by Theodore B. Kinni

The Art of Framing
by Gail T. Fairhurst and Robert A. Sarr

Framing-the process of actively choosing and communicating the context and interpretation of messages-is an essential leadership tool, according to authors Fairhurst and Sarr. Through the use of framing, leaders "manage meaning" for their organizations.

The majority of this text is devoted to teaching readers how to use framing constructively. Three components-language, thought and forethought-comprise the tool. Language is the means of communication. Thought is how we understand meaning internally and before it is communicated. Forethought is the preparation that enables us to frame seemingly spontaneously. Used together, they offer a powerful and ongoing way for leaders to portray and reinforce their goals.

Framing is especially useful in the communication of corporate vision, explain the authors. They offer three techniques-miracle questions, exception framing and continuous benchmarking-that can help leaders develop, refine and communicate their visions.

The text also covers language techniques of use in framing. These five basic framing tools include metaphor, jargon, contrast, spin and stories. Properly used, and supported by consistent actions, these techniques can help avoid "mixed" messages, which so often undermine corporate efforts.

The importance of consistency in word and action is one of the oft-repeated messages in the book. But, it appears that framing without a true commitment to the meaning is largely an exercise in futility.

The writing style of The Art Of Framing (Jossey-Bass, $25) is on the dry side, tending to the psychological and academic. The presentation, however, offers a fairly interesting mix of example, theory and how-to information. Quality pros should find it worth the time-especially when they are faced with communicating new initiatives and goals to the entire organization.

Beyond Certainty
by Charles Handy

English business philosopher Charles Handy's latest American release is a collection of 35 essays-30 of which are culled from the writer's regular appearances in Director magazine, the journal of Britain's Institute of Directors. Although the subject and content of these essays is wide-ranging, one theme, according to Handy, remains consistent: uncertainty.

To paraphrase Handy, the fact that we can no longer be certain of where we stand, where we want to get to or how to get there requires a radical rethinking of the traditional business model. He suggests we restructure our career paths, reengineer our organizational structures and restrict the rights of investors.

The concept of a career "portfolio" demonstrates some of Handy's best thinking. Handy writes: " . . . rather than scurrying about looking for a corporate ladder to climb or a professional trajectory to follow, develop a product, skill or service, assemble a portfolio that illustrates these assets, and then go out and find customers for them."

In what is perhaps Handy's most threatening idea, he suggests that stockholders are more gamblers than stakeholders.

Use Beyond Certainty (Harvard Business School Press, $19.95) to stimulate your own thinking.

Company of Heroes
by Henry P. Sims Jr. and Charles C. Manz

The standard vision of heroic leaders-charismatic "strong-men" who single-handedly led organizations to great heights-is sadly out-of-step with today's corporate needs. Instead, we need a new breed of SuperLeader-"a leader who leads others to lead themselves," write business professors Sims and Manz.

The SuperLeader's goal is to develop and support a work force capable of self-leadership. To encourage this shift, leaders must first focus on their followers-they must adopt a mind-set that emphasizes individual empowerment and recognizes the full potential of employees.

SuperLeaders and self-leaders need to develop a series of skills. These skills are fairly obvious and echo those of high achievers: Self-leaders require self-discipline, must identify natural job motivators and maintain a positive outlook.

The transition to a company of self-leaders described by the authors is very similar to the move to self-directed work teams. "Teams," they write, "are the most common vehicle through which self-leadership is expressed." Several chapters describe effective teamworking, a topic better covered in other books.

The book covers multiple themes-too many, actually, causing the reader to become confused. The work of becoming a SuperLeader, of developing as a self-leader and of effective teamworking all vie for attention. The presentation, which leans too heavily on bold-printed vignettes and highlighted sentences, only adds to the distraction.

The material in Company of Heroes (John Wiley and Sons, $24.95), however, is undeniably interesting, and the idea of self-leadership is compelling. The book works best as a supplemental text on the subjects of leadership, individual performance and/or teams.

Not Just For CEOs
by John H. Zenger

Zenger Miller co-founder Jack Zenger's latest book is a short and easy-to-read self-improvement manual aimed at employees at every organizational level. You can race through this book in a single evening, but truly implementing Zenger's advice will be a career-long task.

Zenger organizes his collection of ideas into three sections. The first, "How to Streamline Your Job," guides readers to improve their own productivity. The second, "How to Work Effectively in Today's Boundaryless Organization," focuses the reader on ways to support the larger organizational picture. And the third, "How to Manage Yourself and Your Future," covers the essentials of self-responsibility and career management.

The book stresses productivity, which Zenger claims is the most important issue facing employees. "For the individual, [productivity] determines job security because organizations can afford to keep only highly productive people," he writes. "For the company, it dictates whether the company stays in business. . . . For our nation, productivity gains determine our standard of living."

Zenger concentrates on sound bytes of practical advice throughout. Each chapter runs five to eight pages and includes a section of numbered getting-started tasks and another section that gathers a series of largely unattributed ideas from "published research . . . and leading experts."

Not Just for CEOs (Irwin, $21.95) is a good guide to individual performance improvement. It could well be widely distributed, but those considering quantity purchases should know that there are several other books in this genre that are just as useful and less expensive.


Escaping the Maze
by Kenneth Durham and Bruce Kennedy
(Quantum Institute, 251 pages, $22.95)

Durham and Kennedy say forget the management fad of the moment and get back to tried-and-true basics. They recommend managers focus on profit, ration-al decision making, technical literacy, change dynamics, systemic integration and a balance in their own role as leaders.

Tyranny of the Bottom Line
by Ralph Estes
(Berrett-Koehler, 296 pages, $27.95)

Estes shoots straight from the hip in this examination of corporate behavior. The examples are horrifying, the causes are eye-opening, and the solutions are long overdue. And, as Deming maintained, the causes are systemic.

by Toni La Motta
(Quality Resources, 219 pages, $26.95)

La Motta does not reinvent the wheel here. Instead, she surveys a wide range of material, bringing it all together within one book. The book includes a good mix of theory and practice to create a TQM-based overview of recognition.

Go for Growth
by Robert Tomasko
(John Wiley & Sons, 302 pages, $24.95)

Cost reduction is not a viable business, claims Tomasko. Instead, companies must focus on growth. The author/consultant offers five distinct scenarios-"breaking the rules, playing the game, making the rules, specializing and improvising"-for building and sustaining success.

The Leader of the Future
edited by Frances Hesselbein, et al.
(Jossey-Bass, 319 pages, $25)

A collection of essays authored by 37 leaders, consultants and management thinkers, this book provides an assessable spot to begin surveying the discipline of organizational leadership. The contributors are top flight, including names like Covey, Blanchard, Handy, Senge and Drucker.

Transformational Learning

by Daniel Tobin
(John Wiley & Sons, 283 pages, $29.95)

This second book by consultant Dan Tobin is a practical, how-to guide for those intent on creating a learning organization. Plenty of corporate case studies punctuate the learning strategies, tools and techniques presented by the author.

The QS-9000 Answer Book
by Radley Smith
(Paton Press, 120 pages, $24.95)

An early entry on the QS-9000 bookshelf, this reasonably priced introductory volume describes how the new automotive standards derive from and relate to ISO 9000 and examines the audit process, sector-specific and company-specific requirements. The author speaks from good authority-as a former Ford quality pro, he co-authored the QS-9000 requirement.