Critical Success Factors Simplified

Marvin T. Howell, Productivity Press, 2010, 156 pp., $40.95 (book).

Critical success factors (CSF) have become a staple in business processes during the last few decades. No matter what they are actually called, we all use them in some form or another, either formally or informally. This slim volume offers a simple process for identifying and monitoring meaningful factors and making real-time changes to affect the bottom line in your organizational, professional and personal lives.

Howell presents numerous illustrations, flow diagrams and appendixes with plenty of examples that make it easy to see critical elements and correlations, and determine, initiate, implement, follow and measure the CSFs selected. He ties the CSF process to the Deming cycle and supplies logical step-by-step pathways to develop significant CSFs starting from the mission, vision and value statements, and progressing through the business structure to the individual.

CSFs generally cover four areas of initiatives; industry, strategy, environmental and temporal. Appropriate CSF development depends on what you are trying to accomplish and which areas will most benefit from proper factor analysis. Not all CSFs are equal. Some require more monitoring and effort than others to be effective. CSFs are drivers, not objectives. A CSF should help achieve the goal, not be the goal. For those who need some assistance,dozens of established factors in 40 areas of traditional management initiatives are listed to consider.

There is little in this book not to like. Readers will benefit from reviewing the material. Focus, effectiveness and efficiency will all increase if the proper CSF system is put into practice.

Marc A. Feldman
Solvay Chemicals Inc.

Social Media for Trainers

Jane Bozarth, Pfeiffer, 2010, 192 pp., $40 (book).

This book is billed as "the first how-to guide on social networking techniques for trainers." After reading, I would drop the "for trainers" and just use this book for its techniques in social media networking. Bozarth identifies and profiles the uses of many social media tools that are useful to any reader, not just trainers.

While trying to be all-encompassing, the issue with any book on social media is its ability to remain current in an ever-changing landscape. In terms of the big three— Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn—only the first two are covered in detail. LinkedIn is not described as a real social media site. For example, at this writing, it is easy to have your tweets and Facebook postings automatically sent to LinkedIn. The author’s classification of LinkedIn and its lack of similarity to Facebook is no longer valid.

What I found most useful were the suggestions for using social media in classes. The book includes good examples for involving students and trainees in various activities. Scavenger hunts, virtual field trips and round-robin postings are excellent ideas to promote social media activity.

There are several cases sprinkled throughout the book, as well as a checklist for getting started using and training others on social media. My recommendation is that the author, who provides her Twitter handle and Facebook profile name, continually updates the content in an online community as technology continues to change. As a snapshot of how to use social media in 2011, the book is about 90% current right now.

I. Elaine Allen
Babson College
Wellesley, MA

Lean Human Resources

Cheryl M. Jekiel, Productivity Press, 2010, 263 pp., $39.95 (book).

This book consists of 15 chapters divided into six sections. Jekiel’s approach is logical, straightforward and aimed at transforming passive HR departments into live functioning areas that aggressively support the business strategy in organizations.

The book focuses on changing the expectations of leadership and targets HR executives by asking them to reevaluate their roles. The author reveals that HR is rarely involved in top-level strategy and continuous improvement efforts in an organization. It explains that through lean, HR can be brought in to drive cultural change.

The book acts as a manual for CEOs and HR managers, and it aims to align HR processes with business strategy. Each chapter is summarized with key ideas, strategic questions for HR and required lean HR actions. It is a guide for transforming HR departments from policing and administrative functions to a strong role in lean implementation.

The book goes as far as providing new skills needed by HR that are outlined and different from the traditional administrative skills. The checklist of skills is included, as well as individual and functional job redefinitions for the current and future organization. The book’s last sections consist of separate guides for HR managers and CEOs that detail the HR department’s new role.

Most companies will see this as a major strategic change to their current operations and will need to take risk to embark on the journey. But the risk comes with big payoffs.

Bill Baker
Speed To Excellence
Santa Fe, NM

ISO 26000 in Practice: A User’s Guide

Michelle S. Bernhart and Francis J. ‘Sonny’ Maher, ASQ Quality Press, 2011, 144 pp., $24 member, $40 list (book).

International Organizational for Standardization (ISO) released the ISO 26000 social responsibility (SR) standard at the end of 2010. This timely book helps readers better understand, simplify and apply the guidelines of ISO 26000.

The book is exactly what the title suggests: a practical user’s guide. The principles and expectations of ISO 26000 are covered, with guidance on its implementation and how to communicate SR. Starting with a self assessment, the authors provide steps that help create bite-sized stages—which are further broken down into activities—to understand and implement ISO 26000.

The book offers many tables clearly aligning the ISO 26000 clauses and concepts to a sequence of implementation steps and other practical issues. It covers who needs to be responsible for the various stages, detailing stakeholder issues, implications, risks and many other issues. Each chapter provides key questions to consider, advice and practical hints. The authors include how ISO 26000 relates to and supports other ISO standards.

The authors use a fictitious company as it introduces and implements ISO 26000, reflecting the issues, challenges and approaches involved. This approach allows for down-to-earth questions about SR and its consequences.

Finally, the book references further materials and websites for more information. This is a great resource for those wanting to better understand ISO 26000 and those charged with implementing the guidelines.

Denis Leonard
Business Excellence Consulting
Bozeman, MT

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