Book Reviews
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by J. Philip Kirby and David Hughes

People's thought processes within a company create its underlying foundation, say Canadian consultants Kirby and Hughes. Analogous to a computer's software operating system, these thought processes comprise a company's thoughtware.

Thoughtware gives those who use it two contexts to work within, either an opportunity or a cage. The context many companies operate under, maintain the authors, creates the latter condition. A cage functions with traditional assumptions such as labor specialization, functional separation, limited spans of control and authoritarianism.

A new, more effective context is needed. Kirby and Hughes include holistic systems, process thinking and measures, individual empowerment and speed among the assumptions for this thoughtware.

The book becomes more confusing as the authors try to explain how to "install" a new thoughtware operating system. Basically, they suggest using a module-based program that runs simultaneously with targeted operational improvements. The result is a new management "process" or cycle that includes four phases: setting priorities, allocating resources, measurement and accountability, and coaching and protection.

The concept of thoughtware as a corporate operating platform is quite interesting, but it becomes a synonym for paradigm-shifting and change management as the book develops. In the end, Thoughtware (Productivity Press, $35) presents a creative way to repackage already-accepted ideas rather than a breakthrough in managerial thinking.


The Fat Firm
by Andris Zoltners, Prabha Sinha
and Stuart Murphy

An American takeoff on the Japanese manga (comic book-style) business book, this volume uses copious drawings to illustrate the joys of the "lean" company. Two-thirds of the book describes the disadvantages of the fat firm; the final third describes lean principles.

There is no great depth to the text; the presentation precludes it. But the authors do manage to demonstrate how lean thinking applies to people, culture and processes.

The illustrations, which cover at least half of each page, work effectively. They consist of line drawings depicting Dr. Seuss-like creatures that illuminate the points made in the text.

Packaging this book in hardcover with a color dust jacket exemplifies marketing overkill. The formal appearance belies the book's user-friendly message. An easy-to-handle, oversized paperback would have been more fitting. The price is a pleasant surprise, however, and makes the reader wonder why the vast majority of business hardcovers this size cost 50 percent to 100 percent more than this one.

The Fat Firm (McGraw-Hill, $18.95) offers fun and easy reading. The principles and concepts, though already well-known, are presented in an original format. This book would find favor with employees who dislike reading.


ISO 9000 and Beyond
by H. James Harrington
and Dwayne Martin
(McGraw-Hill, 359 pages, $29.95)

This high-value multimedia package includes text, CD-ROM and online assistance for managers charged with planning, implementing and maintaining quality management systems. Software includes step-by-step guides to ISO 9000 and   QS-9000, documentation automation, project management and process mapping.

Territorial Games
by Annette Simmons
(AMACOM Books, 224 pages, $22.95)

Internal "turf wars" are worse than ever, says Simmons. The bulk of the book organ-izes typical turf-war behavior into 10 categories most readers will easily recognize. A final section offers constructive advice and solutions.

Teams at the Top
by Jon Katzenbach
(Harvard Business School Press, 226 pages, $24.95)

Team expert Katzenbach finds that senior management rarely works well as a team; that senior managers should work as a team or individually, depending on the task; and that overall balance requires an integration of team and single-leader behavior.

Building Team Spirit
by Barry Heerman
(McGraw-Hill, 391 pages, $39.95)

This collection of 50 exercises, accompanied by reproducible handouts, is aimed at creating strong, focused teams. The presentation embraces a New Age perspective, utilizing mandalas, rituals and harmonics in addition to more mundane techniques. The book includes plenty of instruction for trainers.

Let's Work Smarter,
Not Harder
by Michael Caravatta
(ASQ Quality Press, 283 pages, $29)

Change is the topic of this how-to guide. Caravatta pegs successful change on leadership, cross-functional thinking, customer/supplier partnerships and teamwork. He  recommends a five-step change process:     assessment, shared vision, process design, measurement and continuous improvement.

Customer Connections
by Robert Wayland and Paul Cole
(Harvard Business School Press, 267 pages, $29.95)

Wayland and Cole propose a "demand-based" corporate strategy in which a series of measures, all based on the customer, serve as the foundation of corporate decision making. The authors close with an action plan designed to help readers evaluate their company in terms of its customers.

Tools for Virtual Teams
by Jane E. Henry, Ph.D., and Meg Hartzler

The need for virtual teams--those characterized by short lives and diverse,  geographically separated memberships--continues to grow. Globalization, networked corporate structures and ever-lengthening chains of command contribute to the trend, as do advances in electronics.

Virtual teams, say authors Henry and Hartzler, face some challenges that normal work teams don't. Language, culture and style differences can impede communication. Lessened physical contact can mean reduced, or misunderstood, focus. And greater isolation among members can hinder enthusiasm and energy.

This paperback includes a series of tools and techniques that readers can use to overcome the barriers to excellence facing virtual teams. The authors organize these tools into three challenges: direction and focus; values, principles and operating agreements; and synergy and communication. In each section, the reader can choose between seven and nine exercises designed to help virtual teams attain high performance.

The tools themselves are not much different from the team-building techniques a normal team might use. They do, however, tend toward the less open-ended and more concentrated in terms of duration. As an added convenience, each of the book's pages is perforated for easy removal and reproduction.

Tools for Virtual Teams (ASQ Quality Press, $20) offers a valuable resource for trainers of all kinds of teams. At $20, it is a fine value for a reproducible tool kit.


The Code of the Executive
by Don Schmincke

The widespread appeal of classics such as Sun Tzu's Art of War and Machiavelli's The Prince have led to a landslide of derivative business titles. The latest is this slim volume based on The Code of the Samurai, a 16th-century text compiled as a training guide for Japan's samurai warriors.

These modern renditions of literary masterworks all assume that the period and setting in which the original work was written is not only directly applicable but also desirable in today's business world. Thus, the reader is encouraged to think of business in terms of war and battles, opponents and enemies. The possibility of moving beyond a feudal attitude to a more wholesome world vision never presents itself.

Fortunately, the personal qualities espoused in the text fare much better. In fact, they are all that recommend it. Integrity, bravery and honor never go out of style and always are worth cultivating. The author's application, however, loses much in the updating. For example, "If you rely on a taxi, it is best to rent a car to ensure transportation to important meetings in case none is available (unless you are in a city well-known for taxi service)."

Schmincke's rendition of the samurai code often trivializes the 500-year-old work. He also suggests that golf represents the modern-day equivalent of the formalized, traditional tea ceremony. "The equipment such as clubs, bags and other accessories are equally without any gaudy ornamentation, but are of a clean and reticent form entirely eschewing the impurities of everyday life," the author writes in an extended passage on the game.

Like many knock-offs of classic texts, The Code of the Executive (Tuttle, $14.95) offers little justification for its existence. Classic works have survived for centuries because of their wisdom and elegance. Modern authors rarely, if ever, create imitations as worthy as the originals. This book is no exception.



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