Leading Peak Performance

Stephen Hacker and Marvin Washington, ASQ Quality Press, 2007, 128 pp., $31.50 list, $18.90 member (book).

On the plains of Africa, the cheetah is the fastest, and the lion is the strongest. In this competitive environment, however, the African wild dogs are the most successful hunters. Packs of wild dogs are able to successfully kill prey that is larger and stronger than the individual dogs. The authors describe the dynamics in the pack that contribute to this success:

  • Pack leadership.
  • Pack vision.
  • Individual contribution.
  • Tenacity.

To illustrate how wild dog behaviors can be employed to achieve success in human endeavors, the authors use case studies on topics ranging from explorers of Antarctica to basketball teams. They provide evidence that creating a team of empowered individuals with a shared vision is an organizational model with great potential for success.

The authors describe the components of the transformational leadership model and the skills required of a transformational leader to create a “wild dog” culture within an organization. They touch lightly on the subject of personal and organizational transformation; however, more information is available from the numerous books and articles on this subject written by Hacker.

This book presents a strong case for transforming organizations into cohesive packs and will whet the reader’s appetite for more information on the transformation process. It shows how a team of empowered individuals who support one another and are aligned to achieve the group goal can become a powerful force on the African plain or in the modern marketplace.

Reviewed by Rich Anderson
Tucson, AZ

Get There Early

Bob Johansen, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007, 258 pp., $27.95 (book).

In this offering, the author illustrates how we live in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, and then shows how to deal with the difficulties of VUCA by using foresight, insight and action to develop vision, understanding, clarity and agility.

The first part of the cycle as outlined by Johansen is to forecast meaningful scenarios that could occur in the next 10 years. The second step is to make sense of the dilemmas identified, and the third is to construct positive responses to address them. The goal of the sequence is not necessarily to be correct, but to enable better decision making.

This book provides an eye-opening look at the future of any organization. The pace of change is rapid and accelerating. Knowing which trends to pay attention to or respond to is obviously an advantage. Anyone with planning responsibilities, especially long range, should read this book while keeping in mind that quick realization will be difficult. The techniques provided take practice, experience and discipline to achieve meaningful results.

To get started, a chart provided on the inside of the book jacket illustrates the Institute for the Future’s forecast for the next decade, which includes the driving forces affecting people, practices, markets and places. The author also provides excellent notations, references, bibliographies and indexes to help readers assimilate the material. Stories and simulations play a large part of the assessment and validation processes, and most of the outcomes are vague and uncomfortable. Many organizations are not prepared to deal with such haziness.

Since it is VUCA that is being addressed, there are no definitive recommendations or prescriptions for how to reach or recognize an acceptable conclusion. In fact, the last chapter is composed entirely of “Hints and Hows” that facilitate the journey and doesn’t deal with how to recognize the best result. Still, the information presented in this book must be considered in any attempt to improve readiness for the future.

Reviewed by Marc A. Feldman
Solvay Chemicals
Houston, TX

The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria

Denis Leonard and Mac McGuire, ASQ Quality Press, 2007, 120 pp., $29.40 list, $16.80 member (book).

As the title suggests, Leonard and McGuire have produced a book aimed at CEOs and senior executives who are interested in pursuing the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria. But even if you’re not a CEO and merely need to understand what Baldrige is, the benefits of the criteria, the requirements and the resource commitments, this is a good place to start.

The book begins with a Baldrige model overview, as well as a description and discussion of the model’s seven organizational profile categories and the value of completing the profile questionnaire. The possible outcomes of implementation are discussed in a frank manner with the help of a table listing advantages and disadvantages.

Quickly moving to the financial impact of Baldrige, the book cites numerous research studies linking Baldrige with various financial metrics and indicators. Next, the value of self-assessment is reviewed, and resulting nonfinancial improvements that could result are discussed. Finally, short chapters address implementation, the site visit and feedback, which are illustrated using six brief case studies.

This book is exactly what it purports to be: an executive guide to the Baldrige criteria. It provides a very good, executive-level discussion of what Baldrige is, but it is not a step-by-step guide to implementation. If you want a cogent discussion and salient overview of Baldrige, however, this is it.

Reviewed by James Kotterman
APL Logistics
Woodridge, IL


Mike Micklewright, QualityQuest Inc., 2007, $195 (DVD).

This is an extremely entertaining DVD that illustrates bad batch processing using the flow of activities in a home. While this is presented in a nontechnical and humorous way, Micklewright, also known as the Whys Guy, actually builds the flow process of doing laundry into a standard current-state map. In the process, he explains and illustrates the amount of wasted time that is eliminated through the use of an easy-to-understand flowchart that conforms to quality standards.

By examining smaller batches and the piece flow of the laundry process, he is able to show a reduction time of more than 30% for the laundry process. Micklewright successfully uses an activity familiar to anyone and everyone to educate the viewer. As a result, this DVD is a novel way to introduce the concepts of batch processing to a broad audience.

The DVD is long enough to provide a good introduction to quality processes to a group and then allow the group to work on its own streamlining before viewing the final chapters. This would be appropriate for introducing quality processes at all levels, starting with high school statistics students and new employees with little experience in the quality field.

Reviewed by I. Elaine Allen
Babson College
Wellesley, MA

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