on April 12, 2001
This book is an excellent primer on decision-making and problem-solving. It is especially relevant to those who normally rely on intuitive processes and fail to recognize the value that can be added by a formal decision process. The author makes a great case for the use of more formal processes and backs it up with his own experiences with business decisions.
When I read The Thinking Managers' Toolbox, the innovative framework (the organization of the toolbox) jumped out at me. The author's years of experience in helping people and organizations make decisions and solve problems shines in his presentation of a method to choose the right tool for the right problem. But the author goes beyond the organization of the toolbox into a lucid presentation of some of the tools that have worked well over the years. The author explains these tools in a readable manner that can enable the reader to apply them almost immediately.
Great book! A must read for anyone who makes decisions or who has problems (if you can read this you're included).
on November 22, 2000
If you would like to see people actually solve problems together, then get this book and use the techniques Bill Altier describes. As a consultant who uses the tools described here, I can verify that they work. The thrill never ceases to watch a group of diverse people - from different groups and levels of an organization - learn that they can, in fact, work together, that among them they have the knowledge and creativity to solve problems and develop strategies.
For people who are resistant to have a team attack a problem because meetings are unproductive, this book will show you that it is the way the meeting is run that is not productive. It is the thinking process that gets the result, whether for an individual or a group, and this book shows how much better that result can be from a group.
This is not a "light-reading" pleasure book, but it is well worth the effort. It gives a great deal of detail on why and how the tools work and how to apply them. If you are willing to wade in and try these techniques, you will be surprised at how much better at problem solving both you and your people are. They may even find they like working together.
on December 1, 1999
Meetings are the bane and lifeblood of managers everywhere. Vitally important, they are also frustratingly ineffective. Like the old story of the blind men and the elephant, meetings are usually more of a political contest among competing pet ideas than a cooperative effort among people with differing perspectives and relevant information.
The usual diagnosis of this situation is that it's a "people problem." Thus, we have sent millions of individuals to interpersonal-skills training, communication-skills training and dealing-with-difficult-people training. We've sent thousands of groups off on retreat to rappel down rock faces and fall blindfolded into their colleague's arms. We've fielded an army of specialized facilitators to say, "Thank you for sharing that," and "Suzie, we've haven't heard from you, yet."
But the treatment hasn't worked. Meetings still stink. And the things meetings are supposed to produce--decisions, plans, and solutions--have not improved either.
In this important book, Altier approaches the problem from a completely different perspective. He argues that the fundamental problem with meetings is their lack of a disciplined, organized process for joint thinking. Focusing on decisions, plans and solutions as the key outputs created by managers, Altier describes in detail three separate, structured processes that remake meetings devoted to these ends.
The process for solving problems is my favorite. Using a real but disguised example, Altier shows what a structured, disciplined thinking process can accomplish. Engineers had spent three months twisting knobs and replacing parts in series of failed efforts to solve a serious but intermittent manufacturing problem. Yet 20 hours of disciplined analysis by the same people found the cause, just by thinking together in a different way. At one point, I was so engrossed in the story, I darn near failed to get off my train at my stop.
As this example makes clear, this is no theoretical book, but a practical guide grounded in real world experience. The benefit of Altier's deep experience with these processes is evident in his cautions about places where participants or meeting leaders can intentionally or unintentionally sabotage them, his recommendations about ways to keep them practical and result-focused, and his discussions of ways to avoid their contamination by our usual fuzzy thinking in the form of implicit, unwarranted assumptions about the nature of the task or problem.
While there have been hundreds of academic books hawking "decision science" and similar nostrums, Altier's book is unique in bringing structured thinking processes together with the reality that meetings are filled with intelligent people with egos. It's also unique in allowing scope for hunch and gut feel to serve the process without taking it over. Altier's approaches have been honed by over 20 years of experience leading real people in real situations through meetings like those described in the book. If you're frustrated by poor meetings in your organization that lead to weak decisions, plans or solutions, read this book.
on November 28, 1999
This book will change the way you think. If you work for a company, knowing the contents of this book will make you virtually indispensable as a problem solver at meetings. If you run a company, knowing what this book teaches spells the difference between making it big and barely getting by. If you want to land more consulting assignments in areas where you are not the expert, this book can help you expand your practice by teaching you how to use the client's expertise in helping them solve their own problems. That's the good news.
The bad news is that this book is not a quick read. This is a book you have to study and think about. It is a painstaking "how to" reference guide. Well written. Thorough. And it works. I used it successfully with clients, and the results were impressive. And the clients were pleased. The author should consider writing a field book to support this book's use as an aid for consultants interested in expanding their practice into "participative process" consulting.
This book belongs in the library of every manager, executive and consultant. Unlike the "pop" management books of today where a quick read tells you everything, The Thinking Manager's Toolbox is one book you will refer to again and again.
on October 13, 2000
The operative words to describe this book are practical, relevant and readable. Useful for anyone who cares about making good decisions and dealing with managerial and leadership issues in a straight forward, no nonsense fashion. More than a reference-this book will change the way you think about change and how to lead it. It is a book for people to read, regardless where they are in the managerial hierarchy and ought to be used on a daily basis.
on January 22, 2000
I read this book and walked away with new ideas that can be used immediately. The book challenges traditional thought and gives solutions for us to use. As a manager, I find that extremely helpful.
If you're interested in improving your managerial & leadership skills, recommend books by Blanchard & also "The Leader's Guide: 15 Essential Skills."