Quality Management Journal Book Reviews - January 2002 - ASQ

Quality Management Journal Book Reviews - January 2002


10-Minute Guide to Project Management.

Jeff Davidson. 2000. Indianapolis, Ind.: MacMillan. 182 pages.

Reviewed by: Pamela J. Read, St. Mary’s College of California

10-Minute Guide to Project Management is an informative and instructional book for project managers. It gives readers the essence of what they need to know to manage a project, whether they are new to project management or experienced in the process. The book covers every detail of project management from assembling a team, planning, watching the budget, which serves as a useful and necessary constraint, and reporting the results. Each chapter focuses on a variety of tasks, and offers basic information that should be considered or acted upon that will help the project manager achieve the targeted goal or objective. This book is for the busy professional, and it has been written as a quick reference guide. Each chapter contains a lesson that can be learned quickly and efficiently on a daily basis.

10-Minute Guide to Project Management
was written to help organize and facilitate project management, which can be complex and difficult to manage if not monitored closely. Project management is not new, but if a project is supposed to be successful then the process must be managed. This book offers great insight into defining what a project is, which helps undermine the magnitude of the change, problem, or issue at hand. Projects are described as a “series of related events” and “one event leads to another.”

The author believes that people-oriented project managers are better than task-oriented managers, because, as the author indicates, people are the most important aspect of any project. They represent a critical element in a successful project and offer many suggestions for working within a group or leading a team.

This book offers plain English definitions and cautions, and an easy roadmap that allows project managers to map out their projects. The roadmap includes project objectives, strategies, plans, methods, tools, resources, implementation, and control. These are all useful and insightful, as they provide the background for the details and strategies. The use of plain English and caution offers specific terminology for project language, while alerting the project manager to hazards, warnings, or threats that can ultimately place a project at risk.

The author, Jeff Davidson, is quite effective at explaining why it is important for project managers to understand the objectives that must be accomplished in a project. He also makes a point of alerting or highlighting why it is necessary for project managers to understand the background of the project being justified, including the politics, who the players are, and the roles they will play, and he is insistent that regular feedback is key, that keeping others informed is a prime directive, and that stakeholders should never be surprised.

The book offers additional working tools for project managers, including work breakdown structures (WBS), which depict the tasks that are necessary to achieve successful completion of the project. These are followed by Gantt charts, which enable the project manager to view start and stop times easily for project tasks, and finally, the PERT/CPT charts, which offer a degree of control that is essential for many projects. By explaining these components, explaining how they work, and why they are important, the project manager receives a clearly defined process that can then be implemented. The WBS should includes tasks that can be related directly to what needs to be accomplished, but caution is advised for having too many tasks, as this can lead to the focus being on details or activities instead of the outcome. The WBS helps develop the project into phases and reduces the chance that something will be missed.

This book offers some great suggestions for presenting and reporting project results, and includes suggestions for both formal and informal presentations, as well as some good professional instructional lessons for everyday communication, using e-mail, voice mail, fax, or other written communications. When reporting on a project, project managers are cautioned to be prepared, brief, and concise. The author further suggests some good professional tools and lessons for everyday communication and how to properly use e-mail, voice mail, faxes, memos, and notes as communication tools.

I would recommend this book to all project managers. It provides readers a plan for managing projects by being precise and organized. It can be used as a handy reference guide, and the illustrations for the WBS and Gantt charts were extremely helpful as a reference for the written material. The author is consistent and methodical in his presentation and guide to project management. The book fulfills its promise to be concise, brief, and easily understandable.

The Other 90%: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life.

Robert K. Cooper. 2001. New York: Crown Business. 256 pages.

Reviewed by Charles McGrue , University of Phoenix

In today’s society, everyone seems to be caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Instead of taking time to relax, too many people use that time to get more work done. Instead of spending that time with loved ones, too many people spend that time with work, getting ready for work, or finishing up work. Instead of investing time in finding new ways to relax, too many people invest time in work and other stressful environments.

The author, Robert Cooper, reflects upon different learnings throughout his lifetime and how what he has learned has helped him become a better person, and a more relaxed person. To emphasize what he has learned, he recounts incidents from time spent with his grandfathers and encounters from people he has met on his travels to other countries. After referencing each encounter, Cooper provides advice that readers should try in order to make themselves better people.

Both of Cooper’s grandfathers had great influence on his life. As Cooper writes of different events, he references how each of his grandfathers encouraged him to view the situation differently. For example, one time one of Cooper’s grandfathers hired some immigrant workers to do some yard work. None of the immigrants spoke English. While doing the work, Cooper was left to work alongside the immigrants and wound up in a predicament. The immigrants were in need of something, but because of the language barrier, Cooper’s response to the immigrants’ aggressive needs was to try and ignore them. His grandfather saw what was going on and came over to handle the situation. Cooper learned that there is more than one way to communicate. Therefore, if Cooper had used another means, such as hand gestures, he would have known that the immigrants wanted water.

In addition to his grandfathers, Cooper also learned from people he met on his travels. The people whom he spoke of learning from in his travels were the people from Tibet. One person in particular was an elderly man who had journeyed to the top of a mountain with Cooper and a Tibetan guide. Once at the top, Cooper learned a valuable lesson. Apparently the elderly Tibetan was a victim of a tragedy. The Red Army lined up his family and shot them—this made the Tibetan the sole survivor. Cooper was told the entire story of what had happened and then learned that when something of that nature happens, people have two options: continue to let the tragedy bother them or go on with life. Although the elder was full of grief, he decided that continuing with life was all he could do.

Cooper devotes several pages to notes and acknowledgments as he thanks his family and colleagues. Within these pages, he references where he got all of his material and allows for adequate accolades for each person who contributed to the book. Most of all, Cooper reconfirms what he has learned from his grandfathers and travels. He also states that everyone needs to take a break in life. By taking time out to take a break, we can ensure a more successful life.

Market Research Matters: Tools and Techniques for Aligning Your Business.

Robert Duboff and James Spaeth. 2000. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 320 pages.

Reviewed by Jason Regala, University of Phoenix

Market research has been explored tirelessly ever since the introduction of a market system. The earliest salespeople, who may have been tribesmen in the Sahara Desert in search of goods to sell, probably comprehended the basic knowledge of market research. Today, market research has become so well defined and studied that marketers are thinking of even more ingenious methods of applying market research. One such examination, Market Research Matters, explores the systematic relationship between market research and business success. Robert Duboff, director of National Marketing for Ernst & Young and former vice president of Mercer Management Consulting, comes together with Jim Spaeth, the president of the Advertising Research Foundation, to understand marketing in a progressive sense.

Market Research Matters focuses on the premise that market research contributes to a significant portion of business success. A lack of market research, or undirected research, can lead a company to failure. Duboff and Spaeth emphasize that market research directs forward movement, but at the same time, reinforcing past research must be done. The authors suggest that a proactive approach, in addition to proper market research, could benefit a business in what they term “strategic anticipation.” Their research touches upon some of the tools market researchers could use to stimulate and position their companies ahead of their competitors.

To understand why market research is such a necessity, marketers must understand the history of their businesses. Too many times companies are focused on what the company is doing now or what will be happening in the immediate future. Market Research Matters emphasizes that marketers need to reflect on the past to get a proper mindset for the future. Duboff and Spaeth imply that revolutions in product development, such as burglar alarms and cable TV, were impossible decades ago. At the same time, futurists miscalculated revolutions in technology in industries, such as the Internet, where businesses are now suffering from the dot-com bust. The past can certainly aid in a company’s decision-making, but the current research allows companies to position themselves above their competitors.

Analyzing the consumer is the initial tool that Market Research Matters focuses on in developing strategic anticipation. According to Duboff and Spaeth, the buyer’s habits and interests need to be researched in various methods. Learning from successful companies is another technique to gain insight on how to serve customers. Once the research has been completed, developing a method of implementing strategic anticipation is the next course of action. Expectedly, Duboff and Spaeth emphasize the anticipation in their term “strategic anticipation.” Marketers learn to foresee the dynamic nature of business in ways like customer priorities, spending, and company positioning. Throughout their book, the authors touch upon numerous case analyses’ to illustrate their points. In one chapter, Duboff and Spaeth explore Coca-Cola’s lack of future planning in creating New Coke. In fact, the problem with Coke was that its aging packaging was more problematic than the flavor. The assumptions that were made in Coca-Cola’s situation, and other businesses, were based from poor anticipation of the needs and wants of the consumer. However, market research does not stop at researching the past and present.

Market Research Matters further touches upon research to keep businesses ahead of their competition. Product branding is a notion that Duboff and Spaeth highlight in the book. Developing a product that separates itself from others signifies an image to consumers regarding quality and value. A product that has physical and qualitative attributes can differentiate itself from other products. Nonetheless, it is the whole package of consumer beliefs, perceived differentiation, and consumer loyalty that signifies brand loyalty. Once the brand becomes established, research needs to be done to turn ordinary customers into loyal customers. The authors explore this concept with even more detail, but simply put, attracting customers is not clear-cut. The market researcher must evaluate and test Duboff’s concepts of customer loyalty. Customer loyalty is certainly an area that small and large businesses alike aim to succeed in. However, one of the most profound parts of Market Research Matters focuses on employee retention. Employee satisfaction can tell a great deal of how a company performs. Without quality employees, companies waste valuable time and money in more ways than one. Recruiting, training, and the initial investment of valued employees are impossible to quantify, but the numbers are significant. Furthermore, businesses today are focusing on becoming more customer-oriented. A labor force that is customer-service oriented takes time to develop and is not easily replaced. To keep a business ahead of its competition and in the mindset of strategic anticipation, companies must research product branding, customer loyalty, and employee retention.

Market Research Matters does what it is supposed to do—educate readers as to the means of applying market research to within and outside the company. This book is somewhat dry, but it does offer some creative means of applying strategic anticipation to a market researcher’s action plan. However, Market Research Matters suffers from the same plague that self-help books often share. By bulleting key ideas and terms throughout the book, the authors imply that there is a secret solution to becoming what the reader is not. It would be great if it were that easy.

The Arts of Leadership.

Keith Grint. 2001. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. 452 pages.

Reviewed by Kathleen English, University of Phoenix

Leadership is still much discussed, studied, and sought after, even though we now live in supposedly more democratic times with flatter organizations and empowered employees.

But how can we best understand leadership? Are leaders born or are they made? Do they have particular traits or is everyone a potential leader? Do the requirements for leadership change over time or are there timeless patterns? Do traditional approaches help us pick and develop leaders or are there alternative ways that advance our understanding?

In this book, Keith Grint, who has been studying and teaching leadership for more than a decade, investigates the notion of leadership in a series of historical case studies and rich essay portraits of some of the most famous, and infamous, leaders, such as Florence Nightingale, Richard Branson, Horatio Nelson, Martin Luther King, Henry Ford, Adolph Hitler, and so on.

Grint’s main purpose in writing this book is to share with his readers the limits of leadership, in particular, the capacity of leaders to make mistakes. In effect, for organizations to succeed, the followers must play their part and cannot rely upon the leader or leaders to secure success alone, because that success is a social and not an individual achievement and because followers carry the responsibility of compensating for leaders’ errors. This, he says, is one of the greatest ironies of leadership, for, while we traditionally look to leaders to solve problems, it would seem that leaders are most likely to be successful when they reflect the problem straight back to where they have to be solved—at the feet of the followers.

The first part of the book considers four sets of parallel cases where leadership appears to be the cause of the success and failure. The second part of book takes the four critical issues arising from these parallel cases (identity, strategic vision, organizational tactics, and persuasive communication) and explores them in detail.

One reason why we have such difficulty explaining and enhancing leadership, Grint argues, is because we often adopt perspectives and models that obscure rather than illuminate the issues involved. The reliance upon traditional scientific analysis has not provided the anticipated advances in our understanding, because leadership is more fruitfully considered as an art, or more exactly, as an array of arts, rather than as a science.

At the beginning of the book, Grint says that before he began to study leadership seriously, his knowledge of it was complete. He knew basically all there was to know, and he had already spent more than a decade practicing it as a senior representative of a trade union in England. He said he should have stopped then because ever since that time, his understanding has decreased in direct proportion to his increased knowledge. In effect, the more he reads, the less he understands. This is exactly what I get from the book.

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