East Thetford, VT, United States | Member Since 2008
The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, Peter Drucker, 2008. These five questions are essentially an organizational assessment, and although they are directed toward nonprofits, they can be used in any type of organization. The five questions are:
1. What is our mission?
2. Who is our customer?
3. What does the customer value?
4. What are our results?
5. What is our plan?
These five questions weave together a process of reflection an organization can undertake to determine its current reality and chart a future course. For those interested in further inquiry, Drucker lists a number of additional questions for additional exploration.
Edgar Schein is the leading theorist on organizational culture and process consultation, and this book is the standard bearer for understanding organizational culture and how to change it. The book is divided into five parts: defining organizational culture and leadership, discussing dimensions of organizational culture, outlining the leadership role in building and developing culture, outlining how leaders can manage culture change, and discussing new leadership roles that are evolving into today's organizations. He makes a critical point that if leaders are not proactive about managing their organizations' culture, that culture will ultimately manage them. As is often quoted in organization development circles, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast!" He also outlines the steps leaders can take to conduct their own cultural analysis. While the book is intended to be academic and is fairly dense, the organizational stories Schein uses throughout the book as illustrative examples add life to the book. A great resource for any organizational leader!
Our personal power is based on the agreements we make, and often we make those agreements to please others, rather than being true to ourselves. In doing so, we give away our personal power. The Four Agreements is about taking back our personal power by being authentic and by adhering to our true selves. The four agreements are: 1) Be impeccable in your word, 2) Don't take anything personally, 3) Don't make assumptions, and 4) Always do your best. While simple, these agreements are anything but easy. Ruiz encourages readers to practice these agreements everyday and forgive ourselves when we are not perfect. The effort is what's most important. This book is a quick read (or listen) and should be reread repeatedly if you truly desire to keep your agreements with yourself.
This book is intended for anyone who considers themselves a convener and who often finds themselves in the midst of heated discussion. It is divided into three sections: the first describes the nature of high-heat situations and what it takes to facilitate effectively, the second describes six ways of standing in the fire that are interconnected and occur simultaneously, and the third outlines practices that conveners can use to deepen their abilities to implement the six ways of standing in the fire. Throughout the book, the reader is encouraged to reflect on their own practice and choose areas to strengthen. For practitioners of this kind of work, it's a great resource to revisit repeatedly for long-term professional development.
The author opens this book with a discussion of the common errors people make in trying to implement organizational change. He then goes on to counteract those errors with his eight-stage process for implementing effective and sustainable change: 1) Establishing a sense of urgency; 2) Creating the guiding coalition; 3) Developing a vision and strategy; 4) Communicating the change vision; 5) Empowering a broad base of people to take action; 6) Generating short-term wins; 7) Consolidating gains and producing even more change; and 8) Institutionalizing new approaches into the culture. The first four stages are intended to defrost a hardened status quo, the next three introduce many new practices, and the final stage grounds the changes into the corporate culture and helps them stick. This book is a comprehensive approach to change management and highly recommended for anyone undertaking a major change effort within an organization.
This book discusses in depth the five practices of exemplary leadership: 1) model the way, 2) inspire a shared vision, 3) challenge the process, 4) enable others to act, and 5) encourage the heart. The authors devote two chapters to each of these practices, with helpful summaries of key points at the end of each chapter. Although the book is chock full of great ideas, it is rather dense and can be hard to work through. Those who could benefit the most from the pearls of wisdom in this book are unlikely to have the kind of time it takes to really digest and absorb the practices outlined in this book. It would be a great book for a leadership peer group to use to help each other build and strengthen their leadership practice.
This book is based on research about organizations that do well despite a constantly changing environment. Since that latter phrase applies to all of us, there is something for everyone in this book. It’s chock of ideas for how organizations and their leaders can ride the wave of uncertainty that seems to be the only constant in organizational life these days. All these ideas come together in what is referred to in the Art of Hosting as “the chaordic path” – the path between chaos and order. An organization that can effectively navigate that path will develop strength and clarity, and the successful journey requires a leader (or leaders) who can discern the nuances between how much order and how much chaos will illuminate the path. It’s a tricky process, and this book highlights this.
That said, I have one caveat to throw in. This book was written by men about men, so it did not always resonate with me. In particular, when the authors describe the characteristics of 10xers, the term they use to describe leaders of these successful organizations, I had to ask, “Whose definition of success? Do these guys have a life?” It seemed to me that the only measurement of success was the bottom line. In this day and age, I truly believe that a more accurate measure of success is the triple bottom line. Organizations can no longer focus solely on profit to the exclusion of social and environmental impact.
Don’t let this title fool you! This book isn’t about taking your clothes off nor is it only for someone who has clients. This book is useful to anyone with ongoing relationships with customers and clients. The idea of “getting naked” is about overcoming your fears of vulnerability. Lencioni describes the three fears as 1) fear of losing the business, 2) fear of being embarrassed, and 3) fear of feeling inferior to your clients. These fears make it difficult to be transparent and collaborative with clients and ultimately interfere with a healthy relationship. In typical Lencioni style, the information unfolds through the telling of a story.
In this book organizations are described as living systems that are self-organizing and seek order in a disorderly way. Rather than impose structures, self-organizing systems allow structure to emerge in what may appear to be a chaotic and random process but which ultimately yields stability. That stability can only be found in freedom, not in conformity or compliance. It is that freedom which feeds the relationships and dynamic processes that are the foundation to organizations the authors describe as clear but curious. This simpler way of being together in organizations is one that mimics much of what we see in nature.
Margaret Wheatley is one of my favorite authors, and this is classic Margaret Wheatley. It is chock full of quotable quotes and philosophic inspirations. My only complaint, and I know this isn't her style, is that I would have loved to hear some concrete examples of organizations that practice this simpler way.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2007. For those of us who struggle with marketing, this book offers a relatively straightforward recipe for creating more effective marketing strategies. The model the authors propose spells the word “SUCCESs”: Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions, and Stories, and they devote a chapter to each part of the model. OK, so maybe their spelling is a bit off, but their message is clear: for a message to stick, the audience needs to pay attention, understand and remember it, agree with and believe in it, care about it, and be able to act on it. Scattered throughout the book are clinics, real examples of messages that they analyze using their SUCCESs model and that helps the reader grasp the concepts in a very concrete way. At the end of the book is a Symptoms and Solutions section that reads like a Frequently Asked Questions and troubleshoots some of the typical problems we all run into when trying to get our message across.
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