First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Mary Gentile on “voicing values in the workplace”

Mary Gentile

Here is a brief introduction to a video interview of Mary Gentile by Lily Cunningham that I consider a “must see.” Credit McKinsey & Company and its Quarterly for creating access to valuable insights on a business subject that could not be more relevant.

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Professor Mary Gentile explores ethical dilemmas at work and how to act on them. (AUGUST 2010)

Recent years have seen an unprecedented breakdown in public trust of business, spurred in no small part by instances of unethical behavior at some of the world’s most powerful institutions. Mary Gentile, director of business curriculum at Babson College, says the real challenge for business students, employees, and executives isn’t knowing what’s right, but knowing how to act on those convictions within an organization. In this video interview, Gentile shares insights and experiences on how to do that, which she’s gathered through her work developing the Giving Voice to Values curriculum and her eponymous book. McKinsey Publishing’s Lily Cunningham conducted the interview with Mary Gentile in New York in June 2010.

To watch the video and/or sign up for a free online subscription, click here. To download a PDF of the transcript, click here.

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Mary C. Gentile is Director of the business curriculum, Giving Voice to Values; Senior Research Scholar at Babson College; an independent consultant based in Arlington, MA; and author of Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right, recently published by Yale University Press [click here]. I also suggest that you check out Gentile’s website by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be careful what you wish for….

During difficult times, the frequency and urgency of hopes and prayers seem to increase. Many of the people I know are preoccupied with finding the right key, formula, secret, etc. to success.

Legend has it that Croesus, the fabulously wealthy king of the Lydians, sent his minions to Delphi to inquire of the oracles whether or not he should attack the Persians. The oracles replied that “if he should send an army against the Persians, he would destroy a great empire.” Thus emboldened, Croesus attacked. He learned in battle that the oracles had gotten the situation exactly right – the empire destroyed was his.”

Again I am reminded of Pogo’s observation, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Business Intelligence Success Factors: A Book Review by Bob Morris

Business Intelligence Success Factors: Tools for Aligning Your Business in the Global Economy
Olivia Parr Rud
John Wiley & Sons (2009)

In collaboration with 21 contributors, Olivia Parr Rud provides a wealth of information, observations, and recommendations that share a single purpose: To prepare those who read this book to respond effectively both to the perils and to the opportunities associated with Business Intelligence (BI). More specifically, to help them get their organization in proper alignment in the global economy.

The material is carefully organized within four Parts: Sensibly, the first provides an overview of a business “landscape” that seems to become less comprehensible and more perilous each day; next, five “essential competencies” that an organization needs to leverage new opportunities (i.e. communication, collaboration, innovation, adaptability, and leadership) are examined; then in Part Three, new models for viewing BI are introduced, with special attention paid to systems thinking; then in the final part, Chapter 10, the focus is on “some possibilities beyond corporate borders, given the mastery of the essential competencies.”

The co-authors are senior-level executives with SAS and propose what they are convinced is the most appropriate business model to accommodate the seven realities:  The Information Evolution Model. For more information about it, read the book and/or click here.

I was also interested in the material on leadership, in Chapter 7, including Rud’s observation about “Paradox of Empowerment” — “True power is the ability to relinquish control” — and her discussion of “10 Principles for Leading a Dynamic Organization” (Pages 134-146), principles that ”tackle the central issues of corporate management in the areas of strategy, organization, and execution. However, the focus is on the dynamics involved.” Judi Neal makes an especially valuable contribution in this same chapter, describing Edgewalkers who “have the ability to tap into the energy of an organization, its inherent wisdom (or perhaps its quantum field), to reveal what is invisible to others.” Edgewalkers have visionary consciousness, multicultural responsiveness, intuitive sensitivity, risk-taking confidence, and self-awareness. The challenge for them, obviously, is to avoid falling off the “edge”…or being pushed.

Perhaps at least a few people will incorrectly infer from this book’s title that it is primarily (if not exclusively) about competitive intelligence. In fact, the scope and depth of coverage include but are by no means limited to that important subject. As Rud and her colleagues correctly point out, business information is most valuable when it is properly organized to ensure expeditious processing of the information needed. That is, obtaining it, evaluating it, prioritizing it, disseminating it, updating it, etc. so that appropriate strategies can be formulated and executed (and on occasion, modified) to achieve strategic objectives. BI worthy of the name requires a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective system. Here in a single volume is just about everything anyone needs to devise such a system.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Being a Good Boss is Pretty Damn Hard: Reflections on Publication Day

Robert Sutton

Here is a post by Robert Sutton on the day his most recent book, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst, was published.

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Today, September 7th, is the official publication day of Good Boss, Bad Boss [click here]. I’ve got an hour or so before I need to run to the airport, and find myself looking back on what I’ve learned from writing the book, talking to people since the book was finished some months back, and all the blogging and comments (especially here at Work Matters and over at HBR Online where I have been developing my list of 12 Things Good Bosses Believe). [Ckick here.]

The thing I’ve been fretting over most lately is how hard it is to be a good boss — the job is never done, it is amazingly easy to screw-up, and wielding power over others makes it all even harder because you are being watched so closely (and are prone to tuning-out your followers — the other half of the toxic tandem). [Click here.]  Yet, despite all these hurdles, the best evidence shows that many, if not most, people find their bosses to be competent and compassionate [click here].  And most bosses I know work extremely hard and are dedicated to improving their skills.  Indeed, one of my main motivations for writing Good Boss, Bad Boss was that so many of the managers and executives who I spoke with and who wrote me in response to The No Asshole Rule were so concerned about becoming better at practicing their difficult craft.

When I think of the bosses that I admire and want to be around versus those that I despise and want to avoid if at all possible, the main factor is not their skill at the moment.  Rather, it is whether or not they care and are working on core questions like:

1. What does it feel like to work for me?

2. How can get more “in tune” with my followers, peers, bosses, customers, and other people who I deal with?

3. What are my weaknesses and strengths?  What can I do to attenuate my weaknesses — what do I need to learn and who can I work with to best offset my drawbacks and blind spots?

In contrast, people who are arrogant and suffering power poisoning — and never admit their weaknesses, let alone try to overcome or dampen them — are in my view, the worst of the worst, regardless of past accomplishments.Yes, as I emphasize on this blog and in Chapter 2, the best bosses need to act like they are in charge, to instill confidence in others and themselves.  But the bosses I want to be around  (and that I believe will triumph in the long run) have the attitude of wisdom, or as rocker Tom Petty put it, are confident but not really sure [click here].

That’s what I am thinking about; I would be curious to hear your perspective on the kinds of bosses you want to be and be around.

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Sutton’s research focuses on the links (and gaps) between managerial knowledge and organizational action, organizational creativity and innovation, organizational performance, and evidence-based management. He as published over 100 articles and chapters in scholarly and applied publications. He has also published eight books and edited volumes. In particular, Sutton and Jeffrey Pfeffer co-authored The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Firms Turn Knowledge Into Action (2000) and Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management (2006). His more recent books include Weird Ideas That Work: 11 1/2 Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation (2007), The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t (2007), and Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst (2010). I also urge you check out the wealth of material at his blog. Please click here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



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