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"It's the Pictures That Got Small": Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywood's Golden Age
"It's the Pictures That Got Small": Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywood's Golden Age
by Jim Moore
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 31.10
45 used & new from CDN$ 25.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A revealing explanation of Whack-a-Mole filmmaking in Hollywood, 1932-1949, June 4 2015
This is certainly not a book for everyone, or even for those who have only a casual interest in the culture within which films were made almost a century ago. Anthony Slide edited the diaries of Charles W. Brackett (1892-1969), an American novelist, screenwriter, and film producer who collaborated with Billy Wilder (1906-2002) on thirteen movies, including the classics Sunset Blvd. and The Lost Weekend. Wilder was the much more profane of the two partners, while Brackett held to his upper-crust upbringing and Ivy League education (Williams and Harvard). He was known as the "gentleman" of the pair. Their social and cultural backgrounds often clashed, but Brackett acknowledged later in his life that Wilder's baser instincts about human nature were invaluable to their collaboration. By the late 1940s, a schism based on personal, creative, and contractual differences -- one that had been festering for many years -- began to threaten the partnership. Brackett and Wilder split in 1950, upon the completion of Sunset Boulevard.

After reading this book whose narrative frequently bogged down in details about where and when Brackett had meals and meetings with whom, with or without Wilder, I have no interest in learning more. That is not Slide's fault. He is primarily a messenger with -- presumably -- an extensively edited message, not a commentator. That said, if you have a keen interest in obtaining answers to questions such as these, here is an excellent source:

o What was it like to work with Billy Wilder?
o What was it like to socialize with him?
o During the given timeframe (1932-1949), what were the defining characteristics of the culture then dominated by the major studies, especially MGM?
o During that time, who were the "good guys" (or "gals") and which were not?
o Which public figures, external events, developments etc. were affecting the film business?
o What is Slide's take on Wilder as a "player"?
o What seems to be his opinion of Brackett?
o What about Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, and other "tinsel town" moguls?
o What about Ernst Lubitsch?
o What was an average day (if it can be said there was one) in the Brackett-Wilder collaboration?
o On balance, what are the most valuable lessons to be learned about building a successful career off-screen?

These comments in Jim Moore's Foreword caught my eye: "For the better part of fourteen years together, they shouted, they pouted, they showed up late, or not at all, they worked at each other's homes, and in bars or restaurants, and on planes, trains, and boats. Charlie's prissiness comes through, as does Billy's churlishness and angst over every little slight or critique from studio leaders. Tempers flare -- as on the day when Charlie, finally fed up with Billy for playing a small flute in the office, snatches the instrument and breaks it in front of Billy."

As I suggested earlier, this is not a book for everyone or even for many people who enjoy watching films. But for those such as I, so-called "film buffs" who are keenly interested in knowing more about the people who help make memorable films, material selected from diaries of Charles W. Brackett helps to accommodate that interest.

The book's title is a line from the screenplay for Sunset Boulevard, co-authored by Brackett and Wilder, and directed by Wilder. It won seven "Oscars" and nominated for four others in 1950:

Best Film
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay (Brackett, Wilder, and D.M. Marshman Jr.
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White (Hans Dreier, John Meehan, Sam Comer, and Ray Moyer,
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Franz Waxman)
Best Actor in a Leading Role (William Holden)
Best Actress in a Leading Role (Gloria Swanson)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Erich von Stroheim)

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair
Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair
by Graydon Carter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 33.11
38 used & new from CDN$ 17.34

5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, Virginia, there really is a machine in which you can return in time to the United States: 1913-1936, June 3 2015
Working with David Friend, Graydon Carter has selected and edited material that originally appeared in VANITY FAIR during a 1913-1936 timeframe, in three sections: the 1910s, 20s, and 30s. Of course, this is also among the most interesting - and complicated - periods during U.S. history, what with World War One, the Roaring 20s, the emergence of Hollywood and network radio, the stock market crash, the Great Depression, and early indications that another war may be near.

I am a long-time subscriber to VANITY FAIR and read this book the same way I read each issue: I give each article a chance (no matter who wrote it) and if it has little (if any) traction after a page or two, I move on. There are some celebrity contributors (at least at that time) represented in this volume -- notably Sherwood Anderson, Robert Benchley, Noël Coward, Clarence Darrow, T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, John Maynard Keynes, D.H. Lawrence, Walter Lippmann, Thomas Mann, Edna Saint Vincent Millay, A.A. Milne, Gertrude Stein, Walter Winchell, P.G. Wodehouse, and Thomas Wolfe. Predictably, the subjects are all over the proverbial "map" within the worlds of economics, the arts, and entertainment, broadly defined. The book is best viewed as an elaborate and extensive buffet rather than as a seven-course dinner.

Others have identified the selections of greatest interest and value to them. I pass on that, preferring to suggest that anyone who works their way through this volume will find far more than enough material to enjoy and appreciate, with probably some of it provided by people whose names they did not recognize when scanning the Contents.

One final point: I returned to this collection several times after the first interaction and, each time, found something entertaining and/or informative that I missed previously.

An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America
An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America
by Nick Bunker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.94
33 used & new from CDN$ 21.94

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why a lethal blend of politics, personalities, and economics led to a war few people welcomed but none could prevent, June 2 2015
The last time I checked, Amazon sells more than 19,000 books that discuss the American Revolutionary War and the number of articles about it is probably 3-5 times that number, if not greater. So much has already been said about what residents of the thirteen colonies thought about events that led to the Declaration of Independence and subsequent war for independence. What we have in Empire at the Edge is a brilliant examination and exploration of what Nick Bunker characterizes as "an empire and a system deeply flawed, the work of ignorance and prejudice and the men of well-meaning but the prisoners of ideas that were obsolete and empty." This is the first book (at least of which I am aware) that devotes to much attention to the thoughts and feelings of those across the Atlantic who were also aware of the same events, if not their significance.

As Bunker explains, "As Benjamin Franklin put it at the time, 'a great Empire, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the edges.' Because the events in question [e.g. the Boston Tea Party] were occurring on the fringes of their world, the authorities in London sometimes had only the vaguest idea of their significance...Only when they learned of the destruction of the tea did the British begin to see the situation in America as it really was. Even then they hoped that the discontent they had aroused could be confined to New England." That was in 1773.

These are among the questions to which Bunker responds of greatest interest to me:

o What are the implications and potential significance of the fact that, in the summer of 1771, the Mississippi River marked the western boundary of the British Empire?
o Throughout the 18th century, which ports were of greatest significance to the major developments prior to the Declaration of Independence?

o Throughout the late-18th century, what were the nature and extent of France's relevance to those events and their consequences? For example, what were the most significant differences between how the colonial leaders viewed France and how the British leaders viewed France?

o Why does Bunker characterize the Mississippi River as "the most destructive adversary"? For whom?
o What was Thomas Gage's original strategy for "securing the wilderness"? To what extent did it fail to achieve its objectives? Why?
o When and why did "the fabric of the empire" begin to unravel?
o Which sequence of specific events led to the Boston Tea Party?
o What impact did the Boston Tea Party have on British perspectives on the colonies, especially Massachusetts?
o When and why did a war for independence become inevitable?
o When and why did winning the war for independence become inevitable?

I agree with Bunker: "The war had been long in the making, the product of an empire and a system deeply flawed, the work of ignorance and prejudice and of men of well-meaning but the prisoners of ideas that were obsolete and empty." Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond, had asserted in the House of Lords, "You cannot force a form of government upon a people." He had spoken for his country but, alas, "the time had not yet come when England could listen." It is probably true to say that few (if any) of those centrally involved in decisions made on both sides of the Atlantic in the late-18th century fully understood the possible significance and potential consequences of those decisions. The great events in which they became engaged seem to have taken on a life, a momentum of their own.

Big Data: Using SMART Big Data, Analytics and Metrics To Make Better Decisions and Improve Performance
Big Data: Using SMART Big Data, Analytics and Metrics To Make Better Decisions and Improve Performance
by Bernard Marr
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.49
27 used & new from CDN$ 12.77

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why SMART decisions are based on SMART analytics, June 2 2015
Much of what I know about "big data" and analytics I have learned from Tom Davenport and again I express my deep gratitude to him. In addition, I have read several dozen books by other authors on one or more aspects of one or both subjects and have learned much of value from them, also. I now share four convictions based on what I have learned thus far. First, the name of the game is not Big Data. Rather, it is having a sufficient quantity of the right data. Also, even then, enough of the right data is essentially worthless unless and until they guide and inform (a) the right decisions and (b) effective execution of those decisions. Also, all right data are important but some are more valuable than others. Finally, the relevance, importance, value, and sufficiency of data can change, sometimes significantly.

For more than two decades, at least since Tim Berners-Lee devised the concept of a worldwide web, business leaders have been struggling to identify their companies' information needs and then fill them. These are critically important decisions. In recent years, this process has been facilitated, indeed expedited by various electronic technologies, so that better decisions can be made and then executed much faster than ever before.

I agree with Bernard Marr: "The marriage of data and technology is radically changing our world and making it smarter. And business much become smarter too...Today the really successful companies understand where their customers are and, perhaps more importantly, what they are doing and where they are going. They know what is happening as it's happening and they allow that information to guide their strategy and inform their decision-making. Companies that don't embrace the SMART revolution will be left behind." Quite true.

Marr introduces this acronym, SMART, for the business model he recommends:

S = Start with strategy
M = Measure metric s and data
A = Apply analytics
R = Report results
T = Transform business

He devotes a separate chapter to each component of the model. "When you approach data (big and small) and analytics from this narrower more focused and practical perspective you can get rid of the stress and confusion surrounding Big Data, reap the considerable rewards, and 'Transform your business.'"

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Marr’s coverage:

o Data collection (Pages 12-17, 57-58, and 85-88)
o Focus to reap rewards (19-22)
o Strategy (23-55)
o The SMART Strategy Board (29-33)
o The pear tree metaphor (33-35)
o SMART questions (43-46 and 52-59)
o Project Oxygen (Google): A mini-case study (48-54)
o Measurement (57-103)
o Datification (64-79)
o Analytics (105-154)
o Transparency (143-149)
o Reporting (155-198)
o Data visualization (156-178, 163-269, and 185-190)
o Transformation (199-230)

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of asking not only smart questions but the right smart questions. Only then can the right answers, the correct answers, be determined. In this context, I am reminded of Peter Drucker’s observation, "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."

Once again, I agree with Bernard Marr: “SMART business is a solution that encourages us all to step back from the hype and noise around data – especially Big Data – and take stock of where we are, where we are trying to get to and what data and tools we can employ to get there…One thing is for sure, Big Data and analytics are here to stay and it’s only going to get more sophisticated. We need to embrace it, operate it effectively, deliver value in exchange for the data and apply its significant benefits for the betterment of our world.”

Business leaders who are determined to help their organizations use smart big data analytics and metrics to make better decisions and improve performance will find in this volume almost all that they need to pursue that immensely important strategic objective.

The Aspirational Investor: Taming the Markets to Achieve Your Life's Goals
The Aspirational Investor: Taming the Markets to Achieve Your Life's Goals
by Ashvin B Chhabra
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 27.00
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The power and prudence of an objective approach to personal goals-driven investment,, June 2 2015
To what does the title of this book refer? As Ashvin Chhabra explains, an investor's financial decisions should be in response to this question: "How can I achieve my life goals with some degree of certainty?" Meanwhile, sufficient ROI is best viewed as a means rather than an ultimate objective. As he explains, "In this book, I will argue that the grand debates in finance, particularly the c lash between indexing and active management, are focused on a series of false choices. If the markets don't really care about you, as they surely do not, why should you spend all your time and effort trying to beat them? You certainly do not want the great successes of your life to be dependent on the future performance of financial markets."

OK. Now what? Chhabra introduces the Wealth Allocation Framework (WAF), an approach that is designed to accumulate "the three seemingly incompatible objectives that should underpin every wealth management plan. The first is the need for financial security in the face of known and unknowable risks. The second is the need to maintain your living standard in the face of inflation and longevity. Third, but not last, is the need to pursue aspirational goals, be it for personal wealth creation, to create positive impact, or to leave a legacy." Chhabra provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel by which to explain HOW.

Chhabra urges investors and potential investors such as I to shift focus from market considerations to our own short-term, mid-term, and (especially) long-term priorities and accommodate them an appropriate wealth accumulation and management plan such as WAF. By exploring in the book the investment strategies of successful funds such as the Yale and Harvard endowments, comparing/contrasting them with other investment models, he shows how each investor needs their own strategy for approaching the market to account for their needs.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of his coverage:

o Active investment management and market debate (Pages 2-3 and 13-18)
o Wealth Allocation Framework and seven-step process (4-5 and 122-137)
o Investors (9-27)
o Basics of modern portfolio theory (13-18)
o Professional advisors versus "dart throwers" (16-18)
o Changing economic conditions in U.S. (33-37)
o Bubble drivers and example (43-5o)
o Economic dynamics of bubbles (50-54)
o Forbes 400 list: sources of wealth (64-66)
o Retirement planning (73-84)
o Asset allocation: difficult to classify (103-106 and 113-116)
o Active investment management: Alpha and Beta (110-112, 141-142, and 147-149)
o Performance measurement and benchmarks (116-117)
o Market risk bucket and portfolio (139-155)
o Value investing (159-160)

In my opinion, some of the most valuable material provided in the book is in Chapter 9, "Seven Steps to Implementation," as Chhabra explains HOW each reader can complete a specific process with this sequence of initiatives (Pages 121-137):

Step 1: Outline Your Goals
2. Convert Your Goals Into Cash Flows
3. Create Your Wealth Allocation Snapshot
4. Assess Your Risk Allocation
5. Implement Asset Allocation and Portfolio Diversification
6. Analyze and Stress Test
7. Review and Rebalance

He explains why sticking with this seven-step process "in a disciplined fashion through all kinds of market cycles -- from boring markets to market bubbles and crashes -- is likely to yield better results than most active managers can deliver. More important, these steps are your road map for achieving life goals in a world where money and markets are a necessary input but not an end unto themselves."

When concluding his brilliant book, Ashvin Chhabra cites advice offered by Yale's David Swensen to alumni tempted to follow the university's endowment investment model: "Do not try this at home." What about replicating Warren Buffett's approach? They "would do well to pursue a more conventional route: Buying Berkshire Hathaway's stock."

Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World
Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why, "one way or another, evolution will have its way with us" and our organizations in a rapidly changing world,, June 2 2015
To what does the title refer? As Brian Robertson explains, Holacracy is essentially "a new social technology for governing and operating an organization, defined by a set of core rules distinctly different from those of a conventionally governed organization." He notes that Arthur Koestler coined the term "holacracy" in his 1967 book, The Ghost in the Machine. That is, Koestler defined a "holon" as "a whole that is a part of a larger whole" and a "holacracy" as "the connection between holons." Diagrams of this geometric structure are included in the book.

It is also important to note that Robertson is convinced, as am I, that Charles Darwin's insights concerning evolution have significant implications for organizations -- as Robertson notes -- that were "built on a basic blueprint that matured in the early 1900s and hasn't changed much since," one he characterizes as "predict and control."

"How can we make an organization not just [begin italics] evolved [end italics] but [begin italics] evolutionary [end italics]? How can we reshape a company into to an evolutionary organism -- one that makes sense and adapt and learn and integrate? In [Eric D.] Beinhocker's words, 'The key to doing better is to bring evolution inside and get the wheels of differentiation, selection, and amplification spinning within a company's four walls.'" In this book, Robertson explains HOW to do that.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of his coverage:

o An Operating System Upgrade (Pages 9-14)
o How Do You Distribute Authority? (16-21)
o Power to the Process (21-26)
o Discovering Purpose (31-34)
o Nature's Structure (38-40)
o Differentiating Role and Soul (42-46)
o A Taste of Governance (68-79)
o The Basics (88-90)
o No More What-by-Whens (104-108)
o Facilitating the Mechanics (113-124)
o Strategy in Holacracy (131-134)
o Evolution Inside (139-141)
o Five traps to Bootstrap Holacracy (151-157)
o When Holacracy Doesn't Stick (167-173)
o Change Your Language, Change Your Culture (176-178)
Note: This presupposes that you have changed your values and perspectives and need a different language to articulate them. Obviously, adjustments of non-verbal communication (i.e. body language and tone of voice) must also be made.
o Toppling the Hero (185-193)
o Moving Beyond a Personal Paradigm (197-203)
o The Evolution of Organization (203-205)

I commend Robertson on his brilliant use of several reader-friendly devices that include relevant quotations that are strategically inserted throughout his narrative, bullet point checklists, illustrations of structural relationships, interrelationships, boxed "Role Descriptions" and sequences of various processes, and boxed mini-commentaries that function as a précis of key insights. These various devices will help to facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

When sharing his final thoughts, Brian Robertson suggests that, ultimately, "Holacracy is an invitation to consciously engage with [an evolutionary process] in a new way, using a new tool. Because whether via Holacracy or another system, evolution will find its way into our organizations. It's just a matter of time. We can steward it in, or we can fight it for a while - but one way or another, evolution will have its way with us."

Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation
Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation
by Grant McCracken
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.75
29 used & new from CDN$ 7.80

5.0 out of 5 stars The world outside the corporation: "the body of ideas, emotions, and activities that make up the life of the consumer", June 1 2015
I read this book when it was first published in 2009 and then read and reviewed Grant McCracken's more recent book, Culturematic: How Reality TV, John Cheever, a Pie Lab, Julia Child, Fantasy Football . . . Will Help You Create and Execute Breakthrough Ideas. Of all the current observers of the contemporary business world and, especially, of the evolution of workplace culture, I know of no one else who sees more and sees more deeply than he does. Here's a case in point.

Just as Dave Ulrich has been an advocate for several years of adding a chief human resources officer (CHRO) to an organization's management team, McCracken is determined to add another. As he explains, "That's what I want to do with this book [Chief Culture Officer]: invent an office and an officer - the Chief Culture Officer, the person who knows the culture, both its fads and fashions, and its deep, enduring structure. I hope this book will be read by two groups: people inside the corporation who want to make the corporation more intelligent, strategic, and responsive, and people outside the corporation who want to turn their knowledge of culture into a profession and a career."

Years ago, Southwest Airlines' then chairman and CEO, Herb Kelleher, explained the importance of culture to its success: "Maintaining excellent customer services involves a process of getting people to understand the importance of it to them in their daily lives as well as in others'. We were a little concerned as we got bigger that maybe some of our early culture might be lost so we set up a culture committee whose only purpose is to keep the Southwest Airlines culture alive. Before people knew how to make fire, there was a fire watcher. Cave dwellers may have found a tree hit by lightning and brought fire back to the cave. Somebody had to make sure it kept going because if it went out, there would be very serious problems. The fire watcher was the most important person in the tribe. I said to our culture committee, "You are our fire watchers, who make sure the fire does not go out. I think you are the most important committee at Southwest Airlines." As current chairman and CEO Jerry Kelly would be the first to affirm, the same can be said of Southwest Airlines today.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of McCracken's coverage:

o Dependence on Gurus (Pages 5-15 and 39-40)
o Coca-Cola Company (8-10, 138-141, and 178-179)
o Dan Wieden (17-21)
o Lance Jensen (21-25)
o A.G. Lafley (28-30, 125-127, and 143-144)
o Chris Albrecht (32-36)
o Milton Glaser (36-39)
o Fast and slow cultures and CCOs (41-64)
o Convergence culture and CCOs (61-64)
o CEOs and CCOs (109-112)
o Culture: Breathing out and breathing in (112-117)
o Anthropology (119-120 and 173-178)
o Empathy and CCOs (125-129)
o Branding/Brainstorming (138-143)
o New media (145-150)
o Michael Eisner (155-157)
o Gurus as enemies of culture (161-162)
o Philistines (171-179)

These are among McCracken's concluding observations: "The corporation has been keeping culture at bay for a very long time. Our job is to manage its new spirit of openness. The best way to do this is to demonstrate the value of what we do, as when we supply critical intelligence, help answer the big questions (what business are we in?), see the significance of shifting [especially disruptive] technologies, read sudden changes in consumer taste and preference, sift the perfect storm of the economy for opportunity and danger, and perform better pattern recognition is the first order of business.

"In sum, we are the first generation, and we have to act like one."

I presume to add an observation by Peter Drucker: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." Members of the "first generation" to which Grant McCracken refers must keep in mind that most of the greatest barriers to change initiatives are cultural in nature, the result of what Jim O'Toole so aptly characterizes as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." It is perhaps possible but highly unlikely that an organization can create and then sustain a living, breathing, thriving enterprise without a CCO who has both authority and responsibility as well as sufficient resources to address "the first order of the day." Without such a commitment, there will be no second order of the day.

Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It
Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It
by John Ferling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 31.46
50 used & new from CDN$ 17.91

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why the American Revolution "was caused and driven by economic factors and colonists' desire to control their destiny”, June 1 2015
I was and remain intrigued by John Ferling's unique approach to the American Revolution, one that he explains in the Preface: "The book differs from most other histories of the American Revolution in several ways. It emphasizes that the colonial insurgency was caused, and driven, by economic factors and by the desire of the colonists to exercise greater control, over their destiny, which in itself often had an economic basis. I don't suggest that ideas about freedom and liberty sere unimportant; ideas provided a prism for how the colonists saw themselves and the actions of leaders in the mother country. Nor was ambition insignificant. The desire to improve one's lot -- whether economically or by gaining power and renown -- shaped the conduct of a great many actors in the Revolution. Men such as Adams and George Washington spoke frankly of the yearning for honor and reputation."

Ferling does indeed focus not just on the colonies but on the mother country as well, examining the choices faced by the imperial leaders and the reasons for their decisions. There were foes of the British policy toward the colonists at every step and, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, a majority of the colonists were royalists. "This book evaluates those who held high civil and military positions, lesser-known individuals who joined the protests and managed affairs at the local level, and above all, those who bore arms as Continental soldiers and sailors or militiamen."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Ferling’s coverage:

o British controls over the colonies (Pages 12-15, 20-23, and 80-83)
o Stamp Act (21-32)
o Debates on Stamp Act (32-35)
o British reprisals against Massachusetts (55-56 and 81-84)
o Sam Adams urging popular resistance (67-72 and 79-80)
o Intolerable (Coercive) Acts (81-87)
o First Continental Congress (90-98)
o Preparations for American Revolution (110-116)
o Second Continental Congress (117-125)
o Battle of Bunker Hill (128-131)
o Parliamentary debates on retribution for colonial victories (132-136)
o Benedict Arnold (144-146, 190-191, and 272-274)
o Second Continental Congress and Thomas Jefferson: Declaration of Independence (157-165)
o George Washington and Charles Lee: Focus on New York campaign (166-179)
o Campaigns of Continental and British armies (184-202)
o Horatio Gates (191-195)
o George Washington as military commander (213-217)
o John Adams and changing attitudes (223-227)
o Changes as a result of the War for Independence (223-233 and 329-335)
o Military action in the Southern Theater, 1780-178 (245-266 and 279-283)
o Sir Henry Clinton in South Carolina (255-261)
o Charles Cornwallis in North Carolina (289-292)
o Continuation of American Revolution (329-335)

With regard to the book’s title, Ferling took it from a line in a letter that John Adams wrote to his wife during the final, tempestuous weeks leading to the Declaration of Independence. Adams suggested that judgment and courage would be required “to ride in this Whirlwind.” I agree with Ferling: “The great promise of America was that it really had begun the world anew.” The Revolutionary War may have been over but not the American Revolution.

Presumably this is what Joseph Ellis has in mind when suggesting, in The Quartet, that four founders were essential to winning what he characterizes as "the second American Revolution." As he explains, "a political quartet [Washington, Hamilton, Jay, and Madison] diagnosed the systemic dysfunctions under the Articles, manipulated the political process to force a calling of the Constitutional Congress, collaborated to set their agenda in Philadelphia, attempted somewhat successfully to orchestrate the debates in the state ratifying convention s, then drafted the Bill of Rights as an insurance policy to ensure state compliance with the constitutional settlement. If I am right, this was arguably the most creative and consequential act of political leadership in American history."

I am deeply grateful to John Ferling for each of his previously published books and especially for his latest because, with rigor and eloquence, he brings to life persons and events that converged prior to, during, and following the American Revolution. These are his concluding observations: "In his first days as president, Jefferson, using a nautical metaphor, reflected in letters to friends that although the American Revolution had sailed through stormy seas, it 'stood the waves into which she was steered with a view to sink her.' But the American Revolution had at last arrived safely in port. The birthday of a new world was indeed at hand. America, President Jefferson continued, had ' sentiments worthy of former times' -- those of 1776."

The Wright Brothers
The Wright Brothers
by David McCullough
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.99
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Now they had only to build a motor.", May 31 2015
This review is from: The Wright Brothers (Hardcover)
David McCullough's research and writing skills (especially storytelling) are again obvious in this, his tenth and latest book. In my opinion, what differentiate McCullough from other historians in his generation are his skills as an anthropologist. He establishes a deep human context for two brothers who co-own a bicycle shop in Ohio and dream of creating a craft that, once aloft, can propel itself for extended periods of time and distance. His scope is narrower than in any of his nine previous books. That is, his primary focus is on Orville and Wilbur Wright and their efforts to design and build, initially, what they envisioned as a "glider-kite."

These items in McCullough's narrative were of special interest to me:

o Wilbur and Orville Wright never married because Wilbur was "woman-shy" and Orville would not marry until his older brother did.

o According to McCullough, they "worked together six days a week, ate their meals together, kept their money in a joint bank account" and even, according to Wilbur, "thought together."

o Also, "The difficulty was not to get into the air but to stay there." The Wrights built their first aircraft from split bamboo and paper. Kitty Hawk (North Carolina) had open space and an ample supply of a precious commodity: wind. The idea was to master gliding, after which Wilbur reckoned it would be easy to add a motor. "Maintaining equilibrium was the key--not much different than riding a bike."

o At the conclusion of Part I, McCullough summarizes the significance of successful experimentation, to date, in Kill Devil Hills: "They knew exactly what they had accomplished. They knew they had solved the problem of flight and more. They had acquired the knowledge and the skill to fly. They could soar, they could float, they could dive and rise, circle and glide and land, all with assurance. Now they had only to build a motor."

o They lived and worked at a time, according to McCullough, that was “alive with invention—recent wonders included the Kodak box camera, the Singer electric sewing machine and the safety razor. McCullough celebrates Dayton as “a city in which inventing and making things were central to the way of life.”

o McCullough again celebrates the basic values normally associated with later pioneers such as those on whom Walter Isaacson focuses in The Innovators. Wilbur and Orville Wright do indeed exemplify what can be accomplished when having a vision, determination, ingenuity, resiliency, and very hard work. John T. Daniels witnessed the first successful flight (lasting 12 seconds on December 17, 1903) and said that the Wrights were "the workingest boys he had ever seen."

As we now know, that flight really did "change the world" eventually, after the general public's initial indifference and then extensive litigation to determine who owned what. McCullough observes in the Epilogue, "of greatest importance to both - more than the money at stake - was to secure just and enduring credit for having invented the airplane. It was their reputation at stake and that mattered most." True to character, Wilbur and Orville Wright duly acknowledged various sources from which they obtained valuable information, notably J. Pell Pettigrew, Octave Chanute, Pierre Mouillard, and Otto Lillenthal.

The book concludes with a classic David McCullough touch: "On July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong, another American born and raised in southwestern Ohio, stepped onto the moon, he carried with him, in tribute to the Wright brothers, a small swatch of the muslin from a wing of their 1903 Flyer."

HBR Guide to Coaching Employees (HBR Guide Series)
HBR Guide to Coaching Employees (HBR Guide Series)
by Harvard Business Review
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.87
45 used & new from CDN$ 14.54

5.0 out of 5 stars "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." John Quincy Adams, May 29 2015
This is one of the volumes in another series of anthologies of articles, previously published in Harvard Business Review, in which contributors share their insights concerning a major business subject, in this instance coaching employees. As is also true of volumes in other such series, notably HBR Essentials, HBR Must Reads, and HBR Management Tips, HBR Guides offer great value in several ways. Here are two: Cutting-edge thinking from 25-30 sources in a single volume at a price (about $15.00 from Amazon in the paperbound version) for a fraction of what article reprints would cost.

Given the original HBR publication dates, some of the material in some of the volumes is -- inevitably -- dated such as references to specific situations in specific companies. However, the most valuable insights and lessons to be learned are timeless.

The material in the HBR Guide to Coaching Employees was selected to help those who read this book to improve in areas that include creating realistic but inspiring plans for growth, asking the right questions to engage your direct reports and other colleagues in the development process, meanwhile creating room for them to grapple with problems to solve and questions to answer, allowing them to make the most of their expertise and experience while compelling them to stretch and grow, giving them feedback they will actually apply, and finally, balancing coaching with everything else in your workload. If you need assistance in any of these areas, this book be of invaluable assistance now as well as in months and years to come, as will Noel Tichy's Succession: Mastering the Make-or-Break Process of Leadership Transition, and, Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization.

The authors of the first ten of 15 articles explain HOW TO:

o Shift your thinking so that you can collaborate on learning with others
o Step the stage to stimulate growth in a context within which peak performance is most likely to occur
o Earn trust by building a rapport based on mutual respect
o Conduct effective sessions by asking the right questions, articulating goals, and reframing challenges
o Follow-up after a session to monitor intake, monitor progress, and adjust (if/when necessary)
o Provide feedback that "sticks" to avoid a negative and/or defensive response
o Enlist assistance (if/when needed) by tapping the "deep smarts" of the given challenge or opportunity
o Help people to help themselves through effective self-coaching and/or coaching others
Comment: Throughout recorded human history, one of the best ways to learn more about a subject is to explain it to someone else.
o Avoid common coaching mistakes by knowing what they are, how to recognize them, then avoid or overcome them

* * *

Here is Dallas near the downtown area, there is a Farmer's Market at which several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that spirit, I offer these three brief excerpts:

From Edward M. (Ned) Hallowell's article, "Set the Stage to Stimulate Growth" (Pages 13-28):

"Why, then, do so many people struggle to connect with others? We're all too busy. We do not spend enough time together, face-to-face. We overrely on electronic connections and so don't develop the trust required for candid exchanges. But you can help your employees overcome those forces. Try the following techniques:"

1. Noticing and acknowledging your employees.
2. Allowing for idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes
3. Encouraging conversation
4. Encouraging breaks.
5. Offering food and drink.
6. Fostering impromptu get-togethers.

Hallowell explains HOW.

* * *

From Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap's article, "Enlist Knowledge Coaches" (73-76)

"How to capture the deep smarts residing in your organization? Turn your experts into knowledge coaches. Knowledge coaches use learn-by-doing techniques -- guided practice, observation, problem solving, and experimentation -- to help novices absorb long-acquired business wisdom.

"Knowledge coaching not only spurs transfer and retention of vital wisdom, it yields breakthrough product ideas and more efficient business processes."

Leonard and Swap offer real-world examples to illustrate how this occurs.

* * *

From Carol A. Walker's article, "Coaching Your Rookie Managers" (123-134):

"Seemingly capable rookie managers often try to cover up a failing project or relationship -- just until they can get it back under control.

"What's the boss of a rookie manager to do? You can begin by clarifying expectations. Explain the connection between the rookie's success and your success so that she understands that open communication is necessary for you to achieve your goals. Explain that you don't expect her to have all the answers. Introduce her to other managers within the company who might be helpful, and encourage her to contact them as needed. Let her know that mistakes happen but that the cover-up is always worse than the c rime. Let her know that you like to receive occasional lunch invitations as much as you like to extend them."

Walker discusses dos and don'ts when delegating, getting support from above, projecting confidence, focusing on the Big Picture, and giving constructive feedback.

* * *

Whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need effective leadership and management at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. If your organization is that rare exception, congratulations! However, if there is an urgent need for more effective leadership and/or management throughout your organization, it is imperative to establish coaching as a core competency among supervisors. How? Have them read and then meet to discuss the HBR Guide to Coaching Employees. That's a start. If needed, consult the aforementioned books by Tichy and Senge. If at any time there is anything I can do to be of assistance, please let me know immediately.

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