The Other 90% : Book Review; V5 Issue 1

Title: The Other 90% 
Author: Robert K Cooper
Publication details: Crown Publishers, a division of Random House Inc., 2001
Number of pages: 320 pages

“Have I given my best at it?” This is a question that Robert K Cooper the author of the book ‘The Other 90%’ makes the reader reflect on right at the beginning of the book. Conventional science has proven that human kind does not even use one thousandth of its capabilities; and there is no doubt that human kind can scale greater heights if even a small fraction of this untapped capabilities are put to use. The author believes that the opportunity to go beneath and beyond conventional thinking and self–imposed limits exist for each of us by knowing and practicing simple but effective steps. In his book he proposes techniques that will help existing and aspiring leaders to make a subtle difference in the way they think, act and react towards making them successful in their business and personal endeavours.

The four key stones for tapping the unexplored capabilities and to undertake a search for the other 90% are:-

  1. TRUST (building and sustaining exceptional relationship)
  2. ENERGY (increasing the calm effectiveness under pressure)
  3. FARSIGTHEDNESS (envisaging and creating the future)
  4. NERVE (exceeding expectations) 

For each of these four key stones the author gives mostly simple and practical mechanisms, techniques and suggested theories, drawn from his own personal life experience, his learning from his grandfather and inspirations drawn from great people such as Lance Armstrong, Mother Theresa, Thomas Edison, Richard Branson, Galileo and many many others.

The ‘Trust key stone’ is an exploration into oneself, into one’s capabilities and also the feel that one exerts upon the people who one works with and leads. By possessing original ideas, using all the 3 brains a human being has (scientifically as explained by the author – gut in the intestine, feel of values and goals in the heart and the intellect in the brain), valuing others and living the life by setting trust as your greatest asset (like a lighthouse), one can have great stepping stones to tap the remaining 90%.

While talking about the ‘Energy key stone’ the author explains how the greatest energy of a cyclone lies in the central calm epicenter. It is imperative to understand the right amount of energy required for completion of any task. Techniques such as being quick without rushing, tapping on natural talents for excelling in life and maintaining a balance in emotions are learning modules. However, the most important point focused in the ‘Energy keystone’ is to ‘live the life.’ Spending time with family gives you more energy by putting more life in your day. Following this lesson will continuously replenish the energy we need to tackle bigger things in life. And more importantly this energy bank can give a continuous and perennial flow, if there is a good dosage of humor in one’s life. The author says, “Every single day, humor is a gift of energy. It startles us out of our routines. It puts things in perspective. It brings us closer together. It helps us face difficult times.”

“Little plans have no power to stir your blood” – Dreaming big is essentially not only just daring. The suggestion of the ‘Farsightedness key stone’ is based on research indicating that most successful and happy people have developed skills to keep looking farther ahead than they have to. The author’s lesson on ‘Extending the Time Horizon’ focuses on this topic. By relating the memories from the past to current realities, current potential and navigating towards desired results by altering and adjusting the course with regular plans, one can achieve that big dream eventually.

Nerve is explained as “an approach to life characterized by courage, exploitation and spirit.” This keystone encourages one to rise above adversity and challenge the boundaries of possibility in one’s life. Practical approaches suggested in this module includes – how to develop the skin of a rhino and soul of an angel, climbing one’s own mountain by shaping the edges of your own competitiveness and caring as if everything depends on one’s caring.

The lessons in this book provide a variety of practical ways to excel in a pleasure filled world with greater grace, ingenuity and empathy. The only requisite for the practitioner is to know what they are and when to use them. The revolutionary explanation of competitiveness in this book will certainly inspire every reader to unlock his/her vast untapped potential for leadership and life. 

" Competition is not in comparison with what others do, rather in excelling in one’s own capabilities and performance. "

Most of his work is useful and much of it is original. Cooper successfully ties together the physiological, mental, and social aspects of his topic. And although his personal accounts are quite frequent, they are mostly short and touching. Most of the content is the type of stuff you either immediately internalize or you do not internalize, rather than carrying it with you as an assignment. An exception is the admonition to frequently ask yourself what you've done lately that was exceptional and what exceptional things you plan to do in the near future. Another point I found especially useful was to know what your main values are. It sounds obvious but he takes it to another level by showing how people frequently are not living according to their values. Usage of famous quotations at the end of every chapter, exemplary combination of art and science and insights to little known techniques make this book truly a life guide.

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently: Book Review; V5 Issue 1

Title: Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently
Author: John C. Maxwell
Publication details: Jaico Publishing House, 2010
Number of pages: 247 pages

Have you come across people who inspire, create positive energy, and develop better relationships just through their communication? Here is a book which will tell you how they do it. “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” by John C. Maxwell an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author illustrates the importance of connecting with people and not just talking to them. He also explores the principles and practices that can make one’s communication more effective in any context be it communicating to your team member or presenting to an audience.

The book opens with a chapter on the necessity of connecting. There is a lot of noise and chatter in the world and it is difficult to filter through and be heard clearly, accurately and with intention. But we must find a way to connect to people if we want to have any influence with them. Then Maxwell reveals the five principles of “Connecting” viz., connecting increases your influence, is all about others, goes beyond words, requires energy and is more skill than natural talent. Maxwell reinforces each principle with anecdotes, data and quotes including those from people who have commented on his blog. So to illustrate that connecting requires patience he uses Henry David Thoreau’s quote “The man who goes alone can start the day, but he who travels with another must wait until the other is ready.”

Maxwell then goes on to detail out the following five practices that can help us connect:-

  1. Connect on common ground (connecting based on common interests and values)
  2. Keep it simple (ensuring one’s communication is not complex to understand)
  3. Create an enjoyable experience (making your communication interesting for the listeners)
  4. Inspire people (communicating such that you motivate your listeners)
  5. Live what you communicate (importance of establishing credibility and supporting your words with actions)

Each practice is broken into sub practices. So for creating an enjoyable experience the sub practices include take responsibility for your listeners, communicate in their world, capture people’s attention from the start, activate your audience, say it so it sticks, be visual and tell stories. And again they are supported with numerous examples. I like the story Maxwell tells to illustrate “Talk to people not above them”. A preschooler on asking his dad about why his apple was turning brown was given a response of “Because after you ate the skin off, the meat of the apple came in contact with the air, which caused it to oxidize, thus changing its molecular structure and turning it into a different colour.” There was a long silence and then the boy asked “Daddy are you talking to me?” Funny, but drives home the point right?

After each principle and practice has been defined and demonstrated, Maxwell explains how to apply it to one-on-one situations, group situations and larger audiences. For instance while talking about connecting going beyond words he suggests that in one-on-one situations connect emotionally through touch, in group situations through honoring the group’s efforts and rewarding their work and in larger audiences through facial expressions, laughter and tears. The book also offers a lot of practical tips. For example he suggests using a connection checklist comprising of Integrity (did I do my best?), Expectation (did I please my sponsor?), Relevance (did I understand and relate to the audience?), Value (did I add value to the people?), Application (did I give people a game plan?) and Change (did I make a difference?).

The story telling style makes it easy to read and make the lessons more memorable. The format of the book is such that you can open any chapter and gain some valuable insight. Regardless of what role or position or function you are in this is one book that can help you be more effective at what you do.

What is a Talent? : Activity Corner; V4 Issue 4

What is a Talent?

Any recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behaviour that can be productively applied is a talent. It is impossible to build strength without any underlying talent. Being able to identify your team member’s talent is critical to nurturing it. Read the statements given below that are related to “talent identification and management” and mark them as “True” or “False”.

  1. Nervousness cannot be really a talent for anybody.

  2. Spontaneous top-of-mind reactions to situations provide the best trace of a person’s talents.

  3. Yearnings (being drawn to some activity time and again) reveal the presence of a talent particularly when they are felt early in life.

  4. Sometimes a talent does not signal itself through yearning. Instead ‘Rapid learning’ offers the clue to the existence of a talent.

  5. Satisfactions (when he/she uses them he/she feels good) also provide a clue to a person’s talent. So if you feel good after shirking responsibility it is a talent.

  6. As a manager you need to treat each of your subordinate the same way when you are managing them.

  7. A weakness is an area where one lacks proficiency.

  8. One way to manage a team member’s weakness is by finding another person who is good at it who can give the required support in that area to the team member.


Score your responses by giving a point to every right response.

Spontaneous reactions, yearnings, rapid learning, and satisfactions will all help you detect the traces of your team members’ talents. All the best in identifying their talents and managing them for greater performance! To understand more about talents, read ‘Now, Discover Your Strengths’.

Your Next Move: The Leader's Guide to Navigating Major Career Transitions: Book Review; V4 Issue 4

Title: Your Next Move: The Leader's Guide to Navigating Major Career Transitions

Author: Michael D. Watkins

Publication details: Harvard Business School Publishing, United States of America, 2009

Number of pages: 220 pages

How ready are you to make your next move in your career? To make sure you are ready read “Your Next Move”, an excellent guide for leaders navigating career transitions. Its author Michael D. Watkins is a widely recognized authority on the subject of leadership transitions. In his earlier book “The First 90 Days”, a classic of the genre, he identified strategies implemented by all successful newly appointed leaders and the organizations that hire them. In “Your Next Move” he has further developed on that thinking.The book specifically covers eight classic career transitions viz., Promotion, Leading former peers, Corporate Diplomacy ie., having to use direct authority to building alliances and consensus, Joining a new organization, International Move, Having to Turnaround a division in crisis, Realigning a division and Managing a multifaceted Portfolio.

In the introductory chapter Watkins identifies some common elements of successful transitions. According to him the ‘Seven Elements of Successful Transitions’ are organize to learn, establish A–list priorities, define strategic intent, build the leadership team, lay the organizational foundation for success, secure early wins and create supportive alliances. Then he goes on to dedicate one chapter on each of the transitions. With case studies, Watkins illustrates the challenges associated with each type of transition. For example, Watkins says, that in the case of being promoted to lead your former peers, ““you think you know everyone, and everyone thinks they know you. But then those relationships were shaped in part by the roles you previously played. The protocols, perceptions, and interactions must all be different now.” He then provides the insights, strategies, and tools one needs to manage these critical transitions and continue climbing one’s career ladder.

For each of the transitions the book elaborates on the personal and organizational adaptations required for the leader to be effective.. It encourages individual leaders to examine their own skills and development needs and it explores how organizations can help those individuals manage their transitions. For example in the promotion scenario the author suggests that the individual would be required to balance depth and breadth, delegate more deeply, influence differently, communicate more frequently and adjust to greater visibility. To ensure employees are effective when promoted the author recommends that organizations should build and use good competency models and create career development pathways consisting of the right types of experiences like “stepping stones”. “Stepping Stones” refer to a“sequence of assignments each of which represents a significant stretch along one or two of the critical development dimensions but not so much of a stretch that the leader slips and falls.”

Each chapter includes real-world examples to demonstrate the author's practical advice. For instance he writes about the “shadow organization” the informal power structures and cultural idiosyncrasies that exist in every organization and that come into play most strongly during times of personal and organizational change. To work effectively within that shadow organization, he demonstrates how to build one’s own influence network, distinguish between professional relationships and alliances and make changes in leadership style at different levels of an organization.

While the book is focused on the individual development of leaders, it also throws light on the subject of transition from an organizational perspective, thus offering a good checklist for HR managers in charge of career development of employees. And undoubtedly this is a good reference book for anyone who is currently in a career transition, expecting a career transition or simply looking for ideas on how to navigate his or her current position better.

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do : Book Review; V4 Issue 3

Title: First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently
Author: Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
Publication details: Simon and Schuster, New York, 1999
Number of pages: 271 pages

When I had to select a book for review on the theme “Employee Engagement”, “First Break All the Rules” was an obvious choice. Authored by leaders of The Gallup Organization, this book summarizes their findings of 25 years of research on 2 questions. “What do the most talented employees need from the workplace?” And “How do the world’s greatest managers find, focus, and keep talented employees?” The authors are convinced that employees leave managers and not the companies they work for. Hence effectiveness of managers is vital to retaining employees. Through their research the authors discovered that great managers build a work environment where employees answer positively to the following famous 12 questions included in most employee satisfaction surveys today:-

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  8. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  9. Do I have a best friend at work?
  10. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  11. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

And the key to ensuring positive answers to these questions, lie in managers being able to discharge four important responsibilities extremely well viz., Select a person, Set expectations, Motivate the person and Develop the person. Now if you think you know how to do these then just see if it is the way great managers do these. Great Managers select for talent and not simply experience, intelligence or determination. They define the right outcomes and not the right steps when defining expectations. When motivating they focus on strengths and not weaknesses. They find the right fit and not the next rung on the ladder when developing someone. Thus the book challenges conventional wisdom like the best way to help an employee is by fixing his/her weaknesses. The authors give detailed tips on each of the four keys to engaging people. For instance on defining right outcomes they talk about how your customer’s expectations should help you determine what is a valuable outcome. In the airline industry while safety is paramount, customers don’t choose an airline because of its safety record since they anyways expect to arrive unharmed. So while flight attendants at Southwest Airlines are experts in safety procedures, they focus on ensuring passengers have fun while flying with them. 

The book has some valuable insights into managing people. Spend more time with your best people. The best managers know they are on stage every day. They know their people are watching every move they make. And it gives some fantastic solutions to the typical problems faced by managers. For example it talks about how employees invariably want to be promoted even if it means getting promoted out of roles in which they excel and moving into roles in which they struggle. For example, not everyone has the talent or the desire to be a manager. The talent to be a great software programmer will not be the same talent needed to be a project manager. The solution? “Create heroes in every role.” One way to do that is by defining graded levels of achievement in every role. At ATand T help desks are organized at 3 levels according to the complexity of the client’s question. It also propounds some radical theories like paying an excellent performer at a junior level role more than an average performer at a senior level role.

The best part of this engaging book is the way the ideas are explained through simple and real life examples be it the art of interviewing or conducting performance reviews. Every chapter is complete in itself and you can pick up the book and read any chapter and make sense of it. While the book is mainly for managers it also has a section for individuals and for management to help them implement the ideas elaborated in this book. I first read this book several years back and since then have reread it many times. I really hope you too will read and reread this book and you will come to value it as much as I do.

My Secret Life on the McJob : Book Review; V4 Issue 2

   Title: My Secret Life on the McJob
   Author: Jerry Newman
   Publication details:Tata McGraw-Hill, 2007
   Number of pages: 203

Looking through the library to find a book to review for Prerana, I found books that were either too preachy, or too factual, until I chanced upon one with mustard and tomato ketchup dispensers on its cover. Titled ‘My Secret Life on the McJob’ and written by Jerry Newman, this book is about life behind the counters of fast food joints like McDonalds, Wendy’s, and Burger King. After the author’s daughter gets a rubber glove finger, in her burger at a fast food joint, the author, a college professor, decides to take a sabbatical to embark on a unique journey to gain insights into the functioning of fast food joints. This leads him through several jobs in various fast food joints, as well as a hospital visit for his bad back including 9 months of rehabilitation.

Jerry Newman a University Distinguished Teaching Professor for the New York State University, Buffalo is the coauthor of 'Compensation', a bestseller and an advisor to firms like AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Burger King, McDonald’s, and Nabisco. However, it was not easy for him to find his first job at a fast food joint. It was only after he had understated his qualifications that he actually found a job. Having been a professor for over 30 years, he was used to being the center of attention and it was difficult for him to adapt to the new circumstances of his choice where he was often “invisible” and not thanked at all for his work. Jerry works in seven different capacities, the Front Counter, the Sandwich Board, as the Fry Guy, the Runner, the Cook, Specialty Prep, apart from doing menial work such as mopping and cleaning the floor. Along his year long journey, he learns that the McJob is not as easy as it is believed. While it pays less and is perceived to be dead end and boring, it does take quite a bit of time and skill to master. Managing workers who are paid less than their counterparts in other restaurants, some of whom have tougher jobs does need quite a bit of personnel management skills, as the book successfully brings across.

The book talks about the different types of managers, and the reasons for their success in different contexts. A toxic manager is one who uses sarcasm very often on the employees in order to get work done or as punishment. A mechanical manager is highly impersonal and is not empathic to employee needs. A relationship manager ensures that the employees develop strong friendships with each other. A performance manager sets specific performance parameters and sets rewards with regard to those parameters. The book also talks about the different kinds of workers. The survival worker is one who is doing the job only to make ends meet. The way-station worker is one who is holding the current job until the next phase in his/her life. An aimless worker does not know what to do in his/her life and thus is doing this job to pass time until something better comes up. A career worker is someone who is doing this job as a career and thus wants to pursue it long term. However, all the employees who hold McJobs have three things in common.

  • They know what goods/services to deliver
  • They know to deliver the goods/services under pressure
  • They work as a team

In the fast food industry, with its employee diversity, communication issues arise because of language and cultural barriers. This is when the practical prowess of a manager is needed. A manager who can understand what the worker is going through is able to manage things better, as compared to a mechanical manager who simply wants things done and works according to the rule book. The author says that the best restaurant he has worked at was a Burger King, and the worst was also a Burger King. So, the work quality is not organization specific, but specific to the culture of a work place. The managers together with the employees in that workplace create this culture.

Training in these restaurant chains happens less on the job, and more through videos that show the slow and deliberate preparation of each item. While on the job, preparations were to be done amidst a lot of clamor and pressure. This goes to show that the training that is imparted must be realistic. Employees are rarely told to have realistic expectations; they are told that the job would be easy and boring, but in reality they end up being high pressure, high speed, and high precision jobs with minimal room for error.

Although the book talks about the way fast food joints are managed, there is a lot to learn about managing one’s workplace on a daily basis. Motivating workers involves not only rewarding them monetarily, because sure enough, just down the road there will be another employer ready to pay more for the same work. In such a scenario, and in an industry where the average industry turnover is about 200%, a lot more than pure monetary motivation is needed. The book gives examples of managers who have managed to keep employee turnover at about 100%, which is an amazing figure for this industry. This book is overall, a quick and interesting read.

The GOAL (A Process of Ongoing Improvement)

Title: The GOAL (A Process of Ongoing Improvement)
Author: Eliyahu M Goldratt and Jeff Cox
Publication details: First Indian edition, 2004, Productivity and Quality Publishing Private Limited
Number of pages: 396 pages

Is increase in efficiency and cutting costs good? Not always as the book ‘The Goal’ demonstrates while revisiting some basic management fundamentals. It reveals how businesses can enhance productivity by applying the Theory of Constraints (TOC). Written in a fast-paced thriller style (I could not put it down), ‘The Goal’ is a gripping novel about Alex Rogo a plant manager who is desperately trying to save his plant and his marriage. A chance meeting with his old professor Jonah helps him turn the plant around by breaking out of conventional thinking like optimising resources or focusing on worker efficiency. The book shows how a system of local optimums is not optimum system at all. And yes his marriage is saved too

Eliyahu Goldratt uses Socratic questions, an inductive reasoning approach to teach TOC. Alex finds the path to plant profitability by responding to questions asked by Jonah. The story’s pace gives the reader time to examine the issues and come up with ideas before sample answers are provided. Jonah helps Alex understand that the goal of a plant is not to increase efficiency, reduce wage etc but to make money by balancing 3 critical areas of a plant’s operations viz., Throughput (the rate at which the system generates money through sales), Inventory (all the money that the system has invested in purchasing things which it intends to sell) and Operational Expense (all the money the system spends in order to turn inventory into throughput).

The book shows that a manager should be able to answer 3 important questions for an ongoing process improvement viz.,1)What to change?, 2)What to change to? and 3)How to cause the change? The economic concepts are easy to understand on account of the way they are presented. For instance manufacturing bottlenecks which determine the rate of production, can be identified by looking for a big stack of products waiting to be processed. This is illustrated through a hiking trip that Alex takes with his son and a game with match sticks and bowls. The slowest boy in the middle of the line of children hiking who is delaying others’ progress is a bottleneck. Alex’s discussions with his team also highlight the short comings of cost-accounting where inventory is viewed as an asset on the balance sheet.

The book shows numerous times how constraints can be dealt with by following 5 steps of 1) Identifying the constraint, 2) Exploiting the constraint (bottleneck), 3) Subordinating everything to the constraint, 4) Elevating ie., increasing the throughput of the constraints no matter the costs since they limit the entire system’s throughput and 5) Repeating the steps with new constraints. Step 2 could be as simple as maximizing a bottleneck machine’s output by not keeping it idle because of staff taking lunch breaks or doing a quality check before products get processed through the bottleneck machine. The book has several management techniques that can be applied to any business. For instance to communicate to everybody in the plant which parts need to be processed on priority the parts are tagged with different colours or clinching a large order customer order by reducing delivery time vis-a-vis competitors and meeting the order by despatching batches.

Since the book provides a solution for factories struggling with production delays and low revenues is it relevant for service organisations? (Hmm... have been hit by the Socratic bug!) Consider these applications of TOC. A US Bank reduced their loan approval time almost half by focusing on the 3 most important items. A South African hospital decreased patient waiting list from 9 months to below 4months by creating a patient buffer. Though the book was originally published 25 years ago the revised versions contains, in an interview with Eliyahu Goldratt himself, recent examples of organisations that prove the relevance of TOC for today’s context. This is definitely a must read management classic for all managers.

The Tipping Point: Book Review; V3 Issue 4

Title: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Publication details: 2001, Abacus
Number of pages: 259 pages

In this very interesting book, Malcolm Gladwell analyses and explains the ‘tipping point’, “that magic moment when ideas, trends and social behaviours cross a threshold, tip and spread like wildfire.” He looks for clues among spread of disease viruses, on how social epidemics like fads, crime waves and revolutions get started. And he identifies three key factors that play a role in ‘tipping’ a particular trend into wide-scale popularity.

The ‘Law of the Few’ factor states that certain people with exceptional social skills and social contacts can cause change. These people are Connectors (people who know a lot of people and are in a position to influence a lot of people or spread an idea and make it visible to a lot of people), Mavens (people with a focused interest in particular areas, like where to get the best prices, and a willingness and interest to share that information with others) and Salesmen (people with a talent for persuasion, and for changing our minds and making us see or act differently). The likelihood of a new idea tipping into exponential success is much higher if these three groups endorse and advocate the idea. The book cites the example of a nurse who wanted her community women, who would not ordinarily do so, to get tested for diabetes and breast cancer. When holding seminars at local churches failed, she switched venues to beauty salons and trained some stylists in the information that needed to be transmitted and it worked!

Gladwell defines the ‘Stickiness’ factor as the quality that compels people to pay close, sustained attention to a product, concept, or idea. The message has to be so memorable that it can incite change. Stickiness can be deliberately cultivated and refined to maximise the impact and 'spread' of content or behaviour. For instance Lester Wunderman created a ‘gold box’ treasure hunt in the TV commercials for its Columbia Record club account that made viewers part of an interactive advertising. This created stickiness for these ads. In the case of a successful children’s TV show ‘Blues Clues’, it was the repetition and the format of asking questions and leaving preschooler sized pauses before the off-stage audience answered them that created stickiness.

‘Power of Context’ factor asserts that epidemics are sensitive to the environment in which they occur and that small changes in environment can make a big difference to outcomes. For example, some sociologists believe that New York City turned around a high crime rate problem by cleaning up graffiti, repairing broken windows and being intolerant of cheating on subway fares. Taking care of ‘little things’ ensured the ‘big things’ took care of themselves and New York became a much safer city. The magic number 150 is an interesting example. Once a workgroup exceeds 150, relationships break down. Traditionally, tribes used to split off when they grew beyond 150. Modern organizations like Gore Associates have also found by housing only 150 employees or less in a building, the R & D people know the sales people, the production people etc and hence work together more effectively.

So what if Gladwell’s ideas are not original, they bring together ideas in such a compelling and clever manner that it has become a very popular book. Gladwell has a way with words that engages the reader. Consider this “Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push — in just the right place — it can be tipped.”

Gladwell not only explains the factors for ‘Tipping point’, but also gives incisive examples of how to understand, measure, and take advantage of all the factors. By studying ‘The Tipping Point’ you can get insights into human behaviour. And a deep understanding of human behavior can help you create a more effective marketing message, promote political change and solve social ills. Hence, I feel, this is one of those books that anyone with a desire to create a wide spread change, can benefit from reading.

EXECUTION : The Discipline of Getting Things Done: Book Review; V3 Issue 3

 Title: EXECUTION : The Discipline of Getting Things Done
 Author: Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan with Charles Burck
 Publication details: 2002, Random House
 Number of pages: 269 pages


Most business strategies fail because they were not executed well. But what does it really take to execute well? Let Larry Bossidy, one of the world's most acclaimed CEOs (of Allied Signal and Honeywell International) and Ram Charan, a legendary advisor to senior executives and boards of directors, tell you. In their book Execution they argue that a leader’s most important job is execution. Execution closes the gap between results promised and delivered. They criticize the overly hands-off approach of leaders who see execution as the tactical side of the business, something they can delegate, while they focus on the bigger picture. Without advocating micro-management, they promote senior management’s focus on developing an execution culture.

The book demonstrates how organizations such as GE, Wal-Mart and Colgate-Palmolive have been able to reach and even exceed goals by successfully integrating three core processes of people, strategy and operations. Bossidy asserts that the job of selecting and appraising people, particularly top executives, should never be delegated. At Honeywell, as the CEO Bossidy personally made calls to check references for key hires and approved important promotions and transfers. A great strategy comes together only after robust debate among key executives and not after just a presentation of PowerPoint slides. It should be in sync with the realities of the marketplace, the economy and the competition reflecting both the company's organizational capabilities and describing how the company can expand its capabilities to meet challenges. A good operating plan breaks down long-term goals into short-term targets. These should reflect not what happened last year, but what realistically can be achieved in the future. Again, a discussion on how and even whether you can get the desired results, is a must.

The authors have a view on many aspects of a business. For instance they feel that people processes should be forward looking, evaluating people against the requirements of the future rather than looking at today’s requirements. Or that corporate level strategy being the vehicle for allocating resources among business units, should not just be a sum of those parts. The book contains a lot of wisdom like “When the leader discusses issues in a group setting everybody learns.” and “Many sizable businesses spend weeks or months preparing their budgets. This is unnecessary, and a great waste of time.”

Through case studies, checklists, detailed and interesting examples, Bossidy and Charan suggest ways organizations can improve the way they execute. There is case study to highlight the problem of strategies that are intellectually appealing but which the organization is incapable of implementing. When AT&T acquired several cable companies their strategy made sense but the management did not have the ability to run them. The ‘Leader's Essential Behaviours’ check list contain behaviours such as ‘Know Your People and Your Business, Insist on Realism, Set Clear Goals and Priorities, Follow Through, Reward the Doers, Expand People's Capabilities through Coaching and Know Yourself’. Conducting a Strategy Review and Leadership and Retention Assessments are demonstrated with detailed live examples. An interesting example of people process is the GE’s ‘diamonds in the rough’ initiative. People of substance who do not have the polish of their peers and might get overlooked or are struggling in current jobs say because of a bad boss, are moved to better environments where they can grow.

While many stories are of senior management, the suggestions work just as well for all levels of management especially if you want to be an effective leader. For example the suggestions for dealing with non performers, challenging the assumptions of a plan and conducting an effective meeting are of value to managers at all levels. Developing the discipline of execution isn't made out to be simple and you will need to read this book many times to capture the multiple layers of messages. Write in the margins, underline, and annotate to internalize the lessons better. These lessons will certainly make you better at your job.

FISH! : Book Review; V3 Issue 2

Title: FISH!

Authors: Stephen C. Lundin Ph.D., Harry Paul, John Christensen

Publication details: Hodder & Stoughton, 2006

Number of pages: 112 pages

One of your team members regrets not having become an actor. Another team member is bored with the tedious work and given a choice would love to become a cricket coach. As their manager is it possible for you to help them find passion, fun, and sense of pride, everyday in their work and feel “Thank God it’s Monday rather than Friday?” Yes! as per Fish!, a modern parable engineered to make you and your team enjoy your way to better productivity at the work place! The book teaches you that living your true potential is a choice that one can make every day.  Its unique formula addressing today's work issues including employee engagement and burnout will help you energise and enthuse your teams.


The book’s central character Mary Jane Ramirez was given the responsibility to turnaround the operations team that lacked energy, creativity, passion and good work ethics. For instance the team treated their customers as if the customers were interrupting them. During a chance visit by her to Seattle’s world famous Pike Place Fish Market, she observed that despite the mundane work, the fishmongers were cheerful, playful and enjoyed their work. The book tells the story of how Mary unravels the secret of their happiness and how her team adopts their four principles of choosing the attitude, playing at work, treating customers to make their day and being emotionally present for people to transform the operations department from a “toxic energy waste dump” to a place where people would vie to work in. Inspired by Mary’s teamher company had this inscribed at the entrance which also summarises the principles of this book... “As you enter this place of work please choose to make today a great day...Find ways to play. We can be serious about our work without being serious about ourselves. Stay focused in order to be present when your customers and team members most need you. And should you feel your energy lapsing, try this sure fire remedy: find someone who needs a helping hand, a word of support, or a good ear -- and make their day.”

The book demonstrates how the four principles can be implemented. For instance Mary’s team implemented ‘Choose Your Attitude’ by putting up an ‘attitude menu’ comprising items like ‘energetic’, ‘creative’, ‘supportive’ and ‘caring’ to serve as a constant reminder of ‘making the right choice’. Instead of playing like the fishmongers by having flying, smiling and talking fish the operation team implemented initiatives like joke of the month contest, turning small lights on when it is time to lighten up, posting signs saying “This is a playground. Watch out for adult children.” etc. There are also illustrations of consequences faced by people who were not working based on these principles. One of the characters describes how not being present for her colleague resulted in her colleague losing her job and the company losing a client and a lot of money.

Apart from the main principles Fish also illustrates other important success factors at work like not losing faith in oneself, learning and growing continuously, taking personal risks, not giving up on your team for you own career advancement and being persistent. These are again demonstrated through the numerous challenges faced by the central characters in the book. Throughout the book Mary exemplifies qualities of an ideal manager like implementing what she preaches, giving her team the adequate flexibility and authority to take decisions, being transparent about the problems, encouraging the team members to identify solutions rather than prescribing them herself etc.

If you loved “Who Moved My Cheese?” then undoubtedly you are going to love this book. It uses a deceptively simple and engaging story to convey its message. Take for instance the way the characters in the book describe the benefits of ‘Play’... “Happy people treat others well. Fun leads to creativity. The time passes quickly. Having a good time is healthy. Work becomes a reward and not just a way to rewards.” This book can serve as an excellent guide for creating energetic, enthusiastic, creative and effective teams with the key learnings highlighted in quick read boxes, supported by inspiring quotations like “Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle...Meaning is something you build into your life.”  And you don’t have to be a manager to benefit from reading this book; you can apply the lessons in the book in any aspect of your life in order to keep yourself excited about what you do.