Quality Management Journal Book Reviews - April 2001 - ASQ

Quality Management Journal Book Reviews - April 2001


The Spirit of Leadership: Liberating the Leader in Each of Us

Harrison Owen. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 1999. 156 pages

Reviewed by Felicitas Gonzalez Fajardo, Holy Rosary School, Antioch, California

Harrison Owen, an Episcopalian priest and business entrepreneur, has consulted with major corporate leaders and managers worldwide on his theory of Open Space Technology, teaching self-organization to deal effectively with complex issues in a very short time (p. 10). He originally wrote The Spirit of Leadership in 1989 and published it with limited circulation in 1990. Since the book’s theme could be construed as “spirit” in a religious sense, the business community did not accept this philosophical way of leading and managing change within its organizations. However, the 21st century has emerged as a new time, where leadership “as it used to be is no longer appropriate” (p. 2). Management books with a humanistic tone are emerging on the market. Berrett-Koehler Publishers has broadened this particular book’s circulation to the business community in a time when organizations have embraced the concept of spirit and the importance spirit has within the organization in order to ensure successful growth in the midst of change.

To gain an understanding of what spirit is and how it applies to management, Owen defines the change in leadership skills. Leadership is undergoing a transformation as a “collective and constantly redistributed function” (p. 4). Reorganization–mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, and redirection (p. 20)–is occurring, causing a disorderly pattern or chaos. In the past, leadership needed to establish strategic action plans to fix the chaos. Now, the leadership has a new role in the organization: “to engage in the quest...for the realization of human potential” (p. 4). The goal of leadership is to heighten the quality of the journey instead of establishing a perfect state (p. 4). Leadership as command and control is defeated by chaotic conditions (p. 22), and the new mantra is “get up to speed, give up on the details, go with the flow” (p. 23).

Leadership and informal organizing should be about passion, commitment, and purpose instead of money and power (p. 30). Owen describes new rules for leadership: Whoever has the ball is the leader (because it is not possible to lead all the time); never oppose force with force (create a strategy that plays to weak points); play the whole field (create open space to reveal a path); cooperate in order to compete (team playing); and honor the opposition (a desire to compete but with respect) (pp. 31-32).

Spirit is the profound connection between organizations and families, nations and businesses. Inspiration means to be inspirited (p. 7). Owen capitalizes on the spirit of leadership with Eastern thinking where the effort is to move toward alignment, seeking to entrust the flow and move with it, versus Western thinking where the effort is to control and channel (p. 45). He emphasizes the yin and yang leadership with balance and appropriateness. “Leadership that perceives order (cosmos) as its mission, and disorder (chaos) as the enemy will totally miss the opportunities present when the established forms and structures fall away, allowing for the creation of new and more appropriate ones” (p. 47).

Spirit is a critical element of any organization (p. 52). In the height of chaos, leadership must allow for the spirit of the organization to move the change to a positive atmosphere. Owen illustrates four principles of spirit in the midst of chaos (p. 68).

  1. Whoever comes are the right people (allow for personal choice, an invitation to fulfillment).
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened (be prepared to be surprised, end results that are planned limit).
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time (create your own time as time occurs in context of vision).
  4. When it’s over, it’s over (realize that visions have a life span, as spirit is lost, it can also be renewed or sustained).

Owen also defines the functions of leadership that promote spirit (p. 58).

  • To evoke spirit with vision
  • To grow spirit with collective storytelling
  • To sustain spirit with structure
  • To comfort spirit at the end
  • To revive spirit when grief works

The first function of leadership, evoking spirit with vision, is to establish a vision statement that is more than a statement on a wall. The vision must be big, attractive, and doable. In other words, the vision must initiate a quest toward the fulfillment of the participants, have an appealing direction for growth, and must be technically feasible to do (pp. 66-67).

The second function, grow spirit with storytelling, is an organizational mythology (p. 71), the culture of the organization. Conversations invoke feelings, and stories are a powerful element of the organizational life (p. 74).

The third function, sustaining spirit with structure, is the organizational chart that is round, flat, and participatory versus a steeply ranked hierarchical structure (p. 84). Owen tells the story of the lawn and the paths from building to building in a college campus to illustrate the flow of structure. After the area was landscaped with sod, a path was established by the natural flow of the students (p. 85). The point is that growing structure is a process that is not imposed arbitrarily (p. 99).

The fourth function, comforting spirit, is the reality that endings are necessary precursors to new beginnings (p. 112). Change is a rapid occurrence. It is no longer the norm to stay loyal to an organization for 20+ years (p. 113). Leaders must provide for good endings with the knowledge that new recruits mean new ideas and new approaches (p. 113).

The final function of leadership, raising spirit, knows when stress levels increase and an activity is chaotic and random (p. 116). Owen points out that everyone has the potential to be the leader in a given situation. It is capitalizing on the process as individuals to evolve and transform within the organization. It knows when there is an end to an event, preparing for a new beginning (p. 121). Raising spirit includes providing the opportunities and space to allow for choices (p. 127).

The Spirit of Leadership, Liberating the Leader in Each of Us provides a meaningful guide to everyone willing to take ownership of his or her situation and contribute to an organization. Employee morale can be defined as the spirit of an organization. When spirit is up, good things happen and when it is not, no amount of number crunching will change the result (p. 133). Leadership could be either nature or nurture. The four elements of spirit are learning, experiencing, practicing, and leading (p. 135). Organizations would do well by heeding this new philosophical way of managing, as people in chaotic, changing environments are in need of having “meaning” in their contribution. Owen writes (p. 135),

Spirit is the point of interconnection between us in our leadership mode and our fellows. It is through our spirit that we participate in the realm of spirit. All have the opportunity but also the responsibility to lead. It comes with our humanity.

Project Management Practitioner’s Handbook

Ralph L. Kliem and Irwin S. Ludin. 1998. New York: AMACOM. 242 pages

Reviewed by Kris A. Kunkle-Gaiero, Saint Mary’s College of California

The Project Management Practitioner’s Handbook can be described as a comprehensive how-to guide on the topic of project management. The authors used a case study of a very large wedding project by an organization called Great Weddings, Inc. (GWI) in New York City, to serve as the theme of the handbook. The book is broken down into three main parts: “Part I: An Overview of Projects and Their Effective and Successful Management”; “Part II: The Basic Functions of Project Management”; and “Part III: Project Management Enhancement.” In addition, the end of most chapters has a list of questions that managers can use to administrate their own project.

Part I serves to introduce and define the concept and necessity of project management. The authors provide a general overview of the phases of project management, such as developing a concept, formulating plans, implementing plans, installing plans, and finally, sustaining plans. Kliem and Ludin also discuss the causes of success and failure of a project.

The first part also introduces readers to the theme project, a wedding in Naples. Topics such as the organizational structure and the project team selection process are discussed. In addition, the justification for choosing a matrix structure versus a task force structure in this particular situation is also discussed. Two examples of questions listed at the end of chapter 2 include: What type of organizational structure does your project have? and What soft skills will you need to lead your project?

In “Part II: The Basic Functions of Project Management,” the authors cover the framing and fleshing components of a project. According to Kliem and Ludin, projects, like organizations, need to begin with a vision statement that will serve to engender a commitment from the project team. From there, the authors describe how projects are further defined through the use of a statement of work. In addition, Kliem and Ludin discuss the methods of breaking down each project activity, estimating time, and scheduling and allocating resources. Furthermore, the topics of budget development, documentation, tracking, monitoring, and managing of changes are covered.

Finally, in “Part III: Project Management and Enhancement,” the authors discuss how the use of project software such as Microsoft Project for Windows and Project Scheduler 7 for Windows can be used to cover many tasks necessary to administer a project. In addition, risk management software such as Rank-It and Total Risk is also discussed. Other project enhancement tools covered in the book include the development of a Web site, effectively using e-mail, and videoconferencing.

This book is recommended reading because it takes what seems to be an unfathomable task and breaks it down into small, manageable pieces with built-in checks and balances, contingency plans, and methods of documentation. These can be referenced when future projects are assigned.

The Smart Way to Buy Information Technology: How to Maximize Value and Avoid Costly Pitfalls

Brad L. Peterson and Diane M. Carco. 1998. New York: AMACOM. 253 pages

Reviewed by William A. Evans, Saint Mary’s College of California

This book was written as a basic how-to guideline for companies and individuals needing to purchase information technology (IT). The book starts with clearly identifying the potential pitfalls of buying the wrong technology–how vendors use their knowledge, and the knowledge of the technology people they deal with, to full advantage in closing the deal. The authors categorize the lovers of technology as “technophilias.”

These individuals are very bright, love challenges, yet have little understanding of the big picture and how the technology being purchased will affect the company. Some of the negative effects include the failure to integrate systems; the cost of acquisition is small compared to implementation; and limited effective use by those involved in the process. The book points out that the desire for more technology, power, speed, and capabilities often outweighs the practical and business applications. These mistakes in technology purchasing can cost millions of dollars and perhaps even bring down the company that acquires them.

Vendor ploys, such as confusing the customer or discussing only part of the real costs of the subject technology, are revealed. This book warns buyers that caveat emptor is still in effect in the world of technology. Some of these ploys include only discussing the costs of the software or systems, and not bringing up the soft dollars of training, time to implement, or lost productivity during the transition.

The second part of the book acknowledges the fact that a company needs to be aware of, and plan for, a successful technology acquisition. Buyers need to be aware of what the real benefits are, all the costs involved, the types of contracts to be used, and a spin of looking at IT as a business decision-making process. Buyers cannot get caught up in being on the cutting edge of this great new tool. “A new paradigm for IT acquisitions is emerging,” and it brings together the many skills of the organization to accomplish the IT analysis and purchase. The book points out that when a company combines technical, financial,
negotiating, and administrative powers into a single dynamic process the opportunities exist to save 10 percent to 30 percent on IT acquisition costs while increasing the value of the IT purchased.

This is a well-thought-out, simplified approach to dealing with a very costly and important area for most companies. The breakdown of functions, roles, and potential pitfalls is very helpful in having a clear picture of the IT world. The writing style is easy and to the point. This book would likely help most businesspeople to understand both the buying and selling side of IT. Bigger, better, and faster can be traps for the unaware. The adage “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is” comes to mind. IT is a complex product or service; however, it needs to be examined in much the same way as other important purchases for the company. The book does a good job of disclosing the types of techniques used by many vendors to take advantage of potential clients. Negotiating and solid contracts need to be in place to make sure the company is receiving all that it expected, and if not, then there needs to be a manner in which this failure can be corrected.

Total Improvement Management: The Next Generation in Performance Improvement

H. James Harrington with James S. Harrington. 1995. San Francisco: McGraw-Hill, Inc. 482 pages

Reviewed by Teri McDonald, St. Mary’s College of California

In the Milky Way galaxy of organizations, there are those businesses that shine the brightest. What sets these organizations apart from the others? Total Improvement Management suggests that each of the five “points” on these “stars” represents a business methodology. These are total quality management (TQM), total productivity management (TPM), total cost management (TCM), total resource management (TRM), and total technology management (TTM). The organizations are in constant restructuring to maintain or attain their place in the stratosphere. What must take place is a blending of the methodologies that is right for the individual organization; the underlying premise is that not one methodology will solve all of an organization’s problems. This new restructuring will have this “star” emerge even brighter and larger as it is redefined under an advanced methodology known as total improvement management (TIM).

The focus of the book is to define each of the methodologies, and to point out how each one should play an integral part in the organization in order for improvements to really be successful. Total cost management analyzes every activity in the financial process to determine if the activity adds value or not. If the activity does not add value, then positive steps are taken to eliminate it. Improving productivity by automating time-consuming, repetitive activities and eliminating waste is the focus of total productivity management. The term total quality management was actually introduced by the U.S. Department of Defense. The DoD was so impressed with Japan’s post-World War II manufacturing practices that the term was coined and it became the popular thing to do. However, quality is rather subjective–organizations and customers know what it is–yet there is no one set definition. Total resource management developed as a result of watching the major gains that Japan made utilizing its resources of inventory, floor space, and employees. TRM focuses on education and training to empower employees. The concept of total technology management developed out of the need to compete in the international area. It is crucial to reduce the time it takes to develop a new product and bring it to market.

Of course, each organization is faced with the same dilemma–how to distribute the limited resources among these various essential methodologies. In planning the organization’s improvements each of the methodologies must be analyzed using five basic activities: (1) top management involvement, (2) team problem solving, (3) process improvement methods, (4) strategic planning, and (5) education.

My focus in reading this book was to concentrate on human resource methodology. The authors described the importance of the workplace environment, and the effect it has on an employee. The Harringtons believe it is vital for each organization to perform self-audits and to constantly strive to maintain a positive atmosphere for its work force. Tools such as internal and external training, a career center for employees, and educational opportunities to enhance skills and self-worth, are major steps toward building a motivated and loyal work force.

Training can take place in formal groups or as individual participants. Internal training should be a combination of on-the-job training and problem-solving training. Ideally, an organization will compensate employees for some, if not all, of the tuition costs when they attend formal education classes on their own time that helps them to prepare for potential job opportunities within the organization. Similarly, employees who want careers within the organization need to be willing to invest their own time preparing themselves to be competitive for a desired career opportunity.

Another tool that is a valuable asset for an employee is an individual performance plan. This is developed by employees and either their manager or career councilor. It allows employees to focus on the future and where they want their career to go. This plan is always customized to the individual. A career center can assist employees in developing ideas and directions by administering and analyzing self-assessment tests.

Since this book was written in 1995 the examples used when relating to the term “currently” are outdated. The Harringtons definitely feel that technology has made an incredible impact. Internet technology has provided easy access to information. The authors subscribe to the belief that knowledge is power. Individuals must be self-motivated to enhance their skills set and knowledge base, which will help them excel as employees. An organization, in turn, must recognize that employees who excel will result in an organization that excels. It’s an incredible partnership!

The Denny’s Story: How a Company in Crisis Resurrected Its Good Name and Reputation

Jim Adamson and Robert J. McNatt, with contributions by Rosemary Bray McNatt and Robert F. McNatt. 2000. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 224 pages

Reviewed By Kristin Lacriola, Saint Mary’s College of California

In the early 1990s, the Denny’s restaurant chain was faced with charges of racial discrimination that seriously damaged its wholesome, good-natured image. There were accounts of discrimination being brought forward as African-American customers were denied certain services or were asked to prepay before eating. As these stories came to light, many other customer complaints seemed to come out of the woodwork as well. In 1994, Denny’s eventually settled two class-action lawsuits for $54 million, which began to change the face of how Denny’s was perceived by the public.

In the face of all the public scrutiny, Jim Adamson came onboard as the new CEO of Adventica, Denny’s parent company. Formerly the CEO of Burger King, he was credited with the cultural advancement of minority groups as employees and owners of the Burger King franchise. He decided to take on this same task as the CEO of Denny’s. Adamson made diversity central to the company culture. He instituted a training program that emphasized the recognition and understanding of cultural difference among people. Each employee from the top down, including franchise owners, is required to receive this training within 90 days of employment.

What it took to turn the company around was many hours of hard work. It was time to evaluate what could and should be improved. Jim Adamson was able to bring on key people from his affiliation with Burger King to carry out his mission to create a culturally diverse, fair work environment, and, of course, a profitable company. The modern programs, willingness to take risks, and a commitment to do what the company believed in proved to be the driving force behind the new company.

The Denny’s Story is the real-life account of how a company was able to change the negative perception it battled during the 1990s and rebuild its customers’ trust. Adamson discusses the approach he took to change the way Denny’s did business in order to save itself from both a public relations and a financial nightmare. He provides, in an extremely easy-to-read format, how he and his team accomplished the goals they set in 1995. The reader leaves with a greater understanding of how the business world works, the importance of altering management style, how to build a sense of unity among employees, and the ability to become a profitable company by utilizing culturally diverse resources.

Today, the restaurant chain is not only profitable but, for the past two years, it has been named by Fortune magazine as one of the 10 best companies for minorities to work for. It has been reported that about one-fifth of its supplies are provided by minority contractors, while more than one-third of its franchised restaurants are owned by people of color. The Denny’s Story is an interesting look at how a company can be resurrected from the dead and transformed into a successful corporation that one cannot help but admire. The changes Adamson and his team implemented have changed the face of how they do business and will continue to do so in the future.

Lightning in a Bottle: Proven Lessons for Leading Change

David H. Baum. 2000. Chicago: Dearborn Trade. 213 pages

Reviewed by John Hurd, Saint Mary’s College of California

Lightning in a Bottle: Proven Lessons for Leading Change is intended to assist readers in understanding the finer points of change management. The book is written so that readers are exposed to short and concrete concepts that are instrumental in making a change effort successful.

This book is organized so that readers can begin anywhere in it. There are more than 65 chapters, with each one discussing a concept of change management. Most of the ideas and concepts are derived from Baum’s personal experiences. Some chapters consist of Baum’s reflections of what he has learned and how readers can learn from his successes and failures. Other chapters are case studies where Baum walks through a situation and how the subject company or organization dealt with the situation.

Each chapter is short and to the point. Readers are able to quickly get Baum’s point. His writing style is succinct in that he desires the book to be a quick read. There is a lot of humor in the book especially with regard to Baum’s experiences and how he handled difficult situations.

Baum takes every opportunity to convince readers that change management can be very successful. While he admits that change is always difficult, and often met with resistance, he illustrates ways to implement change successfully. Baum knows that no one will be able to use all of this information in every situation. He takes the time to point out that readers should use his book as a reference. Thus, readers can review the necessary information to fine-tune their change management system.

Baum’s writing style kept me entertained and interested. Many of the topics covered hit close to home. I found myself recalling how I had experienced many of the same things Baum was mentioning while trying to develop and implement the department’s strategic plan.

If I had read this book prior to starting the strategic planning process, I could have anticipated many of the hurdles and roadblocks encountered during the project. It was comforting to learn that many organizations have experienced the same frustrations while implementing change. In future times of change I will be referring to Baum’s book for tips and guidance.

Action Management: Practical Strategies for Making Your Corporate Transformation a Success

Stephan Redwood, Charles Goldwasser, and Simon Street. 1999. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 234 pages

Reviewed by Michael J. Uhlman, St. Mary’s College of California

The book is a guide to implementing strategic planning action plans. The basis is the organizations that Redwood, Goldwasser, and Street have consulted with in the international business arena. The central theme evolves around the concept that we cannot manage change, but we can manage our actions, hence the title Action Management. This idea is that any project or initiative can be designed around the concept of improving business performance.

The management action steps start with being called to action and then the actual actions companies implement. The suggestions offered by the authors are posed as challenges. The action steps the authors outline are to: plan, allocate, lead, strengthen, mobilize, clarify, cultivate, integrate, wire, and reenergize for action.

The examples offered throughout the book have practical learning experiences that have been proven effective. The integration of business practices across international borders and experience provide proven methods of implementation. The types of industries range from the financial sector, industrial manufacturers, and computer technology to catering operations. It becomes clear how various cultural tendencies, both individually and professionally, mesh through clear communication and acceptance of cultural diversity.

One example is Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., the motorcycle manufacturer. The employees here prefer the separation of management from employees. Action is from the top, down. The company has several divisions with small groups that coordinate training and learning for the whole organization. The constant change is met with retraining and education; employees are never fired or laid off. The annual pay raise is expected, and loyalty is par for the course.

Redwood, Goldwasser, and Street’s book also has worksheets and exercises to evaluate action plans for effectiveness. The integration of these exercises provides measurable scales for performance throughout the action plans. The book uses sports references for identifying the type of action(s) companies will incorporate. The sprint, high jump, decathlon, and marathon are the classifications referenced.

The book is practical for those who prefer reference material integrated throughout to provide examples. The authors do not appear to be biased in their assessments. The complexity of actions and the reengineering of middle management and action management plans are easy to comprehend, and could be effective tools for middle managers trying to implement action plans.


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