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Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)

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Elevate: The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking
Elevate: The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking
Price: CDN$ 16.09

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why to elevate your business thinking to gain more and better perspectives...and help others to do so,, April 2 2014
In a previously published book, Deep Dive: The Proven Method for Building Strategy, Focusing Your Resources, and Taking Smart Action, Rich Horwath observes that are business situations in which the goal is to ascend (e.g. to reach a higher level of productivity, efficiency, profitability) and other situations in which the goal is to descend (e.g. to drill down past symptoms to the root causes of a problem) and successfully achieving either goal depends almost entirely on one's attitude. Long ago, Henry Ford observed, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." Attitude is even more decisive when there are severe challenges to overcome. Years later, Jack Dempsey had this in mind when explaining that "champions get up when they can't."

I mention all this because, in Deep Dive, Rich Horvath makes brilliant use of extended metaphors for both ascension and descent. He provides a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective program by which to prepare to achieve success at either great heights or great depths. All this is directly relevant to his latest book and, especially, to his skill use of a helicopter metaphor discussing three disciplines that must be mastered so that business leaders can elevate the scope and clarity of their thinking about strategy.

Horwath defines strategy as "the intelligent allocation of limited resources through a unique system of activities to outperform competition in serving customers. Resources include time, talent, and capital...The idea of uniqueness -- performing different activities or performing similar activities differently than the competition -- is at the core of strategy." I view strategies as "hammers" that drive tactics ("nails") and agree with Michael Porter: "The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do."

With regard to the helicopter metaphor, Horwath recalls a brief flight with his instructor in a Hughes 269C after completing not one but two thorough pre-flight checklists of a total of 124 different items. Only through this experience did he fully understand and appreciate the skills needed to fly a helicopter. "And so it is with leading a business. A truly strategic leader possesses the mastery to manage multiple initiatives simultaneously, monitor the internal conditions of the business (e.g., people processes, culture, etc.), assess the external conditions (e.g., market trends, customer needs, competitive landscape, etc.), and design a strategic action plan to achieve the goals and objectives. In both cases, elevation is required.

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

o Top 10 Strategy Challenges (Pages 5-11)
o GOST Framework (12-14)
o The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking (19-20)
o Patterns in Strategy (26-32)
o Three Phase Business Model (40-52)
o Strategy and Innovation (59-66)
o Competitive Advantage: Eight Key Determinations (84-88)
o Competitive Intelligence (88-91)
o Using Time Strategically (106-109)
o Influencing Strategy Commitment (112-115)
o Strategic Behavior (119-122)
o Three Practice Principles to Guide Instruction (126-129)
o The Power of Story[telling], and, Creating a Strategy Story (138-144)
o When to Change Strategy (147-149)

I commend Horwath on his skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include Figures (e.g. 1.6, Value Chain," and "Areas of Time Investment Gauge," Pages 46 and 111) and Tables (e.g. 1.1, "Strategy Challenges" and 2.2, Competitive Advantage Profile," Pages 6 and 87) as well as a "1,000-Foot View" section with which he concludes each chapter. These devices can facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the wealth of information, insights, and counsel that Rich Horwath provides. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of his latest book. Also, I wish to conclude with three brief points with which he presumably agrees. First, leaders' business thinking must be elevated before attempts are made to elevate an organizations productivity, efficiency, and thereby its profitability. Also, advanced strategic thinking must be developed at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Finally, meanwhile, everyone involved should keep in mind an observation made by Peter Drucker in a Harvard Business Review article more then twenty years ago: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."

Dragonfly Effect Workbook: The Power of Stories
Dragonfly Effect Workbook: The Power of Stories
by Andrew Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.95
10 used & new from CDN$ 16.25

5.0 out of 5 stars How to increase demand for whatever you offer with a social campaign that has acceleration, reach, and impact, March 31 2014
In The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Social Change, Andy Smith and Jennifer Aaker - with Carlye Adler -- explain how to "leverage the power of the new social media to do something that really matters." They invoke the dragonfly both as a symbol and as catalyst: "The dragonfly is the only insect able to propel itself in any direction - with tremendous speed and force - when its four wings are working in concert. This ancient, exotic, and benign creature illuminates the importance of integrated effort. It also demonstrates that small actions can create big movements. To us, what we call the Dragonfly Effect is the elegance and efficacy of people who, through the passionate pursuit of their goals, discover that they can make a positive impact disproportionate to their resources."

What we have in this volume is a companion to that book, one in which Smith and Asker collaborate with Barbara McCarthy on a series of exercises that help their reader to understand and master the power of stories. As they explain, "This workbook is designed to walk you through the process of developing a social campaign for a brand or idea of your choosing. You can either do it alone or with others in a team."

Make no doubt it: This is a WORK book and although its design accommodates completion of exercises within the book, I strongly recommend having a lined notebook nearby so that you can record additional notes as well as additional DRAFTs of exercises. In my case, I needed this resource while I re-read the narrative as well as checking out my previous annotations and illustrations. Just a thought....

I commend Smith, McCarthy, and Aaker on the skillful use of the dragonfly metaphor when explaining the Butterfly Effect, "named after the only creature that is able to move in any direction - with tremendous speed and force - when its four wings are working in concert." More specifically:

Wing #1: "FOCUS on one single central goal that is clear, testable, actionable - and the mere thought of achieving it brings you happiness."

Wing #2: "GRAB ATTENTION by doing the unexpected, getting personal, triggering a visceral response, or providing a visual hook."

Wing #3: TELL AN ENGAGING, AUTHENTIC STORY that enables an emotional connection and which can be shared across multiple media channels.

Wing #4: "ENABLE others to take action toward your goal by making it easy, fun and rewarding to participate and spread."

Keep in mind that these are the "wings" of a brand or idea for which Smith, McCarthy, and Aaker can help you to develop for a social campaign. If that campaign succeeds, the given brand or idea will "take flight" in any direction with great speed and impact. Each of four has its own design characteristics that serve as a basis for some of the most valuable exercises in the workbook.

I agree with Andy Smith, Barbara McCarthy, and Jennifer Aaker that there is no end to finding better ways to use the unique power of stories to achieve what William Hill once characterized as "true, well-told" when creating or increasing demand for the given brand.

Hopefully each reader will realize that "the real power of the Dragonfly Effect comes not from tips on how to grab someone's attention but from the insights and actions you could have never anticipated when you enlist others in your effort. There is strength in numbers. Harness them well and you will change the world." Perhaps but short of that, how about dominating a market segment?

Flex: The New Playbook For Managing Across Differences
Flex: The New Playbook For Managing Across Differences
by Jane Hyun
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.94
40 used & new from CDN$ 5.44

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable information, insights, and counsel with regard to how to be come and help others to become a "fluent leader", March 28 2014
According to Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee, "This book offers what courageous, thoughtful leaders need in order to operate successfully in today's diverse, global marketplace." What specifically do they need? The core competencies include being able to understand, respect, and acknowledge differences between and among those for whom they are responsible; adjust ("flex") their management style to accommodate those differences; and minimize (if not eliminate) any "power gap" defined in terms of gender, age, or cultural differences. I agree with Hyun and Lee about the importance of cultural fluency at all structural levels and in all operational areas of the given enterprise. This fluency does not invalidate authority. On the contrary, for both leaders and followers, it [begin italics] enriches [end italics] it.

That is to say, cultural fluency is by no means limited to the C-level nor to managers elsewhere. Mutual respect and trust (worthy of the name) can and should be established and then nourished regardless of title or status. Emotional intelligence is best demonstrated by body language and tone of voice as well as by behavior over time, not by what is said, however eloquent that may be.

However, Hyun and Lee are spot on when observing that a fluent leader "is more than just someone who is emotionally mature, demonstrates empathy, and is able to make an accurate assessment of [people and their emotions. The fluent leader must also demonstrate elements of innovative thinking, but there are other aspects of this style that go beyond creativity and thinking outside the box." Such as what? Hyun and Lee offer a full-range of defining characteristics as well as leadership beliefs and behaviors that, in their shared opinion, a fluent leader possesses.
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Hyun and Lee's coverage.

o The High Stakes of Losing Our Best Talent (Pages 5-7)
o What Women Bring to the Leadership Table (14-15)
o Hardwired for Sameness (19-22)
o The Key Competency: Fluency (24-26)
o Identifying the Power Gap, and, How the Power Gap Manifests Itself on Your Team (34-46)
o The Art of Flex (68-70)
o The Fluent Leader Mind-Set (79-87)
o Look for Creative Ways to Bridge the Power Gap (101-111)
o Tap into Hidden Potential and Promote the Right People (121-124)
o The Importance of Navigating the Power Gap with Peers (130-136)
o Obstacles to Closing the Gap from the Bottom Up, and, Don't Put Authority Figures on a Pedestal (152-156)
o Working with Bosses Who Maintain Their Power Gap (164-169)
o Meaningful Engagement Begins with Closing the Gap (210-212)
o Great Onboarding Models (221-226)
Note: Hiring great talent is essentially worthless if the onboarding process fails.
o Multiple Ways to Support, Guide, and Grow Your Employees (236-238)
Note: All great supervisors have a "green thumb" for doing this and help direct reports to develop one.
o Fluent Leadership is Needed to Facilitate Innovative Thinking, and, How Difference Drives Innovation (265-267)
o Encourage Management Styles That Spur Innovative Thinking (267-271)

I agree with Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee that divergent thinking can drive innovation. This is what Roger Martin has in mind, in The Opposable Mind, when suggesting that integrative thinking involves "the predisposition and the capacity to hold two [or more] diametrically opposed ideas" in one's head and then "without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other," be able to "produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea." Throughout his presidency, Abraham Lincoln frequently demonstrated integrative thinking, a "discipline of consideration and synthesis [that] is the hallmark of exceptional businesses [as well as of democratic governments] and those who lead them." Principled dissent is essential to the success of this process.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that are provided in this book but presumably I have, at least, indicated why I think so highly of it. Given the challenges that await leaders in years to come as well as those with which they must cope now, fluency and flexibility are not only desirable and important, they are essential and imperative.

* * *

More a quibble than a complaint, the book has no index. Hopefully one will be added if and when it there is a second edition.

Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change
Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change
by Lisa Kay Solomon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.06
31 used & new from CDN$ 16.70

5.0 out of 5 stars How to replace "time-sucking, energy-depleting meetings and workshops with high engagement strategic conversations", March 27 2014
There are times when all of us find ourselves involved in especially important, usually complicated, and perhaps even upsetting situations, situations that have serious implications and potential consequences. An offsite strategy retreat, for example, or an onsite meeting to formulate a budget, or a free-wheeling brainstorming session to generate ideas to develop, answers to questions or solutions to problems. These and other situations have strategic significance and require careful preparation for what Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon characterize as "moments of impact."

They cite an excellent example in 2012 when Neil Grimmer, co-founder and CEO of Plum Organics (a baby food company launched in 2007), believed that his company had reached an inflection point. The details are best revealed in the book but, for present purposes, I can reveal that teams were assigned to complete a war-gaming exercise that would recommend a course of action based on the teams' research. They produced a plan that would enable Plum to dominate the organic baby-food market by capturing "both the higher and lower ends with a one-two punch, using separate brands but the same supply chain and distribution networks."

It is possible but highly unlikely that a traditional approach would have succeeded. According to Keith Sawyer, "Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas," as the two Plum Groups did. As Ertel and Solomon explain, "A strategic conversation doesn't feel like a regular or a brainstorming session. It is its own distinct type: an interactive strategic problem-soling session that engages participants not just analytically but creatively and emotionally.

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

o Welcome to "VUCA World" (Pages 8-10)
Note: VUCA refers to an environment of non-stop vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.
o What Moments of Impact Will Deliver (15-16)
o Lessons from the Godfather of Strategic Conversations: Pierre Wack (19-23)
o The Five Core Principles of a Well-Designed Strategic Conversation (26-29)
o Key Differences Between a Well-Organized Meeting and a Well-Designed Strategic Conversation (33)
o The Three Types of Strategic Conversations (41-52)
o The Picture in the Puzzle Box (80-81)
o Four Framing Pitfalls (81)
o Frames That Propel the Conversation Forward (96-98)
o Get a "Shell Space" That Works & Next, Make It Your Own (101-106)
Note: One of the best is Room 20 at MIT, generally characterized as "utilitarian" and "Spartan."
o An Agenda Is Not an Experience (118-120)
o The Emotional Design of Strategic Conversations (127-128)
o Memorable Experiences Can Trigger the Desire to Act (137-138)
o Designing Strategic Conversations as Moments of Impact (163-164)
o Creative Adaptation Beats Creative Destruction (166-167)
o Starter Kit (173-232)

I commend Ertel and Solomon on their skillful presentation of material that focuses on various key practices: Define Your Purpose, Engage Multiple Perspectives, Frame the Issues, and Make It and Experience. In this instance and indeed throughout the book, they identify a "what" and then devote most of their attention to explaining "how" and "why."

In a concluding chapter, "Make Your Moment," they suggest several key points to be kept in mind:

o Start with a "ripe" issue (i.e. one about which there is a sense of urgency)
o Fight for the time necessary to do it right (but never waste time)
o Lead with empathy for everyone involved
o Put all the core principles to work
o Simplify, simplify, simplify (channeling Albert Einstein: "Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler.")
o Start small, then build
o Prep like hell (channeling Sun Tzu: "Every battle is won or lost before it is fought.")
o No kamikaze missions! ("Never lead a strategic conversations where the basic conditions for success aren't met.")

When concluding their brilliant book, Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon observe, "Designing great strategic conversations is challenging and rewarding work that can also be fun. Most important, it's one way that just one way that one person can have an outsize impact on the future of an organization -- and beyond. So go ahead, make [begin italics] your [end italics] moment. And when you do, don't be too surprised that you're pushing on an open door."

I agree while presuming to add that it's nice to know that, meanwhile, you are also well-prepared to open a door that is closed and locked...or to find another.

Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win
Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win
by Ryan Babineaux
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
40 used & new from CDN$ 7.88

5.0 out of 5 stars The power of strategic, enlightened failures from which to learn valuable lessons fast, March 26 2014
The word "failure" is often carelessly used and so I begin with my own opinion that -- with rare exception -- a failure is a consequence from which nothing of value is learned. This seems to have been what Thomas Edison had in mind when correcting a colleague who deemed an experiment deemed a "failure." It was, in fact, a valuable learning lesson, one that increased their knowledge of what doesn't work. In this context, I am again reminded of a passage in Paul Schoemaker's latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: "The key question companies need to address is not `[begin italics] Should [end italics] we make mistakes?' but rather `[begin italics] Which [end italics] mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'"

This is what Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz seem to have in mind when observing, "People who are happy and successful expend less time planning and more time acting. They get out into the world and try new things, make mistakes, and in doing so, benefit from unexpected experiences and opportunities" that they would not otherwise have. The key is to learn how to "make small changes to what they [begin italics] do [end italics] break free from habitual behaviors and initiate new adventures, act boldly with minimal preparation, and leverage their] strengths for rapid change." Babineux and Krumboltz agree with Helen Keller, as do I: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." That said, neither she nor they recommend placing one's self in harm's way by taking foolish, impulsive risks. Be proactive, yes, but focus on opportunities that require "smart action."

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

o Focus on Opportunities, Not Problems (Pages 3-5)
o A Long Bike Ride Leads to a Great Idea, and, The Joyful Tipping Point (9-13)
o Don't Let a Day Pass Without Having Fun (14-18)
o Mapping Joy (19-21)
o Fail Fast to Learn Fast (27-31)
o Be a Beginner, Not an Expert (31-34)
o Failure Is What You [Do or Don't] Make of It (37-38)
o Act on Your Curiosity (45-49)
o Five Keys to Curiosity (49-50)
o Test Your Assumptions (60-67)
o Discover Your Success (72-75)
o Bigger Isn't Always Better (80-85)
o The Power of Small Wins (85-90)
Note: Peter Sims also has a great deal of value to say about this in his book, Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries
o Build on Your Strengths (92-94)
o See the World Like an Anthropologist, and Be Inquisitive (101-110)
o Too Much Thinking Can Stop You in Your Tracks (122-126)
o Overcome Procrastination (155-160)
o Ten Ways to Diversify Social Relationships (171-177)
o Tips for Introverts (177-179)

I commend Babineaux and Krumboltz on their skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include boxed mini-commentaries that are inserted throughout their lively and eloquent narrative; dozens of relevant quotations (e.g. John Horn's observation, "Why we play as children is not because it is our work or because it is how we learn, thought bother statements are true; we play because we are wired for joy, it is imperative as human beings"); checklists of key points; and a Call to Action at the conclusion of Chapters 1-9 that will help readers to apply material that is most relevant to their needs, interests, goals, and resources as well as to those of the given enterprise.

In the Preface, Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz make a promise that they certainly keep when providing an abundance of information, insights, and counsel: "Each chapter includes a discussion of cutting-edge research, inspiring stories from the lives of famous and ordinary people alike, and specific steps to put ideas into practice to enact immediate [and beneficial] change in your life." The "Fail Fast" approach they propose can help almost anyone to transform their life through small, immediate actions. "When you embrace [strategic, enlightened] failure rather than resist it, every moment provides the opportunity" to learn, grow, stretch, stumble and then recover...and thereby learn what can help to achieve personal success and professional development. Bravo!

The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil
The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil
by Christine Bader
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.50
29 used & new from CDN$ 18.50

5.0 out of 5 stars “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”: A tale of two companies and more, much more, March 24 2014
First of all, many people incorrectly believe that an idealist is necessarily "out of touch with reality" when, in fact, idealism and realism are not mutually exclusive. The greatest leaders throughout history were values-driven and attracted followers precisely because of a vision that, without exception, was based on ideals. In this remarkable book, Christine Bader focuses on her nine-year period employment by BP (1999-2008) during which she learned – and now shares -- valuable lessons that contributed to her personal growth as well as her professional development. Hers is indeed a journey of discovery.

Providing some background information is in order. As she explains: "I fell in love with that BP. And BP loved me back, giving me the opportunity to live in Indonesia, working on social issues around a remote gas field; then China, ensuring worker and community safety for a chemicals joint venture; then in the United Kingdom again, collaborating with colleagues around the world to better understand and support human rights.

"BP was paying me to help the people living around its projects, because that in turn would help its business. I was living the cliché of doing well and doing good. and I was completely smitten. My beloved company even let me create a pro bono project advising a United Nations initiative to clarify business's responsibilities for human rights, aimed at creating international policy to help even more people."

These brief excerpts describe "the good BP" during Bader's "best of times." And then Big Oil broke her heart, "the worst of times." She left BP to work on the U.N. project full-time. Some of the most interesting material in her narrative provides stories and reflections from other Corporate Idealists, noting that "while my story may be unique in its details, it is not in its themes" nor in the nature and extent resistance that Corporate Idealists encounter.

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

o Papua: A culturally sensitive setting (Pages 2-6)
o John Browne: A Different Brand of Oilman (6-9)
o Security and Human Rights (20-29)
o On [Bader's] Personal Front (37-42)
o An overview of Bader's years in China (42-72)
o Human Rights and BP Values (78-89)
o A Global Debate (92-96)
o End of the John Browne Era (98-104)
o The Business and Human Rights Debate (109-115)
o Protect, Respect and Remedy (116-122)
o The End of the Beginning (134-137)
o The Power of Normative Standards (137-140)
o BP's "Perfect Storm" (164-166)
o Supping with the Devil: Kofi Anan with Phil Knight (179-186)
o A Sorting Function (201-208)

While re-reading The Revolution of a Corporate Idealist, I was again reminded of the fact that many of the companies annually ranked as the most highly admired and best to work for are also among those annually ranked as most profitable and having the greatest cap value in their industry segment. That is emphatically NOT a coincidence. Enduring principles and sustainable profits are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are [begin italics] interdependent [end italics].

After all of the best and worst of times that Christine Bader endured, her basic values remain intact but she has also developed what Ernest Hemingway once characterized as a built-in, shock-proof crap detector. When concluding her book, she observes, "The Corporate Idealist community sees both the challenges and potential of big business. We realize that we can't save the world -- we can even save every finger and toe. We can expound upon but not fully explain the disasters of our companies and industries, which is deeply unsatisfying to those who want simple answers and assurances. But we can nudge our companies toward a vision of a better future, one in which 'responsible business' and 'fair trade' are redundant, not novelties or oxymorons."

I hope that those who read this book -- especially those now preparing for a career in business or who have only recently embarked on one -- will become an active member of the Corporate Idealist community. There is so much important work yet to be done. As indicated earlier, I fervently believe -- as does Christine Bader -- that enduring principles and sustainable profits are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are interdependent.

Low-Hanging Fruit: 77 Eye-Opening Ways to Improve Productivity and Profits
Low-Hanging Fruit: 77 Eye-Opening Ways to Improve Productivity and Profits
by Jeremy Eden
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.30
37 used & new from CDN$ 12.70

5.0 out of 5 stars How to “get a good cash crop yield from business innovation”, March 20 2014
Years ago, I helped a Fortune 50 company establish an electronic suggestion box for its intranet. Generous tax-paid bonuses would be awarded for ideas that reduce operating costs and increase productivity. All an employee needed to do was go online, sign in, and state the suggestion. One recent hire in the mail distribution center at corporate headquarters suggested that, except for an emergency, each next-business day delivery document or package be shipped only on Fridays. That simple suggestion saved the company about $800,000 the first year and offers an example of “low-hanging fruit” that can so easily be “harvested.”

According to Jeremy Eden and Terri Long, “To get a good cash crop yield from business innovation, leaders must have six elements in place. They must provide problem-solving skills, motivate employees [or as I prefer to describe it, inspire employees to motivate themselves], organize collaboration across units, make decisions quickly, build implementation skills, and create accountability to deliver hard-dollar benefits.”

Among the 77 chapters of material that Eden and Long provide, these were of greatest interest and value to me.

o Ask "Why?" Five Times to See the Real Problem (Chapter 3)
o Don't Be Fooled by Misleading Metrics: Zero in on the Ugly and Rattle the Status Quo by Turning Metrics Upside Down (6)
o Use Brainstorming in a New Way: To Find Problems, Not Solutions (10)
o Stop Ignoring Your Introverts (13)
o Use a Checklist -- It Works for Pilots and Brain Surgeons, and It Will Work for You! (20)
o Give People What They Need, Not What They Want (22)
o The Five Surprising Words That Keep a Good Executive from Being Great (30)
o Executive Motivators That Demotivate Everyone Else (32)
o Eliminate Corporate Whac-A-Mole (38)
o The One Monthly Meeting You Must Hold (46)
o The Devil's in the Details: Track Every Idea, Every Dollar, Every Month (55)
o The Golden Rule: Withdraw and Replace Ideas That Don't Increase Earnings (56)
o It's Not What You Start, It's What You Finish (61)
o Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Everyone is Entitled to Their Opinion, but Not Their Own Facts" (64)
o The Obligation to Dissent (70)

Eden and Long discuss each of these and the other subjects that the chapter titles indicate, providing a wealth of information, insights, and counsel with regard to HOW to improve productivity and profits. Readers will also appreciate the insertion of relevant quotations throughout the narrative. Here's the head note to Chapter 36, Rally the Troops, provided by Simon Sinek: "Average companies give their people something to work on. Innovative companies give their people something to work toward." By the way, Sinek's latest and best book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, has just been published by Portfolio/The Penguin Group. I highly recommend it.

While re-reading this book prior to composing this brief commentary, I was again reminded of situations in which obvious business opportunities, the low-hanging fruit of potentiality, were harvested by ordinary people who were extraordinarily alert. For example:

o George de Mestral, a Swiss electrical engineer who came up with the idea for Velcro while removing burrs from his dog's hair.

o Arthur Fry who co-invented Post-it so he could locate selections in his hymnal when singing in his church choir

o Mary Kay Ash who added a fragrance to leather softener lotion and sold it as hand cream, the basis of her global cosmetics firm

o Bette Nesmith Graham was an amateur painter who returned to work as an executive secretary, applied gesso with a paintbrush to correct her typing errors, and "mistakes out" became Liquid Paper

They suggest to me that almost anyone who overcomes what I call the invisibility of the obvious can produce an abundant harvest in the vineyards of free enterprise. I agree with Jeremy Eden and Terri that, whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations have almost unlimited opportunities for improvement of what is done and how it is done.

* * *

More a quibble than a complaint, this book has no index. I hope one will be added if and when there is a second edition.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
by Ben Horowitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.19
42 used & new from CDN$ 16.04

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One man's thoughts and feelings about making especially difficult decisions and resolving especially difficult situations, March 19 2014
Up front: I think the word "thing" is worthless because it has no meaning in and of itself; it can be substituted for almost any other noun. However, the thing of it is, no one else seems to share this opinion so I'll say no more about it.

* * *

Three major works were published in 1859: Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Karl Marx's A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, and Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. I was reminded of that fact as I worked my way through The Hard Thing About Hard Things for the first time and began to correlate themes in these classic works with several that Ben Horowitz develops in his lively and thought-provoking memoir/narrative.

For example, his discussion of "the struggle" is clearly derived from Marx's assertion, "Life is struggle." Of course, that claim is predated several centuries by the Buddhist maxim, "Life is suffering." Horowitz affirms great value in courage, especially when those who launch start-ups proceed through a process of natural selection. According to Darwin, "In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment." That is certainly what Horowitz had to do several times while CEO of Loudcloud and then Opsware when each was near-death. Despite all manner of struggle and suffering, he must have been sustained by his self-confidence and competitive nature when facing daunting challenges.

Jack Dempsey once observed, "Champions get up when they can't." Obviously, he is referring to more than physical courage and his comment calls to mind that Dante reserved the last and worst ring in hell for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. My own opinion is that hard times do not develop a leader's character, they reveal it...or a lack of it ...and this is especially true of entrepreneurs. As for Wagner's opera, it also examines (as does Horowitz) themes of aspiration, determination, and personal sacrifice as well the perils of defying conventional wisdom.

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

o The Marc Andreesen Relationship: The first 18 years (Pages 9-16)
o Euphoria and Terror (20-28)
o Sixty Days to Live (41-47)
o Survival of the Fittest (47-52)
o The Ultimate Decision (52-56)
o About the Struggle, and, Some Stuff That May or May Not Help (61-63)
o Why It's Imperative to Tell It Like It Is (66-67)
o The Right Way to Lay People Off (68-72)
o Why You Should Train Your People (106-108)
o Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager (111-113)
o If You've Never Done the Job, How do You Hire Somebody Good? (124-129)
o How to Minimize Politics, and, The Technique to Do So (149-154)
o Creating a Company Culture (180-183
o Organizational Design (188-192)
o When Making the Right Choice Requires Intelligence and Courage (210-212)
o How to Lead: Three Essential Abilities (220-222)
o The First Rule of Entrepreneurship: There Are No Rules (243-247)
o Staying Great: The Standard (255-256)

I really enjoyed reading this book because, throughout, I had the feeling that Horowitz was speaking directly to me, that he had written this book for me. I think many (if not most) other readers will feel the same way. Here he is, warts and all (lots of warts), sharing so much of what he has learned, most of it from hard times, setbacks, crises of various kinds, and - yes -a few ill-advised decisions that he duly acknowledges.

His passion and candor are refreshing, to be sure, but I appreciate much more his insights and counsel that suggest he possesses what Hemingway once characterized as "a built-in, shock-proof crap detector." He also exemplifies that person whom Theodore Roosevelt once characterized as "the man in the arena."

There are indeed "hard things" for which an MBA degree cannot possibly prepare a person, nor can a business book. If nothing else, however, Ben Horowitz shares his thoughts and feelings as well as his experiences so that those who read this book will at least be better prepared to make those decisions that all of us dread.

Candor: How to have courageous coaching conversations when it really matters
Candor: How to have courageous coaching conversations when it really matters
Price: CDN$ 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars How to identify and correct ineffective patterns of communication when guiding, coaching, and giving feedback to others, March 18 2014
In a previous book that Steve Stowell co-authored with Stephanie Mead, Strategy Is Everyone's Job, Chapter 3 offers a case study of a fictional corporation (Galaxy) and a protagonist (Lee) that illustrate key points. The material focuses on several leadership challenges, the most important of which (in my opinion) is the need for middle management to think strategically (Big Picture, connecting organizational "dots," ultimate objectives) as well as tactically (execution initiatives in day-to-day operations). In terms of developing a strategic mindset as well as utilitarian skills, managers must also be leaders, as Lee eventually realizes.

The same fictional company and characters appear in this book, co-authored with Tony I. Herrara. Once again, the reader is asked to serve as one of the characters, Adrian, a senior-level executive at Galaxy. His challenge this time around is to be much more candid in his communications with those for whom he is directly responsible, notably Lee. The details of the narrative are best revealed in context. However, as Stowell and Herrera explain, their purpose is to help their readers "appreciate the vital importance of having effective conversations about challenging subjects, recognize the defensive tendencies that often hamper such conversations, and explore and practice a tested framework for facilitating balanced conversations under stress (i.e. when tensions are high or the topic is controversial)."

They introduce a five-step courageous conversation process in Chapter 7 (provided by Taylor, a recently retired former colleague of Adrian's) and presumably they wait until then in order to serve the purposes of the plot, such as it is. Meanwhile, in Chapter One, they focus the reader's attention on an evolving situation at Galaxy. They use direct address ("Your morning....") and sustain through the tenth and final chapter so this is an extended business narrative that, if it were a film, the reader would be the central character, with Stowell and Harrera providing the voice over.

There are no head-snapping revelations in this book, nor do Stowell and Harrera make any such claim. The fictional case study worked in the previous book but is much less effective when called upon to bear the full weight of the narrative in this one. My guess is a chapter devoted to Adam's briefing by Taylor would have been sufficient. In residential real estate, every home has a buyer out there, somewhere, and every business book has a reader out there, somewhere. One man's opinion, this book will be of greatest interest and value to those who are about to assume a major supervisory role or who have only recently done so

Those in need of more thoughtful and more substantial guidance should check out Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable and Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition, co-authored by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

More a quibble than a complaint, this book needs an index and one should be added if and when there is a new edition.

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
by Austin Kleon
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.19
44 used & new from CDN$ 4.95

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works...." Matthew 5:16, March 18 2014
As Austin Kleon explains, his previous book, Steal Like an Artist, "was about stealing influence from other people" whereas "this book is about how to influence others by letting them steal from [begin italics] you [end italics]." I agree with him that "all you have to do is to show your work" but only if (HUGE "if") it's worth stealing and you know how to do that in terms of what, when, and where. Actually, he wrote this book "for people who hate the very idea of self-promotion." It's not enough to be very good. "In order to be found, you have to [begin italics] be findable [end italics]. I think there's an easy way of putting your work out there and making it discoverable [begin italics] while [end italics] you're focused on getting really good at what you do."

Kleon's two books can be of incalculable value to those who need help with creating content (whatever its nature and extent may be) and then help with attracting the interest and support of those on whom the success of the offering depends. It could be a product, a service, or both. Its target market could be singles, seniors, the unemployed or under-employed, new parents, do-it-yourselfers, beginners at get the idea.

So, how to become findable? First, Kleon explains the need for developing a new mindset, one that will enable the reluctant self-promoter to think differently so that she or he can then operate differently. Here's his key point: "Almost all of the people I look up to and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built [begin italics] sharing [end italics] into their routine. Next, he urges his reader to find what the musician Brian Eno characterizes as a "scenius": a group of creative individuals who make up an ecology of talent. "What I love about the idea of scenius is that it makes room in the story of creativity for the rest of us: the people who don't consider ourselves geniuses."

Then Kleon suggests ten specific observations and initiatives, devoting a separate chapter to each. The purpose of the first, "You don't have to be a genius," is an important reassurance that David and Tom Kelley also provide in their recently published book, Creative Confidence: Believing that only geniuses are creative "is a myth that far too many people share. This book is about the opposite of that myth. It is about what we call 'creative confidence.' And at its foundation is the belief that we are [begin italics] all [end italics] creative...Creative confidence is a way of seeing that potential and your place in the world more clearly, unclouded by anxiety and doubt. We hope you'll join us on our quest to embrace creative confidence in our lives. Together, we can all make the world a better place."

The other nine call for initiatives that almost anyone can take. Kleon suggests the most important do's and don'ts to keep in mind. Two key elements are repeatedly emphasized. First, share generously and continuously with those who comprise an appropriate (key word) ecology of talent: people who share common interest and goals, yes, but also common questions and concerns. Share what will be of greatest interest and value to them. Also, be yourself. Why? I like Oscar Wilde's response best: "Everyone else is taken." Each person is a unique work-in-progress. That's hardly an original insight but well-worth repeating.

Let's allow Austin Kleon the final observations: "Human beings are interested in other human beings and what other human beings do. Audiences today not only want to stumble across great work, they, too, long to be part of the creative process. By showing people your 'behind-the-scenes footage" [i.e. portions of incomplete and imperfect work], they can see the person behind the products, and they can better form a relationship with you and your work." So show it...and your authentic self in process.

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