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Leo E. Walsh "ebraynz" RSS Feed (Mentor, Oh United States)
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Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
by Al Ries
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.83
169 used & new from $4.26

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars more relevant now than it was in the 80's, October 21, 2004
Wow. I never thought that a twenty year old book in marketing, a field which ages rapidly, could maintain its relevance. After all, if we were nearly drowning in sea of information in the 80's, we are in riding a tidal wave in the midst of a hurricane, hanging on for dear life now. But this book is probably even more relevant now than it was then.

The basic tenant of this short, easy to read but brilliant book is straight forward enough: to be noticed in an over-communicated society, a brand must firmly hold a place (position) in a consumer's mind. Sure, that is relatively easy if you are #1 in a field. After all, Kleenex becomes generic for tissue, Kotex for tampons. But, if you cannot be there first, look for a `hole,' a niche not exploited by the market leader. As in strategy, it is easier to hit superior forces where they're not instead of head on. Think of Dell. Instead of fighting HP and Compaq for shelf space in Best Buys and Circuit City, it went whole-hog into direct sales. Now, it holds that niche pretty firmly.

However, the authors warn against a positioned brand diluting a clear `value position' by meaningless line extensions. That has been the demise of many brands, and the authors point out several.

Lastly, I like the fact that the authors also turn the ideas on themselves a little, and insert a chapter on positioning yourself. Sound career advice. Keep your brand positioned: strong, pure, and undiluted. This will definitely help you (and me!) manage our careers.


Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Harper Business Essentials)
Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Harper Business Essentials)
by Jim Collins
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.16
324 used & new from $0.01

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars embrace the power of "and", October 21, 2004
Collins and Porras' basic observation in this book, where they compare the practices of visionary to those of a matched set of good, though not great, companies, is that average companies are driven by the power of "or:" You can have either short term profits OR long term growth, either stability OR progress. Visionary companies, on the contrary, embrace the power of "and:" You can preserve the core AND stimulate progress.

That said, the authors go on to describe how great companies build structures that embrace these often contradictory goals. The great companies Collins and Porras study, contrary to popular belief, are not profit focused at their core. Instead, they are `value' focused. These values are a sort of nucleus, around which leaders in visionary companies grow the company.

And that is not the only difference between visionary companies and the more average comparison companies. The visionary companies surveyed consistently produced leaders steeped in the company's ideology. These home grown leaders are the result of deliberate corporate design, an orientation to corporate structure that the authors call "clock building instead of time telling." In short, among the final products of visionary companies are competent leaders that carry on the core. And once developed, these leaders are then encouraged to experiment boldly, keeping only what works (i.e. what is effective and in alignment with the core).

A very entertaining book, it is among the best, easiest to follow guide to strategy imaginable. I also like the fact that it addresses not only macro level concerns, but also provides guidelines to help folks like me, stuck in middle management positions, apply these concepts. It is well written, the case studies compelling, and I like being able to follow the authors' research methods in the appendices. It is this thorough research which raises the book several notches above the now-classic "In Search of Excellence."


The Circle of Innovation: You Can't Shrink Your Way to Greatness
The Circle of Innovation: You Can't Shrink Your Way to Greatness
by Tom Peters
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.70
277 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Michelangelo of biz-speak, October 14, 2004
I love reading Tom Peters. I plop the covers shut, and jump up feeling pumped, filled with ideas and bubbling over with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, on Monday, I still have to face the work-a-day world.

This book was no different. Indeed, it is one of his best. I love his ideas about decentralization and finding talent in everything work endeavor (Michelangelo's of housekeeping? Props, says the author). Building WOW! projects (any project can be WOW! if we let it), and resume-ing those projects to manage your career as a Professional Service provider. In short, how to brand yourself, how to grow that brand value, and ultimately leverage your talents through that brand.

This book, however, does not stop at the personal Buzz level. It touches on corporate restructuring to flatter, faster entities ... and the fact that the "nerds have won!" Peters points out that grey matter is becoming increasingly more important than lumpy things. For example, examine Nike, Microsoft and Oracle versus Ford. One sells stuff, the others sell ideas. Those industries highest in grey-matter consistently show the highest ROE.

I love this book, though not directly applicable like most excellent business books. In fact, I would caution anyone wanting to manage from Peters' un-tempered ideas.

For example, Peters lauds Nike throughout this book. But, check out how poorly Nike faired in the late 90's, early 2000's. Consumers, unawares to the company's executives, changed fashion trends away from white leather sport shoes and towards causal, brown natural leather shoes. At the same time, the company's lumbering supply chain made its core accounts (the sporting goods stores) very unhappy as they faced constant stock outages. And, when you add the public fervor over its sweat-shops in Asia, well ... Sometimes, it pays to be sober to temper over-exuberance. "A cup of decaf, please."

Everything aside, Peters is one-in-a-million. He continuously points me to the future, and gets my juices flowing. Sort of like a Michelangelo of biz-speak: the reigning king of biz-Chaos.


Simplicity: Working Smarter In A World Of Infinite Choices
Simplicity: Working Smarter In A World Of Infinite Choices
by Bill Jensen
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.30
126 used & new from $0.01

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas in a tough to navigate format, October 14, 2004
The best companies out there spend a lot of time talking to their customers. Focus groups, customer surveys and CRM/ One-to-One technologies are growing increasingly common.

Jensen takes this one-step further. Why not build a company that is easy for the front-line employees, who actually interface with your customers, to navigate? A common-sense, win-win scenario. The customers of a simplified business would happier because employees have relevant information at their finger-tips. Employees are happier because they save thousands of frustrating hours spent looking for the exact information they need. Indeed, Jensen advocates turning traditional strategy on its head. He foresees easy-to-navigate companies built from the ground up, merely overseen by executive "steering committees."

Easy-navigation is what Jensen calls "Simplicity." In fact, taming complexity by taking time to sift the important from the trivial grows more vital, and difficult to do, as our businesses grow larger. Because of this, most companies fall quite short when it comes to providing their employees with the tools needed to simply do their jobs. And Jensen does not stop at the theoretical, big-picture level, but presents some excellent tools to help think through these problems: "CLEAR," and "Simpler to Know, Feel, Use, Do and Succeed" are a couple of the most noteworthy.

Though I love Jensen's ideas, I have one major criticism: the book is, quite ironically, one of the most difficult to navigate books I have ever encountered. Side bars cut into text, without any warning, change in text font or background color. Two or three times each chapter, you are left hanging mid-sentence in the main text, while you read a related side-bar... only to forget what the main sentence was talking about. In fact, this caused me to shave the rating from five stars for the content to four for the entire package... and almost had me to three. I found the navigation that frustrating.

Still, I would recommend this book to almost everyone I know in business. The ideas are that good.


What Really Works: The 4+2 Formula for Sustained Business Success
What Really Works: The 4+2 Formula for Sustained Business Success
by William F. Joyce
Edition: Hardcover
118 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings, October 9, 2004
This book does a decent job fulfilling its mission, to reveal "What Really Works." And, from my experience, the authors are right on. Winning companies all have many things in common. Mostly, this is what Collins and Porras call "clock building" in "Built to Last:" designing an organizational architecture that grows, and maintains its integral core despite the changes in internal people and external strategies. "What Really Works" talks you through some of the steps necessary to make that clock. First, listen to what the customer wants. Then make filling that need your strategic focus. Make that value offering clear. Ensure that your controls and systems are top notch, so that employees can execute the strategy. Align the culture and organizational structure so performance is rewarded, again supporting the strategy. Once these major criteria are fulfilled, you can begin to think about secondary practices, namely developing people and leaders, keeping talent and innovating.

I am truly split on this Joyce and Nohria's work. It is well written and easy to read. I also like the companies presented in case studies. These weren't your typical 3M/GM/IBM/Dell case studies, but Nordstrom, Nike, and the Limited. Sort of warms my heart not to have to read the history behind Post-It-Notes for the 5000th time. But, I also have some serious issues with the book.

A former science geek in my undergrad years, I love precision. I like the thoroughness that the authors IMPLY went into the Evergreen Project. I say IMPLY, because, unlike Collins and Porras in "Built to Last," the authors do not tell us anything about their research methods. They also claim to have combed the literature and statistically eliminated all but eight of 200+ popular management practices. What were those 200+ practices? How did the Evergreen team research companies for the presence or absence of said practices? An appendix of research practices and results would be nice.

Weaknesses aside, I recommend this book on two counts. First of all, because I truly get the impression that there is some serious research behind the premises. And, if you accept the premises, the "Further Reading" section, grouped by books relating to each of the core practices, is worth the price of the book.


Bringing Out the Best in People
Bringing Out the Best in People
by Aubrey C. Daniels
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.28
157 used & new from $1.12

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ... being scientific and open-minded..., September 24, 2004
After being promoted to management, I needed to learn how to manage. And my company offered us three day's worth of training... hardly enough to really grasp the ins and outs of how to shape other's behavior. However, the most highly skilled of the presenters mentioned this book, and felt that behavioral modification was the only true key to managing effectively.

I scoffed initially.

Being a twentieth century American, I thought behaviorism was dead. Skinner struck me as cold ... but, being a scientific and open-minded man, I purchased the book. And I'm glad I did.

I can say this without batting an eye: because of Aubrey Daniels' book, not only are my teams consistently strong performing teams, I know how I got there. So, when I get a new batch of team members, I can apply the same principles, and see the results right away. In fact, learning about this book is the most useful thing I learned in that aforementioned week of leadership training.

What are Daniel's principles? First of all, that people do what they do because of reinforcement. Reinforcement comes in two main forms: positive and negative. Negative reinforcement does not necessarily mean punishment, but that positive reinforcement is withheld. Punishment is a subset of negative reinforcement, largely overused.

Daniels then goes on to show the "ABC's" of behavior (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequences), and illustrate why some behaviors are not easy to shape (the consequences are uncertain). Once you understand the basics, it becomes easy to look for opportunities to shape your reports' behaviors by rewarding what you want then to do ... making the UNCERTAIN consequence CERTAIN: "If I do this, my manager will be happy," instead of the UNCERTAIN, "I am not sure if this will work... Will my peers scoff at me?..." Daniels finishes up with several insightful case studies about how his principles have been applied in the real world. This can give you solid ideas on how to apply them in your neck of the woods.

All told, one of the greatest, most practical, and easiest to use management books I've read. And, thanks to Skinner and a rash of behaviorists in the 50's and 60's, the most scientifically validated.


What the CEO Wants You to Know : How Your Company Really Works
What the CEO Wants You to Know : How Your Company Really Works
by Ram Charan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.63
348 used & new from $0.01

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars why grow your business acumen?, September 22, 2004
It is humbling. After B-School and hundreds of business books, it took these 150 or so pages of text lay explain why I spent time learning finance and accounting, marketing, communications and leadership: To build my business acumen. And Mr. Charan makes it clear that business acumen drives all businesses, be they apple carts or multi-nationals.

How simple is Charan's exposition on building business acumen?

-Finance and operations management are boiled down to one equation (R=M*V). As basic as it gets.

-And marketing gets covered just as simply: "Do they like my fruit? If customers cleared me out of bananas but I have apples left, should I abandon apples and specialize in bananas?"

- Leadership is getting people to focus on the important drivers of wealth generation: cash, velocity, and margins. The best leaders cut through the complexity of their businesses, and get their employees entirely focused on these fundamentals.

But do not be fooled by the brevity. This book is actually quite rigorous. Of course, you will still need spreadsheets and inventory management software and SAS to mine data in this increasingly complex world. Charan does not deny this, but cuts through the complexity so you can see how it all fits together. And that is business acumen, the knowledge and understanding of which will enrich any job you do.


Lean Six Sigma for Service : How to Use Lean Speed and Six Sigma Quality to Improve Services and Transactions
Lean Six Sigma for Service : How to Use Lean Speed and Six Sigma Quality to Improve Services and Transactions
by Michael L. George
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.21
132 used & new from $2.77

60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Michael George has opened my eyes, September 22, 2004
I have heard Six-Sigma discussed often, but truly thought it was something that applied to manufacturing only. Same with Lean: Kanban, Toyota, JIT. I am a manager in a professional services industry. So, outside of memorizing the theory for exams during B-School, I thought little more of Six-Sigma.

Michael George has opened my eyes. He points out (in a non-technical way) both the differences in Lean and Six Sigma, and how they complement each other. He does this through some description of the Lean and Six-Sigma techniques, and follows up with some revealing case studies, how Lean and Six-Sigma tools can apply to services.

Six-Sigma brings an awful lot to the table. Six-Sigma was the backbone of Jack Welch's eye-popping success at GE, shaving hundreds of millions off of the company's cost structure. A proscribed series of steps, Six-Sigma's customer focused methodology (DMAIC) allows the practitioner, generally referred to as Green or Black Belts, to rationally Define a problem, Measure it, Analyze the causes, make adjustments to Improve the problem, and ultimately Control the corrected process. In each of these steps, Six-Sigma deploys standard tools that help the practitioner ensure that processes are producing standardized outputs well within specs. The result, if implemented correctly, is higher quality output. Increased quality= less quality costs (scrap, customer returns) =increased margins.

Lean is largely managing processes to increase the velocity of them. Increased velocity means less work in process (WIP). Lean means determining which activities are value added, and which are not. Then, you get rid of the bathwater and keep the baby.

When the two methodologies are combined, you have greater velocity (product turns), less inventory in the pipeline and processes that build value for the customer (Lean Concepts). You also have measurable quality standards that are continually fine tuning the processes, honing in on fitting more and more perfectly the specs desired by consumers. This reduces quality costs dramatically (Six Sigma Concepts).

George follows up with some interesting case studies of how Black and Green Belts have worked to improve processes in Lockheed-Martin, Bank One and, most interesting of all, the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana (Yes, Virginia, if there is rationality in government, there just may be a Santa Claus!). I would have liked to see more of the technical aspects: A case study from the problem definition phase through control, how the various Lean and Six Sigma tools were applied instead of the macro-level explanations of before and after.

I liked the book well enough. It gave me an overview, and an idea of how to implement the tools. However, I would have appreciated some down and dirty, nuts and bolts how-to. After all, the book jacket promises to teach you how to shave dollars from the bottom line. Still, an invaluable, thought provoking read for any manager in a service industry. You may want to pick up "Business Process Mapping" by Jacka and Keller, and "Statistics for Six-Sigma Made Easy" by Brussee to familiarize yourself with the nuts and bolts of Six-Sigma Quality tools.


Fish! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results
Fish! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results
by Stephen C. Lundin
Edition: Hardcover
1108 used & new from $0.01

58 of 64 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I like the ideas, but not in a business book, March 18, 2004
I like having fun and being entertained, and I really liked the ideas in this book. But marketed as a business book?
Let me set some boudries, first of all, to show you how important I think the material is. If this was Doctor Suess- like book, marketed and written with my kids in mind, I would be cool: five stars easlily. If it was marketed as a self-help book for reframing your attitude, it would get four, maybe five stars. If it were a hippy/ new-age book about just being and enjoying life, five stars plus.
However, as a business book, it is pure fluff.
I was forced to watch this in a corporate setting. Instead of fostering honest, human fun amongst our workforce, it seemed like an invitation for many on the management staff to work on trivial activities. Using Covey's "Seven Habits" and "First Things First" language, they were spending their time in Quadrant 4 of the time management matrix (unimportant, not urgent), instead of the stewardship that comes from Quadrant 2 (important,not urgent).
And employees were ignored while these managers "played," bringing in megaphones and making silly videos. If you want to find out about how to create good customer service, try "Customers for Life," "Raving Fans," or "Hug Your Customers." If you want to motivate your workforce, "The Streetwise Guide to Motivating and Rewarding Your Employees," or a reprint of the HBR article by Herzberg, "Once Again, How do You Motivate Your Employees?" is an excellent place to start.
This book, from my experience, will likely lead to the denial of serious issues, which are actually a blast to tackle in my experience.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 13, 2012 11:40 AM PDT


Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading  Human Resources (8th Edition)
Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources (8th Edition)
by Paul Hersey
Edition: Paperback
111 used & new from $0.01

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Goes where few texts dare to go: the real-world, March 14, 2004
I recommend this to managers as much as students.
Sure, the price seems like a lot of cash to shell out at first. But trust me, it is worth it. I had to read it for a Management class, and it started of like a typical OB text, illustrating the history of management studies (Taylor to Maslow to Mayo to Likert to ...). Good stuff, but pretty dull. Then, Hersey et al went where most scholars, even the supposedly worldly MBA types, fear to tread: real-world application!
The text covers all of the material covered Blanchard's "One Minute Manager," "Putting the One Minute Manager to Work," and a shelf load of other books. It also does a great job introducing Blanchard and Hersey's Situational Leadership, where the manager matches leadership behavior to a report's ability level and motivation. This replaces "Leadership and the One Minute Manager," and delves much deeper into the topic.
Hersey et al also cover:
- Behavioral shaping, and positive and negative reinforcement quite nicely
- Communications skills necessary to lead reports
- Power building, and using effective power bases ...
- The list literally goes on and on.
I use the concepts I was first exposed to here day in and day out. They work. My OB professor told us that, if he would be limited to just one book on management, he would choose this one. And, five years later, I agree. I am very glad that I did not sell this book back to the campus bookstore. I consult the book at least once a week while pondering both thorny and maundane problems with my employees.
You see, Dr. Davis? Some of us do listen.


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