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Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)

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The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age
The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age
by Reid Hoffman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.56
32 used & new from CDN$ 14.75

5.0 out of 5 stars How to cope with the "fundamental disconnect of modern employment", July 22 2014
What is the "fundamental disconnect" to which Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh refer? They assert that the current employer-employee relationship is based on a dishonest conversation. How so? "Today, few companies offer guaranteed employment with a straight face; such assurances are perceived by employees as naive, disingenuous, or both...Many employees have responded by hedging their bets, jumping ship whenever as new opportunity presents itself, regardless of how much they profess their loyalty during the recruiting process or annual reviews. Both parties act in ways that blatantly contradict their official positions."

I agree with their observations, viewed as generalizations with wide application. More often than not, employers and employees really do view each other as adversaries rather than as collaborators. I also agree with them that there is another type of relationship that would be of much greater benefit to both employers and employees. "Our goal is to provide a framework for moving from a transactional to a relational approach. Think of employment as an alliance: a mutually beneficial deal, with explicit terms, between independent players. This employment alliance provides the framework managers and employees need for the trust and investment to build powerful businesses and careers."

They urge supervisors to promise their direct reports, "Help make our company more valuable, and we'll make you more valuable."

They urge direct reports to respond, "Help my grow and flourish, and I'll help the company grow and flourish."

So, what we have in this book is a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective process or system by which to establish and then strengthen an employment relationship that is a mutually-beneficial partnership, an "alliance." So viewed, it is still possible to think in terms of a team (how people work together) and of a family (how people treat each other). Allies serve their own best interests by doing all they can to help each other produce more and better work and it is also in their best interests to treat each other with compassion, appreciation, and respect.

It is no coincidence that many (most?) of the companies on the Fortune's annual lists of those that are most highly admired and the best to work for or also on Fortune's annual lists of those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry. I suspect that these same companies also have the lowest attrition rate of valued employees and the highest number of applicants per the position that does become available.

Here specifically are several of the business issues that Hoffman, Casnocha, and Yeh can help their reader to address:

o Building alliances with employees without guaranteeing lifetime employment
o Adjusting the alliance approach to different types and levels of employees
o Building alliances with entrepreneurial employees whose ultimate values and goals differ
o Determining the nature and extent of employee networking and personal branding while "on the job"
o Managing an effective corporate alumni network with limited resources

Recent data generated by major research studies conducted by Gallup and Towers Watson (among other prominent firms) indicate that, on average, less than 30% of employees in a U.S. workplace are actively and productively engaged; the others are either passively engaged (mailing it in) or actively undermining efforts to achieve the company's goals. The employment relationship that
Hoffman, Casnocha, and Yeh endorse offers, in my opinion, the best approach to increasing substantially the number of actively and productively engaged employees. It is in their best interests, their self-interests, to do everything possible to add value to the organization that employs them if they are convinced that their employer is doing everything possible to increase, perhaps even accelerate their personal growth and professional development.

Before concluding their book, Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh observe: "Improving the microcosm of workplace relationships can have a major impact on society -- job by job, team by team, company by company. The alliance may seem like a small thing next to macroeconomic proposals like overhauling the education system or reforming our regulatory regime, but it's a small thing we can all adopt today that will generate big cumulative returns in the years to come."

These remarks remind me of the fact that, in 2004, led by Jørgen Vig Knudstorp and his leadership team, LEGO was transformed - "brick by brick" - into one of the world's most innovative as well as most profitable and fastest growing toy companies, in ways and to an extent once thought impossible. It seems to me that, leaders of other organizations that need to be transformed would be well-advised to consider a strategy of achieving that "alliance by alliance." Just a thought....

The Language of Leaders: How Top CEOs Communicate to Inspire, Influence and Achieve Results
The Language of Leaders: How Top CEOs Communicate to Inspire, Influence and Achieve Results
by Kevin Murray
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.87
32 used & new from CDN$ 12.21

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why your values-driven behavior speaks much louder than anything you say, however eloquently, July 19 2014
Kevin Murray shares what he learned during his interviews of 57 business leaders plus contributions by four others. Almost all have UK backgrounds and current affiliations and thus provide perspectives that I found of special interest. It came as no surprise, however, that what has helped them to influence others to achieve high-impact results is essentially no different from what has also proven effective f9r other leaders in the Americas, Europe, and Asia: effective communication.

In Chapter 3, he identifies and examines what he characterizes as "the 12 principles of effective communication" and none is a head-snapping revelation, nor does Murray make any such claim. They range from "Learn how to be yourself, better, if you aspire to be a better leader and communicator" to "Learn, rehearse, review, improve - always strive to be a better communicator." If you were to draw up a list of the greatest leaders throughout history, my guess is that - however different they may be in most respects - all were an effective communicator and most (if not all) were a master raconteur.

The title of this book refers to "language" in both verbal and non-verbal domains. In fact, as countless research studies have proven, body language and tone of voice determine at least 80-85% of impact during a face-to-face encounter, with the remainder of impact determined by what is actually said. Moreover, as Murray correctly points out, aspiring leaders must have credibility as well as communication skills. Bill George is among those who have much of great value to say about "authenticity" that develops while following a True North. James O'Toole asserts that all great leaders possess what he characterizes as a "moral compass." The point is, people will not believe the message if they do not trust the messenger.

Murray offers an especially crisp and concise description of inspiring leaders who make us want to achieve more. "They persuade us to their cause, win our active support, help us to work better together and make us feel proud to be part of the communities they create...If need be, great leaders [also] get us to face ugly reality, and then give us a new sense of direction and optimism. Along the way, they help us to see how what we do makes a difference. They listen to us and they respect us. We feel involved and committed. We watch them for cues, and we feel great when they recognize our efforts - and then we try even harder."

As I read this portion of the book's Introduction, I immediately thought of Winston Churchill's frank communications throughout the worst of the Battle of Britain during the summer and autumn of 1940. Yes, Churchill inspired people to fight on but he left no doubt as to the perils his nation and its people faced. "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering...You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs -- Victory in spite of all terror -- Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival."
Murray, those he interviewed, and others who also contributed to the process offer an abundance of information, insights, and wisdom that can help almost anyone to develop a fluency in "the language of leaders" but, that said, I hasten to emphasize once again what Murray stresses throughout the book: Trust is essential to leadership and people will only trust and respect those who are authentic.

Those who aspire to become great leaders, to engage others in the achievement of great results, must effectively communicate those values that guide and inform their behavior. Fluency without integrity is, at best, artifice and at worst, deceit...or as the example of Adolph Hitler suggests, evil. Leaders must be worthy of those whom they are privileged to serve.

Communicate to Inspire: A Guide for Leaders
Communicate to Inspire: A Guide for Leaders
Price: CDN$ 15.02

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why those with talent and character who aspire to become leaders must also be effective communicators, July 19 2014
Long ago, after making several mistakes with the best of intentions, I concluded that people cannot be motivated, except perhaps by terror. However, it is possible to inspire or at least ignite their self-motivation.

Kevin Murray is among the most thoughtful and thought-provoking business thinkers now publishing books and articles when not helping corporate clients to improve their communications and expedite leadership development. The nature and extent of how supervisors inspire their direct reports' self-motivation will determine how effective the supervisors are as communicators. He suggests:

"To be successful, leaders must inspire others to achieve great results. How ironic then that few leaders are taught the critical communication skills that enable them to be inspiring. The simple truth is this: How well you perform as a leader, will depend on how well as a leader you communicate. You can have the best plan, the best resources and the best people, but if you don't communicate well, you won't persuade people to your cause, and you will fail. It is that simple. Yet any leader can easily derive competitive advantage by learning how to be more inspiring. It is much easier than you might think." How? He wrote this book in response to that question.

That said, I agree with Murray about the importance of clear communication but, as he would be the first to point out, many toxic supervisors do not have a communication problem. On the contrary, their attitude, values, and behavior leave little (if any) doubt that they are unworthy of trust and respect. That comes across loud and clear. They have a credibility problem. That is, they are pathetic at best and contemptible at worst.

What we have in this volume is a wealth of information, insights, and counsel based on Murray's decades of real-world experience, including in-depth interviews and conversations with hundreds of C-level executives. These are among the dozens of challenges and opportunities that Murray examines in his book:

o How and why strategic conversations drive change and speed is the new currency
o How and why positive emotions drive better performance
o Why leadership is the "greatest intangible asset of them all"
o Why passion, conviction, and authenticity are essential to leadership that inspires
o How to think about purpose, values, and the future
o How to integrate "the outside" with your workforce to unleash "super performance"
o How and why powerful conversations drive culture so that it can achieve its strategic objectives
o How to connect with associates by focusing on their feelings
o When interacting with others, listen with total attention; communicate interest, curiosity, and appreciation

NOTE: This last point is critically important to effective leadership. We have two eyes, two ears, and only one mouth. We should spend 80% of our time observing and listening. Great leaders spend at least 90%.

o How and when to send the right signals
o How stories can help to drive action and shape/nourish culture
o How a "potent" point of view can empower leadership initiatives
o How to win in "the court of public opinion" with proper preparation of your "case"
o During face-to-face interaction, how and why body language and tone of voice determine at least 80% of impact
o Six reasons to be actively involved with social media

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the cope and depth of what Kevin Murray covers in this book. However, I hope I have indicated why I think so highly of it. I also highly recommend his previous published book, The Language of Leaders. Both can be an inspiration to those who now prepare for a career in business or have only recently embarked upon one.

Story-Based Selling: Create, Connect, and Close
Story-Based Selling: Create, Connect, and Close
by Jeff Bloomfield
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.76
22 used & new from CDN$ 13.60

5.0 out of 5 stars How to tell stories that influence others, "not for control or manipulation but for mutual benefit", July 19 2014
I agree with my dear friend, Dan Pink: "We are our stories. We compress years of experience, view, and emotion into a few compact narratives that we convey to others and tell to ourselves." Selling today requires a whole new mind, the title of the book from which I excerpted Dan's comments.

In this volume, Jeff Bloomfield shares his thoughts and feelings about the importance of story-based communication. The "selling" to which the book's title refers is, in fact, the skills one needs to explain with information, describe with vivid images, and (yes) convince with logic and/or evidence. During a three-year period, a carpenter from Nazareth used parables (framed as stories) to illustrate articles of faith. Almost two centuries later, a rail-splitter from Kentucky who later became an attorney and then president of the United States used anecdotes and aphorisms to explain fundamental values and political realities.

My own rather extensive experience, especially with my communication failures, has convinced of these three realities:

1. It is not a successful communication unless those who receive it "get" the [begin italics] intended [end italics] meaning.

2. During face-to-face interaction, no matter what is said, at least 80% of impact is determined by tone of voice and body language; during voice-to-voice interaction, at least 80% of impact is determined by tone of voice.

3. How much one [begin italics] cares about the given audience [end italics] is of much greater importance to that audience than what is actually said.

Bloomfield's purpose is to help each reader to "leverage the way the brain processes stories to establish a foundation of trust." Once earned, that trust must NEVER be violated. A story told may be authentic but if sharing it seems manipulative and self-serving, the storyteller has forfeited, wasted, a precious opportunity to achieve an objective of mutual benefit.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Bloomfield's coverage.

o How Great Leaders Communicate (Pages 8-12)
o The Secrets of the "Buying" Brain (18-22)
o The Limbic "Filter" (27-30)
o The Anxiety Highway (32-34)
o The Synchronization of Two Brains Communicating (39-48)
o Using Visual Aids or a Prop (52-59)
o Planning Your First Impression (68-73)
o Overcoming Objections with Story-Based Selling (77-87)
o Six Obstacles to Change (95-106)
o Four Myths About Effective Storytelling (123-125)

Bloomfield devotes Chapters 1-9 to helping his reader formulate or revise a "personal story" that is really an anthology of thoughts, feelings, experiences, and insights that serve as raw material for responses during interact ion with others that are most relevant to the given situation. The key skill is anchoring a message within a human context, one that consists of characters and plot developments, setting and conflicts, resolution and lessons learned from it. I agree with him that human interaction must be mutually beneficial, shared with mutual trust and respect, with emotional as well as rational engagement. Correctly, he stresses the importance of humility, vulnerability, and authenticity to earn and sustain another's trust.

In Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, Polonius admonishes his son Laertes, "To thine own self be true." Centuries later, Oscar Wilde suggests, "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." Presumably Bloomfield agrees with me that the greater challenge to become the best person we can be. That is a process, not a destination.

The title of this book could have been -- perhaps should have been -- Story-Based Communication if, as I suspect, Jeff Bloomfield views "selling" as including but not limited to commercial transactions. Throughout human history, the greatest leaders offered visions that millions of others then "bought." (I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone say, "I'll buy that.") Positive and productive employee engagement involves "buying into" the values and objectives of the given enterprise. Who will derive the greatest benefit from this book? Those who interact with other people. In a word, everyone.

The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business
The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business
by Erin Meyer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.81
29 used & new from CDN$ 16.74

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why "a dialogue of sharing, learning, and ultimately understanding" can break through barriers to global enterprise, July 18 2014
As I began to read this book, I was again reminded of the challenges that the great explorers throughout history faced. Somehow they and their associates broke through what must have been for them invisible boundaries. Today, all manner of companies are struggling to navigate their way through different cultures, overcoming boundaries that had been previously invisible, barriers more numerous and daunting than any that Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, ‎Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and Ferdinand Magellan had encountered.

According to Erin Meyer, "I provide a systematic step-by-step approach to understanding the most common business communication challenges that arise from cultural differences, and offer steps for dealing with them more effectively." She recommends and explains several strategies to increase her reader's effectiveness when addressing issues and resolving problems caused by cross-cultural misunderstandings, if not avoid them altogether.

Meyer shares her thoughts about how to achieve these strategic objectives:

o How to communicate effectively across cultures
o How to evaluate individual performance
o How to evaluate organizational performance (i.e. team, department, company)
o How to provide negative feedback
o How to be persuasive in a multicultural world
o Criteria for identifying good bosses and bad bosses: leadership, hierarchy, and uses/abuses of power
o Decision-making process: do's and don'ts
o How to develop (nourish and strengthen) two types of trust
o How to disagree productively
o How to manage scheduling and cross-cultural perceptions of time

Meyer provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help her reader to break through the invisible boundaries of global business, based on what her research has revealed about how people think, lead, and get work done. She is a results-driven realist and relentless empiricist, well aware that "cultural and individual differences are often wrapped up with differences among organizations, industries, professions, and other groups. But even in the most complex situations, understanding how cultural differences affect the mix may help you discover s new approach. [She thoroughly explains that appproach in this book.] Cultural patterns of behavior and belief frequently impact our perceptions (what we see), cognitions (what we think), and actions (what we do)."

Whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need effective leadership and management at all levels and in all areas. More the marketplace within which they compete is global and competition for talent, customers, allies, sales, and profits is more ferocious than at any prior time that I can recall.

I agree with Erin Meyer: "What's new is the requirement for twenty-first century leaders to be prepared to understand a wider, richer array of work styles than ever before and to be able to determine what aspects of an interaction are simply a result of personality and which are a result of differences in cultural perspective." For many executives, especially inhabitants of the C-Suite, this may well prove to be the most important book they read this decade.

Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation
Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 17.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant explanation of the power of fascination based on sound judgment and impeccable character, July 18 2014
According to Sally Hogshead, "the ability to fascinate isn't witchcraft or hypnotism. And it doesn't come from wearing nightcaps or eating green peas. It is a tool. Rather than something to be feared, it is a discipline to be mastered. Fascination is born of a natural instinct to influence the behavior of others. But the key to mastering fascination is effectively activating the seven triggers." They are best discussed within the narrative, in context. Suffice to say now that, collectively, the seven enable those who master them to elicit just about any reaction in others, ranging from a craving for sensory pleasure to comfort derived from trust. Here's an insight that suggests an important point:

"Whether you realize it or not -- whether you intend to or not -- you're already using the seven triggers. The question is, are you using the [begin italics] right [end italics] triggers, in the [begin italics] right [end italics] way, to get your desired result. By mastering the triggers, your ideas become more memorable, your conversations more persuasive, and your relationships more lasting."

Obviously, sound judgment is needed when deciding which trigger to use when. Impeccable character is also needed to ensure that activation of a trigger serves a worthy purpose. Both judgment and character are essential to the given situation. As I worked my way through Hogshead's book, I began to make correlations with another source of appeal. Some of the most evil people throughout history were both fascinating and charismatic. Even today, books about them continue to be written. Adolph Hitler, for example, did not possess the fascination that Hogshead has in mind. He had mastered several of the triggers, creating alarm because of the threats that Germany then faced and trust in his leadership, one that would eliminate those threats. In stunning contrast, Mohandas Gandhi (not discussed in this book) activated the same triggers to secure freedom and independence for hundreds of millions of people in his native land...and he did so without violence. Hogshead has much of value to say about these issues in the chapters on "Alarm" (Pages 101-116) and "Trust" (169-185).

These are among the questions to Hogshead responds:

o What is fascination? What is it not?
o What are the pluses and minuses of fascination?
o What are the trends that drive the need for a new form of persuasion?
o How best to develop that skill?
o How to decide whether or not someone or something is (key word) authentically fascinating?
o How almost any person can become (again, key word) authentically fascinating?
o Why are people (at least some people) seduced by anticipation of pleasure?
o Why are people (at least some people) intrigued by unanswered questions?
o Why are people (at least some people) proactive when threatened by negative consequences?
o Why do people (at least some people) fixate on symbols of rank, respect, power, etc?
o Why are human beings vulnerable to being controlled by what is fascinating?

Readers will also appreciate Hogshead's provision of "Fascination at a Glance" (Pages 245-250) which reviews, briefly, topics that include "Overall Principles," "Trends Driving the Need for Fascination," and "Steps to Find the Edge of the Bell Curve."

I have always been fascinated by who and what fascinates me but, until reading this book, I had given little thought to whether or others find me fascinating. My guess is that is also true of many others who read this book. While re-reading the book prior to setting to work on this review, I was again struck by this fact: the abundance of information, insights, and counsel provided in the volume will help people to become more authentically fascinating, and, help them also to determine whether or not whoever and/or whatever fascinates them is indeed authentic. Thank you, Sally Hogshead, for increasing substantially my understanding of human nature.

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better
Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better
by Clive Thompson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.50
36 used & new from CDN$ 7.14

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why humans and technology can achieve much more when their respective strengths are in creative collaboration, July 17 2014
Clive Thompson poses an especially interesting question: "What would happen if, instead of competing against one another, humans and computers [begin italics] collaborated [end italics]? Which, for example, is smarter at chess? "Neither. It's the two together, working side by side." Most of us do not as yet realize that we are now playing advanced chess. "We just haven't learned to appreciate it. Our tools are everywhere, linked with or minds, working in tandem...This transformation is rippling through every part of our cognition -- how we learn, how we remember, and how we act upon that knowledge emotionally, intellectually, and politically."

Thompson examines three "shifts" that involve infinite memory, dot connecting, and explosive publishing, shifts that are evolving into the future of thought. In fact, he suggests, parts of that future have already arrived and quotes William Gibson: "The future is already here -- it's just not evenly distributed." That said, Thompson adds, "we'll be on firmer ground if we stick to what's observably happening in the world around us: our cognitive behavior, the quality of our cultural production, and the social science that tries to measure what we do in everyday life."

These are among the dozens of subjects he discusses that were (and are) of greatest interest to me:

o The advantages that the human brain has over a computer

o The advantages that the computer has over a human brain

o The meaning and significance of the victory of IBM's Deep Blue computer in chess competition with Gary Kasparov, then world champion (1997)

o How and why humans and computers working in collaboration can outperform humans or computers

o How and why infinite memory (not connectivity) and explosive publishing produce ever-new "tools for thought that upend our mental habits in ways we never expected and often don't appreciate even as they take hold"

o What the "new literacies" are and how to become fluent with them

o How to accommodate the preferences and expectations of a "puzzle-crazy world"

o What ambient awareness is and why possessing it is so important

o The defining characteristics (for better or worse) of the connected society

o What to do with -- and how to use -- powerful new tools for finding answers to questions and solutions to problems

I agree with Thompson that each person who reads this book can be smarter than they were before reading it. That is because he provides an abundance of valuable information, mini-case studies, insights, exercises, and counsel. Obviously, it remains for each reader to determine which of the material is most relevant to their own needs, interests, concerns, goals, and resources. There is much of great value to be learned from recent research in cognitive science.

Experts throughout the world have only begun to explore the nature and potentiality of what is generally referred to as "metacognition," although the concept has been in play for several decades. Clive Thompson suggests several lessons can be learning from expanding research in the field of "cognition beyond cognition," "thinking about thinking," etc. However, those who read this book must answer this question: "Why do I want to think smarter?" Then, what they do -- or do not do -- is their responsibility. To paraphrase its subtitle, they will determine whether or not technology changes their minds for the better.

The Risk-Driven Business Model: Four Questions That Will Define Your Company
The Risk-Driven Business Model: Four Questions That Will Define Your Company
Price: CDN$ 15.97

5.0 out of 5 stars "Yesterday's dangerous idea is today's orthodoxy and tomorrow's cliché." Richard Dawkins, July 16 2014
According to Karan Girotra and Serguei Netessine, "By changing WHAT decisions are made in the business model, WHEN they are made, WHO makes them, and WHY they are made, you will be able to come up with the business models that better manage information and incentive risks, and, as a result, outperform existing business models, disrupt established [and ineffective] ways of doing business, and lead to a sustainable advantage." What they recommend is business model innovation (BMI), a process that not only challenges the status quo but also challenges the key decisions and assumptions on which the status quo is based.

More specifically, they recommend a three-step process:

1. Identify key decisions of the current business model.

2. Map out risks and inefficiencies that these decisions create in order to identify those that are most consequential.

3. Change the decision pattern associated with consequential decisions to create new, superior business models that defy risks that would otherwise create inefficiencies.

"In devising the framework [for this process], we found a useful model in the discipline of design thinking, which is a form of holistic, human-centered innovation that seeks to dramatically improve the ways in which people and systems interact." They especially value design thinking's emphasis on rapid prototyping, experimentation, and learning from diverse (perhaps previously ignored) sources of data and even insights.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Girotra and Netessine's coverage.

o The Key Decisions and Risks in Every Business Model (Pages 13-23)
o Information and Incentive-Alignment Risks: Warning Signs (42-43)
o Gauging Inefficiencies: Two Methods (47-50)
o Focusing the Scope of Key Decisions (60-71)
o Hedging Your Innovation Decisions (77-83)
o Delaying Decisions to Gain Maximum Flexibility (89-95)
o Changing the Decision Sequence: Revolution Through Competition (95-108)
o Split Decisions to Gather Early Signs of Demand (108-115)
o When Information Is Power, Select the Best-Informed Decision Maker (121-128)

Note: There is another approach suggested in one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, Judgment Calls. He and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: [begin italics] organizational judgment [end italics]. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader's direct control." In other words, engage the best-informed decision makers.

o How Amazon Keeps Changing the WHO of Its Business Model (132-133)
o Why We Do What We Do (149)
o When Integration Is the Cure for a Broken System (161-170)
o Table: 7-1: Business Model Innovation Matrix (177)
o Five Implementation Principles (180)
o Looking for Flaws in the Existing Model (186-189)
o Table 7-2: Teams and Tasks (195)

When suggesting what the next business revolution may be, Karan Girotra and Serguei Netessine observe, "It is easy to look at an innovative business model and recognize that it has vastly improved on the status quo. But it's another thing entirely to reverse-engineer the new business model, show what distinguishes it from what it replaced. and explained how it changed the risk equation in order to achieve transforming value."

That is precisely what they have done in this book, extrapolating general principles that their reader can apply "to produce reliable, repeatable innovations to achieve transformative benefits in a wide range of industries and circumstances." To both of them, I offer a heartfelt "Bravo!"

Roadside MBA: Back Road Lessons for Entrepreneurs, Executives and Small Business Owners
Roadside MBA: Back Road Lessons for Entrepreneurs, Executives and Small Business Owners
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "When you're traveling, you are what you are right there and then." William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways, July 16 2014
Many authors of business books invoke an extended metaphor, "the journey," and that is what Michael Mazzeo, Paul Oyer, and Scott Schaefer do in this book. In fact, I think their approach three-dimensional: what they characterize as the physical "voyage" of discovery, their cognitive voyage of discovery, and the voyage of discovery that each reader experiences while reading this book. Actually, they describe and discuss six voyages:

1. Memphis to Omaha
2. Denver to Oklahoma City
3. Charlotte to Atlanta
4. Missoula to Portland, OR)
5. Chicago to Cincinnati
6. Atlanta to New Orleans

As they explain, "Planning a Roadside MBA trip is a group activity. We confer four or five months in advance to find a week when we're all free of various obligations. Then we negotiate over a good route, with each of us making proposals until a consensus winner emerges [and] we decided early on to stay (mostly) out of the big cities. So a good proposal involves two airports with four small cities or big towns in between."

What was their strategic objective? In their words, to "peek" into the workings of as many small business establishments as possible, in as many different geographic locations as possible. Why? To explore their hunch that "the strategic challenges that small businesses face are just as rich and compelling as anything being discussed inside Six Sigma redoubts like General Electric." With regard to strategic questions, here is the first of Mazzeo's ten laws:

"The answer to every strategic question is 'It depends.'
Corollary 1: The trick is knowing what it depends on.
Corollary 2: If the answer to a question isn't 'It depends,' then it's not a strategic question.
Corollary 3: Strategy is never a solved problem."

Now you know.

These are among the dozens of business initiatives of special interest and value to me just in the first three chapters, suggesting some do's and don'ts to keep in mind. They are also listed to indicate the scope of Mazzeo, Oyer, and Schaeffer's coverage.

o Braces by Burris (Arkansas) expands by centralizing common activities to lower costs (Page 3-7)
o Steel Runner Products (North Carolina) ensures hat revenue opportunity exceeds fixed costs (8-12)
o Silk Expresso (Alaska) expands only when resources can be shared (12-17)
o Mugshots Grill and Bar (Mississippi) seizes growth opportunities that can be monitored remotely (17-22)
o Mazzeo's Law: What selling a business profitably depends on (23)
o Wilcoxson's Kids Place (Arkansas) became the first because its market isn't large enough for two (28-31)
o Key Fire Hose (Alabama) goes all-in with irreversible investments (31-36)
o Prodew Inc. (Georgia) leverages scale to hit an unmatchable price point (36-41)
o CollegeFrog (Florida) demonstrates "Don't use Facebook, BE Facebook" (41-46)
o Mazzeo's Law: What barriers to entry depend on (47)
o Fit Time for Women (Kentucky) found its customers by identifying their critical needs (51-56)
o Bank of Montana (Montana) attracts profitable clients; alienates costly ones (56-61)
o Community 1st Bank (Idaho) avoids competition by offering unique services (61-66)
o TiLite (Washington) balances the benefits of customization with the costs (67-72)
o Mazzeo's Law: Successful Product Differentiation: What It Depends On (72-73)

As previously indicated, these mini-case studies are provided in the first three chapters. There are about 40 others I could also have cited. Most of these initiatives (if not all of them) involve an organization you probably never heard of before, and all of these initiatives are in response to challenges that all organizations encounter at one time or another. Note, also, that the three Mazzeo Laws" are strategically inserted. That is, where they are most relevant to the given context and thus of greatest interest and value to the reader within a frame of reference.

What lessons did they learned during their various voyages? "We learned that the small business owners of America are incredibly passionate, hardworking, and intelligent. We saw so much to admire...And we observed that getting strategy right requires constant problem-solving and tireless determination to unpack the 'it depends' of good business decision-making. Mazzeo's Law is why, we think, the profession of management is do difficult, so challenging, but also so much fun."

To all of those who read this book, in fact to all the owner/CEOs of smaller businesses, I hope that the abundance of valuable material that Michael Mazzeo, Paul Oyer, and Scott Schaefer provide does indeed ensure a bon voyage for them in months and years to come.

The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change
The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change
Price: CDN$ 17.84

5.0 out of 5 stars How to replace vague ideas about your career with strategies that will help you achieve your objectives at work and elsewhere, July 14 2014
Up front, I wish to acknowledge my gratitude to Atul Gwande for the excellent material he provides in The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. It is impossible to know how many lives this distinguished surgeon has saved because of his eloquent advocacy of checklists in the healthcare field. (He is also a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.)

In the business world, eliminating waste (both hours and dollars) is among the most important strategic objectives and I think the material James Kerr provides in his book will help countless executives to formulate objectives, set direction, and manage initiatives that help organizations to be more productive and more efficient as well as less wasteful.

He calls his book a "guide" and it does indeed provide an abundance of sound, enlightened guidance but it can also be viewed as the articulation of a regimen that can help executives (i.e. those who execute) to lead and manage change initiatives effectively, to be sure, but also to lead and manage other initiatives such as setting priorities, formulating and implementing strategies, allocating resources, recruiting/interviewing/hiring the talent and experience needed, strengthening client relationships, and establishing and then sustaining a workplace culture within which innovation is most likely to thrive. Kerr identifies ten specific objectives on "The Executive Checklist" (Page 3) and then devotes a separate chapter to each within his lively as well as thorough narrative. This Checklist is best viewed as "a framework to be used to institute overarching, enterprise-wide transformation." Thoughtfully, Kerr provides a checklist of items for each objective on that Checklist. He carefully identifies the "what" of each and then devotes most of his attention to explaining the "why" and demonstrating the "how" of doing it effectively.

In the Postscript, James Kerr shares his "Bold Vision for Tomorrow's Organizations" and it is indeed bold. However, in my opinion, what it calls for is do-able by almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. There are no Big Hairy Audacious Goals among his affirmations and invocations. His approach reminds me of the one that Jørgen Vig Knudstorp and his leadership team took, in 2004, when they began to transform LEGO - "brick by brick" - into one of the world's most innovative as well as most profitable and fastest growing toy companies, in ways and to an extent once thought impossible. It seems to me that, leaders of other organizations that need to be transformed would be well-advised to consider a strategy of achieving that "checklist by checklist." Just a thought....

Those who share my high regard for this brilliant book are urged to check out two others: Dean R. Spitzer's Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success, and, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, co-authored by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson.

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