Appreciative Inquiry: Change at the Speed of the Imagination
Jane Magruder Watkins and Bernard J. Mohr, Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 350 Sansome St., 5th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94104-1342, 2001, 75 pp., $29.95 (book).
This book has its origins in the organizational development field. It sets forth a method for rejuvenating organizations and setting goals for them. The book presents the definition of appreciative inquiry (the authors call it AI) in the first chapter and then elucidates its five core processes. Examples of successes in several organizations using the paradigm are given.
The authors advocate use of the system described in the book for improving the effectiveness of organizations. Steps for achieving improvement through appreciative inquiry are described in generic terms, unfortunately with little detail to permit emulation of the system.
As an engineer with an electronic and information systems background, I have difficulty with the acronym AI, which stands for artificial intelligence in my community. I was not convinced that yet another organizational improvement system would improve on the existing systems for team building.
For managers who wish to try a new system, one that has apparently been successfully applied by the authors and their colleagues, this book provides a basic description of the appreciative inquiry. However, research in greater depth is required to obtain the detail necessary to apply the system. Experienced quality control professionals are unlikely to embrace this system for organizational development over those mentioned earlier that have proven success records.
William F. Foster
Casewise Corporate Modeler 2000
Casewise, 1601 Trapelo Rd., Waltham, MA 02451, 2000, $3,500-$7,500 (software).
Casewise Corporate Modeler 2000 is a unique modeling and simulation tool for high-level corporate planners or operators. Its object repository, which diagrams objects between the various graphical views, enables organizations to adopt a uniform, consistent and labor saving method of sharing data and assumptions.
The modeler requires intimate knowledge of the processes to be modeled and must be able to transfer that knowledge to the database of the modeling tools. With this understanding, you need to consider the following to evaluate the modeling software:
1. Does the software facilitate easy transfer of human knowledge of the process or system into the modeler's database?
2. Does the software facilitate easy simulation of the processes and provide a reliable, easy interpretation of the output for decision making?
As a model builder, Casewise receives high marks for the ease with which it transfers knowledge to the modeling database reliably and consistently through the object repository. The modeler does provide some basic simulation functionalities, such as user defined probability functions and statistical reports of the outcomes. However, other modelers offer more advanced process optimizing features for optimum output concerning which factor will impact the performance of the process and why.
Overall, Casewise Corporate Modeler 2000 is a discrete event modeling software program especially suitable for collaborated modeling activities.
Shin Ta Liu
Design of Experiments Using The Taguchi Approach
Ranjit K. Roy, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 605 Third Ave., New York, NY 10158-0012, 2001, 538 pp., $99 (book).
This is one of the few books I have read that successfully covers the subject of design of experiments in a way that allows a reader with a limited background in mathematics to understand the subject.
The Taguchi approach in design of experiments is covered logically in 16 steps. The first three steps introduce the concept of design of experiments in general and the Taguchi method. Steps 4 through 14 cover various experimental designs using orthogonal arrays. Step 15 outlines the method for effective experiment preparation and planning. The book ends with case studies.
The review questions and the exercises at the end of the chapters help readers assess their understanding of the subject covered.
Two drawbacks of the book are the numerous typographical errors that should have been discovered and corrected before the book was published and the fact that the case studies in step 16 exclusively cover auto industry related products.
ABS QE Inc.
The Consultant's Quick Start Guide: An Action Plan for Your First Year in Business
Elaine Biech, Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 350 Sansome St., 5th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94104-1342, 2001, 236 pp., $19.95 (book).
This book is intended for professionals interested in establishing their own consulting practices and focuses on a first-year action plan.
The author's intent is to assist you in setting up a business blueprint, by using her own professional experiences, key questions as to your motivation in pursuing a consulting career and various worksheets and matrices. The exercises using these aids are centered around determining whether or not consulting is the business for you, addressing business structures and revenue issues, setting up an office, making the transition from an internal job to the world of consulting and offering pointers on surviving your first year on your own.
While none of the information provided is unique or new, the book's format forces you to carefully analyze the key issues you would face in the world of self-employment.
Linda C. Travis
Simi Valley, CA
The New Dynamic Project Management: Winning Through Competitive Advantage, Second Edition
Deborah S. Kezsbom and Katherine A. Edward, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 605 Third Ave., New York, NY 10158-0012, 2001, 574 pp., $89.95 (book).
Kezsbom and Edward have produced an easy to understand manual, bridging the gap between theory and tools for application. They have wisely chosen to address the softer side of project management, keeping it in balance with the technical side.
Project planning is addressed through the perspective of today's imperative to reduce cycle times. Conflict identification and management, topics that usually receive little or no attention in project management writings, receive meaningful coverage in this book. Other people oriented topics include organizational and interpersonal communications, negotiation, and project team formation and performance. How quality and project management are integrated is supported with advice from the gurus.
A software project management thread is visible but not predominant.
The author's strategic positioning of the softer elements of project planning and management with the time-honored tools of the project management profession provides a balanced approach to the work of the project manager. Diagrams, tables, case studies and references, along with a glossary and exercises, round out the book for both the serious student and project manager seeking knowledge.
This book is a project planning and management guide for the new millennium. Add it to your library of practical how-to books.
Old Saybrook, CT
The #1 Guide to Performance Appraisals: Doing It Right!
James E. Neal Jr., Neal Publications Inc., 127 W. Indiana Ave., Perrysburg, OH 43551, 2001, 156 pp., $9.95 (book).
Without a doubt, performance appraisals must be one of the most perplexing responsibilities faced by management. The #1 Guide to Performance Appraisals: Doing It Right! is a succinct guide on how to handle this task. Organizing the book around practical, realistic principles that form the basic foundation of this process in any organization, Neal has created an easy to use guide that is tailor-made for front-line managers struggling with the emotional challenges that accompany their duty to appraise the performance of their employees.
Neal presents 17 key points to help companies develop, complete and administer their performance appraisal systems. The main points are highlighted with a key symbol, and these points are nicely summarized at the end of the book. The book covers important issues including designing the appraisal form, what and when to evaluate, appraisal interviews, self-appraisals, coaching performance, defining job descriptions, the legal truth about appraisals and the downfalls of appraisals if used improperly.
While some may quibble with the author's advice that the performance appraisal interview should occur separately from the salary review, most will agree with his point that a performance appraisal process is far more important to a company than merely to serve as job security for employees.
I highly recommend this book for all businesses, especially small to medium-sized companies.
The E-Aligned Enterprise, Jac Fitz-enz, Amacom, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, 2001, 265 pp., $27.95 (book).
The Forward-Focused Organization, Stephen C. Harper, Amacom, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, 2001, 259 pp., $27.95 (book).
The Idea Generator: Quick and Easy Kaizen, Bunji Tozawa and Norman Bodek, Perfect Customer Service Inc., 809 SE 73rd Ave., Vancouver, WA 98664, 2001, 334 pp., $47.52 (book).
The ISO 9000 Quality System: Applications in Food and Technology, Debby L. Newslow, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 605 Third Ave., New York, NY 10158, 2001, 241 pp., $79.95 (book).
The Perfect Engine: How To Win in the New Demand Economy by Building to Order With Fewer Resources, Anand Sharma and Patricia E. Moody, The Free Press, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020, 2001, 304 pp., $30 (book).
The Pfeiffer Book of Successful Team-Building Tools, Elaine Biech, ed., Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 350 Sansome St., 5th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94104-1342, 2001, 424 pp., $29.95 (book).
The TL 9000 Guide for Auditors, Mark Kempf, ASQ Quality Press, 600 N. Plankinton Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53203, 2001, 130 pp., $36 member, $45 list (book).