It’s Not Complicated: The Art and Science of Complexity in Business
by Rick Nason
This book may fundamentally change the way you think. Or it may give you a framework to understand why you intuitively know that conventional management practices are sometimes incongruent with reality.
“This book is about systems thinking, and more specifically the important distinction between simple, complicated, and complex systems as applied to common business problems… The world of business is usually complex rather than complicated. That may seem like word play, but the difference between ‘complicated thinking’ and ‘complexity thinking’ is profound. This important distinction is well accepted in the scientific community but is virtually unknown in business.” Nason explains, “The ability to manage complexity is the key to competitive advantage.”
The study of business spans “such diverse disciplines as accounting, communications, economics, finance, leadership, management, marketing, operations… and strategy.” This book provides a thumbnail overview of variety of such topics. Here’s a sample of ten items covered in the book.
Micromanagement. “Telling others exactly how to do their work takes away their initiative, but giving them freedom to shape their own work allows them to become creative and to grow personally invested in the endeavor.” Managers should define the needed result on two levels: the general values (e.g. “make sure the product is fun to use”) and the specific requirements (e.g. “the product must weigh less than 13 ounces, it can’t be orange, the power switch has to be on the right, and all design work must be completed within exactly three months.”). Continue reading →
Quality Is Still Free: Making Quality Certain in Uncertain Times
by Philip B. Crosby
Philip B. Crosby (1926-2001) created the Zero Defects performance standard. I only recently became aware of him through a reader comment on a Wall Street Journal article. Crosby joined ITT in 1965 as the conglomerate’s first director of quality. In 1979 he founded Philip Crosby Associates, a firm which trained 12,000 executives and managers through its Quality College.
“I built the Quality College around the Four Absolutes of Quality Management as they had evolved for me over the years:
Quality means conformance to requirements, not goodness.
Quality comes from prevention, not detection.
Quality performance standard is Zero Defects, not Acceptable Quality Levels.
Quality is measured by the Price of Nonconformance, not by indexes.”
“Quality is free” means it is cheaper to do things right the first time. Continue reading →
Boards that Lead: When to Change, When to Partner, and When to Stay Out of the Way
by Ram Charan, Dennis Carey, Michael Useem
“A board can be a destroyer or a creator of value.” This book presents an excellent analysis of how the inept boards of Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, and AIG destroyed shareholder value; interesting insights into the turnarounds of Apple and Tyco; CEO succession at Ford, 3M, and GlaxoSmithKline; and Procter & Gamble’s acquisition of Gillette. Continue reading →
Turn the Ship Around: How to Create Leadership at Every Level
by L. David Marquet , Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Capt. Marquet writes about implementing a profoundly different management approach when he took command of the worst performing submarine in the U.S. Navy. “Within a year, the situation was totally turned around. We went from worst to first in most measures of performance, including the one I valued the most—our ability to retain our sailors and officers.”
“Disengaged, dissatisfied, uncommitted employees erode an organization’s [productivity] while breaking the spirits of their colleagues.” Marquet found the root cause of the problem to be the leader-follower structure, in which subordinates “have limited decision-making authority and little incentive to give the utmost of their intellect, energy, and passion… We had 135 men on board and only 5 of them fully engaged their capacity to observe, analyze, and problem solve.” Continue reading →
“Tragically, more than 70 percent of change efforts fail and in most cases the organization emerges weaker—exhausted, demoralized, and confused.” To combat this, authors Auster and Hillenbrand have coined the portmanteau word “Stragility” to represent a skill set for “strategic, agile, people-powered change… Without ongoing agility, even good strategies will fail.” Continue reading →
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
by General Stanley McChrystal with Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell
When General Stanley McChrystal took command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in 2003, he was fighting a 21st-century war with a 20th-century military. This engaging book is about the reconfiguration which led to faster decisions and greater results. McChrystal’s mission was to defeat Al Quaeda in Iraq (AQI), but his leadership insights are applicable to business as well. Continue reading →