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 Book Reviews

The Power of Empowerment

edited by Bill Ginnodo

Employee empowerment is a topic that some may consider old news. Yet, many companies are still grappling with a shift in behavior and attitudes that empowerment requires to take root. That is one reason why Bill Ginnodo's new book is a welcome and useful addition to the business library.

Understanding that empowerment is a mature subject as business books go, Ginnodo has wisely eschewed a theory-based book and, instead, concentrated on collecting practical materials. He has organized the book into four main topics: the thinking and advice of experts, empowerment from a managerial perspective, empowerment on the front lines and empowerment as applied in its ultimate form as self-directed teams.

Ginnodo enlists the help of six empowerment experts (including Bill Byham and Susan Albers Mohrman). These experts have contributed essays, which are woven into a fine overview of empowerment.

The book's 16 case studies are all fresh. Only a few are older than 1990 and, in each case, the company was contacted for a 1997 update.

In a real sense, The Power of Empowerment (Pride Publications, $19.95) could serve as a replacement for a shelf-full of empowerment books. It offers a good introduction, the thinking of the pros and plenty of actual applications and implementation advice.


301 Ways to Have Fun at Work

by Dave Hemsath and Leslie Yerkes

The fun-at-work movement, best typified by humor consultant C.W. Metcalf, refuses to roll over and die. In fact, fun has become a kind of corporate panacea; if downsizing depresses you, let's have a pizza party.

There is nothing wrong with having fun at work; it just seems like the fun pros have it backwards. They suggest that fun results in success, when, in fact, it seems more likely that fun is a byproduct of success. We should be having fun when our company is doing well, but should we be giggling as we file Chapter 11?

This book is a collection of fun vignettes. Authors Hemsath and Yerkes organized the quotes and techniques into a fast-reading idea book, à là Bob Nelson's best-selling 1001 Ways to Reward Employees. They further organized the examples into seven broad application areas: work environment, communication, training, meetings, recognition, team building and "simple" acts of fun to get your feet wet.

The authors also offer a 12-step fun method. But, surprisingly, there are no guidelines or warnings for corporate funsters.

Even a foul-tempered book reviewer might grudgingly admit that having fun at work is a good idea. But he or she would also say that the authors of 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work (Berrett-Koehler, $14.95) were getting carried away when they venture that "fun at work may be the single most important trait of a highly effective and successful organization." Bah, humbug!


True Professionalism

by David H. Maister

David Maister's new book is a loosely connected collection of articles he has previously published mostly in legal journals. The strangest thing about the book is that most of the advice Maister, a consultant to consultants, gives to service professionals is much like the advice they give their clients. Don't consultants listen to their own advice?

Anyone who has ever been employed in a consulting firm, or any other professional service firm for that matter, would probably tell you that  inside their companies, billable hours are what life is all about. And then along comes Maister, who suggests that perhaps billing isn't the "be all and end all" of life -- perhaps billable hours are simply the byproduct of satisfied clients and work well-done. Is this really news to consultants?

Consultants have also been teaching their clients about the importance of values and principles in the day-to-day operations of their businesses for quite some time. Again, they don't seem to have taken their own advice, and Maister feels compelled to organize this book around the concept of managing by principle.

In fact, consultants and other service professionals probably already know and believe most of what Maister is telling them in this book. But, as the author states: "The problem, clearly, is not in figuring out what to do. Rather, the problem is to find the strength and courage to do what we know to be right."

There is no problem with True Professionalism (Free Press, $24). In fact, everything Maister says makes a great deal of sense. The only question is: Why does it have to be said again?


Virtual Teams

by Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps

Networking, as in the let's-do-lunch craze of the 1980s, has re-emerged in the 1990s as much more than a sales, marketing and personal promotion concept. With the advent of the cyberworld, networking has expanded into an organizational structure, a business strategy and a day-to-day operating standard.

Lipnack and Stamps, founders of The Networking Institute, have followed the concept on its strange journey and have been instrumental in reintroducing it to corporate America in its new incarnation. Their newest book is the final volume in a trilogy that has previously examined team-based networks as a strategy and structure. This volume explores the networked organization's basic element -- virtual teams.

Virtual teams are real teams of actual people. However, they may never physically meet face-to-face, they often do not work for the same company, and they may have never worked together before nor ever work together again. These teams come into existence to fill a business need and dissolve when the opportunity has been captured.

Because of their nature, creating effective virtual teams presents a new series of challenges to managers, and that is the main subject of this book. The authors find that virtual teams are composed of three elements: people, purpose and links. They further break these three down to "nine Virtual Team Principles," which are not so much principles as subassemblies.

Virtual Teams (John Wiley & Sons, $28) takes team-based work into the Information Age. Anyone in cross-functional or cross-organizational teams working together at a distance should take a look at it.


The Power of Alignment

by George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky

(John Wiley & Sons, 242 pages, $24.95)

Alignment, the connection and mutual support of the major elements of an organization around its mission, is an important key to long-term success. The authors explain how to unite people, process, customers, strategy and leadership around common goals.


101 Recognition Secrets

by Rosalind Jeffries

(Performance Enhancement Group, 106 pages, $6.95)

This short, fast "17-minute guide" to recognition offers a surprising amount of information for its size. Jeffries presents the basic theory of recognition, plenty of low/no-cost recognition ideas and guidelines for proper recognition.


On the Frontiers of Management

by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

(Harvard Business School Press, 285 pages, $29.95)

This book is a collection of Kanter's Harvard Business Review articles, written between 1979 and 1995. The essays and interviews are loosely organized into the following categories: strategy, innovation, customer focus, global trends, change leadership, alliances, compensation and community responsibility.


ISO 9000 Management Systems Manual

by James S. Davies

(McGraw-Hill, 218 pages, $60)

An oversized hardcover, this ISO 9000 manual is a practical, action-based road map to registration. Each subject -- from the overview to support activities -- is presented in a series of easily understood fact sheets, and all are cross-referenced for fast access.


The Lean Enterprise

by Dan Dimancescu, Peter Hines

and Nick Rich

(AMACOM Books, 220 pages, $27.95)

The authors boil business success down to four critical "processes": quality, cost, delivery and new-product development. They advise readers to create a three-tier (senior management - process owners - action teams) organizational structure designed to make these processes as lean and fast as possible.


Managers as Facilitators

by Richard Weaver and John Farrell

(Berrett-Koehler, 248 pages, $27.95)

Effective facilitation requires that we pay attention to task, self, group and process, explain the authors. This book offers facilitators at all levels detailed guidelines and instruction organized around those four topics.


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