ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

March 1998


Teaching An Organization To Learn

Scenario Planning

The Sinking Of The Titanic

Through Rain, Sleet And New Quality Initiatives

Striving To Deliver Excellence

Not Your Typical Oil Change


Reality: What A Concept
by Peter Block

Reflections On The Baldrige Winners
by Cathy Kramer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


Book Reviews With A Twist

The Future of Staff Groups: Daring to Distribute Power and Capacity"
by Joel P. Henning

Staff groups distributing power and capacity in an organization - interesting idea. Isn't that what staff groups do? So why do we have to "dare" people to distribute power and capacity?

Joel Henning, in his book "The Future of Staff Groups," identifies the way staff groups have typically operated in most businesses as a preoccupation with senior management and winning a place at the their table. These groups often aspire to become an extension or voice for senior management in the organization.

On the other hand, Henning suggests that the way to succeed and even survive as a staff group is to redefine the staff outlook, reorient their activities, and make a difference. He states, "The most important function of staff groups is to build the capacity of client organizations." Staff groups have a vital role to play and knowledge that the organization needs to be successful. But, the only way to really leverage this knowledge for the organization's benefit is to share it - to create the capacity in others.

Henning draws on personal and consulting (over 30 years) experiences to share a multitude of examples to clarify the points he makes. While the points he makes are understandable and the wisdom of his experience shows through, this is a difficult book to follow. On the one hand it is a book about honing consulting skills and becoming a better consultant - regardless of whether you're internal or external to the organization. On the other hand, it's about a personal philosophy of how a business should operate and people should treat each other. And beyond the business - it's about a philosophy on life that calls for taking accountability for your life, your work, your own happiness and the success you find in life or business.

Favorite Quote: "When I am at work I have choices. I can choose - as an act of will and courage - to be accountable for being the very best I can be. I can choose to be accountable to carry into work optimism about what is possible. I can choose to take my work seriously, to put myself on the line about serving others and having an impact on the business. I can choose commitment for that impact and hold myself accountable for achieving it."

Second Favorite Quote: "The most powerful use of staff expertise distributes business literacy, choice, access to resources, competence and accountability."

Message I'll Remember 5 Years From Now: "Institutions don't change until you and I change. We are inescapably tied together. In the end, all change is personal and happens one person at a time ... To succeed at change, I must understand the world and myself."

Advice For Leaders: Why Business Literacy? "Distribution of literacy and accountability helps people who touch customers have the conversation with them that you yourselves would have if you were in their place. To have that conversation requires that they choose to be accountable for the business, that they be literate about it, and that they be able to grant the exceptions the client wants in order to be satisfied."

The lessons apply equally as well for the outside consultant/professional hired to help the organization solve its
problems. If you think about staff groups and consulting in the
usual manner this book is guaranteed to make you think about your operation and how it should change. Changing is up to you.

Reviewed by Steve Gibbons, Senior Research and Development Consultant,
The Principal Financial Group.

"The Future of Staff Groups: Daring to Distribute Power and Capacity,"
Joel P. Henning, 1997, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco, CA,
ISBN 1-57675-025-6, US $29.95, 180 pages.

March '98 News for a Change | Email Editor


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