Flick & Click – latest book reviews

by 08 Jul 2009

The Halo Effect – how managers let themselves be deceived

Phil Rosenzweig

Simon & Schuster $24.95

The Halo Effect sets out to refute the fairytale formula that business success can be based on a ‘winning formula’. Instead, this book argues, factors are constantly shifting, dictated by both external and internal conditions, in the company and adaptations need to be made. Considering that the world is currently in the midst of the GFC, now might never be a better time to pick up this book for some practical tips.

Rozenweig argues that simplistic theories about achieving high performance are really soothing platitudes to promise easy success to harried managers. In the meantime, this allows managers to ignore the constant demands of changing technologies, markets, customers and situations.

The book counsels that managers would be wise to rethink their assumptions that objective and empirical data such as financial perform ance indicates the company is being run by good leadership, and should also turn their mind to the culture and values within the company.

There are many variables that can affect the direction of a business, but an inability to rethink the formula to respond to new challenges and look at the overall picture is something this book reminds managers to keep in mind

Leadership and Management in Integrated Services

Judy McKimm and Kay Phillips

Palgrave Macmillan $64.00

Much is written about the role of leadership in companies. Much less is written about the leadership role in government industries such as health and social care services. As Leadership and Management in Integrated Services states: "The integration of health and social care services for children and adults is a key part of government policy, yet the field is immensely complex, with the involvement of multiple agencies, professionals and other stakeholders."

Editors Judy McKimm and Kay Phillips are British and draw from British case studies, but their analyses of structures for schools, children's centres and social agencies contain valuable lessons for those involved in integrated services in any country.

Their examination of the effects of legal and spiritual influences on an organisation's effective operation is well-researched. Arguably the most helpful parts of this book are the activities offered with each chapter, where readers take stock of their group's structures and strictures and assess the desirability of their own tactics and work practices.

Yes, some of the topics are complex, but conceptual frameworks are balanced against challenging questions and hands-on plans for action. This is a successful combination of the academic and the practical.

The Power of Small

Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

Allen and Unwin $19.99

So, yeah, The Power of Small is a bit touchy feely. It does firmly forgo the "go for the jugular" in favour of the "what would happen if you made that person a nice cup of tea?" approach. And its focus is almost wholly positive - despite us living in a not-so-positive world.

And I say it's all the better for it. We are already stressed, distressed and dressed to impress … what's so wrong with trying to chill just a little and take a look at the small picture for once? Nothing. And, as this book shows, there are sound business reasons to do just that.

The smallest compliment paid to a workmate or employee can yield massive dividends. "It turns out that kidding around at the beginning of a meeting is one of the most productive things you can do" the book counsels. My favourite tip was the one entitled Add A Minute: it advises that when you have finished a task, a memo, an email, a budget - whatever you are dying to see the back of - pause and tell yourself you have 60 seconds left. Then use them to reread any troubling sentences or to double-check those pesky numbers. A minute CAN make a massive difference.

The authors are no new-age hippy lazeabouts either. Linda Kaplan Thaler is the CEO and chief creative officer of Kaplan Thaler Group, one of the fastest-growing ad agencies in the US, and Robin Koval is its president.

With real-life examples and case studies and humour the big selling points of this book, I firmly believes that this pint-sized-paperback packs a massive punch.<

The Element

Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica

Penguin $45.00

In his book Ken Robinson aims to help people understand how life can blossom when they start living at the intersection of passion and talent. For HR managers and directors, it can help guide staff to discover "their element" and develop imagination and creativity in the workplace.

Finding your element or "being in the zone" will lead to a life that is more successful and fulfilling where interests and natural abilities can be used, says Robinson. This is not a new concept but perhaps a well needed reminder for this busy world.

The book also examines the state of the education system and argues that it is designed for a particular type of person, an approach which can stunt people's potential.

Stories from famous people -Paul McCartney, Matt Groening and Meg Ryan - do border on celebrity worship, but it is still inspiring to hear how other people have achieved success.

Readers can take away pointers on how to recognise opportunities for passion and also create the conditions to find "the element".