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 Book Reviews

How to Be the Person Successful
Companies Fight to Keep
by Connie Podesta and Jean Gatz

In times like these, when businesses and even whole industries seem to appear and disappear overnight, staying gainfully employed can be a real struggle. Authors Podesta and Gatz think they have uncovered the secret to successfully surviving that struggle.

The authors interviewed hundreds of business owners, CEOs and managers, and asked each what skills and abilities they look for when making personnel decisions. They found that employers value eight traits in employees: the ability to keep their personal problems at home; to add value to their work; to be positive; to be change-friendly; to continually improve; to communicate well; to take initiative; and to continue learning.

Of course -- and the authors make no secret of this -- just because you practice all of these traits and make yourself a valued employee, you still can't expect to keep your current job. Some companies downsize with little regard to talent, and plenty of people lose their jobs every day for reasons that have nothing to do with their qualifications. Instead, the skill set in this book merely aims to keep you employed somehow and somewhere.

How to Be the Person Successful Companies Fight to Keep (Simon & Schuster, $21) is a good book for working people in the turbulent '90s.

Ultimate Rewards
Edited by Steven Kerr

The Harvard Business Review has proven to be a rich resource for topical essay collections (more than 20 volumes are already in print), and this book is a fine addition to the line. This time the subject is motivation, and editor Steven Kerr collects 13 of the Review's articles on the topic.

The articles' original publication dates range over the past 24 years, yet they don't feel dated. Even the oldest, Harry Levinson's "Asinine Attitudes Toward Motivation" -- with its warning against carrot-and-stick motivational theory -- remains relevant today.

As you might expect, a wide, and often argumentative, range of opinions revolves around the topic of motivation. The point/counterpoint article centered on Alfie Kohn's contrarian views on rewards programs proves especially thought-provoking. Kohn advises readers "to stop manipulating employees with rewards and punishments, and to stop pushing money in their faces." His opponents, as one might expect, are legion and just as articulate.

Unhappily, the book's organization is less than world-class. Kerr uses the four-section format, which is neither logical nor easily navigable. Readers would do better to read the short executive summaries of each essay at the back of the book and jump in wherever it attracts their in- terest.

Organizational quibbles aside, Ultimate Rewards (Harvard Business School Press, $29.95) is a strong collection of motivational thinking and practice.

Gung Ho!
by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles

Sometimes it seems like a month doesn't go by without a new Ken Blanchard book showing up on the doorstep. Obviously, the concept of overexposure is one of the few ideas about which the prolific author is not an expert.

The latest book follows the format Blanchard popularized years ago in The One Minute Manager. This time, his co-author is Canadian entrepreneur Sheldon Bowles, who previously hit pay dirt with Blanchard with the best-selling customer satisfaction book, Raving Fans.


The Deadline
by Tom DeMarco
(Dorset House, 320 pages, $24.95)

A humorous, fictionalized look at software development, DeMarco's newest book offers a balanced approach to project management. The author rightly pinpoints people as the essential foundation of all successful projects.


Expanding Our Now
by Harrison Owen
(Berrett-Koehler, 147 pages, $24.95)

Harrison is the founder of Open Space Technology, an unusual meeting technique that requires little advance planning and agenda preparation. Instead, it uses four principles and a single "law" to enhance participation and productivity. A companion volume, Open Space Technology: A User's Guide ($24.95), is also available.


Improving Your Measurement of
Customer Satisfaction
by Terry G. Vavra
(ASQ Quality Press, 475 pages, $38)

This heavily referenced, well-organized hardcover offers a comprehensive approach to customer satisfaction measurement. The linear presentation moves from overview and program design to implementing improvements based on measured findings.


Confessions of an Unmanager
by Debra Boggan
and Anna VerSteeg
(Dartnell, 220 pages, $24.95)

"Unmanagers" seek to eliminate the barriers between management and other employees. The effectiveness of the authors' 10 principles of unmanagement were proven at their former jobs at Nortel and are largely unsurprising: change-friendly, team-based, empowering, etc.


Designing and LeadingTeam-Based Organizations
by Susan Albers Mohrman
and Allan Mohrman
(Jossey-Bass, 124 pages, $24.95)

This workbook contains a nine-module sequence that yields a team-based organizational structure. Each module includes principles, examples, activities and "next-step" suggestions. A companion facilitator's guide ($19.95) is also available.


The Power of Purpose
by Richard Leider
(Berrett-Koehler, 162 pages, $20)

In this updated version of a book published in 1985, Leider proposes the concept of "purpose" as the driving force behind individual growth and fulfillment. He serves up a variety of exercises designed to help readers uncover and pursue their own purpose.


This outing tells the story of a plant turnaround led by a new general manager who is, in turn, guided by a line manager who teaches her three basic lessons. These are: The Spirit of the Squirrel, The Way of the Beaver and The Gift of the Goose. Yes, really.

Once you get past the hokey labels, the three lessons of the book prove to be useful. The squirrel's lesson is to provide worthwhile work. The beaver teaches empowerment.  And the goose signifies encouragement and support.

Workplace diversity advocates should be well-pleased with the main characters in this story. The general manager is a woman; the ubiquitous guru is a Native American. Even better, the bad guys are stereotypical traditional managers -- white, closed-minded and prejudiced. It's the perfect line-up for the triumphant underdog scenario that follows.

Is Gung Ho! (Morrow, $20) a true story? Who knows. We can tell you, however, that it is so corny, so transparently designed to appeal to the reader's emotions and so melodramatic that an even better answer to the question might be: Who cares? As to its lessons, they are well-proven and well-worth emulating. But if you don't know them by now, this book probably won't push you any farther down the road to enlightenment.

by John Butman

In the world of quality, only a handful of names really matter. Joseph M. Juran is one of them, a fact that this biography -- which doubles as a pretty good history of the quality movement in the 20th century -- makes abundantly clear.

A Juran biography is especially welcome because he has not, until now, been as well-known as other quality figures. Author John Butman spends a good deal of time on his subject's early life and, interestingly, his first working experiences at Western Electric, where the discipline of quality first began to move beyond the simple act of inspection.

One of the most fascinating aspects of biographies is the pinpointing of those fateful -- and often minor -- incidents that end up playing a major role in a person's life. Juran had many of those moments. One was his failure to aggressively pursue a role in the PBS television report that launched quality and W. Edwards Deming into the business mainstream. As a result, Juran, who played at least as large a role as Deming in the quality movement, never received the same degree of attention.

Another interesting facet of the book lies in the many hints of competitiveness and professional jealousy that exist between the lines. Even the great successes enjoyed by Juran, Deming, Crosby, Drucker and other leading thinkers do not seem large enough to overcome the petty tiffs and minor slights they suffer at each others' hands.

Juran (John Wiley & Sons, $29.95) obviously was painstakingly researched. While it occasionally reads a bit like the television script it grew from, it remains a fine book for those readers who want a better understanding of Juran, his work and the genesis of TQM.


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