by Thomas Stewart
By now, there can be little doubt that knowledge and information, the basic elements of intellectual capital, are valuable corporate commodities. Fortune editor Thomas Stewart is the journalist of record on IC; he has been following its development since 1991. In this book, Stewart introduces IC, offers a taxonomy for organizing it and successfully makes the case for managing it.
We can think of IC as being made up of human capital, structural capital and customer capital, suggests Stewart. Human capital is the sum total of the knowledge that resides in a company's employees. Structural capital is the value of the infrastructure by which that knowledge is transferred. Customer capital is the value of a company's relationships with customers.
IC is a fledgling discipline, and some fuzzy thinking is associated with it. The author suggests, for example, that a company's "true value" is its market value, and that the difference between a company's market value and the book value of its tangible assets comprises the value of its intellectual capital. Such assumptions ignore a myriad of other components of market value, such as bull markets and takeover rumors.
Stewart's Intellectual Capital (Doubleday, $27) may well prove to be the seminal book on the topic. It is compellingly argued and very well-written. Read it as the best introduction to this new management concept.
Managing by Values
by Ken Blanchard and Michael O'Connor
A new Ken Blanchard production pops up at least once a year. His latest entry, co-authored with values guru Michael O'Connor and whipped into shape by writer Jim Ballard, is a slim volume on corporate mission and values.
Like One Minute Manager and Raving Fans, this book contains a novella-length story that reduces the establishment and maintenance of mission and values to its essence. In this case, that means a three-phase process defined as clarifying, communicating and aligning.
Phase 1, the clarification of mission and values, is a definition stage. Blanchard describes this as a top-down process, starting with the CEO. However, it is not a dictatorial process. Eventually, everyone connected with the company, including outside stakeholders, is consulted.
Phase 2, communicating mission and values, is a roll-out stage. Here, the mission and values are proclaimed throughout the company, and expectations regarding their application are shared. It is the "talk" before the "walk."
In the final phase, the company's daily practices are aligned with mission and values. This is when companies are required to walk their talk.
The shape and format of a Blanchard book no longer comes as much of a surprise. Blanchard has found a style that works and, with a notable exception or two, sticks with it. What is surprising is the consistent usefulness and effectiveness of these slim tomes. Managing by Values (Berrett-Koehler, $20) is no exception to the rule.
The Customer Is CEO
by Forler Massnick
The customer has a special place in the discipline of total quality -- customer focus is a foundation stone of TQM. But even the most committed quality pro may find Forler Massnick's The Customer Is CEO too fanatic about the subject.
The author rightly places the customer at the center of every business. He also suggests that the customer can actually replace the CEO as a company's leader. There may be some convoluted logic to this statement, but the metaphor (the customer is like the CEO) can only be pushed so far. And every reader should be able to readily identify customers they would not want in control of their organization.
Massnick also makes a point of his book's lean approach -- no wasted words, no lengthy explanations. But, in many instances, the book suffers for it. This is particularly evident in Part Two, where a half-dozen concepts, such as the learning organization, quality and reengineering, are described in short five- to six-page chapters. In each case, the mere addition of the "customer" seems to be the magic missing ingredient for success.
The appendixes, which are all reprints of previously published material, are redundant at best. Is another appearance of Deming's 14 Points and Seven Deadly Diseases and the Baldrige Award criteria useful to business book readers? And, surely, many who have tried to gain the attention of U.S. auto dealers by filling out one of their customer satisfaction surveys will question the inclusion of a generic dealer survey in Appendix F.
It's hard to argue with any book that advocates an intense and unwavering focus on customers. Obviously, this is a critical success factor in today's company. But it is just as hard to recommend The Customer Is CEO (AMACOM, $27.95), which adds little, if anything, to this already well-documented subject.