ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - September 2002


 In This Issue...
Looking Back a Year Later—How Americans Have Dealt With the Changes

Journal of a Visitor to Tragedy

Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?

Tribute to America:
How Our Lives Have Changed Since September 11

Book Nook

From Our Perspective

What's Up?


  Return to NFC Index

Book Nook

In the Face of Uncertainty: 25 Top Leaders Speak Out on Challenge, Change, and the Future of American Business
by Martha I. Finney
AMACOM, New York, NY 2002.
ISBN 0-8144-7161-7.
Hardcover, 240 pages.

Where were you on September 11, 2001? How have your life and the organizations to which you belong changed?

This month’s book shares interviews conducted with 25 leaders since 9-11. Their names may not be ones you recognize, but the types of organizations they represent will be familiar—from government (commerce, military, and intelligence) to big business (publishing and consumer manufacturing) to service providers (training, placement, outplacement, public relations, and human resources) to nonprofits (United Way, Ad Council, and several think-tanks) and to infrastructure (engineering and architecture, construction, transportation, travel, and hospitality).

Each six- to 12-page interview discusses the impact of recent events, looks toward the future, and concludes with three questions:

  • What are you certain about?
  • What are you uncertain of?
  • What is the essential ingredient for resilience?

As a group, these leaders recognize the importance of embracing change and using an organization’s values to guide action. They share a strong belief that a sense of purpose combined with an optimistic outlook (faith and hope) is the basis for resilience in the face of certain change. They also provide advice on what it takes to lead in today’s world. Three quotes I especially liked were:

“You can’t lead from a desk. You can’t lead from an e-mail. You have to physically make yourself visible to those you’re expecting to lead.”
James C. Madden V (p. 153)

“Nobody can predict the future, but if you do a good job of planning, you’ll be ready for whatever happens.”
Leonard D. Schaeffer (p. 182)

“... yesterday’s solution may be completely useless to tomorrow’s emergency.”
Theodore G. Shackley (p. 192)

The major flaw of the book is that the author makes no attempt to step back from the interviews and find the major themes expressed by the interviewees as a group. This means that while each interview is interesting in and of itself, it is little more than raw, unanalyzed data. The book would have benefited from a summary chapter to review the most important findings from the interviews.

This is a very timely and interesting book, full of ideas that speak to leaders today. I especially recommend it to anyone currently working on an “environmental scan” of the future for his or her organization. Five years from now, however, this book is unlikely to retain its relevance. It may seem dated and of interest only to the student of history looking to understand the impact of 9-11 on a wide variety of organizations. On the other hand, perhaps we all need such a history to help us avoid repeating our mistakes.

“I’m very uncertain of the enduring nature of the lessons we’ve learned…. It’s an American characteristic to have a dangerously short memory.”
Stephen G. Harrison (p. 106-107)

CHRISTINE ROBINSON has more than 25 years of leadership experience in quality systems for the process industries. She has a master’s degree in quality, values, and leadership from Marian College. An avid reader, she spends a significant amount of her time with her nose in books and her body at the library.

Book Ratings:

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

        * = Never mind

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