforward presentation of facts about risk and its management that are often shrouded in impenetrable jargon.

Publisher: Jonathan Wiley

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-471-29563-9

Date Reviewed: 1999-03-01

Comments: Recommended for those concerned with risk management Book

URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471295639/bookwatccomau

Aligning Human Resources and Business Strategy.

Author: Holbeche, Linda

Short Review:

This book is useful in that it is substantially based on survey results and gives an overview of the state of HR in a range of organizations. However, it suffers from trying to cover all aspects of HR, and so lacks depth in each area. It is largely a work of description, does not offer much in the way of practical, experience based advice and much of what it does offer is bland and obvious.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 2001

Country: UK

ISBN: 0750653620

Date Reviewed: 2001-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0750653620/bookwatccomau

America’s Best: Industry Week’s Guide to World-Class Manufacturing Plants.

Author: Kinni, Theodore B.

Short Review:

Consists of a series of chapters on aspects of excellence (e.g. customer focus; quality; employee involvement) followed by profiles of individual plants. On the margin of this site’s area of coverage, but will be valuable for manufacturers to scan.

Publisher: Jonathan Wiley

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 471 16002 4

Date Reviewed: 1998-06-01

Comments: Recommended for manufacturing managers Book

URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471160024/bookwatccomau

An Unused Intelligence: Physical Thinking for 21st Century Leadership.

Author: Bryner A. & Markova D.

Short Review:

A brilliant book which focuses on bringing one of the neglected ‘seven intelligences’ – physical or embodied intelligence – into play, in the context of Senge’s five disciplines. Great to read but needs to be experienced – and a skilled facilitator is useful, even essential.

Full Review:

This is an invaluable addition to Learning Organization literature. In essence it is a manual of ways in which experience of the five disciplines can be embodied through simple exercises and reflection, in order to achieve movement along the path of reintegration of capacities which are systematically separated in our society. It conveys something of a philosophy, based largely on the martial art Aikido and on the Feldenkrais method, which rests on and supports a centred, relaxed and flexible approach to life and work. It achieves this through a series of structured exercises for solo, pair and group use, each set being introduced with a story, surrounded with reflective text and enriched by questions and suggestions to help embed the learning. It is just about as well organised and expressed as such a book could be and will be immensely helpful to individuals or groups who want to find better ways of learning and embedding learning. However, it is written largely for people who do not have a background in the body based disciplines (dance, martial arts) and there is no substitute for practice with the help of a skilled practitioner.

Useful though the book is as a manual for the individual, its greatest value will be when its approach and methods are incorporated in whatever group learning programs are undertaken, with guidance from a skilled facilitator. Professionals who are concerned with introducing and fostering learning organisation principles will find the book essential. It is not merely an ‘add on’; effective use of the book is likely to lead to profound restructuring of the architecture of their programs. Immediately after the Contents pages there is a chart which relates each of the practices to one or more of the five disciplines and to aspect of leadership, management, teamwork and creativity.

This is simply one more example of the care that has been taken to make the book accessible, usable and practical. (For those interested in further exploration of the ‘seven intelligences’, the key reference is Howard Gardner: Frames of Mind. Harper & Row 1985. A review of that book is not included in this database, but Gardner summarizes the intelligences in his book Changing Minds. His seven intelligences are: Verbal/linguistic; Logical/mathematical; Visual/spatial; Body/kinesthetic; Musical/rhythmic; Interpersonal; and Intrapersonal. It is a sad fact that only the first two, and occasionally the third tend to be recognised and valued in ‘conventional’ teaching and training.)

Publisher: Conari Press

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-943233-97-6

Date Reviewed: 1996-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0943233976/bookwatccomau

Angels in the Workplace: Stories and Inspirations for Creating a New World of Work.

Author: Giovagnoli, M.

Short Review:

A book about the classical virtues (faith, hope, charity, courage, truth, trust, love) and their impact when applied in the workplace. Some of the stories are inspiring, but the emphasis seems to be on using human virtues to make the best of a system, rather than changing a system that is often toxic.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1999

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-4369-X

Date Reviewed: 2000-09-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/078794369X/bookwatccomau

Artistry in Training: Thinking Differently About the Way You Help People to Learn.

Author: Burns, Stephanie

Short Review:

A thorough and useful text for those who want to improve their skills within the traditional model of trainer as the person in control, working in a classroom environment. Does not go into the relationship between training and learning or between classroom and workplace.

Publisher: Woodslane

Year Published: 1996

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 875889 07 8

Date Reviewed: 1996-11-01

Comments: Recommended for trainers

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1875889078/bookwatccomau

Attracting Perfect Customers: The Power of Strategic Synchronicity.

Author: Hall, Stacey & Brogniez, Jan Short

Review:

About the relationship between a business, the customers it wants to attract, and the personal attitudes and behaviour that lead to success. The content is sensible and the exercises suggested could be useful. The style will appeal to those who like books in the genre of the popular ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’. For those interested in following up, there is a listing of (US) consultants who work in the way the book describes.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 2001

Country: USA

ISBN: 1576751244

Date Reviewed: 2001-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576751244/bookwatccomau

Awesome Purpose.

Author: MacLennan, Nigel

Short Review:

Offers a framework for aligning the culture of an organisation. A step by step ‘how to’, with the advantages and disadvantages of that approach. Contains a lot of jargon, too much reiteration of the title, but also a lot of easily absorbed good sense, in lots of dot point lists.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1999

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0566 08040 0

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566080400/bookwatccomau

B

Back to the Drawing Board: Designing Corporate Boards for a Complex World

Author: Carter and Lorsch

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Argues that corporate boards are being pressed to perform unrealistic duties given their traditional structure, processes, and membership. Explores the core dilemmas faced by today’s boards, and proposes a strategic redesign.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1-57851-776-1

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Balance of Power: Authority or Empowerment? How you can get the best of both in the “Interdependent” Organization.

Author: Lucas, James

Short Review:

Looks at management from a power perspective – who holds what power, how it is shared and how a workable balance is achieved that avoids both anarchy and disempowerment. Works through the factors that have to be taken into account.

Full Review:

This is a useful, well-structured and comprehensive book on power and its exercise. It is well set out and simply written, which makes it easy to refer to, while the style encourages reflection on the issues, with examples to which it is easy to relate.

‘Power’ is a very emotionally loaded term and carries different connotations for different people. There are also issues of terminology, including the flavour of terms like ‘independence’ ‘empowerment’ and so on. You may or may not agree with the way James Lucas defines these terms, but his definitions are explicit and make his arguments clear. In reading the book it is important to maintain awareness of the values that he places on the words he uses (for example ‘independence’ is used in the sense of excessively following one’s own inclinations at the expense of the organisation and others).

The book is written primarily for people in leadership positions and is useful in building awareness of issues that every leader needs to work through. The book is based on the realistic presumption that it is the hierarchical leader who ultimately determines – or at minimum is the major influence on – the pattern of power distribution within an organisation.

The author argues that the decisions which determine the distribution of power over time and between people are among the most important that a leader can make. The basic argument is simple, even obvious. In an organisation everyone has power of a sort, even if it is only the power to withdraw or of passive resistance. No-one has absolute power. Whether the exercise of power leads to constructive joint endeavour or to destructive conflict depends quite largely on how it is understood, exercised and shared.

Lucas seeks to highlight and overcome some widely held myths about power and to explore ways of ensuring that it is used constructively. He does this largely by working through the consequences of various forms of authoritarianism and empowerment (another term that he uses in a pejorative sense – he prefers the term ‘powersharing’ to describe what others often call empowerment or participation) and their relationship to dependent, independent and interdependent behaviour. This main theme is supported by material on personality and character traits that make individuals worthy or unworthy of receiving power. He makes a strong plea for greater attention to these factors in selection of people for positions of power and influence.

Without using the language of complexity, his argument paints the picture of power distribution as a systemic phenomenon rather along the lines of the ‘success to the successful’ archetype. The leader has to navigate an unstable equilibrium between excessive authoritarianism and excessive empowerment in a mixed climate of tendencies toward dependence on the one hand and anarchy (excessive independence) on the other. The implication is that, once a balance can be found that is built on powersharing and interdependence, a stable constructive pattern of behaviour may emerge over time. However, ‘the price of liberty is eternal vigilance’ and that applies also to power and its exercise.

Lucas refers extensively to Hillman’s 1995 book Kinds of Power: A Guide to its Intelligent Use. The two books are complementary and reward being read together. Three other frameworks could add value to Lucas’ analysis. The first is the ‘Control, Influence, Appreciation (CIA)’ framework developed by Bill Smith (see Weisbord: Discovering Common Ground) I am in ‘control’ if I can cause something to occur; I am in a situation of ‘influence’ if I with others can together cause something to occur; I am in a situation of ‘appreciation’ if I can not affect the outcome but do know about it. Smith works through the implications of each of these positions, including exploration of the way in which conscious use of the influence framework can magnify collective (in Lucas’ terms interdependent) power. The CIA framework fits well with a second framework – the concept of ‘nested systems’, which is the recognition of organisations as a complex of systems within systems.

Broadly, the higher the level in a hierarchy, the larger the complex of sub-systems encompassed and the wider the range of internal and external linkages that need to be brought into play. This argues that ‘control’ is rare or impossible (illusory) for large aggregations and supports Lucas’ these is of the need to encourage interdependence. It also helps to delineate the role of each person and the links that require particular attention.

The third valuable framework is derived from personality or preference typologies such as the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI). Research has shown systematic differences in the way people with different preferences regard, exercise and are affected by the exercise of power. Understanding these differences can help the leader to tailor powersharing strategies in ways that are most likely to elicit an appropriate response.

In seeking to share power and have it exercised responsibly, as with most other things, one size emphatically does not fit all.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 081440393X

Date Reviewed: 2001-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/081440393X/bookwatccomau

Balanced Sourcing: Cooperation and Competition in Supplier Relationships.

Author: Laseter, Timothy

Short Review:

This is a specialised book on sourcing viewed as a resource. Within its own frame of reference, it appears well set out, thorough, detailed and practical. It raises issues of relationship that could benefit from the ideas in The Difference Engine.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1998

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-4443-2

Date Reviewed: 1999-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787944432/bookwatccomau

Balancing Individual and Organizational Values: Walking the Tightrope to Success

Author: Hultman, Ken

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Examines the interrelationship between individual and organizational values. Explores the major value challenges in today’s business world. Offers tools for assessing values. Outlines a systematic approach for revitalizing organizations through growth values.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass Year

Published: 0

ISBN: 0-7879-5720-8

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Beating the System: Using Creativity to Outsmart Bureaucracies.

Author: Ackoff, R. L. and Rovin S.

Short Review:

This is a lighthearted and enjoyable book written in the same spirit as Ackoff’s Fables. It carries the important message that bureaucracies (both public and private) can do unpleasant things to both you and themselves, unless discouraged. Discouraging them from acting in such a way requires thinking outside the box that the bureaucracy seeks to create. The core of the book consists of a series of short stories about (successful) battles with bureaucrats, each with a ‘moral’. The book ends with a short chapter of summary advice on beating the bureaucrats and another, for bureaucrats, on how to design the system so that it does not need to be beaten.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 2005

ISBN: 1576753301

Date Reviewed: 2005-06-16

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576753301/bookwatccomau

Best Practice Creativity.

Author: Cook, Patrick

Short Review:

Concerned with creativity and harnessing creativity in organisations, it provides a detailed examination of the nature of creativity, how it manifests itself at a personal and organisational level, and guidelines for design of a creative organisation. It also offers a toolkit.

Full Review:

This is a book that has some good stuff in it, which is not easily found elsewhere. On the other hand, the presentation is rather disjointed, jumping from conceptual frameworks to tools or ‘notions’ in a rather restless way. The author does not seem to have made up his mind whether he wanted to write a text book or a book for practical managers and there is something of the ‘magpie’ approach in the collection of tools and illustrations.

The four parts (12 chapters) are concerned with:

  • Creativity in Principle
  • Creativity in Practice [personal and then organisational]
  • Designing the Creative Organization [Culture, structures, skills and learning]
  • Resources [a Toolkit and a 'menu of creative processes]

The most obvious omissions are the lack of any real discussion of the importance of styles of conversation and habits of reflection to creativity and the lack of acknowledgement that creativity has more to do with connection to the external environment than with a toolkit (useful though tools are). These are vital to organisational learning, creativity and innovation and are well covered in Leonard-Barton, Dixon, Senge and others.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0 566 08027 3

Date Reviewed: 1999-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566080273/bookwatccomau

Beyond Juggling: Rebalancing Your Busy Life

Author: Sandholtz, K. et al.

Short Review:

Concerned with work-life balance and ways in which the individual can improve it. Written as a ‘how to’ (with self-assessment instrument). There are a lot of books covering this field: this is a good one of its kind.

Publisher: Berret Koehler

Year Published: 2002

Country: USA

ISBN: 1576751309

Date Reviewed: 2005-02-25

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576751309/bookwatccomau

Beyond the Bottom Line: Putting Social Responsibility to Work for Your Business and the World.

Author: Makower, Joel

Short Review:

A somewhat more folksy and concrete treatment of the same general theme as Block’s Stewardship, with more anecdotes, rather less depth and a slightly more ecological slant.

Publisher: Simon &Schuster

Year Published: 1994

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-671-88325-9

Date Reviewed: 1995-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0671883259/bookwatccomau

Beyond the Core: Expand Your Market Without Abandoning Your Roots

Author: Zook, Chris

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: an expansion strategy based on putting together combinations of adjacency moves into areas away from, but related to, the core business, such as new product lines or new channels of distribution.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2003

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Beyond the Limits.

Author: Meadows, Donella/Dennis & Randers, J. Short

Review: The sequel to The Limits to Growth (Club of Rome). Interesting in itself and for the elegant use of a dynamic system modelling tool.

Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing Company

Year Published: 1992

ISBN: 0-930031-55-5

Date Reviewed: 0000-00-00

Beyond the Looking Glass: Overcoming the Seductive Culture of Corporate Narcissism.

Author: Downs, Alan Short

Review:

An exploration of corporate narcissism and how to avoid or overcome it. An extended essay on the dangers of failure to listen to anyone but your own siren call and the dangers of reward systems that encourage narcissistic behaviour.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 8144 0343 3

Date Reviewed: 1997-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814403433/bookwatccomau

Beyond the Next Wave: Imagining the Next Generation of Customers.

Author: Peters, G.

Short Review:

This is a useful guide and resource for people preparing scenarios. It is a compendium of aspects of possible futures, together with a brief section on how to develop scenarios. For the theory and practice of scenario planning Schwartz is still the best text.

Publisher: Pitman

Year Published: 1996

Country: UK

ISBN: 0 273 62417 2

Date Reviewed: 1996-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0273624172/bookwatccomau

Billibonk and The Big Itch.

Author: Ramsey, Philip Short

Review:

A successor to Billibonk and the engaging fable that, like all the best fables, is also highly instructive. It combines systems thinking with the use ofconversational tools for effective systemic problem solving.

Publisher: Pegasus Communications

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 883823 09 9

Date Reviewed: 1997-01-01

Billibonk and the Thorn Patch.

Author: Ramsey, Philip

Short Review:

A delightful and witty fable, complete with a valuable moral. Written by a specialist in organisational learning, there could be no better introduction to systems thinking for children – or for their parents. A major contribution to peace at the breakfast table!

Full Review:

Fables and parables are an age-old way of conveying great truths. Their particular virtue is that they become part of the language of communication, a means of relating the problem of the moment to a universal principle.

Philip Ramsey has succeeded brilliantly in conveying many of the basic principles of interdependence in a story that appeals not only to children, but to the child in all of us. The author claims that he started the story as a way out of being stuck in conflict with his six year old about eating – a problem familiar to most parents! What he has created is a wonderfully wise and funny story that just asks to be read aloud (a real test of good writing) and to be enjoyed by the whole family. I read it to my eight year old, following which he, my wife and I all read it again for ourselves. The illustrations of life in a jungle full of elephants, mice, monkeys, thorn bushes and the all-important (to elephants) yakka-yakka trees are also a delight.

Very highly recommended and a wonderful introduction to an extremely valuable skill for today’s children. It is a story for children – but it is also very appealing to adults and illustrates many of the basic principles of interdependence in a very accessible way. I plan to try building it in to an introductory systems thinking program in organisations. It provides a simple and fun basis for introducing causal loop diagrams and would trigger a lot of ideas about systemic relationships at work as well as at home. Games and fables seem to be particularly effective for embedding systems thinking principles – for example Linda Booth’s ‘Systems Thinking Playbook’ is very useful and some of the games in that would, incidentally, make a very good follow up to ‘Billibonk’ for kids.

In the same arena of light hearted material with a serious message, you are also likely to enjoy The Tale of Windfall Abbey, a comic book about the development of a monastic liqueur, which is also available from Pegasus Communications. It was written by the BP Exploration Process Review Team to illustrate the systemic relationships between sales, capacity and production.

Publisher: Pegasus Communications

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: May not be well distributed outside the US. Pegasus is at www.pegasuscom.com

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1883823099/bookwatccomau

Building Team Spirit: Activities for Inspiring and Energizing Teams.

Author: Heerman, Barry Short

Review: Consists of two parts and a set of appendices. Part 1 gives a brief rationale for the series of some 50 activities that make up Part 2. Contains a mixture of new and well known activities. Professional trainers will want to compare this with similar compendiums.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 07 028473 3

Date Reviewed: 1998-03-01

Comments: Useful for professional trainers

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070284733/bookwatccomau

Building the Bridge As You Walk On It: A Guide for Leading Change

Author: Quinn, Robert Short

Review:

Publisher’s note: Quinn shows how anyone can enter the fundamental state of leadership by engaging in the eight practices that center on the theme of ever-increasing integrity.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-7879-7112-X

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Building Trust at the Speed of Change: the Power of the Relationship-based Corporation.

Author: Marshall, Edward M.

Short Review:

A competent analysis of the importance of building relationship and therefore trust in order to build flexibility and responsiveness to change. The themes are well established and the treatment adequate, with plenty of ’7 steps’ prescriptions for those who like them.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2000

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-8144-0478-2

Date Reviewed: 2000-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814404782/bookwatccomau

Built to Learn: The Inside story of How Rockwell Collins Became a True Learning Organization

Author: Purington, C. et al.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: As the title implies, extracts lessons for organizational learning from an extended case study.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-8144.0772-2

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Business Across Cultures

Author: Trompenaars, F. & Wooliams, P.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Aims to provide executives with a cross-cultural perspective on how companies meet the diverse needs of customers, investors and employees; to introduce the main ideas in business in a multicultural context; and to show how they all fit together.

Publisher: Wiley Year

Published: 2003

ISBN: 1-84112-474-5

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Business and the Feminine Principle: The Untapped Resource.

Author: Frenier, Carol R.

Short Review:

Much more than simply a book about women in business, it is about a neglected aspect of everyone’s nature and the scope for enrichment through giving equal attention to the feminine principle with that to masculine consciousness.

Full Review:

For a reviewer of business books, Carol Frenier makes a very welcome change, for Business and the Feminine Principle reads more like a good work of non-fiction than a ‘business book’ and this enhances rather than detracts from its relevance to people in business. It is part auto-biography, part applied psychology, deeply reflective, discursive, and very concerned with values. It manages to convey a lot of messages about the value of combining feminine and masculine ways of thinking and relating in the course of reflective discussion about situations that have influenced the author. Her style of presentation itself helps to illustrate the points she is making. Margaret Wheatley hits the mark exactly with her comment on the back cover blurb:

This very personal and quietly passionate book asks us to explore aspects of human nature that have gone unregarded for too long. We could create so much more together if we would join Carol on this exploration.

And that is the point: to ‘join Carol on this exploration’ requires a willingness to engage in joint dialogue and joint reflection, which is too rare in the world of business and administration.

It is worth mentioning a couple of things that the book is not. It is not ‘feminist’ in any conventional sense, it does not seek to promote any one group over any other and it is not primarily about the place or even the roles of men and women in organisations. Frenier has been deeply influenced by Carl Jung and, if the book has a central theme, it is Jung’s concept of individuation, the fullest possible development of the capacities that are present in all of us, through the way in which we enter into community with each other and value difference to aid growth. All women and all men have aspects of both the feminine and the masculine within them in varying degrees, and it is these qualities, not gender, that are the focus of Frenier’s interest. (As a small but illuminating example of her ability to question accepted ideas and add a new perspective, she discusses the currently fashionable precept that we must move from ‘either/or’ to ‘both/and’ thinking, and points out that, in fact, we need to have the capacity for both ‘both/and’ and ‘either/or’thinking).

Throughout the book runs the sub-theme of the need to work for a truly sustainable world and the values involved in living simply. She is one of the rare authors who has the courage to challenge us to bring into explicit consciousness and think through the impact of the largely implicit assumptions on which business is based – ‘more is better’, ‘growth is the name of the game’ and others, which threaten our long term survival. She does this by example from her own experience and by inviting reflection, not by railing against ‘the evils of today’s society’. In doing so she displays a great faith in the capacity of small changes in attitude among a wide enough cross-section of people to trigger major shifts for the better. What comes through is the value, for results as well as the quality of all our lives, of engaging in open, reflective dialogue and entering into community around the issues that are important to us.The feminine within us has qualities which make it much more likely that this vital process will occur and be valued. It is an extremely important message in an environment in which the masculine is visibly cutting out all the time for reflection that – as the growing literature on knowledge management amply demonstrates – is vital not merely to our health and happiness, but to our commercial survival.

Encouraging the group first to read the book and then to spend time discussing it would be an ideal way of opening up windows in our minds and expanding ways of relating.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7506 9829 2

Date Reviewed: 1998-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0750698292/bookwatccomau

Business Angels: How to be one; How to Find one; How to Use One.

Author: Abernethy, Mark

Short Review:

A clear and readable practical guide to the concepts and sources of ‘informal equity’ and the relationship between source and recipient. It is written for Australia around Australian law and is very comprehensive, including some interesting insights into the early history of venture capital in Australia.

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Year Published: 1999

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 86448 740 2

Date Reviewed: 1999-08-01

Business Strategy: A concise guide to theory and application for managers

Author: Noy, Eli

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: A concise, yet comprehensive, guide to all facets of strategy – from formulation and planning to implementation.

Publisher: Spiro Press

Year Published: 2005

ISBN: 184439140X

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-13

Butterfly Economics: A New General Theory of Social and Economic Behaviour.

Author: Ormerod, Paul

Short Review:

A brilliant successor to his previous Death of Economics. It lucidly and wittily demonstrates the fallacy that economic forecasts can predict. More important, it further develops his economic theories based on complexity. His conclusion: ‘governments should do much less…detailed short-term intervention…and [spend more time] thinking about the overall framework.’

Full Review:

Governments and businesses spend millions on short term forecasts by economists and develop policies and strategies based on these forecasts. Ormerod argues – very persuasively – that this is entirely pointless: economists not only consistently get their forecasts wrong, the short term course of the economy is inherently unpredictable. Policies (or investment strategies) based on the forecasts,even if they turn out to be right, are as likely to do harm as good. Do not expect to see this conclusion being widely accepted by economists, but if, like most substantial businesses, you use economic forecasts you would do well to see if you agree with Ormerod’s arguments.

The book is not solely concerned with debunking conventional theory; Ormerod proposes a theory of his own, which is based on complexity concepts. He demonstrates that consistent application of principles over the long term can make a difference and that governments would be better advised to work on the climate of opinion than to tinker with the mechanics of the economic system. He develops the theme introduced in his earlier book The Death of Economics that conventional economics has shut itself off from describing the real world by the way it has adopted a set of assumptions that distort rather than explaining the world. In particular it has made assumptions about human behaviour (choice) and about knowledge that have allowed it to build linear models, but they are models that do not describe any possible real world.

Ormerod is rare among economists. He uses clear and straightforward English – and he has a devastating wit. Assuming that you bring yourself to read books on economics, when was the last time that one caused you to laugh aloud? It is the combination of clear English, humour and the capacity to translate the realities of human behaviour into a credible explanation of the behaviour of economies that makes Butterfly Economics highly readable, even if you are not really interested in economic theory.

The importance of the book is that it provides a better explanation of what is going on than do conventional explanations. Behind the simple explanation is some quite rigorous analysis based on the mathematics of complexity, but this is kept decently in the background for the sake of the general reader. Whereas the primary focus of attack in The Death of Economics was the assumptions underlying ‘general equilibrium theory’ – the cornerstone of economics and economic policy – Butterfly Economics concentrates on one aspect of human behaviour – choice – which is the basis of utility theory, another pillar of conventional economics. He shows what happens when one relaxes the restrictive assumption that buyers form their preferences independently and are not influenced by the behaviour of others.

Somewhat surprisingly, the book begins with a detailed description of the findings of an experiment into the behaviour of ants. In simple terms this experiment showed that, because the behaviour of individual ants can influence the behaviour of others, an element of complexity is introduced that can lead to unpredictable shifts in group behaviour, shifts that can be both large and sudden, but are inherently unpredictable. He applies that very simple (but far-reaching) principle to the behaviour of humans and firms and shows that a relatively simple set of credible assumptions (but supported by some difficult non-linear mathematics) can produce fluctuations that better match real world fluctuations in national output than alternative current models.

Similarly, he sketches a model of the actions and interactions of firms, also based on very credible and common sense assumptions, that produces a pattern of the growth of differences in size over time which is remarkably similar to actual experience.

For those interested, that model is described in Chapter 9. The basic assumption is that each firm plans its output for the period ahead, with each firm forming its own view, but that view is influenced by the views of others (general business sentiment). Over the 100-odd years of the simulation, the tendency towards a world dominated by a very few giant organisations marches forward inexorably.

Looking at the book as a whole, one conclusion is that greater uncertainty leads to greater fluctuations. Another is that the conventional tools of government economic management have, at best, only a brief impact on the course of the economy. Short term actions are not effective; long term actions and policies can be, provided that they operate on the climate of beliefs within which people make decisions, not simply on the mechanics of the system. A third is that the tendency to growing inequality is built into the nature of the feedback mechanisms inherent in the system. A fourth is that the response of the economy to external shocks – whether random or caused by policy interventions – depends a great deal on which of several possible states the system is currently in. The relevant state is not necessarily easy to discern. We are left with a major problem. Ormerod makes much of the possibility of a step-change in the behaviour of the economy, but there is no way of knowing either whether one is coming, or even if it has recently happened. We do indeed live in a world of unpredictability.

In terms of guidance to business and policy-making, the book may be unsatisfactory, but it does deliver a strong warning against giving too much credence to the economic forecasters who offer themselves as today’s prophets – or witch doctors.

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0 571 20042 9

Date Reviewed: 2000-04-01

Comments: Recommended for anyone who uses economic forecasts

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0465053564/bookwatccomau

Buying into the Environment: Experiences, Opportunities and Potential for Eco-Procurement

Author: Erdmenger, C. (Ed)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Examines how public procurement can have a fundamental and manifestly positive effect on the environment

Publisher: Greenleaf Year

Published: 2003

ISBN: 1874719675

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-15

C

C and The Box.

Author: Prince, Frank A.

Short Review:

A delightful, almost childlike illustrated parable about ‘box’ thinking and creativity. It takes no time to read and is a salutary reminder of our own pet ‘boxes’.

Publisher: Pfeiffer & Co.

Year Published: 1993

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-893384-226-5 (p’back) 0-88390-364-4

Date Reviewed: 1994-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/08933842265/bookwatccomau

Calling a Halt to Mindless Change: A Plea for Commonsense Management.

Author: MacDonald, John Short

Review:

A solid text that goes behind the dressed up management fads to the underlying common-sense fundamentals that they depend on but seldom acknowledge. As a critique, it lacks the fireworks of Shapiro’s ‘Fad Surfing’, but as a reminder of the basics, it is useful, despite some glaring gaps (eg nothing on sustainability), and a rather linear approach.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1998

Country: USA

ISBN: 0814403492

Date Reviewed: 2001-03-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814403492/bookwatccomau

Capitalizing on Conflict: Strategies and Practices for Turning Conflict to Synergy in Organizations A Manager’s Handbook

Author: Blackard, K. & Gibson, J. Short

Review:

Publisher’s note: Much workplace conflict stems unwittingly from management policies and attitudes. Identifies leadership actions necessary to correct these problems.

Publisher: Davies-Black

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 0-89106-164-9

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Career Creativity – Explorations in the Remaking of Work

Author: Peiperl, M. et al. (Eds)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: The premise of this book is that careers and creativity are broadly connected, both at the level of the individual and at the level of the larger institutions of work and society. This book provides an in-depth look at contemporary careers.

Publisher: OUP

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 0-19-924871-0

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Career Intelligence: the 12 New Rules for Work and Life Success.

Author: Moses, Barbara

Short Review:

Concerned with changes in the nature of work and careers and offers ’12 rules for success’. Explores the different situations between generations (in the US) and discusses maintaining a ‘work- life balance’. Brings together in an ordered way material that is widely discussed.

Publisher: Berret Koehler

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-57675-048-5

Date Reviewed: 1999-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576750485/bookwatccomau

Change Power: Capabilities that Drive Corporate Renewal.

Author: Turner, D. and Crawford, M.

Short Review:

Discusses successful change in terms of five basic capabilities that the authors identify as common to successful change efforts. They develop a framework linking these capabilities to the original state of the organisation with respect to change and discuss the actions needed to build capability. Based on a survey among Australian executives, with many examples.

Publisher: BPP – Woodslane

Year Published: 1998

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 875680 73 X

Date Reviewed: 2001-03-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/187568073X/bookwatccomau

Change Without Pain: How Managers Can Overcome Initiative Overload, Organizational Chaos, and Employee Burnout

Author: Abrahamson, Eric

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: A growing number of companies are perishing because of change. What’s going on? Companies must learn to change how they change. This book offers a positive new approach to change called “creative recombination”.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 0

ISBN: 1-57851-827-X

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Changing Consciousness: Exploring the Hidden Source of the Social, Political and Environmental Crises Facing our World.

Author: Bohm & Edwards

Short Review:

A combined photo-essay and dialogue which is a passionate plea that we can only solve the problems facing the world through a radical re-examination of how we think. The photos are stunning; the dialogue patchy – brilliant at its best, but repetitive and a bit didactic.

Publisher: Harper SanFrancisco

Year Published: 1991

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-06-250072-4

Date Reviewed: 1995-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0062500724/bookwatccomau

Changing Paradigms: The Transformation of Management Knowledge for the 21st Century.

Author: Clarke, T & Clegg, S.

Short Review:

A long book which seeks to distil the main changes that managers must embrace to succeed for the future. It brings together much that has been written by others and adds some original thinking, but I suspect that business readers will find it rather indigestible.

Publisher: HarperCollins Business

Year Published: 1998

Country: UK

ISBN: 0 00 257015 7

Date Reviewed: 1999-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0002570157/bookwatccomau

Changing the Way We Work.

Author: Belbin, J. Meredith

Short Review:

Belbin is well known for his work on team roles. This book provides a system for classifying different styles of individual and group working and works through the criteria for selecting each style and the managerial implications of various mixes of style. It is interesting also for its systematic analysis of the links between work, the job and tasks.

Full Review:

Since 1980 or earlier, Belbin has been concerned with the way in which we work together and what it is that makes joint work effective. Over these years he has published a series of books, first on team roles (there is a short review of Team Roles at Workhere), later on work design and work roles and, most recently, bringing the team and work analysis together in Beyond the Team. (Published 2000, and well reviewed, but not listed on this site). An overview of his approach including an outline of the team roles that he identified and an overview of the seven work types or work roles can be found on the site http://www.belbin.com/

In his earlier work Belbin identified nine team roles, each of which has a place in successful design and completion of the work of a team. They are listed in a table here. He argues that each person has most and least preferred roles, that the balance of requirements for success tends to change over the life of a project, and that team performance can be greatly enhanced through attention to matching skills and preferences to the role needs. His typology is by now quite well-known, links well to personality preferences such as those measured by the Myers Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) and has been melded with MBTI in at least one popular ‘instrument’ used for analyzing individual and team performance.

In Changing the Way We Work, Belbin turns his attention to the nature of work and ways in which it can be organized. His system is derived from an analysis of the nature of jobs, tasks, roles and responsibilities, the various ways in which work can be undertaken by individuals or in groups or teams, and the variety of possible relationships between the manager and those undertaking the worker. An outline of these roles and ways of working is set out here.

His company aims to provide training in use of what he offers as a fully articulated system for analysis, design and implementation of effective working arrangements. His system makes use of colour coding of seven classifications of work. Both the classification and the colour coding are designed as a tool for building a shared language within an organization through which work requirements and alternative approaches to executing the work can be discussed and agreed.

In some ways, Belbin’s analysis reads as being rather ‘old-fashioned’. This is because he develops his argument about the nature of work, tasks and roles from a historical perspective, reaching right back to the days of work study (or industrial engineering) and tracing the development of concepts of the job through time study, the development of synthetic standards and the rise of derivative methodologies such as reengineering.

One side effect is to make the book a rewarding text for those interested in the history of the development of work arrangement. Another is to establish a very solid foundation for understanding the distinctions between a job, a task, a role and associated responsibility. This is valuable because these distinctions are often lost in material on this subject.

By taking this historical approach, he provides a solid basis for identifying types of work arrangement derived from the nature of the work itself and proceeds from there to explore how this interacts with the preferences of workers. Part of the value of this approach is that it provides an alternative perspective to the popular current view which tends to work back from worker aspirations and motivation to the work to be done.

The style of the book is unusually personal, laced with examples from the author’s personal journey to develop his typology and sometimes illustrated with quite curious examples such as the author’s preferred way of using a potato peeler. In a world dominated by North American texts, this book could only have been written by someone from an English culture, and some people are likely to find the style and cultural assumptions to be distracting. However, whether or not you accept the system as a whole, the material gives a great deal of well structured food for thought.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0750642882

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0750642882/bookwatccomau

Choice, Chance & Organizational Change: Practical Insights from Evolution for Business Leaders and Thinkers.

Author: Carr, Clay

Short Review:

A relatively early contribution to a growing stream of books exploring the evolution/ ecology analogy with business change – and a very good one. A practical and persuasive introduction to the concept and its application – short, readable and with relevant examples.

Full Review:

If you are faced with or involved in a major ‘change program’, get this book. Read it and discuss it with your colleagues. It is relatively short, clearly written and an admirable blend of theory and practical advice which is directly usable. It also makes an excellent companion volume to Moore’s The Death of Competition.

Moore’s primary focus is on business strategy as the organisation co-evolves with others in the wider environment, while Carr’s focus is on how individuals separately and together choose to make the changes that add up to organisational change, and the role of the leader or leadership group in mediating desired change. Both make powerful and very effective use of the analogy between natural ecological systems and organisations. Both emphasise the pivotal role played by information. Both add to understanding of the practical value of thinking of organisations as systems, without demanding specialist techniques or language. Carr in particular highlights the fact that success in organisational change involves overcoming powerful forces by which an existing system attempts to maintain its integrity (‘The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back’). Both books emphasise the importance of the periphery of the organisation (those who are in daily contact with customers, suppliers – the environment) as sources of information and leverage for necessary change.

If you are in a hurry, start with the epilogue – a page and a half, then go to the brief section at the end of each chapter and, very important, the ‘Brief Reality Checks’ that are included at intervals throughout the book. These last are invitations for you to reflect on the situation in your own business. That’s a total of about 20 pages that will give you the key messages and an easy way of referring back to the reasoning behind the conclusions. Do not miss pp 85-87 or pp 166-180.

After a brief introduction of the analogy between biology and business, the first five chapters identify the issues by exploring equilibrium seeking systems, while Chapters 6 to 10 explore the application of the principles of complex adaptive systems as a guide to finding ways in which ‘organizations can change continually and successfully to stay in sync with their environments’. The break between the two sections and themes is unfortunately not well marked in the table of contents or in the introduction.

Chapter 1 compares ‘evolutionary’ with planned change and hammers home the point that change is an expensive and chancy process. Chapter 2 picks up on the ecological and business concepts of a niche and the relationship of niches to organisational equilibrium and entropy (or slow death). Chapters 3 and 4 explore each aspect of the structure of an organisation, ‘its technology; its functions, processes and organisational structure; its incentives; its competence; its culture; and the use it makes of information’. Information, rightly gets a chapter all to itself. As a sample of the useful conclusions drawn from each chapter, here is a condensation of the section ‘Internal Structure: The Lessons’ that ends the chapter on internal structure and the first half of the book, which outlines the issues for organisations seeking equilibrium.

  • The more dependent your organization is on technology, the more it will be tied to that technology – and the harder it will be for it to adopt new and different technologies. Whenever you do adopt a new technology, ask yourself in advance how it might handicap you in the future. Technology is always less flexible than people.
  • If your organization…has not pursued continuous process improvement…your processes are…inefficient. Either CPI or BPR will probably yield useful results if you give them the time and attention they need (which is quite a lot). Be warned, though: If you begin either program and follow through on it, you will find that you need to change both organizational functions and structures as well as processes.
  • Do you know what the incentives are in your organization? No, not just the formal pay plan and bonus system. The other incentives: What gets individuals promoted? What gets them into trouble? What keeps them out of trouble?… You may be amazed to find what the real incentives are.
  • How well do you understand your organization’s fundamental competencies? This may sound like an easy question; it is not. …..
  • How often do workers and managers in your organization get useful feedback?…. [I]f you intend for members of your organization to be even a little bit self-organized, you must provide them with effective feedback systems…

Books on management often speak as though ‘lower-level’ (non management) employees constitute the single greatest obstacle to change. This is nice mythology, but poor fact. Whenever you’re contemplating significant change, take the time necessary to ask how it affects each subordinate unit… The crucial question for the change, then, is what to do about those who will see the change as a threat. Answer this question before you attempt any meaningful change. Once again, despite all the complexities aided by an organization’s component subsystems and internal units, only individuals can change. All change is hostage to the question: Why would this individual want to do this instead of what he or she is doing now? Answer it effectively, or else.’

The second half of the book explores the application of the concepts of complex adaptive systems as applied in a practical way to organisations – coevolution, building creativity in a world of unpredictability, encouraging self-organisation (and a chapter on internal markets that is really a subset of the self-organisation theme) and a final chapter on ‘punctuating the equilibrium’ which is really a summary of his prescriptions for successful transition to an organisation that is truly adaptive. I found Chapter 8 ‘We Gotta Get Self-Organized’ particularly useful.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 8144 0279 8

Date Reviewed: 1997-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814402798/bookwatccomau

Co-operacy: A Consensus Approach to Work.

Author: Hunter, Bailey and Taylor

Short Review:

‘Co-operacy is a word we coined to describe the technology of collective or consensus decision making as distinct from democracy or autocracy. By technology we mean beliefs, values, methods, processes and techniques that enable collective decision making to work successfully’

Full Review:

The authors say that their purpose in this book is ‘to explore and develop ways in which working together co-operatively as peers can become easier, more effective and more accessible’. They succeed. It is well structured to open and address important questions about working in relationship, and it contains useful tools and exercises to help to develop cooperative working.

Perhaps the main virtue of the book is its simplicity and directness. The three parts first lay out the underlying ideas, then explore the relationships within which a peer approach can be applied and finally, offer over 60 exercises designed to help in developing peer partnerships. The underlying belief on which their processes are based is that ‘the best decisions for social organisation are made by involving everyone affected by the decision’.

There are very strong parallels between the philosophies and processes that they advocate and those that are necessary to successful search conferences (see authors like Weisbord and Bunker). The difference is that Hunter and her colleagues are exploring how widely these beliefs and processes can be used across the whole range of decision making and interaction.

Chapter 1 briefly describes the belief and values system underlying the book, including paragraphs on the potential impact of the knowledge society and globalisation. It offers a scenario in which the emerging era becomes the co-operative ‘relationship age’ in contrast to the competitive ‘material age’, which connects personal with work life and values building community.

Chapter 2 challenges us to ask ourselves how large or small is the group that we regard as our peers – those of equal worth to us – and whether our relationships are essentially competitive-exclusive or co-operative-inclusive, and summarises sound bases for relating to ourselves and each other.

The remaining chapters in Part 1 examine in clear and simple terms the concepts of wholeness, power and its application, alignment, conflict, and spirituality. Part 1 ends with an important commentary on ‘the shadow side’ at a personal, group, organisational and societal level.

Part 2 works through a variety of peer relationships, and what is necessary to make them work. There are chapters on the team, coaching, mentoring and counselling and the use of peer development groups. There are then chapters on reflection and inquiry, leading to the application of the principles within organisations and to organisational transformation.

Part 3 consists of exercises, some familiar, some not, which link to aspects of the development of relationship and dialogue skills treated in part 2 of the book.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0 566 08055 9

Date Reviewed: 1999-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566080559/bookwatccomau

Coaching: Winning Strategies for Individuals and Teams.

Author: Kinlaw, Dennis C.

Short Review:

After an introduction on the value of coaching, offers a model for successful coaching and guidance for building coaching skills. Specifically covers both individual and team coaching, with clear statement of the conditions necessary for each to succeed.

Full Review:

Dennis Kinlaw’s book is a clear, well argued and well presented account of the importance and value of coaching; the conditions required for it to be successful, and how to build productive coaching relationships. It is designed, very successfully, for ease of use.

The introduction summarises the key ideas and provides an overview of each Chapter. Nearly every Chapter ends with a Conclusion or summary. The opening sentences of the Preface set the tone:

The first premise of this book is that coaching is one of the most useful functions that any leader can practise to create winning performance in individuals and teams. The second premise is that everyone is a leader at one time or another and everyone needs to know how to be a successful coach.’

The key ideas, set out in the Introduction, are not surprising but are powerful:

Understood as a personal interaction…coaching is a performance improvement function which has unlimited application and utility. Anyone can be a coach and everyone should be a coach…it is a leadership activity that can be performed by anyone who wants to help others.’ Helping others solve problems does not require knowing the solution. What is required is that the coach knows how to conduct a conversation so that relevant information is developed, all alternatives are considered and decisions are made collaboratively. (emphasis added) When we coach others, we are compelled to look beyond the limits of our own jobs…Coaching helps build community within organizations.

The focus is entirely on coaching as such. I would have liked to see a little more discussion of interactions between training, action learning, coaching and evaluation and the role of each in organisational learning, but that is really a minor quibble.

Similarly, there are further lessons that can be drawn from the book but that are not strongly emphasised. For example, because of the nature of the coaching interaction, there is an emphasis on ensuring that the processes and human interactions by which decisions are reached are sound. If that kind of care is instilled through a coaching relationship, it helps teams and individuals progressively to build their skills in ‘self-coaching’. The methods and approaches advocated are fundamentally those that are associated with a high ability to work productively with diverse mental models, a skill that, like coaching itself, everyone should seek to build.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0 566 07888 0

Date Reviewed: 1998-09-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566078880/bookwatccomau

Collaborate to Compete: Driving Profitability in the Knowledge Economy

Author: Logan & Stokes

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Offers a practical, applied approach to fostering a spirit of cooperation not just within an organization, but also with suppliers, customers, and even competitors, to gain a competitive advantage.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-470-83300-9

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Common Knowledge: How Companies Thrive by Sharing what they Know.

Author: Dixon, Nancy

Short Review:

A thorough analysis of requirements for success in the transfer of productive knowledge within and across an organisation in order to build competitive advantage. Identifies five types of knowledge transfer, based on case studies of successful organisations.

Full Review:

This worthy successor to Nancy Dixon’s previous The Organizational Learning Cycle shows the same qualities of a sharp focus on practice, based on sound research and clear exposition of her thesis. In the first book she focused on knowledge creation – learning. In this one she briefly summarises knowledge creation and acknowledges the linkage between transfer and further creation, but focuses on transfer. Her concern is how productive knowledge gets transferred within organisations, particularly within large organisations, what transfer systems work and why they work. She calls this type of knowledge ‘common knowledge, which she defines as the knowledge that employees learn from doing the organisation’s tasks. It is ‘know how’ rather than ‘know what’ and it is ‘know how that is unique to a specific company’.

She argues that no one process is suitable for all forms of transfer. the appropriate method depends on the intended receiver, the nature of the task, and the type of knowledge being transferred. There are few more important questions than how to transfer knowledge reliably; success in bringing together the creativity of different groups working on similar issues is potentially the central power house of productivity, innovation and sustainable competitive advantage. But few organisations do it well and the barriers to transfer highlight that the key to successful knowledge transfer lies more with the culture and the people than with the technology. Dixon’s key message is that:

there are many, very different ways to transfer knowledge, and…knowledge is transferred most effectively when the transfer process ‘fits’ the knowledge being transferred

Boisot: Knowledge Assets points out that uncodified and concrete knowledge is fairly ‘viscous’ – it does not flow easily. This is an advantage in that it is relatively easy to prevent it from flowing to competitors, but a disadvantage when you want it to flow between locations and work groups within the organisation. Further, transfer of the richness of tacit or uncodified knowledge requires working together or face to face conversation. ‘Translating’ it into codified explicit knowledge aids transfer, but loses important richness.

What attitudes, processes and protocols support direct transfer and what combination of direct transfer and ‘translation’ into explicit knowledge (the only kind that can be held in a database) work best to support the transfer of rich, productive knowledge within a large (often global) organisation? It is also relevant to ask the strategic question ‘what knowledge do I want to retain within the organisation, what knowledge do I deliberately want to transfer to my suppliers, partners or customers and how do I do that?

That is a question that Dawson: Developing Knowledge-based Client Relationships addresses in some depth. Dixon is concerned with the mixture of tacit and explicit operating level knowledge within an, organisation, and identifies five types of knowledge transfer. She works through guidelines for successful transfer of each type of knowledge within a team and across an organisation, based on case studies of organisations (Ford, BP, Bechtel, the US Army, Ernst & Young and others) which have been notably successful. The five types are:

1. Serial transfer – ‘The knowledge that a team has gained from doing its task in one setting is transferred to the next time that team does the task in a different setting’

2. Near transfer – ‘Explicit knowledge a team has gained from doing a frequent and repeated task is reused by other teams doing very similar work.’

3. Far transfer – ‘Tacit knowledge a team has gained from doing a nonroutine task is made available to their teams doing similar work in another part of the organization.’

4. Strategic transfer – ‘The collective knowledge of the organization is needed to accomplish a strategic task that occurs infrequently but is critical to the whole organization.’ (An example is applying lessons from one acquisition to another acquisition elsewhere)

5. Expert transfer – ‘A team facing a technical question beyond the scope of its own knowledge seeks the expertise of others in the organisation.’

(The five types of transfer and associated characteristics and guidelines are summarised in a table on pages 144-5). Each type has its own chapter, with examples, criteria, detailed guidelines, barriers and problems and a summary. Needless to say, most of the barriers and problems are related to culture, attitudes and behaviour rather than to technological issues.

She then looks across the five types of transfer and notes major shifts in the ways organisations are thinking about knowledge and its transfer. She identifies three main trends:

1. ‘…from thinking of experts as the primary source of knowledge to thinking that everyone engaged in work tasks has knowledge someone else could use to advantage.

2. …from thinking of knowledge as residing with individuals to thinking of [it] as embedded in a group or community

3. …from thinking of knowledge as a stable commodity to thinking of [it] as dynamic and ever changing.’

She explores each of these shifts in some detail. The book ends with a chapter on building an integrated system for knowledge transfer. This is an important chapter that points out that all companies that have experienced success with transfer have integrated systems, and provides guidelines to putting such a system in place.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2000-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0875849040

Date Reviewed: 2000-06-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875849040/bookwatccomau

Communicating for Change: Connecting the Workplace with the Marketplace.

Author: D’Aprix, Roger

Short Review:

Refreshingly direct and practical. Written largely in the first person and clearly based on a wealth of experience. Emphasises the importance of direct, fast, honest communication and linking what is said to the important people – customers.

Full Review:

Roger D’Aprix has written a really clear, direct and thoroughly useful short book on the essential things a manager needs to understand and do to communicate effectively with the workplace. It is based on the author’s very extensive experience of organisations undergoing change and it is clear that he has thought carefully about his experience, in particular, what makes the difference between acceptance and rejection of change, between enthusiasm and cynicism, between effective cooperation and obstruction.

While most of the answers are obvious when stated, they are well put clearly presented and well argued. As an example, his ‘Guidelines of Market-Based Strategic Communication’ are:

  • Create and communicate a clear and simple case for change, based on market and customer realities.
  • Clearly identify and communicate the market forces that the organization faces in doing business
  • Formulate and communicate a responsive business plan.
  • Outline the consequences of success and failure.
  • Finally, tell and retell.

Elsewhere, he advocates rapid and complete disclosure – the sort of communication that demonstrates a belief that the workforce can be trusted and are able to draw sensible conclusions if they are put in the picture.

The core chapters are 4 and 5, respectively ‘Market -based Strategic Communication’ and ‘Aligning Individual Effort with Organizational goals’. Both are well set out and well illustrated, with clearly stated key points. Chapter 6, ‘Telling and retelling: the Leader’s Communication Role’ ties in very well with Howard Gardner’s thesis in Leading Minds of the leader as developer, teller and living embodiment of the story of what the organisation is and seeks to become. Even people with a lot of experience of communicating within organisations will get a lot out of this book.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0199 7

Date Reviewed: 1997-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787901997/bookwatccomau

Competing in the Third Wave: The Ten Key Management Issues of the Information Age.

Author: Hope, J. and Hope, T.

Short Review:

Quite a useful summary of current thinking about strategy, customer value, knowledge management, business organization, market focus, management accounting, measurement and control, shareholder value, productivity and transformation. Often falls for the trap of ‘one right answer’.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-87584-807-9

Date Reviewed: 1999-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875848079/bookwatccomau

Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge or Order and Chaos.

Author: Waldrop, M. Mitchell

Short Review:

Provides a very approachable introduction to one of the areas of ferment in the sciences, which is deeply affecting how we think. The direct applications to how we need to think about organizations are easy to see and are increasingly being applied in business thinking.

Full Review:

Note: This review was written in 1996. Events have demonstrated the power of complexity theory in business and economic thinking. Just as Chaos theory arrived as a kind of ‘gee whiz’ and stayed as serious science and mathematics, so we are going to hear a lot more about Complexity theory. There is, I have discovered, a rapidly growing literature on the subject. I picked this book up because of the link to Chaos theory and bought it because I happened (on P.37) on a comparison between what was described as the ‘old economics’ and the ‘new economics’ which neatly summarised all my objections to the assumptions underlying economic rationalism.

The book is written entirely in lay terms (i.e. no heavy mathematics), ostensibly as the story of the development of the Santa Fe Institute and the work of the people – physicists, biologists, economists, computer scientists – who came together in the Institute. Out of those stories, very painlessly, arises a broad understanding of complexity theory and what it helps to explain.

Complexity theory deals with the world of ‘complex adaptive systems’, which operate in a space between the dull predictability of a stable, equilibrium seeking world and the unpredictable patterns of chaos. The best brief description is given in a couple of pages at the beginning of Chapter 5.

Each of these systems is a network of many ‘agents’ acting in parallel… [e]ach agent finds itself in an environment produced by its interactions with the other agents in the system… [N]othing in its environment is fixed… Control tends to be highly dispersed. [There are] many levels of organisation, with agents at any one level serving as the building blocks for agents at higher levels…[and the systems] are constantly revising and rearranging their building blocks as they gain experience. …Every complex adaptive system is constantly making predictions based on its various internal models of the world. [They] typically have many niches, each of which can be exploited by an agent adapted to fill that niche…[and] the very act of filling one niche opens up more niches…so new opportunities are always being created by the system… [I]t is always unfolding, always in transition…

This describes organisms, organisations, the economy. As I read the book – which is extremely readable once I got past the slight barrier of nearly every idea being embedded in personal anecdotes – I was registering connections with and new perspectives on almost all the organisational issues with which I am concerned. If our organisations are indeed complex adaptive systems – and it is difficult to see that they could be anything else – then learning organisation principles are fundamental to their health and capacity to evolve.

Publisher: Penguin Books

Year Published: 1994-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0-671-87234-6

Date Reviewed: 1996-03-01

Comments: General reading on ways of thinking

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0671872346/bookwatccomau

Connecting the Dots: Aligning Projects with Objectives in Unpredictable Times

Author: Benko, C. & McFarlan, F.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: This guidebook helps connect the dots between an organization’s objectives and its project investments, capturing hidden value today while better preparing for tomorrow.

Publisher: HBS

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1578518776

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Consultant’s Journey: A Professional and Personal Odyssey.

Author: Harrison, Roger

Short Review:

Harrison is one of the ‘greats’ of Organization Development. His autobiography will interest students of the development of OD, particularly for the treatment of what he calls its ‘shadow’ side and organizational healing. His Collected Papers are invaluable.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1995

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-07-709089-6

Date Reviewed: 1996-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0077090896/bookwatccomau

Corporate Culture, Team Culture: Removing the Hidden Barriers to Team Success.

Author: Sherriton and Stern

Short Review:

A clear,simple step by step guide to bring the culture of an organisation into harmony with greater formal use of teams. Offers a six step model and claims that, if all goes well, the culture can be changed in three years. Food for thought for those seeking ‘instant answers”.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 8144 0324 7

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Comments: Recommended for those seeking a ‘check list’ approach

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814403247/bookwatccomau

Corporate Culture: How to Generate Organisational Strength and Lasting Commercial Advantage.

Author: Hampden-Turner, Charles

Short Review:

The third of a trilogy of books which in various ways focus on the author’s dilemma management methodology. This one is in the context of corporate culture and includes a very valuable survey of the work of others. Almost summarises his previous two books.

Publisher: Judy Piatkus (Publishers) Ltd

Year Published: 1994

Country: UK

ISBN: 0-7499-1437-8

Date Reviewed: 1995-03-01

Corporate Executions: The Ugly Truth About Downsizing…

Author: Downs, Alan

Short Review:

Explores the dynamics of the ‘ugly’ face of downsizing and layoffs, pointing to the longer term damage behind the brief boost to ‘the bottom line’. It suggests alternative strategies where reduction is inevitable. Valuable for its challenge to dishonest thinking and language.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 8144 7938 3 (Pbk) 0 8144 0307 7 (Hdc)

Date Reviewed: 1997-07-01

Comments: Useful for those contemplating ‘downsizing’

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814479383/bookwatccomau

Corporate Global Citizenship: Doing Business in the Public Eye.

Author: Tichy, McGill & St. Clair (eds)

Short Review:

A collection built on the thesis that attention to corporate global citizenship is necessary to the longer term prosperity of large corporations. It works through the ‘three pillars’ of ethics, social benefit and profitability, with extended case studies. Uneven, but a useful resource.

Full Review:

This collection brings together 16 contributors with the editors in a series of articles on the theme of corporate global responsibility, much of the book being taken up with case studies.

The underlying argument is that a simple focus on satisfying the shareholders is no longer an ethically or socially sustainable position for a large global corporate to take. Further, inadequate attention to ethical and social responsibilities is increasingly threatening to longer term profitability. The authors spend some time developing the argument for this proposition and attacking the Friedmanite radical free market position. These arguments are developed in the first Part of the book, particularly Chapters 1 and 2. The ‘Three Pillars’ make an interesting comparison with Elkington ‘s ‘triple bottom line’ in Cannibals with Forks.

Part 2 is a set of 8 case studies of ‘citizenship’ actions by large American corporates. Each describes the activites and the decision processes that led to the strategy. It then discusses the benefits both to society and the corporation. The range of case studies chosen serves to highlight the variety of motives for action and the distinction between single projects or initiatives and systemic rethinking of the corporate stance. It also (I think unintentionally, because there is no explicit discussion of this), raises the question of the boundary line between what has become known as ‘greenwashing’ – essentially public relations exercises – and genuine and thorough commitment to ethics.

At the same time, the description of the difficult decision process that Mercke went though in its decision to give away anti-parasitic drugs to very poor communities affected by blindness and the analysis of Procter and Gamble’s environmental program make very interesting and heartening reading.

Part 3 discusses the same issues from a country perspective, including chapters on the issues in China, India and Russia. It includes a chapter on an ‘Agenda for Corporate Global Citizenship’ that draws the threads of the arguments together. Taken as a whole, the book is strong on description and evangelism and much less strong on prescription and program. For this reader there is rather too much ‘feel good’ writing and rather too uncritical praise for what wonderful things our big corporates are doing.

Another perspective – and a better balance – can be achieved by comparing this book with HarmanThe New Business of Business and the much blacker view of Karliner in The Corporate Planet.

Publisher: The New Lexington Press

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-1095-3

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787910953/bookwatccomau

Corporate Man to Corporate Skunk: The Tom Peters Phenomenon, a Biography.

Author: Crainer, Stuart

Short Review:

A wide ranging and refreshing biography of a very colourful corporate personality and business phenomenon. Will be enjoyed as light reading by those who are fascinated by the man and his reputation. Written in a rather restless style, perhaps matching the subject.

Publisher: Capstone

Year Published: 1997

Country: UK

ISBN: 1 900961 01 6

Date Reviewed: 1997-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1900961016/bookwatccomau

Corporate Networks in Europe and the United States

Author: Windolf, Paul

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Corporate networks form part of the institutional structure of markets and the business environment, enabling firms to coordinate their behaviour and regulate competition. This book evaluates comparative data on interlocking directorates and capital networks between the large corporations in six countries.

Publisher: OUP

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 0-19-925697-7

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Corporate Radar: Tracking the Forces that are Shaping your Business

Author: Albrecht, Karl

Short Review:

About monitoring the external environment, it has chapters on the economy, customers, competitors, social trends, geophysical, technological, legal and political issues. Admirers of Albrecht will enjoy his wide range and his forthright opinions, mingled with some commonsense advice.

Publisher: Amacom Year Published: 2000

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-8144-050405

Date Reviewed: 2002-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/08144050405/bookwatccomau

Corporate Social Opportunity! Seven Steps to Make Corporate Social Responsibility Work for your Business.

Author: Grayson, D. & Hodges A.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: The authors explain how powerful drivers forcing companies to adopt stringent social, ethical and environmental standards simultaneously create largely untapped opportunities for product innovation, market development and non-traditional business models.

Publisher: Greenleaf Publishing Year

Published: 2004

Country: UK

ISBN: 1 874719 83 7

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-11

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1874719837/bookwatccomau

Corporate Vices: What’s Gone Wrong with Business

Author: Cohen, Charles

Short Review:

An addition to the ‘debunking’ literature, which offers a contrarian view of business behaviour. It is both entertaining and thought-provoking, but not in the same class as ShapiroThe Seven Deadly Sins of Business. The theme is that too many businesses have taken their eye off the ball. The critical requirement for success is looking after productivity. Successive chapters look at how corporate accounts conceal what is happening to this fundamental and how resources are wasted in ‘incentivized packages’, advertising, IT, greenwashing and so on. As is true of all this genre, the author has a case, but oversimplifies it for dramatic effect. But most businesses would benefit from reflecting whether they are committing any of these sins.

Publisher: Capstone

Year Published: 2002

Country: UK

ISBN: 1841124354 Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30 Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1841124354/bookwatccomau

Corporations & the Public Interest

Author: Lydenberg, Steven

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: How can market forces be created that focus corporations on creating real long-term wealth for society? The author analyzes what is the public interest, how society can know when corporations are in fact serving that interest and how society can reward those companies that are serving that interest.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA

ISBN: 1576752917

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-11 Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576752917/bookwatccomau

Creating Leaderful Organizations: How to Bring Out Leadership in Everyone.

Author: Raelin, Joseph A.

Short Review:

Creating Leaderful Organizations presents a paradigm of mutual – rather than heroic – leadership. It transforms leadership from an individual property to a collective responsibility. Raelin details how ‘leaderful’ practice can accomplish the critical processes of leadership more effectively than any existing approach. At the heart of the book is observation of success of self-organizing teams in which no one person appears to be exercising hierarchical control. Raelin argues that, so far from being ‘leaderless’, these teams or groups are ‘leaderful’, a term that he then overuses in an apparent attempt to give it wide currency. He contrasts ‘conventional’ and ‘leaderful’ leadership on four continua: Most of the book is concerned with a detailed exploration of the right hand end of these four continua.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 2003 ISBN: 1-57675-233-X

Date Reviewed: 2004-05-25

Comments: a capable but far from unique discussion of the features of collaborative operation of organizations.

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/157675233X/bookwatccomau

Creating the Corporate Future: Plan or be Planned for.

Author: Ackoff, Russell L.

Short Review:

A relatively old classic. It was one of the first to expound a systemic/holistic approach to planning and remains highly relevant, particularly the section on ‘formulating the mess’.

Full Review:

Ackoff is a brilliant and original systemic thinker. His concept of ‘the mess’, which needs to be formulated for planning ends and means, anticipated (1981) much later work based on complexity.

The book consists of two parts. The first Part is on our changing concept of the world, the corporation and of planning. The second Part works through:

  • ‘formulating the mess’;
  • ends planning in terms of idealized design, design of management systems and organizational design;
  • means planning, expressed as formulating and evaluating alternatives;
  • resource planning; and
  • implementation and control of plans and planning.

‘Formulating the Mess’ is a key concept of Ackoff’s.

“… a corporation’s mess is the future implied by its and its environment’s current behavior. Every system contains the seeds of its own deterioration and destruction. therefore the purpose of formulating the mess is to identify the nature of these often conceled threats and to suggest changes that can increase the corporation’s ability to survive and thrive.”

Ackoff then sets out three types of study:

  • a detailed systems analysis of the state of the corporation and the nature of its interactions with the environment
  • an obstruction analysis – identification of the obstructions to corporate development
  • preparation of reference projections

These together provide a picture of the future the corporation is now in, and provide the basis for ends, means and resource planning to work towards a more sustainable future.

The book was years ahead of its time and describes processes that remain highly relevant and useful. There are strong similarities between Ackoff’s approach and that of Friend, J. and Hickling, A. Planning Under Pressure: The Strategic Choice Approach.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 1981-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-471-09009-3

Date Reviewed: 1992-01-01

Comments: Recommended for strategic planners

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471090093/bookwatccomau

Creating the Discipline of Knowledge Management.

Author: Stankosky, Michael

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: This book lays out the argument for KM as a separate academic discipline, with its own body of knowledge (theoretical constructs), guiding principles, and professional society.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA & UK

ISBN: 0-7506-7878-X

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-14

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/075067878X/bookwatccomau

Creating the Innovation Culture: Leveraging Visionaries, Dissenters and Other Useful Troublemakers in Your Organization.

Author: Horibe, Frances

Short Review:

This is another example of the material for an excellent article expanded into a book that is best skimmed rather than read in depth. The thesis is simple – good innovation relies on people who are not committed to the status quo. The advice on how to handle dissenters from the status quo who have original minds is sound but sometimes a bit tedious and obvious. However, we need to remember Tom Peters dictum ‘Obviously, the obvious is not so obvious’, as Horibe demonstrates how often corporations shoot themselves in the foot.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 2001

Country: Canada

ISBN: 0471646288

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471646288/bookwatccomau

Creating Training Miracles.

Author: Rylatt Alastair & Lohan Kevin

Short Review:

A useful book, but the hype far outruns delivery. While it claims to be concerned with learning, it is deeply rooted in the training ‘paradigm’. It contains a useful catalogue of approaches, techniques but, by trying to cover everything, it risks superficiality.

Publisher: Prentice Hall Australia

Year Published: 1995

Country: Australia

ISBN: 0 7248 0211 8

Date Reviewed: 1996-07-01

Creating Value in the Network Economy.

Author: Tapscott, Don (Ed.)

Short Review:

A collection of articles from the HBR, arranged in 3 parts – The Changing Nature of Value, Whither the Firm, and The Customer in the Network Economy. Collectively they explore the impact of the knowledge economy and the internet on business.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1999

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 87584 911 3

Date Reviewed: 2001-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875849113/bookwatccomau

Creating.

Author: Fritz, Robert

Short Review:

A follow on from ‘The Path of Least Resistance’ and, like many follow-ons, does not really add very much to the original

Publisher: Fawcett Columbine

Year Published: 1991

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-449-90338-9

Date Reviewed: 1993-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0449903389/bookwatccomau

Creative Compartments: Design for Future Organization.

Author: Fairtlough, Gerard

Short Review:

A book by a successful chief executive thoughtfully addressing issues of governance and organization. Explores the concept of building ‘compartments’ – very flatly structured small groups as the operating elements within large organizations.

Full Review:

This is another in the growing family of books which discusses the structure of organisations to replace traditional hierarchy and build empowerment within the framework of a knowledge based economy. The difference, and what makes it worth reading, is that its author has a long history as a successful chief executive – both of a large division within Shell and of a start-up biotechnology company – refining his ideas and putting them to the test in practice. He discusses the conditions in which people will work effectively together with minimal reliance on authority. The title reflects his view that this can occur when organisations are arranged in ‘compartments’ of not more than two or three hundred people, within which there is completely open communication – with heavy reliance on building informal communication links, a high degree of democracy and great emphasis on designing working relationships for organisational learning. A somewhat different set of rules, in his view, should mediate relationships between compartments and between groups of compartments and the outside world.

In developing his thesis, Fairtlough makes use of the concept of ‘heterarchy’, a somewhat clumsy term, but one which is used to distinguish leadership in which responsibility and authority are shared by everybody from ‘hierarchy’, in which authority flows from the top and from ‘anarchy’ where there is no authority. Its virtue as a concept is that it reconciles the idea of empowerment with that of a residual hierarchical power, by clarifying the domains in which each operates.

This is a thoughtful and well read chief executive writing informally and with a great deal of relevant anecdote, for people who face similar issues to himself. I think many senior managers will find wisdom and useful practical advice in it.

Publisher: Praeger Publishers

Year Published: 1994-01-01

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0-275-95089-1(Cloth) 0-275-95090-5 (p’back)

Date Reviewed: 1996-03-01

Comments: Recommended for senior managers

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0275950891/bookwatccomau

Creativity at Work: Developing the Right Practices to Make Innovation Happen

Author: De Graff, J. & Lawrence, K.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Takes a practical approach to creativity, showing how to select practices to produce results and add value. The authors explain how to understand the creative preferences of organizations, departments, work groups, and individuals.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 0-7879-5725-9

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Creativity in Virtual Teams: Key Components for Success

Author: Nemiro, Jill

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Outlines a new model for attaining high levels of creativity in virtual working arrangements to anyone who designs, manages, or participates in virtual teams.

Publisher: Pfeiffer Year

Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-7879-7114-6

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Critical Issues In HRD: A New Agenda For The Twenty-First Century

Author: Gilley, A. et al.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Ten essays on diverse topics such as emerging paradigms within the discipline, new methods for measuring and evaluating HRD programs, and defining HRD’s role in forging ethical practices and social consciousness.

Publisher: Perseus Year

Published: 2002

ISBN: 0-7382-0763-2

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Cross-Cultural Communication The Essential Guide to International Business

Author: Mattock, John

Publisher: Kogan Page Year

Published: 0

ISBN: 074943922X

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil

Author: Ruppert M.C.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note:This is an interdisciplinary analysis of petroleum, geopolitics, narco-traffic, intelligence and militarism. It argues that 9/11 and the resulting “War on Terror” are parts of a massive authoritarian response to an emerging economic crisis of unprecedented scale.

Publisher: New Society Publishers

Year Published: 2004

Country: Canada

ISBN: 0865715408

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-11

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0865715408/bookwatccomau

Cultivating Common Ground: Releasing the Power of Relationships at Work.

Author: Hanson, Daniel S.

Short Review:

A book about relationship, primarily at work, that is passionate without preaching, wide ranging but down to earth and practical, and carefully researched without being ‘academic’. It is solidly grounded with stories that make each point with clarity and humanity.

Full Review:

I feel a bit of a curmudgeon in highlighting, in a review of a book that is excellent in what it does, a criticism of what it does not do. What it does, quite admirably, is to illuminate the importance of caring relationships whether at work or elsewhere, and to trace the history, causes and cures for the widely evident breakdown in relationship. It does this at the level of the individual and the structures in which people work and it advocates approaches to personal growth and to organisational structuring that will support caring, supportive and ultimately productive relationships.

For me, there is one important ingredient missing. It is recognition that, in our complex and market driven society more and more people are finding it difficult to really believe that the work they are doing ultimately contributes in any real way to ‘the common good’, however that might be defined. In the absence of this belief it is enormously more difficult to build commitment, enthusiasm, fun or a sense of caring. In Adam Smith’s day the ‘common good’ was a well understood term and the contribution of any productive person to it was fairly self-evident. Today it is increasingly questionable whether the production of yet more sweetened, flavoured and carbonated water (to take but one example) is not actively detrimental to any sensible concept of the ‘common good’, yet the dogma of the market proclaims that it must be good and drives companies to search for yet more volume, yet greater efficiencies, sustained by yet more strident persuasive advertising.

Is it realistic to expect to be able to build caring relationship, a sense of self and committed true team working in such an environment? My point is simply that issues at this higher level of contribution to shared goals for people and society have to be brought in to a discussion of issues within an organisation. We can no longer support the fiction that economics and the market place are ‘value neutral’ and, though it is often deeply buried, this awareness is gnawing away at many of us in our work. With that out of the way, let me return to praise for what the author does so well. It is another of those too rare ‘business’ books that is deeply grounded in human values, eloquently expressed in very practical terms. The author is a master of parables, a deceptively simple form that is very difficult to master.

It is in four parts: Part 1 - Driving Relationships Underground describes the history of industrialisation, its impact on human relationship and the dawning realisation that this is neither necessary nor desirable.

Part 2: Bringing Relationships in to the Open is a discussion of the reasons for cultivating relationship in the workplace, the fears that need to be overcome and, in particular the fear of loss of individuality as community grows – and how to work with and through this fear.

Part 3: Cultivating Common Ground: A Process for Building Community at Work is the longest part (ten chapters) and the core of the book. After a brief introduction, it starts by Clearing Out Old Assumptions, of which the author nominates seven:

  • assemble the best people and you will create the best organization
  • if I become part of a community, I will lose my identity
  • if I get too close to people, I will lose control
  • if I let my emotions out, I won’t be able to make rational decisions
  • by showing that I care for people, I will appear to be a weak leader
  • conflict is about winners and losers
  • there is no time for socializing at work.

Hanson shows that all these are prevalent, all are based on fallacies and all prevent us from tapping in to the power of relationships at work.

The next chapter explores the rituals by which we protect our notion of ‘self’ and how this and the style of competition that it evokes work against building community. With these as a base, the author moves forward to Discovering Common Ground – a direct quote from Weisbord’s book of that name. He uses the principles that Weisbord expounds about what is required for building shared purpose to launch a model of the creative process (pp 125-7) as an explanation of the process of becoming an effective work group.

The model looks like this: The outer circle represents the steps in the creative process, while the inner circle represents the stages through which groups pass in discovering common ground and build meaning through relationship. Building meaning requires shared purpose, shared resolve and a level of harmony within the group. Successive short chapters explore each station on the ‘inner circle’. Some of these are nearer to a sermon than a practical guide, but they act to reinforce the steps and the linkages needed to create groups that work as groups.

Part 4 is called ‘Relationships and the New Organization’. It deals briefly with the changing workplace, with leadership and our continuing fascination with the concept of leadership and concludes with the need to ‘tap into the power of relationships’ and ‘learn to move from I to we without losing me’.

The section on leadership is brief but useful.

‘…leadership is a dynamic that occurs in the context of relationships. It emerges when a group of people choose to follow an individual for a period of time whom they believe will meet their needs or help them complete a task.’

That is an organic concept and a far cry from the bureaucratic hierarchical concept of leadership that is still at the basis of much writing on leadership.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7506-9832-2

Date Reviewed: 1998-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0750698322/bookwatccomau

Cultural Diversity in Organizations: Theory, Research and Practice

Author: Cox, Taylor Jnr

Short Review:

A thorough and well researched study of issues of diversity, with clear prescriptions and tools. Written primarily around the US experience and, in parts, fairly dense and laden with references. Probably the text of choice in its specialist field.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Year Published: 1993

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-881052-19-2

Date Reviewed: 1994-01-01

Comments: Recommended for managers concerned with cultural diversity

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1881052192/bookwatccomau

Cultural Intelligence: People Skills for Global Business

Author: Thomas & Inkson

Short Review:

This is a detailed survival manual for those who are new to working across cultures. Its aim is to help such people to raise their ‘cultural intelligence’ – their understanding of cultural diffrences and their impact and their skill with tools to recognize and overcome misunderstanding and failures of communication based on differing cultural expectations. While it is pitched for those who have little or no cross-cultural experience, it contains material which will also be useful to those with substantial experience. An appendix lists useful sources of specific country information.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-57675-256-9

Date Reviewed: 2005-02-26

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576752569/bookwatccomau )

Customer Intimacy: Pick your Partners, Shape your Culture, Win Together.

Author: Wiersema, Fred

Short Review:

A practical exposition of what ‘getting close to the customer’ really means. It examines ways of harmonising culture, systems and ways of measuring results to build productive partnership the whole length of the supply chain. The steps are simple but not easy.

Full Review:

Very useful for its down to earth and practical advice, round a subject that makes you think of Tom Peters’ famous phrase ‘obviously the obvious is not so obvious’, to which it is tempting to add ‘applying simple solutions simply isn’t simple’.

Wiersema’s theme is that continuing success depends on going beyond satisfying the customer to a commitment to deliver the best result for the customer – the best possible solution for a customer’s needs, whether or not the customer has yet recognised the need. It is a philosophy based on the application of imagination, building human connections – the development of trust and openness between the partners and commitment, which includes the will to carry through the sometimes radical changes required.

The core of the book is concerned with developing, with a wealth of examples, the full implications of those three requirements:

1. Imagination: getting to the real problem and from that to solutions through some combination of tailoring your offering, coaching the client and partnering2. Human connections, which is largely about the choice of customers and then the building of connection in depth3. Commitment (as the supplier), which involves, sometimes radical, changes to your culture, your systems and your approach to profit. He finishes by discussing the various places to make a startIt is written in imperatives – ‘Get Connected’, ‘Leverage your Information Systems’ and so on. Like any book of that kind, it tends to skate over the thorny human and technical issues of how these are achieved, instead focusing on the good examples of those who have done so. Some of the examples are very apt; some are a bit difficult to take, yet others are very culturally specific – there is a style of business relationship which is clearly successful in the US but which would not readily translate to other cultures. For example, I found the references to Microsoft as a ‘customer intimate’ exemplar a bit jarring. They have what is to my mind Australia’s second worst telephone customer support system, backed by a deep suspicion that each caller is trying to get something they may not be entitled to. Intimate, it ain’t. Perhaps, this is an example of Wiersema’s dictum that a Customer Intimate company should be prepared to fire ‘mediocre’ customers.

The reader will pick up many useful clues to behaviours that build a long term relationship with customers, many of them industry or sector specific. Underlying the examples is an emphasis on the state of mind required – one that emphasises cooperation, the long term and building ‘wins’ for all parties – in terms of Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars Mastering the Infinite Game playing the infinite game rather than finite games.

There a couple of dangers inherent in this sort of book. One is that all success tends to be explained in terms of the author’s chosen criteria. To revert to Microsoft, its genius lies not so much in customer intimacy as in its strategic skill in positioning itself to benefit from increasing returns – see Brian Arthur’s brilliant HBR article included in Brown Seeing Differently - such that it is almost unavoidable. One of the oddities of the management literature is that the same companies are quoted again and again by different ‘technique’ authors, each of whom emphasises a different cause for their success. This is where books such as Collins and Porras Built to Last are so valuable, getting as they do inside the systemic reasons for continuing success.

The second danger has already been mentioned. A set of imperatives gives useful clues to goals, but relatively less advice on the strategy and tactics to achieve the goals. The third is that what may be intended as a search for intimacy could easily present as mere hustle. some of the author’s examples get very close to that elusive boundary, and it would be easy to imagine a company picking up the Customer Intimacy message and making a nasty mess of it, particularly if it is applied with a short term mindset.

Publisher: Harper Business

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0 00 255821 1

Date Reviewed: 1997-09-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1888232420/bookwatccomau

Cybercorp: The New Business Revolution.

Author: Martin, James

Short Review:

Fairly complete but somewhat breathless coverage of the characteristics required of a corporation to be successful for the future. Wide ranging and containing very valuable ideas, but patchy in its depth, with a fair bit of hype and, for me, difficult to read.

Full Review:

Cybercorp gave me more trouble to review than the last 10 books combined. It contains far too much good material and far too many good ideas to ignore, but I found the continuous hype made it very difficult to read, while the highlighted boxes throughout the text are insufficient to convey the full message, so skimming it doesn’t really work either. Some chapters sketch out ideas and directions in enough depth to be useful to a manager, while others are nearer to the ‘gee whiz’ level. In general, it is very much stronger on describing what you should do, than on showing how to do it.

The book shows all the marks of having been written at very high speed to meet a perceived market opportunity, and suffers from it. The overall effect is an odd and somewhat unsatisfactory mix of futurism, analysis and very broad prescription, coupled with a sort of technique catalogue scattered through various sections of the book. It’s a pity, because Martin is one of the world’s leading experts in business applications of computing and he undoubtedly knows his stuff. In trying to include everything, he fails to make a limited number of key points well. He has tried to bring together a description of what is happening in the world of technology and the internet, with emerging views on the nature of an organisation, the evolution of markets and trends in employment relationships, and to package from that the characteristics of successful enterprise for the future. This is what he has christened the ‘cybercorp’ – about the fifth name for much the same set of characteristics that I have encountered in the last year, coined by authors trying to capture a USP. In doing so, he sometimes gets carried away with his own fascination with the technology and its implications, which makes for very uneven coverage, both in the depth of treatment and the practical value to a change manager of the different chapters.

Curiously, the effect of this is that, for example, Chapter 8 ‘Ecosystems in the Cybercorp Economy’, a summary based largely on Moore‘s The Death of Competition, and Chapter 12 ‘Counterintuitive Behavior’, which gives a very cursory outline of systems thinking (both are swept gleefully into the definition of a ‘cybercorp’) are more useful than Chapter 3 ‘Cybermarketing: An inversion of Tradition’, which is little more than a catalogue of all the exciting things that could be done through the internet and elsewhere to market anything from high fashion to knowledge. On the other hand one could wish that he had gone into greater depth on expert systems (Chapter 10 ‘Agents and Intelligent Documents’) and the full use of computerised distribution systems (Chapter 11 ‘Computerized Choreography’). Both chapters are interesting, useful, but stop just short of being fully explanatory – but they are well worth reading.

The main themes are now familiar. Tomorrow’s corporation will be, above all, flexible and highly adaptive – Martin likes the term ‘agile’. Intelligent use of computer technology enormously expands both the reach of the corporation and its capacity to move from physical ownership and operations to ‘virtual’ ownership and operations and to opportunistic networks of relationship with other organisations. Provided that the corporation understands how technology can support the developing and focussing of value streams, they can use it to in effect ‘reengineer reengineering’ (my own contribution to the horrific jargon) and achieve vastly increased responsiveness. In justice, the term ‘value stream’ and Martin’s distinction between it and Michael Porter’s ‘value chain’ is useful: it focuses attention on particular ‘streams of work activities that deliver a particular result for a particular type of customer or end user’.

In this connection, Chapter 13 ‘Beyond Darwin’ gives a very useful typology of ‘intelligent evolution’, which Martin contrasts with Darwinian evolution. He identifies first, second and third order evolution, where:

First order evolution modifies the product or service within a predesigned process and corporate structure. within that process and structure many evolutionary choices may be tried out simultaneously.

Second order evolution modifies the process, methodology or design of work. Many variations may be tried out quickly, with intelligent employees selecting the best. The corporate structure may be modified accordingly.

Third order evolution is concerned with factors outside the corporation, such as its relationships with other companies. The company tries to intelligently evolve the corporate ecosystems of which it is a part so that it may benefit.

These three types of evolution are not mutually exclusive. We need all of them. The book ends with a part – five chapters – on People and Management, with themes taken from the learning organisation, from the literature on teams and an interesting chapter (Chapter 17) called ‘The Outrageous Cost of Obsolete Thinking’ which is a series of object lessons on what happens when organisations adopt new technology or processes but remain locked into old thinking.

The last chapter is on the need to bridge the culture gap between the general management stream and computer specialists – indeed the fact that this distinction is itself very counterproductive. Martin talks of a two -layer IT organisation in which there is an ‘outer’ layer of what he calls ‘cybercorp’ professionals who communicate well with both top management and technical professionals and an ‘inner’ layer of technical professionals who build and change systems rapidly. Recognition of this need is important, but hardly new.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 08144 0351 4

Date Reviewed: 1997-03-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/00814403514/bookwatccomau

D

Dancing with the Tiger: Learning Sustainability Step by Natural Step.

Author: Nattrass, B. & Altomare, M.

Short Review:

This successor to The Natural Step for Business is essentially a set of four extended case studies, preceded and followed by statements of principles derived from The Natural Step framework and case study experience. Your reaction to it will depend on your appetite for case studies – mine is not great. The wider exposition of principles is mainly a restatement – and sometimes an elaboration – of principles that can be found elsewhere, including on the Internet sites of The Natural Step. Those who are working directly with the framework as consultants or part of an internal team will pick up useful ideas and tips. the general reader would do better to start with the authors’ first book or one of the other books

Publisher: New Society Publishers

Year Published: 2002

Country: Canada

ISBN: 086571455X

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/086571455X/bookwatccomau

Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within.

Author: Quinn, R.E.

Short Review:

Written at the personal level – what is that I am doing that hijacks change, how can I learn to embrace and model continuous change? Uses that as a platform to discuss organisational change and leadership implications. Clear, well written, insightful.

Full Review:

There are a lot of books available that cover personal change and leadership. This is a well written and practical one of its kind, that brings together concepts from Scott Peck, Argyris, Greenleaf and others, in a straightforward examination of ‘deep change’ within organisations from the perspective of the individual.

‘Deep Change’ is the term that Quinn uses to describe the shift from behaviours and a view of change as an external process, which I seek to control and from which I can stand back, to full entry into the continuing change process, recognising that I am part of a wider process, which I can influence but not control. ’Deep chang…is major in scope, discontinuous with the past and generally irreversible…[it] distorts existing patterns of action and involves taking risks. Deep change means surrendering control.’

One of the reasons that I was impressed with the book is that I read it immediately after reviewing Carr’s Choice, Chance & Organizational Change and the two are highly complementary. In fact those two and Moore’s The Death of Competition form a kind of trilogy, moving from a focus on the individual to a focus within the organisation to a focus on business strategy in an ecology of organisations. Quinn does not explicitly use an ecological analogy as the other two authors do, but his opening discussion of ‘deep change or slow death’ exactly echoes Carr’s more systemic treatment of the dangers of entropy, the value of understanding the organisation as a complex adaptive system and the implications for the behaviour of individuals. Quinn in effect takes up that issue with a focus on individuals generally and those with a leadership role in particular.

The book has four parts. The first short part provides an overview of the issue through introduction of the concepts of deep change and of slow death – in essence the way we so often choose to hold on to what is known even though we know it to be destructive personally and to relationship, in order to avoid the pain and risk associated with change. The second part explores personal change. It addresses the fear of change, our tendency to become enmeshed in familiar tasks, the issue of maintaining integrity (so well dealt with in Jerry Harvey’s The Abilene Paradox) and makes use of the concept of the heroic journey (I have been part of a program which used the heroic journey model very successfully in a change program for senior managers.) Part three focuses on changing the organisation, building on the concepts in the first two parts, while Part four covers issues of interrelationships and the associated shifts needed to move from manager to leader and from incremental change to transformation.

Although Quinn does not use much of the language of systems dynamics or complexity theory, what he writes fits well with the emerging view of humans and the organisations they create as complex adaptive systems. In that sense, although much of what he covers is also well covered by other authors, the philosophical underpinnings of his very practical advice belong with this ‘new paradigm of organisations’.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0244 6

Date Reviewed: 1997-01-01

Comments: Recommended for all

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787902446/bookwatccomau

Deep Simplicity

Author: Gribbin, John

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: The universe is built on simple elements, which interact and organize themselves to create a highly sophisticated whole.

Publisher: Penguin Year

Published: 2004

ISBN: 0713996102

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Designing a Systems Thinking Intervention.

Author: Goodman, M. et al.

Short Review:

A basic familiarity with systems thinking is critically important for virtually all private and public sector work, but is still rare among managers. This is perhaps the briefest ‘ready reference’ for practitioners starting into practical work in the field.

Full Review:

(This review covers three related books on the same broad topic, and is repeated for each author. The three books are: AndersonSystems Thinking Basics Goodman:Designing a Systems Thinking Intervention. Kim:Systems Thnking Tools/Archetypes..)

It can be argued that virtually all the major issues of change management that confront us are systemic. The issues arise from the structure of the interrelationships between components in the system, there are nearly always secondary as well as primary interactions and the secondary interactions may occur after quite long time delays and in opposite directions to the primary interactions.

Successful intervention to manage these sorts of issues requires at least a basic facility with the simpler tools of systemic thinking, as well as an understanding of mental models and skill in appropriate styles of conversation to achieve a richer understanding of systems that are nearly always rather complex. Systems thinking skills are still quite rare among managers, even in organisations that have devoted a lot of time to improving organisational learning and building skills in dialogue and similar disciplines. Observation suggests that the addition of even quite basic system mapping skills can add enormously to the productivity of strategic conversations and the capacity of teams to make progress in managing previously intractable issues.

Pegasus Communications remains the main source of material on the tools of systems thinking for the generalist manager. All the materials in this collection cover similar ground – a fairly basic coverage of the ‘language’ of causal loop diagrams and a guide to applying this form of systems thinking to dealing with common problems at a systemic level. All are good, it is really a question of what best suits each person’s needs.

Daniel Kim’s three booklet set, one on System Thinking Tools and two on Systems Thinking Archetypes, is the earliest of the publications. It is in the nature of a portable reference library and is written for people who have undertaken at least a basic course in the fundamentals of developing causal loop diagrams. I find that I refer to the set constantly. It is at minimum an essential reference source for any business or for any team which is continually dealing with systemic issues – and that is almost all of us, whether we recognise the fact or not.

Anderson and Johnson’s Systems Thinking Basics covers similar territory but is designed as a self education guide, starting from ‘ground zero’ with the question ‘What is a System’? It is very well laid out for self study either individually or – preferably – in small groups, with well graduated examples and exercises. It also quotes some of the materials from Daniel Kim’s booklets for reference.

In Designing a Systems Thinking Intervention, Michael Goodman and four other authors assume at least a basic understanding of the ‘language’ of causal loop diagrams and focus on the steps and stages from the initial question ‘Is this a systemic problem?’ through to how to create agreement of all the stakeholders round a specific systemic intervention. At 16 pages, the booklet is convenient for reference. It also integrates, at least at a basic level, the disciplines of systems thinking and mental models and touches on the use of computer models to simulate complex systems.

Publisher: Pegasus Communications Inc

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 883823 14 5

Date Reviewed: 1997-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1883823145/bookwatccomau

Destination Z: The History of the Future.

Author: Baldock, Robert

Short Review:

Works through a set of scenarios based on the thesis that the two major engines of change for business are in consumer and supplier relationships. Interesting as a worked example of scenario thinking, but does not substitute for the scenario thinking process.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Year Published: 1999

Country: UK

ISBN: 0471984620

Date Reviewed: 2001-03-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471984620/bookwatccomau

Developing Competency to Manage Diversity: Readings, Cases and Activities.

Author: Cox, Taylor and Beale, Ruby

Short Review:

A sequel to Cox’ 1993 Cultural practical, with a wealth of instruments and other tools for building competency in this field. Essential for those working with diversity and a valuable complement to its predecessor.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 881052 96 6

Date Reviewed: 1997-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1881052966/bookwatccomau

Developing High-Performance People: the Art of Coaching.

Author: Mink/Owen/Mink

Short Review:

This was an early, and good, book on coaching. It is very thorough in putting a large number of managerial frameworks into the context of coaching for empowerment. Very compatible with Learning Organization practice.

Full Review:

For some reason, I have seen very little reference to the work of the Minks in other books. They deserve better recognition. Their work has interested me since reading a very good article some years ago with the bizarre title ‘You’re Not in Kansas any more, Toto.’

In my review of Chip Bell’s Managers as Mentors, I suggested that, if senior managers gave more attention to mentoring they would, in the medium term, release a great deal of their energy for their critical role in strategic direction setting and leadership. Coaching and mentoring are one of the most important and most neglected ways of building the human capacity of an organisation. Developing High Performance People is a very thorough and detailed manual on coaching, which starts with the confession that the book represents the third attempt at writing, the authors having recognised that their previous attempts were written from a control and dominance paradigm, rather than an empowerment and collaboration paradigm. From my reading, they have made the shift very thoroughly. They are clear about terminology. They distinguish coaching from mentoring essentially on time scale – for them coaching is short term and about the current job or task, while mentoring is longer term, looking to development for the future and of a whole career.

You may agree or disagree – for example Chip Bell uses the term to mentoring to refer to short term interventions – but it is an example of the care with which the authors set out their terms and develop their recommendations. If I have a criticism, it is that the authors (or possibly the publishers) try to cram too much into the physical space.

The book is designed for reference rather than to read, and would have gained enormously from more white space to separate core arguments from illustrations, ‘instruments’ and tools from argument, theory from practice and the text from the suggested activities at the end of each chapter. It is a pity, because the basic layout is careful and good and the content is valuable, but the effect is to make it rather difficult to refer to.

The book starts with a self-assessment instrument and is peppered with such instruments. The first one rates the reader on qualities of self-confidence, trust and openness, claiming that there is a correlation between high scores on these qualities and effectiveness as a coach. There is something of a fashion for ‘instruments’ at present, some of them rather trivial, but they can be very helpful if they are used as the authors suggest – as a starting point for personal and joint reflection and not as an ‘answer’.

In addition to ‘instruments’ it is rich in tools, ranging from force field analysis, the ladder of competence, the Kolb Cycle (or rather the Deming variant), the Johari window, ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ and so on, all useful and placed in context of building self-confidence, trust, openness and so an environment for learning. People who are responsible for moving their organisation towards empowerment and participation based on wide acceptance of coaching and mentoring need to own and use this book. It complements The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook well. If I were in such a position, I would take a copy of each book apart and combine them by topic in a loose leaf folder. People who want short, readable and earthy guidance on how to act as a coach/mentor will prefer Bell’s book.

Publisher: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.

Year Published: 1993-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-201-56313-4

Date Reviewed: 1996-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0201563134/bookwatccomau

Developing Leaders: Research and Applications in Psychological Type and Leadership Development.

Author: Fitzgerald, C. & Kirby, L. (eds)

Short Review:

17 articles on aspects of the use of MBTI, particularly for leadership development. It is an invaluable resource for specialists who use MBTI as an aid to leadership development and helping organisations to realise their full human potential.

Full Review:

This is a very valuable reference for those who use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator professionally. It is not intended as a book for the generalist manager, although it will be useful to those who have taken a real interest in the use of MBTI – for example as an aid to promoting organizational learning.

The book is essentially a research document, in that it seeks to bring together research and experience in the use of MBTI in the context of leadership development and then to work through ways in which the research can be usefully applied. As such, the style is towards the ‘academic’ end of the spectrum, but not unapproachably so. As a corollary of the research thrust, the references are extensive and very thorough and arranged at the end of each article. Similarly, there is a wealth of statistical data supporting the arguments in the book.

The purpose is reflected in the structure of the book, which is in three Parts: Overview, Research and Application. Specialists will want to use the whole of the book as a reference. This ‘informed generalist’ was most drawn to the articles in Part 3 – Applications. For example, Article 11: ‘Enhancing Leadership During Organizational Change’ gives valuable practical guidance, while Article 14: ‘STJs and Change: Resistance, Reaction or Misunderstanding?’ does a great deal both to debunk myths about STJs’ resistance to change and to demonstrate the conditions and approaches in which they are most likely to support change.

Having worked with MBTI over several years, I am very conscious of how powerful a tool it can be for getting people to appreciate and work with difference and as an aid to personal development. This book offers a valuable guide to practitioners in broadening and deepening their theoretical understanding and their practice, particularly in the context of developing leaders, but also more generally. For a general overview of books on leadership on this site go to the Topic article Leadership.

Publisher: Davies Black

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-89106-082-0

Date Reviewed: 1998-07-01

Comments: Recommended for specialists in Myers Briggs Type Indicator

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0891060820/bookwatccomau

Developing Teams Through Project-Based Learning.

Author: Atkinson, Jean

Short Review:

Written as a short, simple and practical guide to setting up and running simple projects and using them to develop team skills. Its target audience is people who are new to these skills and it succeeds admirably at this level. It is well written, clear and avoids jargon.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 2001

Country: UK

ISBN: 0566083671

Date Reviewed: 2002-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566083671/bookwatccomau

Dictionary of Strategy: Strategic Management A-Z

Author: Kelly & Booth

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: A sourcebook that will help illuminate major debates, issues, and scholarship in strategic management.

Publisher: Sage

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0761930736

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Discovering Common Ground: How future search conferences bring people together.

Author: Weisbord, Marvin R, et al.

Short Review:

The sub-title is ‘How Future Search Conferences Bring People Together to Achieve Breakthrough Innovation, Empowerment, Shared Vision & Collaborative Action.’ – which just about says it all. Integrates principles with detailed practice.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Year Published: 1992

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-881052-08-7

Date Reviewed: 1994-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1881052087/bookwatccomau

DisOrganization: the Handbook of Creative Organizational Change.

Author: Clegg, Brian & Birch, Paul

Short Review:

An approach to change based on the concept of breaking ‘the dinosaur’ into a network of virtually autonomous small companies and going for ‘both…and’ strategies rather than compromise. Set up as a handbook and provides an original slant on a popular theme.

Full Review:

One of the people quoted on the back cover blurb says that the authors ‘bring pop culture to management’. A fair comment, and your reaction will depend partly on how you react to the breezy pop style. It will also depend on whether you are new to the ideas in the book, none of which are themselves new.

Treated as an exercise in making established techniques and skills digestible and attractive, the book is quite successful; it is certainly easy to read. It is unfortunate that many of the ideas are presented as if they were new, and there is very little reference to sources where they are developed in greater depth. In addition it is only too easy to pick holes in the framework that the authors offer. DisOrganization is based on a cycle of activity involving establishing direction, checking out ‘weapons for change’, examining inward and outward channels and establishing a cycle of change.

The core theme in Directions is that of working with ‘both…and’ rather than ‘either…or’, in other words how to make the best of both ends of the spectrum simultaneously. The authors choose management of:

  • managing and leading
  • task focus and people focus
  • reaction and innovation
  • centralising and fragmenting (decentralising)

as the four elements that together make up direction for an organisation. Surprisingly, there is no mention of vision except as a sub-set of leadership, nor of purpose except as part of a single line to the effect that purpose is important. It is treated – after a fashion – under ‘Weapons’, where the authors offer clarity and direction, fun and empowerment and creativity and innovation as means of building shared energy for change. Collins and Porras Built to Last is still the best research-based source of material showing the value of managing ‘both…and’ effectively, as well as the centrality of a well thought out and consistent core purpose, while Hampden-Turner Corporate Culture (and other books) has developed a very fruitful and wide-ranging ‘dilemma methodology’, the application of which is developed in this and his other books. Johnson Polarity Management and Fritz The Path of Least Resistance for Managers also offer useful treatments.

Placing managing and leading as contrasts is a decidedly odd choice. Most authors would agree that they are necessarily complementary. Indeed a number (eg Vaill Spirited Leading and Learning) refer to managerial leadership as a single bundle of skills, while Wells From Sage to Artisan devotes a whole (excellent) book to developing nine distinct roles that intersect different aspects of leadership with different aspects of management. Clegg and Birch can only present them as opposites by caricaturing both. The authors’ treatment of these merges into their treatment of the very real distinction between task focus and people focus – also known as the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills of managerial leadership.

Centralisation versus fragmentation is also a distinction that many writers have covered. Go to Downes and Mui Unleashing the Killer App. for an illuminating discussion of why large companies are breaking into smaller units (it has to do with dramatically falling costs of external transactions relative to internal transactions). The discussion of the ‘hypercompany’ structure on pp. 44-48 of DisOrganization is worth reading as a brief summary of a structure of mini-companies held together through a ‘net’ company and its advantages. However, Semler Maverick!is more entertaining, more radical and much more insightful.

As ‘weapons’ the authors offer clarity and direction, fun and empowerment and creativity and innovation. Inward channels are concerned with relationships and ways of working within the organisation, while Outward Channels are concerned with products and services, customers, partners and competitors and communications.

Publisher: Financial Times/Pitman

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0 273 63107 1

Date Reviewed: 1998-12-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0273631071/bookwatccomau

Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage

Author: Carr, Nicholas

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Argues that, as IT’s power and presence have grown its strategic relevance has actually decreased and IT has become a commoditized “cost of doing business”- with huge implications for business management.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2004

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Due Diligence: The Critical Stage in Mergers and Acquisitions

Author: Howson, Peter

Short Review:

Due Diligence is a critical stage in completing a merger or acquisition, and is essentially the application of risk management techniques to a specific situation. This book is an extraordinarily thorough and clear guide to every aspect of the Due Diligence process and will be invaluable to anyone who is involved. It contains 20 Appendices with detailed guidance to specific aspects of the process.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 2003

Country: UK & USA

ISBN: 0 566 08524 0

Date Reviewed: 2005-02-26

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566085240/bookwatccomau

E

Eco-efficiency and Beyond: Towards the Sustainable Enterprise

Author: Seiler-Hausmann et al (Eds)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Seeks to explain the past and present of eco-efficiency and to encourage a future where the comprehensive take-up of the concept by business, government and consumers could lead to innovation on a grand scale and the possibility of a giant leap towards sustainability.

Publisher: Greenleaf

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 1 874719 60 8

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Eco-industrial Strategies: Unleashing Synergy between Economic Development and the Environment

Author: Cohen-Rosenthal & Musnikow

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Provides current and future readership with an understanding of eco-industrial development’s foundations, its beginnings and its aspirations.

Publisher: Greenleaf

Year Published: 2003

Country: UK

ISBN: 1874719624

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-15

Effective Knowledge Management.

Author: Kermally, Sultan

Short Review:

This is quite a useful primer of some of what could be called the mechanics of knowledge management, with a very strong emphasis on bnechmarking various activities for ‘best practice’. It ranges fairly widely across fields of management to which knowledge management is relevant, but does not go into any great depth. Most of his precepts apply to management generally rather than specifically to Knowledge Management.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 2002

Country: U.K.

ISBN: 0-470-84449-3

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0470844493/bookwatccomau

Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ.

Author: Goleman, Daniel

Short Review: Widely acclaimed. It is written for family readership but with important applications for business. It explores the impact of self-awareness, impulse control, empathy and other ‘emotional’ factors on effectiveness, and how to use the concepts to improve EI.

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Year Published: 1996

Country: UK ISBN: 0 7475 2622 2

Date Reviewed: 1997-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0747528306/bookwatccomau

Encyclopedia of Leadership

Author: Burns, J.M. et al. (Eds)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Includes hundreds of articles, exploring leadership theories and leadership practice. Includes biographical essays and case studies.

Publisher: Sage

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 076192597X

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Ending the Blame Culture.

Author: Pearn, Mulrooney and Payne

Short Review:

Concerned with accepting mistakes and harnessing their power to stimulate learning. Essentially, it looks at learning processes, using mistakes as a ‘frame’. A useful guide to the basics of preparing, planning and evaluating, with helpful lists and references, laced with anecdotes.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1998

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0 566 07996 8

Date Reviewed: 2000-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566079968/bookwatccomau

Enterprise Information Portals and Knowledge Management

Author: Firestone, Joseph

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Looks to the future with an approach to enterprise portals and their relationship to knowledge management.

Publisher: Butterworth-Heinemann

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 0750674741

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Environmental Management & Business Strategy: Leadership Skills for the 21st Century.

Author: Piasecki, B. et al

Short Review:

A detailed text on how to build a successful environmental business strategy, one that meets public expectations, achieves compliance and seizes the many business opportunities that can arise. It is essentially compliance oriented, in marked contrast to the books on building sustainability.

Full Review:

This book on environmental management is in marked contrast to AtKissonBelieving Cassandra, reviewed this month and to HawkenNatural Capitalism, reviewed in August. Those books are creative, argue ‘outside the box’ and state the case that the move to sustainability (environmental and economic) requires a major change in the way we think about business and economic activity. Those who do so will be able to make a big contribution to the necessary transformation of our society and to their own profitable survival.

In contrast, Piasecki and his colleagues have produced what is essentially a student text book on the approaches required to conform with current legislation and to understand and work with current and emerging consumer and public attitudes.

The book is well structured, thorough and with useful case studies, but it focuses on compliance, not creativity and on good, solid, but essentially 1960s and 1970s approaches to analysis and strategic planning.

For organisations that wish to conform and to understand what is required to do so, this is a useful text. Those that wish to be part of the future would do better to go to the other two books cited.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0471169722

Date Reviewed: 2000-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471169722/bookwatccomau

Essence of Leadership.

Author: Kakabadse, A and N.

Short Review:

Thorough and wide ranging, but not very readable. Looks at transactional leadership as managing, and transformational leadership as leading. There are useful chapter summaries. Some valuable material tends to get lost among comparative trivia in the attempt to cover everything.

Publisher: International Thomson Business Press

Year Published: 1999

Country: UK

ISBN: 1 86152 368 8

Date Reviewed: 1999-12-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1861523688/bookwatccomau

Essential Readings in Management Learning.

Author: Grey, C. & Antonacopoulou, E. (Eds)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: This volume brings together some of the best writing published in the journal Management Learning since its re-launch under this title in 1994.

Publisher: Sage Publications

Year Published: 2004

Country: UK

ISBN: 1412901421

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-14

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1412901421/bookwatccomau

Essentials of Knowledge Management.

Author: Bergeron, Bryan

Short Review:

This is a fairly basic introduction, with a focus on process aspects of knowledge management. It is useful for beginners as far as it goes, but would need to be supplemented with other material, particularly to give a real appreciation of the human, change management and innovation aspects of KM. It offers simplicity and clarity at some expense to providing a real appreciation of the range and interconnections of KM.

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons

Year Published: 2003

Country: USA

ISBN: 0471281131

Date Reviewed: 2004-08-10

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471281131/bookwatccomau

Essentials of Supply Chain Management.

Author: Hugos, Michael

Short Review:

The book focuses on operational and tactical aspects of supply chain management, with 8 chapters. The coverage is clear, logical and highlights key points well. Each chapter ends with a summary. There is a wealth of figures, tips and techniques and explanatory ‘boxes’, all of which are concise, relevant and useful. Supply chain management has moved rapidly from ‘poor relation’ to high strategy, driving strategic alliances and involving world wide logistics. This book does no more than touch on these strategic issues; its concern is with the fundamentals which provide the platform on which strategy can be successful.

Publisher: John Wiley

Year Published: 2003

Country: USA

ISBN: 0471235172

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471235172/bookwatccomau

Essentials of Supply Chain Management: Twelve Drivers of Competitive Advantage

Author: Mentzer, John

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Mentzer identifies twelve drivers of competitive advantage as clear strategic points managers can use in their companies.

Publisher: Sage

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0761929088

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Ethics And HRD: A New Approach To Leading Responsible Organizations

Author: Hatcher, Tim

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: In Ethics and HRD, Tim Hatcher shows how human resource development departments can foster ethical consciousness and play an important role in transforming their organizations into responsible corporate citizens.

Publisher: Perseus

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 0-7382-0564-8

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Evolve: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow.

Author: Kanter, Rosabeth Moss

Short Review:

A thorough and well-researched study of the implications of the internet, which suffers from a somewhat breathless style, overenthusiastic use of jargon and hyperbole. A valuable survey but no better than others in the field, with a strong tendency to present old truths as new ‘breakthrough discoveries’.

Full Review:

There is a whiff of heresy about a review of any book by Prof. Kanter that is less than ecstatic, and the credits on the publisher’s blurb certainly spread themselves. And there is much in the book that merits praise. It is based on the thorough research that one would expect from Harvard Business School; it covers virtually all significant aspects of the issue of the impact of the Internet on our business and wider culture and it examines at length the differences between the culture of the new generation of young entrepreneurs and those who are running established (‘old economy’) business. This last aspect is one that I have not seen in other books in this somewhat crowded field.

I have no doubt that the weight of Kanter’s reputation and the fact that it is written with a very shrewd eye to the popular market will carry Evolve (or, as the dust cover has it, e-Volve) to the business book of the year lists. If it is the only book that you read in this field, you will learn a lot from it. If, on the other hand, you have been keeping up at all with the flood of material on the theme of the implications of the Internet on business, accountability, communication and society, you will find little that is genuinely new other than careful recording of the attitudes of the younger generation of entrepreneurs, and some survey based corroboration of the assertions of others.

In general, the book puts old truths in a new bottle and partly conceals this with a welter of fashionable new jargon. The detailed discussion is sober enough, and there is recognition of the necessary balance between internet and ‘virtual’ communication and community and direct personal contact.

There is also extensive discussion of the requirements for successful change, which is essentially good but familiar advice put into the context of the rise of the ‘dot.com’ world. If you do decide to read this book, balance it with Cohen, D. and Prusack, L. In Good Company or Brown, J. S. & Duguid, P. The Social Life of Information.

Publisher: Harvard Business School Press

Year Published: 2001-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1578514398

Date Reviewed: 2001-08-01

Comments: Recommended for everyone in an organisation.

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1578514398/bookwatccomau

Executive Coaching: Practices and Perspectives

Author: Fitzgerald, C. & Berger, J. (Eds)

Publisher: Davies-Black

Year Published: 0

ISBN: 0-89106-161-4

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Executive Leadership: Practical Guide to Managing Complexity.

Author: Jaques, Elliott & Clement

Short Review:

Represents a particular view of the leadership task and role. His main thesis is that managerial leadership – the two in his view are inseparable – needs to be requisite to the conditions being managed.

Full Review:

Elliott Jaques is the author of Requisite Organisation and is an original management philosopher (as is Charles Hampden-Turner).

His main thesis is that managerial leadership – the two in his view are inseparable – needs to be requisite to the situation and conditions being managed. The universals required for effective management leadership include adequate cognitive complexity, a strong sense of value, knowledge and experienced practice, wisdom about people and things and an absence of abnormal temperamental characteristics. He debunks the view of charisma as necessary or even valuable to managerial leadership. It is a clinical view, built within a mental model which accepts hierarchy as the way of dealing with complexity.

It is described by the series editor as the foundation of the European – as distinct from Anglo-Saxon or Japanese view of management and is one which appears to me to be profoundly out of sympathy with the philosophical roots of learning organisation practice.

Publisher: Cason Hall & Co.

Year Published: 1991-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0-631-19313-8 (p’back) 0-9621070-1-8 & 1-55786-2575

Date Reviewed: 1995-04-01

Comments: Recommended for leaders

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0631193138/bookwatccomau

Exit Strategy Planning: Grooming Your Business for Sale or succession.

Author: Hawkey, John

Short Review: This is an admirable text, which covers every aspect of planning and implementing a successful exit from a privately owned business. It contains flow charts, check lists and technical appendices that cover tax, valuation, a detailed consideration of family succession issues, public float, franchising and other possiblities. It is written clearly and directly, with well set out guidance to all technical issues. It is written in relation to UK tax and company law and readers in other countries will need to relate the advice to their own laws.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 2002

Country: UK

ISBN: 0566084988

Date Reviewed: 2003-05-01

Comments: 197 pp. including 10 technical appendices. List of useful Web sites. Index

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566084988/bookwatccomau

F

Facilitating Learning Organizations: Making Learning Count.

Author: Marsick, V. J. and Watkins, K. E.

Short Review:

This book is specifically about the process of facilitating the learning journey for individuals and organisations. It is primarily descriptive, and provides a systematic coverage of the issues, with a number of case studies, including contributed material.

Full Review:

The authors are professors in the field of organisation development and consult on learning organisation development. The approach taken is descriptive rather than prescriptive. Indeed, the authors insist that it is neither possible nor desirable to set out a prescriptive approach to build a learning organisation.

The book relies heavily on extended case studies and includes substantial biographical detail on the leaders and key facilitators in the selected cases, as well as extended invited contributions by four of them. These case studies are used to illustrate the main shared features that the authors have observed in successful transformation to an organisation that is able to learn as part of its continuing functioning. Key features on which they focus include the use of ‘action technologies’ (action research, action learning and action science), a systemic view of change and an emphasis on the power of partnership between HR professionals and line managers.

The three ‘action technologies’ that lie at the heart of their preferred methodologies are jargon terms for:

  • a research and design methodology that iterates from diagnosis through vision building and alignment to experiments and reassessment
  • action learning using a number of devices to integrate learning and work
  • the use of the techniques of skilled conversation and group learning to identify and resolve issues
  • the process of cycling between action and reflection and the principles involved in ‘double loop learning’.

The conclusions are unsurprising, but it is useful to see them reinforced. One or more leaders are required, who drive the vision, believe that learning can make a difference, and live those beliefs. They are supported by one or more people with knowledge of the change process, who help ‘to bring the vision to life and to move people and systems without harming them’.

There has not always been a clear diagnosis of how things are or a map of where the organisation is headed. Leaders saw a future that they could hardly describe but worked creatively and collaboratively to tease that future out of the stubborn marble of the organisation as it was. And most of all, they realised that becoming a learning organisation is in the details of daily life – how they interact with their people. Facilitators see organizations in terms of whole systems. They were driven by the values of empowerment, working collaboratively, trust in people, dialogue, that are often espoused but seldom practised.

The authors do a service in reminding us that, while there are universal underlying principles, the move towards a learning organisation is an exploration and its steps can not be codified. Those who like to learn through case studies will find the book valuable and practising facilitators will probably find it useful to ‘compare notes’ with those quoted in the book. I learned much more from HultmanMaking Change Irresistible than from this book. It certainly does not replace any of my other established favourites in this field, for example: Dixon, Nancy: The Organizational Learning Cycle.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0566 08039 7

Date Reviewed: 1999-10-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566080397/bookwatccomau

Fast Forward: The Best Ideas on Managing Business Change.

Author: Champy, James & Noharia, Nitin

Short Review:

A collection of classic articles from the Harvard Business Review from 1988 through 1995, with thoughtful introductory and closing original articles. The articles range fairly widely round the theme of change management.

Publisher: Harvard Business Review Book

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-87584-673-4

Date Reviewed: 1996-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875846734/bookwatccomau

Finance for Strategic Decision-Making: What Non-Financial Managers Need to Know

Author: Narayanan& Nanda

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Demystifies and clarifies for non-financial executives the basics of financial analysis. Includes a framework that outlines practical guidance for executives who must make strategic decisions.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-7879-6517-0

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

First Things First.

Author: Covey, Stephen R. & A.R & R.R. Merrill

Short Review:

Another of Covey’s books which give easily remembered and applied advice round application of universal principles, well presented.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Year Published: 1994

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-671-71283-7

Date Reviewed: 1995-02-14

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0671712837/bookwatccomau

Frankl’s “Thorn Patch” Fieldbook.

Author: Ramsey, Philip

Short Review:

Those who enjoyed Billibonk and the Thorn Patch will get added value from the Fieldbook, a simple and well illustrated work book to help the reader to get the maximum benefit from that fable. Develops a set of causal loop diagrams associated with organisational learning.

Publisher: Pegasus Communications

Year Published: 1998

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-883823-21-8

Date Reviewed: 1998-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1883823218/bookwatccomau

Free Agents: People and Organizations Creating a New Working Community.

Author: Gould, Weiner and Levin

Short Review:

Essentially about building your own career and networks in a world in which jobs are no longer secure. Also gives advice to companies using contracted staff. Good and practical coverage of the field, but suffers from extreme overuse of the chosen term ‘Free Agents’.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1977

Country: USA

ISBN: 07879 02837

Date Reviewed: 1997-07-01

From Business Strategy to IT Action: Right Decisions for a Better Bottom Line

Author: Benson et al.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Gives companies of all sizes the tools to effectively link IT to business strategy and produce effective, actionable strategies for bottom-line results.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-471-49191-8

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

From Global to Metanational: How Companies Win in the Knowledge Economy.

Author: Doz, Y. et al.

Short Review:

Argues that global companies must become ‘metanational’, which requires the ability to capture new knowledge from around the world, use this knowledge to innovate better than others and produce, market and deliver on a global scale. The book focuses on only a few of the many capabilities required for success and needs to be compared with other books for anything approaching a complete prescription.

Full Review:

What does a large company need to concentrate on for sustained success in a globalised world? Many authors have provided many different answers to this question. Doz and his colleagues claim that it is to become metanational and to become good at innovating from a platform of bringing together knowledge from many different parts of the world.

Metanationals differ from globalised companies in that they recognise that new ideas, products or directions may originate somewhere other than the corporate centre. Their focus is on innovation and they argue that this requires that the organization becomes good at:

  • identifying where good ideas and special competencies are
  • mobilising the often scattered capabilities and opportunities (they use the term ‘becoming a magnet’ for such capabilities
  • optimising the size and configuration of operations for efficiency, flexibility and financial discipline.

They argue that valuable knowledge is scattered, sophisticated and ‘sticky’, meaning not easy to transfer, and that special skills are needed to assemble knowledge from many sources and to transform it into marketable products and services in highly differentiated markets. The book makes an important point about success in a globalized world, but presents one factor in success as if it was the whole.

As with a number of books, I had an uncomfortable feeling that the content of a very good article was expanded into an only moderately good book. The core message is important and useful. Organisations that operate on a global scale need to move beyond the extension of a unitary culture into new localities and recognise that new knowledge is found in unlikely places. They need to become excellent at recognising that knowledge, becoming an attractor for it, mobilising it to provide a superior stream of innovations and operationalising production, distribution and marketing into diverse markets.

The book also has useful chapters on the elements that the authors identify as keys to success. These are:

  • ‘shoehorning doesn’t work’ – meaning that locations, roles, incentives and skills need to be different from those usually found in multinational networks
  • the fact that culture, knowledge and ideas are difficult to access across geographic and cultural distance
  • two chapters with tools for accessing and mobilizing knowledge
  • a chapter on ways of operationalising the exploitation of the innovations achieved.

The weakness is that the book is written at a fairly high conceptual level – for all the detailed example – that fails to get to grips with how to manage multiple cultures or the detail of innovation, or the issues of governance across countries. It also has surprisingly little on the major changes that are occurring in world consumer markets.

The book also falls into the ‘one size fits all’ trap. Issues of being effective globally are very different for a consumer fashion business, a high tech product or service industry and a major commodity business, but this is not recognised explicitly in the book.

Fortunately, there are other books that fill the gap. Among those reviewed at the same time as this one, Wenger et al: Cultivating Communities of Practice gives an authoritative account of how to find, mobilize and build new knowledge both in a single location and across distance. Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner in the latest of their series of books on leading and managing across cultures 21 Leaders for the 21st Century expand on their dilemma methodology to show how managing effectively across cultures. Shapiro: 24/7 Innovation provides a thorough treatment of what is needed to build continuous innovation into the culture of an organization. From Global to Metanational is useful, and may help to get across the message that true global operation is very different from managing in many locations and markets from a unitary centralized mindset. But it is far from being the ‘blueprint’ that it claims to be.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2001-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0875848702

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875848702/bookwatccomau

From Mechanistic to Social System Thinking.

Author: Ackoff, Russell

Short Review:

This is a 12 page digest taken from a talk. It provides the best available brief explanation of the difference between traditional mechanistic forms of thinking and systemic thinking, how our ways of thinking evolved and why it is important to build systemic thinking skills.

Publisher: Pegasus Communications Inc

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 883823 11 0

Date Reviewed: 1997-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1883823110/bookwatccomau

From Sage to Artisan: The Nine Roles of the Value-Driven Leader.

Author: Wells, Stuart

Short Review:

Offers an extremely valuable typology with which to think about and develop the leadership role, based firmly on the imperative of a solid basis of core values. An invaluable tool for developing the leadership function in organisations and skills in individuals.

Full Review:

Every now and then there is a book that a reviewer can wholeheartedly recommend as being both practical and a genuine contribution to the way in which we think and act. This is one of them.

Stuart Wells offers a deceptively simple and very rich framework for thinking about the leadership function and for building personal and organizational leadership capacity. The model looks like this. and the whole of the book is an explanation and elaboration of the model. Points to notice about the model are:

  • first, that the explicit articulation and demonstration of a coherent set of core values lies at the base of the effectiveness of all the roles
  • second, that the author is concerned with roles, all of which contribute in different ways to the success of the organization, that collectively make a difference to organizational success and that may be exercised cooperatively by different people within a team or group. The model is not about the superhuman abilities of the ‘hero’ leader
  • third, that each role lies at the intersection between one of three leadership processes and three foci of managing effort – at different times and in different situations different combinations of roles may be critical to moving forward. Each role is itself distinctive and different from the others
  • fourth that the nine roles are learnable, but that in each individual they will be differentially developed and each individual with have natural preferences, strengths and weaknesses.

The model is focused on observable roles and their impact, rather than on:

  • the inner qualities of a leader (e.g. Jaworski, Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership)
  • the stance of a leader in relation to the authoritarian/participative continuum (e.g. Bower, The Will to Lead: Running a Business with a Network of Leaders)
  • the role of the leader in developing leaders (as Tichy, The Leadership Engine: How Winning Companies Build Leaders at Every Level
  • the way in which a network of leadership may be developed within an organization (a field of deep interest to those working with organizational learning – see Senge et al The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in a Learning Organization)

These different perspectives are complementary to each other. Wells’ distinctive contribution is to separate the discussion of important and continuing roles from the mythology of the ‘hero’ leader that is implicit or explicit in so much writing about leadership.

The author’s claims for the book are modest. He explicitly recognizes that leadership is learned from practice, not from books and he offers the book as a guide to self assessment and a guide to building practice and confidence in each role.

The first chapter is a brief introduction to the model as a whole. The second addresses the importance of core values, on the premise that:

Values drive Behavior, Behavior leads to Results

He touches on the distinction between core values (the equivalent of Argyris’ ‘Espoused Theory’- see for example Argyris’ Knowledge for Action: A Guide to Overcoming Barriers to Organizational Change) and operating values (the equivalent of Argyris’ ‘Theory in Use’) and identifies the importance of a solid base of core values practised consistently even in the face of adversity – to build integrity. Within this he discusses personal values and organizational values, the resolution of conflicts within and between these sets.

Chapters 3 through 11 discuss each of the nine leadership roles in turn, working to a consistent framework. Each chapter contains a profile of the role, a discussion of where the role fits in building organizational success, a link of the role to the foundation of values, a substantial exploration of the core skills associated with the role and how to build those skills, a warning of the signs of excessive reliance on that role and a tabular set of suggestions for activities or reflections to help build your own skills. Curiously, I thought I detected a similarity in layout to the best of the Myers-Briggs material even before I realized that the publisher is an imprint of Consulting Psychologists Press, who produce the Myers-Briggs material.

The book ends with a short chapter on strategies to build your own skills and two alternative forms of an ‘instrument’ (one self-assessed, one sent in for report back) to identify your areas of comparative strength and weakness. Used well the book can be of immense value both to an individual and an organisation. For a general overview of books on leadership on this site go to the Topic article Leadership.

Publisher: Davies-Black

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-89106-093-6

Date Reviewed: 1998-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0891060936/bookwatccomau

From the Ground Up: Six Principles for Building the New Logic Corporation.

Author: Lawler, Edward E. (III)

Short Review:

A simply written, well laid out and sensible guide to management, leadership and change management, with good chapters on teams (identifies five types of team) and on ‘Making it Happen’. The ‘new logic’ is far from new, but otherwise there is not excessive hype.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0241 1

Date Reviewed: 1996-12-01

Comments: Useful for operating managers

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787902411/bookwatccomau

Fusion Leadership: Unlocking the Subtle Forces that Change People and Organizations.

Author: Daft, R.L. and Lengel, R.H.

Short Review:

The title refers to the authors’ focus on fusion – ‘joining together’ rather than ‘fission’ – breaking apart. The book is concerned with the interaction between inner development of the individual and the culture of the group.

Full Review:

This is another of the many ’personal development’ books now appearing in the guise of ‘business leadership’. It is quite a good one of its kind, but does not stand out from the others in this already overcrowded field. It has plenty of illustrative stories and tables contrasting ‘fission’ and ‘fusion’ characteristics. The authors contrast ‘fission’ with ‘fusion’, claiming that the traditional organisation locks itself out of much of its potential by breaking up and isolating potential, both by its organisation structure and by its treatment of people.

Fusion leadership, by contrast,

can be defined as recognizing one’s subtle leadership gifts, potentials and passions and acting from them to lead organisational change and improvement… The second aspect is that fusion leaders appreciate the subtle forces in other people and create fusion processes to help people to develop and act on their gifts and potentials… The third element of fusion leadership is facilitating organizational change by understanding and using the integration of organization needs and individual subtle forces through organizational fusion.

The ‘subtle forces’ in question are:

  • mindfulness
  • vision
  • heart
  • communication
  • courage
  • integrity

The authors work through these qualities at a personal level and then apply the messages to organisational change.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-57675-023-X

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/157675023X/bookwatccomau

Future Wealth.

Author: Davis, S. and Meyer, C.

Short Review:

An upbeat forecast by advocates of every aspect of wealth being monetised in a world of never ending boom in which there are no losers. Plenty of people are likely to buy the book to ‘confirm’ their dearest wishes. Contains some interesting ideas, but little balance.

Full Review:

In 2000, the authors of Blur produced another upbeat set of predictions, this time about the growth of wealth, the monetisation of your personal capital, the emergence of risk as opportunity. It is a world that Oscar Wilde characterised as knowing ‘the price of everything and the value of nothing’ – the only wealth is that expressed in monetary terms. It was also a world in which none of the predictions of the pessimists even rated a mention – for example, the possibility that we were in the later stages of an unsustainable stock market ‘bubble’ was not even entertained.

If you believe that money is the measure of everything, that the ‘free market’ can do no wrong (and is free) and that growth in monetised wealth can continue for ever, you will love this book. The alternative approach is to treat it as belonging to a genre akin to ‘sci fantasy’ – a sort of ‘biz fantasy’. It represents a possible future, but is not balanced by any consideration of other equally (more?) plausible futures. Some propositions about futurology are appropriate:

  • nothing depreciates as fast as a prediction
  • optimists sell better than pessimists
  • powerful but usually tacit assumptions underlie most predictions
  • it is easier to ignore contrary evidence.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2000-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 57851 194 1

Date Reviewed: 2000-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1578511941/bookwatccomau

Futures That Work: Using Search Conferences to Revitalize Companies, Communities and Organizations

Author: Rehm, R. et al.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: A practical guide for using search conferences, including a description of what happens in a search conference, how to plan for one, and stories from conferences.

Publisher: New Society Press

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 086571472X

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

G

Games Teams Play: Dynamic Activities for Tapping Work Team Potential.

Author: Bendaly, Leslie

Short Review:

Trainers will probably want to add this to their library. 52 games and exercises, well indexed by skills built and by five ‘team fitness’ elements. The book starts with a diagnostic tool for assessing ‘team fitness’. Well presented, with all the necessary material.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-07-552718-9 (Pbk)

Date Reviewed: 1996-09-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0075527189/bookwatccomau

Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management.

Author: Imai, Masaaki

Short Review:

A manual of this holistic and strategic approach to quality improvement. A successor to the very successful is detailed and thorough. The Japanese terms no doubt become clear with practice.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 07 031446 2

Date Reviewed: 1999-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070314462/bookwatccomau

Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace.

Author: Zemke, R., Raines, C. and Filipczak B.

Short Review:

Examines the very different cultures, beliefs and values of the major generational groups and their relationships with each other in the context of the workplace. Provides advice on how to ensure that cross-generational groups work well together.

Full Review:

This American study of the beliefs and values of the major generational groups and their attitudes to each other provides a thorough basis for understanding issues that are likely to arise in the workplace.

The authors highlight the very different attitudes to work, life and the importance of life style between the generations. They offer ideas for dealing effectively with each generation and with the differences between them.

The book is readable and well set out. A chapter is devoted to each generation group, each with useful tabulations and comparisons. This is followed by case studies of good inter-generational relationships and a couple of chapters of advice. The book is concerned primarily with the present – that is with how these differences impact on today’s working life, but the sketches of each generation also provide insights into what may happen to work arrangements as different value systems become dominant.

An interesting and important question of course is ‘What is going to happen to business itself, its values and its relationship to wider society?’ Unfortunately this question is not even raised, the implicit assumption being that business will continue unchanged even if ways of organising and doing business change. A dangerous assumption!

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2000-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-8144-0480-4

Date Reviewed: 2000-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814404804/bookwatccomau

Getting Things Done in Today’s Organizations: The Influencing Executive.

Author: Gottlieb, Marvin R.

Short Review:

Focuses on the use of influence as opposed to power, with guidelines to improving effectiveness as an influencer and to the various styles and strategies available. Argues that an explicit understanding and use of influencing skills is critical to success in today’s organisations.

Full Review:

The setting for this book is the modern, downsized organisation, in which:

managers and supervisors are continually called upon to do more with less support and are taking on more responsibility – often with less authority. This erosion of authority, that has been the inevitable result of the continued flattening of the [organisation structure], is the medium in which the need for influence as a palpable skill germinates. This need is then fed … by ambiguity, change and insecurity, and grows to be the top leadership and survival skill required of today’s managers.

The author claims that the need is fuelled by the wide existence of two illusions that often confound sound cooperation and decision making:

the illusion that everyone is working interactively as a team and the illusion that our decision making all takes place within the ‘rational actor’ framework.

Finally, while the rhetoric in organisations is increasingly ‘knowledge is power, so share it to build our joint power’, practice too often remains ‘knowledge is power so I guard it for my personal benefit’.

The issue is that:

  • ‘[D]espite best efforts, many organizations are failing to provide the formal structures and support needed for [the necessary rich] communication to be institutionalized effectively.
  • There is rarely enough information available to make decisions on a strictly rational basis.
  • Today’s manager exists in a highly conflicted and ambiguous environment.
  • This ambiguity, instead of causing managers to seek out more information, causes just the opposite reaction.

Further, pressures tend to cause managers to be more task focused, and more linear in their approach, but:

the challenge…despite all the pressures to the contrary, is to shift their focus away from task and more toward the people in the organization. More than ever before, it is imperative to develop an informal network within the organization that can be called on and relied upon to provide the necessary tactical and political support necessary to achieve the desired goals.

What kind of network?

A classification is offered of four kinds of network, two of them being varieties of personal network, of which the so-called ‘radial personal network’ is suggested as the most important to achieving influence. This is a network in which the people with whom the individual interacts do not necessarily interact with each other and the interaction is not particularly frequent. In such circumstances the interactions are usually particularly information rich. He argues that these networks are built through ‘an ability to demonstrate an interest in the personal as well as the work-related concerns of your colleagues.

We meet them on a human level; we interact with them in a manner that is both comfortable and understandable to them; we gain their trust and alliance and ultimately, we lead them in the direction we want them to go.

The rest of the book takes these principles further. The four chapters in Part 1 are concerned with understanding influence, differentiating it from power and identifying major styles and strategies for influencing others.

Part 2 is concerned with application, with seven chapters discussing situations and applications of influence. There are three appendices with simple inventories or questionnaires covering aspects of networking, which some may find useful. Much of the material is a careful and useful codification of principles that are in themselves quite unsurprising and there are times when sections descend into a catalogue of what should be fairly obvious.

However, it is very useful to have a book that makes such a clear distinction between the exercise of power and that of influence and that gives comprehensive coverage of the nature and dynamics of different kinds of networks. It is also useful to have access to detailed discussion and it is certainly true that most of us need reminding of things that at some level we ‘know’.

The figures included in the book provide quite a useful summary/reminder of things to be borne in mind when seeking to develop networks or to influence action in accordance with your needs. What I find a bit disconcerting is that there is no discussion of the ethics of using influence. It appears to be simply assumed that finding ways of getting people to do what we want is a legitimate aim in itself. I have the same problem – or an even greater one – with Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), which not only aims to get others to do our will but aims to do so in ways that leave the subject unaware that it is happening. Just as the boundaries of the legitimate use of power are an important area of concern, so should be the boundaries of the legitimate use of influence and ways of influencing people.

Publisher: Quorum

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 56720 214 4

Date Reviewed: 2000-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1567202144/bookwatccomau

Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge.

Author: Bellman, Geoffrey

Short Review:

A valuable guide to professionals in support roles on how to support useful change and take charge of one’s own life while working in support of others. This 1992 book is included as a useful common sense guide ‘for the rest of us’.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 1992

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 881052 02 8

Date Reviewed: 1997-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1881052028/bookwatccomau

Global Profit AND Global Justice: Using Your Money to Change the World

Author: Abbey, Deb et al

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Shows how you can use your money creatively to change the world for the better. It aims to empower people to leverage capital for progressive social and environmental change.

Publisher: NewSociety

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0865715025

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Good Governance, Democratic Societies and Globalization

Author: Munshi & Abraham(Eds)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Discusses good governance in democratic societies in the context of globalisation from a cross-cultural perspective

Publisher: Sage

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0761998489

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Gower Handbook of Project Management.

Author: Turner and Simister (Eds)

Short Review:

Described as ‘an encyclopaedia for the profession of project management’, this 830 page reference manual has 45 chapters in seven parts covering every aspect of management with which a project manager may be concerned. Each chapter covers an issue (health and safety, ethics, contract law, information systems) in considerable depth, with an excellent listing of references at the end of each chapter to more detailed texts and to linked sections of the Handbook. It is written for the professional and the formal student of project management rather than for the generalist who happens to become engaged in a project.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 2000

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0566081385

Date Reviewed: 2002-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566081385/bookwatccomau

Gower Handbook of Teamworking

Author: Stewart, R. (Ed.)

Short Review:

A comprehensive handbook, consisting of four parts – Teams and the Organization; Understanding Teams; Managing Teams; Teams and Technology. 32 chapters with contributions by some well-known experts in their field. It aims to bring together different perspectives for different team contexts.

Full Review:

Together with Sundstrom‘s Supporting Work Team Effectiveness: Best Management Practices for Fostering High Performance these two books are intended as references for team managers and team members. Both are collections of articles by a variety of authors. There is a difference in flavour between the two.

The Gower Handbook is primarily concerned with teams in the context of the wider organisation and tries (successfully) to provide a wide range of perspectives and to convey the variety of contexts and purposes in which teams operate. Supporting Work Team Effectiveness is concerned primarily with team performance and best practice. It gives much less attention to the diversity of teams and surprisingly little attention to the effect of personality, preferences and how well they are matched on performance. Both, in their own field are thorough, the authors selected are authorities in their field and the books are well laid out and indexed as references. Both are worth considering for the corporate library or for HR professionals who spend a lot of time fostering team development.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: UK & USA

ISBN: 0 566 07968 2

Date Reviewed: 1999-12-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566079682/bookwatccomau

Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Next Generation.

Author: Tapscott, Don

Short Review:

An interesting study of the 1977-97 generation, their relationship with the net and implications for E-commerce, the development of the Net and societal and family life. Valuable background for anyone concerned with scenario building, and also interesting reading.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1998

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-07-134798-4 (Pbk)

Date Reviewed: 2000-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0071347984/bookwatccomau

H

Handbook for Creative Team Leaders.

Author: Rickards, T. and Moger, S.

Short Review:

Offers ‘a new approach which can enable teams of all kinds to achieve their creative potential.’ The authors have developed a system incorporating a number of familiar and less familiar tools. The focus is strongly on building creativity in teams.

Full Review:

This is an examination of what is needed to build ‘dream teams’. It is based on the premise that ‘outstanding team performance arises from behaviours that combine learning and creating, triggered by appropriate leadership actions’. Such teams demonstrate strong interaction between seven factors:

  • a strong platform of understanding
  • shared vision
  • a creative climate
  • ownership of ideas
  • resilience to setbacks
  • applied networking skills
  • learn from experience (reflective learning). mediated by creative leadership, which in turn exhibits:
  • an attitude that strives for mutuality, win-win, both-and outcomes
  • an empowering and motivating style
  • use of strategies and techniques to encourage learning and problem solving
  • consonance between rhetoric and action.

This list is solid and useful, without being surprising. The strongest focus in the book is on bringing about a creative climate in order to develop new perspectives and break through ‘glass ceilings’. For this they rely heavily on varieties of brain-storming technique and mind-mapping.

Disappointingly however, they do not introduce any of the techniques of soft systems mapping that are so useful to building better understanding of the systemic issues with which teams are typically concerned. It provides a useful set of tools for team builders without offering dramatic new perspectives. While it stresses the importance of learning, you will need to refer to Nancy DixonThe Organizational Learning cycle for detailed advice on the attitudes and practices necessary for successful group learning.

Surprisingly also there is no real discussion of the process by which team members are selected (or self-selected) or of the value of an understanding of the system on which the team is acting as a guide to team structure. For this, you need to refer to Kinlaw, Belbin or Dotlich.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: UK & USA

ISBN: 0566 08051 6

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566080516/bookwatccomau

Handbook of Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty Measurement.

Author: Hill N. and Alexander, J.

Short Review:

A simply written and thorough manual covering the rationale for and design of research into customer loyalty and satisfaction. It is written for the researcher rather than for the user of research. The early chapters establish the link between customer behaviour, customer satisfaction, loyalty and profit. The rest of the book works through exploratory and detailed research, PR, forecasting and related topics.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 2000

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0566081946

Date Reviewed: 2002-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566081946/bookwatccomau

Harnessing the Unicorn.

Author: O’Reilly, Pat

Short Review:

A book about opportunity management and creativity that is ‘the first to look at opportunity and differentiate it from risk’. It seeks to help us to ‘break out of our self-imposed box’. Halfway between a novel and a management text.

Full Review:

Written somewhat in the style of Goldratt’s The Goal, this is set out as a novel or extended case study. It ends with a 14 page chapter by chapter summary that outlines the key points.

The central point is an important one: the greatest opportunities tend to lurk where the risks are also highest. A single focus on managing and minimising risk encourages the use of analytical and other tools that actually work systematically against recognising and exploiting opportunities. Further, risks tend to be continuous, while opportunities appear in, often narrow, windows. Opportunity management requires a style that encourages standing back from the detail and unleashing creativity.

The book offers some basic techniques for systematically encouraging creativity. The book may appeal to those – and there are many – who work in risk averse cultures and want to find a way of balancing this perspective. My advice is to read the summary, then scan a chapter (I suggest Chapter 5) to see if the style and approach appeal to you.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0-566-07974-7

Date Reviewed: 1999-03-01

Comments: Useful to anyone concerned with risk management

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566079747/bookwatccomau

Harvard Business Review on What Makes a Leader.

Author: Harvard Business Review (Ed.)

Short Review:

Part of HBR’s continuing series of paperbacks arranging articles from the review thematically. This volume has two articles by Daniel Goleman (of Emotional Intelligence fame), and at least two other articles that have been precursors to books. As is true of all the series, the articles are well chosen to illustrate current issues in the selected field.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2001

Country: USA

ISBN: 1578516374

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1578516374/bookwatccomau

Having Their Cake: How the City and Big Bosses are Consuming UK Business

Author: Young, D. and Scott, P.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: A damning account of neglect, greed and incompetence, and the irresponsible destruction of corporate Britain’s wealth.

Publisher: Kogan Page

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0749438614

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Heads You Win: How the Best Companies Think.

Author: Spitzer, Q. and Evans, R.

Short Review:

A sound overview of decision processes, with a strong focus on linear analytical techniques, but not ignoring systems thinking, and with a detailed appendix on the ‘Kepner Tregoe Rational Processes’. Good exposition of fairly standard processes, with many examples.

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-684-80431-X

Date Reviewed: 1998-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/068480431X/bookwatccomau

High Flyers: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders.

Author: McCall, Morgan W.

Short Review:

A book on identification and development of future leaders that focuses on identifying and fostering people with the capacity to remain open to continuous learning. Concerned the with the process of development but gives little attention to definition or context.

Full Review:

This is a book about executive development, with the obligatory addition of the word ‘leaders’ to the title. It is curious that no definition of a ‘leader’ or leadership roles is offered and there is no mention of organisational context or leadership roles. The concern is with the process of developing people, presumably (and dangerously) regardless of current or expected context. What the author offers is fairly conventional. Another book covering similar territory to many predecessors should not be necessary, but it is sadly obvious that more organisations still ‘allow executive development to happen’ than treat it as a core element in their future competitive advantage.

In general the messages are simple. Leadership can be learned and, centrally, continual learning is critical to effective leadership. Development systems must be based on and part of the strategic thrust of the organisation. Much of development has to do with exposure to the right range of experiences, which requires careful succession and/or mobility planning as well as more conventional ‘development’ experiences. The organisation must value and support helping people to succeed. Any successful executive is likely to experience periods of ‘derailment’ at various times in his or her career. A test of the organisation is how well it supports people in this situation and how effectively it judges irretrievable situations. There are a number of tables that usefully encapsulate some of the issues in these themes.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-87584-336-0

Date Reviewed: 1999-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875843360/bookwatccomau

High Growth Companies: Driving the Tiger.

Author: Ahrens, Thomas

Short Review:

A research based analysis of the lessons to be drawn from the experience of high growth companies. The 2nd edition has been updated and new material added. It is concerned with the strategies and techniques necessary to maintain rapid growth.

Full Review:

Whereas Baghai et al. are concerned with simultaneous management of the ‘three horizons’ of today’s business, tomorrow’s businesses and long term options, Ahrens focuses entirely on the second of these horizons – how to win the competitive/cooperative race to dominance and at the same time maximise the total market growth during the rapid growth stage of the exploitation of new and fast growing markets. In 1991 the book was well ahead of its time.

The basic argument remains valid, but now reads less freshly. A rather fuller revision woud have been an advantage. I probably would have reacted more favourably if it were not that I read the book at the same time as Baghai et al., which is better.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0 566 08030 3

Date Reviewed: 1999-03-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566080303/bookwatccomau

High Technology and Low-income Communities: Prospects for the Positive Use of Advanced Information Technology.

Author: Schön, Sanyal and Mitchell

Short Review:

Analyses how low-income communities may be affected by the changes surrounding IT advance. Suggests initiatives and strategies for using IT to benefit low-income urban communities. Included for its valuable coverage of a significant social and business field that is often neglected.

Full Review:

These are the papers from a colloquium in 1996, which brought together a group who were interested in advanced IT and its use in urban planning, with a group of activists primarily concerned with the plight of America’s central cities. The two groups had widely different perspectives and interests, but both agreed that the rapid advance in IT was a key factor shaping the policy environment.

Part 1 contains five papers setting the context: what is happening to cities and the urban poor; what is happening to the use of IT; how do and can these intersect?

Part 2 contains ten papers on strategies of Action, covering access; the implications of IT for governance; the scope for encouraging entrepreneurship; the educational computer and the community computer. To quote from the back cover:

Part 2… proposes five initiatives to using computers and electronic communications to benefit low-income urban communities:

  • to provide access to the new technologies in ways that enable low-income people to become active producers rather than passive users
  • to use the new technologies to improve the dialogue between public agencies and low-income neighbourhoods
  • to help low-income youth explore the entrepreneurial potential of information technologies
  • to develop approaches to education that take advantage of the educational capabilities of the computer
  • to promote the ‘community computer’: applications of computers and communications technology that foster community development.

Part 3 is a single paper summing up the conclusions and in particular the implications for policy at a Federal, State and local level. The book will be valuable to policy makers and others concerned with urban poverty; the context is American but the issues and many of the proposed strategies are relevant to poor communities anywhere.

Publisher: MIT Press

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-262-69199-X

Date Reviewed: 1999-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/026269199X/bookwatccomau

hightech.high touch: Technology and our Search for Meaning.

Author: Naisbitt, J. with Naisbitt, N. and Philips, D.

Short Review:

A breezy and basically up-beat popularisation of the theme of reconciling technology with our values rather than a major contribution to our thinking on these issues.

Full Review:

This is a book for Naisbitt aficionados. It is an ‘oh gosh, oh gee, oh wow!’ tour of developing technologies and their actual or potential impact on the human condition. Broadly it is divided into a section on the impact of computer games and their violence on the developing psyches of children (and adults), a section on the many and varied impacts of bio-technology, and some broad general comments on the impact of our addiction to technology – everything from mobile phones to wired homes – on ‘the simple life’ and on our perceptions and use of time. It is offered as an analysis of how to reconcile technology with human values but does not in fact provide much more than platitudes. There is however quite a wide ranging discussion of the ethical and theological issues that need to be resolved as technology advances.

As you would expect, Naisbitt and his colleagues offer some catchy phrases – ‘hightech hitouch’, ‘Technologically Intoxicated Zone’ and so on. It is very readable and does not make severe demands on the reader.

Publisher: Nicholas Brealey

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 8 85788 255 5

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-01

Comments: General reading

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1857882601/bookwatccomau

Hitotsubashi on Knowledge Management

Author: Takeuchi, H. & Nonaka, I.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Delves behind the theory of knowledge management, bridging the practices of large companies with start-ups.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-470-82074-8

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

How to Get Best Value from HR: The Shared Services Option.

Author: Reilly, P. and Williams, T.

Short Review:

This is a very thorough review of what needs to be considered in any decision to move to shared services or outsourcing across the range of HR activities. The analysis is backed by a large number of brief examples and case studies. If you are considering outsourcing some or all HR functions (a management fashion that seems to have peaked, with some very mixed experience round the world), then this book will certainly help you to work through the issues.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 2003

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0566084953

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566084953/bookwatccomau

How to Manage Experience Sharing: From Organisational surprises to Organisational Knowledge.

Author: Andriessen and Falbruch (Eds.)

Short Review:

This collection of 18 papers on aspects of organisational learning from experience (successes and failures), particularly in the context of high risk enterprises, will be of interest primarily to academics in the field. Chapters 1, 2 and 18 provide an introduction to the themes and set of conclusions of wider interest, while Chapter 11 offers an interesting and useful classification of different types of community of practice and the situations in which each is effective.

Publisher: Elsevier (Butterworth Heinemann)

Year Published: 2004

Country: Netherlands, UK & USA

ISBN: 0080443494

Date Reviewed: 2005-06-25

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0080443494/bookwatccomau

How to Measure and Manage Your Corporate Reputation

Author: Hannington, T.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Shows you how to measure and understand stakeholder influence via reputation assessment research techniques and, once you have done that, how to build and manage a reputation management plan.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0 566 08552 6

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

HR from the Heart: Inspiring Stories and Strategies for Building the People Side of Great Business

Author: Sartain, L, with Finney, M.

Short Review:

Reveals how HR professionals create a synergy between business objectives and the needs and wants of employees. The book is equal parts motivational message and how-to.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-8144-0756-0

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Human Ecology, Human Economy: Ideas for an Ecologically Sustainable Future.

Author: Diesendorf, M. and Hamilton C. (Eds)

Short Review:

A collection of 12 articles describing aspects of the relationship between economics and environmental sustainability. It gives first class and very approachable coverage of this important subject. Contains excellent discussion on pathways to sustainable development.

Full Review:

The broad aim of this book is to develop some of the basic ideas, concepts and tools that are needed to create a set of preferred futures for the Earth.

It succeeds admirably. Written in Australia, most of the content is equally applicable anywhere else. It provides a thorough overview of the relationship between the two disciplines, which will be valuable to anyone concerned with ecological sustainability – which should certainly include anyone in business or government.

In style, it is nearest to a textbook, but it has been well edited for readability by a general audience.

Economics is a vital part of learning to live on the Earth, our home. Economics can help us to achieve a wiser use of our resources. But the conventional neo-classical economic approach to environmental protection has several serious shortcomings: it fails to take into account the biophysical laws which are fundamental to ecology; it attempts to treat the environment as a set of goods and services that are sold in actual or hypothetical markets; it ignores the roles of social institutions other than firms and households in determining outcomes; and it is based on an ethical standpoint that works against ecological sustainability and social equity.

The articles which expand on this core issue cover basic concepts and a range of case studies covering agriculture, energy use and urban design, with two chapters on pathways to ecologically sustainable development.

Each chapter ends with a summary, so it is not necessary to read every chapter to get the gist of the arguments.

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 86448 288 5

Date Reviewed: 1999-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1864482885/bookwatccomau

Human Resource Champions: The Next Agenda for Adding Value and Delivering Results.

Author: Ulrich, Dave

Short Review:

A leading educator in HR, but I found the book disappointing. Makes the point that HR must add value in what they deliver and expands on the implications. But his agenda is largely traditional, he treats a highly systemic function as linear and leaves out some key issues.

Publisher: Harvard Business School Press

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-87584-719-6

Date Reviewed: 1997-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875847196/bookwatccomau

Human Resource Development Research Handbook: Linking Research and Practice.

Author: Swanson and Holton (eds)

Short Review:

A book for the HRD specialist which advocates the value of HRD research and its fields of interest, methodologies and applications. An attempt to marry the academic and the practical which is only partially successful. Has a critique of the Kirkpatrick model.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 881052 68 0

Date Reviewed: 1998-09-01

Comments: Recommended for human resources specialists

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1881052680/bookwatccomau

Human Resource Development: Perspectives, Roles and Practice Choices.

Author: Sofo, Francesco

Short Review:

Thorough and wide-ranging, the author and his collaborators seek to put HRD in a comprehensive framework. Fairly dense reading. Well fitted as a course textbook (its primary objective) and as a reference. A bit short on the systemic interactions between culture and HR practice.

Publisher: BPP – Woodslane

Year Published: 1999

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 875680 74 8

Date Reviewed: 2000-06-01

I

Idon Scenario Thinking: How to Navigate the Uncertainties of Unknown Futures.

Author: Galt, Chicoine-Piper and Hodgson

Short Review:

A very practical and thorough approach to building scenarios and using them for business planning. Well set out and easy to follow, it provides a guide for planning teams and for facilitators. Promotes the Idon software and tools but can be used without them.

Full Review:

This is a simple and highly visual handbook on scenario thinking, a step by step translation of the ideas so well put forward by van der Heijden:ScenariosSchwartz:The Art of the Long View and others, into a simple and practical way in which a team can build its own scenarios and develop scenario thinking within the organisation. It is also a guide for those who facilitate such a process.

At August 2004, the book was being reprinted. When available, it is listed at Amazon.co.uk. If you are seriously interested in moving an organisation toward use of scenario thinking, it is well worth getting. It is logically set out, easy to read and the examples are clear, useful and provide an excellent basis for understanding both the technique and the underlying ideas, with every step excellently illustrated. For many people, it is all that is needed to get an effective start into using scenarios as a tool for building strategies. For those who want to go deeper, the bibliography lists the main books in the field (these are also reviewed on this site – see the topic article Scenarios and Futuring).

The book is produced by Idon, a company that is best known for the sets of hexagon tools that it produces as an aid to planning and learning. It promotes the use of these tools and uses them as the basis for the illustrations in the book. My own experience with the Idon materials has been as an aid to ‘soft systems’ thinking and, while I have only used them in a limited way, there is no doubt of their value. However, the Idon tools are not essential to the method; plenty of people use Post-its or simple whiteboarding with good results. It sticks to what I think of as the ‘classical’ or ‘Shell’ approach to scenario building based on the view of scenarios as alternative equally plausible futures, to be used to challenge and provide a test bed for alternative strategies and to build flexibility of thinking among the group. It does not go into the variant of scenario thinking and planning that is concerned with identifying and working towards desired futures. This is not a criticism of the book, which admirably does what it seeks to do. It is simply a reminder that for some groups and some occasions the alternative approach to scenarios is valid and it involves the use of different tools.

In particular, it takes the group into the arena of Future Search (see the article Scenarios and Futuringreferenced above), which is a highly complementary set of techniques to use in situations where the group may be able to influence what future emerges. A famous example is the Mont Fleur Scenarios in South Africa, which started as a ‘classical’ exercise, but turned into an exercise in bringing a desired future into existence.

Publisher: Idon Ltd

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0 9530421 0 3

Date Reviewed: 1998-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0953042103/bookwatccomau

Implementation: Making Workplace Innovation and Technical Change Happen.

Author: Carlopio, James

Short Review:

Offered as a step-by-step guide to carrying through a social process of change. It is concerned with the individual and group changes required to bring about organisational change and the steps required. Seeks to be systemic in its approach, but tends to read as a catalogue. For Australian readers contains useful local examples. Includes a diskette with presentation and questionnaire material.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1998

Country: Australia

ISBN: 0 07 470665 9

Date Reviewed: 2001-03-01

Implementing e-Government: An Executive Report for Civil Servants and their Advisors

Author: Evans, Gloria

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: A guide to consultants and civil servants charged with the process of putting public services on-line. Publisher: Gower Year

Published: 2003

ISBN: 0 566 08553 4

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart.

Author: Rummler, Gary & Brache

Short Review:

One of the earlier books to point out the importance of tracing whole processes across boundaries and still useful for its detailed guides to action. Chapters 1-3 are excellent. Rather ‘Taylorist’ in its language and assumptions.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass Publishers

Year Published: 1990

ISBN: 1-55542-214-4

Date Reviewed: 1995-05-01

Comments: Recommended for quality managers, process managers

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1555422144/bookwatccomau

In Good Company: How Social Capital Makes Organizations Work.

Author: Cohen, Don & Prusak, Laurence

Short Review:

An extremely valuable and carefully argued reminder of the central importance of social capital to business success. It works through all aspects of organizational social capital and its impact and provides a valuable balance to the many books on the virtues of impersonal efficiency and of ‘virtual’ working.

Full Review:

Whether your main interest is in organisation development, performance improvement, knowledge management or human resource management, you will find this book essential, and very approachable, reading. It is notable for its common sense, moderation and clarity and for the relevance of the examples and stories it contains.

The authors go out of their way to tell us that they are, in a sense, saying nothing new. They are reminding us of essential truths that are too often being forgotten in the hype about ‘breakthrough strategies’, the ‘new economy’ and the ‘virtual world’. Effective, trusting and continuing direct human relationships lie at the the heart of all long-term business success (and, indeed, success in any field), and it is only too easy for these relationships to be unintentionally damaged or destroyed in pursuit of other business goals. It is these relationships and the attitudes, norms and even physical infrastructure that support them that make up ‘social capital’ in which one can invest or (usually unthinkingly) disinvest. While development and maintenance of social capital is entirely compatible with efficiency and cost minimisation, pursuit of the latter without giving careful attention to possible consequences for social capital is likely to lead to very counterproductive results. They also stress that a mechanistic or ‘social engineering approach to trying to build social capital is equally likely to be counterproductive.

This is a book about the realities of how a sense of community, shared beliefs and shared purpose is built and therefore includes sections on the value of such human activities as gossip and social talk as well as on more formal processes of networking and, importantly, the significance of the way space is set out and used. The authors are meticulous in their acknowledgement of the contributions of others, for example Brown: The Social Life of Information and a number of other books (listed in the link page to this newsletter), but it is unfortunate that there is no bibliography included.

The seven chapters explore each major aspect of social capital and its challenges, each concluding with a section on investing in the particular aspects discussed. The chapters are:

In Good Company, which gives an overview of the book and the concerns of the authors and a definition of social capital and its scope.* Trust, which devotes a whole chapter to this vital foundation of social capital, and what builds and what destroys trust.* Networks and Communities, a careful overview of the social basis of organisation, how networks and communities are formed and their benefits and pathologies.* Space and Time to Connect explores ‘the power of place’, space as a forum, a home and a symbol and the limits of ‘cyberspace’ and then examines time ‘The Final Frontier’. The authors remark ‘Even leaders convinced of the value of social time in organizations find it almost impossible to act on that belief’ and on the dangers of ‘zero response time’ when few demands are routine.* Social Talk and Storytelling discusses the distinction between ‘information sharing and conversation, including a section on the importance of the art of conversation. It then goes into the importance of stories, myths and storytelling (with several references to Howard Gardner‘s Leading Minds and to storytelling in scenario building). Their message is that storytelling is an essential leadership skill, which both communicates ‘the values and norms of organizational culture’ and ‘inspires action in ways that abstractions do not’. (See Denning:The Springboard for a detailed discussion of th role of stroytelling.)* The Challenge of Volatility is concerned with two phenomena; the steep rise in job mobility in many industries, and the rapid change in organizational policies and practices, often associated with mergers and acquisitions and with downsizing and rehiring across the economic cycle. It goes through the costs of these – both direct and in destruction of social capital – draws on examples of organizations that have been able to combat the trends and draws conclusions about how to invest in stability in a changing world.* The Challenge of Virtuality admits that no-one really knows about the advantages and limitations of the growing number of channels through which we can exchange information without meeting, but goes on to challenge some of the more glib of the prophets of a ‘virtual world’. The authors do not have ‘the answer’, but offer thoughts on the continuing importance of human contact and on how to maintain a ‘balancing act’ in the face of many contrary pressures and continuing rapid development.The book ends with a short Epilogue. It and the book as a whole form a powerful plea that the importance of social capital be brought back more fully into organizational consciousness as a vital (perhaps the vital) ingredient in continuing organizational success.

Publisher: Harvard Business School Press

Year Published: 2001-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 087584913X

Date Reviewed: 2001-08-01

Comments: Recommended for everyone in an organisation.

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/087584913X/bookwatccomau

Information First: Integrating Knowledge and Information Architecture for Business Advantage

Author: Evernden, Roger & Elaine

Short Review:

Here is a book that is specifically devoted to information architecture, custodianship and use. It places information architecture in the context of the efficient management of global business and examines in detail the need for improved structuring and management of information. Successive chapters deal with the key factors in information management, the ‘what and why, when and how’, issues of responsibility for collection, processing and maintenance of information, navigation, presentation to make the information accessible and encourage its use, and the continuous process of improvement, updating and housekeeping. The book is written partly to persuade non-specialists of the importance of these functions and is therefore written in non-technical terms. It will also be useful to the specialist, perhaps particularly in carrying the message of what needs to be done, why and how to the decision makers.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 2003

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0750658584

Date Reviewed: 2005-04-15

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0750658584/bookwatccomau

Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy.

Author: Shapiro, C. and Varian, H.

Short Review:

A practical guide to extracting value from information assets (as distinct from knowledge assets). It expounds the competitive ‘rules’ for successful capture and lock-in of information based markets. Notable for the clarity of its translation of economic principles into guides to strategic action.

Full Review:

Managers in the ‘new economy’ operate in a very different economic world from that of classical economics. Most of the principles, such as increasing rather than diminishing returns, zero marginal costs, the fact that information is the only resource that you can both sell and keep, have already been well outlined for the general reader. Brian Arthur, Dale Neef and Lester Thurow are examples of authors who have set out the principles and provided some guidelines for managers.

Shapiro and Varian’s approach has been from the perspective of issues with which managers and entrepreneurs have to deal.

After a brief introduction to the information economy, they address the strategic implications of three themes:

  • differentiation of products and prices
  • the phenomenon of ‘lock-in’ to a particular product, supplier or platform
  • the impact of positive feedback – the ‘winner take all’ phenomenon – that is so common to new economy products and services.

Chapter by chapter the authors deal with issues of:

  • how to price information goods,
  • strategies for developing and positioning different versions
  • managing copyright, copy protection and similar issues
  • how to avoid lock-in to a particular company, product or platform as a user – and how to create it if you are a supplier
  • managing networks to benefit from positive feedback – and the strategies open to innovators in network markets
  • the whole issue of cooperation and alliances, complementation strategies, the management of open standards and, in a separate chapter, the assets you need to take into a standards war and appropriate strategies in different situations of the evolution of new products and new standards.

In the last chapter, the authors take up the same three main themes and look at the implications of each for public policy.

While its coverage was reasonably comprehensive, I found this the one slightly disappointing chapter, because its analysis of policy and policy options was rather bland, tending to accept conventional wisdom. The real battle ground for public policy in a globalised information economy is international, and the issues of international policy and international agreement and the implications of failure to agree are not addressed. To take just one area, intellectual property rights and their enforcement are an international minefield. This failure is a relatively minor blemish to a very useful book.

The advice for business people dealing with issues in the information economy is clear, directly relevant to real and pressing issues, well organised and well summarised (with ‘headlines’ at the end of each chapter). The examples are well chosen and well developed.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 087584863X

Date Reviewed: 2000-11-01

Comments: Useful for managers in the ‘new economy’

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/087584863X/bookwatccomau

Innovation: Driving Product, Process, and Market Change.

Author: Roberts, Edward (Ed.)

Short Review:

A compilation of 12 articles first published in the MIT Sloan Management Review between 1993 and 2002, arranged in three parts: The articles are all of good quality and collectively cover most of the core issues of successful innovation other than a specific focus on the culture of the organization (culture is discussed within many of the articles but not as an issue in itself).

Publisher: Jossey Bass

Year Published: 2002

Country: UK

ISBN: 0787962139

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787962139/bookwatccomau

Innovative Forms of Organizing: International Perspectives

Author: Pettigrew, A. et al. (Eds)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: A sequel to The Innovating Organization, it establishes and develops three strong themes: organizing and strategizing; complementarities, change and performance; and the management of dualities in the modern corporation.

Publisher: SAGE

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0761964363

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Insights on Leadership: Service Stewardship, Spirit and Servant Leadership.

Author: Spears, Larry C. (Ed)

Short Review:

Some 30 authors, including a number of ‘great names’ have combined to write about ‘servant leadership’, under the headings of Service, Stewardship, Spirit and Servant-Leadership. Most articles are original. A very useful addition even though the field is overcrowded .

Full Review:

This is a collection of an unusually high quality, both in choice of contributors and in what each has chosen to say. As each essay is comparatively brief and most are evidently written from the heart, and the language is generally clear and free of jargon, the book makes very good plane or bedside reading.

The editor, Larry Spears, is Executive Director of The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and the collection is concerned with contemporary understanding and application of Robert Greenleaf’s principles of servant-leadership. The collection starts with a Foreword by Stephen Covey that is Covey at his very best, followed by Larry Spears’ excellent Introduction, which gives some background on Greenleaf and his influence, identifies the ten principles of servant-leadership and traces the growing impact of Greenleaf’s ideas on contemporary management practice.

The essays are arranged in four parts: Service, Stewardship, Spirit, and Servant-Leadership. The first essay is a short extract from an essay by Greenleaf and sets the scene for others by his reference to Herman Hesse’s Journey to the East and its deep influence on his own thinking. It is essential reading before going to the others. Greenleaf foresees that the principles underlying servant-leadership will eventually become a major force, but that it will take a long time.

A new moral principle is emerging, which holds that the only authority deserving one’s allegiance is that which is freely and knowingly granted by the led to the leader in response to, and in proportion to, the clearly evident stature of the leader. Those who choose to follow this principle will not casually accept the authority of existing institutions. Rather, they will freely respond only to individuals who are chosen as leaders because they are proven and trusted as servants. (author’s emphasis) To the extent that this principle prevails in the future, the only truly viable institutions are those that are predominantly servant-led. The servant-leader is servant first… Becoming a servant-leader begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. For such people, it will be a later choice to serve – after leadership is established… The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.

Among the other 29 essays, everyone will have their own favourites. Mine include: First, a highly unusual essay by Robert Kelley called Followership in a Leadership World. It puts followership in context,gives it honour, and identifies it as a powerful route to humane leadership. He is one who interprets the Hesse story differently from Greenleaf, pointing out that, without the servant-followership that the mythical Leo displayed, organisations and leaders fail.

The negative image of followership in American work and social structure is every bit as powerful as the glittery popular notions of leadership. And I argue here as I have in my other writings that it is every bit as inaccurate. Exemplary followership means being actively engaged in helping the organization succeed while exercising independent , critical judgment of goals, tasks, potential problems, and methods. Exemplary followers have the ability to work cooperatively with a leader to accomplish the organization’s goals even where there are personality or workplace differences. They are key players in both planning courses of action and implementing them in the field.

He offers a matrix of follower styles on the axes of dependent or independent thinking and passivity or action, offers approaches to developing exemplary followership and gives case studies of the importance of such people to the health of an organisation.

Parker Palmer, in Leading from Within, develops his essay round the theme that

A leader is a person who has an unusual degree of power to project onto other people his or her shadow, or his or her light. A leader is a person who has an unusual degree of power to create the conditions under which other people must live and move and have their being, conditions that can either be as illuminating as heaven or as shadowy as hell. A leader must take special responsibility for what’s going on inside his or her own self, inside his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good. The shadow lives of leaders are inevitably projected onto institutions and society. If they are to create less shadow and more light, leaders need to ride certain monsters all the way down. Here is a bestiary of five of those monsters…

  • deep insecurity about their own identity, their own worth, in particular a terror of what will happen if our institutional identity were to disappear.
  • a perception that the universe ifs essentially hostile to human interests and that life is fundamentally a battleground
  • ‘functional atheism’ – the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with me.
  • fear of the natural chaos of life, leading to a devotion to eliminating all remnants of chaos from the world
  • the denial of death ‘Leaders everywhere demand that they themselves and the people who work for them, artificially maintain things that are no longer alive, maybe never have been.’

This bald catalogue excerpted from the text conceals a wonderful and deeply reflective discussion of the shadow, and finding pathways to the inner light. As a final example, John P. Schuster’s ‘Servants, Egos and Shoeshines: A World of Sacramental Possibility’ reflects on the source of the negative connotations of service and servant and uses that as a way into discussion of the balance to be maintained between the ego and the self and exploration of the concept of work as sacrament – a sign of grace. An excellent book for any leader or aspiring leader to own and refer to.

Publisher: Jonathan Wiley

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 471 17634 6

Date Reviewed: 1988-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471176346/bookwatccomau

Intentional Revolutions: A Seven Point Strategy for Transforming Organizations.

Author: Nevis, E.C., Lancourt, J., & Vassallo, H. G.

Short Review:

Another book confirming that organisational transformation requires simultaneous use of multiple channels of influence. Sound and thorough but not very easy to read. A bit pedestrian but still a useful addition to the bookshelf.

Full Review:

The authors seek to synthesise a number of strands of management thought on large scale organisational change. They owe a large – and acknowledged – debt to Schein (but curiously fail to cite his very important Organizational Culture and Leadership in their extensive references) and build on theory stretching back to Lewin and McGregor. Their distinctive contribution is a three dimensional model of Transformational Change. Most of the book is devoted to working through the application and implications of this model.

The first dimension specifies four phases of transformational change, linked in a process flow cycle. They label these phases:

  • Traditional - a curious name based on the authors’ view that this phase is characterised by reliance on traditional problem solving approaches
  • Exploratory - in which there is recognition that transformation is needed but the scope and specific dimensions are not clear
  • Generative - in which there is an environment of open communication, participation and empowerment
  • Internalization - in which ‘organizational learning has become a fully legitimate activity – which may lead to recognition of a need for further transformation and a recycle to the exploratory phase.

The second dimension is concerned with Strategies for Resocialization, where ‘resocialization’ is described as a complex process of influencing people in ways that make them willing to think and act differently. The authors identify seven such strategies:

1. Persuasive communication2. Participation3. Expectancy (the inducement of self-fulfilling prophecies)4. Role modelling5. Extrinsic rewards6. Structural rearrangement7. CoercionMuch of the book is devoted to the exploration of these strategies and how they should be used in combination at each stage in the transformational process.

The third dimension is the Management of Multiple Realities - recognition of legitimate diverse perception, leading to enriched solutions and reducing resistance to change. This is almost precisely the realm with which the discipline of working with mental models is concerned in Learning Organisation practice. This model is useful, but its articulation is, to me, weak compared with the best offered in learning organisation practice. The treatment of multiple realities – or mental models – is notably weak and, of the ‘seven strategies’, I also found the treatment of structure – ‘Structural Rearrangement’ notably uni-dimensional. It is much better treated in Fritz’ Corporate Tides and in sections on structure in The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook.

The book ends with a chapter on integration of the strategies. It recognises, but fails fully to articulate the systemic nature of transformational change and fails to provide or refer to the tools which are needed for systemic understanding.

The model is useful and thought provoking; the treatment is disappointing, though the book does a service in reinforcing recognition that uni-dimensional approaches to change seldom if ever succeed and in focusing on the socio-cultural aspects of change as a counterbalance to the technical focus of much of the reengineering literature.

Publisher: Jossey- Bass

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-0240-3

Date Reviewed: 1996-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787902403/bookwatccomau

International Human Resource Management: Managing People Across Borders. (2nd Ed)

Author: Harzing & Ruysseveldt (Eds)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: A revised edition which provides a comprehensive, international perspective of the consequences of internationalization for the management of people across borders.

Publisher: Sage

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0761940391

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Introduction to Knowledge Management: KM in Business

Author: Groff, T. and Jones T.

Short Review:

This book is a useful introduction to the basic tools, techniques and concepts of Knowledge Management. It is set out as a learning primer with concepts, issues, questions and a glossary of terms. It will be particularly useful in situations where non-specialists need to understand and support changes to promote effective KM. As one would expect in such a book, it is wide-ranging without going into great depth in any one area. Particularly valuable is the fact that it focuses strongly on the approaches to thinking and communication that are needed to deal with complex systemic problems, and KM tools and techniques that support those ways of thinking.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 2003

Country: USA & UK

ISBN: 0750677287

Date Reviewed: 2005-06-25

Invention: The Care and Feeding of Ideas.

Author: Wiener, Norbert

Short Review:

These reflections of a great systems thinker and inventor provide a framework for thinking about the conditions required for innovation. As relevant now as when they were written some fifty years ago. Read it to save having to reinvent the wheel of invention.

Full Review:

Published some forty years after it was written, from a manuscript found among his papers, this is a small book with a large purview.

Norbert Wiener deserves a revival now that systems thinking is coming into its own. This will do a lot to dispel any narrow view of him as simply one-time grandfather of cybernetics. In the author’s words, the book is ‘the result of the reflection of thirty-five years spent at the MIT in intimate connection with engineering, scientific, and economic developments’. It is still astonishingly relevant – a keystone for anyone faced with fostering innovation in either corporate or national contexts. It takes the form of an extended essay about invention, presented in 11 chapters, in which the farsightedness of Wiener’s thinking shines through in spite of a somewhat discursive style and some quaintness of expression for today’s reader.

Wiener identifies four important stages in the process of invention. The first, the actual having of ideas, requires individuals to think of them which depends more generally on the intellectual climate of the time. The three subsequent stages – the execution, application and eventual widespread take-up of inventions – depend in turn on the technical, social and economic environments. He goes on to elucidate the relationships between these, with one or two chapters devoted to the further exploration of each. In illustrating the way in which these cultural climates affect the course of invention, he gives a wonderfully long perspective with rich examples and anecdotes drawn from across epochs and cultures. For instance, Leonardo’s notebooks appear, along with the Chinese invention of gunpowder.

Wiener traces important developments in the Middle Ages through to the Industrial Revolution and into our own century, providing a remarkable sweeping survey of the history of discovery and invention. Throughout, the book holds up both the individual and the cultural elements in the process of invention, and examines their relative importance and contributions with plenty of examples. For instance, in the story of the electric motor, we begin to see why it took forty or fifty years after it’s invention for it to come into its own as the workhorse of industry.

In this century, Wiener charts the trend away from an individual approach to research, towards the rise of R&D based on mass production principles, the dangers of which are clearly exposed. For instance: ‘That the vacuum tube, which made its first practical appearance as a device for wireless transmission and reception, should prove to lead to the computing machine and the industry of automatic control is no simple guess which could have been made from the outset, but demanded a repeated scientific and engineering insight into the nature of the device… The original idea that the vacuum tube might fulfil other functions is the result of just that sort of purposeful daydreaming which is not very much encouraged in the closely-knit and highly organised type of mass research. … When we see what is implied [by the separation of effective signal from effective power] this is clear and almost trivial, but it was not a trivial step to see what was implicit in the properties of the vacuum tube itself. This takes one brain, not a thousand cramped half-brains.’ An interesting section appears on information policy and secrecy in the context of the social climate.

‘Any damming up of the freedom of flow of information is bound, sooner or later, to have a disadvantageous effect … particularly because the precise channels by which information may become effective in invention and discovery cannot be given in advance.’

When he comes to the economic environment for invention, Wiener invokes the theory of prediction (very much his own home ground), and examines the nature of risk, not just the calculable but also the incalculable variety. These are transferred into the context of how a society can balance its needs by devoting thought and policy towards long as well as short term considerations. The inherent limitations of capitalism, and the need for other institutions and value systems start to show.

The last two chapters deal with issues of intellectual capital and property rights. There are salutary tales of the American patent system (‘a ticket to litigation’) and an airing of the built-in defects of legislative systems. A foray into the nature of property and ownership through the ages, both of humans (e.g. slavery) and other things (such as land), leads to the case for a thinking in terms of stewardship. This is now back in fashion, as so much else in the book – Wiener was ahead of his time all the way.

Overall – a deeply humane, far-reaching and insightful little book by a great systems thinker, mathematician and inventor. Read it to save having to reinvent the wheel of invention.

Publisher: The MIT Press

Year Published: 1993-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-262-23167-0 (Hbk)

Date Reviewed: 1998-03-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0262231670/bookwatccomau

Invisible Leadership: Igniting the Soul at Work.

Author: Rabbin, Robert

Short Review:

Concerned with the inner qualities of a leader and in particular with the achievement of a higher state of consciousness. Offers a wide variety of reflections on core qualities in a leader and practices for self-development.

Full Review:

Rabbin picks up at a personal level the theme in HarmanGlobal Mind Change that a change in our society requires a radical change in our perceptions. His theme is the development of the mystical faculty within us, which he defines as cultivating our capacity to experience reality directly, and working through meditative and similar practices to overcome our many addictions in the way we feel and interact. The distinguishing quality in what is at base yet another personal development handbook, is the passion and directness with which the author writes. The precepts and suggested practices are not new – they go back to pre-history – but this does not make them any less relevant. There seems to be a belief that business people have great difficulty in approaching the personal and that they will be helped by being offered lots of examples about other business people and lots of reassurance that they are leaders and that leadership is vital.

This book, like others of its type, does not fail to give that assurance. Because of its very directness, the book (unintentionally) highlights what a nonsense it is to write about leaders as if they were a group apart. The real message in the book should be that we are all leaders in our own way and our own context – and all members of various communities (could that possibly involve use of the dreaded word ‘followers’?) in other contexts. In all these situations we will be more whole individually and in community to the extent that we consciously cultivate wholeness.

I had difficulty starting the book, which initially struck me as rather pretentious stuff. I found I got increasingly engaged as I went further. If you have the same problem, try starting about Chapter 5. There are some very good ‘nuggets’, but there is also a fair bit of promotion of riding into the glorious sunset of the Grand Canyon for ‘let-it-all-hang-out’ executive retreats round the old camp fire.

Publisher: Acropolis Books Inc

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-889051-35-7

Date Reviewed: 1998-12-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1889051357/bookwatccomau

Ishmael.

Author: Quinn, Daniel

Short Review:

A very powerful novel about the way humans perceive themselves and their relationship to the natural world.

Full Review:

It is perhaps odd to include what purports to be a novel in a set of reviews of business books (although there is a distinguished predecessor in Eliahu Goldratt’s The Goal, a very readable novel which is widely used as a text on cost accounting and production control). A novel which is the account of a conversation between the author and a super-intelligent gorilla seems even less likely. The device is necessary because the author attempts, with considerable success, to stand right outside the assumptions which are universal among our dominant cultures, while avoiding the ‘space fiction’ tag.

Not surprisingly, it is a novel about the way humans perceive themselves and their relationship to the natural world. In the course of what is essentially a socratic set of dialogues, there is a detailed analysis of the relationships, both historical and spiritual, between those who chose civilisation (and separation from nature) and the so-called ‘primitive’ peoples of the world.

There is also a startling and, to me, very convincing reinterpretation of the story of the Fall in Genesis 3 and 4. For once, I agree wholly with the blurb on the dust cover:

In this extraordinary novel, a man and a gorilla embark on an intellectual adventure which will redefine what it is to be human. Sly, witty profound, Ishmael is a tour de force of the human spirit.

The book was awarded the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship for ‘fiction that produces creative and positive solutions to global problems’.

Publisher: Bantam/Turner book

Year Published: 1992-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-553-07875-5

Date Reviewed: 1995-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553078755/bookwatccomau

J

Jobshift: How to Prosper in a Workplace without Jobs.

Author: Bridges, William

Short Review:

An analysis of the consequences of a move away from ‘jobs’ as we have known them to much looser and more flexible work relationships and arrangements, with advice to the individual on how to respond…and some discussion of implications for organizations.

Full Review:

The central thesis of Jobshift is simple: the ‘job’ as we know it, with its clear boundaries and the context of a life time career path, was a product of the industrial revolution and is disappearing. It is being replaced by a whole range of flexible work arrangements, many of them based on various forms of contract or association, rather than on ‘conventional’ employment as we have known it.

The main part of the book consists of advice to the individual on how to deal with this situation. That jobs as we know them are disappearing is a matter of simple observation – and is bad news for those politicians who have simple recipes for job creation – such as ‘all you need to do is get government off the back of business’.

Bridges does not devote a lot of time or analysis to the reasons but does give useful guidance on the consequences for the individual and the organisation. The advice that he gives to the individual is pretty good and practical. It centres on developing the skills to run ‘You & Co’ as a business. He suggests that the best stance is to view everything as a market and to position yourself in the market on the basis of continual reviews of your ‘D.A.T.A.’, and acronym for Desires, Abilities, Temperament and Assets (assets being advantages which I have on the basis of my history and experience), together with some advice on how to handle the move from the false certainty of a ‘job’ to a bewildering range of much more flexible and much less certain arrangements.

So the first point to make is that, if that is the direction you are taking either by choice or of necessity book is well worth reading, while even those who believe their job to be secure would do well to learn about what is happening elsewhere.

The third part of the book contains some useful speculations on the future shape of the organisation and the consequences for public policy and for unions. Though they are speculations, they are firmly based on the experience of pioneer organisations, and some of them no longer even sound surprising. The typical organisation will contain a professional core, groups of external contractors ranging from more or less permanent to casual, various groupings of contingent workers who come and go at need and, increasingly, customers themselves, who will choose to do some of the work of assembly or even design. In public policy, he argues that the task is not to ‘create jobs’, which he sees as an exercise in futility, but to create an environment which is friendly to formation of new business and to develop skills as widely as possible. ‘What stands in our way is a whole system designed to serve the job’. We need as individuals and as a society to learn how to deal with the new realities. In addition to ensuring that people are literate, numerate and ‘computerate’, they also need the ability to mange themselves and to continually update their basic skills.

There is some discussion of the social consequences, but it does not attempt a thorough analysis of the implications for society of the changes to which he draws attention. The problem, of course, is that the people who will be earliest and most deeply affected by ‘de-jobbing’ are precisely the unskilled workers who are least likely to have the skills to set up ‘You and Co’. These issues are addressed in much more depth in Jeremy Rifkin: The End of Work.

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Year Published: 1994-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 1-85788-061-7

Date Reviewed: 1996-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1857880617/bookwatccomau

Jumping the Curve: Innovation and Strategic Choice in an Age of Transition.

Author: Imparato, N & Harari, O.

Short Review:

A paperback reissue of a 1994 book which had very good reviews. Still highly relevant, but now joined by many others. Stresses the need for a wide ranging view, advises organisation around the customer. Chaps 3 and 7 on ‘role perception’ and ‘smart organisation’ are very useful.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1994

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0183 3 (Pbk)

Date Reviewed: 1997-03-01

Comments: General reading

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787901833/bookwatccomau/002-0608822-9563257

Just Business: Business Ethics in Action.

Author: Sternberg, Elaine

Short Review:

Offers a model for resolving a set of business ethical issues based on the thesis that ethics must be judged against purpose, that the purpose of a business is to maximise long term owner value and that pursuit of this purpose is both constrained and enabled by the requirements of ‘distributive justice and ordinary decency’. The methodology is useful, but the definitions are somewhat limiting.

Full Review:

The main virtue of this book is that it offers a rigorous methodology for deciding what is and is not a question of business ethics (as defined by the author) and a set of criteria against which to test whether a specific action is ethical within that framework. The author highlights the importance of ensuring that the question being asked is the right question and that it does indeed centre on issues of ethical conduct. She offers, and insists on, careful categorisation of issues so that those that are truly ethical are properly distinguished from those that belong in the realm of (for example) political decision making or contract law. The first edition received very favourable reviews.

The book is perhaps best thought of as casting an intense light on one part of a large dark cave, the whole cave being the ethical and related implications of social, economic and political interactions between business, government and society, and the particular area illuminated being the ethical actions of value maximising entities. At least implicitly the author’s business entities belong in the neo-classical world in which they can respond to their environment but not directly influence it. This is true of numerically the vast majority of real businesses, but not of the global giants that control a high proportion of economic activity – and the wider activities which are the subject of a large part of the public debate about ‘business ethics’. Sternberg deals with these issues (eg Shell in Nigeria) by excluding them from her definition of business ethics.

The limitations of the book are thus that the somewhat restrictive definitions exclude many significant issues (issues that the ordinary person might reasonably regard as questions of business ethics) from consideration. Further the imperative to ‘maximise long-term owner value’ fudges the very vexed question of the balance between short term and long term (remember Keynes’ famous dictum that ‘in the long term we are all dead’) and the tensions, even between different groups of owners, between the two. Further, the two main general criteria (‘distributive justice and ordinary decency’) are not nearly as categorical as the author implies. Finally, the rather didactic and often combative tone that the author adopts in dealing with alternative views and arguments is somewhat unattractive.

The central propositions of the book can be stated fairly simply:

  • A business is a body that has the purpose of maximising long-term owner value
  • ‘Business ethics’ is concerned with ethical issues relating to the means by which this purpose is achieved. Any issue that is not relevant to ‘maximising long-term owner value’ is not an issue of business ethics
  • Ethical actions are those actions that contribute to achievement of the purpose and that meet standards of ‘distributive justice and ordinary decency’. Actions that are designed not to contribute to that goal are of their nature unethical
  • On this basis a model can be established for identifying and working with issues of business ethics.

The author’s analysis is thorough and rigorous. In the author’s determination to drive home her message, the text sometimes strays into detailed examination of the obvious, but it is, in general, valuable. Section 3: Ethical Direction is particularly valuable.

Separate chapters are concerned with corporate governance, ethical accountability and ‘morals and markets’. Books on governance are still thin on the ground and too many of them are dense expositions of the legalities. Just Business contains clear and simple explanations of such issues as shareholder responsibilities, whistle blowing, executive remuneration and takeovers. There is also a good section on the ethical audit.

For me, the difficult ground that is excluded from consideration includes, to give just a couple of examples:

  • the grey area of those aspects of the social/business environment that should be determined by society but that powerful businesses can and do use their sheer wealth to change in their favour (environmental regulation, ‘star wars’, taxation regimes and so on);
  • the potential and possibly real conflict of interest where a pension fund (purpose: to maximise short term returns to its members) is a shareholder of a corporation (purpose: to maximise long term owner value) and its response to a short term dip in the profits of a company of which it is an owner can be and often is to sell out.

The author has answers to these questions – her answer is to put the issues in a separate category of ‘not issues of business ethics’. Maybe not, but they are issues that need to be addressed and it is a pity that she did not use the second edition to apply her formidable analytical powers to them.

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Year Published: 2000-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0198296630

Date Reviewed: 2001-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0198296630/bookwatccomau

K

Key Management Models

Author: Have, Steven Ten

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Key Management Models takes the reader through each of the essential management tools in a clear, structured and practical way. It provides comprehensive coverage of key tools, and models.

Publisher: FT Prentice

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0273662015

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Knowledge Capitalism: Business, Work and Learning in the New Economy.

Author: Burton-Jones, Alan

Short Review:

Another macro view of what is happening to the economy, society , the firm and work in ‘the knowledge economy. Thorough, even over-detailed. It contains a very useful section on work and jobs under knowledge capitalism and a quite helpful typology of stages in movement towards a ‘knowledge’ basis of operation. I found the author’s conclusions confirmatory rather than new, and would see the book itself as extension reading rather than a core guide for practising managers.

Full Review:

Burton-Jones argues that Knowledge Capitalism is an emerging new form of capitalism, distinct from – and progressively replacing – the four dominant current forms (Anglo-American, social market capitalism (much of Europe), state capitalism (France) and Japanese capitalism). Its dominant feature is the rise of knowledge as the critical factor of production. The author works through the logic of the shift and its implications for business, work and jobs. The analysis suffers from being almost too thorough. The determination to cover everything in depth makes the temptation on the reader to skip irresistible. Some areas are better and more readably covered by other authors, but there is a very valuable core to the book. That core is about the changing nature of the employment/contractual relationships between the firm and those who offer resources of knowledge and labour, the impact of these changes on the nature of the firm itself and on the locus of responsibility for learning.

The book starts with a description of the drivers towards the knowledge economy. It is useful, but I think that these themes are covered much more readably by authors like Downes & Mui: Unleashing the Killer App, Dale Neef: A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing and others, while the underlying issue of development, protection and exploitation of knowledge assets is covered brilliantly by Boisot: Knowledge Assets. There is a useful table of trends and consequences for the firm of the move towards knowledge capitalism (p. 43), which summarises Burton-Jones main themes.

The last chapter of Part 1 and the whole of Part 2 form the main core of the book, an analysis of the move away from the form of employment that became dominant during the industrial revolution to a wide range of supply relationships, in which the knowledge content and contextual specificity of the labour resource offered is critical to the nature of the preferred relationship. While these issues have been discussed elsewhere, the thoroughness of the author’s analysis is here an advantage.

The argument is built around a trade-marked figure (P. 58) of seven sources of knowledge supply to the firm, three of which (a [strategic] core group, and two sorts of support group) are internal and four (dependent and independent contractors, suppliers of outsource services and suppliers of temporary and part time workers) are external. The author matches each type of supply to demands of the firm according to its knowledge characteristics in terms of level and specificity of knowledge and value to the firm. He provides data on trends and an analysis of the implications for firms and suppliers.

Part 3 gives an overview of the stages in movement of a firm towards ‘knowledge capitalism’ (summarised in a table on P. 168) and provides an overview of the rewards for knowledge. The conclusion is essentially the same as Neef’s – there will be ‘high road’ companies, which will prosper, and ‘low road’ companies, people and areas which will find themselves engaged in a ‘race to the bottom’. His solution for overcoming the disparity in work and wealth is affordable high-quality education for all and learning by all.

Part 4 argues the imperative of better attention to learning, looks at some of the devices available and concludes that the essential first step is better appreciation by government and society at large of the economic value of knowledge. The author appears to agree with Thurow’s analysis (eg Thurow: Building/Creating Wealth) that ‘the market’ is not good at providing education and that government involvement is needed (just as state education provided the infrastructure for acculturation of generations of children to the disciplines of adult life in the factories of the industrial revolution). But it will be a very different type of government involvement.

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0198296223

Date Reviewed: 2000-06-01

Comments: Written at a strategic level

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0198296223/bookwatccomau

Knowledge for Action: Guide to Overcoming Barriers to Organizational Change.

Author: Argyris, Chris

Short Review:

One of this prolific writer’s more recent and more readable books on barriers to learning and change and how to overcome them. An important and valuable book. Many of his books warrant being labelled classics. This is one of them.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass Publishers

Year Published: 1993

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-55542-519-4

Date Reviewed: 1994-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1555425194/bookwatccomau

Knowledge Management Tools and Techniques: Practitioners and Experts Evaluate KM Solutions.

Author: Rao, Madanmohan (Ed.)

Short Review:

This book provides an overview (Ch. 1) and a thorough and detailed assessment of the tools and techniques that support knowledge management and how practitioners use them. The detailed chapters are supported by case studies illustrating the conditions under which particular tools promote the development, spread and use of knowledge. This is primarily a reference book, although the Overview is worth reading or at least scanning for the summary description of categories of tools and their place in supporting the huge range of human endeavours that call for development, retention, exchange and use of knowledge. A particular strength of the book is that discusses the technology and tools of KM entirely in the context of the personal and cultural situations that determine the value and use of these tools.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA & UK

ISBN: 0-7506-7818-6

Date Reviewed: 2005-06-25

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0750678186/bookwatccomau

Knowledge-Based Marketing: The 21st Century Competitive Edge

Author: Chaston, Ian

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Aims to show readers how to comprehend that knowledge can be utilized to underpin and enhance the marketing management function within organizations.

Publisher: Sage

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 1412900034

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

L

Large Group Interventions: Engaging the Whole System for Rapid Change.

Author: Bunker, B.B. & Alban, B. T.

Short Review:

The most wide ranging of several books about search conferences and related techniques. This is probably the best starting point in this field because of its full coverage of the range of methods, how they relate and where they should be used.

Full Review:

There are now four books (at least) which together give very full coverage of the whole field of Search Conference, Future Search and other participative approaches to building agreement and momentum for change programs. Weisbord’s Discovering Common Ground, Weisbord & Janoff’s Future Search and Emery & Purser’s The Search Conference are already included in this database. Bunker and Alban’s new book fits nicely with these and completes coverage of a large and valuable field. Large Group Interventions gives a clear and brief overview of the ‘family’ of techniques, their historical linkages, the differing philosophies and theoretical bases which inform them and the situations in which each is typically used. The authors’ stance is not to try to promote ‘one best way’, but to give the reader the opportunity to compare and contrast different approaches, all of which have value. It is refreshing in this field to read a book which seeks to explain what is available and how it can be useful, rather than simply to sell the author’s own ‘package’. With that approach, an excellent appendix on sources of training and further information and some very well thought out comparative diagrams, the book is an obvious first choice for anyone who wants a clear, practical and simple explanation of the field. Readers who are likely to use the techniques will then want to go to one of the other books listed above, or to some of the books, courses and materials listed in the appendix, for more detailed knowledge.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0324 8

Date Reviewed: 1996-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787903248/bookwatccomau

Lasting Change: The shared values process that makes companies great.

Author: Lebow, R. and Simon, W.

Short Review:

A ‘how to’ book written around building and embedding shared values. It is concerned with the balance between people values and business values and framing the values in a systemic operating system. Another sound presentation of a range of business universals, it develops a simple system based on shared people and business values, with people and customer systems to match them.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0471328472

Date Reviewed: 2001-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471328472/bookwatccomau

Leaders and Laggards: Next Generation Environmental Regulation

Author: Gunningham, N. & Sinclair D.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Identifies innovative regulatory best practice internationally in a number of specific contexts, evaluating empirically the effectiveness of regulatory reform and providing policy prescriptions that would better enable agencies to fulfil their regulatory missions.

Publisher: Greenleaf

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 1874719489

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Leadership and the New Science: Learning about Organisation for an Orderly Universe.

Author: Wheatley, Margaret J.

Short Review:

Belongs in the category of ‘ways of thinking’ rather than ‘how to do it’ and is part of the great current movement to think in quite new ways about the nature of organisations. It explores the order inherent in structures and questions our obsession with control. Full Review:

Note: One of the earliest reviews on this site (1994).

This book is likely to become very influential. It offers a very elegant and well argued view of the role of leadership, based on an analogy with field theory, quantum mechanics and chaos theory (but it does not demand more than the most casual general knowledge of these theories.) The thrust of her book is admirably explained in her introduction. She says

Somewhere…there is a simpler way to lead organizations, one that requires less effort and produces less stress than current practices.

She goes on to say

We have only just begun discovering and inventing the new organizational forms which will inhabit the 21st century [but]…no problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.

She describes the issues she deals with as

the meta-issues which concern those of us who work in large organizations: What are the sources of order? How do we create organizational coherence, where activities correspond to purpose? How do we create structures that move with change, that are flexible and adaptive, even boundaryless, that enable rather than constrain? How do we simplify things without losing both control and differentiation? How do we resolve personal needs for freedom and autonomy with organizational needs for prediction and control?

She points out that we are beginning to reconfigure our ideas about management in relational terms and then says:

As we let go of machine models of work, we begin to step back and see ourselves in new ways, to appreciate our wholeness and to design organizations that honor and make use of the totality of who we are

A final quote from the introduction:

I have begun to understand organizational vision as a field – a force of unseen connections that influence employees’ behavior – rather than as an evocative message about some desired future state.

The first seven chapters of the book then range across physics, the biological basis of cognition and various other fields, avoiding becoming too technical and constantly referring back to humans and human organizations, drawing out the extent to which information, whether in a physical field or in our DNA, is the continuing web which organizes matter as it flows through a system.

‘ Information is unique as a resource because of its capacity to generate itself …. As long as there are senders and receivers linked together in a context, fertility abounds. … In fact the greatest generator of information is chaos, where so much spawning of information goes on …. Of course this is exactly what we fear. We have no desire to let information roam about…to create chaos. Our management task is to enforce control, to keep information contained… Information chastity belts are a central management function… We have lived for so long in the tight confines of bureaucracies…that we need to learn how to live in a conscious organization, how to facilitate its intelligence. This requires an entirely new relationship with information, one in which we embrace its living properties. It is not that we are moving toward disorder when we dissolve current structures and speak of worlds without boundaries. Rather, we are engaging in a fundamentally new relationship with order, order that is identified in processes that only temporarily manifest themselves in structures.

Chapter 7 draws analogies from the ‘strange attractors’ in chaos theory. Ms Wheatley draws from this a very powerful principle for leadership in organizations:

The potent force that shapes behavior in these fractal organizations, as in all natural systems, is the combination of simply expressed expectations of acceptable behaviour and the freedom available to individuals to assert themselves in non-deterministic ways… [These] organizations…have learned to trust in natural organizing phenomena… These organizations expect to see similar behaviors show up at every level in the organization because those behaviors were patterned into the organizing principles at the very start.’ What leaders are called upon to do in a chaotic world is to shape their organization through concepts, not through elaborate rules or structures.

In her final chapter she comes back to the theme that, in organizations as in physics and biology the focus of attention is towards relationship and recognition of connectedness.

This new world is also asking us to develop a different understanding of autonomy. To many managers, autonomy is just one small step away from anarchy… Yet everywhere in nature, order is maintained in the midst of change because autonomy exists at local levels… The motion of these systems is kept in harmony by a force we are just beginning to appreciate: the capacity for self-reference. Instead of whirling off in different directions, each part of the system must remain consistent with itself and with all other parts of the system as it changes… Self reference…conjures up such a different view of management and promises solutions to so many of the dilemmas that plague us: control, motivation, ethics, values, change. But before we can use self-reference, we need to solve a deeper problem. We need to be able to trust that something as simple as a clear core of values and vision, kept in motion through continuing dialogue, can lead to order.

This is not a ‘how to do it’ book, but one which is ultimately about how we perceive organizations, drawing on the remarkably parallel ways in which perceptions of the physical universe and the behavior of living beings are moving.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc

Year Published: 1992-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-881052-021-X

Date Reviewed: 1994-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1881052021X/bookwatccomau

Leadership and Values: Australian executives and the balance of Power, Profits and People.

Author: Sarros, Densten and Santora

Short Review:

A survey of the values and attitudes of Australian executives in the context of leadership theory and practice. Interesting primarily for its coverage of similarities and differences between Australian approaches and those in the US and UK. Contains extensive quotations from interviews as well as comprehensive analysis of survey results.

Publisher: HarperBusiness

Year Published: 1999

Country: Australia

ISBN: 07322 5977 0

Date Reviewed: 2000-01-01

Leadership Chronicles of a Corporate Sage: Five Keys to Becoming a More Effective Leader.

Author: Bethanis, Susan J.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Executive coaching is the secret behind many corporations’ success stories. The author presents an unusual behind-the-scenes look into how executives become better leaders.

Publisher: Dearborn

Year Published: 2004

Country: UK

ISBN: 079318603X

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-14

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/079318603X/bookwatccomau

Leadership Jazz.

Author: De Pree, Max

Short Review:

A classic; it is the personal reflections of a leader on leadership. Very personal, highly readable, sometimes very beautiful and with a lot of wisdom in it. An after dinner sort of book to read by the fire.

Publisher: The Business Library

Year Published: 1991

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-86350-101-0

Date Reviewed: 1993-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0440505186/bookwatccomau

Leadership That Matters: The Critical Factors for Making a Difference in People’s Lives and Organizations’ Success

Author: Sashkin, M. & M.

Short Review:

With ‘leadership that makes a difference’, the authors argue that most views of leadership focus on one or another of three aspects – personality, behaviour and context.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 0

ISBN: 1-57675-193-7

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576751937/bookwatccomau

Leadership: the Inner Side of Greatness. A Philosophy for Leaders.

Author: Koestenbaum, Peter

Short Review:

This is a competent example of the many formula based books on leadership, one built round four dimensions of vision, engagement with reality, ethics and courage. Originally published in 1991, much of what it argues is now part of the common currency of the literature. It is well set out and simply written, but does not really engage with the great issues of today’s society. Similarly, there is no explicit definition of leadership, the implicit definition used being a traditional one that is under considerable challenge.

Publisher: Jossey Bass

Year Published: 2002

Country: USA

ISBN: 0787959561

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787959561/bookwatccomau

Leading Business Teams: How Teams Can Use Technology and Group Process Tools to Enhance Performance.

Author: Johansen, Robert et al

Short Review:

Covers a particular aspect of team development and support – the use of ‘group ware’. There is a helpful exposition of the uses, limitations and pitfalls of a whole range of tools and processes. Published 1991 and inevitably a bit outdated in some areas.

Full Review:

This is an earlier book in the very good Addison Wesley Organisation Development series, which covers a particular aspect of team development and support – the use of ‘group ware’. There is a useful exposition of the uses, limitations and pitfalls associated with a whole range of tools and processes, from email and tele-conferencing, through a variety of software packages (a field which is moving so fast that a 1991 book is inevitably a bit dated), to more commonplace items like electronic white boards. It also discusses facilitation issues, including room layout. All this is put in the context of real team issues and their resolution.

HR specialists and team leaders will find this book useful, though it is one of many offering and group ware has come a long way since it was published.

Publisher: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company

Year Published: 1991-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-201-52829-0

Date Reviewed: 1996-03-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0201528290/bookwatccomau

Leading Change toward Sustainability: A Change-Management Guide for Business, Government and Civil Society

Author: Bell, S. & Morse, S

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Measuring the sustainability of development is crucial to achieving it, and is one of the most actively studied issues in the area. This book presents valuable practical advice on how to develop measurements that will work in real-life development context

Publisher: Earthscan

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 185383839X

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Leading Organizational Learning: Harnessing the Power of Knowledge

Author: Goldsmith et al (Eds)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Brings together today’s top thinkers in organizational learning who directly address the most current ideas, concepts, and practices on the topic of organizational learning.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-7879-7218-5

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Leading Quietly: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing.

Author: Badaracco, Joseph L. Jr.

Short Review:

Arguably more about how to find your way through the complexities of office politics and other relationship problems than about leadership as such. It is a simple and well written guide to dealing with situations which are ‘grey’ rather than black and white or where you have to find your way between opposing forces and claims.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2002

Country: USA

ISBN: 1578514878

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1578514878/bookwatccomau

Leading Strategic Change: Breaking Through the Brain Barrier

Author: Black, J. & Gregersen, H.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Most organizations that seek to change fail because employees are relying on obsolete ‘mental maps’ that prevent them from observing changes in their business environment or responding effectively. The book offers a strategy for helping employees redraw their mental maps.

Publisher: FT Prentice

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 0130461083

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Leading Systems: Lessons from the Power Lab.

Author: Oshry, Barry

Short Review:

A study of systemic relationships within a power system using a description of the emotional and other consequences of being in different power positions within an organisation, based on experience from a set of structured simulations or extended workshops.

Full Review:

I need to start by saying that I reacted very strongly against the style and approach of the author, which made it difficult to judge the book on its merits. However, a friend whose judgment I value has found it valuable. It unquestionably contains some very useful reflections on dynamics within a system based on power. Depending on your reaction, you will either find the examples and case studies useful or, like me, you will have to overcome your reaction against the apparent artificiality of the experiences and the intrusive self-analysis of the author, in order to extract the principles.

The Power Lab is essentially a total immersion simulation ‘played’ over ten days. It is based on a construct in which there are ‘elites’, ‘middles’ and ‘immigrants’, each with a defined role and each, in a sense, dependent on the others. They are thrown into a situation which is systemically designed to throw the interdependencies and tensions into sharp relief. This is, of course, a reasonable reflection of the situation ordinarily found inside a typical organisation, although apparently built in a somewhat stark and exaggerated form.

The book does not make it clear whether the failure of participants to challenge and overthrow the entire framework is a product of the rules, the expectations of the participants or the dynamics of the system. If you accept the basic framework (why don’t the participants tell the laboratory manager to get lost, and all go home?), the messages that come out of the experience are useful, but hardly surprising.

To synthesize Chapters 13 and 14, healthy systems depend on maintaining three pairs of tendencies in tension – at a creative level:

  • individuation and integration
  • differentiation and homogenisation
  • stabilisation and change.

The author argues that each group – tops, middles, bottoms – needs different strategies to reconcile these tensions and hold them in balance. In effect, this is another version of the ‘dilemma methodology’ that Hampden-Turner and Fontenaars have developed so well.

Oshry argues (Chapter 14) that:

  • systems face choices about the fundamental form that they should take
  • the choices that they make become politicised -that is, they exaggerate the benefits of the chosen dimension and demonise the other dimension
  • pure systems – systems that focus on one of the available dimensions decay
  • the focus on one dimension elicits the emergence of a counterculture (Hampden-TurnerCharting the Corporate Mind and JohnsonPolarity Management explain this better)
  • a compromise emerges – again, Hampden-Turner provides a better explanation of the possibility of synthesis and what is necessary to achieve synthesis.

The descriptions of the workshops provide useful illumination of these bare principles. However, a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is needed. In addition, you have to accept that values – fundamental values about what it is to be human – have to be kept in the background, so that case studies about the application of power are not confused. The Power Lab describes conditions in which all participants accept the fundamental power relationship between ‘elites’, middles’ and ‘bottoms’. They may fight against it, but they do not challenge its legitimacy. People like Dee HockBirth of the Chaordic Age demonstrate the very different possibilities that emerge when these fundamentals are challenged.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-57675-072-8

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-01

Comments: About the study of power relationships

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576750728/bookwatccomau

Leading the Professionals: How to Inspire and Motivate Professional Service Teams

Author: Smith, Geoff

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Argues for a light touch in management; encouraging and supporting rather than directing and controlling.

Publisher: Kogan Page

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0749439963

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Leading Through Relationship Marketing.

Author: Batterley, Richard

Short Review:

Building and maintaining relationships with customers (both individual and in groups) has become the key focus of marketing. This book provides a thorough, but slightly gimmicky, coverage of the various aspects of building sound commercial relationships.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 2004

Country: Australia

ISBN: 0074713744

Date Reviewed: 2005-02-23

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0074713744/bookwatccomau

Lean and Green: Profit for Your Workplace and the Environment.

Author: Gordon, Pamela J.

Short Review:

The core theme is that, if you reduce waste and increase for profits. The theme is supported with a wealth of examples. This is a book for those who are ‘putting a toe in the water’ rather than for those who wish to move beyond the first steps, but is useful at the level to which it is pitched. It helps to contest the pernicious myth that business profitability and environmental responsibility are at odds with each other.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 2001

Country: USA

ISBN: 1576751708

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Comments: Hawken et al: Natural for combining profitability, growth and environmental friendliness.

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576751708/bookwatccomau

Learning at the Top: Confessions, Conclusions, Strategies & Tools for Continuous Development.

Author: Mumford, Alan

Short Review:

Basically an essay with cases on the application of the Honey-Mumford learning styles methodology at senior levels. Rather discursive and somewhat self-indulgent but with some useful reflections.

Full Review:

Mumford is perhaps best known for the Honey-Mumford Learning Styles Inventory. Whether you find this book useful will depend a lot on your own learning style. It depends primarily on relatively long and anecdotal case studies, containing much, to me, somewhat self-indulgent reflection. From these cases a number of observations and principles are drawn, many of them reading as pretty much a repetition of principles he has put forward elsewhere and which have entered the ordinary management tool kit, such as Personal Development Plans. Fundamentally, it is an essay with cases on the application of the learning styles methodology at senior levels.

As to ‘learning at the top’, Mumford makes the very valid point that, as with organisational development, it is only too common for senior managers to treat learning and change as things which they direct others to do rather than processes in which they are personally engaged and which they have to lead by example.

The case studies are also about ‘top people’, but they are more likely to be read by a consultant who is seeking clues to gaining access to ‘the top’ than by a busy manager who is seeking guidance on what to do to promote and lead learning. In the early part of the book, he devotes time to alternative definitions of a ‘learning organization’ and, not surprisingly, prefers his own to those of Senge and Pedler. But to my eye his definition:

The learning organization is one that creates an environment where the behaviours and practices involved in continuous development are actively encouraged.

totally misses the distinction between an organization in which each individual learns and one where people learn together, even though he does talk about organizational learning at various points in the book.

Those who are interested in what senior executives need to learn would do better by reading Bob Garratt’s Developing Strategic Thought, while people who find SengeThe Fifth Discipline unapproachable might do better to browse through The Fifth Discipline FieldbookThose who are seeking a structured approach to improving organizational learning in their organization would do well to refer to Nancy Dixon’s The Organizational Learning Cycle.

Publisher: McGraw Hill (Developing Org.s Series) 1995.

Year Published: 1995-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-07-709066-7

Date Reviewed: 1996-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0077090667/bookwatccomau

Learning in Action: a Guide to Putting the Learning Organization to Work.

Author: Garvin, David A.

Short Review:

A well organised book that provides a useful alternative perspective on improving learning practice. Suffers from making extravagant claims for uniqueness that it does not live up to and from failure to recognise the wide range of existing books that also offer very practical advice.

Publisher: Harvard Business School Press

Year Published: 2000

Country: USA

ISBN: 1578512514

Date Reviewed: 2001-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1578512514/bookwatccomau

Learning to Fly: Practical Lessons from Some of the World’s Leading Knowledge Companies

Author: Collison & Parcell

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Shows how to put knowledge management theory into practice, sharing the tools used and the experience and insights gained by two leading practitioners.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 1-84112-509-1

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Learning to Lead: Developing Your Organization and Yourself.

Author: Garratt, Bob

Short Review:

A re-issue of a 1990 book, still highly relevant and useful. Aimed at Directors and their role in fostering learning (their own and others). Practical advice framed round process, roles and the conditions for learning, based on the thesis that survival depends on learning.

Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers

Year Published: 1995

Country: UK

ISBN: 0 00 637722 X

Date Reviewed: 1996-01-01

Comments: Recommended for senior managers

Learning Unlimited: Practical strategies and techniques for transforming learning in the workplace.

Author: Rylatt, Alastair

Short Review:

A useful catalogue of types, techniques, concepts and so on, relating to various aspects of the learning process. To me, it is like most catalogues and is proof that you can assemble all the parts and yet not breathe life into the whole. Its a good reference all the same.

Publisher: Business & Professional Publishing

Year Published: 1994

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 875680 11X

Date Reviewed: 1995-06-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/187568011X/bookwatccomau

Lessons Learned: Shaping Relationships and the Culture of the Workplace

Author: Barth, Roland

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: The author shares his often whimsical, but always thoughtful, reflections on relationships at sea and in the workplace.

Publisher: Sage

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0761938435 (Pbk)

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Liberating the Corporate Soul: Building a Visionary Organization.

Author: Barrett, Richard

Short Review:

One of a growing and welcome stream of books that is concerned with growth of creativity and relationship not only for the benefit of the short term corporate bottom line but in the context of contributing to the community and societal common good.

Full Review:

Liberating the Corporate Soul starts with a quote from Willis Harman, which is worth including in full:

Business has become the most powerful institution on the planet. The dominant institution in any society needs to take responsibility for the whole. But business has not had such a tradition. This is a new role, not well understood or accepted. Built on the concept of capitalism and free enterprise from the beginning was the assumption that the actions of many units of individual enterprise, responding to market forces and guided by the ‘invisible hand’ of Adam Smith, would somehow add up to desirable outcomes.

But in the last decade of the 20th century, it has become clear that the ‘invisible hand’ is faltering. It depended on a consensus of overarching meanings that is no longer present. So business has to adopt a tradition it has never had through the entire history of capitalism: to share responsibility for the whole. Every decision that is made, every action that is taken, must be reviewed in light of that responsibility. The author has brought together material that does a great deal to advance the case for rebuilding an organisation round a core of ethical and social responsible values. It combines good (and quite well referenced) use of the considerable literature in this field, with an interesting and potentially valuable attempt to offer means of measuring progress towards a different ‘way of organisational being’.

The overview of tools offered in the book is however a bit frustrating, as the ‘instruments’ are not described in sufficient detail for the reader to use them directly. What is offered is a set of frameworks, built around:

  • seven levels of human consciousness (essentially based on Maslow, plus three ‘higher’ levels)
  • seven similar levels of employee, corporate and leadership consciousness, from which are derived:- a set of ‘corporate transformation tools’ that are described but not shown in any depth- a useful attempt to add rigour to the often ritualistic development of vision, mission and values, making use of structured ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions to develop personal values and internal and external organisational values

These lead to a variant on the balanced scorecard built on six factors of:

  • corporate survival
  • corporate fitness
  • client/supplier relations
  • corporate evolution (the generation of new products, processes and structures)
  • corporate culture
  • society/community contribution

The author then turns to two chapters on leadership and its development in a visionary organisation and one chapter on 12 steps to building a visionary organisation. The discussion of the reasons for building an organisation on vision, ethical stance and relationship is not new, but is well summarised and lucidly presented. What is relatively new is the attempt to provide a detailed operating framework for the change process. Any such framework is necessarily a simplification. I suspect that this one will be a useful guide for many. The book does live up to the promise of its title, but not to that of the Harman quote. It appears to contain an implicit assumption that, if the people within an organisation build an ethical and visionary internal community and set of relationships, it will as a result contribute to the common good. That may be so, but it leaves unchallenged the deep-seated implicit beliefs that more is necessarily better and that products and services that people can be induced to buy necessarily contribute to the common good.

The focus of the book is much more strongly on quality of relationship internally and with the organisation’s immediate value chain than with the wider challenge that Harman throws out. It does however directly challenge the present, seemingly inexorable trend towards ever wider gaps between the high and the low paid and between the rich and the poor, pointing out the unsustainability of these trends.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7506-7071-1

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0750670711/bookwatccomau

LIFETypes: Understand yourself and make the most of who you are.

Author: Hirsh, Sandra & Kummerow, Jean

Short Review:

One of many books about the application of Myers-Briggs typology, but one of the more popular and accessible ones. A useful reference as long as it is remembered that the typology is about preferences, not about behaviour or potential.

Publisher: Warner Books

Year Published: 1989

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-446-38823-8(USA) 0-466-38824-6(Can)

Date Reviewed: 1993-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0446388238/bookwatccomau

Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update

Author: Meadows D. et al

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: This substantially revised, expanded and updated edition follows on from Limits to Growth and its sequel Beyond the Limits. It presents future overshoot scenarios and makes an even more urgent case for a rapid readjustment of the global economy toward a sustainable path.

Publisher: Earthscan

Year Published: 2004

Country: UK

ISBN: 1844071448

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-11

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1844071448/bookwatccomau

M

Making Global Trade Work For People

Author: UN Development Program.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: An authoritative and up-to-date analysis of why so many advocates of human development have so much trouble supporting either the enthusiasm for trade liberalization or a good many of the specifics of the current international trade regime

Publisher: Earthscan

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1853839825

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Making it Happen: Stories from Inside the New Workplace.

Author: Pegasus Communications

Short Review:

A selection of real life stories of organisational and work place change selected to illustrate the range of issues encountered and the power of use of Senge’s ‘five disciplines’. Each story is short, well told and relevant. This is a thoroughly useful resource.

Full Review:This is a book of reprints from the magazine The Systems Thinker. There are 16 relatively short (average 7-8 pp.) articles, arranged in three parts:

  • Launching large-scale change
  • Addressing critical business challenges
  • Transforming people and culture.

They are written by people directly involved in the process of change, ranging from the former head of Shell USA to change project managers. The stories are chosen to illustrate the use of a variety of the tools of systems thinking, mental models and team learning. All are taken from real experience of organisations that have devoted considerable thought and effort to achieving successful change. All are well-written, concise and readable, a hallmark of the material published by Pegasus. Most of them have useful diagrams of the systemic structures involved.

Taken together, they offer a range of useful practical tools and approaches to familiar change management issues. They also reinforce some key messages, among them:

  • Successful transformational change requires consistent effort over a substantial period of time – typically the programs in the larger organisations extended over five years or more.
  • Transformational change is systemic, and involves the interaction of a number of integrated streams of endeavour.
  • Apparently undirected or uncontrolled processes, such as dialogue, can contribute to important practical results – provided that the goals to be achieved are clear and fully shared.

Publisher: Pegasus Communications Inc

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-883823-32-3

Date Reviewed: 1999-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1883823323/bookwatccomau

Making Sense of Change Management: A Complete Guide to the Models, Tools and Techniques of Organizational Change

Author: Green & Cameron

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Seeks to explain why change happens, how it happens and what needs to be done to make change a welcome rather than a dreaded concept.

Publisher: Kogan Page

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0749440872

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Management Powertools: 20 Classic Tools for Managing Organizations and People

Author: Onsman, H.

Short Review:

The 20 mangement tools offered include vision statements, Porter’s five forces, scenario planning, pareto analysis and a variety of other well-known and less well-known tools. The descriptions and ‘how to use’ sections are competent but sometimes rather superficial. For example, the chapters on leadership and coaching in the ‘Managing People’ part of the book attempt to describe very wide-ranging processes in ten pages each. Managers, particularly newer managers, may find the book a useful reference.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 2003

Country: Australia

ISBN: 0-07-471345-0

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-22

Management Stripped Bare: Understanding Business as It Really Is

Author: Owen, Jo Short

Review: 

Publisher’s note: Exposes the many hypocrisies and absurdities of the corporate mindset. While having jolly fun debunking everything from benchmarking to vision statements, the author supplies real-world managers with practical guidance and proven solutions.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-8144-0776-5

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Managers as Facilitators: A Practical Guide to Getting Work Done in a Changing Workplace.

Author: Weaver, R. and Farrell, J.

Short Review:

A manual designed for managers who are seeking to improve as coaches and facilitators. Very useful as a reference, but suffers a bit from treating systemic issues in a linear, item by item way. Assembles known material for easy use rather than breaking new ground.

Full Review:The virtues of this book are its clarity of definition, ease of reference and breadth of coverage. It assembles well established principles and practices in a highly accessible way and frames them against a good explanation of the facilitation role and why it is important. It is easy to use and invites reference as issues arise.

Early in the book, there is a good simple table that gives the authors’ definitions of ‘leader’, ‘manager’ and ‘facilitator’ and the key elements of each role – their distinction in a nutshell is:

Leaders are concerned with doing the right thing, managers are concerned with doing things right, and facilitators are concerned with helping people to do things. The leader role sets tone and direction, the manager role sets the pace, and the facilitator role helps people make meaning of the tone and direction, while helping them to get their work done at the required pace.

The authors claim that people should be able to move between all three roles, then focuses on the facilitator role as a critically important but neglected role of leaders or managers. Successive chapters in

Part 1 deal with the role, clarification of task and the role of the group, self awareness, working with difference, understanding group interaction, dealing with conflict, the process of effective facilitation and effective listening.

Part 2 New Insights into Facilitations are the authors’ reflections on boundary management and the change process rather than anything ‘new’ plus a Chapter on ‘Quick Fix: Solutions to common problems’ about which I am quite ambivalent, mainly because of the term Quick Fix, which has overtones of slick solutions that focus on the symptom rather than the cause. In fact it contains some tabulations of common problems and ways of addressing them which are useful as long as they are treated as a guide not a template.

The boundaries treated here should not be confused with the boundaries treated so well in Ashkenas et al The Boundaryless Organization. Here the authors deal with more personal ‘boundaries’ – norms and expectations about how individuals and groups work together and patterns of interdependence. The facilitator role is important and is neglected, so this book fills a need.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 57675 016 7

Date Reviewed: 1997-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576750167/bookwatccomau

Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning.

Author: Bell, Chip R.

Short Review:

A simply written, direct and very useful manual on the art and practice of mentoring. Written with humanity and wisdom, it reminds us of the central importance of helping others (and so ourselves) to grow and teaches both sound philosophy and sound practice.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-881052-92-3

Date Reviewed: 1996-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1881052923/bookwatccomau

Managing Business Risk: A Practical Guide to Protecting Your Business

Author: Jolly, Adam (Ed.)

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: This practical guide to potential areas of risk within a business contains advice for directors , describing the latest thinking and techniques for managing risk.

Publisher: Kogan Page

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0749440813

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Managing by Values.

Author: Blanchard, K. and O’Connor, M.

Short Review:

If you like a folksy set of stories and a series of checklists about the importance of clarifying, communicating and living by values, this is for you. There are some neat ‘game plans’, but Dan Kim’s Vision Deployment Matrix (Systems Thinker Magazine) is better. A ‘pot-boiler’.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 587675 007 8

Date Reviewed: 1997-11-01

Managing Change Effectively: Approaches, Methods, and Case Examples.

Author: Kirkpatrick, Donald

Short Review:

A sound and simple basic text on the tactical basics of getting change accepted and implemented. It is written within the framework of a traditional hierarchical organization and appears to be pitched at first line management within such organizations.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 2001

Country: USA

ISBN: 0877193835

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0877193835/bookwatccomau

Managing Complexity: A View in Many Directions.

Author: Lissack, M.R. and Gunz, H. P.

Short Review:

An edited collection of 18 papers prepared for ‘Managing the Complex’ conferences, plus an introduction and conclusion. It contains a lot of useful material but desperately needs severe pruning and a larger font size. As it stands, it is simply not readable except by the complexity enthusiast – which is a great pity.

Publisher: Quorum Books

Year Published: 1999

Country: USA and UK

ISBN: 1567202853

Date Reviewed: 2000-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1567202853/bookwatccomau

Managing Customer Relationships: A Strategic Framework

Author: Peppers & Rogers

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: A logical overview of the background, the methodology, and the particulars of managing customer relationships for competitive advantage.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-471-48590-X

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Managing in a Flexible Workplace.

Author: Olmsted, B. and Smith, S.

Short Review:

A good and well set out resource for managing the full range of available flexible work arrangements for conventional work groups. It works through nine options for flexibiliity, including job sharing, part-time, flextime and others. Contains a useful section on other resources including web sites, reports etc.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 8144 0332 8

Date Reviewed: 2000-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814403328/bookwatccomau

Managing in Organizations that Learn.

Author: Cavaleri, S. & Fearon, D. (Eds)

Short Review:

A collection of 17 original papers and interviews covering all aspects of learning. The standard is generally very high. The style is generally more ‘academic’ than ‘how to’. The 6 interviews are particularly good. Very valuable for reference and for ‘browsing’.

Full Review:Written for reference rather than for reading straight through, the editors have brought together formidable academic and practical expertise in organisational learning in a very useful and well organised volume, which provides valuable commentary on all aspects of the issues now under debate.

The book is directed very specifically to managers who recognise the need to learn themselves as well as providing the conditions for others to learn and is arranged in five parts:

1. Managing and Learning

2. Learning through Working

3. Linking Teams with Systems Learning

4. Learning Communities: Balancing Managing and Learning

5. Transforming Organizations for Learning and Performance

Each part opens with an extended interview, with another interview as an Epilogue. I found these interviews compulsively readable as well as providing a valuable introduction to each section (there is a curious glitch that the page number for each interview is not shown in the contents, but they are easy to find). I was particularly impressed with the interviews with John Sterman and Peter Vaill and few people can match Bill O’Brien, the subject of the Epilogue interview, for reflective and grounded wisdom.

The opening chapter by the Editors, ‘Managing In and Through the Knowledge Ecology’, provides an invaluable overview of the the issues and the structure of the book in a little over 20 pages. It is essential reading even if you can only skim the rest of the book. It gives as good a summary as I have read of the impact of major changes in our world view such as how we understand knowledge, the impact of the view of organisations as organisms in ecological space following principles of self organisation, and the critical role of the manager in helping to create the conditions for learning rather than seeking to control it.

Much of the early part of the book starts starts with the manager as a whole person and works outwards, a valuable emphasis on the qualities a manager must seek to develop in order to be able to convey them to others (see Howard Gardner’s Leading Minds). Chapters 3 and 7 pick up aspects of the application of the Kolb cycle of learning in this context, closely reflecting the excellent work in Nancy Dixon’s The Organizational Learning Cycle (which is unfortunately not cited). Part 3 and Chapter 15 in Part 5 are valuable for the fact that they illustrate the value and use of system thinking tools in the organisational learning process. Although Peter Senge of The Fifth Discipline insists on the centrality of systems thinking to organisational learning, the literature accessible to those who are new to the concept is still thin and these chapters give useful practical illustrations of the utility of the basic ‘mapping’ tools at the ‘softest’ end of ‘soft systems’ technology (for those seeking to take these skills further, I think that The Systems Thinker magazine and associated booklets is by far the best source of information on systems thinking for generalist managers).

What it all adds up to is that, as the new concepts of organisation, the impact of the explosion in information and our emphasis on engaging the whole person take hold, managerial and leadership roles, skills and ways of working need radical rethinking.

This book makes a very useful contribution to that process. As with any anthology, each person will find different chapters that have particular value for them. The overall standard is very high. My only real quibble is that there is no consolidated bibliography (references are contained in notes at the end of each chapter) and some obvious sources are not referenced.

Publisher: Blackwell

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA & UK

ISBN: 1 55786 660 0 (Pbk)

Date Reviewed: 1997-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1557866600/bookwatccomau

Managing Knowledge Workers: New Skills and Attitudes to Unlock the Intellectual Capital in Your Organization.

Author: Horibe, Frances

Short Review:

An easy to read, simple description of the basics of people management in knowledge organisations. It brings together well established principles and practices and puts them into a ‘knowledge’ context. Could be useful for managers in the early stages of movement from a ‘traditional’ to a ‘knowledge’ mind-set.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 1999

Country: Canada

ISBN: 0471643181

Date Reviewed: 2000-06-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471643181/bookwatccomau

Managing People Across Cultures

Author: Trompenaars, Fons

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: A cornerstone book in the Culture for Business series. Processes like job evaluation and reward systems are affected significantly by the cultural environment. Trompenaars shows what HR executives can do to reconcile cultural dilemmas.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1-84112-472-9

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Managing Risk: Critical Issues for Survival and Success into the 21st Century.

Author: Waring, A. and Glendon, I.

Short Review:

A thorough treatment of the management of risk, arranged in three parts: Risk Contexts; Case Studies; and Conclusions. the case studies include recent high profile cases such as Piper Alpha, Barings Bank and the general issue of the introduction of new computer systems.

Full Review:

A central argument of this book is that both theoretical and practical approaches to the three subject areas – management, risk and change – are not only linked but also convergent… [But]…these ‘obvious’ overlaps and interactions are not yet treated generally in a holistic way.

This quotation is from Chapter 9 ‘A Fuzzy Convergence’, which summarises the main arguments and introduces the case studies that make up the second half of the book. All managers would benefit from reading this chapter and Chapter 16 ‘A management Agenda’, even if they decide to leave the rest of the book for ‘the experts’.

However, they are also likely to find material to interest them among the case studies – for example Chapter 15 is a long and very thorough study of a health system ‘UK health authorities struggle to survive’.

For those with a direct responsibility for managing risk – which, after all, includes all senior managers, if not everyone with a managerial responsibility – the book is an invaluable guide to the details of risk management and what ‘risk’ encompasses, as well as to the cultural, technological, environmental and other linkages that make up the linked phenomena of risk and their management. As the authors point out:

…integration of different risk management functions, disciplines and activities remains weak or non-existent in most organizations.

In effect, this book is looking systemically at the whole process of strategic direction setting and change management from the perspective of recognising, accepting and managing risk. It is a perspective that is too often neglected, sometimes with the sorts of horrendous consequences spelled out in some of the case studies. The book is thorough, well set out and easy to reference and not too technical in its presentation. It deserves a place in every organisation.

Publisher: International Thomson Business Press

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: UK and USA ISBN: 1 86152 167 7

Date Reviewed: 2000-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1861521677/bookwatccomau

Managing Strategically in an Interconnected World.

Author: Hitt, M, Ricart I Costa, J and Nixon, R. (Eds)

Short Review:

Consists of 20 edited papers from the 1997 Strategic Management Society Conference, arranged around strategic issues The articles are arranged in two parts, the first on the global environment, uncertainty and knowledge development, the second on the role of cooperation, trust and governance in interconnected firms. ‘Academic’ in style and useful primarily to students and specialists.

Full Review:Mainly for academics and students. The articles are all by academics and the book as a whole belongs firmly in the arena of academic literature. There is a large concern with research frameworks and fields for further research and many of the articles are concerned with examining the evidence for linkages and relationships that more ‘popular’ writers are content simply to assert. There is no doubt that these propositions need to be tested, but few practical managers will want to spend time with the detail.

In general, it is fair to say that most of the articles tend to confirm the assertions of the popularists. However, academics and MBA students will find the articles a useful source of ideas for research, detailed references to significant articles and findings across a range of related fields. As with so much academic writing, the language is often unnecessarily dense and there is too often a blizzard of references covering even the most mundane statements. However, the main readers of this book will be inured to these quirks.

A source for discussion of practices outside North America For those operating in international markets and with intercultural relationships, it is fair to say that the North American perspective is over-represented in the general literature and the viewpoints and practices of other cultures underrepresented. The articles in this book do something to help correct this imbalance, with academics from a wide range of countries discussing issues from the perspective of Central European, East Asian and other areas. This is particularly valuable in the various discussions of issues of cross-organisational governance in a global context.

Some examples of useful articles: Article 7 ‘The role of the International Corporation in Cross-border Knowledge Transfer in the Semiconductor Industry’, is in fact not as specific to that industry as the title suggests and contains (pp 136- 46) a useful summary of methods of knowledge transfer.

Article 9 ‘Controlling Unique Knowledge Development as the Basis of Sustained High Performance’ gives evidence to confirm Hamel and Prahalad’s assertion that aggressive learning strategies tend to be reflected in successful performance – an example of a conclusion that is hardly surprising, but it is useful to know that the evidence exists.

Articles 18 and 19 are about aspects of trust and its role in building strong relationships in and across organisations. 18 is concerned with the relationship between trust and learning in international joint ventures. Counter-intuitively, the two are not statistically associated in the case studied, but the authors suggest various reasons why this may be so and suggest further research is needed.

Article 19 tries ‘to understand the roots of trust, how to develop it in organisations and its implications as a source of competitive advantage’. It sorts out a number of varieties of trust and discusses each.

An important conclusion that they draw is that trust may not be essential to efficient value exchange, but that mutual trust among resource providers may be important to value maximisation.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0471984973

Date Reviewed: 2000-10-01

Comments: Recommended for students and specialists

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471984973/bookwatccomau

Managing Telework: Strategies for managing the virtual workforce.

Author: Nilles, Jack

Short Review:

An extraordinarily thorough and easily referenced guide to the why, what, who and how of teleworking or virtual working. Covers everything from the strategic decision to encourage teleworking to fixing the problem of a domestic power socket that looks like a Christmas tree. An essential guide.

Full Review:If you want to know about teleworking or ‘virtual’ working arrangements, get this book. There is no hype or ‘gee whiz’, simply a well laid out, straightforward guide to almost everything you could possilby want to know or ask about why to introduce teleworking, how to introduce and manage it, how to select teleworkers, what it means for them, what sort of rules are needed, how to measure results and so on. It even includes a pro forma teleworkers agreement.

Obviously, your situation or that of your teleworkers may be different, but Nilles provides an extraordinarily comprehensive starting point for judging whatever arrangements you may want to put in place – or ask for.

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0471293164

Date Reviewed: 2000-06-01

Comments: Extremely useful for anyone concerned with teleworking

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471293164/bookwatccomau

Mapping Inner Space: Learning & Teaching Mind Mapping.

Author: Margulies, Nancy

Short Review:

A brilliant example of how helpful mind mapping techniques can be, with clear instructions for people who want to learn this technique. Having experienced Margulies’ work at several conferences, I can testify to its power and value.

Publisher: Zephyr Press, Tucson, AZ

Year Published: 1991

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-913705-56-X

Date Reviewed: 1995-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/091370556X/bookwatccomau

Marketing Across Cultures

Author: Trompenaars, F. & Wooliams, P.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Concerned with how we can understand different markets and customer needs in a wide range of cultural contexts.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1-84112-471-0

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Maverick! The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace.

Author: Semler, Ricardo

Short Review:

The history of a Brazilian who succeeded in a chaotic economy by creating an open organization, with radical empowerment of staff and resolute ‘boundary busting’. It makes a fascinating and highly readable case study. See the full review and summary of Semler’s later book The Seven Day Weekend.

Publisher: Century

Year Published: 1993

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7126-5451-8

Date Reviewed: 1995-06-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0712654518/bookwatccomau

Memoirs of a Recovering Autocrat: Revealing Insights for Managing the Autocrat in All of Us

Author: Hallstein, Richard

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Vignettes offer practical help for learning more participative styles of managing and living more joyous and satisfying lives.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1-88105-235-4

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Mentoring Executives and Directors.

Author: Clutterbuck, David & Megginson, David

Short Review:

A practical introduction to mentoring from all major perspectives. Overall, the book is essential reading for any would-be mentors or mentees. It illustrates the role of mentoring, particularly where the need is, e.g. to support, encourage and develop key executives or to pass on corporate culture to new employees.

Full Review:This book is written in three parts.

The first part provides some theoretical background as to why executives need a mentor. Part two provides the practical experience of mentors & mentees in twenty two case studies from the private, public and voluntary sectors. The range of case studies gives an impressive insight into mentoring from a diversity of backgrounds, genders and nationalities. Part three draws together lessons and common themes emerging from part two. Mentoring is defined as ‘Off-line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking’. It is emphasised that this is a reflective activity ‘like standing in front of the mirror with someone else’ and that it involves someone ‘who has the skills not only to ask the questions you would ask yourself, but also those you would not ask yourself’.

The main roles that mentors can expect to play are executive coach, elder statesman & reflective mentor. A model is presented of the executive mentoring process which incorporates overlapping business, intellectual & emotional processes which combine to influence business results. These pose different questions, e.g. What & how do you think? What do you feel? How do you behave? How do you understand what happens in the business? Effective mentors often begin sessions with a variation of the question which highlights the underlying humanity of mentoring : ‘So what’s keeping you awake at night at the moment?’

Case Studies in part two highlight various aspects of mentoring. In one case the relationship is described as being between a senior mentor and a junior mentor. Another describes how the relationship can become dysfunctional in a parent / child way. One mentor says ‘if you continuously improve yourself then people will come to you. Another compared mentoring to the Maori way of being an elder. One described a mentoring process based on the NINJA Principle: Never Interfere; Never Judge or Advise.

In Part three the lessons learned are drawn out for the organisation, the mentee and the mentor. The mentee comes first. A useful checklist is provided to help mentees define the outcomes desired, e.g. business development, career plan or personal exploration. The mentee should divide 100 points between these and other issues to help identify the issues to be addressed by the mentor. Other lessons include the value of having a fixed period for the mentorship. Agreeing to 10 or 12 meetings over a twelve month period facilitates ending in a no-blame way.

The book ends with the suggestion ‘to do what you do to be your kind of mentor, with conscious awareness, and with the humility to check that it is working for the others involved.’ Altogether the book works well to provide a practical introduction to mentoring from all major perspectives. Parts 1 & 2 were especially helpful and provided much useful input. Part 3 contained too much verbatim repetition of extracts from Part 2. It could have been condensed significantly. Tips on processes and contracts based on mentees needs make it a very useful and practical book. Review by Joe O’Keeffe 29 November 1999

Publisher: Butterworth – Heinemann

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7506-3695-5

Date Reviewed: 1999-12-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0750636955/bookwatccomau

Mintzberg on Management.

Author: Mintzberg, Henry

Short Review:

A set of stand alone chapters in three parts: On Management; On Organizations; On our Society of Organizations. Witty, provocative and still very relevant.

Publisher: The Free Press (Macmillan Inc)

Year Published: 1989

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-02-921371-1

Date Reviewed: 1993-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0029213711/bookwatccomau

Mission Critical: Realising the Promise of Enterprise Systems.

Author: Davenport, Thomas

Short Review:

Enterprise Systems are a jargon term for comprehensive information systems that reach across all business functions, units and locations. Davenport offers a comprehensive overview and critique of their development.

Full Review:It is very refreshing to read a book about the technical, strategic and cultural issues involved in creating a comprehensive setof linked information systems that is written in clear plain English. Davenport has set out to make his text comprehensible to the lay person as well as useful to the specialist, and has succeeded admirably.

The first chapter asks ‘What are Enterprise systems and why do they matter?’ and provides an excellent answer and summary of the themes in the book in 27 pages. He provides a strategic overview of the issues, including the all-important issue that the cultural issues in introducing systems of this kind are at least as important as the technical issues.

In the chapters that are concerned with implementation of a system – whether from a new start or by superimposing a comprehensive architecture on existing systems – he goes into a fair degree of detail, while maintaining the clarity of exposition. He makes it clear that introducing an ES is a strategic decision and not necessarily the right strategic decision for all organisations.

Like most American authors, Davenport is writing mostly about very large organisations, and he specifically warns of the risks inherent for smaller organisations. He mentions, but should perhaps make more of the risks inherent where ownership of the company may be unstable – through takeovers, mergers and more or less equal partnerships. It is also worth noting that the ES to which he refers are basically designed for manufacturing companies and their genesis is linked to the development of business process reengineering. Similarly comprehensive systems for service organisations that are basically concerned with aspects of knowledge management have a different architecture, even if many of the issues and aspects that Davenport describes are similar.

The first three chapters address the question of what an ES is and what factors a company should consider in making a decision whether to introduce one. Chapter 4 is concerned with the linkages to business strategy, while Chapter 5 looks at the link to business processes and Chapter 6 is concerned with achieving value from implementation. Chapter 7 looks at the interactions between the ES and management practice – both what is required for the system and what is enabled by the system. Chapter 8 looks in detail at the important issues – including inter-organisational strategic issues – in supply chain management. The last chapter looks to the future of ES-enabled organisations.

Unlike similar chapters in many management books, this is not a rose-coloured pen picture of an unlimited future but a sober and well reasoned exposition of the issues. It sketches both the potential for empowering executive decision making and the risk of separation from reality, as well as the technological and investment potential and hazards.

The book ends with a brief – and also wholly comprehensible – ‘technical overview of enterprise systems’, including a description of the architecture and key modules, a listing of major vendors, an overview of complementary software and a couple of paragraphs on alternatives to ES systems.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2000-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0875849067

Date Reviewed: 2001-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875849067/bookwatccomau

Mission Possible: Becoming a World-Class Organization While There’s Still Time.

Author: Blanchard, Ken and Waghorn, Terry

Short Review:

Continues to mine the seam for books which provide instant answers. This one is about how to combine a focus on the present with a focus on the future – continuous improvement with corporate renewal – and how to get people with different orientations to work together.

Full Review:Expressing very complex issues in simple terms is a tremendous skill and very valuable, but only if the simplicity is achieved without ignoring the underlying complexity.

Blanchard and Waghorn’s book expands a good speculative idea for a short article into a full length ‘cook book’ without really addressing the complexity in making their attractive central idea work.

The central theme is simple enough and is based on Handy’s (see The Age of Paradox, also known as/ The Empty Raincoat) concept of the ‘sigmoid curve’ of growth (rapid growth, slow down, decline) and the need to ‘jump the curve’ to a new growth curve at the right time. Their thesis is that different people have different orientations – present or future – and that one needs to bring them together in a ‘present team’ and a ‘future team’ and then manage their interactions and the process of development as a whole.

Like all the books with which Blanchard is associated, there are plenty of headlines, ‘steps to’s’ and dot points, making for a book that is easy to read. What it misses is the complexity of managing the culture, the styles of conversation and the management of mental models needed to make the concept work. For a much more sophisticated examination of the same basic issue, go to Baghai et al:The Alchemy of Growth.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-07-005940-3

Date Reviewed: 1997-05-01

Comments: Recommended for those who like ‘recipe books’

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070059403/bookwatccomau

Modeling for Learning Organizations.

Author: Morecroft, R. & Sterman

Short Review:

Written by and for specialists (and advanced learners) in systems dynamics modelling. For reference rather than for reading and invaluable as such.

Full Review:This is also a collection of essays or articles. It is written by and for specialists (and advanced learners) in systems dynamics modelling. Most of the ‘great names’ in systems dynamics modelling are represented and the coverage of the field is comprehensive.

The book is in four parts – perspectives on the modelling process; feedback modelling in action; learning from modelling and simulation; new ideas in representation and software. It is a book for reference rather than for reading and is written in the academic rather than the colloquial – I don’t pretend to have done more than dip into the more accessible articles and scanned the abstracts of others. It is very well referenced, with an excellent annotated bibliography.

It is an invaluable reference for the specialist modeller and for others who are seriously entering the arena of quantitative systems modelling. I have no doubt it will be used as a text in courses. People with no background in systems dynamics but a desire to get a feel for how the discipline can contribute to business success (or the understanding of deep seated systemic problems), will gain quite a lot from the articles by Morecroft, Forrester and, in particular, Senge and Sterman.

Some of the later articles also outline the more accessible techniques for introducing systems thinking principles into an organisation – for example, the article by Hodgson on use of the ‘hexagon’ technique is a good explanation of a very useful technique which employs brain storming, associative and system mapping techniques in combination, while that by Bakken, Gould and Kim is a very clear exposition of the purposes and uses of ‘management flight simulators’. Use of management flight simulators is likely to increase dramatically as people recognise their power, particularly in helping managers to work through their mental models in the context of complex systems with long term implications.

Publisher: Productivity Press

Year Published: 1994-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-56327-060-9

Date Reviewed: 1996-03-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1563270609/bookwatccomau

Moments of Truth: New Strategies for Today’s Customer Driven Economy.

Author: Carlzon, Jan

Short Review:

Included as the short, straightforward and evergreen spells out, with a wealth of example, what is needed to become truly customer and market driven and what it means for leadership. A lot has been written since, but this still covers the essentials.

Publisher: Ballinger Publishing

Year Published: 1987

ISBN: 0 06 091580 3

Date Reviewed: 1996-09-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060915803/bookwatccomau

Motivation Management.

Author: Ritchie, S. and Martin, P.

Short Review:

This is a very thorough study of twelve factors in motivation, with a questionnaire developed to allow readers to build a profile for themselves and their teams and detailed analysis of the implications of the various combinations of motivators that may be found. Note that the study relates to managers, not to employees generally. In the preface, the authors state:

“The practical benefit to managers is to give them some understanding of how to manage people who have different relative motivational needs… Interestingly we were unable to find any significant differences across the different occupations… Another dimension in which we expected significant differences to occur was in national motivational tendencies… We found none: in fact the differences between individuals in any group or in any one country were dramatic; inter-group and international differences were not discernible… We believe that we have provided powerful tools for busy managers…”

The book provides a questionnaire, works through the 12 selected factors and the implications of various combinations of motivator and, in Part 3, provides advice on the use of an understanding of motivation in managing change, coping with stress, teamworking, training and development, selection of staff, and working with others. It is a valuable resource.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1999

Country: UK

ISBN: 0566081024

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566081024/bookwatccomau

My Say: A Mentor’s Guide to Success.

Author: Bobrow, Edwin

Short Review:

A’folksy’ guide to personal mastery in the Samuel smiles self-help tradition – ‘be your own mentor’ – written as a ‘how to’, with lots of ‘eight ways’, ‘six steps’ and so on. Easy to read, built round anecdotes of the author’s personal experience, but with no great depth.

Publisher: Chandler House

Year Published: 1999

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-886284-36-9

Date Reviewed: 2000-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1886284369/bookwatccomau

Myth Makers and Story Tellers.

Author: Kaye, Michael

Short Review:

Describes the purposes & uses of stories and myths in organisations. Outlines ways of developing skills in this area and useful in highlighting the potential for their deliberate use in facilitating change. I suspect that the author is better face to face than on paper.

Publisher: Business & Professional Publishing

Year Published: 1996

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1-875680-26-8

Date Reviewed: 1996-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1875680268/bookwatccomau

N

Nanocosm: Nanotechnology and the Big Changes Coming from the Inconceivably Small

Author: Atkinson, William

Short Review:

A view of the immediate future of nanotechnology.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-8144-7181- 1

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Navigating Change: How CEOs, Top Teams and Boards Steer Transformation.

Author: Hambrick, Nadler and Tushman (eds)

Short Review:

A book about ‘transformational change’ that will be ‘comfortably discomforting’ for conservatives. Talks change but remains safely within the long established control paradigm and remarkable mainly for what it does not discuss.

Full Review:

A book of 20 articles arranged in five sections:

1. CEOs

2. Top Management Teams

3. Boards of Directors

4. Senior Leadership and Discontinuous Change

5. Integration

The contributors are distinguished and the articles well written and relevant, but the book as a whole is disappointing. The territory it covers is already well tilled by others and its underlying philosophy sticks firmly to the established conventional wisdom. It will appeal to those who believe (hope) that the transformations facing society are best managed by doing more of the same only rather better, within a continuation of the traditional control model, but perhaps with a bit more of a team flavour.

It is remarkable for what it does not cover. For example, in the face of increasingly widespread and articulate questioning of the assumptions underlying business objectives (environmental sustainability, the imperfection of markets, the evident contribution of business to economic inequality and so on), there is no breath of recognition that such issues even exist. Though people as eminent as Arie de Geus and Marvin Bower question the analogy of the organisation as a mechanism and the idea of the ‘boss’ leader, there is no mention of these crucial issues.

It will probably appeal to senior businessmen who are wrestling with today’s problems, because the articles are written largely by people who have served at CEO or Board level and it addresses perennially difficult issues such as how to deal with a non-performing CEO and the appropriate balance between cooperation and conflict within a senior executive team.

The format of short articles will be attractive to those who want to get quickly to these issues, but in general they do not add much that is new to an already large existing body of knowledge. For a far better treatment of issues of corporate governance and the role of directors and top executives, see GarrattDeveloping Strategic Thought.

Publisher: Harvard Business School Press

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-87584-784-6

Date Reviewed: 1998-04-01

Comments: Pitched at top executives

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875847846/bookwatccomau

New Directions in Corporate Strategy.

Author: Twite & O’Keeffe (Eds)

Short Review:

13 chapters by various contributors around the theme of the shift in views of strategy and the sources of sustainable advantage. It covers issues such as competition policy, networks, knowledge based strategies, the doctrine of creative destruction, from an Australian perspective. Variable quality, but the best are good.

Full Review:This collection is of interest primarily to Australian readers for its context. I found nothing that is not also well covered in the wider literature of business strategy. However, the short articles do give quick access to useful summaries of the main themes covered.

Among the useful articles are:

  • a useful summary of competition policy by Hilmer, who had a large hand in developing the current government policies
  • Marsh’s analysis of industry policy. It has a good discussion of the challenge to the conventional wisdom that government should not intervene – but fails to raise the points made so forcefully by Thurow, that private enterprise is bad at basic research, education and the provision of physical infrastructure and has traditionally relied heavily on government. The debate on these critical issues of industry policy remains sadly muted in Australia
  • the two articles by Turner and Sauer, the first on leadership of change and the second on ‘IT based organisational transformation’ manage to summarise a lot of issues in a short space.

On the other hand the contributors show little appreciation of the impact of the ecological view of markets on strategy, let alone of the potential (and increasingly realised) implications of the work of people like Lovins of the Rocky Mountains Institute and others – see Hawken, Lovins and Lovins: Natural Capitalism.

Even more surprisingly, Devinney’s article on ‘Knowledge, tacit understanding and strategy’ makes no reference to Sveibey‘s work on valuing knowledge assets and, although Boisot‘s Knowledge Assets is cited as being ‘interesting’, the article does not take up the implications of his arguments. None the less, it contains some useful diagrams.

Finally, it does not address Mintzberg ‘s question: ‘Is strategy rationalist or emergent?’ (in The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning). The implicit assumption in most of the articles seems to be that there is such a thing as a ‘best strategy’ and it can be discovered. Faltering belief in that thesis has been one of the drivers of the development of techniques such as scenario planning and even of radical approaches such as the (formidably successful) philosophy of SemlerThe Seven-Day Weekend of encouraging new directions and new strategies to emerge from the front line of the corporate operation.

Interestingly, scenarios and scenario planning do not even appear in the index of this collection.

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Year Published: 2000-01-01

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1865082074

Date Reviewed: 2000-10-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1865082074/bookwatccomau

New World, New Rules: The changing role of the American Corporation.

Author: Whitman, Marina

Short Review:

An interesting counterpoint to Korten’s The Post-Corporate World. Whitman’s central question is how society adjusts to the large corporates, Korten argues for a world that tames the corporation – an interesting case of the different perspectives of an ‘insider’ and an ‘outsider’.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1999

Country: USA

ISBN: 0875848583

Date Reviewed: 2001-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875848583/bookwatccomau

O

On Becoming a Leader.

Author: Bennis, Warren

Short Review:

Bennis writes prolifically on leadership. This is a short and very useful primer of leadership qualities and skills. The chapter headings are a good guide to the book. A shrewd, commonsensical, and ranges across all the qualities needed and how to acquire them.

Publisher: Addison-Wesley Publishing

Year Published: 1989

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-201-08059-1/0-201-55087-3(p’back)

Date Reviewed: 1993-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0201080591/bookwatccomau

On Competition.

Author: Porter, Michael

Short Review:

A collection of articles, all but two of which, and the Introduction were originally published in the Harvard Business Review. He writes on the boundary between international economics and strategic business planning and is seen by some as the leading theorist in the field.

Full Review:Porter has made competition theory his own. Indeed, it is not too much to say that it is a brilliant example of the fact that ‘what you believe determines what you see’, at least as much as ‘what you see is what you believe’.

Porter sees competition as the driving force of capitalism and the explanation of many phenomena visible in the world of economics and business. With that belief as the driving force of his investigations, he applies a brilliant cartesian logic to further confirm his beliefs and drive home his arguments. His views have influenced the way a generation of business people and economists see the world.

While he acknowledges the existence of cooperation, he does not give it any significance in his theoretical schema, although clusters (concentrations of businesses in a location) and global networks do figure in the two new articles written for this book. The metaphor of complexity theory, the impact of increasing returns and the idea of economic development as the result of a competitive/cooperative ‘dance’ in ecological space does not figure in his analysis. Similarly, the need to apply a ‘human face’ to competitive activity is simply a constraint; nor are externalities – the ability to transfer costs to society while retaining benefits for private profit – even mentioned in the index. For him, as for so many essentially classical economists, human happiness does not need separate consideration because it is the inevitable consequence of economic advance. His single-minded focus on competition has produced many valuable insights and has unquestionably had a deep influence on the strategy of many organisations.

Within the arena in which competition is the appropriate framework – which is very large, his work will stand as a monumental addition to our knowledge. Whether his description gives a complete or a distorted view of our world is a very different question. The debate on this is being led by the ‘business ecologists’ and attacks not the logic of Porter and his followers, which is unassailable, but the framework of explicit and implicit assumptions about the nature of the economy and society, on which the logical structure is built. As an organised collection, the book does give convenient access to the main strands of Porter’s thought, including for example his famous thesis of the ‘five forces’ governing competition. The two new articles add to his discussion of clusters and networks and his introduction ‘frames’ the collection well, but I question whether these are enough to justify buying the book as an addition to his other work.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 87584 795 1

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-01

Comments: A strategic planning reference

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875847951/bookwatccomau

On Managing Uncertainty.

Author: Harvard Business Review

Short Review:

One of a growing number of thematic collections of articles from the Harvard Business Review. Each brings together eight or so key articles, with their executive summaries, but without editorial comment. The series is a useful ready reference to some outstanding articles.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1999

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 87584 908 3

Date Reviewed: 1999-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875849083/bookwatccomau

On Nonprofits.

Author: Harvard Business Review

Short Review:

One of ten or more thematic collections of articles from the Harvard Business Review. Each brings together eight or so key articles, with their executive summaries, but without editorial comment. The series is a useful ready reference to some outstanding articles

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1999

Country: USA

ISBN: 0875849091

Date Reviewed: 1999-08-01

On Organizational Learning.

Author: Argyris, Chris

Short Review:

Anyone who is seriously concerned with organisational learning needs to be familiar with Argyris’ work. This new edition brings together his articles and some original chapters ranging from the late 1960s to 1997. It is arranged in four parts and is perhaps the most comprehensive statement of Argyris’ view of organisational learning.

Full Review:Argyris is the doyen of research into organisational defenses and one of the most important authorities on organisational learning. Virtually all of current theory and practice concerning organisational change depends on his research in some way. Much of his writing is far from easy to read, but his research and conclusions are of fundamental importance.

It is valuable to have an updated collection of his key writings on the subject of organisational learning in a single volume. The second edition adds an Introduction based on Argyris and Schon 1996 Organizational Learning II and reprints of four articles (Chs 14 and 18&endash;20) published between 1994 and 1997.

The basic arrangement of the book remains unchanged, with four parts:

1. Organizational Defenses

2. Inhibiting Organizational Learning and Effectiveness

3. The Counterproductive Consequences of Organizational Development and Human Resource Activities

4. The Inhibition of Valid and Usable Information from the Correct Use of Normal Science.

Note the way all the parts are expressed in the negative, presumably to reinforce the theme that we shoot ourselves in the foot by doing what appears to be the right and sensible thing, but without taking account of the impact of tacit organisational and personal defences.

Publisher: Blackwell

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0-631-21309-0 (pbk)

Date Reviewed: 2001-03-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0631213090/bookwatccomau

Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points that Challenge Every Company and Career.

Author: Grove, Andrew S.

Short Review:

In effect this is an extended case study and essay on the management of what Grove calls ‘strategic inflection points’ (and Handy calls ‘the sigmoid curve’). Its great virtue is that it expresses the personal reflections of a CEO who has lived through what he describes.

Full Review:Books on management by a CEO are always interesting, particularly when they deal with the core issues with which that CEO has been concerned. You do not ordinarily expect these books to add a great deal to management theory: their role is to flesh out our understanding of management and leadership as a practical skill applied in arenas that are in some way challenging.

Grove is a successful CEO in an industry that has been archetypical of continuous and dramatic change. His chosen theme is that of how one recognises and then deals with the major and transforming shifts that confront an organisation unpredictably. He addresses it first through dealing with the difficulty that the management of successful and established have in recognising the warning signs, then through a description of the sources of transforming change and finally through describing the processes, style and activities necessary to accept and handle transforming change and the emotional issues that need to be confronted.

As well as dealing with issues that Intel handled successfully, he adds to the interest by discussing an unresolved issue ‘Does the Internet represent a ‘strategic inflection point’ for Intel?’ The underlying construct which he uses to carry his argument is the concept of the inflection point. It is differently expressed but otherwise very similar to Charles Handy’s ‘sigmoid curve’ (The Age of Paradox or The Empty Raincoat, depending on your edition) of growth and decline and his thesis that success depends on knowing when to leave that which has been successful but is headed for decline for a new growth curve. To this, Grove adds the concept of the ’10X’ Change – in other words, not simply ‘change as usual’ but a radical alignment of market or competitive forces which demands a radical response.

In Chapter 4, he goes through some of the sources of these changes: competition, technology, customers, suppliers, regulation. Chapters 5 through 8 describe analytical, processes, timing, psychological and other issues that have to be considered in managing the change process, with very graphic personal stories of the pressures on the CEO and senior team and what responses are appropriate and what are ‘the kiss of death’. The last chapter is an extended and very interesting discussion of the issue of Intel and the Internet.

The book as whole is easy to read. It retains a directness of speech that give you something of the man behind the book and how he thinks and it is refreshingly free of heavy jargon.

Publisher: Harper Collins

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0 00 255810 6

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Comments: Likely to appeal to senior executives

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385483821/bookwatccomau

Organizational DNA: Diagnosing Your Organization for Increased Effectiveness

Author: Honold, L. & Silverman, R.

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Uses the metaphor of DNA to suggest that an organization focuses on facts, ideas, contexts, or individuals and that this shapes daily business practices and results.

Publisher: Davies-Black

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-89106-175-4

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Organizational Learning at Work: Embracing the Challenges of the New Workplace.

Author: Pegasus Communications

Short Review:

A selection of eleven articles arranged in 2 parts – Overcoming Obstacles to Organizational Learning, and Exploring Innovative Concepts in Learning. They illustrate both the high quality and range of issues covered in the magazine and the high quality of editing. The articles are consistently easy to read as well as informative.

Full Review:This set of 11 articles is arranged in two parts, Overcoming Obstacles to Organizational Learning, and Exploring Innovative Concepts in Learning.

The authors include people who are leaders in their respective fields, such as:

  • John Sterman who writes on ‘superstitious learning’ – the process whereby senior executives make mistaken attributions and receive feedback that seems to confirm the fallacy
  • Juanita Brown and Bill Isaacs – experts on dialogue, who write on ‘Conversation as a Core Business’ process
  • Dennis Meadows, one of the co-authors of The Limits to Growth and Beyond the Limits, who writes on Breaking the Cycle of Organizational Addiction
  • Daniel Kim, who is publisher of The Systems Thinker and contributes two articles ‘What is Your Organization’s Core Theory of Success’ and ‘Decision Making: The Empowerment Challenge
  • Diane Cory and Rebecca Bradley, two coaches who contribute ‘Partnership Coaching’, an excellent summary of the best coaching principles.

The articles are short – averaging a little over 10 pages each – clear and readable. Most provide excellent illustrations of the use of causal loop diagrams to convey the dynamics of the situation the authors write about. They convey a lot of substance in a small space and make a valuable ready reference for those engaged in change management and organisational learning.

Publisher: Pegasus Communications Inc.

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-883823-26-9

Date Reviewed: 1998-11-01

Comments: Recommended for all concerned with organizational learning

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1883823269/bookwatccomau

Outlearning the Wolves: Surviving and Thriving in a Learning Organization.

Author: Hutchens, David

Short Review:

An engaging little fable about organisational learning, supported by a few pages of good discussion of the principles behind the story. The fable takes only a few minutes to read but, with the supporting material, makes a very good basis for discussion. Wittily illustrated.

Publisher: Pegasus Communications

Year Published: 1998

Country: UA

ISBN: 1-883823-24-2

Date Reviewed: 1998-05-01

Comments: A quick introduction to organisational learning

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1883823242/bookwatccomau

Over the Horizon: Planning products today for success tomorrow.

Author: Hollins, B. and Hollins, G.

Short Review:

Looks at techniques, tools and issues in each of four time frames. It has useful sections and some good charts, but lacks depth and focus.

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons

Year Published: 1999

Country: UK

ISBN: 0471987174

Date Reviewed: 2000-10-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471987174/bookwatccomau

Ownership, Leadership and Transformation: Can We Do Better for Capacity Development?

Author: UNDP

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: The final volume in a series. This third book bridges the conceptual foundations of capacity development and the difficulties and practical realities in the field. It demystifies the process of capacity development to make it more “user-friendly”.

Publisher: Earthscan

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1844070581

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

P

Peak Performance: Aligning the Hearts and Minds of Your Employees.

Author: Katzenbach, John

Short Review:

Argues that there are alternative paths or strategies for building exceptional performance and identifies and explores five, and alternative balances between them. Essentially traditional in its perspective, and with American cultural assumptions that will need ‘translation’ for other cultures.

Full Review:The author’s starting point is the need for superior performance by all employees and the observation that high levels of emotional commitment are needed to achieve this. He argues that five distinct ‘paths’ or strategies can be followed to achieve the result and that organisations showing superior performance use any of a variety of balances between the five strategies. More than one path gives greater flexibility and robustness, but a more complex strategy.

The ‘paths’ are:

  • ‘Mission, values and pride’: (based on ‘noble purpose, rich history, strong values and group cohesion’)
  • ‘Process and metrics’: (based on ‘clear measures and standards, focused processes, performance transparency, collaborative and collective effort’)
  • ‘Entrepreneurial spirit’: (based on ‘high earning opportunity, strong ownership interests, personal risk’)
  • ‘Individual achievement’: (based on ‘lots of opportunity, individuals given freedom to act, focus on individual performance, performance based advancement, healthy competitiveness)
  • ‘Recognition and celebration’: (based on ‘widespread recognition/reward, lots of special events, visible high energy, social interaction and fun’).

Part 1 introduces the paths, Part 2 describes each of the five paths, Part 3 is concerned with choice and application of the path or paths. Stated baldly, the conclusions and prescription are not very surprising, although some will find the extensive examples useful. I was left with the uncomfortable feeling that you tend to find what you are looking for, and the author was looking for a comfortable collection of traditional approaches to motivation, well applied.

The implicit philosophy appears to be one of what ‘leaders’ do to or for their people, rather than starting from any sense of community between leaders and led. In this too, it belongs to traditional thinking and will be very comforting to traditionalist managers. The cultural assumptions and the examples are also entirely US based, which will limit the practical value of the book to truly global or trans-cultural organisations.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2000-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0875849369

Date Reviewed: 2000-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875849369/bookwatccomau

Personal & Organisational Transformations: The True Challenge to Continual Quality Improvement.

Author: Fisher, Dalmar & Torbert, William R.

Short Review:

Designed as a text to study, it is framed around quality improvement and addresses the conditions required for long term success. Its strength is that it starts with the individuals within the organisation rather than the process.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Book Company Europe

Year Published: 1995 Country: UK

ISBN: 0-07-707834-9

Date Reviewed: 1996-03-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0077078349/bookwatccomau

Perspectives on Industrial Ecology

Author: Bourg & Erkman (Eds)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Business-as-usual in terms of industrial and technological development – even if based on a growing fear of pollution and shortages of natural resources – will never deliver sustainable outcomes

Publisher: Greenleaf Year

Published: 2003

ISBN: 1874719462

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-12

Persuading Aristotle: The Timeless art of persuasion in business, negotiation and the media.

Author: Thompson, Peter

Short Review:

A simply written and thorough guide to the art of making and winning a case. It also includes a detailed guide for those who expect to be interviewed for television or radio. Includes some simple material on how to connect to people of different temperaments.

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Year Published: 1998

Country: Australia

ISBN: 186448 739 9

Date Reviewed: 1998-11-01

Comments: Recommended for those new to being interviewed

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1864487399/bookwatccomau

Peter Drucker on the Profession of Management

Author: Drucker, Peter

Short Review:

Brings together all his HBR articles across a wide range of management issues.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1-59139-322-1

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1591393221/bookwatccomau

Planning and Playing: A little Narrative on Modern and Postmodern Management.

Author: Weiss, Mario

Short Review:

If you are confused by use of the terms ‘modernism’ and ‘postmodernism’, you may find this little book useful. It is about the shift in manufacturing from ‘premodern’ to ‘postmodern’ organisation, and the related shifts that need to be made in knowledge management. The key messages are concerned with the shift from a search for certainty to a search for situational fit and that the role(s) of the manager change with this shift in approach. It emphasises the management role of ‘specifying the game’ while leaving maximum latitude to the players as to how they play. The book is laid out almost like a children’s book, with short sections of text and associated pictures on each page. There is a useful glossary. One other comment is that exclusive use of the masculine in the text is now so rare as to be very obtrusive when encountered. I suspect that it is a consequence of English being a second language for the author.

Publisher: Gaia AG

Year Published: 2002

Country: Germany

ISBN: 3000100253

Date Reviewed: 2003-02-01

Book URL: Not listed at Amazon.com. Available from Amazon.co.uk

Power Thinking: How the Way You Think Can Change the Way You Lead

Author: Mangieri & Block

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Offers leaders the information they need to evaluate their current thinking proficiencies, determine areas for improvement, and enhance their thinking skills.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-7879-6882-X

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Pressing Problems in Modern Organizations: (That Keep Us up at Night). Transforming Agendas for Research and Practice.

Author: Quinn, O’Neill and St. Clair (Eds)

Short Review:

A collection of articles examining 11 groups of widely experienced problems and possible solutions. It is written in academic language, mainly for academics and is concerned with identifying a research agenda. Useful as such, but is unlikely to appeal to practising managers.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2000

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-8144-7052-1

Date Reviewed: 2000-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814470521/bookwatccomau

Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence

Author: Goleman, D. et al.

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: This further application of the concept of emotional intelligence argues that a primary role of leaders is to drive emotions in the right direction.

Publisher: HBS

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 157851486X

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Problem Solving in Groups.

Author: Robson, Mike

Short Review:

This is a useful little book that deals with the dynamics, processes and roles needed for groups to be effective in solving problems and the tools available to them. There are many books available on group and team dynamics, but rather fewer on the basics of problem identification and definition, and the tools available to collect and interpret quantitative and qualitative data, analyze it, and find solutions. The book contains sections on such useful tools as Pareto analysis, force field analysis, fishbone diagrams and so on.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 2002

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0566084678

Date Reviewed: 2003-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566084678/bookwatccomau

Product Leadership

Author: Cooper, Robert G.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: A study of the key factors in new product success.

Publisher: Basic Books

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA

ISBN: 046501433X

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-13

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/046501433X/bookwatccomau

Productive Workplaces Revisited: Dignity, Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century

Author: Weisbord, Marvin

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Takes the next step in exploring effective strategies for improving workplace productivity through dignity, meaning, and community.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-7879-7117-0

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Productive Workplaces: Organizing and managing for dignity, meaning and community.

Author: Weisbord, Marvin R.

Short Review:

At Aug 2004 a new edition is due for review. Now fairly old, a very good encapsulation of theories about the productive workplace – Taylor, McGregor etc., with an emphasis on the change process. The last part of the book gives valuable ideas on practical applications of ‘organisation development’

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1987

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-55542-054-0/1-05542-370-1(p’back)

Date Reviewed: 1993-01-01

Comments: Recommended for organization development practitioners

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1555420540/bookwatccomau

Project Management for Business Professionals: A Comprehensive Guide.

Author: Knutson, J. (Ed.)

Short Review:

This 30 chapter anthology of all aspects of project management is written by experts in each field. It is in two parts – ‘the technical track’ and ‘the human dimensions track’ and is very thorough in its coverage. It is useful both for project management professionals and for managers who occasionally need to apply project management in their work.

Full Review:The context of this very comprehensive collection is the thesis that more and more of the work of organisations of all kinds is, or should be, carried out in project mode. (The three classic modes of work are process, as in a production line, project , the bringing together of diverse expertise to accomplish a specific time-bound task, and case, which is most commonly found in legal and health based organisations. Each mode requires its own form of organisation and each has consequences for structure, working methods, and work relationships.)

The book is part explanatory and part evangelical, seeking to show how business results can be improved through intelligent use of the whole bundle of techniques and ways of seeing things that are encompassed in the project mode. The collection is arranged to cover technical and human issues that arise in managing projects in a very wide variety of situations. It is not and does not aim to be a conventional ‘manual’. In fact one of my few criticisms is that I think the reader would have expected a better and more accessible overview of the software tools available and their uses than is actually provided.

Within its organisation into ‘technical’ and ‘human dimensions’ themes, the technical track in effect walks the reader through the stages in the life of a project, covering in the process some elements that often do not get enough attention. For example the opening chapter (3) is on portfolio management, which seeks to answer the questions ‘what should we take on and what should we drop?’ and to place each project in the wider context of organisational objectives.

Chapter 8 gives a very good overview of risk management (with a pungent section on the ten deadly sins of risk mismanagement that will be only too familiar to most readers).

Chapter 10 covers the subject of Earned Value Management, a powerful tool for identifying whether overruns in the course of a project are trivial or are serious concealed traps.

Chapter 12 deals with project closeout; its importance; the fact that it is often done badly; and the consequences in failure to derive maximum benefit either from the project being closed or from subsequent projects to which ‘lessons learned’ might be applied.

The second half of the book ‘The Human Dimensions Track’ is, if anything, even more valuable because the human aspects of project management are so often neglected.

The first three chapters are concerned with developing an organisation based on project management. They constitute a useful overview of a subject that justifies a book of its own – the issue of how to combine conventional departmental organisation and project organisation in a harmonious way and how to provide development and career path opportunities for the project stream.

This section also includes a substantial chapter on ethics management. The discussion is based on how to apply, in a project context, Vincent Di Norcia’s five performance maxims: Do no harm; Solve the problem; Enable informed choice; Act, learn, improve; Seek the common good. It seeks to apply these principles within recognition of projects as agents of change in which a number of different and even contradictory value systems may apply.

There are also chapters on teams, roles and cultural diversity. These apply principles that are well covered in the literature on these themes specifically to the project context. The collection is well edited to produce a consistently clear and readable style, with good subheadings and summaries within each chapter.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 2001-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0471380334

Date Reviewed: 2001-03-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471380334/bookwatccomau

Project Management: Strategic Design and Implementation.

Author: Cleland, David

Short Review:

A substantially updated edition of this classic on project management from a strategic perspective. It now includes self-managed teams and alternative organisation structures in the context of project management.

Full Review:

This is a valuable detailed manual of all aspects of project management, written for the practitioner rather than the beginner. It is in seven parts:

  • Introduction (Why Project Management and the PM process)
  • The Strategic Context of Projects
  • Organizational Design for Project Management
  • Project Operations (Planning, Information system, Monitoring, Termination)
  • Interpersonal Dynamics in the Management of Projects (Leadership, communication, teams)
  • The Cultural Elements
  • New Prospects (alternative teams, the future of project management)

Each of the 21 chapters ends with a summary, discussion questions and a user checklist. It is very well set out for reference. While the principles apply to all projects, the book is concerned primarily with fairly large and complex projects that require sophisticated management. A simpler text is more useful for small projects.

Cleland & IrelandProject Manager’s Portable Handbook (McGraw Hill 1999 ISBN 0071352635) is a good companion, so is Rea & Lintz (eds) Project Management for the 21st Century (Academic Press 1998 ISBN 012449966X)

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 07 012020 X

Date Reviewed: 2000-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/007012020X/bookwatccomau

Putting Partnerships to Work: Strategic Alliances for Development Between Government, the Private Sector and Civil Society.

Author: Warner, M. and Sullivan, R. (Eds)

Short Review:

This book derives from a major research project over 4 years, which aimed to enhance the role of oil, gas and mining corporations in international development and to derive guidance on how partnerships can reduce investment risks and promote community and regional development. Aimed at a somewhat specialized audience, it appears thorough and useful for organizations in this situation. Appendices offer examples of a charter, checklists of impact indicators and examples of impact tables.

Publisher: Greenleaf Publishing

Year Published: 2004

Country: UK

ISBN: 1874719721

Date Reviewed: 2004-08-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1874719721/bookwatccomau

Q

Quantum Organizations: A New Paradigm for Achieving Organizational Success and Personal Meaning

Author: Kilmann, R.H.

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Explores the key developments in quantum physics, chaos theory, consciousness research, and other areas to describe the ‘quantum organization’, as a concept for seeing, managing, and leading organizations. Describes self-designing systems and processes.

Publisher: Davies-Black

Year Published: 2001

ISBN: 089106155X

Date Reviewed: 2003-08-03

R

Rational Exuberance: Silencing the Enemies of Growth.

Author: Mandel, Michael J.

Short Review:

Growth is good. Continued employment, education and prosperity depend on continued rapid growth. Growth is driven by innovation, but innovation is being endangered by policies that have the effect of discouraging innovation. That is the simple argument of this book, and like most books with a single focus, it makes some good points but exaggerates its case and begs a lot of questions. For example, the author seems to focus on innovation rather than basic research, but there is a widely held view that the problem is fundamentally more one of lack of basic research than of innovation as such. The author argues for rapid growth but fails to define growth. For purposes of GNP, growth means increasing the throughput of resources – resource use. With a focus on innovation, it is possible that Mandel is actually talking about development – more of the outcomes we want with less resource use, but economists seldom distinguish between growth and development. There is a case for more attention to innovation in all its forms and this book states, perhaps overstates, that case.

Publisher: Harper Business

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA

ISBN: 0060580496

Date Reviewed: 2004-08-10

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060580496/bookwatccomau

Real Change Leaders: How you can Create Growth and High Performance at your Company.

Author: Katzenbach, Jon (et al)

Short Review:

A workmanlike and well laid out ‘how to’ on attitudes and skills for middle managers and their bosses to achieve lasting change, but not in the same class as his previous book. Seeks to add new buzzwords and ‘wrinkles’ to a well worked field.

Publisher: Nicholas Brealy

Year Published: 1966

Country: UK

ISBN: 1-85788-150-8

Date Reviewed: 1996-11-01

Reasons and Rationalizations – The Limits to Organizational Knowledge

Author: Argyris, Chris

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: This is a book about how social sciences can be improved in ways that its relevance is expanded, the applicability of its knowledge is enlarged and increased, and the commitment to questioning the status quo is strengthened.

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Year Published: 2004

Country: UK

ISBN: 0-19-926807-X

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-14

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/019926807X/bookwatccomau

Reclaiming Higher Ground: Creating Organizations that Inspire the Soul.

Author: Secretan, Lance

Short Review:

The word ‘soul’ is becoming popular as a way of describing the totality of human potential. This is a thorough, somewhat evangelistic, exploration of what is needed to create organisations and relationships that bring out and encourage that potential.

Full Review:How you react to this book will depend largely on how comfortable you are with the New Age ‘religious’ language that has become so popular recently. Stripped of that language, the book is a sound, thorough and common sense exploration of the behaviours, relationships and structures needed to build an organisation that fully engages its people and its stakeholders and encourages the building and cooperative application of human potential to achieve agreed ends. The evangelistic style and the jargon will either help or get in the way of this message depending on your response.

While virtually everything in the book has been said before and in other ways, it does offer a consistent rationale for organisations to act in accordance with human values and aspirations and a consistent way to apply those values. Though there are many references to what all this will do for ‘the bottom line’ – probably correctly – the feeling remains that this is a book which will appeal most strongly to the victims of ‘soulless’ organisations rather than to than to those with the greatest power to initiate change.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1977-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-07-057919-9

Date Reviewed: 1997-05-01

Comments: Likely to appeal to OD practitioners

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070579199/bookwatccomau

Red Sky At Morning

Author: Speth, James G.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Warns that efforts to protect Earth’s environment are not succeeding. Still, he says, the challenges are not insurmountable. He offers new strategies for dealing with environmental threats around the world.

Publisher: YaleUP

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-300-10232-1

Date Reviewed: 2004-05-30

Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution.

Author: Hammer, Michael & Champy, James

Short Review:

Shows in clear and practical terms what is involved in a shift from building processes based on classic principles of division of labour to principles of simplicity and clarity of the whole process – crossing all boundaries and consonant with wider business strategies.

Publisher: HarperCollins

Year Published: 1994

ISBN: 1-86373-706-5

Date Reviewed: 1995-02-01

Comments: For change managers

Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership

Author: Bolman & Deal

Short Review:

Explains ‘Reframing’. Their four frames view organizations as factories, families, jungles, and theatres or temples.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-7879-6426-3

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector.

Author: Osborne, David & Gaebler, Ted

Short Review:

A book which I believe got more attention than it deserved. It is not a deeply thought out analysis of the major issues of governance in our time. It is a descriptive journey through the application of business principles to public activity, ranging from the useful to the trivial.

Publisher: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company

Year Published: 1992

ISBN: 0-201-52394-9

Date Reviewed: 1994-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0201523949/bookwatccomau

Reinventing Training and Development.

Author: Sims, Ronald R.

Short Review:

Despite its title, this is a well set out exposition of an essentially traditional approach to training and development, albeit with an emphasis on strategic relevance and customer focus. It relies on identification of ‘pivotal knowledge and skills’, the Kolb cycle of learning and meticulous evaluation.

Full Review:The use of the word ‘Reinventing’ in the title is presumably justified by the author’s insistence on:

  • strategic linkage of training and development (T&D) to the strategic directions of the organisation and to customer needs through identifying and working with ‘pivotal employee knowledge, skills and other characteristics (KSAOCs)’ and identifying training needs based on their use
  • making use of all the various tools and technologies for training that have emerged
  • careful and thorough evaluation, linked back to the strategic purposes of the organisation.

Behind the text appears to be an attempt to assert the relevance and centrality of the training and development profession as a cornerstone in the maintenance of competitive advantage. Interestingly, he uses the concept of the learning organisation and the ideas in Senge’s The Fifth Discipline to support his thesis, despite a 1992 speech by Senge in which he predicted to a gathering of training and development specialists that, in a few years time, most of them would not be there!

The book is well set out, starting with processes for analysing T&D needs (based largely on the concept of the KSAOC). There are then:

  • a chapter on designing T&D initiatives, which is heavily based on the Kolb learning cycle
  • a review of available training methods
  • an excursion into leadership development
  • a chapter on enhancing transfer of training, based largely on experiential learning exercises and formal debriefing processes
  • two chapters on training evaluation, with a strong emphasis on rigour and on linkage to the strategic goals of the organisation
  • a final chapter on the future of training, which links ‘the top seven challenges of CEOs’, to equivalent challenges for training professionals and to processes for building T&D’s strategic value.

The book is thorough and clear. However, it contains a number of implicit assumptions of which the reader needs to be aware. The first is best seen by contrasting this book with the earlier VaillLearning as a Way of Being. Vaill pointed out that we are moving – have moved – from a world in which it was reasonable to assume that the teacher knows and the student learns, to one in which none of us know, but we can learn together. This same message is reinforced by authors like Leonard-Barton, Leonard & Swap, Dixon and others. Sims gives no indication of moving from the older attitude. For example, he gives little attention to action learning (see for example Dotlich and Weinstein) and none at all to the dynamic field of communities of practice (see for example Senge: The Dance of Change). Associated with this is a truly remarkable assumption that training is and should be the domain of professional trainers.

There is very little discussion of the role of managers or leaders in the process of employee development (or indeed in their own development) and the whole tone of the book is very ‘bureaucratic’ in this respect – the separation of specialist roles. Gratton, et al:Strategic Human Resource Management note the wide gap between the rhetoric of managerial involvement in development and the reality, but explicitly identify addressing this as a key issue in maintaining competitive advantage over the long haul. Sims conveys the impression that the separation of responsibilities is as it should be.

The second can be seen by contrasting it with Gratton’s book. Sims is concerned only with the strategic goals of the organisation (or assumes that these and the interests of the individual employees must necessarily be aligned), whereas Gratton explicitly discusses the implications of the change in the implicit contract between employer and employee with the demise of assumptions of lifelong employment. Without contesting the centrality of the strategic goals of the organisation, that book explicitly looks at ways in which organisational and individual needs might be reconciled and the cultural requirements for this to occur.

Thirdly, Sims has not confronted the reality of widespread ‘outsourcing’ of the training function. Regardless of theory, the effect of this is precisely to separate training from intimacy with the strategic direction of the buying organisation, to focus ‘training’ on those mechanistic elements that can be offered on a ‘one size fits all’ basis, and to focus evaluation on justification on the value of the training contract.

As a manual for professional trainers to ensure that their approach to their job is well adapted to the needs of the organisation, this book is useful. As a guide to how training and development, or more properly individual and organisational learning should be ‘reinvented’, it is very deeply flawed.

Publisher: Quorum

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 56720 180 6

Date Reviewed: 2000-09-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1567201806/bookwatccomau

Relentless Growth: How Silicon Valley Innovation Strategies Can Work in Your Business.

Author: Meyer, Christopher

Short Review:

Appears to be a ‘popular’ approach to the subject of knowledge management and innovation, with a particular emphasis on high technology business. Interesting but not in the same league as Leonard-Barton’sWellsprings of Knowledge.

Publisher: Free Press

Year Published: 1998

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 684 83446 4

Date Reviewed: 1998-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684834464/bookwatccomau

Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load For The Rest Of Your Life.

Author: Leider, R. and Shapiro, D.

Short Review:

This is another book in the popular self-development genre, and a good one of its kind. It is thorough, down to earth and integrative. It is also well-written and not unduly loaded with reminiscences. From the Introduction: Quite simply, we must continually unpack and repack our bags… Unpacking simply means taking a long, hard look at what we’re carrying and why. Seeing if our possessions, relationships, work, and purpose are still helping us move forward, or if they’re dragging us down… Repacking, then, is the ongoing and continuous activity of reflection and choice. Rearranging our priorities. Reframing our vision of the good life. And recovering a new sense of being alive. The authors work through these activities.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 2002

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-57675-180-5

Date Reviewed: 2003-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576751805/bookwatccomau

Revival of the Fittest: Why Good Companies Go Bad and How Great Managers Remake Them

Author: Sull, Donald

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: A new, research-based model for effecting change that centers around transformational commitments–specific actions that help eliminate status-quo behaviors in five areas: strategic frames, relationships, processes, resources, and values.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1578519934

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Reworking Success: New Communities at the Millennium.

Author: Theobald, Robert

Short Review:

This is the book of a series of Massey lectures that were never given, but a similar set of lectures in Australia evoked wide interest. It offers new directions and a possible way ahead in the face of the ‘failure of our current success’ and its consequences.

Full Review: 

Reworking Success is compared with Willis Harman‘s Global Mind Change in the full review of that book.

Publisher: New Society Publishers

Year Published: 1997

Country: Canada

ISBN: 0 86571 367 7

Date Reviewed: 1998-09-14

Right from the Start: Taking Charge in a New Leadership Role.

Author: Ciampa, D. and Watkins, M.

Short Review:

Concerned with the challenges to a new leader coming into an organisation and how to handle them. Contains vignettes of the experience of people in that situation and provides thorough and systematic coverage of the issues.

Full Review:Here is a book on leadership that has found a gap in the coverage of the plethora of leadership texts that beset us. It is concerned specifically with the transition between leaders, whether to an anointed internal successor or to an outsider.

The coverage of both the issues and suggested solutions is thorough, systematic and clear and is based on extensive conversations with people in the situation of taking up a senior leadership role. It is also relatively unsurprising.

My only – minor – criticism is that the book is unnecessarily long, largely because it includes a great deal of material that is common to all stages and situations of leadership rather than sticking to the specifics of the transition situation.

The first chapter sets out ‘seven fundamental propositions’:

  • A new leader has two to three years [so long?] to make measurable progress in changing the culture and improving financial performance
  • On arrival, the new leader should already understand the organization’s current strategy and associated goals and challenges, and should have formed hypotheses about its operating priorities. During the first six months, these hypotheses must be tested and either validated or changed.
  • New leaders must balance an intense single-minded focus on a few vital priorities with flexibility about when and how they are implemented.
  • Within the first six months, the new leader must make key decisions about the ‘organizational architecture’ of people, structure and systems. Most crucially, the new leader must decide whether the composition of the inherited team is appropriate, and whether the organizational architecture must change.
  • By the end of the first six months, the new leader must also have built some personal credibility and momentum. Early wins are crucial, as is beginning to lay a foundation for sustained improvements in performance.
  • The new leader must earn the right to transform the organization. The initial mandate from the Board and CEO is never sufficient, nor will it remain static. It must be diligently and regularly reassessed. The new leader must also work actively to build coalitions supportive of change.
  • There is no single best way to manage a leadership transition. New leaders’ approaches will inevitably be shaped by the situations they face, their prior experience, and their leadership styles.

To these precepts they add three core tasks (which form the three Parts of the book):

  • Creating momentum
  • Mastering the enabling technologies of learning, visioning, and coalition building
  • Managing oneself

This is brought together in a chart, which is reproduced here. The authors offer ‘guidelines’ for each area. As an example, the guidelines for learning are:

  • You can’t learn everything at once – but you don’t need to
  • There is a circular logic to learning during the transition
  • You can’t completely control your learning strategy
  • the hardest things to master are politics and culture
  • it gets harder to learn as time passes.

And so on. Throughout, the book is solid, unspectacular, and useful to people in an inherently difficult situation.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA ISBN: 0 87584 750 1

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-01

Comments: Recommended for those succeeding to senior positions

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875847501/bookwatccomau

Road to Riches or The Wealth of Man.

Author: Jay, Peter

Short Review:

An avowedly ‘popular’ economic history of our species from earliest times to the near future, written to accompany a BBC TV series. The author traces a ‘waltz’ between progress and retrogression. In the last chapter he spends some time on the question whether the malthusian threat may re-emerge. The book is engaging, wide-ranging and informative,but side-steps many of the more difficult contemporary questions – including the place of economics in our system of score-keeping.

Publisher: Wiedenfeld and Nicolson

Year Published: 2000

Country: UK

ISBN: 0297643673

Date Reviewed: 2001-07-01

Comments: Recommended for those with a general interest in economic history

Robert K. Greenleaf: A Life of Servant Leadership

Author: Frick, Don

Short Review:

This is a very readable and comprehensive biography of Robert Greenleaf, originator of the concept of “servant leadership”. It describes the life of an extraordinary man and the development of the concepts and practice of ‘servant leadership’. The description of the background to Greenleaf’s development and work adds in an important way to understanding of the practice.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 1-57675-276-3

Date Reviewed: 2005-02-26

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576752763/bookwatccomau

S

Seeing Differently: Insights on Innovation.

Author: Brown, J. S. (ed)

Short Review:

The value of a book of reprints from HBR’s rich archive depends on the quality of selection by the miner. This is the best such anthology I have seen, with an excellent introduction on the theme ‘To do things differently, we must learn to see things differently’.

Full Review:

There are 12 articles, arranged in four parts.

Part 1 Perspectives on the Changing Business Context

Part 2 New Tools, New Rules

Part 3 New Lenses for Competitive Advantage

Part 4 Managing Innovation

The Executive summary to each article is included at the end of the book. The Introduction deserves very careful reading. To quote an early paragraph:

To do things differently, we must learn to see things differently. Seeing differently means learning to question the conceptual lenses through which we view and frame the world, our businesses, our core competencies, our competitive advantage, and our business models… If there is anything actually coming into focus today, it is the realization that we need to question much of what we think we know about how to conduct commerce, including marketing, distribution, service and the notion of competition itself. Hardest of all, we need to be able to think about changing the architecture of our revenue streams, that is, the way we make money.

Also in the introduction, the author/editor introduces a powerful framework for thinking about innovation opportunities, which he calls QTL4, or Quality through Linking to the world; Listening through those linkages; Learning and reflecting through those listenings; and then Leading. He has applied this framework to selection of the articles for the book.

The opening article is W. Brian Arthur’s Increasing Returns and the New World of Business. It challenges one of the most fundamental tenets of classical economics, ‘the assumption of diminishing returns: products or companies that get ahead in a market eventually run into limitations, so that a predictable equilibrium of prices and market shares is reached’. He argues that while this still applies in large measure to the bulk-processing economy, increasing returns, ‘the tendency for that which is ahead to get further ahead, for that which loses advantage to lose further advantage’ tends to reign in the newer part of the economy, the knowledge-based industries. This has enormous implications for business practice and for national policy. The two worlds of bulk processing and knowledge have different economics, operating side by side.

The article works through the implications of operating in the different economies and for those organisations that have to operate simultaneously in both. It is hugely important that not only business people but also politicians and national policy makers understand its implications.

Gary Hamel’s article Strategy as Revolution is useful, but I think the reader would do better to refer to Kees van der Heijden’s Scenarios as a more useful and fully rounded discussion of the strategy process and its link to organisational learning.

The third article in the first section, by Morris and Ferguson, in effect explores a special case of Brian Arthur’s thesis of increasing returns, by identifying the critical importance of control of the architecture by which elements in the IT industry (it also applies to some other markets) are fitted together and setting out the basic imperatives that drive most architectural contests.

Part 2 New Tools, New Rules is for me the weakest part of the collection. The three tools selected, game theory, the options approach to capital investment and virtual organisation are not the most relevant or mind stretching tools to reach for. Perhaps somewhat less accessible but rather more widely important are managerial micro-worlds – models against which systemic effects can be judged – and some of the ways of thinking that are emerging from complexity theory.

With Parts 3 and 4, the selection is back on track. They offer, respectively, ways in which a fresh view can reveal competitive advantage and approaches to managing the process of innovation. John Brown’s own article on innovation makes sure that the collection ends on a high note.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 87584 755 2

Date Reviewed: 1997-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875847552/bookwatccomau

Service Within.

Author: Albrecht, Karl

Short Review:

A not quite random selection from Albrecht’s suite of books on what has become known as Total Quality Service. This one focuses on the service inter-relationships within an organization.

Publisher: Business One Irwin

Year Published: 1990

ISBN: 1-55623-353-1

Date Reviewed: 1995-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1556233531/bookwatccomau

Shadows of the Neanderthal: Illuminating the Beliefs that Limit Our Organizations.

Author: Hutchens, David

Short Review:

This is another in the excellent series of fables that Pegasus offer to illustrate aspects of organisational learning – in this case mental models. The story is fun and revealing; the follow up summary of principles is clear and compact. A valuable resource for all ages.

Full Review:Since the days of Plato and Aesop (and before) fables and parables have been a powerful way of conveying important messages in a congenial way. This is another delightful fable, with very engaging illustrations and a powerful message.

Plato’s cave has been updated (or is it backdated?) to the days of cavemen. The sub-title suggests that it is written for organisations. I also tried it on my 10-year old and it came through with flying colours – you can not start too young with sensitising people to the limiting effect of unconscious mental models.

The complementary summary of principles for dealing with mental models and ‘the ladder of inference’ make the book as a whole an excellent resource for general use.

Publisher: Pegasus Communications Inc

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-883823-30-7

Date Reviewed: 1999-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1883823307/bookwatccomau

Shaping Globalization: Civil Society, Cultural Power, and Threefolding

Author: Perlas, Nicanor

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Argues that global civil society is a cultural institution wielding cultural power, and shows how, through the use of this distinct power, it can advance its agenda in the political and economic realms of society without compromising its identity.

Publisher: New Society

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 9719223308

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Simplified Strategic Planning: A No-nonsense Guide for Busy People Who Want Results Fast!

Author: Bradford, R.W. et al.

Short Review:

Despite the long history of strategic planning, many organisations do not plan. This book offers a sound approach for novices that picks up most of the basics and offers a step-by-step process. However, the approach is much more mechanistic than it admits and ignores some important aspects of planning. Supported with downloadable pro formas from a web site.

Full Review:

This book claims to offer a lean, effective strategy process to develop plans that will convert to action and answer ‘the three essential questions of business:

  • what are you going to sell?
  • who are your target customers?
  • how can you beat or avoid the competition?

The authors argue that a plan can be developed in the course of three workshops. One gets the impression that the book is in fact a distillation of the experience of the authors in running such workshops. Beneath a certain amount of hype and sermonising about strategy is a thorough, essentially conservative, approach to the fundamentals of planning that addresses:

  • who should take part in the process
  • analysis of the current market and competition
  • undertaking an internal audit of your strengths and strategic competencies
  • making (explicit and testable) assumptions about the future
  • selecting a strategic focus and vision
  • preparing for strategic implementation

There is a useful insistence on being specific and focused and a rigorous approach to analysis that is valuable – but could risk falling into the very trap of excessive documentation that it seeks to warn against. If you have not engaged in planning before, you may find the logical layout and the guidance provided to be useful. If you are familiar with planning, you will probably see the approach as the rebadging of 1960s and 1970s planning that it is. Not that there is anything wrong with that – fundamentals are fundamentals. However, one result is that many of the key strategic preoccupations of even small companies hardly get a mention – for example strategic partnering or cluster strategies and supply chain strategies.

Similarly, the treatment of strategic competencies and assumptions about the future is very weak compared with that of say van der Heijden: Scenarios The Art of Strategic Conversation or Hamel and Prahalad: Competing for the Future. Both are admittedly written primarily for large companies, but the principles can and should be translated for use by smaller ones.

Finally, anyone who plans to use the book needs to think very carefully about their philosophy of relationship between management and ‘employees’ (their preferred term). The text is based on an implicit very hierarchical view of this relationship. If you don’t share that, you will need to do things differently.

Publisher: Chandler House Press

Year Published: 2000-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1886284466

Date Reviewed: 2001-04-01

Comments: Suitable for those new to strategic planning

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1886284466/bookwatccomau

Simulation: The Practice of Model Development and Use

Author: Robinson,Stewart

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Offers guidance through the key stages in a simulation project in terms of both the technical requirements and the project management issues surrounding it.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-470-84772-7

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Skandia and the Intellectual Capital Development. reports).

Author: Skandia

Short Review:

Provides a valuable case study of the application of principles of building and measuring knowledge based intangible assets, as well as an overview of wider theory and practice. Both the CD and the print material are clear and user friendly.

Full Review:

This package of material consists of a CD and supplements on Intellectual Capital to a series of Annual and Interim Reports. From Skandia’s view point they are probably both a service to the community and a brilliant piece of corporate public relations. For the business reader they provide not only a very easily absorbed explanation of the principles underlying the knowledge economy and a knowledge based corporation, but also an extremely useful case study in the development and use of financial and non-financial measures. The material is valuable as a stand alone overview of what one major company is doing in this field. It also makes an excellent case study to support Sveiby.

Publisher: Skandia Internet www.skandia.se

Year Published: 1996

Country: Sweden/USA

ISBN: none

Date Reviewed: 1997-10-01

Comments: Free on request

Smart Risk

Author: Holmes, Andrew

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: A step-by-step approach, covering what is risk management and why it matters, the categories of risk, how to achieve the right balance of risk, knowing your risk appetite, and how to manage your risks.

Publisher: Capstone

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 1-84112-507-5

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Smart Things to Know about Change.

Author: Firth, David

Short Review:

This is one of a series issued by Capstone. This one is a well set out, breezy and wide-ranging guide, with lots of tips, quotes, ‘killer questions’ and so on. The series is mainly concerned with organising established basic knowledge for easy reference. This one succeeds better than its companion on Strategy.

Publisher: Capstone

Year Published: 1999

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 1-84112-035-9

Date Reviewed: 2000-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1841120359/bookwatccomau

Smart Things to Know about Strategy.

Author: Koch, Richard

Short Review:

Part of a series which also covers change, knowledge management and other topics. Aims to be ‘the only book you need to read to understand business strategy’. Though well laid out, it is rather slick and opinionated. For a simple guide, you would do better with Markides.

Publisher: Capstone

Year Published: 1999

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 1-84112-034-0

Date Reviewed: 2000-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1841120340/bookwatccomau

Social Networks and Organizations

Author: Kilduff, M. andTsai, W

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Provides a compact introduction to major concepts in the area of organizational social networks.

Publisher: Sage

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0761969578 (pbk)

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank

Author: Fuller, Robert W.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Introduces language and concepts that illuminate the subtle, often dysfunctional workings of power in our social interactions. It presents rankism as the last hurdle on the long road from aristocracy to a true meritocracy.

Publisher: New Society

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 086571486X

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Squirrel Inc.: A Fable of Leadership through Storytelling

Author: Denning, Stephen

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Introduces a cast of furry characters who together learn the fine art of change through storytelling in their quest to overcome obstacles, generate enthusiasm and teamwork, share knowledge, and ultimately lead their company into a new era of success and significance.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-7371-8

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

State of the World 2004: Progress Towards a Sustainable Society

Author: Worldwatch Institute,

The Short Review:

Publisher’s note: This year’s edition has a special focus on the theme of consumption. It questions whether a less-consumptive society is possible; and concludes that it is essential. The book explores overconsumption, and underconsumption, linked to poverty.

Publisher: Earthscan

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 1844070654

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Steps to the Future: Fresh Thinking on the Management of IT-Based Organizational Transformation.

Author: Sauer C., Yetton P. et al

Short Review:

A collection of articles on how to maximise value from IT in relation to business strategy. Claims to be written for IT and business managers, but the style is more likely to appeal to academics. Refers to theories that are not mainstream to organisational change.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-0358-2

Date Reviewed: 1997-09-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787903582/bookwatccomau

Strategic Alliances: Resource sharing strategies for smart companies.

Author: Howarth, Gillin & Bailey

Short Review:

Gives high level and comprehensive coverage of the why’s and how’s of forming strategic alliances. It is very well set out, with lots of good (Australian) examples and ‘key issues’ and ‘summary’ sections to each of the well structured chapters.

Publisher: Pitman Publishing

Year Published: 1995

Country: Australia

ISBN: 0-582-80156-7

Date Reviewed: 1995-04-01

Comments: Useful for those venturing off-shore

Strategic Management

Author: Sadler, Philip

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Details the fundamental concepts, frameworks and ideas necessary to formulate and implement strategy.

Publisher: Kogan Page

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0749439386

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Strategic Outsourcing: A Structured Approach to Outsourcing Decisions Initiatives.

Author: Greaver, Maurice

Short Review:

A detailed ‘when, why and how to do it’ coverage of outsourcing, including a seven step methodology. Provides a sound and thorough guide, written primarily for the people who will have to carry through the details of the process.

Full Review:The book is in eight parts. The first sets out an overview and the methodology. The remaining seven parts cover the seven identified steps:

  • Planning initiatives
  • Exploring strategic implications
  • Analyzing costs/performance
  • Selecting providers
  • Negotiating terms
  • Transitioning resources
  • Managing relationships.

As you would expect of a book that is set up as a manual, there are plenty of tables, check lists and examples included to illustrate each process and sub-process.

Outsourcing…becomes strategic when it is aligned with the organisation’s long-term strategies, and when the typical outsourcing benefits will emerge over several years, and when the results, either positive or negative, will be significant to the organization.

While this definition and the subsequent detail distinguishes ‘strategic’ outsourcing from tactical moves driven simply by cost-cutting or problem solving, it is still a fairly long way from Doz and Hamel‘s definition of strategic alliances in terms of the ‘race for the future’ (technology) and ‘race for the world’ (globalisation) – see Alliance Advantage.

Outsourcing implies that the outsourcer is in control – this is not an equal partnership – even though the distinction from an alliance becomes somewhat blurred in the series of boxes throughout the text that go beyond traditional reasons for outsourcing to provide ‘Another Reason to Outsource’. These wider reasons are mentioned, but there is little discussion of the relative advantages of outsourcing compared with other sorts of partnering arrangements. T

he core of the book is concerned with the traditional reasons, which the author categorises as:

  • Organisationally driven
  • Improvement driven
  • Financially driven
  • Revenue driven
  • Cost driven
  • Employee driven or any combination of these.

The other striking difference from Doz & Hamel is that the potential outsource supplier is considered solely as a candidate. Issues such as how well they match the principal are carefully considered, but questions of their interests, ambitions and other partnerships are not given nearly the same depth of consideration.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 8144 0434 0

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814404340/bookwatccomau

Strategic Pragmatism: The Culture of Singapore’s Economic Development Board.

Author: Schein, Edgar

Short Review:

A detailed case study of a unique experiment in development cooperation between a nation state and business, focused on the body at the centre of the development strategy. Written by a leading expert on organisational culture and of interest both to students of organisational culture and for its relevance to globalisation.

Full Review:There are two reasons for including this 1997 study of Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) and two groups of readers who will be interested. The first is that the EDB has been Singapore’s chosen instrument for development and implementation of its policies to become a very successful player in a globalised world. Its strategies and practices are of more than passing interest to anyone interested in dealing successfully with globalisation. Both the discussion of the factors in the EDB’s success and the discussion of the problems and issues that it – and by extension Singapore – faces make an extremely illuminating case study that, by virtue of EDB’s role, incorporates national, governmental and enterprise perspectives.

Second, students of organisational culture are offered a thorough and lucid account of how the person who is arguably the world’s foremost authority on organisational culture went about studying a major organisation in the context of a wider societal culture with which he was not wholly familiar.

There is a relatively brief summary of the major strategic eras in the thirty five year development of Singapore to the present:

  • curing unemployment through import substitution
  • the shift to export orientation and internationalisation
  • the shift from labour intensive industries to training labour for capital intensive and higher-tech industries
  • the evolution from skill based industries to knowledge based industries and services
  • regionalisation, the growth triangle and development of local industry, and
  • recent trends from ‘Singapore Inc’ to ‘Singapore Unlimited’ and now ‘the learning nation’.

The staging is interesting in its reflection of Thurow’s observation that the three areas in which the free market tends to under-invest are education, social infrastructure and basic research. Singapore has been notably successful in attracting investment through its emphasis on the first two and there is interesting commentary on the issues being faced in Singapore’s attempts to encourage R&D and the somewhat cautious reaction of the major multinationals operating in Singapore.

The book also makes an interesting case study of other criteria for successful globalisation identified by both ThurowCreating Wealth and FriedmanThe Lexus and the Olive tree. In addition to its attention to providing infrastructure and basic education and its insistence on skill building in companies attracted to Singapore, the country has also been enthusiastic and consistent in adopting the ‘golden straitjacket’ that Friedman regards as an essential condition, while it has maintained political stability and ensured complete incorruptibility.

The section of Schein’s book on problems and issues also runs parallel with Thurow and Friedman’s analysis – unlike the USA, entrepreneurship is in relatively short supply and failure tends to leave a permanent scar on the individual. Schein’s analysis suggests that these are becoming increasingly significant as issues to be tackled. Interestingly , he also suggests that more attention to supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (relative to the enormous support given to the large multinationals) is also becoming necessary in order to add depth and flexibility to the economy.

Much of the book is a detailed study of the history of the EDB and its leaders through the major eras of development, with analysis of how the organisation evolved in a systemic relationship with the Singapore economy. Apart from its interest for students of organisational analysis, it will also interest those who are in any way linked to the Singapore economy or who are wrestling with issues of economic development in a globalised world. Schein concludes by listing and discussing the factors that have made the EDB so effective:

1. The EDB Culture is an Integrated System2. Theory Y Leadership is a Prerequisite (which the EDB has been able to combine with a strong hierarchy)3. The Power of a Shared Vision4. Successful Implementation is in the Details5. Culture as a Constraint (Singapore has built a powerful and successful technocratic meritocracy and its very success has created its own cultural infrastructure that may make it very hard to change direction)6. The EDB as Singapore’s First Business School (Schein concludes that whatever else a developing nation does, it must start with a belief in its people and a program to build their skills and self-confidence)7. Asian and Western Managerial Styles can mix (See Hampden Turner: Mastering the Infinite Game for a detailed analysis of this issue)8. An attitude of what Schein calls ‘proactive optimism’He reinforces the first factor with his concluding comment that the EDB is a very effective organisation because the various elements of its culture align with each other and produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Publisher: The MIT Press

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-262-19367-1

Date Reviewed: 1999-10-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0262193671/bookwatccomau

Strategic Renaissance: New Thinking and Innovative Tools to Create Great Corporate Strategies.

Author: Dudik, Evan M.

Short Review:

Could be interesting to those who see strategy as wholly about competition and the military analogy as being useful. Contains useful reminders of the value of rigorous testing of hypotheses. Ignores the concepts of market creation, strategic alliances and even complexity.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2000

Country: USA

ISBN: 0814405517

Date Reviewed: 2000-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814405517/bookwatccomau

Strategically Integrated HRD: A Six- Step Approach To Creating Results-Driven Programs Performance

Author: Gilley, J. And A.

Short Review:

Sets out steps in building an integrated program.

Publisher: Perseus

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 0-7382-0763-2

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Strategy for Sustainable Business: Environmental Opportunity and Strategic Choice.

Author: Crosbie, Liz & Knight, Ken

Short Review:

A very comprehensive overview of the issues in building sustainability and the techniques available. A good source book for those who want thorough but not necessarily in depth coverage of the whole range of aspects of sustainability to be considered.

Full Review:The book is written in a somewhat ‘textbook’ style which makes it accessible and thorough, but somewhat uneven in that almost equal emphasis is given to areas and techniques will already be very familiar to most managers, and to specifically ecological sustainability techniques and considerations which are much less familiar. It is well organised for reference and is a very good source book for a company which wants to give serious attention to sustainability and needs thorough but not necessarily in depth coverage of the whole range of aspects to be considered. Both the book as a whole and each chapter are well organised for easy reference and logical coverage of the field. It is also useful in making explicit the various levels of response available to a company from minimal compliance through to deliberate pursuit of full sustainability, and the consequences of each choice, including the vital importance of the company’s profit time horizon in making its choice.

Although the authors explain the importance of a systems approach and even touch briefly on wider systemic implications at the level of society and the ecosphere generally, the approach taken is mainly linear, with chapters by functional area. This has the advantage of familiarity for managers used to conventional ways of thinking: as an example of its limitations, the section on logistics misses the linkage between distribution strategies and wider manufacturing strategies – for example arrangements for distributed manufacture or licence arrangements as a deliberate alternative to central manufacture and distribution. As another example, there is very limited discussion of the impact of the financial system on the time scale of strategic decisions – the inexorable pressure of the markets to produce short term returns – and the impact of that on a company’s willingness to invest for full sustainability. Yet another example is found in the otherwise very useful chapter on human resources strategy, which focuses on selection, training and leadership, but does not address such powerful issues as the scope for working from home and thereby greatly reducing energy use in commuting.

There is a useful chapter on information systems - accounting for sustainability. It highlights the need to apply accounting disciplines to new areas such as energy accounting and the issue of accounting for ‘externalities’, and recognises that the whole area is one in which there is a great deal of work to be done. What it does not cover nearly as well is the much more deep seated issue of how we measure or assess the health of a system at the systemic level . Virtually the whole of the accounting discipline is based on reductionist logic, which does not recognise the key fact that a system has characteristics which are not present in any of its parts. Another weakness is that the book is written from within a hierarchical and functional paradigm of organisation that is coming under serious question. This is not likely to be of practical concern to many companies as this paradigm is still overwhelmingly dominant, but it is an issue of which they need to be aware as they move from early activities to improve sustainability, which can be undertaken effectively on a linear and functional basis, towards more fundamental and systemic strategies, which will challenge the current organisational paradigm.

This is a field in which good practical guides to getting started on the long road towards sustainability are rare. This is therefore a very welcome addition to the manager’s bookshelf. I think it warrants a second edition which gives greater emphasis to the specifically systemic issues involved in building sustainability, possibly through expansion of section 4, while slightly pruning the functional material in Section 3 to make the book as a whole slightly less of a student’s textbook and more of a handbook for managers who are already familiar with the traditional basics of each functional discipline.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Year Published: 1995-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0 07 709133 7

Date Reviewed: 1996-10-01

Comments: Recommended for managers concerned with the environment

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0077091337/bookwatccomau

Strategy in the Public Sector: A Guide to Effective Change Management.

Author: Joyce, Paul

Short Review:

Treats strategic change in terms of a cycle of preparing – leading – changing- partnering, referring specifically to a public sector context. The book and series of which it is part aim to provide practical guidance to managers. Fails to recognise the diversity of the public sector.

Full Review:A book that attempts to deal with the specifics of public sector strategic planning and change management is welcome and this one gives wide, but rather bland, coverage of the factors that distinguish the public from the private sector. However, although useful as an overview and introduction, the book falls into the traps of being too generic and of treating two separate but related areas of management concern as if they were one.

In relation to strategic planning, it fails to separate what is distinctive about strategic planning between different kinds of public sector organisations and between the public and private sectors.

On the other hand, much of the book is taken up with principles of change management, and treats it largely by fitting public sector examples to principles of change management that are generic to all organisations. Different elements of the ‘public sector’ are much more diverse in their drivers and constraints than the ‘private sector’. What is true of government owned businesses is often not true of statutory corporations in the health and welfare field and even less true of full-line government departments.

Strategic planning is a discipline in which these differences show up in their starkest form. Strategic planning for a department of State can not be the same or even follow the same rules as strategic planning for government business enterprises (GBEs).

Further, in a department of State, the boundary between strategic planning and the discipline of ‘policy analysis and advice’ and the proper domain of each is often very fuzzy. Even GBEs operate in a planning environment that may vary widely from one jurisdiction to another and from one field of endeavour to another (e.g. health compared with transport). This makes it dangerous to write about ‘strategic planning in the public sector’. The more generic the approach, the less easy it is to capture the particular situations and constraints that determine the specifics of strategic planning in any one public sector organisation.

Strategy in the Public Sector is useful as an introductory guide. Unfortunately there are not many books that deal satisfactorily with the specifics. Managers mostly have to rely on ‘war stories’ picked up through their networks or at seminars.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 2000-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0471895253

Date Reviewed: 2001-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471895253/bookwatccomau

Succeeding with Change: Implementing Action Driven Strategies.

Author: Eccles, Tony

Short Review:

Concerned specifically with implementation of management driven major, discontinuous change and useful as a guide to how to get on with it. Does not deal in any depth with how to adapt flexibly to continuous, unpredictable change – which most organisations now face.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Year Published: 1994

Country: UK

ISBN: 0-07-709266-X

Date Reviewed: 1996-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/007709266X/bookwatccomau

Superior Teams: What They Are, How to Develop Them.

Author: Kinlaw, Dennis

Short Review:

Concerned with the framework and tools needed to turn ‘a good team into a superior one’. It offers a set of steps, a model, strategies and tools for developing and maintaining superior teams. A very well laid out guide, which brings together existing knowledge.

Full Review:This is a book about superior work teams, which the author distinguishes from ordinary work teams and from work groups.

The distinction is summarised in a table on P.28, and in a series of behaviours listed as characteristic of the highest performing groups:

  • finds ways to take advantage of all the competencies of team members
  • involves the whole team in making decisions about whatever affects the whole team
  • meets regularly to keep everyone informed
  • regularly acknowledges and celebrates the achievements and contributions of its members
  • makes it easy for members to make suggestions to improve the quality and efficiency of their jobs
  • finds ways to enhance the competencies of all its members by sharing job experiences and information.

There is nothing particularly new in this and the book covers ground familiar to anyone who has studied teams. Its virtue is that it is clear, well laid out and makes credible claims to be based on wide ranging experience and observation. It is, in consequence, a very good guide to the structures, behaviours and authority needed for a team to be a team and to perform well as a team. It will be helpful to people seeking to move towards team working and to avoid the traps in doing so.

It suffers from the same problem that I complain about in relation to books on leadership. If your focus is on leadership, you can explain everything in terms of leadership. If your focus is on teams, you can explain everything in terms of teams. Kinlaw is guilty of a good deal of circular definition between ‘success’ and ‘superior teams’.

However, as long as the reader is mindful of the fact that good performance is the result of many factors operating together, and that team working is an important set of these but not the whole, the book will be a valuable text.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0 566 07959 3

Date Reviewed: 1999-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566079593/bookwatccomau

Supply Chain Excellence: A Handbook for Dramatic Improvement Using the SCOR Model

Author: Bolstorff, P. and Rosenbaum, R.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: The Supply Chain Council (SCC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing best practices in supply chain management. This book explains the preferred techniques that they have developed.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-8144-0758-7

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Supporting Work Team Effectiveness: Best Management Practices for Fostering High Performance.

Author: Sundstrom, E. and Associates

Short Review:

A series of articles covering selection, organisation, training, measurement, rewards and IT and infrastructure support for team effectiveness. Covers fairly well-established territory in a systematic way, with a last chapter on best practices that contains useful check lists.

Full Review:Together with Sundstrom‘s Supporting Work Team Effectiveness: Best Management Practices for Fostering High Performance these two books are intended as references for team managers and team members. Both are collections of articles by a variety of authors. There is a difference in flavour between the two.

The Gower Handbook is primarily concerned with teams in the context of the wider organisation and tries (successfully) to provide a wide range of perspectives and to convey the variety of contexts and purposes in which teams operate. Supporting Work Team Effectiveness is concerned primarily with team performance and best practice. It gives much less attention to the diversity of teams and surprisingly little attention to the effect of personality, preferences and how well they are matched on performance. Both, in their own field are thorough, the authors selected are authorities in their field and the books are well laid out and indexed as references. Both are worth considering for the corporate library or for HR professionals who spend a lot of time fostering team development.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 4322 3

Date Reviewed: 1999-12-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787943223/bookwatccomau

Survival For A Small Planet: The Sustainable Development Agenda

Author: Bigg, T. (Ed)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Brings together experts from around the world in an analysis of the prospects for sustainable development on all the major policy fronts including security, finance, urban governance, radical partnerships, migration, health, access to resources.

Publisher: Earthscan

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1844070778

Date Reviewed: 2004-05-30

Sustainability Indicators: Measuring the Immeasurable.

Author: Bell, S. and Morse, S.

Short Review:

This 1999 book is work in progress. In a relatively short (and fairly densely written) text, it brings together most of the issues of definitions, mental models and systemic interactions that need to be addressed when seeking to measure ‘sustainability’. It is written for practitioners who are working with these issues, rather than for the general reader. It does not claim to provide ‘the answer’. Indeed, one of its main conclusions is that there is no such thing as a simple categorical ‘answer’ divorced from the mental models of those who select and use indicators of sustainability. It is however very useful for anyone who wrestles with these questions both at a policy and a practical level. It sets out clearly the main streams of thinking, the main fields within which the term ‘sustainability’ is used (e.g. ecological, social development) and explores a very wide range of partial measures against both systemic and reductionist approaches to measuring sustainability. I suggest that the reader should go to Chapter 7 after reading the Foreword and before tackling the main text. It provides an excellent overview of the issues in dealing with indicators. My only disappointment is that there is no mention of The Natural Step, the body that uses an approach that seeks (in my opinion very successfully) to provide an approach that is systemic and offers ‘simplicity without reductionism’, and derives four broad parameters against which to judge movement toward or away from sustainability. There is also no mention of the ‘triple bottom line’, varieties of which have recently achieved popularity as a surrogate for measuring sustainability. I expect that will be covered in the succeeding book (see comment below).

Publisher: Earthscan

Year Published: 1999

Country: UK

ISBN: 1853834971 (Hardcover), 185383498X (P’back)

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Comments: A successor, Measuring Sustainability: Learning by Doing is due in May 2003.

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1853834971/bookwatccomau

Sustainable Value: Creating it through Sustainable Business, Products, Services and Systems

Author: Charter and Clark

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Full of practical guidance and case material, this book serves as an accessible, widely applicable, business-oriented guide on applying sustainability considerations in product/service planning, design and development, supply chain management and business generally.

Publisher: Greenleaf

Year Published: 2003

Country: UK

ISBN: 1874719519

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-15

Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership.

Author: Jaworski, Joseph

Short Review:

This is an autobiographical account of one person’s journey in leadership. It is also a lucid account of a view of leadership which focuses within the leader and on the realisation of human possibilities. Very readable and offers a great deal of wisdom.

Full Review:This is an autobiographical account of one person’s journey in leadership. It is also a lucid account of a view of leadership which focuses within the leader rather than on external activities or skills. Finally, it describes leadership in the context of a view of the world which departs radically from the traditional western view. As such it will be an influential contribution to an increasingly insistent challenge to the conventional wisdom.

Almost in passing, the book contains a fascinating insight into the process by which Shell developed its now famous scenarios and of the scenarios with which it was working in the 1990s. For all these reasons, it is an important book. It is also very readable, being written in a conversational style and with many fascinating insights into the minds of people who are shaping the way we will learn to think in this post-Newtonian and systemic era, as well as into the mind and feelings of the author. As a bonus, it contains a thoughtful and valuable introduction by Peter Senge, which ‘frames’ the book well against the backdrop of Robert Greenleaf’s seminal work ‘Servant Leadership’.

Because the book ventures into territory which is often treated with deep suspicion (at best) by ‘hardheaded businessmen’, it is well to give a brief description of the author. He is no dreamy theorist. Senior managing partner of a major law firm, successful entrepreneur, he left the practice of law to become founder and CEO of the American Leadership Forum, a not for profit concerned with developing collaborative leadership. He then accepted a four year assignment as head of Global Scenario Planning for the Shell Group and has since founded the Centre for Generative Leadership. He has been notably successful in these endeavours. The book is written around his personal history.

The theme is one which has only recently become acceptable in business circles, the view that leadership flows from our being – our inner journey – more than from what we do or a bundle of skills. Further, it relies on the physicist David Bohm’s view of ‘the implicate order’, the sense that there is a level at which wholeness exists and is waiting to unfold (this is also a major theme of Ken Wilber in A Brief History of Everything. To oversimplify, the leader’s job is not to fight for control, but to be a catalyst in the unfolding of meaning. This requires skills in reflection, self-knowledge and in dialogue, skills which have received too little attention, but above all a different way of seeing the world and relationships. If this sounds vague, the best antidote is to read the book.

The layout of the book itself sets the scene, being structured round the stages of ‘the mythic journey’, the implication being that a leader needs to experience this journey to arrive at a state of being which is coherent with creating the future. It is in four parts:

1. ‘preparing to journey’ - essentially an account of outward success leading to inner crisis, illuminated with flashes of an alternative direction, which the author is ‘too busy’ to take up;

2. ‘crossing the threshold’ - an account of the crisis and a series of ‘coincidental’ meetings – what Jaworski calls ‘predictable miracles’ – leading to a decision to leave the whole base of his success and venture into the unknown

3. ‘the hero’s journey’ - which describes the adventure of finding a new way of being and the tools, notably dialogue, and the traps, notably responsibility, dependency and overactivity , in the journey. The journey involves learning to see the world differently, building a different understanding of relationships and experiencing the power of a new kind of commitment

4. ‘the gift’ - which contains both an extended account of scenario planning with Shell and the author’s reflections on our capacity for creating the future – what he calls ‘the dynamics of predictable miracles’

The book ends with an intensely personal epilogue. It is always difficult to convey the flavour and quality of a book which is so personal. I started with some misgivings because this sort of book is often an only partly disguised exercise in ego polishing. This one is different. It is almost painfully honest and it offers a rare kind of experiential wisdom. It is an extended parable about leadership. Read it both for its wisdom and as an antidote to the plethora of ‘how to lead’ books, which fail to get below the mechanistic to the essence of leadership.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-881052-94-X

Date Reviewed: 1996-06-01

Comments: For leaders

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/188105294X/bookwatccomau

Systems Modelling: Theory and Practice

Author: Pidd, Michael (Ed)

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Examines theoretical aspects of the hard/soft debate. It then considers how to integrate elements of both disciplines, and explores practical aspects of this.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-470-86731-0

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Systems Thinking

Author: Midgley, G. (Ed)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Brings together classic and contemporary writings that cross the entire ystems field. The four-volume set includes the most influential theoretical papers, as well as applications.

Publisher: Sage

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0761949593

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Systems Thinking Basics: from Concepts to Causal Loops.

Author: Anderson, V. and Johnson, L

Short Review:

A basic familiarity with systems thinking is critically important for virtually all private and public sector work, but is still rare among managers. This is a very well arranged and very clear self-study guide, with plenty of highly relevant examples and exercises.

Full Review:(This review covers three related books on the same broad topic, and is repeated for each author. The three books are: AndersonSystems Thinking Basics Goodman:Designing a Systems Thinking Intervention. Kim:Systems Thnking Tools/Archetypes..)

It can be argued that virtually all the major issues of change management that confront us are systemic. The issues arise from the structure of the interrelationships between components in the system, there are nearly always secondary as well as primary interactions and the secondary interactions may occur after quite long time delays and in opposite directions to the primary interactions.

Successful intervention to manage these sorts of issues requires at least a basic facility with the simpler tools of systemic thinking, as well as an understanding of mental models and skill in appropriate styles of conversation to achieve a richer understanding of systems that are nearly always rather complex.

Systems thinking skills are still quite rare among managers, even in organisations that have devoted a lot of time to improving organisational learning and building skills in dialogue and similar disciplines. Observation suggests that the addition of even quite basic system mapping skills can add enormously to the productivity of strategic conversations and the capacity of teams to make progress in managing previously intractable issues.

Pegasus Communications remains the main source of material on the tools of systems thinking for the generalist manager. All the materials in this collection cover similar ground – a fairly basic coverage of the ‘language’ of causal loop diagrams and a guide to applying this form of systems thinking to dealing with common problems at a systemic level. All are good, it is really a question of what best suits each person’s needs.

Daniel Kim’s three booklet set, one on System Thinking Tools and two on Systems Thinking Archetypes, is the earliest of the publications. It is in the nature of a portable reference library and is written for people who have undertaken at least a basic course in the fundamentals of developing causal loop diagrams. I find that I refer to the set constantly. It is at minimum an essential reference source for any business or for any team which is continually dealing with systemic issues – and that is almost all of us, whether we recognise the fact or not.

Anderson and Johnson’s Systems Thinking Basics covers similar territory but is designed as a self education guide, starting from ‘ground zero’ with the question ‘What is a System’? It is very well laid out for self study either individually or – preferably – in small groups, with well graduated examples and exercises. It also quotes some of the materials from Daniel Kim’s booklets for reference.

In Designing a Systems Thinking Intervention, Michael Goodman and four other authors assume at least a basic understanding of the ‘language’ of causal loop diagrams and focus on the steps and stages from the initial question ‘Is this a systemic problem?’ through to how to create agreement of all the stakeholders round a specific systemic intervention. At 16 pages, the booklet is convenient for reference. It also integrates, at least at a basic level, the disciplines of systems thinking and mental models and touches on the use of computer models to simulate complex systems.

Publisher: Pegasus Communications Inc

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 883823 12 9

Date Reviewed: 1997-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1883823129/bookwatccomau

Systems Thinking: Creative Holism for Managers

Author: Jackson, Michael

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Aimed at improving competence in ‘creative holism’ – the use of systems thinking to manage complex issues.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-470-84522-8

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Systems Thinking: Taking the Next Step. (CD) An Introduction to Systems Thinking (part of documentation provided with IThink software)

Author: High Performance Systems Inc

Short Review:

Two invaluable resources providing an introduction to the systems thinking ‘language’ that permits numerate modelling of the behaviour of systems. The ‘Introduction’ is available separately from the software it accompanies.

Publisher: High Performance Systems Inc.

Year Published: 1997 Country: USA

Date Reviewed: 1997-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN//bookwatccomau

T

Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America

Author: de Graaf, John

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: This official handbook for Take Back Your Time Day includes essays on the problems of overwork and time poverty in America-and advice for what to do about them-by a stellar list of contributors.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1-57675-245-3

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Teach Your Child How to Think.

Author: de Bono, Edward

Short Review:

A short compendium of his tools for thinking, arranged in one volume instead of 20. Not actually written for children and a very convenient reference and guide.

Publisher: Penguin

Year Published: 1992

Country: UK

ISBN: 0-14-012680-5

Date Reviewed: 1994-05-01

Comments: Recommended for all

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0140126805/bookwatccomau

Team Players & Teamwork.

Author: Parker, Glenn

Short Review:

One of the simplest manuals for team operation, and also with the simplest team player typology – four categories. Very easy to use, it covers many of the factors which make for effective and ineffective team operation, but misses the key area of team learning.

Full Review:This is a paperback reissue and update of a successful 1990 book. It is short, direct and easy to use. In effect it is a simple manual for teams and team leaders, reminding them of the basics of what is required for effective team operation. It is based round use of a simple instrument which categorises people into four types – contributor, collaborator, communicator, challenger. All typologies oversimplify and this one oversimplifies more than most, but has the compensating virtue of being easy to remember and apply. (BelbinTeam Roles at Work - has a much better and more comprehensive treatment of team roles and Belbin’s typology, together with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator forms the basis of one of Australia’s most widely used ‘instruments’, the Margerison-McCann Team Management Indicator).

Parker shows how each of his four types can contribute or hinder team effectiveness at each stage in Tucker’s famous categorisation of team development (forming, storming, norming, performing), with checklists of behaviors. While it provides a useful guide to the routines of team structure and team relationships, it fails in the crucial areas of team learning and the skills and tools necessary to surface and challenge mental models. There is a brief reference to Argyris‘ work, but no real guidance on how to build skills in working with mental models and encouraging team learning. For this, go straight to Senge et al’s The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook.

Publisher: Jossey Bass

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-0185-7

Date Reviewed: 1996-07-01

Comments: Useful for teams

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787901857/bookwatccomau

Team Roles at Work.

Author: Belbin, Meredith

Short Review:

Belbin was one of the earlier writers on team roles. This is an update. While Belbin’s is now one of many typologies – and has been much adapted by other writers and in a variety of ‘instruments’, it remains useful. The book also contains much common sense on organization

Publisher: Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd

Year Published: 1993

ISBN: 0 7506 0925 7

Date Reviewed: 1995-01-01

Comments: Useful for team leaders, HR specialists

The 21st Century Organization: Reinventing through Reengineering.

Author: Bennis, W. and Mische, M.

Short Review:

An overview of one slant on reengineering as corporate reinvention, set out as a step by step guide. Useful for its brevity. Emphasises the importance of a customer focus and a ‘human side’, but gives little attention to either, concentrating on process steps.

Publisher: Jossey Bass

Year Published: 1995

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-0939-4

Date Reviewed: 1998-06-01

The 500 Year Delta: What Happens after what Comes Next.

Author: Taylor, J and Wacker, W.

Short Review:

Another ‘millennial’ book and in general an optimistic one by a pair of futurists. The style is a weird mixture of the analytical, the flip and the dramatic, which will appeal to some.

Publisher: Capstone

Year Published: 1997

Country: UK

ISBN: 1 900961 30 X

Date Reviewed: 1998-01-01

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic.

Author: Covey, Stephen R.

Short Review:

A very well known classic, which gives sound advice in an easily absorbed and remembered way. Like all books of this kind, risks over-simplifying complex issues.

Publisher: The Business Library

Year Published: 1990

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-86350-029-4

Date Reviewed: 1993-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0671663984/bookwatccomau

The Abilene Paradox.

Author: Harvey, Jerry B.

Short Review:

A very welcome reissue of this short set of ‘meditations’ – half parable, half sermon – on aspects of ‘group think’ and group behaviour, their causes and cures. Written with passion and wit as well as a good deal of wisdom.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0277 2 (Pbk)

Date Reviewed: 1996-12-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787902772/bookwatccomau

The Absolutes of Leadership.

Author: Crosby, Philip

Short Review:

Part of a ‘briefing series’ and written by a ‘Quality’ guru. It is brief, but is simply one more one dimensional book on leadership. The four ‘absolutes’ offered are a clear agenda, a personal philosophy, enduring relationships and worldliness.

Publisher: JosseyBass

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-0942-4

Date Reviewed: 1998-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787909424/bookwatccomau

The Age of Heretics: Heroes, Outlaws and the Forerunners of Corporate Change.

Author: Kleiner, Art

Short Review:

A detailed history of the parallel revolutions in (mainly American) management in the last five decades, and of the heretics who started the revolutions. As readable as a detective story, with the bonus of a deeper understanding of the past and possible futures.

Full Review:Art Kleiner has brought to life the inner history of a set of (still incomplete) revolutions in, mainly American, management. He has done this by telling the stories of the working lives, the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the ‘heretics’ who initiated and drove these revolutions. He gives most space to the painful move from the view of worker as automaton towards worker as partner, but also covers other changes, such as coming to terms with the end of an era of predictability and with questions of the social accountability of business. He also sketches what seems to be emerging as the next great reform movement, that of adaptation to the imperatives of ecological sustainability. Apart from providing masterly sketches of colourful characters and of the intellectual ferment which erupted in the hitherto predictable world of business, Art Kleiner provides a vivid reminder that ‘today’s heresies are tomorrow’s orthodoxies’ but that the process of migration from heresy to orthodoxy is long, tortuous, uncertain and extremely uneven between companies and societies. Those of us who are concerned with fostering change would do well both to note the time scales involved and to spare a thought for the courage and tenacity of the pioneers.

The book is also a reminder of the extent to which the conservative inner core of large organisations can become self perpetuating and self-referent. Some are only now beginning to yield to internal change under the immense and ultimately irresistable pressure of changes in their external environment. Kleiner’s clever comparison of today’s corporate reformers to the great medieval and renaissance religious reformers is a valuable reminder of the threads common to all reform and the sources in the human spirit from which reform movements come, as well as of the inexorable shrinking in time scales for transactions. This is the kind of book to take on holidays or a long plane trip. You will gain valuable insights and the warm inner glow of being productively engaged, while enjoying yourself thoroughly.

Publisher: Currency Doubleday

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA ISBN: 0-385-41576-1

Date Reviewed: 1996-08-01

Comments: Recommended for all interested in the history of management

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385415761/bookwatccomau

The Age of Paradox.

Author: Handy, Charles

Short Review:

A classic. A very wide ranging analysis of the issues involved in handling discontinuity in an era of rapid change. These are explored through a series of ‘paradoxes’ which need to be managed.

Full Review:This is the successor to his acclaimed ‘The Age of Unreason’ and identifies and explores what he calls ‘paradoxes’ (and Charles Hampden-Turner would call ‘dilemmas’ ) and ways of managing them in an era of rapid change. It is very wide ranging, easy to read and provocative. It is written colloquially and with plenty of use of personal anecdote and illustration and falls into the category of books which are concerned with the wider issues of business philosophy, and business, societal and personal ethics. Although this is not made explicit, it is also primarily an exercise in holistic or ‘systems’ thinking, rather than in linear analysis. It is concerned with interactions within and between different aspects of society.

The book is in four parts: the first states the broad issue – how do we handle discontinuity in an era of rapid change, why are so many of our ‘solutions’ self defeating? – and identifies nine ‘paradoxes’ which are explored throughout the book. They are interesting paradoxes – for example, his first is intelligence. In a knowledge society, businesses depend on intelligence as their most valuable form of property – or factor or production, yet it is a resource which a company can not ‘own’ – it resides in people – and one which grows as it is shared but which also tends to stick to those who already have it or belong in the subculture which values it. At the same time this most valuable of resources does not appear on any balance sheet. His choice of the others are: work, productivity, time, riches, organisation, aging, the individual and justice – an interesting choice and readers may on reflection argue with the choice or think of others.

The second section suggests three tools for finding the balance within and between the paradoxical situations. These are described as ‘the sigmoid curve, the doughnut principle and the Chinese contract’ – somewhat idiosyncratic titles. The sigmoid curve is concerned with the issue of how we deal effectively with the need to recognise in time the need for step changes, because the right time for change is precisely when established ways seem to be doing well and producing the results we need. The doughnut principle explores the relationship between the core and the space surrounding our activities – whether work, company organisation, marriage or whatever. His thesis is that to work through the preferred balance between core and space is crucial – for example in exploring the issue of centralisation versus devolution. The Chinese contract explores trust versus legalism in relationships and is the platform for an excursion into societal, business and personal ethics.

Part 3 goes into the application of these principles and draws out operational precepts to apply the principles and Part 4 generalises the issues in the context of the search for meaning. In these parts Handy also goes into a number of very interesting excursions on the periphery of his main theme. An example is a discussion of the ‘seven intelligences’ – in fact he proposes nine – and the consequences of our focus – in education and in our valuing of work – on only two of them.

In reading the book, I found many echoes and linkages to others, particularly to Charles Hampden-Turner’s books and to Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce. I also found myself frequently pausing to reflect on alternatives to his arguments, often to feel that something important had been left out – only to find it covered a little later in the book. There is a growing literature by people who have a considerable claim to wisdom which aims to help us to think through and build effective ways of thinking and acting and so allow us to break away from the dysfunctional aspects of the conventional wisdom. This is a very good example of such a book and is well worth reading.

Publisher: Harvard Business School Press

Year Published: 1995-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-87584-425-1/0-87584-643-2 (p’back)

Date Reviewed: 1996-02-01

Comments: Recommended for all

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875844251/bookwatccomau

The Age of Participation: New Governance for the Workplace and the World.

Author: McLagan, P and Nel, C.

Short Review:

Participation is contrasted with authoritarian control. This is a detailed guide to the deep systemic change required to reap the benefits of participation, written as a manual of how to design, establish and sustain a participative organisation.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 57675 012 4 (pbk)

Date Reviewed: 1997-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576750124/bookwatccomau

The Alchemy of Growth: Kickstarting and Sustaining Growth in Your Company.

Author: Baghai, Coley & White

Short Review:

A McKinsey based perspective on corporate growth and change which works through the need to maintain a simultaneous focus on three ‘horizons’ – today’s business, emerging businesses and longer term options and the implications for strategy, management and structures.

Full Review:As you would expect of a book out of the McKinsey stable, this is on an issue of importance to business, is well researched and analysed and very readable and well presented. As you would also expect, it is focused on large corporates, and on strategies for their business success, as measured by exceptional growth and returns to stockholders. As such, it provides one important perspective on the issue of corporate growth and development, to be compared with other perspectives – see the article ‘Perspectives on Sustained Strategic Growth.’. There are obvious comparisons with Collins & Porras: Built to Last both in the concern with continuing exceptional performance over an extended period and in the care taken to explain the research base from which the findings are derived. However, whereas Collins & Porras are concerned primarily with values and culture, Baghai et al. are primarily interested in strategies for the selection, development and management of the portfolio of businesses and the implications of those strategies for structuring, staffing and operations.

The fundamental thesis is simple and can be stated in a few propositions:

The companies that have been successful in maintaining high rates of growth with superior profitability are those that have learnt to manage well to three different time horizons at the same time – today’s business, the next generation of emerging businesses and the longer term options out of which the next generation of businesses will arise. In order to develop longer term options into ‘core profit engines’, a series of measured steps (concerned with finding ways of profitably building core capabilities and markets) are required, which the authors call ‘stairways’. In the nature of things, not all stairways will lead to future core businesses, so a variety of initiatives need to be carried forward together. Management of the ‘stairways’ should receive significant senior management attention.

The skills and temperaments required to manage current business, to develop new business and to search out viable future options are widely different one from the other. The key to maximising the profitability of today’s business is excellence of execution. Emerging businesses require business builders – the typical entrepreneurial temperament, while the identification of future options requires lateral thinkers and visionaries. In consequence, the style of organisation and internal culture most appropriate to each of these foci are also different. Large corporates tend to find difficulty in encompassing these very different cultures. The authors discuss in some depth the resulting issues of internal culture, recruitment, structuring and transition, and their strategic management.

The strength of the book is that the authors identify a key issue in business success – the development and maintenance of a vigorous portfolio of businesses over the longer term – and work through the implications with clarity and thoroughness. The cost of that approach is that other equally significant issues are assumed or left in the background. It is necessary to balance the valuable perspective offered with others that are also important, such as a focus on the issue of development of human capacity, on wider corporate responsibilities (beyond pure growth and profitability), and on the dynamics of the business and market ecology itself.

It is also necessary to be aware of the underpinning tacit assumptions – for example, the underlying metaphor of organisation adopted by Baghai et al. appears to me to be much nearer that of the organisation as a (money) machine, than that of the organisation as an organism. There is a marked contrast with the emphasis in, for example de Geus: The Living Company. This is not to say that either is wrong, only that neither is complete. The article noted above compares various perspectives.

Publisher: Perseus Publishing

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0738203092

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0738203092/bookwatccomau

The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting on What Matters.

Author: Block, Peter

Short Review:

A carefully presented essay on the importance of personal purpose and meaning and the dangers to ourselves and our world of the instrumental world to which we are subjecting ourselves. The book is beautifully set out and easy to read. The philosophy and advice, though useful and cogent, is much the same as that to be found in a whole range of similar books concerned with personal development. There is perhaps particular value in his distinction between personal intimacy and the ersatz, commercialized ‘customer intimacy’ that is so much touted in books on marketing.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 2002

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-57675-168-6

Date Reviewed: 2003-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576751686/bookwatccomau

The Appreciative Inquiry Summit: A Practitioner’s Guide for Leading Large-Group Change.

Author: Ludema, James et al.

Short Review:

Appreciative Inquiry is an increasingly popular technique within the wider family of interventions designed to bring about change through cooperative across a whole system, working with a large group of people. Its distinguishing feature is the emphasis on the positive – what is good about the present and offers potential for the future, what aspirations there are for the future, how do we design such a future and what are the concrete steps to start bringing it about. This book goes into great detail on the rationale for the approach and the step by step activities required to move through the process. It is a well set-out and thorough guide for practitioners. For a guide to the range of techniques available and a comparison between them, refer to Napuk and Palmer: Group Interventions.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 2003

Country: USA

ISBN: 1576752488

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576752488/bookwatccomau

The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World.

Author: Schwartz, Peter

Short Review:

An early and still valuable text on scenario planning, although there now a wide range of valuable articles and references.

Publisher: Doubleday Currency

Year Published: 1991

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-385-26731-2

Date Reviewed: 1996-06-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385267312/bookwatccomau

The Balanced Company – A Theory of Corporate Integrity

Author: Kaptein, Muel

Short Review:

An extended and detailed discussion of theories of, and issues in, corporate ethics.

Publisher: OUP

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 0-19-925550-4

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

The Balancing Act: Mastering the Competing Demands of Leadership.

Author: Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler

Short Review:

A good 100 to 150 page book, which runs to 450 pages. It offers leaders a set of tools for maintaining a balance between conflicting pressures. Most of the book is concerned with working through a useful 6 box model of aspects of motivation and ability.

Full Review:The good news is that The Balancing Act is clear, engagingly written, well set out and explores a useful model well. The bad news is that it is (for this reviewer) too chatty and far too long. That’s not a disaster, because it is also relatively easy to skim.

The theme is that leadership is all about maintaining a dynamic balance between the needs of different groups of stakeholders, building net value for each group, building vitality of the organisation (where it is now and where it is heading). The authors then argue that building vitality involves building motivation and ability at each of three levels: the individual, the social (interpersonal) and the organizational, thus creating a six box model: Section 1 introduces this model. Section two is about assessing the current situation and whether the organization is heading towards ‘death’ or vitality. Sections 3, 4 and 5 then explore each level in the model, broadly answering the questions ‘What do I need to understand? What do I need to do and who do I work with? How do I measure progress?’. Section 6 is entitled ‘Moving from Print to Action’. It brings together a lot of things that most managers know (but don’t always remember to practice), with some important things they are less likely to know and present them in a way that makes sense, is easy to refer to and to put together.

The authors have a wide ranging data base of experience to work from, that they use well. Each story is entertaining in itself and makes a point, but in aggregate there are far too many of them.

Publisher: Thomas Executive Press

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 538 86139 8

Date Reviewed: 1997-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0538861398/bookwatccomau

The Board Member’s Guide to Strategic Planning.

Author: Howe, Fisher

Short Review:

Written for not for profit organisations without experience of strategic planning. ‘Its sole purpose is to be helpful to Board members and Executives who are considering the long term outlook for their organization’. It succeeds at the basic level it aims at.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0825 8

Date Reviewed: 1997-08-01

Comments: Useful for those new to not-for-profit boards.

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787908258/bookwatccomau

The Book of Agreement: 10 Essential Elements for Getting the Results You Want

Author: Levine, Stewart

Short Review:

Levine distinguishes between legalistic agreements for protection and agreements for results, and argues for the latter. He proposes 10 essential elements in an agreement (intent and vision, roles, promises, time and value [who gets what for what, by when], measurements of satisfaction, making concerns and risks explicit, establishing protocols for renegotiation, establishing consequences of a breach, protocols for conflict resolution, and each party satisfying themselves that they trust the agreement). Most of the book is devoted to working through these points in various contexts – e.g. employment agreements and sales agreements – with draft outline agreements in each case. The book is likely to be particularly useful to people who have had bad experiences with legalistic ‘protection’ agreements, and where the parties have roughly equal power (there’s not much point in trying to persuade your bank there is a better way of doing things!).

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 2002

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-57675-179-1

Date Reviewed: 2003-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576751791/bookwatccomau/002-0608822-9563257

The Boundaryless Organization: Breaking the chains of Organizational Structure.

Author: Ashkenas, Ulrich, Jick & Kerr

Short Review:

If you are concerned about hierarchy and layering, silo thinking, external relationships or operating cross-culturally, get this book. Brings together some of the best thinking about organization in a very accessible way. A good guide to practice.

Full Review:The starting point for this book is the belief that the key challenge for any organization is to respond to rapid change. The key success factors in a relatively stable world were size, role clarity, specialisation and control. In a rapidly changing world they are speed, flexibility, integration and innovation. (What is needed is both the old success factors and the new – it’s not a move from one to the other.)

The value of the book is that it brings together a lot of established ideas about organization in a way which encourages effective and systemic (or holistic) action – the authors stress that the road to success is through systemic and linked action across the whole system. It provides a clear and manageable prescription, without pretending that the results are easy to achieve or falling into the trap of offering a ‘one through 15′ set of steps to salvation. The central message is simple: boundaries – vertical (hierarchy); horizontal (departments etc); external (e.g. between the organization and its suppliers and customers); and geographic – are necessary and useful, but they need to be made permeable. Ways need to be found of working across all boundaries. This in turn requires some reshaping of the boundaries, of the structures which create them .

The organization of the book is excellent. Having identified four key sets of organizational barriers, the authors work through each in turn, with a description, and simple questionnaires to allow readers to decide how far this barrier is a problem in their organization. They stress that there is no one right way to move forward, but the objective is to improve permeability and health of all boundaries. Each chapter contains a good and wide ranging discussion of the factors which tend to entrench particular problems and the factors which need to be considered in overcoming them. It also contains guides to actions which have leverage and to myths about single focus actions which do not (this is a somewhat depressing catalogue of failed ‘quick-fixes’), and a guide to the systemic linkages between actions which need to be observed.

The four chapters in Parts 2 and 3 are particularly useful, partly because the literature on horizontal boundaries and external boundaries is much sparser than that on hierarchy. The discussion of these boundaries is conducted primarily in terms of the value chain from supplier to end customer. These chapters contain valuable material on team roles, types of team for different situation and the management of processes along the value chain.

The book is rounded off with two excellent chapters on learning and leadership in the context of making change happen. There are plenty of examples for those who like them, though I don’t feel that they add much. The important thing is that it is easy to locate the discussion of issues and to skip the examples if you want to. The book fits very well with Hamel & Prahalad’s Competing for the Future and is complemented by Nancy Dixon’s ideas on the organisational learning cycle.

Publisher: Jossey Bass

Year Published: 1995-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-0113-X

Date Reviewed: 1996-06-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/078790113X/bookwatccomau

The Business of Ecology: Australian Organisations Tackling Environmental Issues.

Author: Cato, Leigh (ed.)

Short Review:

A thematic collection of articles on what Australian companies (and some other organisations) are doing to protect the environment. Most of the work described is palliative rather than fundamental, but there are good cases and ideas included.

Full Review:This thematic collection of articles carries the good news that a lot of organisations are doing effective work to repair the environment or minimise impact. The bad news is that about 80% of the work described is palliative and a few of the articles also contain some pretty dubious special pleading. To the extent that fundamental work to improve sustainability is described, it is mostly by organisations such as CSIRO.

The book will tend to give comfort to those who believe that what we are doing is enough and it may provide useful ideas for organisations which are seeking to improve their ecological performance. What the book does not do is provide a sound foundation for seriously addressing the fundamental issues of sustainability, as no underlying organising framework is provided.

The Natural Step Environmental Institute, established in Australia as an offshoot of its Swedish parent body, does provide precisely this framework. Those who are interested in reviewing their activities for means of building a truly sustainable business for the future would do well to contact the Institute via its website. Those who want a much deeper and more wide ranging examination of the issues of reconciling business and the ecology than is provided in Cato’s book would do well to read Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce.

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Year Published: 1995-01-01

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 86373 733 2

Date Reviewed: 1996-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1863737332/bookwatccomau

The Chrysalis Economy: How Citizen Ceo’s and Corporations Can Fuse Values and Value Creation.

Author: Elkington, John

Short Review:

I have an uncomfortable feeling that this book contains some useful expansion of the concept of the ‘triple bottom line’ (economic prosperity, environmental regeneration and social equity’). Unfortunately, I found it completely unreadable – jargon filled, discursive and apparently unable to state the argument in plain English.

Publisher: Capstone

Year Published: 2001

Country: UK

ISBN: 1841121428

Date Reviewed: 2001-10-01

Comments: Don’t bother

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1841121428/bookwatccomau

The Collected Papers of Roger Harrison.

Author: Harrison, Roger

Short Review:

Harrison is one of the ‘greats’ of Organization Development. He has published a large number of papers, grounded in his experience, rather than books. A collection of his papers, including a major paper written for this book, is an important addition.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1995

Country: USA ISBN: 0-07-709090-X

Date Reviewed: 1996-04-01

Comments: Recommended for organizational development practitioners and managers of change

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/007709090X/bookwatccomau

The Complexity Advantage: How the Science of Complexity can help your Business Achieve Peak Performance.

Author: Kelly, S. and Allison, M.

Short Review:

Sets out to be a ‘manual’ for working with complexity, with precepts based on four ‘behavioural loops’ linked in a ‘hypercycle’. It offers useful practical advice in an easily digestible form and is a worthwhile addition to others in the field.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Year Published: 1999

Country: USA

ISBN: 0070014000

Date Reviewed: 2001-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070014000/bookwatccomau

The Connective Edge: Leading in an Interdependent World.

Author: Lipman-Blumen, Jean

Short Review:

A detailed and very thorough analysis of nine aspects of leaders in relationship, including a historical perspective and detailed discussion of each aspect. Conveys a lot of information but does little to bring leadership to life.

Full Review:The commendations on the dust jacket raise great expectations, but I have an uncomfortable feeling that an extremely good article has somehow got lost in a rather long book. Everything about it is done in the grand manner, from the claims it makes, through the language it uses and the ‘grand design’ it offers (a three-by-three nine point model), to the very extensive support of each point by example (supported by extensive notes and bibliography), ranging over history and from business to global politics. It is the work of an analyst who appears to be hooked on classification.

Our view of leadership has proceeded by stages (the physical, the geopolitical and now the connective). This shift has been accompanied by a search for new leaders, and leadership can be explained (and prescribed) in terms of nine behavioural facets. The model that the author uses is interesting and useful but, to my mind, leaves out the essence which is so well captured by Jaworski: Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership. She uses a nine point star, with the following ‘points’ round a centre of ‘connective leadership’:

Direct – Masters own tasks Intrinsic – excels Competitive – outperforms Power – takes charge Instrumental – maximises interactions Personal – persuades Social – networks Entrusting – empowers Relational – Contributes to others’ tasks Collaborative – joins forces Contributory – helps Vicarious – mentors

Part one offers a historical perspective which builds up to introduction of the model, part two is concerned with detailed exploration of the model point by point. Part three is a curious mixture of a review of the organisational challenges of what she calls stage 3, an essay on women leaders based on descriptive and survey evidence (yes, gender does make a difference and styles are still evolving), and an all too brief final chapter which addresses the search for meaning.

My main problem with the book is that it attempts to take leadership apart in a linear and reductionist way , analyse the components and then put them together again ‘connectively’, rather than addressing the whole phenomenon systemically. You are left with a very professionally dissected frog, and good dissection yields a lot of information, but the frog is no less dead for that.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-0243-8

Date Reviewed: 1996-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787902438/bookwatccomau

The Contrarian Manager.

Author: Jenrette, Richard H.

Short Review:

The very personal autobiography of a business leader who ‘did it differently’. Opinionated, eclectic and breezy, its an enjoyable read if you like that sort of thing, and contains good but not particularly original advice. Of interest mainly to people in the financial industry.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 07 032935 4

Date Reviewed: 1998-06-01

Comments: General business reading

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070329354/bookwatccomau

The Corporate Planet: Ecology and Politics in the Age of Globalization.

Author: Karliner, Joshua

Short Review:

Another book in the growing literature of dissent with the impact of corporatisation and globalisation. A solidly researched expose of corporate practices that evade responsibility to the environment coupled with proposals for grassroots action.

Full Review:The trickle of books dissenting with the directions being taken by global business is becoming a flood (see Ecology and the Environment).

Joshua Karliner has impressive credentials as a commentator and an activist. As editorial co-ordinator of Corporate Watch, which has a vigorous and wide ranging site here , and Executive Director of the Transnational Resource and Action Center in San Francisco, he is well connected into a vast array of public and confidential data, which he uses to great effect in this book.

It is an unfortunate fact that much of the care of the environment shown by the large transnational corporations is palliative, a reluctant response to pressure by watchdog organisations, groups and individuals and grossly exaggerated by corporate PR departments. Indeed, Karliner has a chapter called Emerald City that details the way in which the PR machines of large organisations work to ‘greenwash’ corporate actions. As Karliner demonstrates, many if not most of them continue to wreak enormous environmental and societal damage and to sidestep public or financial responsibility for their actions, often with the help of ‘friendly’ governments.

Karliner documents these failings in devastating detail. He also details the way in which the transnationals use their clout to obtain national and international laws and treaties (such as WTO and NAFTA) that support their unfettered ability to continue their current practices. Karliner also identifies a few corporations that, at least to some degree, are standing out against the general trend. Successive chapters catalogue the practices of the oil industry, of Mitsubishi (as the worst exemplar of the devastating environmental damage wrought by the big Japanese Keiretsu corporations), and the migration of hazardous and polluting industry from the industrialised countries to developing countries, largely in order to avoid regulation. That chapter, called Toxic Empire, starts with a critique of the role of multilateral development banks (World Bank, Asian Development Bank etc) and catalogues ways in which they have served corporate interests above development interests. The evidence led may itself be selective but its sheer weight is devastating. The organisations of global capitalism, including the actions of governments which allow themselves to be persuaded or coerced by global capitalism, are a serious hazard to our societal and ecological health.

Like many other books in this field, it is long on condemnation of current directions, but relatively short on what to do about it. (Harman is more balanced in this respect.) The last chapter gives a 25 page outline of current and prospective action and examples of protests – such as that in Mexico in 1995 that have caused minor checks to the progress of globalisation. As the author says:

Reclaiming the Blue Planet from the clutches of corporate globalization will not be a simple task. It must be achieved by creating and implementing mechanisms for democratic control over corporations and economies. Such democratization involves redefining both the concept of corporate accountability and the concept of ‘the corporation’ itself… True corporate accountability…means that a company can be held strictly accountable to the laws and democratic processes of communities, governments and the global framework in which it operates. At the heart of such democratic governance should lie the concept that corporations do not have any inherent right to exist, but rather are granted that right by ‘the people’ and therefore must answer to the public.

Karliner outlines measures at the local, national and international level that can be pursued, but this section is unfortunately written at a fairly high conceptual level. At its heart the message is simple: be informed and be active, collective action can make a difference at every level. One of the more interesting phenomena is the exponential growth in the number of web sites and list serves available round these issues and in the number of people using them. The site that Karliner manages is one good example (and see also the page of net links within the article Ecology and the Environment referred to above)

Publisher: Sierra Club Books

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-87156-434-3

Date Reviewed: 1998-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0871564343/bookwatccomau

The Courage to Act: Five Factors of Courage to Transform Business

Author: Klein, M. & Napier, R

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Details the five factors needed to face adversity, seize opportunities, deal with ambiguity, and achieve extraordinary results: candor, purpose, will, rigor, and risk. Sets out the art of acting with courage in a pragmatic and practical way.

Publisher: Davies-Black

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 0-89106-178-9

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror.

Author: Lewis, Bernard

Short Review:

For those who want to understand current relationships between Islam (and the Arab world in particular) and the West, particularly the USA, this short book could hardly be bettered. It is a lucid, very readable account that takes in the whole sweep of history from the time of Muhammad to the present day. It explains the very different ‘mental models’ that are dominant in the Islamic and Western worlds and works through the consequences of those differences and of the history of relationships between the worlds. It includes an analysis of the influence of Saudi Arabia (through Wahhabi teaching) on the growth of Muslim radicalism and a description of the rise of terrorism. Both are shown to be perversions of the tenets of moderate Islam, but both can be attractive to those who feel under threat.

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicholson

Year Published: 2003

Country: UK

ISBN: 029764548X

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0679642811/bookwatccomau

The Culture of Success: Building a Sustained Competitive Advantage by Living your Corporate Beliefs.

Author: Zimmerman, J., with Tregoe, B.

Short Review:

One of many books about corporate values and beliefs – their creation, communication and use. Partly based on a survey instrument included as an Appendix and includes four major case studies. A solid analysis based on a six step process, within an essentially conservative value set.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 07 073008 3

Date Reviewed: 1999-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070730083/bookwatccomau

The Daily Drucker: 366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done.

Author: Drucker, Peter

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Distils the essence of management guru Peter F. Drucker’s teachings in an easy-to-access, daily calendar format, with topics ranging across a great many fields of his work.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA & UK

ISBN: 0-7506-6599-8

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-13

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0750665998/bookwatccomau

The Decline of the Age of Oil.

Author: Fleay, Brian J.

Short Review:

An analysis of the prospects for energy in one country – Australia, but with a lot of references to USA – based primarily on application of the Hubbert curve and the concept of the Energy Profit Ratio. Invaluable as a scenario for anyone facing long term investment decisions.

Full Review:Brian Fleay has written a valuable and timely analysis of energy prospects for Australia and the consequences of developing trends in local and world production of oil and gas. Although written for and about Australia, it makes a very relevant case study for other countries. If the author is even half right in the case he develops, then Australia and other countries have some very urgent and very fundamental reassessments to make of the directions that their economies are taking.

The book is best treated as a well developed and internally consistent scenario, to place alongside alternative scenarios. It is also useful to test the arguments he puts forward against radically different arguments advanced by authors such as Simon in The State of Humanity. The case he mounts is relatively simple, and is well supported by facts, tables and charts.

The fundamental driver and enabler of all economic activity is energy (largely treated by neoclassical economics as a free good). Different sources of energy have widely differing energy profit ratios (EPR), this being the ratio of the energy content of the fuel to the energy used in its production – getting it to the state in which we can effectively use it. Petroleum products have a very high EPR compared to other sources of energy; further, the EPR of oil from any given oil field is very high in the first half of its life and declines rapidly after the field is 50% exploited. In the 1950s, a geologist called Hubbert developed a method to estimate US oil and gas reserves, which has been remarkably accurate in predicting both discovery and production in all oil zones to which it has been applied. US production has been declining in line with predictions; the same methodology applied to the Australian situation suggests a dramatic decline from near self-sufficiency early in the next decade.

At the same time, world demand for remaining oil resources is increasing very rapidly as developing economies aspire to an established western life style. Australia – even more than the USA – is highly dependent on petroleum for transport, with agriculture heavily dependent on it, car-oriented urban centres as well as industry and commerce that is heavily based on oil. The costs of moving to a less energy dependent economic system are relatively high in energy cost, while the consequences of not do so are far-reaching, including for example on our capacity to produce food and our balance of trade. If analysed from the perspective of EPR, alternative energy sources – including nuclear, solar and other ‘renewable’ – are relatively unattractive when the energy costs of infrastructure to develop them are taken into account, even without adding considerations of the ‘greenhouse effect’ of continued use of hydrocarbon energy at present levels. Against this background, notions of a heavily transport dependent ‘global economy’ do not make long term sense, while many current policies, for example freeway development, also do not make sense. Many of these policies are derived from neoclassical economic theories which increasingly obviously fail to reflect conditions and relationships in the world they purport to describe. The important alternative energy investments for the transition [away from an oil dependent economy] must be commenced before the declining quantity and quality of petroleum production begins to drag the economy downhill. It is net energy that matters. Remaining high-quality oil and gas are needed to facilitate an easy transition. For Australia this means a rapidly closing ten to twenty year transition. Otherwise the energy industry may become like a black hole sucking the rest of the economy into it.

The author operates from a conceptual framework that closely parallels that espoused by movements for ecological sustainability such as The Natural Step, a view that the human economy is a thermodynamically open system embedded in the environment and that the image of the world and the human economy as complex adaptive systems operating far from thermodynamic equilibrium is far more productive than the Newtonian mechanistic view that drives economic thinking and so much of current policy. Fleay is, in Simon’s dismissive phrase, ‘a doom sayer’, in that he warns that present policies and practices are unsustainable and that we have only a relatively short time to take action to avoid the consequences. But he, and the others who argue the same line, may well be right.

The importance of this book for strategic planners is that it encourages them to think through the consequences of a possible scenario, with a view to minimising risks if that scenario does in fact emerge. In thinking through the consequences of such a scenario, it would also be useful to take into account current improvements in technology – for example the vast improvements in the efficiency of solar collectors, the fact that radically different personal transport alternatives have been available, but little produced, for some time, advances in permaculture and similar ‘ecologically sound’ but more labour intensive agricultural techniques, and so on. These are some of the alternative directions available for maintaining living standards if and when we reach the end of cheap oil. Despite the fact that its references to Australian politics may be a bit confusing to people in other countries, the book is well worth reading more widely, if only because Australia makes a very good and clear case study of the implications of a decline in oil self sufficiency.

It is quite readable, though it suffers a bit from poor editing, particularly in the second half. Reading as many business books as I do, it is noticeable how much difference a really good professional editor can make to the final product.

Publisher: Pluto Press Australia

Year Published: 1995-01-01

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 86403 021 6

Date Reviewed: 1997-02-01

Comments: Useful for long term strategic planners – a scenario

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1864030216/bookwatccomau

The Deming Management Method.

Author: Walton, Mary

Short Review:

Included because it remains a very useful short outline of the key practical elements of ‘the Deming method’.

Publisher: Dodd Mead & Company Inc

Year Published: 1986

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-86350-045-6

Date Reviewed: 1992-01-01

Comments: Recommended for quality managers

The Difference Engine: Achieving powerful and sustainable partnering.

Author: Deering, A. and Murphy, A.

Short Review:

Partnering is becoming central to the operation and strategy of many businesses. The authors offer a typology and tools for managing difference constructively in the various contexts that may be encountered. A very useful conceptual framework is supported by tools and ‘instruments’ to assist managers.

Full Review:The starting point for The Difference Engine is recognition that various forms of partnering are becoming a dominant feature of business, whether this is initiated by out-sourcing, by strategic alliances or value chain factors. But there are many forms of partnering arrangements and many contexts for partnership. The authors have identified a lack of conceptual frameworks and tools for managing partnering arrangements productively and have set about filling the gap.

The book that they have produced is thought-provoking and useful. They have come up with the sort of deceptively simple framework that must have required a great deal of effort to develop and refine to the point where it is usable. It contains ‘instruments’ that will be very useful to discussions between partners who are seeking to establish the basis of their working relationships. They offer ‘five key insights’:

  • Marginalization, not conflict, is what prevents partnerships from succeeding. The presence of conflict is not a sign of impending failure, and neither is its absence a guarantee of success.
  • Things are rarely what they seem. Expectations, perceptions and assumptions are the stuff of partnerships, and it is the complex interplay between them that determines whether a partnership succeeds or fails.
  • People associate partnering with ‘harmony’ and ‘synergy’. Values such as trust, honesty and integrity are widely seen as vital, but harmony is often conspicuous by its absence. Most partnerships are characterized by some (often a great deal of) conflict, and threatening and defensive behaviour patterns are common.
  • Organizations manage this conflict in two basic ways: they try to offset the conflict by promoting positive values, or they try to reduce conflict directly by policing conformity or achieving sameness by seeking partners with very similar cultures.
  • Partners often see difference, rather than their response to it, as the underlying cause of conflict, but difference can also be a powerful source of creativity and transformation. In many cases it is the attempt to minimize difference and achieve ‘alignment’ that creates conflict, not difference itself.

From these insights they developed the ‘partnering grid’ around which the core of the book is constructed. Its axes are the reason for partnering (whether defensive or to promote positive goals) and the view of difference. The authors define three points for the latter – avoidance, tolerance and valuing – which yields six ‘boxes’. These ‘boxes’ describe six different types of relationship that may result, the contexts within which each may be productive or unproductive and the instabilities that may lead to a move to another ‘box’.

The authors have developed a simple questionnaire, which can be used by partners to help identify and compare their expectations and perceptions of the partnership. They link the positions on the grid to ideas about organisational learning, organisational action and ways of thinking – for example systems thinking and have a Table (on P. 71) that links the postions on the grid to the environment, style and objectives in partnering. In discussing these issues, they also discuss the reasons for and dynamics of moving from one position to another.

Part 1 of the book is concerned with explaining and developing the grid in the context of understanding partners. Part 2 is then concerned with acting on the common ground ‘that appears when independent people recognize their interdependence, and see what they can do together’. Not surprisingly, in this part there are references to processes such as future search, to ways of relating, such as the various styles of dialogue and to the implications for style and locus of leadership of the different positions on the grid.

The book as a whole is a valuable resource for exploring and improving partnership. It offers an original perspective on partnering, but one that would also link quite well to other perspectives such as those parts of Ashkenas that describe linkages between organisations.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0566 08048 6

Date Reviewed: 1999-02-01

Comments: Recommended for organisations which have partnerships or are planning partnerships

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566080486/bookwatccomau

The Digital Economy: Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence.

Author: Tapscott, Don

Short Review:

A 1996 book included for its wide and useful coverage of major IT drivers of change in the economy. Written for the popular market and full of lists (the 12 themes of the new economy; the 10 technology shifts; the 7 themes of internetworked government and so on), it is a thorough but perhaps slightly simplistic guide to issues and trends.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1996

ISBN: 0 07 063342 8

Date Reviewed: 2001-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070633428/bookwatccomau

The Digital Estate: Strategies for Competing, Surviving and Thriving in an Internetworked World.

Author: Martin, Chuck

Short Review:

Explores the opportunities for marketing derived from the growth of the internet, the impact of low cost high speed interaction on consumer power and the ground rules for effective marketing in this environment – plus a fair dose of futurism.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 07 041045 3

Date Reviewed: 1998-06-01

Comments: General business reading

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070410453/bookwatccomau

The Director at Risk: Accountability in the Boardroom.

Author: Bosch, Henry

Short Review:

The author has been both a Director and a corporate regulator and shares his experience on the responsibilities and functions of directors and sound Board processes. A good practical guide, written from a ‘conservative’ viewpoint. Of particular value to Directors of Australian companies.

Publisher: Pitman Publishing

Year Published: 1995

Country: Australia

ISBN: 0 7299 0324 9

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose your Customers, Narrow your Focus, Dominate your Market.

Author: Treacy, M. & Wiersema, F.

Short Review:

Elaborates a simple but important message about focus, without adequate recognition of wider systemic issues. Lots of examples.

Full Review:This is a book which elaborates a simple message, which is important to anyone seeking to be highly successful in a competitive market. It also carries an important message for people concerned with benchmarking and issues of ‘world class’ or ‘best in class’.

The authors identify three ‘value disciplines’ – operational excellence (low cost/high quality), product leadership and customer intimacy. Their message is that, while you have to be up with the best in all these dimensions, real success requires picking one dimension in which to aim for unmatched superiority – and then sticking to it.

The authors discuss each dimension and the implications of choosing each. They make the point that selection of each of the dimensions demands hard choices.

This is a book which I think of as being in the Tom Peters tradition – lots of examples, a certain amount of ‘gee whiz’ and a somewhat simplistic focus on the particular issues which the authors have chosen, without adequate recognition of wider systemic issues. In spite of this, it is useful in raising one of the central dilemmas (I suppose that technically its a ‘tri- lemma’) which have to be managed in a competitive market.

Publisher: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company

Year Published: 1994-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-201-40648-9

Date Reviewed: 1996-03-01

Comments: General interest

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0201406489/bookwatccomau

The Dynamics of Managing Diversity.

Author: Kirton, G. & Green, A.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Discusses diversity as recognition of the differences and similarities between and among social groups, and how resulting policies must reflect these.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA & UK

ISBN: 0-7506-6217-4

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-14

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0750662174/bookwatccomau

The Earth Policy Reader.

Author: Brown, Lester R. et al.

Short Review:

This book is in effect a compilation of reports prepared by the Earth Policy Institute on various aspects of trends in the eco-economy. The three parts have articles on:

  • The economic costs of ecological deficits (covering desertification, soil deficits, the costs of climate change)
  • Eco-Economy Indicators: 12 trends to track (including population, water, grain harvests, carbon emissions and also increases in sustainable energy production)
  • a series of ‘Eco-Economy Updates’ covering similar issues.

There is a deliberate mix of ‘bad news’ and ‘good news’ stories, within a theme – which is taken up in much greater depth in the author’s subsequent Plan B: Rescuing a Planet under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble - that solutions to the problems can be found, and indeed are being found but currently in too unconnected a way.

Publisher: Earthscan

Year Published: 2003

Country: UK

ISBN: 1853839701

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Comments: The Earth Policy Institute has its website at www.earth-policy.org The book is available free from this site in PDF form

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393324060/bookwatccomau

The Edge of the Possible: Intelligence of a New Era.

Author: Donovan, Tony

Short Review:

Very wide ranging examination of the human condition, touching on business and economics in an exploration of the evolution of human intelligence. Part of the growing literature of dissent with current directions and the current ‘paradigm’.

Publisher: Business & Professional Publishing

Year Published: 1997

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 875680 39 X

Date Reviewed: 1997-09-01

The Effective Strategist: Key Skills for all Managers.

Author: van Maurik, John

Short Review:

A relatively short and well set-out book about strategy and tools for strategic thinking. Essentially an annotated catalogue or set of checklists providing breadth rather than depth. Useful as an introduction or reminder of established practice but skates over the most important current strategic questions.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1999

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0566 08044 3

Date Reviewed: 2000-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566080443/bookwatccomau

The Eight Practices of Exceptional Companies: How Great Organizations Make the Most of their Human Assets.

Author: Fitz-Enz, Jac

Short Review:

Somewhat similar in coverage to Collins and Porras‘ Built to Last but very different in style and not in the same class. Squarely in the ’7 plus or minus 2 steps to …’ tradition. Contains some fairly horrible jargon, such as BHAMs for Best Human Asset Managers. One of several similar books.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 8144 0384 4

Date Reviewed: 1997-08-01

The End of Work: the Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era.

Author: Rifkin, Jeremy

Short Review:

A careful analysis of trends in availability of work in the corporate and public sectors, with detailed evidence of its continuing decline and the social and economic consequences. Includes prescriptions for avoiding or reducing the vast dislocations which threaten.

Full Review:Summary: A careful analysis of trends in availability of work in the corporate and public sectors, with detailed evidence of its continuing decline and the social and economic consequences. Includes prescriptions for avoiding or reducing the vast dislocations which threaten. Rifkin is a well known Washington DC-based analyst of economic trends.

In this battering ram of a book, he uses a wealth of statistical detail and example to drive home the message that work itself (not just jobs as we are used to defining them) is disappearing at a rate which makes a nonsense of the belief that unemployment trends can be reversed by faster growth, ‘getting the government off the back of business’, downsizing the public sector to keep interest rates low, job creation schemes, or any other act of conventional wisdom. This loss of work extends across all sectors of the economy and is even accelerating in areas like the service sector (long the ‘sump’ into which those displaced from agriculture and manufacturing move). The trends are driven by technological advance and by the pursuit of competitive advantage and profitability through downsizing, reengineering and so on and have continued inexorably whether the economic cycle is in boom or recession.

Central to his argument are three themes:

  • Technological advance and the pressure of competition is removing jobs far faster than any realistic rate of growth can create them: at the same time the nature of the job itself is changing in ways to which many of the people displaced from ‘conventional’ jobs will find it hard to adapt;
  • The loss of jobs is so rapid as both to risk creating (or already be creating) a permanent and disaffected underclass and to suspend the operation of ‘Say’s Law’ – the dictum that the act of productive supply creates its own demand. There is a real risk that demand will be choked off as ever growing extremes of wealth and poverty undermine effective purchasing power; and
  • The gulf in wealth between the rich and the poor is increasing at a gallop. To quote one figure, in 1979 CEO’s made 29 times the income of the average manufacturing worker; by 1988 the difference had risen to 93 times. The other winners are the symbolic analysts or knowledge workers. At the same time the ‘middle’ shrank and ‘during the 80′s, the hourly wages of 80% of the American workforce declined by an average of 4.9 per cent’.

This contributes both to the suspension of ‘Say’s law’ and to the creation of a permanent underclass and the conditions for social breakdown. Some of his predictions may be a bit extreme – for example a vision of a world in which food is produced through biotechnological methods and farmers become irrelevant – but his data on what has already happened are deeply disturbing. As a chilling example, a chapter on the African-American experience concludes, with a wealth of supporting data, that the vast majority of Blacks have moved from slavery, through agricultural exploitation, to industrial exploitation to a final state of economic irrelevance in less than a century. We have failed to confront the fact that dramatically less work is needed to produce the output for human needs or the fact that the market mechanisms which, imperfectly at best, distributed available wealth, have broken down.

His prescriptions include ‘reengineering the work week’ and consciously building the community based voluntary social sector what he calls the third sector, with a social wage funded by a value added tax. He claims that these issues need to be handled in tandem. ‘Redefining the role of the individual in a society absent of mass formal work is, perhaps, the seminal issues of the coming age.’ He writes of society as

a three legged stool made up of the market sector, the government sector and the civil sector. The first leg creates market capital, the second leg creates public capital, and the third leg creates social capital. Of the three legs, the oldest and most important, but the least acknowledged, is the Third Sector.

and sees the current voluntary sector as providing the foundation for a true community based expansion of the social sector. As is often the case, prescription is less well articulated than analysis, but it at least provides a starting point for what is unquestionably an urgent debate.

Publisher: Tarcher/Putnam

Year Published: 1995-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-87477-824-7

Date Reviewed: 1996-05-01

Comments: Recommended for all, including policy makers

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0874778247/bookwatccomau

The Entrepreneurial Mindset: Strategies for Continuously Creating Opportunity in an Age of Uncertainty.

Author: McGrath, R. & MacMillan, A.

Short Review:

A comprehensive description of the market, product and behavioural factors that make for successful entrepreneurship. Loaded with examples and tools. Much of the material is familiar from other sources, but this brings it all together in the context of the entrepreneurial challenge. Covers product and market strategy, competitive stance and entrepreneurial leadership.

Publisher: Harvard Business School Press

Year Published: 2000

Country: USA

ISBN: 0875848346

Date Reviewed: 2001-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875848346/bookwatccomau

The Excellent Manager’s Business Library.

Author: Holden, Philip

Short Review:

Offers a one page summary of around six key books and one paragraph comments on upwards of 30 others in each of 15 categories of management interest. Quite a useful ready reference, but the commentary within each field could be better integrated. As a whole it is a catalogue, not a synthesis.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1999

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0566 08105 9

Date Reviewed: 1999-12-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566081059/bookwatccomau

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization.

Author: Senge, Peter M.

Short Review:

The classic book which introduced the concept of the Learning Organization and the five disciplines – personal mastery, mental models, team learning, shared vision, systems thinking. Written in almost purely conceptual terms. For practice, see the ‘Fieldbook’.

Publisher: Doubleday – A Currency Book

Year Published: 1990

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-385-26094-6

Date Reviewed: 1993-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385260946/bookwatccomau

The Forgotten Half of Change: Achieving Creativity through Changes in Perception.

Author: Brabandere, Luc de

Short Review:

Built on the thesis that sustained change (and in particular the change to living with continuous change) requires that we ‘change twice’. The first change – in arrangements, structures, relationships, processes and so on – does not stick without the second change, which is in perception – how we see the world. The author works through tools and techniques that challenge our established mind-sets and so facilitate this second change. The text contains useful lists – for example of types of questions and the impact of asking questions in different ways – and a variety of visual puzzles designed to challenge our view of ‘the obvious’. The style and coverage is somewhat reminiscent of the de Bono books, but with a tighter linkage to change in organizations.

Publisher: Dearborn Publishing

Year Published: 2005

Country: USA

ISBN: 1419502751

Date Reviewed: 2005-08-31

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1419502751/bookwatccomau

The Four Levers of Corporate Change.

Author: Brill, P.F. & Worth, R.

Short Review:

A competent book on leadership, human nature and change in the context of social processes which is one of a number of alternatives, but does not stand out. Offers a coherent and accessible perspective, brief and easy to scan for key ideas.

Full Review:The thesis is briefly that change is usually a response to a major and destabilising crisis; to induce major and transforming change without – or ahead of – a crisis requires quite special skills. The authors identify four levers of change and 12 hallmarks of success – in this sense they offer a variant of the ’7 + or – 2′ formula so beloved of managerial authors.

The levers are not surprising – understanding people, using group social processes, understanding and using power and persuasive leadership – but they are treated well and practically. The authors also follow the formula of introducing each chapter and each new idea with a story, in this case stories largely taken from American history. The stories are apt, but the formula is becoming something of a cliche and it is questionable what each story adds to understanding of the theme. It is one of a number of books that may suit you and is worth scanning. I think that Carr’s Choice, Chance & Organizational Change is better.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 8144 0339 5

Date Reviewed: 1997-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814403395/bookwatccomau

The Fourth Wave: Business in the 21st Century.

Author: Maynard, Herman B & Mehrtens, S.E.

Short Review:

An uneven book, the title borrowed from Toffler’s Third Wave, and exploring the future shape of the corporation and of relationships. Its main value is in a whole series of useful comparative tables of alternative ‘world views’.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Year Published: 1993 ISBN: 1-881052-15-X

Date Reviewed: 1994-01-01

Comments: For general interest

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/188105215X/bookwatccomau

The Future of Capitalism: How today’s economic forces will shape tomorrow’s world.

Author: Thurow, Lester

Short Review:

One of many books on the shape of tomorrow’s world and not one of the best. I regard Rifkin‘s: The End of Work as much better.

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Year Published: 1996

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 86448 108 0

Date Reviewed: 1996-06-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0688129692/bookwatccomau

The Global Citizens’ Guidebook

Author: Elkington J. et al.

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Explores the new agenda of world citizenship.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2003

Country: UK & USA

ISBN: 1841124788

Date Reviewed: 2004-08-26

The Gower Handbook of Management (4th Edition).

Author: Lock, Dennis (Ed.)

Short Review:

The fourth edition of this monumental text on 72 aspects of management has been very extensively revised, updated and expanded. Its aim is ‘If you have only one management book on your shelf, this must be the one.’ It covers mainly the ‘mechanics’ of management.

Full Review:

The Preface states:

We set out to provide managers and business students with an authoritative, gimmick-free and essentially practical source of reference, covering the broadest possible range of useful management subjects.

It is based on contributions from 65 specialists in their respective fields. This 4th edition includes a substantial amount of new material and extensive revision to previous material. The 72 chapters are arranged in eight Parts:

  • General Management
  • Financial Management
  • Marketing and Selling
  • Operations Management
  • Materials and Bought-out Services
  • Administration
  • Human Resources Management
  • The Personal skills of Management.

‘General Management’ is perhaps the most eclectic of the parts, ranging from corporate governance and mergers and acquisitions through corporate culture, benchmarking, risk management and quality service, through to the virtual organisation, the creative organisation and the environment. Strategic planning, as such is a surprising omission, although references to planning appear in various places through the book and scenario planning gets a brief mention under risk management.

In general, the book is most useful for the operational techniques. Much of the management task is operational, hands on and involves use of principles and techniques that are in some sense universals (despite the frenzied efforts of some consultants to rebadge timeless techniques). For these issues the book provides a good solid first point of reference, although readers in other countries need to be aware that this is a book written around English law and practice (e.g. on corporate governance, company law and contracts). There are only a few chapters where this is an issue. It is rather less good at handling more strategic and ‘conceptual’ questions and the ‘compendium’ approach is not well suited to treating those issues.

Probably wisely, the book does not attempt to treat issues like management of change, strategic direction setting, or the various views of leadership in any depth. Within that compass, the whole part on Operations Management contains useful material on the basics of production control, industrial engineering and similar skills, which is increasingly difficult to find in a convenient written form. Similarly, the part on Financial Management contains good basic material on costs, ratio management, budgetary control, capital project evaluation and so on, while operational aspects of brand management, direct mail, and sales force management each have their own chapter under Marketing and Selling. Marketing Planning also gets one chapter, which can do no more than skim the surface of the subject.

Each chapter ends with references to further reading, unfortunately citing only the bare reference, without commentary on what each book offers or why the reader should go to it. Readers outside the U.K. will also find the references strongly focused on English sources (but US are usually similarly focused on US references).

In summary, for what it seeks to be, it is a worthy and useful attempt to bring together a first point of reference about tactical and operational managerial practice. In the final analysis though, I question whether the basic strategy for this style of book is not nearing its ‘use by date’.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0-566-07938-0

Date Reviewed: 1999-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566079380/bookwatccomau

The Growing Business Handbook: Inspiration and Advice from Successful Entrepreneurs and Fast Growing UK Companies

Author: Jolly, Adam (Ed)

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Aimed at senior managers in middle market and SME companies, the book offers a range of strategies for managing growth and fulfilling business potential.

Publisher: Kogan Page

Year Published: 2004

Country: UK

ISBN: 0749442220

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-13

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0749442220/bookwatccomau

The Guru Guide: The Best Ideas of the Top Management Thinkers.

Author: Boyett, J. and Boyett, J.

Short Review:

A compendium of summaries of themes developed by some 80 authors, arranged around leadership, change, learning and similar topics. Well presented for easy reading and incorporating useful summary and critique, but with some curious choices and omissions.

Full Review:The strength of this book is that it brings together the ideas and prescriptions of a wide range of respected management ‘gurus’ and presents their central findings in a digestible way, with clear comparisons and with some useful observations from the authors. Real and successful effort has been put into making the book readable and easily used.

The layout, charts and referencing system are all first class and it is clear that the needs of its primary audience – business people who have little time for wide reading – have been kept firmly in mind. The ‘gurus’ selected include most of the obvious ones and a few that I was a bit surprised, but very glad, to see. The chapters cover:

  • Leadership
  • Managing Change
  • The Learning Organization
  • Creating High-Performance Organizations Through
  • Teamwork
  • The Pursuit of Market Leadership
  • Managing and Motivating People
  • Business, Work and Society

Any book of this kind has to make choices about what is included and how it should be organised. I find the separation of managing change from organisational learning curious, and the exclusion of any reference to knowledge management is surprising. It is also curious that, within the chapter on the learning organisation, the approaches of Argyris, Senge and Schein are presented as if they were in some way competing, when they are in fact largely complementary. However, these are basically just quibbles.

The main purpose of the book is to extract the main ideas of the chosen authors, present them in a way that allows comparison and highlight the key points and issues to think about. It succeeds admirably in that purpose.

Publisher: Jonathan Wiley

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-471-18242-7

Date Reviewed: 1999-04-01

Comments: Suitable for reference

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471182427/bookwatccomau

The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations

Author: Cross & Parker

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Shows managers how to find, assess, and support the networks most crucial to competitive success.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2004

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

The Human Side of Change: a Practical Guide to Organization Redesign.

Author: Galpin, Timothy J.

Short Review:

One of many adequate ‘how to’s’ for those who are struggling with change and feel that it is the people side of change which is causing problems. In this case a 9 step process is offered. But assumes that there is a known ‘there’ to get to and that it will stay still.

Publisher: Jossey- Bass

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-0216-0

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787902160/bookwatccomau

The Individualized Corporation: A Fundamentally New Approach to Management.

Author: Ghoshal, S. & Bartlett, C.

Short Review:

This is the paperback reissue of a prize-winning book that brings together a number the main themes underpinning new directions for organisation – the shift from bureaucracy to reliance on flexible ways of engaging the full potential of people. Thorough and solid, but not actually ‘new’, even when it was written.

Full Review:This is a sound and thorough description of the principles and practices underlying a shift from the hierarchical, bureaucratic mode of managing to one based on recognition of the talents of the people within the organisation, which seeks to enhance and release those talents for shared ends. Having said that, it is a bit difficult to see why the book has been given such extravagant praise. Nearly everything in it was anticipated by the Pinchots (PinchotThe Intelligent Organization) in 1993 and the themes covered are very well established (and were already established when it was first published in 1997). Although it is not new, the principles are still not widely followed, so any additional material that may serve to spread the message is welcome.

It follows the familiar pattern of arguing from examples, taken from ‘great name’ companies and it refers heavily to the authors’ research among these companies, thus aiming to give authority to their precepts. This will appeal to those who like examples and who are prepared to read the extra words involved. Unfortunately they do not have readily accessible summaries for those who just want the principles. It does however contain a ten page appendix that lists some of the key authors on whom they relied, including for example Collins and PorrasBuilt to Last. - in my opinion one of the best books in this field – but, oddly, not the Pinchots.

The book is in four parts:

  • ‘Introduction: Birth of a Corporate Model’, with one chapter on the changing model of management, and one which is an extended case study of the change in philosophy and its impact (when part of Westinghouse was bought by ABB)
  • ‘From Organization Man to Individualized Corporation’, with three chapters covering belief in the individual, organisational learning and the process of continuous renewal
  • ‘Building and Managing the Individualized Corporation’, with four chapters on culture, building capabilities through processes, developing individual competencies and managing the transformation process
  • ‘Toward a New Corporate Era, with a chapter on value creation and one on the changing role of top management.

The material is good. The reliance on a lot of examples makes it very discursive, but the sub-heads through the text are useful. There is a slightly breathless air of ‘discovery’ through the book that would be acceptable if the ideas and prescriptions were in fact new.

Publisher: HarperPerennial

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-88730-831-7

Date Reviewed: 1999-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0887308317/bookwatccomau

The Innovation Wave: Meeting the Corporate Challenge.

Author: von Stamm, Barbara

Short Review:

The core themes of this book are: * that change is constant and continuous innovation the only viable response * that successful innovation requires ‘an holistic approach that aligns strategy and vision, process, leadership style and culture to the innovation ambition’ * that there are many ways to start on the journey, but the journey never ends. Innovation is ultimately a way of life. The text is made up of sound advice, well arranged, and interspersed with short essays by experts in the field (such as Gary Hamel and Costas Markides). Each chapter ends with a summary list of ‘anchor points’. There is a good last chapter of suggested further reading.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 2003

Country: UK

ISBN: 0470847425

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0470847425/bookwatccomau

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail.

Author: Christensen, Clayton M.

Short Review:

Why do firms that do everything right get into trouble? A research based analysis of the interaction between technologies and markets, which includes many valuable concepts, such as the distinction between ‘sustaining’ and ‘disruptive’ technologies.

Full Review:

This is a research based book of particular value for those who depend on being at the forefront of technology in their field. It asks the question why firms that are well and shrewdly managed can still lose their position, often to small new operators. At the core of the research is the distinction between ‘sustaining’ technologies and ‘disruptive’ technologies.

Sustaining technologies…improve the performance of established products, along the dimensions of performance that mainstream customers in major markets have historically valued.

Disruptive technologies bring to a market a very different value proposition than had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value.. [They] are typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use. The author cites personal desktop computers, transistors, discount retailing and other examples as ‘disruptive’ technologies. The argument could be thought of as a special case of the widely studied problem of the tyranny of success – the enormous difficulty of committing to investment in high risk, apparently low demand innovation when you are enjoying great success in an established field.

The book includes an excellent chapter on Value Networks and the Impetus to Innovate (chapter 2) that contains among other things, a good exposition of the technological S curve and the problem of ‘when to jump to the next curve’. (Grove’s Only the Paranoid Survive is a good case study of this issue.)

The author offers, in the Introduction, four principles for dealing with disruptive technology, while the last Chapter, The Dilemmas of Innovation, identifies seven ‘useful insights’ into dealing with disruptive technology. Both are worth reading by anybody who is in a business that is dependent on technology, while the rest of the book is directed mainly towards large organisations that are specifically wrestling with these issues. Key conclusions (taken mainly from the last chapter) include:

  • The pace of change that markets demand or can absorb may be different from the pace of development of technology. Existing customers may not be helpful in judging the potential of innovations.
  • For a successful company, investments in disruptive technologies are likely to offer inferior returns, and so be starved of resources.
  • Disruptive technologies typically appeal to new markets and require quite different marketing strategies from existing products. (Think of the introduction of the Apple computer.)
  • The capabilities of most companies are far more specialised and context-specific than managers believe. This covers not only a technological field but a mental model of what is an appropriate gross margin.
  • Investment in disruptive technology is intrinsically high risk. Successful companies in established fields often find it difficult to tolerate the learning and failure inherent in investment in these areas.
  • Disruptive innovations carry significant first mover advantages, whereas sustaining situations may not.
  • There are powerful barriers to entry protecting new players in emerging markets because these fields simply do not make sense for established leaders within established structures. Alternatives include spinning off small off-shoots and, of course the ever popular choice of buying up small companies as they emerge.

Publisher: Harvard Business School Press

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 87584 585 1

Date Reviewed: 1999-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875845851/bookwatccomau

The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth

Author: Christensen, & Raynor

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Argues that innovation is not as unpredictable as most managers have come to believe. The process by which innovations are packaged and shaped within companies is very predictable.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2003

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

The Intelligent Organization. End of Bureaucracy & the Rise of the Intelligent Organization.)

Author: Pinchot, G. and E.

Short Review:

A reissue of one of the best analyses of why bureaucratic forms of organization arose, why they are no longer appropriate, what needs to replace them and how to make the change. Despite a flood of later books repackaging similar material, the need remains.

Full Review:This book was a pioneer in providing a thorough overview of the conditions which produced the rise and subsequent fall of bureaucracy as a means of arranging the production of society’s needs and in introducing the concept that organisational intelligence would be the key to success. It was one of the earlier books to provide a thorough overview of what is involved in creating self-organising communities and, while it reads as being somewhat ‘black and white’ in comparison with later books, it remains an excellent, wide ranging and very accessible reference. It has been the precursor to a host of books which have developed various aspects of its themes, and the directions which it set have retained their relevance.

The book is framed round ‘seven essentials of organisational intelligence’, which in turn are framed by three precepts of freedom of choice, responsibility for the whole, and limited corporate government. The argument is part analysis and part advocacy (or even evangelism) based on a free enterprise/ free market ideology. Much of the book is taken up with the case for what would now be called ‘deconstruction’ of the organisation – identifying elements which can operate as quasi enterprises within the larger organisation and establishing the conditions in which they can trade and form productive relationships across – and beyond – the organisation. This process provides for an organisation that evolves as a result of its interaction with the environment, rather than one the development of which is mandated from the centre. (Fortunately, the horrific jargon terms that the authors coin to describe these activities – intrapreneuring and intraprise – do not seem to have achieved wide currency).

The authors make it clear that these arrangements will be healthy and productive only in the presence of what they call community – shared values and shared responsibility for the whole – and processes for building community through leadership.

The second half of the book ranges widely across these issues, taking in future search techniques, learning networks and issues of equality and culminating in Appendices with a ‘Manifesto’ and a ‘Bill of Rights’. Unfortunately, this message of community does not seem to have been heard as well the message about introducing internal competition. It and the encouragement of learning are both much more difficult to achieve than the relatively concrete opening of ‘internal markets’. One result has been that there have been too many cases of attempts to take part of the prescription, but not the rest. Not surprisingly that does not work – but can not be blamed on the authors. The paperback is welcome as the book will remain worthy of a place on the manager’s bookshelf for some years to come.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1 881052 34 6 (Hdc)

Date Reviewed: 1997-07-01

Comments: Recommended for those still beset by bureaucracy

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1881052346/bookwatccomau

The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action.

Author: Pfeffer J. and Sutton, R.

Short Review:

Covers an important topic – that of ensuring that decisions flow through to action. Provides a workmanlike overview of key barriers to action and how to overcome them, without providing particularly new insights. Risks undervaluing the cycle of learning.

Full Review:’When all’s said and done, there’s a lot more said than done.’ That old saying might well be the motto of the authors of this book. The core chapters describe the key behaviours that the authors identify as standing between knowing what to do and doing it. They are (to quote the chapter titles):

  • When Talk Substitutes for Action
  • When Memory is a Substitute for Thinking
  • When Fear Prevents Acting on Knowledge
  • When Internal Competition Turns Friends into Enemies.

The book is rounded off with a chapter of case studies and ‘eight guidelines for action’:

  • Why before How: Philosophy is Important
  • Knowing Comes from Doing and Teaching Others How
  • Action Counts more than Elegant Plans and Concepts
  • There is No Doing without Mistakes. What is the Company response?
  • Fear Fosters Knowing-Doing Gaps, So Drive Out Fear
  • Beware of False Analogies: Fight the Competition, Not Each Other
  • Measure What Matters and What Can Help Turn Knowledge into Action
  • What Leaders Do, How They Spend Their Time and How They Allocate Resources, Matters.

While the expansion of these headings contains some useful points (for example, there is a good common sense critique of the currently wildly fashionable ‘balanced scorecard’), I am left with the feeling that a good 25 page article has been forced into 260 pages. There are also some worries with the treatment. Yes, failure to act is a common fault, but so is failure to learn.

The essence of DixonThe Organizational Learning cycle, and also of : The Well-springs of Knowledge is balance between action, reflection and redesign, within a carefully managed cycle of learning, while Senge illustrates vividly that successful action to achieve transformational change (which is the only game in town) requires a systemic understanding and systemic leadership. There is little sense of systemic relationship in this book, which gets perilously close to single cause, single effect prescriptions.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-57851-124-0

Date Reviewed: 2000-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1578511240/bookwatccomau

The Knowledge Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation.

Author: Nonaka, Ikujiro & Takeuchi, Hirotaka

Short Review:

A brilliant exposition of how companies create knowledge – regarded by many as the only sustainable source of competitive advantage. It is however not easy to read.

Full Review:This classic in the knowledge management literature is a very important book about individual and group learning in the context of building organisational success. The argument is based on a distinction between tacit knowledge (knowledge which is learned only by experience and communicated only indirectly) and explicit knowledge (the kind of knowledge which is contained in manuals, procedures and guides) and on the necessary interactions between these to create knowledge which is available to the organisation. Unfortunately it is also a book which may not be read by the people who will benefit most from it. This is because the authors have not been clear whether they are writing for an academic or a business audience.

For a busy manager, Chapters 1-3 are likely to be somewhat intimidating as they range across philosophy, economics and theories of knowledge and are argued very densely and somewhat academically. However, even if you do not have the time or inclination to read the book as a whole, Chapter 8, which is about 20 pages long and is entitled ‘Managerial and Theoretical Implications’, is essential reading. It starts with an excellent summary of the arguments in the rest of the book and proceeds to a crisp exposition of the actions and structures which the authors believe to be necessary for success in organizational knowledge creation. The chapter can be read without reference to the earlier part of the book, though you miss some of the richness of the rationale underlying the practicalities in the Chapter.

Having read that, managers may then be tempted to read chapters 4 to 6 (and 7 if they are with a multinational) and will be well rewarded for doing so. It is written by Japanese who are very well acquainted with Western ways of thought and are very skilled at presenting the – at the time it was written – revolutionary concepts associated with ‘tacit’ knowing and the processes necessary to its conversion into ‘explicit’ knowledge that can be shared.

Chapters 4 to 6 contain a wealth of very carefully chosen examples to give real meaning to such at first odd-sounding concepts as ‘middle-up-down management’. However, for those who find the book too much to cope with, Nonaka’s article in the Harvard Business Review (Nov-Dec 1991) is a well-deserved HBR Classic and is an early exposition of the theme later developed in the book. It will convey some of the essentials of the book in a short space, but not the richness. Organization Science 5, No 1 1994 and the Sloan Management Review 29, No 3 of 1988 contain other articles on aspects of the themes developed in the book.

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Year Published: 1995-01-01

Country: USA & UK ISBN: 0-19-509269-4

Date Reviewed: 1996-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0195092694/bookwatccomau

The Knowledge Entrepreneur: How Your Business Can Create, Manage and Profit from Intellectual Capital

Author: Coulson-Thomas, Colin

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Shows how practical knowledge-based job-support tools can transform work group productivity.

Publisher: Kogan Page

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0749439467

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

The Knowledge Management Yearbook 1999-2000.

Author: Cortada, J. and Woods, J. (Eds)

Short Review:

40 articles by leading writers on aspects of knowledge management. Covers the nature of Knowledge, Knowledge based strategies, KM and organizational learning, and tools techniques and processes. Includes extensive references to organisations, sites and periodicals. Uniformly high standard.

Full Review:This is a very valuable reference resource in what has become a rather incoherent field – with a welter of definitions and perspectives.

The Yearbook is a well balanced and well organised guide to navigation to available resources that also contains a very well chosen selection of articles to cover the various aspects of knowledge management. It is concerned mostly with knowledge management at organisational level, rather than with the impact of ‘the knowledge economy’ on the world we live in.

To start at the end: Part 5 Knowledge Management References contains:

* reviews of significant articles (For coverage of recent books, you need to go to the ALERT BookWatch site.)* a listing of useful internet resources, with brief commentary on the content of each* a directory of KM organisations* a directory of periodicals dealing with KM* a glossary of terms associated with KM* a set of quotations (this last is no doubt included for the benefit of speakers at the innumerable seminars and workshops on KM!)The commentary on each resource is laudably brief but comprehensive and the coverage of organisations that are relevant to KM is good. The only problem with a printed listing of internet sites is that they change fairly often – however there are several sites (including BookWatch) that monitor and trace changes in the major sites. The articles are arranged in four parts:* The Nature of Knowledge and its Management* Knowledge-Based Strategies* Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning* Knowledge Tools, Techniques and ProcessesMost of the articles are directed either to clarifying important concepts – for example Karl-Eric Sveiby’s article on Tacit Knowledge; or to improving some aspect of practice – for example Charlotte Roberts on ‘Can We Talk?’, which is concerned with conversational skills. There is a wealth of useful frameworks and tools and some very useful summaries of key concepts such as the transformation that occurs between explicit and tacit knowledge. The emphasis is on human aspects of knowledge management rather than the technological end, but both receive good consideration. In order to test the coverage, I worked through as many relevant themes as I could think of and checked whether I could find something useful on each theme. The only ones I did not find were the relatively new concern with physical design of space to enhance knowledge creation and transfer (an important part of knowledge infrastructure), and discussion of group meeting techniques for building shared understanding. That’s a pretty good coverage score. The other interesting – and probably intentional – omission is the lack of any authoritative definition of knowledge. That reflects the reality that there is little agreement on the definition, but also helps to explain why KM is still a somewhat incoherent discipline or set of practices. I hope that the venture is sufficiently successful for the Yearbook to meet its goal of becoming an annual resource.

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7506-7122-X

Date Reviewed: 1999-05-01

Comments: Recommended for all concerned with knowledge management

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/075067122X/bookwatccomau

The Leader as Communicator: Strategies and Tactics to Build Loyalty, Focus Effort, and Spark Creativity

Author: Mai, R. and Akerson, A.

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Examines the diverse communication roles that a leader must fill.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-8144-0740-4

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

The Leader’s Change Handbook: An Essential Guide to Setting Direction and Taking Action.

Author: Conger, Spreitzer & Lawler (Eds)

Short Review:

A selection of 13 articles in four parts that contains very useful reference material. The last chapter, ‘Take-Away Lessons’ is an invaluable summary of the main themes. The articles are of high average quality, although some are in unnecessarily difficult language.

Full Review:

This book is the result of a conference that brought together some ‘great names’ in change management. Many of them contain original material though a few, such as Kotter, have chosen to summarise previous work (Kotter’s 12 page article ‘Leading Change’ is a good summary of the key themes in his earlier book of the same title). To quote from ‘Take-Away Lessons’, the theme of the book is that Leadership does make a difference. The editors select three specific behaviours of managers:

  • direction setting and strategy development
  • creating a felt need for change
  • communicating the vision

Because the environment is the crucial driver of change, leaders must devote substantial time to scanning the environment [remember the '40x30x20 rule' of HamelCompeting for the Future, which suggests that managers typically spend only 3% of their time arriving at a shared view of the 3-5 year future, based on careful consideration of the external environment]. The change response must involve systemic change in the structures and processes of the organisation, involving creation of new social, market and technical architectures to support the new vision. In an important article that is unfortunately written in quite mind-numbing jargon, Robert Quinn (author of the excellent QuinnDeep Change) and Nancy Snyder offer an ‘Advanced Change Theory’. In the simplest terms it suggests thirteen ways in which the change leader must change personally in order to lead change successfully – a message that is only too often not heeded. This theme is one that is taken up by writers about the internal aspects of leadership. Among the ‘unresolved questions’ are:

  • the importance of leadership to organisational change – to what extent is our perception affected by our current obsession with leadership? [After all, people like Wheatley and Shelton remind us that science has shown us that what you look for determines what you see. Much of the management literature is written with an eye to leaders and aspiring leaders as market, and leaders like to believe that they make a difference.]
  • to what extent the role of senior managers and leaders is pivotal to successful change. The conclusion is that active support is probably crucial, but that the network of lower level leadership can in some circumstances be an effective driver.
  • There is some discussion of the manager-leader distinction and balance required between leadership and management; (while writers such as VaillSpirited Leading and Learning deny the value of the distinction, talking instead of managerial leadership).
  • whether different styles of leadership are required for evolutionary and for revolutionary change – most change efforts are triggered by crisis which may give dominance to a particular style.

In summarising unresolved issues for the future, the editors draw out comments by the authors on:

  • new forms of organisation, with an argument that the future will see greater diversity of structure, typically with fewer hierarchical forms, requiring less management and more leadership
  • change will be continuous, requiring a clear understanding of and focus on the constants in a changing landscape (see Collins and PorrasBuilt to Last for excellent discussion of this balance)
  • leadership will be shared – a network of leadership, in which team leadership will remain critical
  • cultural factors and cultural understanding is critical in global organisations
  • knowledge-based organisations require a different style of leadership (see the article Knowledge Management).

If these conclusions are unsurprising, the whole issue of leadership has, after all, been worked over very thoroughly. The articles are useful not for wholly new ideas, but for well argued discussion of familliar themes, mostly in a digestible form.

There is one notable and very important omission from the collection. There is hardly any discussion of the societal, environmental and ethical obligations on organisations and their leadership. Authors like those quoted in the article Society and Business are increasingly insistently demanding attention to these wider issues and challenging the comfortable free market assumption that an organisation’s commercial success is all the proof required of its societal value. Like it or not, these issues will demand much greater attention from leaders over the coming decades.

Publisher: Jossey Bass

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-4351-7

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787943517/bookwatccomau

The Leader’s Handbook: Making things happen; getting things done. A guide to inspiring your people and managing the daily workflow.

Author: Scholtes, Peter

Short Review:

This sequel to ‘The Team Handbook’, tells you almost everything you need to know about leading and managing teams in the workplace. Its two subtitles ‘Making things happen; getting things done’ and ‘A guide to inspiring your people and managing the daily workflow’ exactly describe the content.

Full Review:In this delightful book, a long awaited sequel to The Team Handbook, Peter Scholtes tells you almost everything you need to know about leading and managing teams in the workplace. With The Leader’s Handbook, Scholtes achieves perhaps the best synthesis to date of Deming inspired management philosophy and practical pointers to continual improvement. Scholtes does not just criticise contemporary management fads and fallacies; he provides viable alternatives. As Russell Ackoff observes in the Foreword, ‘Peter Scholtes is an educator, not a guru’.

Scholtes starts off with a brief review of management history – from a Deming perspective, naturally. He then provides his take on the New Leadership Competencies, in which he provides a very down to earth interpretation of Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge. (Compare this with the very witty ‘System of Profound Problems’ diagram on page 301!) The next section is entitled ‘Getting the Daily Work Done’. This is an excellent introduction to the techniques of Kaizen – continuous incremental improvement in the workplace and Lean Thinking streamlining the flow of value creation. Along the way, he fearlessly tackles bureaucracy and standardisation. (I once heard him describe ISO 9000 as ‘the Bart Simpson approach to quality’.)

As for each chapter, exercises and cheat sheets are provided to encourage reflection and action. After a chapter on culture, teams and leaders, which may be a little lightweight for corporate academics but which will be of great practical value for teams, Scholtes addresses strategies for breakthrough improvement. By this, he means organisation wide commitment to change, rather than technocratic re-engineering solutions. In fact, the breakthrough of which he talks is a breakthrough in thinking, rather than a breakthrough in technology. He supports this with some useful observations on change and its management. Part of the breakthrough is managing by data rather than opinion; an injunction honoured more in the breach than the observance by most organisations. This is a very good section indeed, yet curiously Scholtes does not provide his own exposition of control charts, which are a fundamental part of the Deming philosophy. I can only imagine that his editors, following the punch pulling precedents of the ISO and AQC, decided this was too hard to sell in a general purpose product!

My recommendation would be to buy Donald Wheeler’s Understanding Variation (SPC Press, 1993), which is a superb introduction to the ‘why’ of control charts. Scholtes puts on his OD hat for a helpful guide to ‘Leading by asking good questions’, and then nails his colours to the mast in the longest chapter of the book, ‘Performance without appraisal’. In Scholtes’ view, performance appraisal is both systemically unhelpful and psychologically destructive. (A few years back, Psychological Review assessed Alfie Kohn’s book Punished by Rewards, which makes the same points. The learned reviewer conceded that the evidence was conclusive: incentives are counter-productive. There are no scientifically validated counter examples.) But Scholtes does not just knock the status quo; he provides practical guidance for ‘debundling’ performance appraisal, pay, and feedback.

The book concludes with a meditation on ‘Leadership in the Next Millennium’, in which Scholtes provides a summary of the learning points from the book: The 47 Habits of Pretty Good Leaders. (As he notes, ‘Leaders must avoid simplistic answers to complex issues’!) Over and above its intellectual substance, the book is wise, witty, well written, and appealingly presented, with numerous humorous anecdotes and insightful case studies. I would strongly recommend this book to all front line managers, small business owners, and consultants. Senior managers should buy the book for the section on Performance Appraisal alone and challenge their HR gurus to rebut it! The Leader’s Handbook is perhaps the best guide to process improvement and systems management yet written for the independent thinker. REVIEWER: Robert Lamb

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-07-058028-6

Date Reviewed: 1998-06-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070580286/bookwatccomau

The Leadership Challenge.

Author: Kouzes, J and Posner, B.

Short Review:

A good example of the ’7 plus or minus 2 steps to’ approach to leadership, offering sound common sense expanded with a wealth of example into a substantial book. A very useful ‘manual’ for the practical leader and would make a difference when consistently applied.

Publisher: Jossey Bass

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0269 1 (Pbk) 0 7879 0110 5 9 (Hd)

Date Reviewed: 1997-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787902691/bookwatccomau

The Leadership Engine: How Winning Companies Build Leaders at Every Level.

Author: Tichy, Noel M., with Cohen, E.

Short Review:

Offers the development of leaders at all levels as the single factor distinguishing ‘winners’ from ‘losers’. Those who like a strongly evangelical style, and lots of examples and work sheets will love it. Others should skim for the nuggets and avoid the verbiage.

Full Review:Perhaps it is discomfort with the uncertainty of living in chaotic times that is producing the fascination with leadership which in turn is producing a flood of books on leadership.

This is a book which you will either love or hate. It drives a simple – some would say over simple – message with evangelical fervour. Like an old fashioned football coach, it divides the world into ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ and claims that the single cause distinguishing the one from the other is the (hero) leader’s attention to developing (hero) leaders at every level in the organisation. It asserts that leadership is a teachable skill and offers a recipe for developing leaders that is based on simple principles and sound common sense, reinforced by a very large number of examples and supported with a ‘Handbook’ that contains a great range of worksheets, scorable instruments and so on. I use the term ‘hero’ in parenthesis, because Tichy clearly belongs to the hero leadership school, which puts him at odds with most other contemporary writers, including Howard Gardner, whose Leading Minds he rightly praises and from whom he quotes extensively. For this reader pedagogical simplification is taken to excess, while Tichy’s editor has unfortunately not exercised the leadership necessary to trim a moderately good but desperately verbose book down to the very useful book it contains. Another way of putting it is that it belongs to the Tom Peters school of writing – choose a single important issue and beat it to death with maximum drama.

The core theme, and one of immense importance, is simply stated:

Successful leaders of successful organisations are those who devote real time, effort and commitment to identifying, developing and encouraging leaders at all levels in the organisation. Real commitment involves disciplined clarification of their own values and ideas and dedication of a substantial amount of their own time to all aspects of the development process and to intimate direct contact with individuals, not merely mandating that others should do it.

Regardless of the type of leadership you espouse, that focus is clearly central to the operation and long term growth of any organisation – and is one that is missing in many, if not most organisations. Tichy works from an implicit mental model with which authors such as Meg WheatleyLeadership and the New Science would profoundly disagree. It is that the leader is the sole source of drive and development of direction. I suspect that Tichy’s riposte to that statement would be that anyone who does provide drive and direction is a leader – a somewhat circular argument. A leader’s ‘teachable point of view’ contains three ingredients: ideas; values; and ‘emotional energy and edge’.

The first 200 pages of the book consists of a series of chapters which go into detail on each of these elements. You may find the examples that make up the text of most chapters useful. In my opinion the text does not add greatly to the brief ‘dot point’ summary found at the beginning of each chapter – which is well worth reading and thinking about.

The last 100 pages of the book are a ‘Handbook for Leaders Developing Leaders’ that contains a wide range of charts, questionnaires, instruments and pro formas, much of it good stuff, but in aggregate reinforcing the impression of charismatic evangelism. For example, there is a section on pages 270 to 273 that quotes directly from Gardner‘s Leading Minds, but which, in my opinion, picks up the surface and fails to capture the deeper wisdom of Gardner’s ideas. You may find this book very useful. However, it would be very important to balance it with the suggestions of other writers, such as Gardner himself, Marvin BowerThe Will to Lead or, for a quite different view, Margaret Wheatley.

The focus on leadership as the be-all-and-end-all also needs to be balanced with a focus on other critical factors such as the encouragement of learning, perhaps best exemplified in Dorothy Leonard-Barton’s Wellsprings of Knowledge. The point is not that Tichy is wrong with his single-minded focus on a particular kind of leadership. It is that his viewpoint is incomplete and, to that extent superficial. However, if it results in even 1% of CEOs each devoting 5% more of their own time to direct involvement in clarifying their own values and to the development of the potential leaders under them, the book will have done an important service.

Publisher: Harper Business

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-88730-793-0

Date Reviewed: 1998-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0887307930/bookwatccomau

The Lean Enterprise: Designing and Managing Strategic Processes for Customer-Winning Performance.

Author: Dimanescu, Hines and Rich

Short Review:

One of a range of books taking a whole systems view of the structures and processes required for lasting success. Explores non-hierarchical structures internally and whole supply chain relationships externally. It offers a practical approach, without falling into simplistic ‘seven steps’ solutions.

Full Review:

Of the many books offering ‘new’ approaches to strategic design of processes and organisation design, this one is solid, straightforward and well-laid out, with the emphasis on processes and on the practical rather than underlying concepts. The solutions offered were already familiar when the book was published in 1997, centring on processes designed around structures, flat hierarchies, varieties of team working and sound linkages to suppliers. What is offered is a fairly conservative approach to change within a holistic view of the organisation, rather than the more radical changes to the underlying philosophy of management advocated by authors such as Hey.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 8144 0365 4

Date Reviewed: 1999-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814403654/bookwatccomau

The Learning Alliance: Systems Thinking in Human Resource Development.

Author: Brinkerhoff R.O. & Gill S.J.

Short Review:

A disappointing book from a highly regarded expert on training strategies and evaluation. It seeks to ‘reposition’ training in a systems context, but fails to make the fundamental distinction between training and learning.

Full Review:Brinkerhoff has a substantial reputation derived from a number of books concerned with ensuring that value is received from training. He has some excellent work on the evaluation of training to his credit.

This book is a disappointment and does not live up to its superb title. It seeks to reposition training in a systems framework, but does this fairly superficially, based on ideas of the value chain taken from Gary Rummler and Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline. Where it fails is that it does not effectively explore the fundamental distinction between the training mind set (you determine what I need) and the learning mind set (I decide what I need and when I need it). The result is to repackage a ‘product’ which needs fundamental redesign.

For a good treatment of the implications of the changes needed and of the environmental factors which make the shift necessary, read Peter Vaill’s Learning as a Way of Being instead. Those for whom Vaill’s model is too radical, and who wish to maintain a training rather than a learning view will find value in Brinkerhoff’s categorisation of ‘Highly Effective Training” (p.19) and the checklist (pp175-179). The checklist in fact provides a good summary of the points made in the text.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1994-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-55542-711-1

Date Reviewed: 1996-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1555427111/bookwatccomau

The Learning Organization in the Public Services.

Author: Cook, J. et al (eds)

Short Review:

There are 17 articles arranged around concepts and practices. It has useful material, but is disappointing, missing the distinctive issues of organisational learning in the public services. Written largely by OD practitioners and trainers within the UK public sector.

Full Review:

A very large number of public sector organisations have devoted and are devoting a great deal of effort to trying to introduce ‘learning organisation’ (LO) principles and practices. There are distinctive differences about the public sector situation – for example, in a political climate it is exceedingly difficult to maintain the tolerance of mistakes that is so central to learning. There is therefore a real need for public sector coverage to balance the private sector emphasis in the literature. To that extent this book is to be welcomed. However, it suffers from a number of serious weaknesses:

  • it is written very largely by specialist contributors from a Training or Organisational Development background, and implicitly supports the idea that learning is something driven by the specialists and in which top management are (hopefully benevolent) observers from the sidelines
  • it largely reflects the dominant topdown hierarchical management ethos prevalent in much of the public sector and does little to challenge that tradition – a tradition that is inherently antithetical to learning
  • while it covers much of the ground conventionally included in the LO literature in a public sector context, it fails to draw out what is distinctive about the public sector situation that provides the specific challenges to learning.

I have already quoted one example – the relatively low tolerance of mistakes, with its adverse impact on creativity and experiment and its reinforcement of ‘process bound’ approaches. Another distinctive issue is the fact that public sector organisations inevitably pursue multiple objectives, often in conflict with each other, and their resolution is often highly politically charged. How does one encourage the conditions for sound learning in that environment? A third is the impact of the waves of essentially politically driven downsizing, outsourcing, privatising (and other buzz words) that have in general been carried out more ideologically in the public sector than elsewhere, with very substantial effects on the culture of organisations as well as their ‘shape’ and, frequently, leadership.

Despite these serious weaknesses, the book has much to recommend it. It does provide a series of case studies of attempts to operate to LO principles in a variety of situations, and many of these examples will be useful to others. Further, the authors do, in general, try to extract the lessons from the situations or cases that they describe.

Publisher: Gower Publishing

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0 566 07773 6

Date Reviewed: 1998-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566077736/bookwatccomau

The M&A Transition Guide: A 10-step Roadmap For Workforce Integration.

Author: Hanson, Patti

Short Review:

Written by a human resource specialist, this book is exactly what its title claims &endash; a detailed step by step guide to the human issues that need to be dealt with before and immediately following a merger or acquisition. The 10 steps are set out chapter by chapter.

Full Review:The book is based on USA employment practices and legislation and the detail will need to be adapted – sometimes substantially – in other countries. However, most of the principles are equally applicable elsewhere.

Each chapter is supported with customised pro formas that can also be downloaded from the internet. It goes down to the level of detail of dealing with questions such as ‘when is pay day?’ and ‘what happens to my accrued vacation hours?’ It is specifically written for the HR specialist who has a role that includes advice to top management on the less obvious ans well as the obvious issues involved in integrating the workforces of different companies.

The book does not seek to cover the much more complex issue of international M&A. Given the fact that more and more mergers and acquisitions cross national boundaries, there is scope for guidance on the much more complex issues that arise in these cases.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 2001-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0471395196

Date Reviewed: 2001-05-01

Comments: Recommended for human resources managers dealing with mergers

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471395196/bookwatccomau

The Management Myth: Exploring the essence of future organisations.

Author: Hames, Richard David

Short Review:

Concerned with new ways of thinking about organisations through new metaphors and working through the implications of this ‘shift in mind’. It is rich in ideas, powerful, but on the whole leaves it up to the reader to find practical ways of applying the ideas.

Publisher: Business & Professional Publishing

Year Published: 1994

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 875680 08 X

Date Reviewed: 1995-02-01

Comments: Recommended for those interested in management philosophies

The Manager’s Balancing Act.

Author: Stone, Florence M.

Short Review:

Explores familiar problems facing managers in organisations undergoing change, some traditional and fashionable solutions, and the basics in each situation. Suggests ways of working towards a balanced solution. A common sense guide for first line managers.

Full Review:This is a useful basic book, particularly for first line managers who are struggling with change and want good explicit guidance to how to handle troubling situations. The book starts with a catalogue of 25 common situations or dilemmas – e.g. ‘do I ‘empower’ someone who does not appear to want to be ‘empowered’ and if so how?’ as a lead in to ten chapters which explore topics such as:

  • Should you Share Leadership?
  • Team Meetings: The When and the How
  • Scaling Invisible Walls: Learning How to Span Functions.

Each chapter consists of a series of sections: The Problem; What’s In It For Me; Back to the Basics; Fad Solutions; and The Balancing Act, the last being a series of tips and things to consider.

I think that the audience for which it is written will find this book useful and practical. It majors on applied common sense. The structure makes it very easy to refer to and to locate the issue of current concern and the points and questions in The Balancing Act section provide good advice.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 8144 0374 3

Date Reviewed: 1998-03-01

Comments: Recommended for middle managers struggling with change

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814403743/bookwatccomau

The Manager’s Guide to Benchmarking: Essential Skills for the New Competitive-Cooperative Economy.

Author: Finnigan, Jerome P.

Short Review:

A direct, simply written, well organised and very practical overview of the reasons for benchmarking and the sequence of steps from planning to acting on the findings. Contains an excellent bibliography for those wanting greater depth.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0279 9

Date Reviewed: 1997-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787902799/bookwatccomau

The Manager’s Question and Answer Book

Author: Stone, Florence

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Answers over 100 of these common and important-management questions.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-8144-0758-7

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin, and Reward

Author: Hudson R.L. & Mandelbrot B.B.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Mandelbrot shows how the dominant way of thinking about the behavior of markets-a set of mathematical assumptions a century old and still learned by every MBA and financier in the world-simply does not work. He uses fractal geometry to propose a new, more accurate way of describing market behavior.

Publisher: Basic Books

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA

ISBN: 0465043550

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-11

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0465043550/bookwatccomau

The Monk and the Riddle: the Art of Creating a Life while Making a Living.

Author: Komisar, Randy

Short Review:

A modern fable with a timeless message that you should seek to work where your passion is, rather than simply chasing the money. You are also more likely to succeed if you do so. Originally written at the height of the dot.com bubble, the second edition starts with a ‘post mortem’ affirming the continuing validity of that message. The book also provides an interesting insight into how entrepreneurial ‘midwives’ work.

Publisher: Harvard Business School Press

Year Published: 2000

Country: USA

ISBN: 1578516447

Date Reviewed: 2002-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1578516447/bookwatccomau

The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns can Change to Sustainable Practices

Author: James, S and Lahti, T

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Provides examples of communities that have made dramatic changes toward sustainability, and explains how others can emulate their success.

Publisher: NewSociety

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-86571-491-6

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

The Nature of Leadership

Author: Antonakis et al (Eds)

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Addresses current issues in leadership research, including emerging topics such as gender, culture, and ethics.

Publisher: Sage

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0761927158

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

The Necessary Nature of Future Firms: Attributes of Survivors in a Changing World

Author: Huber, George

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Makes explicit the organizational attributes and management practices firms must possess to be among the ranks of the “future firms.”

Publisher: Sage

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0761930361

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

The New Bottom Line: Bringing Heart and Soul to Business.

Author: Renesch and DeFoore (Eds)

Short Review:

Discussion of the impact of ‘bringing spirit back into the workplace’ has struck a strong chord in the USA. This anthology captures the main themes, with contributions ranging from excellent to the edge of over-enthusiasm. Scan it for what ‘speaks’ to you.

Full Review:This is an anthology of short contributions and, like most anthologies, is rather uneven in quality. The discussion of ‘heart’ and spiritual values in organisations has become popular, at least partly as a reaction to various forms of taylorism (reengineering has been accused of being a modern taylorism) and continuation of a control mindset. The theme that runs through it is simply that the whole person, in whatever occupation, has a spiritual dimension and that both the person and the organisation benefit from that dimension being recognised and given a voice. The contributors explore situations and ways in which this is achieved.

Most of the contributions are fairly anecdotal – case studies if you wish – and each reader is likely to find that different stories speak to them. Many of them suffer somewhat from a feeling that the author is writing an assignment on a topic given to them rather than something they have chosen, but the best are very authentic. Similarly, most of them write about how we relate, how we do what we do, rather than giving much attention to the deeper question of in what way our collective work contributes to meaning and value for our community or society. Anita Roddick’s article is a notable exception to this, and there is some discussion of the issue in John Renesch’s opening article.

Much of Renesch’s opening article is a sort of staged long distance debate with Tom Peters and with extensive quotes from Thomas Moore (of ‘Care of the Soul’ fame). For those who are familiar with what Peter Senge calls the discipline of mental models and the tools of skilled discussion (balancing advocacy and inquiry and use of the ladder of inference), the debate is as perfect a case study as you could get of an ‘advocacy war’ conducted so high up the ladder of inference that there is no possibility of the contenders actually engaging round shared meaning – but it is entertaining all the same.

The book ends with an excellent short article by Anita Roddick of the Body Shop. In the middle are 22 other chapters, arranged in seven parts. It is definitely not a book to read from end to end and I question whether it will do much to convert people who are not already ‘in the choir’. It should however provide useful case studies and pointers for those who are engaged in the hard work of building the kind of organisation and relationships that encourage the full flowering of the spirit and creativity of its members.

Apart from Anita Roddick’s contribution, I thought that those by Barry Heerman ‘The Spirit of Team’, Evangeline Caridas ‘Participative Work and the Human Spirit’ with its extensive reference to the Emerys’ work, and Dave Potter ‘Journey into the Soul of an Organization’ all offered valuable insights and ways of acting. Others I found less accessible, either because they use fairly high flown language or possibly because a style and approach to discussing personal and intimate experience that appears to be comfortable to an American audience can be a bit overwhelming to non-Americans.

Publisher: Sterling & Stone: NewLeadersPress

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 9630390 9 1

Date Reviewed: 1997-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0963039091/bookwatccomau

The New Financial Order: Risk in the 21st Century

Author: Shiller, Robert J.

Short Review:

Goes well beyond current ideas of manageable risks to suggest concepts and tools for management of six categories of international, national and societal/personal risk that can and should be managed. The author also includes reflections on the nature of innovation in financial markets. The central theme is that current technology and databases permit the establishment of forms of risk management that would transform the our ability to achieve long term societal goals. Separate chapters cover each of the six categories. They include: Although the book is written for a general audience, some of the concepts are quite difficult to grasp. An early chapter, which provides an ‘alternative history’ of the period from 1950 to 2000 if the risk management mechanisms had been in place, helps non-specialists to get a feel for what the author is proposing.

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Year Published: 2003

Country: USA and UK

ISBN: 0691091722

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0691091722/bookwatccomau

The No-Nonsense Guide to Fair Trade.

Author: Ransom, David

Short Review:

Part of a series that includes Guides to Globalization and to Climate Change, this one makes the distinction between ‘free trade’ and ‘fair trade’. It argues through a series of case studies covering Mexico and NAFTA, coffee, cocoa, cotton jeans, bananas and helps to explain the passion with which the WTO is opposed by many.

Publisher: New Internationalist Publications Ltd and Verso

Year Published: 2001

Country: UK

ISBN: 1859843344

Date Reviewed: 2001-10-01

Comments: Recommended

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1859843344/bookwatccomau

The No-Nonsense Guide to Globalization.

Author: Ellwood, Wayne

Short Review:

The New Internationalist has a stance that is consistently critical of large corporates and of globalization. However, there material is always carefully researched, thorough, and persuasive. This short book gives a clear readable overview of the issues and criticisms of current directions.

Publisher: New Internationalist Publications Ltd and Verso

Year Published: 2001

Country: UK

ISBN: 1859843360

Date Reviewed: 1996-11-01

Comments: Highly recommended

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1859843360/bookwatccomau

The Organization of the Future.

Author: Hesselbein, Goldsmith & Beckhard (eds)

Short Review:

Will appeal to those who want a digest of the views of a range of respected and generally conservative writers on change. Assembles about 40 authors round six themes. A good summary of current ‘conventional wisdom’, but gives little attention to deeper issues.

Full Review:

This follows the format of the very successful The Leader of the Future published by the same editors in 1996. It provides an easy and brief (between 3 and 10 pages) overview of the thoughts of some 40 authors. It is arranged in six parts

1. Shaping Tomorrow’s Organizations

2. New Models for Working and Organizing

3. Organizing for Strategic Advantage

4. Working and Organizing in a Wired World

5. Leading People in the Organization of the Future

6. New Definitions of Organizational Health

In general, the well known authors have used their space to summarise ideas and recipes from their previous books, so this is a convenient ‘canned’ source of existing ideas in summary form rather than a crucible for development of new ideas. It is also much stronger on what Australians call the ‘yortas’ (y’orta do this, y’orta do that) than on the much more difficult ‘how tos’. But reminders of the basics are always useful.

The new conventional wisdom on the future of organisations is now fairly clear. They will be:

  • vision led, with a cohesive and inclusive culture
  • customer focused
  • flexible and adaptable, with permeable internal and external ‘boundaries’
  • be able to act as small entities while being global in reach and power
  • recognise, value and develop human potential, but with major departures from traditional ‘life time employment’
  • be participative in style and work largely on the basis of team operations
  • embrace and benefit from the enrichment of diversity

This is a book for ‘progressive conservatives’. No really radical ideas are presented apart from a fascinating article on the Mondragon Model (a highly successful cooperative in the Basque country) by Joel Barker. There is no Dee HockBirth of the Chaordic Age with his radical challenge to the control model of governance, no James Moore (of The Death of Competition) with his analysis of the role of competition and cooperation, no Meg WheatleyLeadership and the New Science with her model of self-organisation. Even more serious, there is very little discussion of the place of the profit making organisation in society and its governance.

There is a burgeoning literature around the rediscovery of the notion of the ‘public good’ and a growing chorus of dissent from current directions of development, which is certain to engage more and more of the attention of large organisations and to affect them, but it is not addressed here. Most of these challenges are systemic and require detailed attention to systemic interactions within the organisation and between it and its environment. While there are several references to systems and systems thinking – mainly in the form of comments that it will become a valuable skill – there is no sense that this will become a major issue for organisations.

This, in short, is a book that catalogues a conservative view of where we should be now, but in general are not, rather than a book about the (possibly radically different) organisation of the future.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0303 5

Date Reviewed: 1997-07-01

Comments: An accessible overview of the field

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787903035/bookwatccomau

The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies

Author: Heinberg, R.

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Within the next few years, global production will peak. Thereafter, even if industrial societies begin to switch to alternative energy sources, they will have less net energy each year to do all the work essential to the survival of complex societies.

Publisher: New Society

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0865714827

Date Reviewed: 2004-05-26

The Path of Least Resistance for Managers: Designing Organizations to Succeed.

Author: Fritz, Robert

Short Review:

A successor to his previous Corporate Tides, that expands on his thesis that successful organisations are structured to use creative tension in a way that is consistent with their dominant goal. It is a good restatement of this very individual author’s precepts.

Full Review:For those who have read Fritz’ previous books, this is largely a re-statement and refinement of his previous work. In a sense it should be seen as the fourth edition of a single book.

Fritz provided the basis of much of the treatment of the discipline of personal mastery in Senge’s books. His particular emphasis is on the necessity of establishing a clear and categorical understanding (or collective shared understanding) of the dominant goal, separately building an objective view of current reality, and using these to build the structural tension that will cause the organisation to follow the path of least resistance to the desired goal. He distinguishes sharply between these structures and structures that give rise to oscillation.

The new element in the latest book is the formulation of ‘Nine Laws of Organizational Structure’ based on these principles. There is no question that organisational progress is difficult if not impossible, if structure is inappropriate or suffers internal conflict (by which he means the way in which elements in the organisation interrelate to form a whole, not the organisation chart). Fritz rather skates over the fact that it may not be enough – it is a necessary but may not be a sufficient condition for success. I think that he would argue that an appropriate structural tension will change behaviour sufficiently to achieve the goal, but I think that may be too glib in the case of a large organisation. Having said that, the structural principles that he advocates are simple, powerful and valuable and well worth understanding if they are not already familiar to you.

My other concern with the thesis is his insistence on a single dominant – even over-riding – goal, which is a bit of a worry in these days of the ‘triple bottom line’ and the ‘the balanced scorecard. It leads him, for example, to a somewhat surprising defence of Nike’s much criticised manufacturing record on the grounds that they are subordinate to a primary ‘spiritual purpose’ of dedication to sport.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-57675-065-5

Date Reviewed: 1999-06-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576750655/bookwatccomau

The Path of Least Resistance.

Author: Fritz, Robert

Short Review:

A classic in its field and the foundation of the discipline of ‘personal mastery’ and provides practice in working with the ideas to build personal vision.

Publisher: Ballintine Books

Year Published: 1989

ISBN: 0-449-90337-0

Date Reviewed: 1993-01-01

Comments: Recommended for those interested in personal development

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0449903370/bookwatccomau

The Peaceable Kingdom.

Author: Richards, Stan

Short Review:

An excellent and engaging case study of an organisation that has been very successful in building a flexible and adaptive organisation without ‘silos’ and has been able to make a difference, have fun and grow profitably. Offers many good ideas and insights for other organisations, not only in the advertising industry.

Full Review:There are more books written on the theory of ‘boundaryless’, nonhierarchical, adaptable organisations than good case studies of organisations that have consistently worked successfully that way.

The Peaceable Kingdom is therefore especially welcome, particularly as it is so easy to read – even seductive. It is a ‘first person’ account of the growth of a major Dallas, Texas based advertising agency and the continuing and successful efforts of the founder in (to quote the subtitle) “Building a company without factionalism, fiefdoms, fear and other staples of modern business”. It is a story of continuing success over many years, and also a story of continuing effort over the same period to ensure that the principles and practices that fuelled the growth are not subverted by growth in size. There is little or no ‘management theory’ in the book, just the views and experience of the author and his colleagues.

While written in the first person, the book is a group effort, in which the skills of highly professional copy writers combine to produce an engaging, colloquial narrative that is extremely easy to read and conveys its very important messages lightly. I started to skim it for ideas and found myself reading the whole book for pleasure.

There is nothing remarkable about the philosophy and underlying principles themselves. They rest on:

  • a passion for quality
  • a belief that others have the same passion and need the freedom to express that passion
  • the application of humanity and common sense
  • an insistence that ‘management’ is part of every job, not the special preserve of a special group
  • the creation and maintenance of a loose, organic structure that retains the advantages of intimacy in a fast growing organisation
  • insistence that ‘communication’ has to be active, universal, frequent and direct.

What is remarkable is the consistent application of these principles and the way in which the conditions necessary to achieve the culture have been put and kept in place.

There are plenty of ‘take-home’ messages in the book, but it is not arranged as a ‘seven step how-to-do-it’. Indeed, the emphasis throughout is on the holistic and systemic nature of building and maintaining a culture. There are, however, a number of practices that can be summarised in a review. They include:

The four questions used to evaluate every prospective new account and, importantly, the priority sequence in which they are asked:

1. Can we do good work?

2. Can we make a difference?

3. Can we have fun?

4. Can we make money?

The identification of tribalism (silos is another term in common use) as one of the most destructive (and universal) forces in organisations and the set of practices set out throughout the book to keep tribalism at bay

The focus on developing and working to a consistent branding strategy – and that this is an arduous and continuing task. In other industries this is more likely to be called building and working within a clear and consistent shared vision, but the essential principles are the same and the essence of the art is that the brand or vision needs to be:

  • specific, brief and memorable
  • focus on satisfying continuing customer needs
  • reflect the essential skills of the organisation – what Kees van der Heijden in Scenarios calls the business idea
  • attainable but with difficulty
  • that every aspect of what is done, said or shown inside or outside the company has to be consistent with and reinforce the brand or business idea.

For a more conceptual treatment that rests on the same principles, see Lewin and Regine The Soul at Work: Unleashing the Power of Complexity Science for Business Success. (see Newsletter vol 1 no 7). It includes several case studies (including one of an English advertising agency), and seeks to provide guidance on both theory and practice. Two other books come to mind as providing case studies from other industries and the approach of other individuals to achieving the same goals. One is Dee Hock’s extraordinary Birth of the Chaordic Age, (see Newsletter vol 1 no 8), the other is Ricardo Semler’s Maverick!. Both are very different from The Peacable Kingdom but rest on very similar principles.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 2001-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0471391166

Date Reviewed: 2001-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471391166/bookwatccomau

The Power of Partnerships: The Next Step beyond TQM, Reengineering and Lean Production.

Author: Mariotti, John L.

Short Review:

A guide to sound and lasting relationships with four types of partner – suppliers, customers, employees or associates and ‘special partners’. Reasonably brief, with key points highlighted, it is a useful reminder of key factors in success. Based largely on the author’s experience.

Publisher: Blackwell

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA and UK

ISBN: 1 55786 717 8

Date Reviewed: 1997-04-01

Comments: An overview of partnership arrangements

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1557867178/bookwatccomau

The Project Management Scorecard: Measuring the Success of Project Management Solutions.

Author: Phillips, J., Bothell, T., & Snead, G.

Short Review:

Today, almost all organizations require employees to manage projects. This publication aims to provide a step-by-step approach to measuring the success of projects. It describes seven methods to measure project success including Return on Investment. The authors address some of the critical questions about measuring the effectiveness of projects, and describe in detail a range of methods for each type of measure.

Full Review:Content The book is broadly organized into four parts.

Part I ‘sets the stage’ for measuring project management by discussing project management issues and challenges (Chapter 1), the project management process (Chapter 2) and solutions (Chapter 3). An overview of the Project Management Scorecard is presented in Chapter 4.

In Part 2, the seven measures of project management success are presented in Chapters 5 to 11 (one measure is discussed per chapter).

Part 3 of the book examines in more depth, some of the key issues with the measures.

Part 4 covers challenges such as forecasting ROI, communicating results and giving project feedback, and overcoming resistance and barriers.

Key points The authors commence this text by stating that failed and poorly management projects cost US companies an estimated $145 billion per year, and that although many employees are expected to be project managers, few have received any formal project management training. In the opening chapters some reasons are offered for these failed or poorly managed projects, and these provide compelling evidence to read further.

 

The project management process is described in some depth, and while this presents familiar material for those who have a project management background, it is a useful overview for the inexperienced project manager. The key questions and ‘go-no-go’ checkpoints described here are practical and easy to follow.

At this point (Chapter 3), the authors discuss the merits of developing an organisation-wide ‘project management culture’, which they acknowledge, is not for the weak at heart. Importantly, they note that regardless of the tools that are used it is people who are using them and if people are not helped by solutions they will not use them. The seven measures they propose are:

1. Reaction and satisfaction2. Skill and knowledge changes3. Implementation, application, and progress4. Business impact (e.g. business performance)5. ROI – return on investment6. Intangible measures (e.g. employee satisfaction, employee withdrawal, customer service, team effectiveness)7. True costsThe Chapters devoted to these measures provide a description of each measure and the importance of it to project effectiveness, together with methods for capturing and analyzing the data, Although a chapter is devoted to ‘intangible measures’, there are measures in the other chapters that could also be described as intangible. For example, ‘reaction and satisfaction’ refers to stakeholders’ “thoughts and feelings of reaction and satisfaction when the project is planned, explained and communicated” (pp. 77). Similarly, skill and knowledge changes focuses on learning during a project, and most teachers, trainers and academics could attest to how difficult and ‘intangible’ this concept can be, particularly in relation to measurement. These may be, collectively, good measures of project effectiveness, however it seems a misnomer to identify only some as ‘intangible’.

This issue of ‘hard data’ and ‘soft data’ is also addressed in Chapter 8 (How to Measure Business Impact). Indeed, the title suggests that what will be provided is a single, comprehensive model (i.e. the ‘Project Management Scorecard’). What is provided is a much more broad-ranging collection of measurement tools and techniques, none of which are original. That is, they are quantitative and qualitative measures that have been written about previously in most management texts.

What is original in this book is the fact that they have been collated and applied to project management effectiveness. However, the content of each chapter has not been well-organized, so it is slightly repetitive in its presentation. It seems that several sections that may have been written separately have been assembled together under the idea of a ‘project management scorecard’ without a strong integration of the concepts into a single approach. Apart from this criticism however, the tools and methods they suggest are well-recognized measures of performance and worthy of consideration in relation to project management effectiveness. The authors have included examples, tools, worksheets, formulas and illustrations to allow the reader to implement the measurement methods they discuss.

Overall, the book would be useful to any reader who has a particular interest in measuring the success of their projects. It is likely that only ambitious (or well-resourced) project teams would implement all seven measures. While this would provide a very comprehensive measurement approach, in reality most would select certain measures to focus on, depending on the desired outcomes of the project. It is an interesting book, with suggestions for further reading provided at the end of each chapter and is recommended for project managers with some experience (rather than the novice), and those with a particular interest in measuring project success. Review by Dr. Leanne Whicker, a consultant in knowledge management at BDO Kendals (http://www.bdokendalls.com.au/)

Publisher: Elsevier Science

Year Published: 2002-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7506-7449-0

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0750674490/bookwatccomau

The Quantum Leap: the Next Generation.

Author: Gilliam, Dean et al

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Concerned with building sustainable competitive advantage by responding to customer demand in real time, every day. To remain competitive in today’s dynamic global economy companies must become demand-driven.

Publisher: J. Ross Publishing

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA

ISBN: 1932159444

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-13

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1932159444/bookwatccomau

The Quest for Authentic Power: Getting Past Manipulation, Control, and Self-Limiting Beliefs.

Author: Lawford, G. Ross

Short Review:

The author defines ‘Authentic Power’ as “the power to consistently obtain what we truly desire” (which is in itself a somewhat question begging definition, but strongly reminiscent of what Senge and others call ‘personal mastery’). The book falls most closely into the growing field of books concerned with personal development, with a business audience in mind. It provides a useful review of mental models of power and how they shape our reality and a guide to building power and exercising power through self-empowerment. Though useful, it does not in my opinion replace (1995)

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 2002

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-57675-147-3

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576751473/bookwatccomau

The Reengineering Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Business Transformation.

Author: Manganelli, Raymond / Klein, Mark M.

Short Review:

A good, detailed ‘how to’ book. Thorough, logical and sequential, with all the virtues and many of the vices of such an approach. If you want a top down, high control and somewhat mechanical detailed recipe for performance improvement, this is for you.

Publisher: American Management Association (AMACON)

Year Published: 1994

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-8144-0236-4

Date Reviewed: 1996-08-01

Comments: Recommended for managers/ teams charged with reengineering

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814402364/bookwatccomau

The Relationship Manager: The Next Generation of Project Management

Author: Davis, Tony and Pharro, R.

Short Review:

Written to fill the gap between technical and business aspects of successful project delivery. It provides practical guidance on how to make this way of working a reality and details the skills and techniques necessary. The ‘relationship manager’ is compared with the familiar ‘account manager’ found on most projects. The differences are fairly subtle, but important, the key distinction being sensitivity not just to the client’s wishes but to their business needs. The text is thorough and detailed, with useful tables and check lists.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 2003

Country: UK & USA

ISBN: 0 566 08463 5

Date Reviewed: 2005-02-25

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566084635/bookwatccomau )

The Role of Reflection in Managerial Learning: Theory, Research, and Practice.

Author: Seibert, K. W. and Daudelin, M. W.

Short Review:

An exploration of the role of reflection in learning and of the theory behind it, written primarily for an academic audience. HR professionals may find value in its solidly researched but unsurprising conclusion that the systematic practice of reflection greatly enhances learning.

Publisher: Quorum

Year Published: 1999

Country: USA and UK

ISBN: 1-56720-259-4

Date Reviewed: 1999-12-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1567202594/bookwatccomau

The Search Conference: A Powerful Method for Planning Organizational Change and Community Action.

Author: Emery, M. & Purser, R.E.

Short Review:

This highly authoritative text will become the definitive source for the theory and practice of Search Conferences. It belongs in the category of ‘must own’ and ‘must use’. It is a body of technique now coming into its own, largely developed by the Emerys.

Full Review:This is an extremely important book, being a detailed presentation of the theory and practice of Search Conferences, a philosophy and family of techniques for democratic participative change that is now expanding from its origin in building community action into a very wide range of applications both within and between organisations.

In the simplest terms, Search Conference is a body of techniques for building agreement and commitment around a course of action within a defined system – a whole which lives in relation to its environment. (It is useful to remember Wilber‘s definition of a holon and holarchy in A Brief History of Everything, where a holon is an entity which is both complete in itself (e.g. an atom) and a part of a larger complete entity (e.g. a molecule), with the essential characteristic that more complex units in the holarchy (e.g. particle, atom, molecule,cell, etc) have properties which can not be found in a simple aggregate of the separate holons of which they are composed.). Within a defined system, a search conference focuses on identifying and building agreement and action around what can be agreed upon, without seeking to ignore or deny what can not be agreed on. Essential to the structure is that the whole defined system is present (through choice of participants who are not formal ‘representatives’, but who can collectively present all available perspectives), and that each person attends as an equal, regardless of their hierarchical position in an organisation or their status in the community. This bald description of the essential features does not do justice to the theory or the practice, but is enough to indicate the scope.

Properly used Search Conference techniques have immense power, particularly in an era of instability and uncertainty and one in which it is essential to benefit from the full power of gathered human capacity. Merrelyn and Fred Emery are two of the founders and most consistent champions of Search Conference and have between them done more than anyone else to develop the theoretical underpinnings as well as the practice. The teaming with Ronald Purser is a happy choice, because the book is also highly readable, which has not always been true of the Emerys’ other work.

In writing a commentary, the choice is between an attempt to summarise what is already a carefully structured, thorough and fairly economically written text and simply saying that this is a book that the educated manager needs to own, read and refer to. I have chosen the second course to avoid the risk of leaving out important points or connectors as well as to encourage potential readers to own and use the book.

The structure of the book is simple: the first part answers the questions ‘Why Search?’, ‘What can be achieved through Search that is unlikely or impossible to achieve by other means?’. The second part is concerned with the theory and underpinning principles. The third part contains detailed guidance for how to plan, design and manage a Search Conference. I personally find the diagrams less useful than the text but, if that is a fault of the book and not of myself, it is a minor one.

The book ends with a brief Epilogue by Fred Emery, which warns against the danger of Search Conference becoming another fad or, worse, being used for manipulation rather than true participation. He also reinforces the importance of the theoretical framework and of appropriate preparation before commitment to a Search Conference.

I have one relatively minor quibble with the book and I am left with one important question. The quibble is that I think the authors have gone a bit overboard in seeking to differentiate what they call the Search Conference from what Weisbord calls Future Search. There are both theoretical and practical differences, for example in assumptions about conflict, in some aspects of the operational definition of a system, views of a maximum a preferred size of group and so on. However, despite its somewhat competitive stance in relation to the two other key sources, Weisbord’s Discovering Common Ground (to which both Emerys made notable contributions) and Weisbord and Janoff’s Future Search, the three books are largely complementary. A fourth,Bunkerand Alban‘s Large Group Interventions, is valuable for its comparisons between a whole range of techniques in this general family, and what sitautions each is best suited to. All are valuable and all add to a manager’s understanding of the range, scope, application and theoretical bases of what is, after all, a body of related approaches or techniques and not a single ‘right way’. There is a faint whiff of academic jousting in The Search Conference, which is slightly unfortunate in so direct and practical a book. The question is ‘What next, after the Search Conference is over?’. By the nature of the method, it is not usually possible to include in the Search all the people who need to work together after the conference to create a new reality. The stages after the Conference are also critical and published advice on how to proceed is sparse. It is a field in which a sequel to the present book would be most welcome.

Publisher: Jossey Bass

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0192 X

Date Reviewed: 1996-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/078790192X/bookwatccomau

The Self-Made Leader: 25 Activities for Facilitated Personal Development.

Author: Woodcock, M. & Francis, D.

Short Review:

A set of exercises and ‘instruments’ designed for facilitators to use in small group work to help people to develop aspects of their leadership skills and capacities. Each is followed by a summary of key points, set out as an overhead. A convenient to use resource.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1998

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0 566 08111 3

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566081113/bookwatccomau

The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome: How Good Managers Cause Great People to Fail

Author: Manzoni, J-F, & Barsoux, J-L.

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Most supervisors simultaneously empower and encourage star performers, yet micromanage and control less-productive employees. The unwitting result: The latter group lives down to expectations. The authors show how this dynamic can be interrupted and reversed.

Publisher: HBS

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 1578519490

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

The Seven Cultures of Capitalism: Value Systems for Creating Wealth.

Author: Hampden-Turner, C. & Trompenaars, F.

Short Review:

An insight into the business culture and attitudes of seven nations, based on research among 15 000 executives. It is valuable both as a comparative text on business in the ‘global village’ and for the insights it gives into the Anglo-Saxon way of doing business.

Publisher: Doubleday, New York

Year Published: 1993

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7499-1330-4

Date Reviewed: 1995-03-01

Comments: Recommended for anyone concerned with diverse cultures

The Seven Heavenly Virtues Of Leadership

Author: Barker, C. (Ed.)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Looks at business leadership from a personal viewpoint. Contributors each focus on a particular virtue, and explore its impact and its role in leadership.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-07-471258-6

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy

Author: Hertz, Noreena

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Reveals how corporations across the world manipulate and pressure governments; how protest is becoming a more effective political weapon than the ballot-box; and how corporations are taking over functions from the state.

Publisher: Harper Collins

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 006055973X

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

The Social Life of Information.

Author: Brown, J. S. & Duguid, P.

Short Review:

A valuable counterpoint to the stream of books suggesting that technology will solve everything. The authors are eminent experts in both the technological and the human side of management. Wide ranging, rich in wisdom and reads more like non-fiction than a ‘text’.

Full Review:This is a collection of 8 linked essays or ‘conversations’ as the authors call them, with an Introduction and an Epilogue. The central theme is that information and its management must be placed in the wider social and cultural context of its use, and failure to do so is a primary cause of the failure of so many futurologists to forecast developments (the often prophesied paperless office, the demise of the large corporation, the end of hierarchy and so on).

The Australian sociologist Hugh Mackay (The Turning Point) notes that it is no longer sensible (if it ever was) to look for a single trend. Technological, social and cultural trends are often going in different directions and widely different between generations. In consequence several quite contrary trends may be developing together – we truly live in a world of complexity.

Brown and Duguid make the same point. What makes their book particularly valuable is the depth of their engagement with both the technological and the business cultural aspects of change. I found the whole valuable – it makes particularly useful background reading for those who come to knowledge management from an information systems background.

The chapters or essays are linked but each stands alone. I found 4 through 6 (Practice makes Process; Learning – in Theory and in Practice; Innovating Organization, Husbanding Knowledge) an extraordinarily good and wide ranging summary of the essence of learning and knowledge management.

Those who want a relatively brief overview of the issues and the way in which human interaction in practice and information support link together to produce useful knowledge, and the issues in transferring knowledge could hardly do better than read the 70 or so pages in these three chapters.

As the epilogue makes clear, the book is ultimately a study of the paradoxes that need to be acknowledged across all aspects of our life. Constraints can simultaneously be resources and resources constraints; hierarchy and self-organisation need each other but also clash; I may want both to restrict access and give free access to the same pieces of information, for different reasons, social trends may be leading us in one direction, while advances in technology or business imperatives may lead us in another. To quote the authors ‘the way forward is paradoxically to look not ahead, but to look around.’

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2000-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0875847625

Date Reviewed: 2000-06-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875847625/bookwatccomau

The Stakeholder Strategy: Profiting from Collaborative Business Relationships.

Author: Svendsen, Ann

Short Review:

Concerned with building and maintaining mutually beneficial stakeholder relationships, it is offered as a practical guide. It seeks to go beyond defensive strategies to realise the full potential of systemic interdependence for mutual advantage.

Full Review:The theme is corporate health and growth through developing internal and external stakeholder strategies that are based on recognition of the systemic inter-relationships and the potential for ‘win-win’ or symbiotic relationship. The book builds on the concepts of a ‘business ecosystem’ developed in MooreThe Death of Competition; that of stewardship expounded in Block’s books; and of ‘boundary-busting’ set out in AshkenasThe Boundaryless Organization.

Much of the book covers ground that will be familiar to people who have read those books. What it adds is a clear and straightforward outline of the basics of systems and information requirements for constructive stakeholder networks. This includes internal systems, external measures and an approach to ‘social accounting’ and stakeholder auditing that is at least a good start for an organisation that is starting down the track of understanding itself as part of a business eco-system. It does not really ask – or answer – the hard questions about environmental sustainability, social equity or values, but organisations that use this as a guide to first steps will find many useful suggestions and tools, expressed in clear and reasonably concise terms and without hype.

Publisher: Berrett Koehler

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-57675-047-7

Date Reviewed: 1999-03-01

Comments: Perspectives on growth

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576750477/bookwatccomau

The State of the World Atlas.

Author: Smith, Dan

Short Review:

This excellent little atlas provides a clear and current picture of the state of the world covering everything from relative wealth, dependence on tourism and on multinational companies through to climate change, the quality of life, the rights of the child, literacy and a host of other useful indicators. It is well organized and colourfully set out to give an immediate visual picture of key indicators.

Publisher: Earthscan

Year Published: 2003

Country: UK

ISBN: 1844070298

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0140514465/bookwatccomau

The State We’re In.

Author: Hutton, Will

Short Review:

A critique of economic social and political trends and the financial system, specifically related to the UK. There is a vigorous, well argued attack on free market economic dogma and a useful comparison of ‘capitalisms’ in UK, US, Japan and Europe

Full Review:This is primarily a well sustained polemical attack on Thatcherism and the British Conservative ascendancy, and an analysis of British society in terms of a growing split round a 30/30/40 split in the population – 30% disadvantaged, 30% marginalised and insecure and 40% privileged (of whom most are secure but not in any sense rich). While it has dated to some extent, much of the argument remains relevant. However, it ranges much more widely than that, which is what brings it within the interest area of managers.

First, it contains predictions and prescriptions for renewal of British society and the economy, which may be of interest to scenario builders. Second it, like Ormerod in The Death of Economics, contains a sustained attack on the gulf between the theoretical underpinnings of free market economics and observable reality. Hutton’s prescription is a return to a modernised Keynesianism. Surprisingly, he does not directly address the inadequacy of GDP/ GNP as measures of economic performance, nor does he give much attention to questions of ecological sustainability – a lack which he admits in the preface to the Vintage edition. Third, it contains some good chapters on the pathologies of the financial markets and their exploitive relationships with business – pathologies that are particularly visible in the UK. Fourth, the chapter ‘Why Inequality Doesn’t Work’ is a useful analysis of the downside for society, business and the economy as a whole of allowing excessive inequality and an attack on theories that inequality is necessary to incentives and the vigour of the economy. Fifth, it contains a good narrative comparison between four types of capitalism (UK, US, Japanese and European), primarily to highlight the weaknesses and failings of the UK variety, but with some useful general points, particularly about the ‘ecological’ fit between finance, government and business in Japan. For a more thorough – and excellent – comparison of ‘capitalisms’ and their implications see Charles Hampden-Turner & Fons Trompenaars‘ The Seven Cultures of Capitalism.

It makes an interesting comparison with Korten‘s When Corporations Rule the World. The two books have a different focus, but there is a great deal of convergence between them, more in their arguments than in their prescriptions for change. To me Korten’s book has the greater depth, but that may be only because I am removed from British politics, which takes up much of Hutton’s attention.

Publisher: Vintage Books

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0 09 936681 9

Date Reviewed: 1996-11-01

Comments: Recommended for anyone interested in wider societal issues

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0099366819/bookwatccomau

The Stirring of Soul in the Workplace.

Author: Briskin, Alan

Short Review:

A wide ranging and reflective exploration of the conflicts of personal and organisational life and between creativity and order and of the journey to wholeness. Many may enjoy the style; I found it difficult and the book as a whole outshone by David Whyte’s The Heart Aroused.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0281 0

Date Reviewed: 1997-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787902810/bookwatccomau

The Strongest Link: Forging a Profitable and Enduring Corporate Alliance

Author: Slowinski G. and Sagal, M.

Short Review:

Provides practical guidance based on the long experience of the authors.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-8144-0743-9

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

The Sustainable Corporation: Organisational Renewal in Australia.

Author: Dunphy, D. and Griffiths, A.

Short Review:

A history of efforts to achieve Organisational Renewal in Australia and current directions in ‘transformational strategies. Includes a forward agenda for sustainability in human and ecological terms, the first much more successfully than the second.

Full Review:The Sustainable Corporation has some similarities to KleinerThe Age of Heretics, placed in an Australian context and with a primarily Australian cast of characters. But it is not as good as and nowhere near as readable. It is a problem that so many Australian management books are written by academics and that the Australian academic style makes very few concessions to readability. It is part history and part prescription, concerned with approaches to organisational renewal in the periods 1966-77, 1977-83 and 1984-96, with the third part devoted to new directions towards sustainability. There is a useful brief appendix with a summary of major historic approaches to change, identifying the basic metaphor, diagnostic approach and strategies used for change.

Chapter 6 Building Corporate Capabilities is well worth reading, particularly by Australians. It discusses the search for efficiency and the traps inherent in competing purely on cost. It highlights the choice facing Australia between a low- or a high-skill economy and the implications of the choice. (In my opinion this is one of the critical choices facing the country and demands far more high profile attention by both business and government than it is getting.)

It summarises critical areas for building capabilities for sustained corporate success, with headings on:

  • building the corporate knowledge and skill base
  • adopting a strategic perspective
  • reinterpreting strategy (from purely competitive to co-operative/competitive)
  • fostering productive diversity
  • building on human potential
  • creating communities of practice
  • developing the capability for continuing corporate renewal.

Each section is a short and useful summary of key points. There is also a short and useful section on the strengths and limitations of the market model – another issue that demands much higher profile discussion than it is getting.

The chapter ends with a brief outline of a ‘human sustainability model’ as an alternative to the market model.

The final chapter, Building a Sustainable World, is a brief overview of the case for social and economic transformation the need for transformation and the role of corporates in achieving sustainability. It is quite a useful summary of material that is covered better and in greater depth in HarmanThe New Business of Business and others (see Ecology and the Environment). It is unfortunate that a chapter concerned with the role of business ends with a quote from one of the chief executives of Mitsubishi, a conglomerate that rates a whole carefully documented chapter in KarlinerThe Corporate Planet as a major global ecological villain.

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 86448 752 6

Date Reviewed: 1998-09-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1864487526/bookwatccomau

The Systems Thinking Playbook.

Author: Booth Sweeney, L. and Meadows, D.

Short Review:

Privately published, loose leaf set of very useful games to illustrate systems thinking concepts. Being added to progressively. Vol 2 was published in 1996, Vol 3 is in preparation. The exercises are good both to ‘loosen up’ and to get a real feel for systemic relationships.

Full Review:The games cover each of Senge’s ’Five Disciplines’. I have tried several of them with groups and found them very useful. They range from very short and simple introductions to a theme, such as balancing tubes to demonstrate the importance of time horizon (I remember an entire plenary group at one of the Systems Thinking Conferences trying to balance peacock feathers on their finger – representing one heck of a lot of moulted peacocks), through to a couple of ball games which I have found extremely valuable as an active introduction to mapping a simple system.

Linda Booth Sweeney and Dennis Meadows run programs based round the book from time to time and they are very good value.

Publisher: University of New Hampshire (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

Year Published: 1995-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-9666127-7-9

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Comments: For trainers in systems thinking, high school and university teachers

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0966612779/bookwatccomau

The T-Form Organization: Using Technology to Design Organizations for the 21st Century.

Author: Lucas, Henry C. (Jr)

Short Review:

I have been looking for a book written from an IT stance that would really add value for the non-specialist on IT aspects of change. I don’t think this book does that, though it is a useful reminder of the aspects of IT which need to be taken into account.

Full Review:Henry Lucas is an information systems professor, writing about organisational change and the impact of IT on organisation. He offers what he calls the T-form organisation. This, unfortunately, is an attempt to create a buzzword which suggests that this is something new and different.

The T-form organisation, as he defines it, is in fact simply an organisation with the characteristics that virtually all current writers propose – hierarchically ‘flat’, flexible, with a focus on process, decentralised decision making and reaching outside its own physical boundaries through a variety of strategic and process based linkages to suppliers and customers. Certainly IT is the enabler for many of these developments and the book gives examples of ways in which various systems solutions are used. Much of this will already be very familiar to any practising manager. However, the discussion of group ware (particularly Lotus ‘Notes’), relatively brief as it is, may give an insight into the as yet only partly realised potential of this technology. It also contains a useful discussion on networks, with an all too brief discussion of the internet and, surprisingly, no mention at all of intranets, which are attracting a lot of attention and investment from large and dispersed businesses.

The book fails directly to make the point that IT has allowed the separation of information flows from reporting lines. A basic, though usually unstated, assumption of bureaucratic organisations is that knowledge is power – to be jealously guarded from others and with the corollary that unless you ‘own’ the database, you are unlikely to have adequate access to what you need. The consequence is that turning data into information (data in context) and ultimately into knowledge (information that carries with it the ability to act) is a cumbersome process, heavily inhibited by the internal dynamics of the organisation. IT in principle liberates the development of information flows from the straitjacket of the physical structure – but only if people are prepared to think outside their boundaries and to change their mental maps of their world. Because the main issues of organisational change have to do with people, their perceptions, behaviour and motivation, with IT as an underlying enabler, the author has to write about factors outside his main area of expertise in the attempt to highlight the importance of the IT that is his area.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1996-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 7879 0167 9

Date Reviewed: 1997-02-01

Comments: A good general background

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787901679/bookwatccomau

The Technology Leaders: How America’s Most Profitable High-Tech Companies Innovate Their Way to Success.

Author: Cohan, Peter S.

Short Review:

Specifically for high tech. companies, the book is a useful study of four sources of advantage: entrepreneurial leadership, disciplined resource allocation, open technology and boundaryless product development. It works in detail through these, with plenty of cases.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-1072-4

Date Reviewed: 1998-06-01

Comments: Useful for high tech companies

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787910724/bookwatccomau

The Time Trap.

Author: Mackenzie, Alec

Short Review:

A new edition of the classic in its field and a detailed compendium of how we waste time and how to improve our performance. Invaluable with a desire to improve their own performance and the will to stick to the prescription.

Publisher: Amacom

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 8144 7926 X

Date Reviewed: 1997-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/081447926X/bookwatccomau

The Timid Corporation: Why Business is Terrified of Taking Risk.

Author: Hunt, Benjamin

Short Review:

A contrarian view of risk management that has overtones of ‘the emperor has no clothes’. The author argues that business has become obsessed with risk and self-regulates to the point that genuine (and risky) innovation is stifled. He offers a lot of evidence that undue concern with risk, coupled with a desire (largely for safety) to ‘offer customers what they want’ and ‘build customer loyalty’ actually works against the best interest of customers and the business. While it is clear that the author is against undue caution, he believes that this is affecting most business and makes a good case for his arguments, it is less clear will simply be used by those who are interested in preventing government regulation and ridiculing self-regulation. It is usefully provocative but ignores or ridicules some real risks that require careful management. The author’s cavalier dismissal of environmental concerns is a good example of this.

Publisher: Jonathan Wiley

Year Published: 2003

Country: UK

ISBN: 0470843683

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0470843683/bookwatccomau

The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding.

Author: Maturana, H. & Varela, F.

Short Review:

A classic, a seminal book about cognition (knowing how we know) which is well worth the considerable effort involved in getting the mind around it. It underpins concepts of mental models and challenges accepted ways of thinking about ‘objective reality’.

Publisher: Shambhala Publications Inc

Year Published: 1987

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-87773-632-1

Date Reviewed: 1994-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0877734038/bookwatccomau

The Truth about Burnout: How Organizations Cause Personal Stress and What to Do About It.

Author: Maslach, C. and Leiter, M.

Short Review:

A detailed study of the phenomenon of burnout, its causes and how to prevent it in ‘conventional’ organisations. In the ‘new world’ of contract style relationships, the problems may well be treated increasingly as an ‘externality’.

Publisher: Jossey Bass

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-0874-6

Date Reviewed: 1999-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787908746/bookwatccomau

The Turning Point: Science, Society and the Rising Culture.

Author: Capra, Fritjof

Short Review:

A classic and one of the seminal books which triggered the popularisation of systems thinking and recognition of the limitations of linear, analytical thinking. Fairly dense and hard to read in parts, but worth the effort.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Fontana Paperbacks

Year Published: 1982

Country: UK

ISBN: 0-00-654017-4

Date Reviewed: 1995-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553345729/bookwatccomau

The Ultimate Book of Human Resource Management

Author: Middleton, John

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: Ultimate Guides give concise but comprehensive overviews of key business subjects. Each title contains a summary of the business books, articles and thinkers that have had the most significant impact on the subject.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1-84112-181-9

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

The Ultimate How To Book: Strategies for Personal Achievement.

Author: Alder, Harry

Short Review:

A ‘personal mastery’ book that looks at goals, strategies, self-image and related issues. In direct descent from the 19th century Samuel Smiles self-improvement books and Dale Carnegie, it will appeal to those who like simple precepts and lists. The processes can be useful, but are far from a cure-all.

Publisher: Gower

Year Published: 1999

Country: UK and USA

ISBN: 0 566 08151 2

Date Reviewed: 1999-12-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566081512/bookwatccomau

The Unbounded Mind: Breaking the Chains of Traditional Business Thinking.

Author: Mitroff, Ian I. & Linstone, H.A.

Short Review:

A useful categorisation of types of thinking and their uses, limited by the authors’ decision to push their own package for ‘unstructured-unbounded thinking’ rather than surveying a rich field of choice.

Full Review:The Unbounded Mind does not fully live up to its promise but is valuable all the same. Its theme is simple – the inadequacy of traditional ways of thinking which are highly structured and rely on distinctions between what is ‘in’ the model and what is ‘out’, i.e. externalities. The authors claim that most, if not all social problems are ‘unstructured-unbounded’ problems and that analysis of these problems requires different ways of thinking from that with which we are familiar.

The book is itself well structured. It organises ways of thinking into a progression from ‘structured-bounded’ towards ‘unstructured-unbounded’ through ‘five ways of knowing’, which they also refer to as ‘Inquiry Systems’. The five are:

  • agreement or inductive- consensual systems (illustrated by Delphi techniques)
  • ‘the world as formula’ or analytical-deductive systems
  • ‘multiple realities’, which the authors describe as combining the ‘model part’ of analysis and the ‘data part’ of agreement into an integrated whole – i.e. recognition that ‘the prior model one has of the world determines subsequently the data one collects from it… A particular model/data combination or coupling defines a view of reality …’
  • The ‘fourth way of knowing is conflict or the dialectic, the distinguishing feature of which is structured conflict between two (or more) polarised positions. Information, or progress depends on achievement of synthesis as the result of intense debate.
  • The fifth way of knowing is described as ‘Unbounded Systems Thinking’.

The chapter which introduces the fifth ‘way of knowing’ starts with a useful discussion of the limitations of each of the first four ways, and a linkage to some philosophical principles before launching into a general background to systems thinking. At this point the authors miss the opportunity for a general discussion of emerging approaches to systemic thinking and launch into a fairly superficial description of the nature of what they call Unbounded Systems Thinking (UST) and thence into the particular technique which they have adopted in their consulting practice.

While there is brief reference to Russell Ackoff, there is none to Jay Forrester (except in a quote from Peter Jay), Peter Senge or Fritjof Capra, or to the range of manual and computer based tools which are transforming our capacity to think systemically about the kinds of social and environmental problems with which our society is increasingly concerned. What they present as UST is the systematic application of three perspectives, which they call Technical, Organisational or Societal, and Personal or Individual (which becomes the acronym T-O-P), the recognition that each perspective reveals insights about a problem which are not obtainable in principle from the others, the recognition that each perspective requires its own methods and its own data sets, and the recognition that these perspectives interact in complex and dynamic ways.

The chapter which introduces UST is followed by an interesting application of the method to the Bhopal disaster (the catastrophic leak of toxic gases from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India in 1984). It then moves on to two concluding chapters. The first is on surfacing and challenging key assumptions and somehow manages to omit any reference to the central work of Argyris and Schon in this field, probably because it is narrowly concerned with identifying assumptions to support the T-O-P analysis which they advocate. The final chapter is a cry for recognition of inter-connectedness in the problems which concern us and ends with a quotation from the now much quoted speech by Chief Seattle to an assembly of Native American tribes in 1854.

The Unbounded Mind is useful, but ultimately unsatisfactory. It does provide a useful classification of systems of thinking, but fails to describe the richness and potential of systemic approaches to thinking.

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Year Published: 1993-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-19-507783-0

Date Reviewed: 1995-05-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0195077830/bookwatccomau

The Unconscious Civilization.

Author: Saul, John R.

Short Review:

A transcript of the 1995 Massey lectures, this is another example of well argued dissent from current societal directions. Three of the titles show the themes: ‘The Great Leap Backwards’, ‘From Corporatism to Democracy’, ‘From Managers and Speculators to Growth’.

Full Review:Saul begins his book with a quote from the 12th Century John of Salisbury ‘Who is more contemptible than he who scorns knowledge of himself?’ and the book is an exploration of the essentials of a civil society in which individuals are able to cooperate ‘disinterestedly’ (he uses the word with its original meaning of a concern for something higher than personal gain).

Essentially the transcript of five lectures, Saul ranges widely and with biting wit across themes from the great divide between Socrates and Plato to the operation of the ‘free market’ and our financial system. In the process he mounts a strong attack on the current ideology of the West and, indeed on ideologies themselves. In particular, he attacks corporatism and the corporatist State as a denial of democracy and traces the resurgence of the essence of the corporatist philosophy from the ashes of the defeat of fascism; he joins what is now becoming quite a crowd in an assault on neoclassical and Friedmanite economics and its perversion of Adam Smith and Ricardo’s principles; and he attacks the speculative excesses of the financial markets.

What I have described in these five chapters is a civilization – our civilization – locked in the grip of an ideology – corporatism. An ideology that denies and undermines the legitimacy of the individual as the citizen in a democracy. The particular imbalance of this ideology leads to a worship of self-interest and a denial of the public good. The quality that corporatism claims as its own is rationality. The practical effects on the individual are passivity and conformism in the areas that matter and nonconformism in the areas that don’t.

The book brings another approach to the same general theme of dissent from the current direction of society developed by the authors of many of the books listed in Society and business.

Publisher: Penguin

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: UK & USA

ISBN: 0 14 0264647 7

Date Reviewed: 1997-04-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684871084/bookwatccomau

The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size.

Author: Nørrestranders, Tor

Short Review:

Recommended by a subscriber, this is a wonderful, quirky, roller-coaster intellectual ride on the subject of consciousness, information and a whole range of related subjects. Part of the growing literature on the need to change the way we see the world. Also of direct value to those concerned with knowledge management.

Full Review:The User Illusion is showing signs of becoming a cult book. For those who like playing with concepts, it is great fun to read, the mental equivalent of watching a really good fireworks display.

It starts with a summary of some of the stranger reaches of the history of science, leading to the story of various (ultimately unsuccessful) attempts to refute or get round the laws of thermodynamics. In passing it shows how the apparently (to those of non-mathematical mind) dumb and pointless questions asked by mathematicians can lead to important theoretical and practical insights. It ends with:

Consciousness is a wonderful creation …. but … is about to retain composure by appreciating that it does not master the world; that an understanding of simple rules and principles of predictability in the world does not provide the possibility of guessing what the world is like. … Consciousness pretends that the simulation of the world it experiences is the actual sensation of the world. … Consciousness will find composure by acknowledging that people need more information than consciousness can supply. Man also needs the information contained in consciousness, just as we need a map to find our way around the terrain. But what really counts is not knowing the map – it is knowing the terrain. The world is far richer than we know from looking at a map of it.

In between is discussion of a whole range of phenomena that capture the author’s interest and can be woven together to serve the main theme that consciousness is much more limited than we acknowledge and its role needs to be reassessed.

The journey is entertaining, discursive and contains a wealth of strange and often contentious facts and findings. There is material for innumerable leisured arguments – all you need is the ambience, the leisure and the liquid of your choice.

There is a lengthy discussion of information, what it is, what it means and how we use it. The totally counter-intuitive conclusion of the discussion is that the really valuable stuff is not the information, but what we throw away – what he calls ‘exformation’. Much of the argument should interest those who deal with knowledge management. Throughout the argument, there was more than a whiff of confusion of definitions – much of what he calls information is more usually called data – and I was struck that the argument would be easier to follow and to agree to (but probably less entertaining) if the author had used Boisot’s three dimensional framework of codification, abstraction and diffusion to capture his ideas.

In any event, the argument leads to a lovely illustration of what happens when we talk to each other (p. 111) as data is converted to information, put into context and some fraction conveyed to the listener, who reverses the process, but naturally within a context that may be similar or very different. This in turn leads to similar discussions of the phenomena of communication, consciousness, the Gaia hypothesis and a range of other issues that catch the author’s fancy on the journey to the conclusion quoted above.

Publisher: Penguin

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: UK

ISBN: 0140230122

Date Reviewed: 2000-09-01

Comments: Stimulating reading on consciousness

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0140230122/bookwatccomau

The Value Factor: How Global Leaders Use Information for Growth and Competitive Advantage.

Author: Hurd, M. and Nyberg, L.

Short Review:

Operate globally; ensure everyone is working to a single universally accepted vision; centralize your information and make a ‘single version of the truth’ available to everyone and capable of being interrogated in real time. Give real time and effort to analysing it, finding connections and using them to achieve superior efficiency, service and control. That, broadly is the message of the book. It contains a lot of ‘yortas’ (that useful Australian expression for ‘you ought to …’), many of them useful, but far fewer real ‘how to’s. The battle of philosophy between the centralists and the decentralists will never end. Both have their virtues. These authors want to centralise vision and information. They talk of a ‘single version of the truth’, but do not ask ‘what if that version of the truth is wrong?’ Don’t say it couldn’t happen – try Enron. John Kay inCulture and Prosperity talks about ‘disciplined pluralism’ in the context of the operation of a market economy. I suspect that idea is ultimately more robust. Kay is also clear, as these authors are not, about the systemic link between the techniques (in this case information management) and the culture in which the techniques are embedded.

Publisher: Bloomberg Press

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA

ISBN: 1576601579

Date Reviewed: 2004-08-10

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576601579/bookwatccomau

The War for Talent.

Author: Michaels, Handfield-Jones and Axelrod

Short Review:

Based on quantitative surveys, this study identifies that few US companies are good at recruiting, retaining and developing talented people and that excellent performance in these areas produces qualitatively and quantitatively superior results. The key cause of success is a mindset among leaders that gives high priority to excellence across all aspects of building talent. The advice provided for achieving excellence with talented individuals is well set out and, not surprisingly, mostly obvious. What needs explanation is why so few leaders give real attention to their stock of talent. The book also tends to assume that talented individuals = good results, with out looking at the system within which they work.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2001

Country: USA

ISBN: 1578514592

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1578514592/bookwatccomau

The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems.

Author: Capra, Fritjof

Short Review:

Capra has done it again. The Web of Life does for a lay person’s understanding of the nature of life what The Tao of Physics did for physics. It will become a major building block in spreading what will become the 21st century’s distinctive understanding of our world.

Full Review:

Fritjof Capra has a history of producing remarkable books. This is another one and, in terms of its influence on the way we think, will probably surpass even the Tao of Physics and The Turning Point. The title is a precise description of the theme of the book. It synthesises systems thinking, theories of life and of cognition to produce the ‘outlines of a unified theory of mind, matter and life.’ The book starts and ends with ecology, placing theories of life and of cognition in the framework of a view which places ecology and therefore life at the centre of the sciences, not as a derivative of the physical sciences, and above all recognising that our understanding must flow from an understanding of interrelationship, not from Cartesian analysis and separation of elements. The first half of the book is devoted to giving an outline, in simple nontechnical language, of the traditions of thinking and the elements which form the basis for the ‘unified theory’. It covers, in very approachable terms, the contributions of advances in many fields to a distinctive and dramatically different view of life from that which has informed our understanding over the last 300 or more years. These fields include:

* systems thinking * our understanding of the phenomenon of self-organisation (the capacity of certain types of structures and all living structures to form stable, self sustaining and even self-replicating patterns, while operating far from thermodynamic equilibrium) * the mathematics of complexity * the truly revolutionary contribution of Maturana and Varela’s The Tree of Knowledge to our understanding of mind and cognition

As far as I can determine (not being a scientist), there has been no compromise with the content of the sophisticated research which has led to the themes which Capra combines. What he has achieved brilliantly is to express the essence of these ideas and how they connect in terms which any intelligent ‘lay’ person can understand (though sometimes not without some thoroughly worth while effort). This is not a ‘business’ book, but it is very relevant, even essential reading, for managers who want to gain an insight into the way of thinking about and perceiving ourselves, our world and therefore our institutions that is increasingly forming the basis for our design and our decision making. There is an accelerating movement from a view of the organisation in mechanistic terms, to a view of the organisation as an organism, in effect a ‘living’ body. This has some very important implications. An object reacts to a stimulus – kick a ball and you can predict what will happen – whereas a living thing responds and the response can not be accurately predicted, sometimes not even by itself – what happens if you kick a dog or, even less predictably, a person. Further, an organism is always developing or evolving under an internal dynamic and the internal dynamic is at least as important as any external stimulus in evoking a response. The ecological/ quasi living system analogy is so powerful a tool (see for example Moore’s The Death of Competition) that we are certain to see more exploration of the concept. Capra’s later book The Hidden Connections goes further into the impact of capitalist society on natural systems and society, and the implications of this.

Publisher: Anchor Doubleday

Year Published: 1996

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 385 47675 2

Date Reviewed: 1996-10-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385476752/bookwatccomau

The Welch Way: 24 Lessons from the World’s Greatest CEO

Author: Krames, Jeffrey A.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: How to put Jack Welch’s ideas and tactics to work in any career or organization.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-07-142953-0

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

The Will to Lead: Running a Business with a Network of Leaders.

Author: Bower, Marvin

Short Review:

A valuable and very readable examination of the distinction between ‘boss’ and ‘leader’, the importance of moving to leadership, and what is involved in doing so. A co-founder of McKinsey’s, the author’s advice is based both on observation and a clear ethical position.

Full Review:The Will to Lead reminded me of Max de Pree’s earlier books on leadership. There is the same wisdom and reflection, the same starting point of a strong ethical position and the same essential modesty and humanity. There is also the same simplicity and clarity of writing. There is no hype or jargon, it is written in plain English with a conversational style. It is also written with passion. It should be essential reading for leaders and prospective leaders.

The cofounder and a former managing director of McKinsey’s is a faultlessly ‘establishment’ business figure, so his views carry considerable weight and he has been able to observe many of the world’s largest and most successful organisations with a degree of intimacy that is open to few. His stance is perhaps best described as that of the ‘progressive conservative’, founded on a clear and explicit platform of ethical standards, a belief in the potential of his fellow humans, and a recognition that we have to start any change from where we are at present. On this foundation, he develops the case for change and the principles necessary to successful change.

The core of his message is that there is a world of difference between a hierarchical command and control company headed by a ‘boss’, and a ‘leadership company’ in which a network of leaders and leadership teams exercise multiple leadership, and that the future lies with a move towards the latter.

The book focuses on the principles, beliefs and behaviours that underpin true leadership rather than on processes or steps – it is not a ‘how to’ book. The author believes that every organisation needs to work out its own way of moving towards leadership. The book deserves to be read as a whole. For those who want to skim it, there are four core chapters (3 through 6) on leadership principles and leadership design, followed by chapters on ‘customising’ the design of the network, the relationship of leaders to the led and on corporate governance and an epilogue on starting the conversion. Throughout, there is enormous emphasis on the development of the network of leaders and of the next generation of leaders as a central responsibility of senior leaders, which is one of many points of harmony with, for example, Arie de Geus’ The Living Company. Do not expect to find startlingly new theories or practices.

Marvin Bower advocates a combination of humanity, empathy, intelligent application of common sense and, above all, consistency in application of core principles that are well known but unfortunately not widely practised. He does so with grace and clarity and works through the simple but not easy things that need to be done on the road from hierarchical command and control to true network leadership.

As an illustration that the qualities required are not ‘rocket science’, look at his selection of the key qualities and attributes of leading:

Trustworthiness; Fairness; Leaders listen; a Leader is Open-Minded; Sensitivity to People; Sensitivity to Situations; Initiative, Initiative, Initiative; Good Judgment; Broad-Mindedness (tolerance of varied views); Flexibility and Adaptability; The Capacity to Make Sound and Timely Decisions; The Capacity to Motivate; A Sense of Urgency.

These support ‘Four Fundamental Responsibilities of Leaders:

Treating Constituents with Respect;

Developing Constituent Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem;

Developing Constituents;

and Making Constituents Stakeholders’.

Note the use of the word ‘constituents’, which applies not only internally to the company but in external relations as well.

Structuring to replace hierarchy with network leadership and leadership teams – he distinguishes usefully between a leadership team and an operating team – gets similar common sense treatment, with valuable reflections on the chief executive as ‘first among equals’, on the value of treating the business as a whole in an integrated way across the organisation and not simply at the top and the essential distinction between issuing commands and offering guidance and monitoring. This section also contains a useful commentary on McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y – and categorical endorsement of Theory Y as the more productive set of beliefs.

The chapter ‘Leading People to Like their Work and Adjust to the New Workplace’ contains a section on people policies for Leadership Companies that includes valuable reflections on how to avoid or cushion layoffs, on recruitment, selection and advancement, and on compensation, including a vigorous attack on the excesses of current CEO compensation as being incompatible with true leadership.

The last substantive chapter deals with issues of corporate governance. Its focus is on the often unsatisfactory nature of the power relationship between the board and the chief executive and alternative ways of building a more constructive relationship. I found this the least useful chapter because of its failure to address the core issue of recognition of the rights of stakeholders other than the owners (usually these days institutional owners) of stock, and an only fleeting reference to the problem of ‘short-termism’. There is however, valuable commentary on the proper responsibilities of the board in relation to the CEO, the dangers inherent in combining the roles of Chairman and CEO and issues to be considered in selection of board members.

Publisher: Harvard Business School Press

Year Published: 1997-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 87584 758 7

Date Reviewed: 1997-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875847587/bookwatccomau

The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization.

Author: Katzenbach, Jon R. & Smith, Douglas K.

Short Review:

One of the best, if not the best practical guide to team building currently available. It gives advice to team members and team leaders and on team formation and structuring.

Full Review:Since its publication, this book has developed quite a reputation. It is certainly one of the best, if not the best, practical guides to team building currently available. It makes a clear distinction between work groups, pseudo teams and true teams and maps the pathways from one to the other (and also makes explicit the fact that work groups are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in themselves – they operate in different contexts and under different conditions). However, there are often great gains to be made by moving from work group to team operation.

It gives advice to team members, team leaders and on team formation and structuring. It contains a great many relevant examples, and it is clearly and simply written. In particular, it strongly makes the linkage between team effectiveness and clarity of performance goals. The authors assert that commitment to performance goals and common purpose is more important than team-building per se.

It contains a very thoughtful and useful chapter on ‘Teams at the Top’, remarking on the fact that, on empirical evidence alone, such teams are relatively uncommon and are difficult to form and maintain. The authors discuss the reasons and suggest that, in many circumstances, work group performance may be all that is needed.

Publisher: McKinsey & Company Inc.

Year Published: 1993-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-87584-367-0

Date Reviewed: 1996-03-01

Comments: Recommended for anyone concerned with team building

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875843670/bookwatccomau

Ties that Bind: A Social Contracts Approach to Business Ethics.

Author: Donaldson, T. and Dunfee, T.

Short Review:

Deals with the serious questions “By whose standards should business be judged? Do corporations have any obligation to protect the human rights of those affected by their decisions? The authors combine legal and ethics expertise and offer a framework for dealing with these issues.

Full Review:Large global companies increasingly find themselves facing ethical dilemmas in their dealings across multiple cultures while in the spotlight of the media and under the scrutiny of a variety of environmental and other interest groups.

This book starts with a fairly detailed case study of two events that troubled Shell (the Brent Spar oil rig and the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria) and uses these as the introduction to development of a framework for decidng business ethics, particularly in complex and cross-cultural situations.

The two authors are distinguished professors in law and ethics. The resulting book is a detailed, even ponderous study of the philosophical and ethical considerations that need to inform decision making in these circumstances. It offers a framework for making decisions, based on what they call an Integrative Social Contracts Theory (ISCT). While the results are intended for practical application and are illustrated by a variety of case studies, the underlying argument is presented in formidably academic terms and, unless you are familiar with this academic territory, you will need a good deal of ice to keep the brain cool while reading the book.

In essence, it appears to be saying that ethical decisions need to be made within a framework in which there are ‘hypernorms’ or universals that must be observed whatever the culture – and which indeed are accepted by most cultures. Beyond that, there are norms or precepts that, although not universals, are consistent between all significant interests or stakeholders who may be affected by a decision. Beyond that again there is ‘moral free space’ – factors which are not in conflict with any of the higher norms and where, after consideration of the various interests and stakeholders, decisions may vary according to company philosophy, culture of the host country and so on. It is therefore vital to identify all relevant stakeholders and there is quite extensive discussion of this issue.

Examples are discussed in depth to illustrate the application of these principles and there are detailed tables and flow charts designed to illustrate the logic. While the issues are of wide and growing concern to large corporates and often even to smaller ones, the book itself is definitely one for the specialist adviser rather than the generalist manager.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 1999-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 87584 727 7

Date Reviewed: 2000-02-01

Comments: Recommended for business specialists in the field

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875847277/bookwatccomau

Tigers in Trouble: Financial governance, Liberalisation and Crises in East Asia.

Author: Jomo, K.S. (Ed.)

Short Review:

A collection of 10 essays on various aspects of the ‘Asian crisis’, written from the perspective of various countries in the region and the IMF. A detailed analysis of causes and cures, including the role of the IMF. Will be of interest to those engaged with the region.

Publisher: Zed Books & 3 Associated publishers

Year Published: 1998

Country: UK and others I

SBN: 1 85649 662 7 Pbk

Date Reviewed: 1999-06-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1856496627/bookwatccomau

Time and the Soul Where Has All the Meaningful Time Gone – and Can We Get It Back?

Author: Needleman, Jacob

Short Review:

This is very far from being a conventional time management book. It is much better than that. You will not find ‘seven steps to taking control of your time’ or anything like that. Jacob Needleman is a highly regarded philosopher and this is a serious work of philosophy, with strong overtones of Taoist or Zen approaches. Like those, it is a practical guide, but not the sort of easy guide that is most commonly found in the management literature. It is based on the distinction between the Ego and the Self and argues that our crisis of business and stress is closely related to neglect of the search for the Self. The author’s practical advice is built around developing a habit of mind that gives honour to reflection and a degree of detachment. There is, of course, much more in this short book than that. There are times when one wonders whether the narrative is leading anywhere, followed by flashes of recognition. It is well worth considering if you are open to philosophical and sometimes counter-intuitive guidance. Certainly, it helps to show that the approach to ‘time management’ of relentlessly increasing your efficiency at filling your day with more things is inevitably counter-productive, and it offers a difficult but practical alternative route to a sane outlook and a sane life.

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler

Year Published: 2003

Country: USA

ISBN: 1-57675-251-8

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576752518/bookwatccomau

Time for Life.

Author: Tonini, Brad

Short Review:

A sound and thorough manual of time management. It works through virtually all the issues that impact on our use of time either as an individual or as a member of a team and offers useful and practical advice. There are many similar books, but this is a good one.

Publisher: Business and Professional Publishing

Year Published: 1997

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 875680 40 3

Date Reviewed: 1999-08-01

Tomorrow’s Organization: Crafting Winning Capabilities in a Dynamic World.

Author: Mohrman, Galbraith, Lawler et al. (Eds)

Short Review:

A collection of articles that canvas a variety of issues of structure, governance, IT and Human resources for ‘the new competitive organisation’. It ploughs ground that is already well tilled, but may be useful for those who like an easily referenced compendium.

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Year Published: 1998

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-4004-6

Date Reviewed: 1999-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787940046/bookwatccomau

Tools for Team Leadership:Delivering the X-Factor in Team eXcellence.

Author: Huszczo, G.E.

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: The book explores the essence of leadership in a team environment and covers team building for both new and existing teams, with special help for team building at the top.

Publisher: Davies-Black

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-89106-201-7

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-11

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0891062017/bookwatccomau

Total Performance Scorecard Redefining Management to Achieve Performance with Integrity

Author: Rampersad, Hubert

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: ‘Total Performance Scorecard’ introduces a concept of organizational improvement and change management that combines the Balanced Scorecard model with the learning organization theory.

Publisher: Butterworth-Heinemann

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0750677147

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Transformation Thinking: Tools & Techniques that Open the Door to Powerful New Thinking.

Author: Wycoff, Joyce with Richardson, Tim

Short Review:

A very useful and well illustrated manual of thinking tools, ranging from the familiar (eg. fishboning and mind mapping) through the less familiar, such as mindscapes and some very useful computer based tools.

Publisher: Berkely Publishing Corporation

Year Published: 1995

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-425-14374-0

Date Reviewed: 1995-06-01

Comments: Recommended for all

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0425143740/bookwatccomau

Transforming the Company: Manage Change, Compete and Win.

Author: Coulson-Thomas, Colin

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Identifies the critical success factors that distinguish winners from losers in the struggle to become more flexible, responsive and competitive. Colin Coulson-Thomas shows how to bridge the gap between intentions and outcomes.

Publisher: Kogan Page

Year Published: 2004

Country: UK

ISBN: 0749442700

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-11

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0749442700/bookwatccomau

Translating Strategy into Shareholder Value: A Company-Wide Approach to Value Creation

Author: Trotta, R. and Hudick, J.

Short Review: 

Publisher’s note: A look at how the planning process relates to the achievement of shareholder value, and ways to ensure that the two directly complement each other.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-8144-0564-9

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

True Professionalism: The Courage to Care about your People, Your Clients, and Your Career.

Author: Maister, David H.

Short Review:

Invaluable for any professional in independent or group practice. It is incisive, clear, practical and challenging. It also includes excellent sideline summaries of the main arguments. It has three sections – About you, About your firm and About your Clients.

Publisher: The Free Press

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-684-83466-9

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684834669/bookwatccomau

Trust in the Balance: Building Successful Organizations on Results, Integrity and Concern.

Author: Shaw, Robert B.

Short Review:

Deals with trust as a critical element in successful change and performance – the limits to trust, conditions for building and sustaining trust and ways of overcoming distrust. Contains ‘instruments’ for identifying levels of trust. Neither better nor worse than others in the same field.

Publisher: Jossey Bass

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-7879-0286-1

Date Reviewed: 1999-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0787902861/bookwatccomau

U

Uncommon Sense: Out of the box thinking for an in the box world

Author: Cochrane, Peter

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: A futurist poses and answers questions, suggests solutions, and raises red flags on issues that need to be addressed in a world that is predominantly chaotic and out of control.

Publisher: Capstone

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 1-84112-477-X

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Uncommon Wisdom: Conversations with remarkable people.

Author: Capra, Fritjof

Short Review:

Could be described as ‘the book of the book’. It consists of interviews with people in the course of writing The Turning Point. Contains some excellent insights.

Publisher: Century Hutchinson Ltd

Year Published: 1988

Country: UK

ISBN: 0.00.654341.3

Date Reviewed: 1994-01-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0006543413/bookwatccomau

Understanding Leadership: Paradigms and Cases

Author: Avery, Gayle C

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Integrates a fragmented field into four broad paradigms or forms of leadership, helping to simplify and clarify the ill-defined field of leadership. Provides 10 case studies.

Publisher: Sage

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0761942890 (Pbk)

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Understanding Variation.

Author: Wheeler, Don

Short Review:

This is not a new book, but is important. Wheeler shows that the central ideas behind Statistical Process Control can be profitably applied to all manner of management information, to identify the signals of genuine performance change.

Full Review:This is not a new book, nor is it a recognised classic. However, it is a most important book. Important not because it says anything which you can’t read elsewhere, nor because it is big or authoritative; no, it is important because of the lucidity with which it undermines the foundations of conventional management reporting and decision making. A strong claim? Yes: but a claim which is yet to be refuted.

Wheeler is a statistician, a former associate of W. Edwards Deming and a keeper of the flame of Walter Shewhart. He realises what many fail to see; that Statistical Process Control (SPC) is not just a tool for production but is an expression and definition of epistemology. SPC defines what we can be said to know, and hence underpins our rationale for action. Without an understanding of the nature of variation, we cannot know whether we are justified in taking action. Wheeler, more than any other writer including Deming, makes this transparently obvious. It is a truism that we are drowning in data. Organisations everywhere are indulging in data mining, searching for the motherlode in the depths of their databases. Management reports get bulkier, and SAP driven ‘enterprise’ systems collect data in every conceivable permutation. What does it all mean?

There are two discrete problems here. Firstly, there is the problem of discerning the overall pattern of the information. Secondly, there is the problem of analysing the significance of a given piece of information.

Presenting Data in Context To discern the overall pattern, we can display the data as time series, that is as a graph showing the value from period to period over an extended time. So, for weekly sales, we might show a branch’s sales figures as a rolling one year graph, with 52 points, each representing one week’s sales. This is especially valuable in highlighting patterns over time, such as trends, regular fluctuations, and seasonality. As a complement to the time series, we can show the same data as a histogram, thus showing the relative frequency of specified ranges of sales. In either case, we de-emphasise the latest number by putting it into the context of a larger picture, the picture of the system that generated the number, as seen over an extended period. However, we are still limited to the observation that ‘some days are better than others’ – we can’t say why.

Analysing the Data More than ever, in these days of competitiveness and accountability, we tend to set targets for each value we can measure. The irresistible urge which strikes managers is to compare the observed value with the target, thus stimulating rounds of reward and punishment depending on the achievement or otherwise of ‘What We Are Accountable For’. This is singularly un-illuminating (which is not to say that we should be unheeding of what our customers and owners would like, but rather to say that until we understand the nature and causes of the variation we are hardly in a position to improve the outcomes). As well as comparing our observations with the targets, we like to compare them with their average. Not surprisingly, the observations will be above average about half the time and below average about half the time. Again, we are not really any the wiser as a result of our analysis. Is there a better way to interpret the variation in performance? There is. Back in the 1920s Walter Shewhart invented the control chart, which is still the key to understanding the Voice of the Process – what the process is capable of achieving, all other things being equal. This is the way to analyse the significance of a given piece of information. Wheeler does not go into the theory of control charts in this book (you will need to consult his Understanding Statistical Process Control for that). Instead, he focuses on a series of case studies which show that the questions and answers which control charts support can lead to a deeper understanding of the levers for genuine performance improvement. Wheeler’s examples include work-in-process inventory, on time shipments, sales revenue, shipping expenses, and accident reporting – typical agenda items for management meetings. Wheeler summarises the learning points from each example. In his conclusion, he points out that

The best analysis is the simplest analysis which provides the needed insight. When the control chart is used in conjunction with [other quality control tools] it is possible to obtain from the data those insights which will remain hidden from those who continue to use the traditional analyses.

Summary ’Statistical methods’, ‘SPC’ and ‘control charts’ are normally held to be the domain of the engineers, a necessary evil for the likes of QS-9000. Wheeler shows that the central ideas behind SPC can be profitably applied to all manner of management information, as a pragmatic filter to distinguish the signals of genuine performance change from the noise of business as usual variation. Buy and read this book. It is only 120 pages (plus appendices). You can read and digest its message in an evening. Then put its precepts to work the next day. Even better, combine Wheeler’s insights into data with Peter Scholtes’ insights into process improvement and change management (Scholtes, The Leader’s Handbook). Read Wheeler, and understand how little of what you think is information has any meaning. Understand variation, and understand how little you really know. As Wheeler says, control charts are not a spectator sport.

Those who do not use control charts have no advantage over those who can’t.

Publisher: SPC Press

Year Published: 1993-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-945320-35-3

Date Reviewed: 1998-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0945320353/bookwatccomau

Unfolding Stakeholder Thinking 2: Relationships, Communication, Reporting and Performance

Author: Andriof et al (Eds)

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: This volume focuses on the practice of stakeholder engagement and captures the complexity of managing relationships with stakeholders.

Publisher: Greenleaf

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 1874719527

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

University, Inc: The Corporate Corruption Of Higher Education.

Author: Washburn, Jennifer

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Argues that universities are abandoning their traditional role as disinterested sources of education, alternative perspectives, and wisdom, because commercial forces have quietly transformed virtually every aspect of academic life.

Publisher: Basic Books

Year Published: 2005

Country: USA

ISBN: 0465090516

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-14

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0465090516/bookwatccomau

V

Value Driven Management.

Author: Pohlman, Gardiner & Heffes

Short Review:

Concerned with corporate creation of value over time through the application of consistent values – the word is used with both meanings, risking some confusion. Works through a set of ‘value drivers and the underlying assumptions that make up ‘Value Driven Management’. A sound book in an increasingly crowded field.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2000

Country: USA

ISBN: 0814404855

Date Reviewed: 2001-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814404855/bookwatccomau

Values in Action: Applying the Ideas of Argyris and Schon.

Author: Dick, Bob & Dalmau, Tim

Short Review:

Most of Argyris’ early books desperately need ‘translation’ to be accessible. Values in Action provides a good translation, together with some very useful exercises. A good exposition of ‘mental models’, their implications and how to work with them.

Publisher: Interchange

Year Published: 1991

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1-875260-04-6

Date Reviewed: 1995-02-01

Virtual Teams: PeopleWorking across Boundaries with Technology.

Author: Lipnack, J. and Stamps, J.

Short Review:

Provides a thorough but rather restless and somewhat confusing coverage of the purpose, formation and characteristics of teams. Mixes analysis, description and evangelism, and is in fact more a general book about team working across boundaries than one particularly on virtual team working.

Full Review:Think of this as a book about team-working across boundaries of time and space and you will find some useful ‘sound bites’ and a sound structure, but nothing that is, in the much over-used term, ‘ground breaking’.

There are quite a lot of useful bits of advice scattered through the book, often in commentary within examples. An example is a glimpse of an approach to ‘just-in-time learning’ processes as a way of dealing with faster cycle times and the use of various aids, such as communities of practice,to support it. However, this like many of the other ideas, is not followed up and dealt with thoroughly.

It ranks with a number of other books on teams as a potentially useful source to refer to, but does not stand out from them.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Year Published: 1992-01-01

Country: USA ISBN: 0471388254

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471388254/bookwatccomau

Visible Thinking: Unlocking causal mapping for practical business results

Author: Ackermann et al

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Explains the theory and practice of causal mapping in layman’s terms for use in both individual and group settings. It shows managers how to develop and use action-oriented strategy maps and logic models in business decision making.

Publisher: Wiley

Year Published: 2004

ISBN: 0-470-86915-1

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

W

Warning: May Contain Nuts.

Author: Gibbons, Barry

Short Review:

Claims to be ‘Absolutely the first definitive review of the incompetent, inadvertent and occasionally illegal world of business in the new Millennium’. A set of 48 essays loosely concerned with the rights and wrongs of big business. It is sometimes hilarious, deliberately vulgar and occasionally tedious. There are overtones of Bill Bryson and even of Douglas Adams, but Gibbons can not sustain their standard. The valid points that the author makes are, for my taste, rather heavy-handed. It is a reasonable example of business humor with an edge, by a former CEO of a large corporation.

Publisher: Capstone

Year Published: 2003

Country: U.K.

ISBN: 1841124621

Date Reviewed: 2003-07-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1841124621/bookwatccomau

Waves of Power: the Dynamics of Global Technology Leadership.

Author: Moschella, David

Short Review:

An exploration by an IT specialist of the potential impact of the IT industry and more widely of the development of the ‘network-centric era’. The analysis and prediction extend to the impact on nations, global competition and the customer.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1997

Country: USA

ISBN: 0 8144 0379 4

Date Reviewed: 1998-06-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814403794/bookwatccomau

Wharton on Making Decisions.

Author: Hoch and Kunreuther (Eds)

Short Review:

A well structured edited collection (but with some surprising gaps) that explores the important area of how decisions are made, and what processes might make them better. Most of the articles report research studies and the conclusions could be better summarised for practical managers. However, it is valuable for MBA students and managers prepared to follow the arguments.

Full Review:The book contains 17 chapters in four parts:

  • Personal Decision Making
  • Managerial Decision Making
  • Multi-party Decision Making
  • The Impact of Decision Making on society.

The authors are academics, mostly at The Wharton School. The Preface (written by the editors) states that the aim is ‘to build awareness of the intricacies of the decision making process. … [It] offers research-based insights on diverse aspects of making better decisions rather than simplistic formulas for making decisions.’ It then uses the Barings collapse as a case study of the causes and consequences of bad decisions and as a means of introducing the structure of the book.

From the case study, the editors identify seven strategic errors in decision making:

  • being blinded by emotions
  • over reliance on intuition [note that over reliance - use of intuition is not bad in itself]
  • emphasis on speed
  • failure to detect deception
  • underestimating risks
  • insufficient information technology for decision support
  • insufficient regulation.

They explain that the book brings together three perspectives on decision making:

  • the normative – what should be done based on rational theories of choice
  • the descriptive – what individuals and groups actually do in practice
  • the prescriptive – proposals on how decision making can be improved ‘based on our understanding of differences between normative models and descriptive behaviour’ and point out that ‘Human beings do not, in general, follow logical models of choice’ and ‘When there are several parties involved … we not only have to understand each person’s decision process but also the interaction between individuals’.

The book contains valuable material on factors influencing decision making, how to deal with the dangers that these factors impose and ways in which decision making tools can be combined usefully with the more experiential, emotive and intuitive approaches to decision making that most people rely on. This includes valuable material on the particular benefits and traps involved in using electronic tools in decision making, for example the traps inherent in the emotional ‘flatness’ of E-mail as a medium.

Readers interested in decision making as a field of study will find the examples and detailed research results valuable. The decision issues discussed are well framed and the examples illustrate the decision processes very clearly. Managers who simply want some guidance to improve their own decision making should skim the chapters for topics of interest and then for the main conclusions and prescriptions. These, unfortunately, could often have been highlighted better than they are.

The field of decision processes selected for the studies is limited in some surprising ways. Decision approaches that are growing strongly in importance are system modelling (both ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ systems thinking and the use of various forms of visual modelling) and various approaches to group decision making including future search, scenario thinking and even dialogue. These processes get scant direct attention in the book. These weaknesses are relatively minor.

Taken as a whole the book is a very useful addition to the management literature.

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons

Year Published: 2001-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0471382477

Date Reviewed: 2001-04-01

Comments: Particularly valuable for students

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471382477/bookwatccomau

What Management Is: How It Works and Why It’s Everyone’s Business

Author: Magretta, Joan

Short Review: Publisher’s note: A book about management designed as an introduction for the non-manager and the beginner, but also as a rounded, complete, and comprehensive `refresher course’ for the more experienced.

Publisher: Profile Business

ISBN: 1861976453

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

What’s Next: Exploring The New Terrain For Business

Author: Kelly E. et al

Short Review: Publisher’s note: In What’s Next?, GBN’s President, Eamonn Kelly, and its ‘knowledge developer,’ Peter Leyden, weave together fresh, new insights from expansive interviews with many of the Network’s key thinkers

Publisher: Perseus

ISBN: 0-7382-0760-8

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

What’s the Big Idea? Creating and Capitalizing on the Best Management Thinking.

Author: Davenport, T. and Prusak, L. with Wilson, H. J.

Short Review:

The authors explore the useful issue of the generation of new business ideas, their creators and what is involved in implementing them. Their thesis is that it is the creation, capture and implementation of new ideas that makes businesses great. If you like a discursive style, with lots of anecdotal example and occasional forays into synthesis of the themes, you may find the book useful. I found it very difficult to maintain focus on it and felt that most of the conclusions were superficial and fairly obvious. As an example there is a chapter on the rise of knowledge management, which treats KM as a ‘brand’ being ‘marketed’ rather than as the synthesis of several disciplines around a new perspective on organizational effectiveness that it is.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2003

Country: USA

ISBN: 1578519314

Date Reviewed: 2003-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1578519314/bookwatccomau

When a Butterfly Sneezes: A guide for Helping Kids Explore Interconnections in our World Through Favorite Stories.

Author: Sweeney, Linda Booth

Short Review:

Uses children’s stories to illustrate interconnectedness and introduce children – and potentially others – to systems thinking in an engaging way. The book assumes that the stories are known or accessible, which may be a problem for some outside North America.

Publisher: Pegasus Communications

Year Published: 2001

Country: USA

ISBN: 1883823528

Date Reviewed: 2001-04-01

Comments: Recommended for children – and a wider readership

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1883823528/bookwatccomau

When Customers Think We Don’t Care.

Author: Buchanan, R. W.

Short Review: A 2nd edition of his previous The Enemy Within. It points out self-destructive company cultures and actions and offers solutions. Appears to focus on the basics that make for a good customer relationship.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 2002

Country: Australia

ISBN: 0074709305

Date Reviewed: 2004-08-26

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0074709305/bookwatccomau

When Too Much Change Is Never Enough: Stories of Organisational Change.

Author: Bodi, A., Maggs, G. & Edgar, D.

Short Review:

A series of case studies of Australian organisations (mostly small to medium in size) and managers and their experience of change management. Researched and written with care and insight. A valuable counterpoint to the dominance of large corporates in studies.

Full Review:

Apart from a useful introduction setting out the aims of the book and a Discussion chapter at the end to pull the threads together, it consists entirely of studies of six companies and three entrepreneurial managers. As the discussion shows, the cases are carefully selected to illustrate key aspects of growth and change and the impact of different perspectives on the development of the organisation. Simply and engagingly written (if you do not like ‘academic’ writing, do not be put off by the faintly academic flavour of the Introduction), it provides interesting reading, with useful highlighting of key issues. The stories approach being the sort of ‘learning history’ developed and advocated by Kleiner and Roth.

Publisher: Business and Professional Publishing

Year Published: 1997

Country: Australia

ISBN: 1 875680 45 5

Date Reviewed: 1998-03-01

Why Globalization Works

Author: Wolf, Martin

Short Review:

A defence against the anti-globalists. This book explains how globalization works as a concept and how it operates in reality. Martin Wolf confronts the charges against globalization, delivers a critique of each, and offers a realistic scenario for economic internationalism in the future.

Publisher: Yale University Press

Year Published: 2004

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-300-10252-6

Date Reviewed: 2004-11-11

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0300102526/bookwatccomau

Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small

Author: Nalebuff and Ayres

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Will provoke you into finding new business opportunities using everyday ingenuity. Great ideas are waiting. Why not be the one to discover them?

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2003

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-18

Winning the Global Game: A Strategy for Linking People and Profits.

Author: Rosenweig, Jeffrey

Short Review:

This is largely a manifesto for a particular approach to globalisation, based on the expansion of trade patterns to include a stronger focus on third world countries. It contrasts two scenarios of world development, arguing that we are on a knife edge.

Full Review:The author puts forward a manifesto for world growth and prosperity under globalisation, which is based on the idea that we are poised between a virtuous circle and a vicious circle, in which population explosion, environmental degradation and poverty dominate. The catalysts for achieving the former rather than the latter are the development of global strategies by firms, supported by an open global trading system, open capitalist policies and empowerment of women in the populous South (‘third world’).

For me the book is an odd and not wholly persuasive mix of sophisticated economic data and naive socio-political analysis, with a solid dash of wishful thinking. The underlying assumptions include:

  • Globalisation can be expressed and measured in terms of the ratio of trade to world production (and merchandise trade at that).
  • GNP or GDP are good measures of economic growth and prosperity.
  • Given the right policies, large numbers of people will translate into large and profitable markets.
  • Moves to remove all barriers to trade are an unqualified good.
  • Pursuit of these policies will of itself resolve problems of environmental degradation.

None of these assumptions should be accepted without challenge and the evidence for most of them is not good.

The book is interesting for its assembly of facts about the various geographic, economic and trading blocs and its data on world trade flows. It will be useful if it stimulates interest in some of the economies that are outside the current focus of world trade. Otherwise, you can do better, both in terms of understanding the thrust of globalisation and in terms of policy direction setting with other books – see the article Society and Business. See also the extended article on globalisation.

Publisher: Free Press

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-684-84919-4

Date Reviewed: 1999-09-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684849194/bookwatccomau

Winning the Knowledge Game: A Smarter Strategy for Better Business in Australia and New Zealand.

Author: Rylatt, Alastair

Short Review:

This is an overview of the issues in building business success, with a focus on human resource and knowledge management issues. It provides breadth rather than depth of coverage and is set out as a series of issues which require attention rather than providing an understanding of the processes needed to bring about systemic and continuing change. The 16 chapters are arranged in three parts: Opening Hearts and Minds; Growing Competitive Advantage; Ensuring Lasting Success. Each chapter gives an overview of an issue area (e.g. recruitment and retention, managing intellectual property) and summarizes key actions needed to bring about success in that area. The presentation of each area is direct and straightforward, and illustrated with useful examples. To use a cooking metaphor, it is nearer to a list of ingredients and how to prepare each, than a full recipe for organizational success. Selecting the ingredients and handling each well is necessary, but not sufficient to produce a delicious end-product. This is in contrast to opposite approach of focusing strongly on the recipe, while treating the preparation of some of the ingredients rather more impressionistically.

Publisher: McGraw Hill (Australia) Butterworth Heinemann (USA)

Year Published: 2003

Country: Australia

ISBN: 0074713426 (McGraw Hill). 0750658096 (Butterworth Heinemann)

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0750658096/bookwatccomau

Winning Through Innovation: A Practical Guide to Leading Organizational Change and Renewal

Author: Tushman, M. & O’Reilly, C.

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Examines how leadership, culture, and organizational architectures can be both important facilitators of innovation and, not uncommonly, formidable obstacles. They demonstrate how to clarify today’s critical managerial problems.

Publisher: HBS

Year Published: 2002

ISBN: 1578518210

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-17

Wisdom at Work: The Awakening of Consciousness in the Workplace.

Author: Davidson, Let

Short Review:

Essentially a personal development book set in a business context – a rapidly growing genre. Covers a wide range of reflections and practices designed to build self awareness.

Full Review:

This book is towards the ‘philosophical’ end of the literature of personal development in a business context and its compressed layout makes it appear even denser than it is. To enjoy it, you need to be comfortable with sentences such as:

Now we are seeing nascent global communities brought together by consciousness – shared interests, visions, beliefs, passions – carried through the ganglia of electronic media, a kind of macro parallel to the way intelligent communication flows through the psycho-neuroimmunologic channels of the human mindbody organism.

The book has seven chapters:

1. Introduction

2. Consciousness at Work

3. Perennial Wisdom and the Workplace

4. Awakening Leadership

5. Mark of Courageous Leadership

6. Tools of Mastery

7. Freedom in the Flow of Work.

The book offers another approach to the continuing themes of development of our own potential and contributing to the creation of an environment that develops the potential of ourselves and others. It addresses the ‘fear of freedom’, and the tools – meditation, development of intuition, affirmation and so on – that are central to development of self awareness and to personal growth.

Publisher: Larson Publications

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-943914-86-8

Date Reviewed: 1998-12-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0943914868/bookwatccomau

Work & Rewards in the Virtual Workplace: A “New Deal” for Organizations and Employees.

Author: Crandall, N.F. and Wallace, M.J.

Short Review:

A valuable description of the evolving workplace, its implications and competitive advantages and the tools and attitudes required for various forms of ‘virtual’ working. Defines these situations and its terms well. It triggers, but does not address, wider societal issues about the future of the workforce.

Full Review:In a field awash with ill-defined jargon, it is refreshing to read a book in which the authors define their terms carefully and illustrate them well. This forms the basis for a clear exposition of the stages in movement from a traditional organisation, in which employees with formal jobs work in a specified location, to a ‘virtual’ organisation in which people in a variety of relationships with the organisation work within a continually changing set of interfaces between company, supplier and customer.

The book has a wealth of clear charts and tables, which are effective in supporting the authors’ arguments. These are supported by relevant brief cases and also by advice on the issues to be addressed in moving from one state of ‘virtualness’ to another. They identify three types of virtual workplace, as shown in this chart ’Immersion’ is the degree to which the experience of being ‘inside’ is perceived as real to both insiders Employees) and outsiders (customers). Navigation is the ease with which individuals and teams deliberately move around and complete tasks within the virtual workplace. An example of high immersion with low navigation is the placement of supplier personnel physically with buyer company staff; an example of high navigation with low immersion could be simple work-from-home arrangements, with tasks received and completed tasks sent electronically. In between is a whole array of ways of working, and the authors contend that the vector is towards high immersion with high navigation, the domain of what they call cyberlink working.

The book contains a chapter that explores these various arrangements, and chapters on work design, skills and competencies and rewards. There is then a chapter on the ‘blended workforce’ – the combination of full-time ‘permanent’ employees, temporary assignment and outsourcing – and how to make it work, and a chapter on the economics of the virtual workplace, which consists essentially of an approach to cost-benefit analysis.

The book ends with a very short ‘seven step’ program for implementation, including a cursory (and rather weak) defence by assertion against the possible charge of Social Darwinism. I mention the last because this is another example of a book that makes much more sense at the level of the individual company than at the level of society. This is why it needs to be balanced by books such as those by Harman, Korten, Hawken and others, which directly address the risks inherent in the development of an economy dominated by a small group of corporate ‘insiders’, with a growing band of increasingly alienated ‘outsiders’ – the temporary workers who are so easily ignored at the corporate level.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 1998-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0814403751

Date Reviewed: 2000-09-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814403751/bookwatccomau

Working GlobeSmart: Twelve People Skills For Doing Business Across Borders

Author: Gundling, Ernest

Short Review:

Publisher’s note: Bridges the gap between what we know about business success and what we know about differences in values, abilities, and behavioral characteristics across various cultural dimensions.

Publisher: Davies-Black

Year Published: 2003

ISBN: 0-89106-177-0

Date Reviewed: 2004-07-16

Working Together: 12 Principles for Achieving Excellence in Managing Projects, Teams and Organizations.

Author: Lewis, James P.

Short Review:

A relatively short and well set-out reminder of the key principles for ensuring that groups of people work together effectively. Each principle is supported with relevant examples and the key points are drawn out clearly.

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year Published: 2002

Country: USA

ISBN: 0071379517

Date Reviewed: 1999-11-30

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0071379517/bookwatccomau

World Class Quality: Using Design of Experiments to Make it Happen.

Author: Bhote, K. and Bhote, A.

Short Review:

Most of this book is a detailed exposition of the use of two of ten quality tools (with a summary exposition of the other eight) recommended by the authors. As such, it is beyond the scope of this site. The non-specialist will find the introductory Part 1 useful. It is an important text for specialists.

Publisher: Amacom

Year Published: 2000

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-8144-0427-8

Date Reviewed: 2000-02-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814404278/bookwatccomau

World Class: Thriving Locally in the Global Economy.

Author: Kanter, Rosabeth Moss

Short Review:

Another valuable book from a leading management thinker. Concerned with strategies based on development of three intangible assets – concepts, competence and connections and associated principles collaborative advantage.

Full Review:By any definition Kanter is a world class management thinker. She has been fruitfully occupied with the theory and practice of organisational change for over 20 years. Her work on ‘The Change Masters’ remains a seminal contribution to this field. She also knows how to write clear, rigorous and powerful prose.

In ‘World Class’ Kanter attempts both to define the agenda that is being set for all of us by a rapidly globalising economy and to suggest strategies for coping with the resulting changes. ‘Success’, she argues, ‘will come from the ability to meet world standards and join world networks …’ Admission to the world class for individuals, companies and communities will increasingly depend on their ability to develop three intangible assets (the three Cs):

  • concepts - the best and latest knowledge and ideas;
  • competence - the ability to operate at the highest standards of any place anywhere; and
  • connections - the best relationships, which provide access to the resources of other people and organisations around the world.

Kanter’s arguments and prescriptions are based on her mastery of the existing literature on globalisation and a solid, if somewhat limited research base consisting of case studies of largely East Coast American companies and communities that are already operating as internationally networked centres of thinking, making or trading. Her book therefore has a decidedly Atlantic flavour to it. Nor does she choose to deal with the personal challenges which individuals will face in becoming (gold)card carrying members of the new world class. Nevertheless people, companies and regions that ignore the experience of, for example, Gillette’s and Boston’s leadership will do so at their peril.

Three aspects of Kanter’s ‘World Class’ will commend themselves to anyone involved in the management of change. The first is her practical contribution to the discussion of what it will take for small as well as large companies to operate worldwide as ‘boundaryless’ organisations. This will go well beyond the need to drop what Kanter calls ‘producer logic’ in favour of ‘customer logic’. More specifically, world class customers will expect their suppliers to:

  • meet the highest world standards
  • provide extra, ‘value added’ services, to increase convenience for the customer or benefits for the end user
  • serve them wherever they are located
  • draw on the best resources from any part of the world
  • become a partner expert in the customer’s business, contributing to combined supplier-customer teams and knowledgeable about end users, whether domestic or international

Kanter later sets out 15 principles for collaborative advantage which could be applied with equal effectiveness to internal as well as external partnerships. World class companies of whatever size will also need to become exceptional learning organisations. While Kanter does not highlight this conclusion, it permeates her entire analysis. The ability to learn constantly, collaboratively and at the highest levels lies at the heart of organisational capabilities for generating world class concepts and competence, which in turn are the calling cards for achieving world class networks. As Kanter observes, network membership itself then ‘forces further learning, whether or not that is the explicit intent’. The strategic implications of globalisation for regional development provide a third incentive for managers of change to pay attention to Kanter’s work. She makes it clear how important it is for cities to understand what it will take for them to become magnets for attracting people and companies who can underpin regions as international centres of innovation, manufacturing or trading.

For companies developing their own global strategies it will be equally important to assess the capabilities of regions for providing them with the specific mix of the three Cs which they require for their long term success. Perhaps the underlying benefit of Kanter’s work is that for advocates of organisational transformation it will increase the stock of well argued ideas and examples they need to shift opinion in their companies.

 


 

This review was written by Dr Gary Werskey – Educational Partnerships/WorldGAMES Consulting & Training.


Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Year Published: 1995-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 0-684-81129-4

Date Reviewed: 1996-08-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684811294/bookwatccomau

World View: Global Strategies for the New Economy.

Author: Garten,

Short Review:

This is another collection of articles republished from the Harvard Business Review, complete with the Executive Summaries. Most come from 1997 to 1999. They are arranged in four parts: Emerging Markets; Europe and Asia; Corporate Strategies and Leadership.

Full Review:The thematic collections of articles from the Harvard Business Review are clearly popular enough to justify more. This one is on globalisation and its implications. As ever, the articles selected are well organised, with a useful short introduction. As with several of the collections, the really interesting thing is what is not covered. To an observer, three of the things that are really uncertain in the global economy, with large potential implications for global strategy, are financial instability, the growth of consumer dissent and activism and the pressure to build environmental sustainability.

The first two topics do not appear at all and the third is represented only by an interview with the CEO of a company that has since changed its name, apparently as a direct of result of customer backlash to its chosen path to sustainability.

The impression is of a book that represents a somewhat complacent corporate conventional wisdom, in which change will occur in ways that we understand and can, within limits, control and more radical possibilities are comfortably not in contemplation.

The failure of the Kyoto conference has amply demonstrated this lack of vision. As AtKisson and Hawken have pointed out, the obvious response to the problem of global warming is a large – and, in even the medium term, potentially enormously profitable for someone – thrust to bring on the hydrogen economy. Yet, as far as one can determine from the reports, this solution was not even seriously raised, let alone debated. A true ‘world view’ is likely to see strategies that are much more radical and much less comfortable for conservative business, than this collection seems to suggest.

Publisher: HBS Press

Year Published: 2000-01-01

Country: USA

ISBN: 1578511852

Date Reviewed: 2000-11-01

Book URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1578511852/bookwatccomau

 


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