Saturday, September 9, 2017

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important GoalsThe 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by several people at different times over the last year, and I was even given a hard copy by one of them. With my training schedule I have been moving through the audio books, so the hard copy sat on the shelf until another friend lent me their audio version. I'm calling out the audio version here because I try to stick with unabridged audio versions of books to keep my "reading" goal pure, but this was an exception.

Here is my take.
Pros: The process and principles they talk about in The Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) seem to be valid, both intuitively and as far as I have experimented with them. The authors took some common sense, mixed it with corporate experience and feedback, and then wrapped it in a cocoon of marketing for memorability, and thus 4DX was born. I feel like you could quickly and easily share this process of execution with a team and ask be on the same page.

Cons: I don't think the authors see that they give conflicting and incomplete advice. It is conflicting because they preach loud and clear the doctrine of focus, but then outline a system that represents several large changes all at once. If you actually implemented all of this system all at once, you would use all your focus on the process, not the outcomes. In our company we have been having regular accountability meetings, and followed several other patterns mentioned in 4DX, and while our execution is far from flawless, we have seen a huge benefit from this structure. Now, with the 4DX info in my toolbox, we are going to make a few tweaks their direction which I think will improve our execution even more, but there are parts that I don't plan on implementing right away, if ever. Secondly, it is incomplete because the authors missed a major component: managing the change that implementing 4DX requires. These guys are professional management consultants from Franklin Covey. Last I checked, they teach stuff like change management to execs all the time. Why is it missing here? I'll refer here to my favorite change model- the Influencer Model. They need to deal with the structure and social requirements to make 4DX stick in organizations. At the end of the book they include success stories that all exhibit behaviors that comply with these models, but the authors don't give it the credit it is due. For example, the idea of a bunch of blue collar workers wearing pink wigs together to their WIG meeting was an example of a group that was engaged. Another common example was the creative bulletin boards of metrics. But it is more than just employees having fun with the program. It is an important social aspect to a successful implementation. You have to have a change model in place. Visible scoreboards are important, but why? You are changing the physical environment, or structure, of the situation, but I would bet there are many other structural components in a successful implementation that are just as important.

So at the end of the day, I'm luke warm on this one. The content was good, but not as comprehensive as it is painted to be. It is a worthwhile read but, like a fine meal, needs to be paired with complimentary pieces to really deliver. (Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Influencer, Leadership and Self Deception. )

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a Genius by Marc Seifer

Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a GeniusWizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a Genius by Marc Seifer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nikola Tesla was an amazing man, but this was a mediocre book. It did a good job of presenting Tesla's achievements, debunking myths about his inventions, and showing the reader who he really was. On the flip side, as seems to happen often with biographies, it was too long. Too many pages were spent on back stories of acquaintances, technical details that were not useful to the non-engineer reader, and defending plausible conclusions of the author. Although the latter was the least offensive of the three, it still seemed to go on too long. If there was any content lacking, I would have enjoyed more examples of how our modern-day technology is based on Tesla's research. Not only did I find those examples personally interesting, but they make many of his discoveries more relevant to the reader, which increases engagement.

So in the end I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in science and history, and that has a stomach for long drawn out details that are not important to the main story line :)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

New Sales. Simplified.: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development by Mike Weinberg

New Sales. Simplified.: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business DevelopmentNew Sales. Simplified.: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development by Mike Weinberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 stars. That's all I really need to say. This is not a perfectly written book, and the author has some personal positions and definitions that I don't agree with, but I like his direct and open honesty. It means that this book is chock full of common sense, and isn't beholden to best practice as a limiting factor, but rather states best practice based on experience. It is the kind of book I'd like to write, if I'm ever dumb enough to write a business book. Don't tell me what your corporate training told you to do, and don't tell me what some researcher suggests you do, but tell me what works. What truth have you uncovered through experience?

Just to be clear, I'm not anti-research, but the research based books written by consultants and university professors are a dime a dozen. They range for boring to uninspiring as they try to tell the world what they think they know from observing and analyzing others. That is the differentiator. This book isn't based on any experience but his own. And when you want to question a conclusion, he has ALL the facts about the situation. To put it in academic terms, he has roughly 100% of the data of his experience, not a statistically significant number of survey responses.

So I foresee this on my list of regular rereads. But for now, if you are in sales, or in a leadership role in a company and are wondering how to improve your sales team, read this now.