Friday, March 27, 2015

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by James C. Collins

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don'tGood to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by James C. Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't planning on reading Good to Great this month, but I had reserved it from the library, and well, when opportunity knocks...

I read and reviewed Good to Great back in 2011, and gave it a glowing 5 stars, but my enthusiasm has probably waned a little since then. I still think it is a great book, but I've been exposed to a lot of other great books, and this is very foundational. Not as actionable. And although Collins addresses the concern of only having 11 companies to study, I still have trouble with it. With such a small data set, it is hard not to see outside influences and circumstances that might have affected the outcomes he highlights.

So I still like the key concepts in this book. Who before what. The hedgehog concept. The three circles. The flywheel principle. I think what I would really like to see is a follow-up study of the next generation of companies who fit the same criteria, and another study 10 years after that, etc. Every 10 years or so a new batch of companies should come along and either validate or invalidate his findings. Or just build on them and add depth. Until then, this one has slipped to 4 stars for me, although I still highly recommend it.

The Oz Principle: Getting Results through Individual and Organizational Accountability by Roger Connors

The Oz Principle: Getting Results through Individual and Organizational AccountabilityThe Oz Principle: Getting Results through Individual and Organizational Accountability by Roger Connors
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So this book is sold as the ultimate guide in introducing accountability to your organization. I disagree with that pitch. They try to stretch the definition of accountability to include problem solving and taking action, but that is redefining the word. Yes, you might take on those other concepts if you feel accountable, but that does not make them part of the definition of accountability. So what is the book about? In my opinion, The Oz Principle is about attitude. All of the examples, including their expanded definition of accountability, all focus on changing and controlling your internal attitude in certain situations. Are you going to spend your time focused on blaming others (or holding them accountable?) or are you going to focus on how you can contribute to a solution?

If the book was really about accountability, then part of it would be how to decide who was responsible for what outcome, and how to hold them accountable for their performance to that outcome. But this book instead says to first make yourself accountable for everything you encounter! How have you contributed to the situation? Once you see the problem and own your part in it, how can you solve it?

Now don't get me wrong, I think this is a valuable concept. It is often more useful to move on to solving problems rather than pointing fingers. But to say that this advice regarding attitude is equal to the concept of accountability is flat wrong.

Now that I have that out of my system, what did I think about the content itself? Taking personal responsibility is good to a point, but was very one-sided. If you believe, as I do, in moderation in all things, then frankly there is a time for finger-pointing and blaming. If someone harms another person, we should find out who they are, hold them responsible in the court of law and then dispense justice. Our ability to do that defines us as a functioning society, in my mind. This books lacks the overall view point to make it on my must-read list. It was an ok read, and promotes a positive, problem-solving attitude, but oversells its overall value.

P.S. I have to add that I am big Oz fan, and read the whole series as a child. The attempt to relate the principles in this book to the characters and plot in the real Oz books is just a complete fail, and somewhat insulting to the original work. I think it was just a marketing strategy to attach the content to a well-known brand... not cool.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3)The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This whole series is a five-star series in my opinion. It has compelling characters, an innovative setting and a meaningful conflict. It seems that I should be able to go on and one about it, but my opinion is simple: Sanderson simply did an awesome job with this one.

My only criticism would involve a spoiler of sorts, so I will dance around the facts to say that I didn't totally like the ending. I did appreciate the resolution that it provided, but a few of my favorite characters, the two main characters... let's just say that I had hoped they would get a little more out of the whole deal. I also wished there had been (hopefully this isn't a spoiler) at least a sentence or two resolving Sazed and Tindwyl. Did Sazed find out where she went? It is implied that he should have known the answer to that at the end, but there was no mention of it.

Anyway, I highly recommend the Mistborn series, and I am happy that there is a subsequent series, which I look forward to... if only I didn't have my usual stack of commitments between me and that series...