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.