Communication Across Cultures

Elizabeth Christopher, ed., Palgrave Macmillian, 2012, 424 pp., $55 (book).

This book was created as an academic textbook—written by a group of authors—that explores communication across cultural groups where it is necessary to build successes in projects, activities, meeting of standards and delivery of quality in outcomes. Works in this textbook are organized by four dimensions: communication across cultures, communication at work, going global and the planet, and cyberspace.

The format of the book supports teaching and learning. Each section provides outcomes presented with a reference to leadership responsibilities and actions that should increase positive outcomes and results. Though it is a useful reference for an operational program, it primarily serves as a core resource supportive of questioning, seminar-type discussions and experimental exercises for groups or individuals.

This is not a book on quality methods, standards or systems. Rather, it focuses on moving messages across cultures and knowing the impacts of successful message movement.

A detailed index is offered and online resources are referenced for further study related to the book’s broad content. Also, a dedicated website is referenced by the publisher that offers a manual for a lecturer or professor covering the content in an academic setting or course.

For those involved in multicultural and multinational activities, this textbook is a useful resource. It also serves as a model for organization and presentation of other course-related textbooks.

Jerry Brong
Ellensburg, WA

Performance Metrics: The Levers for Process Management

Duke Okes, ASQ Quality Press, 2013, 128 pp., $24 member, $40 list (book).

If you are looking for a list of key process performance indicators (KPI), this is not the book for you, although examples of common metrics are provided. If you wish to learn how to craft a meaningful set of metrics to help you personally or in business, this is the book to read.

The book is an easily understood discussion of process metrics, giving background and reasoning for choosing various metrics and implementing them for any process or sub-processes. To ensure that the metrics you select or design are aligned with your goals and objectives, Okes simply—but thoroughly—discusses:

  • Core processes and process management.
  • Measurement theory, different types of metrics, how their functions differ and example metrics.
  • The thinking behind selecting metrics.
  • Details and factors to consider for each metric.
  • Ways to present and use data.
  • Going beyond traditional statistical control charts to facilitate learning and decision making.
  • The psychological impact of metrics.
  • The concept of a metric life cycle and how it can be used to evaluate the continuing relevance of each metric.

If more information is needed, there are good index and reference sections and appendixes.

Metrics are also one way to know if a plan was implemented and if it achieved desired results. After use, metrics evolve and should be reviewed regularly. Good metrics programs will improve processes, but even if you can’t affect process deviation, monitoring the correct things can help explain them for better understanding.

Management and employees will be happier if the uncomplicated concepts presented here are used with your monitoring systems.

Marc A. Feldman
Solvay Chemicals Inc.

The Basics of Project Evaluation And Lessons Learned

Willis H. Thomas, CRC Press, 2011, 146 pp., $20.95 (book).

The book relates to the discipline of project management. Thomas provides his perspective based on lessons he learned in the profession, supported by widely known project management techniques and case studies from organizations that have executed successful projects as well as those that had major project management failures in the process.

The title of the book is misleading. The structure is not user friendly and there is an excessive use of bulleted information and acronyms. Project management techniques such as Pert and Gantt charts—which are explained in the book—have critical visual elements that I did not see once.

The individuals who can benefit most by reading this book are those in managerial positions who can choose their staff. Supervisors should experience improved efficiency in resource and people management based on this book. On the other hand, employees may benefit from understanding how the interaction between team members, project leaders and resources could affect the overall project goal when a project manager is not trained enough to perform the job.

Roberto Guzman
Morrisville, NC

The Work of Leaders: How Vision, Alignment, and Execution Will Change the Way You Lead

Julie Straw, Mark Scullard, Susie Kukkonen, and Barry Davis, Pfeiffer, 2013, 240 pp., $24.95 (book).

It is refreshing to read a book on leadership that is written by following scientific research methods. The book outlines the development of a leadership model based on three principles of vision, alignment, and execution, namely the VAE model. The authors draw from their personal experiences and knowledge—combined with a large amount of data collected from various studies involving hundreds of thousands of participants—to create guidelines for leadership that are realistic to work with, but more importantly, that are accessible and can be followed by everyone.

The book is divided into three sections based on the three principles of the VAE: model, vision, alignment and execution. An appendix also provides a more thorough explanation of the 10 stages of development of the VAE model.

For each section, there is an introduction, followed by three drivers, and a concluding summary. A driver is defined as a basic element that paves the way for each step in the process and helps make the process achievable. Two best practices are included with each driver showing how this behavior can support the driver.

There is a lack of adequate coverage of the authors’ understanding of structure of leadership leading to development of the VAE model, and the book needs more testimonials on the successes and challenges of applying the model. However, the authors have clearly succeeded in achieving their goal of providing easy-to-apply steps and useful guidelines for making the model achievable. That makes this book required reading for current and would-be leaders.

Herzl Marouni
ABS Consulting

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