ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum


Online Edition - June 2002

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Issue Highlight — When the Business of Business is School
In April 2002, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Commission on Education decided to privatize a group of public schools in the city of Philadelphia. This is simply a recent example of the movement to transfer the work of the public sector into the world of profit. This memo from a 12-year-old student might be a sign of things to come.

 In This Issue...
High Impact Consulting— Getting Real Results

The Courage to Face Your Fears

The Secret to Profitable Customer Relations

The Art of Communication

Got an Attitude?


 
Features...
Peter Block Column

PageTurners

What’s Up?

 

  Return to NFC Index

    Pageturners        Book Reviews with a Twist


E-Business Project Manager
H. James Harrington and Tom McNellis
Minneapolis, MN: Best Seller Publisher, 2002

*****
E-Business Project Manager is first and foremost, an exceptional text for teaching and training would-be managers of e-business projects. It provides executives and peer team members with much needed intelligence on e-business. Its vast number of checklists also makes it a useful publication for experienced project mangers. They could be scanned and used to monitor and audit projects. I rate the book as five stars.

The book is an easy read. The authors have done an excellent job of detailing the project management process from start to finish. However, I wish the authors had provided a resources section to augment their discussions of, for example, CM and supply chain management. They might have also provided case studies of firms that have done an exceptional job implementing such things as site design, supply chain management, and CM.

They do an excellent job of discussing marketing, promoting, and selling and supporting products and services. The text provides an excellent discussion of serving customers. The authors could have added additional value to the book if they had covered or discussed how to monitor the non-customers—those whom Peter Drucker warns us not to ignore—as a part of their e-business strategy. The authors do emphasize customer wants and needs and do an excellent job discussing how to learn customer wants and needs.

The authors appear to assume that a firm only needs one Web site. This may be valid for pure e-business-
to-business firms. It may not be the best strategy
for banks, retail establishments, and professional
service firms that can serve local and global markets. Research suggests that individual branches, stores, and professional offices may require their own Web sites to reflect marketing plans, strategies and tactics, economic offerings, and delivery systems tailored to “their” customers.

This book provides some good strategies for involving customers, vendors, partners, and organizational members in the development process. However, there are other strategies that readers might want to consider such as those I have applied with good results: the search conference, open space method, or a real-time change conference.

Finally, the authors are right on target to stress continuous improvement. However, with e-business being an ever-changing phenomenon over the next decade, at least, there is also a need for building in methods that will prepare the business for discontinuous improvements and breakthrough innovations, which are then followed by continuous improvement as the authors cover so well. Those firms prepared for solid e-project management following discontinuous improvements will likely attract and keep Net generation customers seeking “wow,” and then constant improvements on “wow” based on a firm’s understanding their needs and wants.

In summary, I strongly recommend this book even with the few shortcomings or “I wish the book had also covered…” items I have noted. I know this for sure—I could have put it to good use in the e-business strategic and marketing planning projects that I have been involved in. Its benefits far outweigh any shortcomings.

Review by Robert Holder who may be reached via e-mail at HBob372917@aol.com .


Global Innovation
Ned Hamson and Bob Holder
Wiley-Capstone’s ExpressExec, 2002

*****

Hamson and Holder begin with a discussion of the UN’s Global Compact and its implications for global business and innovation. Holder and Hamson are perhaps really onto something new. A Japanese business and academic group has already created an ISO 9000-type system that reflects the compact’s principles. This document may be the forerunner for a global business set of standards for operating in the global economy. Phil Knight is lobbying for this, and a number of nations such as Poland and Malaysia require compliance for doing business within their boundaries. Research also shows that developed nation customers will purchase offerings from socially responsible firms over their competitors as long as they provide comparable cost and quality.

The authors follow this with discussions of the Internet’s implications and the drivers of innovation. While these discussions are informative, they really are more food for the imagination than for their discussion of the cycle of innovation. They suggest that firms ought to engage in four forms of innovation at the same time. These stages are:

  • Discontinuous improvement: reinvents and/or creates a market, product, service, and/or experience.
  • Continuous improvement: improves a product,
    service and/or experience offering, and/or process.
  • Breakthrough improvement/innovation: greatly improves a product, service, experience, and/or process by making it less costly, easier to use, and/or more esthetically pleasing.
  • Another discontinuous improvement: development of products, services, and experience offerings that will again reinvent and/or create a new market.

The drivers and the compact’s principles can be used with the cycle to generate innovations. They can act as the “lens” for each cycle stage. I see, for example, Nike’s adoption of the Global Compact is a discontinuous improvement. A continuous improvement would be supporting union development and collective bargaining. Labor-management cooperation would illustrate a breakthrough improvement. Engaging in Peter Block’s ideas in Stewardship would be another discontinuous improvement.

This is not a “how-to” or model driven book. The cycle of innovation is the only model presented. This seems to reflect the authors’ intelligence that innovation is still a rather mysterious process. There are clues and ideas. There are methods for encouraging it. However, there doesn’t seem to be a model or “how-to” process that will guarantee innovation creation and/or creating an innovative enterprise.

Hamson and Holder do suggest three core methods for discovering innovation and enacting them and one indirectly through a case study. All three can also be deployed to transform bureaucracies into more innovative organizations. They can also be used by nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations to engage in “whole system” planning and to enact innovation. They can also be used by real change leaders to improve and transform their organizations. Innovative global enterprises are creating “whole business” within the nations that they are operating in rather than traditional hierarchical organizations. These methods can assist in developing this new business model.

Their discussion of the conditions for productive work illustrate how organizations can improve their workplaces to support product, service, and experience offerings and process innovations. It reflects their thesis that people are the organization’s core competency source and that creating an innovative supportive workplace is as critical as developing intranets and intellectual capital measurement systems. This thesis
is supported by research that shows re-engineering efforts displacing certain people have damaged organizations’ core competencies and the poor track record of knowledge management efforts that have tended to try to document people’s knowledge through spending millions on software and hardware.

I was very engaged by their scouting discussion. I think that they have hit upon a process that has numerous applications. It can be used to support learning about what is required to customize new offerings to local conditions. Scouting encourages executives and organizational members to get out of their offices and stop being dependent on reports, consultants, and the Net and to experience reality and knowledge firsthand. Finally, scouting sees non-customers as critical as existing ones. They present a detailed scouting discussion. They explain why scouting is critical in identifying and supporting innovation and present an explanation of how to develop and implement a scouting program.

Finally, they provide the reader with a taste of the shared learning process. This is present in a case study of how the process resulted in rural development. This limited discussion is unfortunate because the shared learning process sounds engaging. The authors should have provided a more detailed presentation.

In summary, I think Hamson and Holder have written an engaging and practical book that is useful to organizational development (OD) practitioners and their clients. I am speaking as someone who, like Marv Weisbord, began doing OD, not as a consultant, but as a businessperson and a board member for a number of associations seeking to deal with real world problems. My experience tells me that what they propose is both thought provoking and workable.

Review by Joe Hempen who may be reached via e-mail at HJHempen@aol.com .

Book Ratings:

***** = Pick it up today
  **** = Overnight it
    
*** = Snail mail it
      
** = At a library?

        * = Never mind

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